Category Archives: berean

Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 

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Communion…What Do I Do Now?

The Lord’s Supper is such a solemn time during the worship service each Sunday. The emblems are central to the life of every believer. Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we have no life in us and no part with him (John 6). This is probably the most important segment of our Sunday morning assembly. 

During this ritual, however, there is quite a bit of waiting. We wait and listen while the person says a few words to remind us why we participate. We wait for the tray to get to us each time it is passed around. We wait for everyone else to partake after us. So what should we be doing during this time?

I’ve heard people lead into the time of communion with the thought that we are to be examining ourselves. It is thought that we need to be introspective, considering the ways in which we are not right with God – our sinfulness. This comes from 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 which says,

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

Doesn’t this sound like we are to sit there during those waiting times and rake ourselves over the coals of guilt as we remind ourselves of the myriad of ways we fall short of being like Jesus? It does if we take this verse out of context. 

What was going on in Corinth that caused Paul to write this letter? The church there was full of immorality and division. In fact, the division in the church is what Paul begins the letter with addressing. In chapter 11, he once again addresses their division as an introduction to the verses we so often read to prepare for taking the Lord’s Supper. 

1 Corinthians 11:18-19
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

Did you catch that? It is sarcasm. Paul thinks division within the church is a severe problem. In this division, the communion they partake of is not the Lord’s Supper. You cannot partake of this meal in division without judgment from God. 

In verse 29, he warns against eating and drinking without discerning the body. What does this mean? He is referring to the body of Christ – the church. Then, in verses 33-34 he encourages them to wait for one another. He’s trying to get them to practice unity. 

So, what are we to examine within ourselves while we wait? We are to see if we have some division within us concerning our brothers and sisters in the church. Do you have something against a brother? Does a sister have something against you? These divisions cause a church to be weak and sick (1 Corinthians 11:30). 

Maybe we should go back to practicing what Jesus commanded in the sermon on the mount. 

Matthew 5:23-24
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

What if the church was once again concerned with the ministry of reconciliation that we are called to administer (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)?

Next time you’re sitting and waiting during communion, pray for yourself and your relationships with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Resolve to do your part to make reconciliation. Don’t wait for them to act – you be the mature follower of Jesus and make the first move. Then we will watch the church grow in strength and health as the church becomes even more unified in Jesus as one body. This will be an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. 


Blind Faith Is Not Required

I was having a conversation one time with a person who was trying out “this Jesus thing” for the first time. She was going on about how hard it is to believe in God and the church and Jesus and such.  At the end of her rant, she looked at me and said with undertones of disgust, “I know. I’m just supposed to have blind faith. At least that’s what other preachers have told me.”

It broke my heart. Blind faith isn’t expected or required. It is not even a biblical concept. 

I don’t have faith in Jesus just because some preacher said I should. I don’t believe in the stories in the bible just because I was raised with these stories.

Sometimes, when preachers teach a certain concept, they come across as if to say that to believe any differently would be wrong and stupid. If a person teaches the scripture without concern for what science has proven, then they are inconsistent with the reality of creation. If there is no historical fact or evidence as a foundation for my faith, then what hope is in that faith? What makes that faith any different than believing in Transformers or Voltron?

The church is struggling to gain ground with people in the scientific community because of the inconsistencies with her teachings and the call to “blind faith”. 

But this doesn’t have to be so. 

When you read the creation account in Genesis 1-3, do you read a literal seven days or an undetermined period of time? Does it matter? The creation account in Genesis isn’t a scientific treatise on how God created the earth. In fact, it is written as poetry. It is meant to point us to the Creator and show His majesty. Could that have happened over 4 billion years ago? Sure! How about 10,000 years ago? Maybe, but that would mean God peppered the ground with lots of science that doesn’t jive with the historical timeline. That seems a bit out of character for God. 

In either case a person can still believe in the one, true, supreme God, Creator of the universe!

What about Jesus? 

Belief in Jesus is more on the historical basis. History shows He existed. The Jews and Muslims alike have laws and writings about Him. There is no question as to the historical truth of Jesus. There is not even a question as to whether or not He was crucified. 

The question is whether or not He was raised from the dead. 

Historically speaking, there were eyewitnesses of His resurrection that testified to its truth. The writings about the resurrection were circulated during the time people were still living who could have refuted the claim if it were false. 

As for the bible itself, great historians like H. G. Wells and Will Durant (who were both atheists) testify to the historical reliability of the biblical account.  

