Life Lessons with Dr. Steve Schell

Steve Schell

Pastor Steve Schell comprehensively teaches through entire books of the Bible pulling out the deep, eternal truths in each section of Scripture without skipping over challenging passages. These sermons will help foster true discipleship for the committed Christian, both young and old. read less
Religión y espiritualidadReligión y espiritualidad

Episodios

57 - Leading Someone To Christ
Hace 2 días
57 - Leading Someone To Christ
If you’re just reading through Acts and come across these few verses about Thessalonica, you might be left with the impression the mission there was something of a failure. Paul, Silas and Timothy were only in the city for a short period of time. Some people came to Christ, but it wasn’t long before fierce persecution arose and the missionaries were forced to flee, leaving these new believers on their own. It would be natural to assume that when left alone without the apostles to guide them, and facing the fury of a hostile community, these new believers might have renounced their faith or, at least, stopped speaking openly about their faith.  That’s what you might assume if you just read this passage, but that’s not all we know. Paul wrote two letters to them within probably a few months of his departure. He, too, was worried, so he sent Timothy back to check on them. And when Timothy returned and reported what he found (Ac 18:5; 1Thess 3:1-8), Paul was thrilled, and wrote the letter we call First Thessalonians, and shortly after that he heard the church was confused about the Lord’s return, so he wrote Second Thessalonians. What we discover when we read these letters is not a church struggling to survive. Instead, we discover people that are thriving and spreading the gospel over the entire region. How is that possible? What on earth did these missionaries do to those people? What kind of seed did they plant in their hearts that would keep growing even without mature leadership and in the midst of persecution? Frankly, the result of the mission to Thessalonica is a miracle. Under normal circumstances that church shouldn’t have survived. But it did, and it grew…and we need to discover why. Because whatever those apostles taught or did to those people that produced such lasting life-change, we need to teach and do for those we lead to Christ.
56 - Resourcing Others
Hace 6 días
56 - Resourcing Others
It’s amazing to watch the change that comes over a person when he or she gets married. The focus of life tends to move from “me” to “us,” or at least it should. We can all tell sad stories about situations where that shift in attitude didn’t take place. And then, there’s another drastic change when children come along. The focus of life moves from “us” to “them.” There is now a little person who depends on me for his or her very existence. Making time for “us” now takes special planning. Money I used to consider mine to spend as I wished is not mine anymore. It’s put into a family account to cover the many different expenses that come in. My free time disappears into a list of chores longer than the hours available. The process I’m describing is painful. My old way of life must die and give way to another. Most of us discover in the middle of this transition that we are much more selfish than we realized, and it’s only when the needs of others force us to change do we actually let go of our self-centeredness. I described how marriage and parenthood press people to mature, but you and I know only too well, not everyone is willing to reorient their life from “me” to “us,” and then to “them.” We all have sad stories about people who quit and went back to “me.” And no, I’m not saying marriage and parenting are the only way such inner development takes place, but it is probably the most common way humans learn a measure of selflessness.  Through our study in Acts we met the church in Philippi. In that city we watched God draw together a very diverse group of people, and then Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled on, apparently leaving Luke behind. If it weren’t for Paul’s letter to the Philippian church we wouldn’t know what a powerful ministry this group of believers developed over the coming years. They became far more selfless and faithful in giving to God’s work than other churches Paul planted. Why this was so is not said, but I’m suspicious that Lydia and Luke modeled a level of generosity that caught on and became a beautiful part of that church’s culture. They were the church who faithfully supported a missionary named Paul over the next decade, and probably for the rest of his life. Today we’ll study the Philippian church by reading what Paul wrote to them in his letter. We’ll learn from his words of appreciation and observe the effect their faithfulness had on his ministry. And in our study we’ll also discover that there were people like these Philippians who supported Jesus and His apostles. Such people are always quiet about what they do. Jesus said that’s how we should give (Mt 6:3), but the impact of such people on God’s kingdom is great. Not because of the amount of money they give, but because of the love and faith that goes with it. (Lk 21:1-4).
