Author Archives: Michael Dennis

About Michael Dennis

I live in Austin, TX, married, two kids, and starting a new church

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, “The Gospel is Personal.” (Part 3)

Right now we look at the headlines in the news and we see the need for transformation in our government / politicians, we need transformation in our systems of education, we need transformation in our medicine / mental health, we need transformation in how ethnic and cultural groups relate to one another, and in 1 Thessalonians we are going to see how it is only Jesus that can bring the transformation we long for in ourselves, and in our world. 

I don’t mean Jesus as ethereal, hypothetical, heavenly thoughts, but it is Jesus who gives us the perseverance, courage, and power to keep pressing into this world, so that we might taste of heaven, not just in eternity, but we can taste of heaven here on earth.  That’s the dream!  (Part 3) 

The Gospel Is Personal.

Yes, the gospel is a message, and yes the gospel is powerful, but we also need to be clear that the gospel is incredibly personal; because the gospel completely alters the way you understand all of life.  Look at verse 9:

1 Thessalonians 1:9, “9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God”

Now, we might not resonate with that phrase very much, because we don’t think of ourselves as idol worshippers, but don’t misunderstand, all people worship some type or types of idols on some level.

Some of us worship money; the more money we have the more safe and secure we feel.  Some of us worship acceptance; the more friends we have the more loved we feel.  Some of us worship power; the more power we have the more in control we feel.  These are all forms of idol worship. 

In fact, if you look at the riots this summer, not the protests, but the riots, and what happened on January 6th at the capital, the insurrection, not the protest, you are seeing much more about idols we worship than you are seeing about political or social agendas. 

You are seeing a people who feel like the things they hold most dear in life are being threatened, and it justifies violence, destruction, and loss of life.  It is idol worship!

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, “The Gospel is Powerful.” (Part 2)

Right now we look at the headlines in the news and we see the need for transformation in our government / politicians, we need transformation in our systems of education, we need transformation in our medicine / mental health, we need transformation in how ethnic and cultural groups relate to one another, and in 1 Thessalonians we are going to see how it is only Jesus that can bring the transformation we long for in ourselves, and in our world. 

I don’t mean Jesus as ethereal, hypothetical, heavenly thoughts, but it is Jesus who gives us the perseverance, courage, and power to keep pressing into this world, so that we might taste of heaven, not just in eternity, but we can taste of heaven here on earth.  That’s the dream!  (Part 2) 

The Gospel Is Powerful.

It’s important to understand that the gospel is a message, but the gospel is also powerful, so that when we read God’s Word, listen to a sermon, sing a song we want to hear and see the message of the gospel, but even more so we must engage the power of the gospel.  Look at verses 3-5:  (SLIDE:  Verses 3-5)

1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, “3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

This is so important.  Stay with me.  A non-religious person (a person who is indifferent to God) could reject the message of the gospel, and a religious person (someone who believes in God) may agree with the message of the gospel, and at the same time, neither person could be engaging the power of the gospel, and as a result, not the gospel. 

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, “The Gospel.” Part 1

Right now we look at the headlines in the news and we see the need for transformation in our government / politicians, we need transformation in our systems of education, we need transformation in our medicine / mental health, we need transformation in how ethnic and cultural groups relate to one another, and in 1 Thessalonians we are going to see how it is only Jesus that can bring the transformation we long for in ourselves, and in our world. 

I don’t mean Jesus as ethereal, hypothetical, heavenly thoughts, but it is Jesus who gives us the perseverance, courage, and power to keep pressing into this world, so that we might taste of heaven, not just in eternity, but we can taste of heaven here on earth.  That’s the dream!   

The Gospel

The gospel is the good news of Jesus.  The gospel is the means by which the God of Scripture will restore His creation to Himself, and the gospel is sprinkled throughout all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, but, the word “gospel” is actually specifically referenced in verse 5. 

1 Thessalonians, “1:5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only…”

Notice that the Apostle Paul refers to the gospel as “our gospel.”  In chapter 2 the Apostle Paul will refer to the gospel as “his gospel” so that the gospel is personal and the gospel is powerful, but we need to make sure that we are clear on the message of the gospel

Are you a Dangerous Leader? Or, are you a DANGEROUS LEADER?

Malachi 1:6-8: In the book of Malachi the people of Malachi’s day are living through a difficult season.  Their morale is low, their souls are depleted, they have lost optimism in the Lord, and their worship in the Lord is waning, and it bothers the Lord, so that in chapter 1 we see a rebuke that is primarily targeting the spiritual leaders, “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts.”


Up to this point the people of Israel have grown up hearing great things about the Lord through leaders like Abraham, Moses, David, Sampson, but lately the stories haven’t been that great.  Lately they have heard about the Assyrians, a wicked people take the 10 tribes to the north into captivity.  Then, Babylon, another wicked people take the 2 tribes to the south into captivity.  Then, Persians, another wicked people take out the Babylonians and issue a decree allowing Israel to return home, which is great, but Israel is having to start all over. They are having to rebuild their homes, restart their economy, re-establish their community, and they are still living under the oppression of the Persian government, so that their awe and worship of God is waning and it is trickling down into their relationships with one another.  But, there is HOPE.  