In fact, Christianity is the only religion that it would be possible to prove false. It is the only one couched in history with historically verifiable events to back up its claims. You can’t prove the concepts of Buddhism or the promises of Mohammed or even the historical claims of the Book of Mormon looking at history. 

My faith is not based on some emotional event in my life. I have had those, but my faith comes from the knowledge I have regarding science and history.  My faith comes from the experiences I’ve had and seen in others. 

I don’t have blind faith, and neither should you. God gave you a brain to use. Don’t check it at the door in the name of religion or to follow some charasmatic preacher. Even the scripture says “test everything”. 

These are only a few of the concepts that solidify my faith. If you want to know more about building a foundation of knowledge that leads to faith, feel free to contact me. I love you, and I hope you grow in your understanding of the world around you, and I hope that understanding leads you to unshakable faith. 


Book Review: “Bethlehem Road” by Michael Whitworth

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As a preacher I am expected to spend time in the Word to know the text. I’m expected to look at other sources to find out what the text is truly saying, and I’m expected to be able to take that text and show my listeners what they need to learn from that text. This is often a daunting task filled with many hours reading boring books.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the bible is NOT boring, but often the commentaries trying to explain what the bible is saying are as dry as the desert.

I was asked by Michael Whitworth if I would read his commentary on the book of Ruth (in the Old Testament of the Bible). It seemed like such an honor at first, but the more I thought of it the more I regretted accepting his request. You see, I don’t read commentaries for fun. I don’t read them for personal devotions. I read them because I need to.

So, when Michael sent me his book I began to read. Remember, I had all these negative assumptions about how this endeavor would turn out.

I dove in quickly to the introduction and found that Michael wasn’t just giving a list of facts about this book. Sure, there are countless facts to be derived from the pages of “Bethlehem Road”, but this book didn’t read like a commentary listing facts and references. I quickly found myself eagerly turning each page to see what jewels I could find on the next.

This is NOT a traditional commentary. I would read this book for enjoyment. I would read it for my personal devotions. I recommend this book to everyone, and here’s why: this book is personal.

Michael begins by relating the story of the loss of his father and the dark places that took him to in the grieving process. Then he begins to tell the tale of Ruth and Naomi and show how their loss sets the stage for the main character of this book to do His work. That’s right, the main character of Ruth is not Ruth – it’s God.

Through page after page the reader is taken on a journey through this time of Israel’s history. You feel like you are there, in Israel, with the characters. You can see the struggle and feel the pain. Then, you are invited to celebrate the unfathomable foresight and workings of the merciful, loving God.

If you are dealing with loss and sadness, then may I recommend a commentary to you? Naomi knows how you feel. God does too.

Are you struggling to see that God is really working in the lives of those who love Him? Then it’s time to look at Ruth again, and I recommend you do it with your bible in one hand and “Bethlehem Road” in the other.

Have you thought the God of the Old Testament was a mean-spirited, vengeful deity? Then I hope you can see through this commentary that He was not and has never been that way. He does not change like shifting shadows.

I am so grateful that Michael has taken on the challenge of writing a commentary that breaks the commentary mold. It was truly refreshing to see this book come to life.

It is my honor to recommend to you “Bethlehem Road” by Michael Whitworth. Look for it soon online and ask for it where books are sold.


On the Border of Response

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The world is a tumultuous place. Wars are raging and beginning all over the place. Innocent people are being killed for any and every reason. Laws are being broken in every nation. Nations are rising up against nations. Governments are being overthrown. How are we to act?

In our nation alone there is controversy on every front. From the Hobby Lobby fight to the flood at the border, our nation is becoming increasingly divided. Everyone has opinions on the hot-button topics like gun control, common core, abortion, immigration reform, military action on foreign soil, etc.

How are we, Christians, to respond to a world as conflicted as the one in which we live?

The first place we should be is on our knees in prayer. If you believe that God is not distant and that He cares for us and the rest of His creation, then you need to be asking Him to intervene.

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This is, I believe, our first response to a world as broken as ours. We need healing. We need forgiveness – not just as individuals but as a nation. We need repentance from all people including those (maybe especially those) in our governmental leadership.

The next thing we need to do is become aware. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t take a smart man to tell that the news sources from which we get most of our news are NOT unbiased. In fact, it is hard to find truly unbiased news from any source these days. If I tell you a bit of news then it is important to me because of my political or moral views on a particular issue. I am not unbiased. Therefore the news I share is not unbiased.