55 - The Philippian Church
12-02-2024
55 - The Philippian Church
Becoming a Christian will change your life, not only your inner spiritual life, but your external, relational life as well. Not only are you joined to Jesus when you believe, but you become joined to His people. This doesn’t mean you stop loving your own natural family, but it does mean you start feeling that same kind of love for those who are your spiritual family. You become committed to them as if they were your own flesh and blood. Jesus actually said that the spiritual bond formed between Him and us, and between those who believe with each other, would be closer than the deep ties we have with natural family members. Listen: Matthew 12:46-50. He isn’t trying to tear us away from our natural families. He wants us to love them, but sometimes knowing Jesus divides people, and He warned us that might even happen in our families: Matthew 10:32-39. Jesus unites those of us who love Him, and tends to separate from us those who don’t, which can leave us feeling very alone, which is why He’s given us to each other and commanded us to love each other. He’s placing us into His family. He said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34, 35) New Eyes (2Co 5:16) When Jesus rose from the dead a new, eternal, spiritual family was begun. He is now the “firstborn,” the eldest Son of a new race of humans, whom the Father has adopted as His children (Ps 2:7). Right now that reality is hidden from sight, but the day will come when we will be revealed in our resurrected bodies and share His glory. Yet, here and now, while still living in this present age, He asks us to look at each other with new eyes, to look past the natural, the superficial, and recognize a beloved child of God (2 Co 5:16). If we will put aside old prejudices and fears and begin to see one another differently, and choose to love one another genuinely, He says we will become a powerful prophetic voice to our community. They will observe in us a level of love and grace they do not see anywhere else, and they will know that Jesus must be real.
54 - Preparing for an Earthquake
08-02-2024
54 - Preparing for an Earthquake
What do you do when things go wrong, when your best attempt to obey God ends up in a mess? Where do you turn when depression weakens you like a disease? When you’re attacked by the very people who should protect you, when people totally misunderstand what you say and the situation explodes into a crisis? How do you find peace when temptation rises like a fever until you submit? How do you prepare yourself for that dreaded meeting or phone call or doctor’s appointment? How do you live with the sorrow of watching a beloved family member or friend continue to rebel against all they know is right and destroy one relationship after another? How do you cope with getting older, watching your body age and your memory fail? How do you respond? Do you collapse in self-pity and try to comfort yourself with things you know are destructive? Do you get angry at God for failing to protect you? Do you blame yourself for being so stupid and fall into self-loathing? Because we all face these kinds of pressures, which is why we all need to learn how to respond when they come. Left to ourselves we tend to react badly, and our bad responses become habits and those habits enslave us and drag us down. In today’s lesson we are allowed to observe Paul and Silas at a terribly low point in their lives. Everything seemed to have gone wrong, and they ended up trapped in a spiritual atmosphere that was about as close to hell as you can find on planet earth: chained in darkness, surrounded by filth and disease, held fast in a place of torture and despair, a place full of the demonic. Yet these two missionaries didn’t give in to despair, they didn’t rail against God or curse their captors. Instead, they deliberately, aggressively, tactically set about to transform the spiritual environment of that horrid place. They went to war, and they won…completely…what had been meant for evil turned out for the glory of God. And Luke has revealed enough of the details to allow us to discover how they did this. He said that in that inner jail the prisoners were listening to them intently, and you and I need to do the same. Paul and Silas are showing us how to find victory when we’re under attack, when we’re in bondage, and how to turn oppressors into brothers or sisters. Frankly, there’s no more important life lesson in the Bible.