In Malachi 3 the Lord reminds them of His unending love, therefore, we are called to give our lives completely to Him, and when we give our lives to the Lord we will become DANGEROUS leaders, so let’s talk about what that looks like practically.  Dangerous leaders…

Pandemic Review: 2020

This year has been crazy, and it would be really easy to press into 2021 without even skipping a beat to what we might have felt and experienced last year.

This packet will serve as a guide to help you process 2020 with the Lord, and most importantly, invite the Lord into those places so that we might grieve and lament with Him. (click the link!)

Homeless: How did we get here?

I live in Austin, TX, and have noticed, as I am sure many have, homeless people are more visible in my daily routine than ever before.  A few years ago I heard that Austin allowed people to panhandle at the corner, so it was more desirable for people in Dallas or Houston to make their way to Austin, because there would be more opportunities for people to get help, but sometime around 2019 it seemed like everything changed, and it sent me on this path to learn, “How did we get here?” Here’s a brief outline:

  • On October 17, 2019, the City Council of Austin made several revisions to the city ordinance that prohibits camping in public areas.  Other ordinances, including those prohibiting obstruction on sidewalks in the downtown area and aggressive confrontation, remain unchanged.  The ordinance changes went into effect on October 28, 2019. 
  • I was encouraged to see how many resources the City of Austin have directed toward homelessness in our community. City staff work everyday on programs and with partners to help those experiencing homelessness. 
  • In addition, there are a number of data points the City of Austin is trying to keep track of, and in general it appears that the number of homeless in Austin are increasing. 

If you would like more current information you can glean data from 2020 that was provided by the Statesman and you will see that Austin is 11% increase.

At the moment I am still trying to find a more detailed explanation of what Mayor Adler is trying to accomplish, but I am having a hard time tracking down the information.  The best I have found is a quote by Adler that states, ““We need to invest in affordable housing and prevention efforts that make homelessness rare; and in diversion and rapid re-housing programs that make homelessness brief; and we need to significantly invest in permanent supportive housing that ensures that homelessness is non-recurring for all those that successfully rise above that experience,” but I haven’t been able to see the details of what that plan would look like specifically. 

Arguments: How does Jesus argue about morality?

At first glance it might feel like morality isn’t a very applicable subject for us personally, but arguments around morality are driving the majority of our headlines in the news today. 

The #metoo movement is a conversation around morality.  The conversations around immigration right now are a conversation around morality.  Racism, abortion, equality are all conversations, at the base level, around morality, and in Mark 12 we are going to see three sub-points; 1.  The Background.  2. The Rebuke.  3.  The Training. 

Mark 12:28, “28 One of the scribes came up and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

The Scribes were the teachers of the law, like Pharisees, but the Scribes had the responsibility of meticulously preserving God’s Word and replicating God’s Word, so Scribes are like Guardians of the Bible.

In verse 28 the Scribe has been listening to Jesus engage these arguments that we have covered the last two Sundays, and the Scribe says to Jesus, “That’s a pretty good response, but “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

This question isn’t like a memory question, and Jesus just needs to recall the correct information, but this question is to create division, because Jesus has a large following of people and each group of people would have certain commandments that they focused on more than others, so the Scribe is trying to get Jesus to show His cards. 

Arguments: How does Jesus argue about politics?

I was reading in an article where the author made the observation that the follower of Christ is comfortable talking to their friend about sexual addiction, financial debt, marital conflict, childhood hurts, but in today’s climate feels completely resistant to talk about politics. 

And why should we?  Due to the massive amounts of news, quality of news, and volatility of news it seems likely that it would be unwise to engage in any political conversation, because there are landmines everywhere. 

Have you heard of Critical Race Theory?  Critical Race Theory has hi-jacked most of the political vocabulary, so that we might be saying the same words around racism, white supremacy, or white privilege, but completely different definitions, and that makes political conversations really complicated, therefore, why would we even think about engaging a conversation around politics? 

The answer is simple, really.  We engage these conversations because Jesus calls all who are in Christ to “go and make disciples” and making disciples involves every part of our life coming under the name of Jesus, and that includes politics.

In Mark 12 we see how Jesus engages political arguments, and we are going to see three sub-points; 1.  The Background.  2. The Rebuke.  3.  The Training

The Background.

Mark 12:13-15, “13 Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14 They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay or shall we not pay?”

This conversation is taking place on Wednesday, and in two days Jesus is going to be put to death on Friday, so that On Monday it is “The people love Jesus, crying out Hosanna, Glory to God” and on Friday it is “The people are crying out crucify Him” so that Wednesday is filled with tension.

The “they” in verse 13 is the Sanhedrin, which was the super religious group in Israel, and the Sanhedrin are wanting to catch Jesus in a trick question.