That being said we still need to know what is going on around us. These days we have the ability to read news information from a wide variety of sources. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are inundated with the latest news from around the world. If we don’t know what is going on around us then how can we know how to engage the culture or influence change as needed? If we aren’t knowledgable then it is easy for us to be duped by the first wind of teaching to come by.

This includes your ability to know what your Father in Heaven has planned for you. The world is constantly trying to convince you of things that are contrary to the word of God. It is trying to teach you that these commands are barbaric and can’t have come from a god but from mere men. Search within the scriptures. Do not be ignorant of the world around you. You will find that those who love according to the Word of God have a life of fulfillment in this world and in the world to come.

Finally we are to be people of action. We need to be sharing the good news of grace and forgiveness through Jesus to all our friends and contacts. We need to be working daily to change the world by bringing one person at a time to Jesus. Don’t wait for the preacher. This is your calling. Matthew 28:18-20 is for you as well as me.

We also need to be people of action in how we influence our government. One of the greatest things about living in the USA is our ability to vote on almost everything. If you like what is going on then vote for more of the same. If you are disgruntled then vote to change things. You have been given a voice. As Christians this is a great opportunity for us to influence our nation. If we aren’t vocal with our votes then we are allowing the darkness to rule all around. Sometimes voting also happens with out participation or lack thereof. I’m not telling you which political way to vote, but you need to vote.

If this nation does decline – if the darkness grows and Christians are persecuted – then we still have hope in the fact that we are part of a bigger kingdom. The kingdom of God has no physical borders. It is not a matter of here or there but is within you. Live like kingdom citizens wherever you are no matter the outcome of your physical country.

So, change the world. And if it changes for the worse, then have hope in knowing that no one can ever take away your citizenship in the kingdom of God.


The Lost Communion Tradition

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Over the years, tradition and culture has shaped the way we do things in our various religious organizations.  Christianity has many rituals that, over the years, lose great significance or take on new meaning.  Today, I want to talk to you about one such ritual that has lost a bit of significance over the years:  Communion.

Many Christian groups take communion.  There are varying ways and frequencies with which it is participated.  Some take it every Sunday, while others take it once a month or even once a quarter. Some even wait until Easter to take communion. Some take a small piece of cracker and tiny but of grape juice out of a mini-glass while other drink all from the same cup.

If you’re not familiar with the term “communion”, it is a symbolic supper where the unleavened bread eaten and the wine being drunk are symbolic of the body of Jesus and blood of Jesus respectively.  These symbols are key to Christians because of their reference to the cross of Christ where our sins were forgiven through His sacrifice.

So back to the Communion:

I’m not sure how you take communion, but I am pretty sure there is one part to this supper that you don’t do.

If you’ll look in Matthew, Luke, and John, you’ll find their narratives of how the Last Supper went down, and each one refers to Jesus dipping the bread with Judas.  In John’s gospel (chapter 13, verse 26) the King James Version refers to this time as when Jesus “dipped the sop”  It reads like this:

“Jesus answered, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”

So, when’s the last time you “dipped the sop” during your communion celebration?  I have been doing some research on this Last Supper.  It was the Passover feast, and many Messianic Jews still celebrate this feast each year, however they have changed much of the symbolism because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  As I have been studying, I’ve noticed that each version of this feast – known as a Seder dinner – has one element that intrigues me.  On this feast, there are usually 6 items.  Parsley, Unleavened bread (Matzoh), Bitter Herb (Horseradish), Roasted Egg, Lamb Shank, and the Charoset (A sweet mixture of pureed fruits and nuts with honey).  There is also wine served in a series of four cups (meaning you drank your glass-full four times)

All of this is interesting enough, but the part that gets me is what comes toward the end of the feast.  This part is called “Korech”.  During this symbolic time, the participants would make a sandwich of Matzoh and Horseradish, then they would dip it in the Charoset.  This may sound tasty to you, but horseradish is extremely potent.  When you eat it, your eyes begin to water almost immediately, and the more you eat, the hotter it is.  Some say it’s even more potent than a jabanero pepper.

During the supper, Jesus “dipped the sop” then gave it to Judas.  This is the man who would betray him with a kiss and send him to his execution.  Of course this was all done through God’s guidance, but the betrayal was no less painful to Jesus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane later that night, Jesus prayed for God to let this cup pass from him.