53 - Lydia’s Heart
05-02-2024
53 - Lydia’s Heart
Luke says “And setting sail from Troas we had a good run (favorable winds which allowed the ship to sail straight to where they were headed) to Samothrace (about 70 miles north), and then, on the following day, into Neapolis (about the same distance). Neapolis was located on the northeast coast of Macedonia, and served as a harbor for Philippi which was about 10 miles inland. A very important highway ran through Neapolis called the Via Egnatia (Egnatian Way). It was a paved and carefully maintained military road that ran from Dyrrachium on the Adriatic Sea eastward all the way to what we call today Istanbul (Turkey). It served as Rome’s main land route across northern Greece, and Paul and his team traveled west on it from Neapolis to Philippi, and later on to Thessalonica. In spite of the fact that it was located in eastern Macedonia, Philippi was the site of an important battle in Roman history. There, in 42 B.C., Antony, Octavian (Augustus) and Lepidus defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar. To honor that victory the city had been declared a “colony,” which meant it became a military outpost and its citizens had all the same privileges as the citizens of Rome. Then Luke tells us how this missionary team began evangelizing Philippi. He says, “…we were staying some days in this city, and on Sabbath days we went outside the (city) gate by a river where we thought there would be prayer, and sitting down we spoke to the women who had come together. And a certain woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth (the favorite color for Roman togas) from the city of Thyatira (a city in Asia Minor that specialized in dying purple cloth), a Gentile who worshiped God (Ac 13:43, 50; 17:4, 17), kept listening, and the Lord opened her heart to understand and receive the things spoken by Paul. And as she and her household were baptized she (invited us to be guests in her home) saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay, and she urged us so strongly she prevailed.
52 - Walking By Faith
01-02-2024
52 - Walking By Faith
About 20 miles west of Pisidian Antioch, the road on which Paul, Silas and Timothy were traveling intersected with a smaller road which headed north. Initially it seemed right to these missionaries to continue going west into the highly populated coastal region called “Asia” and they may have passed the intersection and kept walking for awhile before stopping and turning around, because Luke says they were “…cut short from speaking the word in Asia by the Holy Spirit.” He doesn’t tell us how this was done, but there are a number of ways the Holy Spirit could have corrected them. He might have “spoken” to one of them, or imparted a “word of knowledge” (1Co 12:8) about what lay ahead, or He may have simply caused them to feel “grieved” in their spirit as they walked along (Eph 4:30). But one way or another they felt they should turn around and take the smaller road leading north. It skirted along the eastern border of a rugged hill country called “Mysia,” until it arrived at the city of Nicea on the southern border of the heavily populated area around the Black Sea, called “Bithynia.” And, this time, they thought they should go into Bithynia, but Luke says, “…the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them to do so.” In the previous verse he said the Holy Spirit was the One who prevented them from going into Asia, yet here it’s Jesus who guides them. While it is certainly true that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus, and for that matter, the Spirit of the Father, all dwell within us (Ro 8:9, 11), Luke is probably not trying to make a theological statement about the Trinity. Rather, it is much more likely that he’s describing the manner by which God’s guidance was communicated to them. Apparently, Jesus spoke to one or more of them in a dream or vision or they simply heard His voice, whether audibly or inaudibly, telling them to stop walking toward Bithynia, and to turn around and go back to the road that led west toward the Aegaen coast. This road ran along the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara, and then followed the Aegaen coast south, passing through the port-city of Troas (near ancient Troy).  Nearly the entire journey from Nicea to Troas, which was over 250 miles, ran along the northern border of Mysia. Luke uses a word here (v8) which means they “went beside” Mysia, meaning they didn’t travel into the interior of the region, or stop to minister. During this portion of their journey it appears they were not aware of any particular destination, but felt they must keep moving forward, and when they took a wrong turn, God corrected them. At Troas, God’s method of guiding them changed. Paul received a vision specifically directing them to go to northern Greece (Macedonia). This vision may have come more than once during the course of the night and in it Paul saw a Macedonian man beckoning him to come near, and saying “Come over into Macedonia. Run to our rescue!”