First, Israel was already paying land tax, grain tax, oil tax, wine tax, and this poll-tax was just another way for Rome to oppress the people of Israel, and they were done with it. 

Second, the Pharisees and Herodians were symbolic groups representing both sides of the argument. The Pharisees were the religious leaders representing Israel, so that if Jesus says, “Pay the tax” then Jesus is aligning himself with Rome, aligning Himself with oppressor, and the Pharisees are going to gasp.

But if Jesus says, “Don’t pay the tax” then Jesus is aligning Himself with Israel, aligning Himself with revolt, and the Herodians are going to tell Rome to take down Jesus as quickly as possible.

Arguments: How does Jesus argue about life after death?

In our culture today we tend to have one belief that we are all going to go to heaven one day, and everything is great, so don’t worry, and on the other extreme is that we all rot and die and death is where it all ends. 

But in Matthew 22 we are going to see how Jesus responds to the question, “What happens when we die?”

Matthew 22:23-28, “23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24 asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”

The word “resurrection” means rising up, and it is a teaching that is every man, woman, and child is going to be “resurrected” (raised up from the dead), so that those who are in Christ will spend eternity with Christ, and those who are not in Christ will spend eternity in judgment, called hell.  

The kicker of the story is that the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection at all.  My professors would say, “That is why they are sad you see.” 

Rise Up and Reach Update: October 2020

https://northvillagechurch.com/events/

The City of Austin has our paperwork, and they keep pushing us out two weeks, but we want you to know we are still looking for opportunities. 

We talked to two different owners on Burnet Rd. and both properties are asking for twice as much as the property we are looking at right now, which is encouraging for us to keep persevering with our current opportunity and keeping an eye out for new opportunities. 

In addition, 100% of the one time gifts that were committed for Rise Up Reach in August have come in, which is a huge encouragement for our church family, so please keep praying and know that we are fully expecting the Lord to provide for us as a church family.

Titus 2:1-15, “Genuine Faith, Genuine Lives.”

About a year ago I had someone knock on my door about the house across the street being for rent, and he said, “Do you know the owner living in Florida?”  I said, “The owner just passed away and left the house to her nephew who lives in Phoenix?”  He said, “Really, because I am emailing someone who is telling me to send a deposit check of $1,500 in Florida.”

  • Have you had one of those moments where you ever felt misled? 
  • Have you had one of those moments where you go to buy something, and then you didn’t read the fine print? 
  • Teenagers, have you had one of those moments where you were watching a Tik-Tok video, only to find out they are trying to trick you into buying something?

In the book of Titus we see a people who are professing faith in Jesus, but living a life that is misleading, deceptive, destructive, and God’s Word teaches us that genuine faith in Jesus produces genuine lives in Jesus, and in Titus 2 we are going to see God’s Word focus on three sub-points; 1.  The Charge.  2.  The Context.  3.  The Comfort.  Lets look at our first sub-point; 1.  The Charge. 

The Charge.

Titus 2:1, “1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.”

Now, verse 1 is specifically for Titus, but this charge is also for all those who are in Christ, and the word “sound” basically means “healthy” and the word “doctrine” means instructions, so verse 1 is talking about “speaking words that build up others and making relationships, society and culture better.”

It’s possible that you are only thinking about preaching or formal speaking, but the word “speak” is just the word “talk” so that we are talking about our normal, conversational, words with the people around us so that our relationships are cultivated and made beautiful. 

Can you think of a more important verse for our culture today?  We have people rioting in the streets, we have presidential candidates yelling at each other, we family members cutting off relationships because of social views, and God’s Word charges us, “But as for you, build up your up the people around you.” 

6 Stages of Processing the Coronavirus

In January 2020 I started to hear people talking about the Corona virus, but it wasn’t something I took serious. In February, I started to hear a few more clusters of people talking about the threat of the Corona virus in the United States, but I was still optimistic that it wouldn’t be a problem for me personally.

In March, everything changed. Festivals started to close, sports started to cancel, and it wasn’t long before our mayor was signing a city ordinance for us to Shelter-In-Place.

As the ordinance went into effect I was surprised by how my friends and neighbors responded to the ordinance with such optimism, and it reminded me of how people tend to process going through cultural changes.

As a pastor, I have led many people into cross-cultural experiences, and found there is a pattern that people go through in cross-cultural experiences that might apply to this season of our lives:

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Preparing to Engage God Every Day

On March 22, 2020, Austin, TX issued a “Shelter At Home” ordinance in our city during the Corona Virus spread. As a result we are encouraged not to leave our homes, unless for essential activities, and as a result we are in our house, or in our PJ’s longer than usual.

In the past, we would have gone throughout the day, or the week, and there might have been passive ways that our heart, soul, mind and strength might have been stirred for the Lord. There might have been a song we heard from someone’s office, there might have been a billboard that peaked our curiosity about the Lord, or even a friendly hello from a passerby might have been a divine hello that we didn’t know we needed. But, these days it seems like we have less of those opportunities, and if we’re not careful we will just keep scrolling our social media or watching re-runs on Netflix.

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