What I’ve learned in studying this Seder (or Haggadah), is that the sop, after it was dipped, was supposed to be given to someone you love for them to eat.

Jesus dipped the sop and gave it to Judas.

He loves us…even when we betray Him.

I’m glad to have a savior like that!  Who knows.  Maybe someday we’ll re-incorporate dipping the sop in our communion celebrations, but until then, when you think of Jesus, remember how much He loves you…even when you don’t treat Him right.  Then, treat others they way He treats you.

If you’d like to know more about Jesus and how to have a relationship with Him that will set you free, feel free to contact me at mrjdobbs@gmail.com.  Happy Easter!


Believers, Demons, and Christians. Oh my!

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Are you a Christian? What does that mean?

There are all kinds of Christians in the world. Some are republican and some are democrat. Some are one kind of denomination and some are another. Some Christians go to war and some don’t. Some Christians use hate and fear-mongering to persuade people to Christ, and some don’t.

People who go by the term “Christian” have done all sorts of things in the name of their religion. They have killed and enslaved and rationalized and warred and devalued all in the name of Jesus.

But are they really Christians?

Some people say they are Christians, but they’ve never been baptized. They claim to believe in Jesus. They may even have said some prayer, but does that make them a Christian?

The bible says that even the demons believe. Does that mean demons are Christians?

Jesus said whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Where’s the sinners prayer there? By the way, some people use a different verse that talks about the confession of Jesus as Lord and say that means that baptism isn’t necessary. As best I can tell I have to look at all of the bible and not just one or two verses. When Jesus defined salvation he talks about belief (the first step) and baptism (the marriage ceremony).

If you’re reading this and you haven’t begun your walk with Jesus by being united with Him in baptism, then what are you waiting on? I’d love to talk with you more about that. It’s not magical or hard, but when you realize what’s going on there, you will see that it is beautiful.

Ok. Ok. Ok. So some of you have been baptized. Does that make you a Christian?

Jesus calls us to follow him. Does your life reflect his? I’m not talking about looking at his rules and regulations; I’m talking about his life. What characterized Jesus? Does that characterize you?

So many people pay attention to all the rules of Christianity. They obey them well, but they’ve missed out on two key attributes of the first people who were ever called Christians.

1. They were super excited and everyone around them knew it. Who could blame them? They had just been saved from themselves. All of their junk and baggage and mess-ups and hang-ups had been forgiven by the Messiah. Even better – they were considered children of God! They could have relationship with God! They weren’t treated like prisoners waiting to mess up so that they could receive the chopping block. They were free – totally free – from all that hinders them: traditions, illness, legalism, oppression, worry, selfishness, sin! Sure, they still dealt with those things reflected in others, but they were no longer hindered. They were set free, and they lived free.

2. In their excitement they loved intensely. They loved those in their towns. They loved the slaves and women and children in a time where those groups were ostracized. They loved the tax collectors who were considered by their fellow citizens as traitors. They loved the people who ruled over them even though it was an oppressive regime. They loved in ways that made them stand out from the world, and the world responded.

Sometimes their love and excitement would create conviction in the hearts of those around them. These Christians weren’t standing on street corners yelling “Turn or burn!” They were loving everyone – even the unloveable. Their love showed up in stark contrast to the selfish lives of all those around them. So this love and excitement brought harsh persecution, and you know what? The Christians rejoiced even in their persecution! Nothing could get them down.

Other times, though, their love and excitement stirred up a desire in others to have the same results in their lives. People came to Jesus left and right because his followers actually lived like Jesus. Sure they messed up. Sure they sinned, but they weren’t burdened with the constant chastisement from their brothers and sisters in the faith. They were encouraged to move on – to stop sinning – and continue to love.

You see, many people think they are Christians, but they are not. A Christian is a person who has chosen to live as best as they can in the light and example of Jesus – an example of perfect love. When that person falls short of perfection (which happens a lot) they live in the grace and forgiveness that Jesus continually gives through his death and resurrection.

Christians are more than believers. Christians are more than rule-followers. Christians are people who live like Jesus. Don’t ignore how Jesus has commissioned you to begin your relationship with Him. And when you do begin, don’t be the kind of Christian that the world expects – harsh, grumpy, judgmental, spiteful, hate-filled, rule-driven people. Be the kind of Christian that your life speaks louder than your words. Love will do that. Live in love.


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