49 - The Antioch Model
22-01-2024
49 - The Antioch Model
The Antioch church became the center of outreach to the Gentiles. They had successfully put behind them the issue of fellowship between Jewish believers and Gentile believers, and by this point in time (probably about 15 years after Pentecost) they were aggressively moving forward to evangelize Jews and Gentiles in other regions. They became a “home base” for missionaries who went all over the world. Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, Titus (Ga 2:1-3), and undoubtedly many more fanned out from that great metropolitan city carrying Christ to anyone who would listen. We have much to learn from them. Their fruitfulness as a mission-church was not an accident. There was a careful process behind the way they did things, and if we look closely, they will teach us how to do the same. This weekend is the first weekend of Advent. We, along with much of the Church of Jesus Christ around the world, are reflecting on the fact that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to us as a “missionary” (Jn 3:16). Jesus left the glories of heaven to become one of us, a human, and to die for us on a cross (Php 2:5-8). God didn’t abandon us to our sin and confusion, He sent someone to rescue us. And then, after we have become His, He asks us to become like Him which, of course, means we too will become missionaries, we too will love sinful, confused people so much we will go after them to rescue them. After all, missionaries don’t sit and wait, missionaries get up and go.
46 - Eternal Perspectives
11-01-2024
46 - Eternal Perspectives
We’re in a section of the Book of Acts where we’re watching Paul and Barnabas move from city to city. They only stay for a matter of weeks or months before they are forced to move on. Yet in each place they leave new believers who’ve been joined together into a spiritual family, who are very aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit among them and who, in the midst of great hostility, possess an almost inexplicable joy. You would think that after the apostles departed these new “babes in Christ” would quickly be overwhelmed by all the pressures against them, and abandon their faith. You would think that it would be impossible to establish something lasting in such a short period of time, with so little teaching, and in such a hostile environment. Yet as we continue watching these missionary journeys we see just the opposite. We see churches taking root and growing. Paul’s letters, that fill up so much of our New Testament, are written to churches that began just this way, and though they are clearly not without their struggles, collapsing and ceasing to exist is not one of them. Instead, Paul’s letters are full of the normal pastoral issues that arise in a body of believers. So, how do we explain the fact that people who’d had so little time invested in them were able to endure, and even flourish in their faith? What did Paul and Barnabas do to them that left them with such tenacious faith? Of course, we already know the most important reason, which is that they had been presented with an accurate gospel, and as a result were fully born again, including receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit. So there was no doubt in their minds that God had come into their lives. The gospel had come to them with power. This was not simply a new doctrine. God was with them. They felt His love, they saw the sick healed and the tormented delivered, and He answered their prayers. This was more than religion. This was reality. But Paul and Barnabas also taught them well. They laid a foundation of understanding so these new believers would have an accurate perspective on what was happening to them. There are so many things we need to know about God, so many principles and truths that guide our lives. But if you only had a few weeks with someone, and there was no such thing as Christian literature to leave with them, only the Old Testament, and maybe only parts of that, what would you teach them? What truths would they need, above everything else, so they could face the trials ahead? The answer is surprising, and very basic. Paul and Barnabas (and Jesus) taught things many of us today might think of as negative or overly controversial. We might mention these things in passing, but not really “hammer it home” as truths vital to their survival. But they did, and maybe that’s why their disciples, young in their faith though they were, stood firm in the midst of a storm of affliction. Maybe it’s because they faced a hostile world armed with eternal perspectives.
44 - Seeing Jesus Alive
04-01-2024
44 - Seeing Jesus Alive
Paul had good news to preach. He announced to this synagogue full of Jews and Gentiles that God had fulfilled His promise to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) that He would end the power of death. Their greatest longing, and ours, was that they would not remain in the grave, but would come back to life, not just spiritually, but physically. And Paul’s message on that Sabbath morning in Pisidian Antioch was that this wonderful promise was no longer just a hope. For the first time a man had escaped from the grip of death, and as He did He carried with Him the entire human race. A man who had died was literally alive, and would never die again. And He had been seen by many witnesses. What if you could have been one of those men and women who actually saw Him standing in front of you? What if you, like Thomas, had been able to touch His scars? Or like the disciples who sat on the beach in Galilee, you ate the fish and bread he handed you? How would that change the way you think about Him? To be absolutely sure He is alive would change everything. We would not become religious, we would become His witnesses, joyfully announcing an historical fact. We’d tell people, “This is the Savior. He isn’t just one more of those teachers who say wise things and then die. After a brutal execution and three days in a tomb God raised Him up in complete health, with a glorious new body!” You wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing or debating, you’d be telling everyone you could, “Jesus is the Savior. I know He is, I’ve seen Him!”
43 - The Mercies of David
01-01-2024
43 - The Mercies of David
The Law of Moses makes no provision for deliberate, intentional rebellion. Sins done out of weakness or by accident can be forgiven, but not sins of presumption, sins done in defiance of God’s laws. There was no sacrifice provided for this. A person who sinned with “a high hand” was left to helplessly wait for God’s judgment. Listen:  “But the person who does anything defiantly…that one is blaspheming the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the Word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off, his guilt shall be on him” (Nu 15:30).  If that were the extent of God’s mercy, many of us…no, most of us, would be left with no place to turn. It’s no wonder people fled into the safety of rigid legalism. They were driven there by the fear that they might cross the line between intentional and unintentional sin and be left condemned. They concluded it would be better to live enslaved to rules, than to do something that might be unforgivable. And then along came David who committed terrible sins, and did them deliberately. There was no atonement for adultery and murder, only justice. So what hope could there be for him? Yet God gave David a level of mercy deeper than anything the Law of Moses could offer. Instead of running away from God because of his shame, David ran to Him. He openly confessed his sins, he fully acknowledged the wicked motives in his heart, and he boldly asked that mercy be given to him because he trusted in God’s “loving kindness” (hesed: the mercy God promised to give His people). He stood before God and reminded Him that He had promised to love His people and be merciful to them (Dt 7:6-10). And God gave him mercy. He forgave him and created a clean heart in him, and did not take the Holy Spirit from him (Ps 51:10, 11).
42 - Young Mark
28-12-2023
42 - Young Mark
As Paul and Barnabas set out from Antioch on their mission, Luke briefly mentions they “also had John (Mark) as their helper.” He didn’t last long. No sooner did they leave the island of Cyprus and head toward the interior of Asia Minor than “…John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” The reason for this isn’t stated, but it’s some sort of failure because Paul’s confidence in him was shaken, and he wouldn’t allow him to accompany them on the next trip (Ac 15:36-40). Yet, this certainly wasn’t the end of Mark’s development into a minister of God. He kept on learning and growing. Barnabas, of course, didn’t give up on him. When Paul refused, Barnabas changed his own plans and took Mark with him to Cyprus where they probably revisited the believers they had led to Christ on the first mission (Ac 15:39).  The point is, all young disciples make mistakes, as do older disciples. But the danger is greater for the young that they will be categorized as failures and cast aside. Someone, someone older, needs to believe in them, to pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to keep growing. And most will, if they are cared for. The father-hand of God and the passing of time will do the rest. And then they will rise to a level beyond what anyone thought possible. Take Mark for example. Here in Acts he looks like such a failure, but that’s not the end of his story. Of all people, Paul, as he sits in Nero’s prison in Rome, awaiting his trial that would bring a death sentence, writes to Timothy, another young disciple who struggled with courage issues (2Ti 1:7, 8), and he said this, “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you for he is very helpful to me for ministry” (2Ti 4:11). Clearly, Mark had regained Paul’s respect and earned his trust. Oh, and there’s one more thing we should mention: Mark wrote the first gospel, which provided a foundation for Luke and Matthew to write theirs. In other words, the kid who lost his nerve at Perga went on to strengthen for all time the entire church of Jesus Christ. Thanks Mark!
41 - Prophetic Guidance
25-12-2023
41 - Prophetic Guidance
The call to send missionaries came during a small gathering of church leaders. Five men, all of whom functioned as prophets and teachers, had set aside time to fast and worship. It appears the purpose for the meeting was to listen to the Lord. It also appears, from the casual way Luke describes it, that this sort of gathering was a normal part of life. He names the men: “Now among the church in Antioch there were both prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian (Ac 11:20), and also Manaen, the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, 4BC-AD39) and Saul.” Then Luke tells us what happened: “And while ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart to me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” And finally, he tells us how they responded: “Then, having fasted and prayed to prepare themselves, and having laid hands on them, they released them.” Once again, these early believers are teaching us how to live out our faith. In this case, they show us how to wait on the Lord and receive guidance. Luke lists who gathered, describes how they listened, and he even reports how they responded. No subject is more important to a true believer. Our softened hearts long to do His will, but at times we still struggle to know His will. That’s why Luke’s picture of what took place in Antioch is such a gift to us. He’s given us a model of how the early church listened to God.
40 - Flattery and Complements
21-12-2023
40 - Flattery and Complements
Every human being needs encouragement. Many of us are our own worst critic, so a sincere compliment or word of thanks can be like a “cup of cold water” to someone who’s thirsty. Of course, there are people who are proud, but in most cases, I think, much of that is bluff, or if nothing else the passing of time tends to humble even the best of us. Discouragement, self-hatred and shame become the enemies we wrestle with. So when someone speaks positively to us it can have a powerful impact…so powerful that if wielded by the wrong person such words can be used to control us. They can lure us into a strange state of self-deception in which we actually begin to believe what we’re being told. And if someone doesn’t rescue us by confronting us with the truth, it can ruin our personality and take away our effectiveness in serving God. Luke’s account of Herod’s strange death allows us to watch a man fall prey to flattery. For years this man had pretended to be a devout Jew, yet when a crowd of people tell him he is a god, for a few seconds he believes it, for a few seconds he basks in their worship and in that few seconds God’s patience runs out. An angel strikes him and exposes the lie. Admittedly, Herod Agrippa’s death is bizarre, but the forces at play in that amphitheater aren’t. They are all too familiar. We’ve all felt the temptation to believe too much about ourselves, to receive flattery, because we are all in need of encouragement. How we speak to one another is of great concern to God. The Bible has much to say about this topic. So let’s learn from Herod’s example what to avoid, and then let’s learn how God wants us to compliment and honor one another.
38 - Honoring Flawed People
14-12-2023
38 - Honoring Flawed People
Honoring people who deserve honor is easy. Most of us know people we deeply respect, and showing honor to them flows effortlessly from our hearts. The real challenge comes when we’re asked to honor flawed people, people who don’t live up to our expectations, people who’ve failed to do what they should have done. We ask ourselves, “How can I respect someone who hasn’t earned my respect? How can I love someone who doesn’t love me? How can I admire someone who looks down on me? How can I joyfully give to someone who only takes from me?” Indignation rises up inside us. We rebel at the mere suggestion that we should honor such people. Yet God loves it when we give honor, especially when we honor those who, from our human perspective, no longer deserve it.  In this brief passage we observe a remarkable example of honor. A group of Gentile believers is taking up an offering for their poor brothers and sisters in Judea, yet some of those who were going to receive this gift hadn’t rejoiced at the news that Gentiles were being saved in Antioch. They were troubled by the thought that people who didn’t observe the Law of Moses were being welcomed into the church. The new believers in Antioch may not have been aware that these cultural barriers existed, but Barnabas and Saul certainly were. Yet they said nothing to discourage this generous act of love and happily carried their offering to the elders in Jerusalem. In spite of the presence of some very wrong attitudes, these men and women still deserved to be honored. And on behalf of this growing Gentile church, Barnabas and Saul gladly gave such honor to them. In doing so, they left a profound example for us to follow. Like the church in Antioch, we too are to give honor to whom honor is due (Ro 13:7)…even when it appears they don’t deserve it.