[by Pastor Bob Coy at Calvary Chapel, Ft. Lauderdale, FL]
But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. --Job 23:10 (NKJV)
"Happy New Year!" Really? How can you be so sure that this upcoming year will be a happy one? Take a moment to look back at last year. Were there any trials? Of course there were, and you can be equally certain that there will be trials in this upcoming year as well.
It's interesting that in describing the storms of life, Jesus always assumed that they would have a place of prominence in our lives. He said "when the storms came" not "if the storms come" (Matthew 7:24). You can mark it down in that brand new calendar that you just got: 2008 will be a year of trials.
Regardless of this fact, we can still have a happy New Year when we recognize that our God is all-knowing. There isn't a single bump in the road that will take Him by surprise this year. Before time even began, He knew all that this year would hold for each of us, making it a "Knew Year."
This truth is a harbor of security in a sea of uncertainty because as we understand that God foresaw everything, we also understand that He allowed it to happen. The Bible further assures us that nothing happens to us unless it is for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). So no matter what trials you go through this upcoming year, you can be certain that they will actually complete your character in Christ.
This is the truth that sustained Job as he went through unparalleled trials in his own life. When things seemed like they couldn't get any worse, Job took comfort in the knowledge that God knew the course of his future and that His ultimate purpose in allowing these things was for him to "come forth as gold." The place of trial became the place of blessing as Job's trials perfected his patience and faith.
Regardless of what this New Year brings, we can rest assured that He knows what we will be dealing with and that He is going to use it for our greater good. Keeping this in mind will make for a very happy Knew Year, indeed!"
Monday, December 31, 2007
[by Pastor Bob Coy at Calvary Chapel, Ft. Lauderdale, FL]
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
What will happen when you die?
Will you go to Heaven or Hell? Jesus knows!
“Emmanuel.”! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
He’s the One who’ll judge us all
Let’s see who will stand or fall…
Have you ever told a lie?
Wished that someone else would die?
Entertained a lusty thought?
Stolen when you should have bought?
Help! We’ve broken God’s Ten Laws!
Who will come to save us all?
That's why Jesus Christ was sent
To be saved you must repent
Died on the cross for all your sin
Repent and put your trust in Him
Mild He laid His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
(Ray Comfort's blog is here)
Friday, December 21, 2007
"Jesus, you have found us
When we wandered far;
When we could not find ourselves
You came to where are.
'Glory in the Highest'
Is more than just a phrase.
Lord, we fall before You now,
Your Holy name we praise.
Glory in the Highest!
Lust the song begin!
joy has come into our world;
Let us worship Him!
Glory in the Highest!
Worthy is our King!
Come let us adore Him,
And bring Him everything."
9. "No, with all the hostile takeovers this year, I missed the big Ronco/K-Tel/Ginsu merger. Would you just look at that! What will they think of next?!"
8. "Hey, as long as I don't have to feed it, or clean up after it, or put batteries in it, I'm happy!"
7. "No, really, I didn't know that there was a Chia Pet tie! Oh, wow! It's a clip-on too!"
6. "You know, I always wanted one of these! Jog my memory -- what's it called again?"
5. "You know what? -- I'm going to find a special place to put this!"
4. "Boy, you don't see craftsmanship like that every day!"
3. "And it's such an interesting color too!"
2. "You say that was the last one? Am I ever glad that you snapped that baby up!"
And the number one thing to say about the Christmas gifts you didn't like is: "You shouldn't have! I mean it -- you really shouldn't have!"
Thursday, December 20, 2007
“My wife and I once traveled from San Antonio in Texas to Mexico City. South of the muddy Rio Grande border, we found the plains of northern Mexico very dusty, dirty, hot, mosquito-infested, water-polluted and generally miserable. Up and down we went, along the dusty roads, through shabby towns, up and down but never out of the summer discomfort of the tierra caliente of Mexico.
At long last we reached the little town of Tamazunchale (nicknamed Thomas and Charlie by gringo tourists) where the road began to climb up through the mountains to the wonderful plateau of Mexico, the delightful tierra temprada where the air was clear, the nights cool, the mosquitoes few, the water pure, and the general conditions bracing. So we continued at an elevation of seven thousand feet, up and down but always much, much higher than the highest part of the plains, until we reached the capital city in the “Bowl of the Gods”.
The Victorious Life has its ups and downs, but at an elevation far removed from the depressing ups and downs of the carnal life. There is a plateau of high and holy Christian living. ‘Lord, lift me up, and let me stand by faith on heaven’s tableland!’”
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 10, “Sanctification Threefold.” Full Surrender.
“When St. Paul calls Christ God’s ‘unspeakable Gift,” he is not toying with exaggerating superlatives, polishing his style with impressive phraseology. The blessing of the Savior’s Gospel was as inexplicable to him as it must be to us. The Apostle uses a term here which means: “one ‘cannot bring out’ or ‘express’ the blessing, the fullness, the glory, the riches, the value, of this divine gift. If St. Paul, acknowledged even by the Christless world as a master of logic, expression, and rhetoric, asserts that God’s Christmas gift to the world defies all description, where will we find words or pictures, poetry of painting, that can reproduce in full majesty the limitless love of our Lord Jesus?
No sacred oratorio, not even the unforgettable strains of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and it s climax in the stirring ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ or the artistry of Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio,” can be classed with the angel chorus reechoing over Bethlehem; and even the angel voices could not sing the full glory of Christ.
All the hands of genius painting nativity scenes, the fifty-six madonnas of Raphael, or an art gallery graced with the masterpieces of the ages that have depicted the Christ-child can truly delineate the personal blessings of Bethlehem. No poetry, not even the sacred lines of our hymnals, the measured stateliness of any nativity ode, not even the ancient psalms of inspired prophecy, can fully express the height and depth of God’s love in Christ. The heart of Christmas remains unspeakable in its beauty, immeasurable in its power, unutterable in its glory.”
[Walter A. Maier (1893 – 1950). Called "Jeremiah of the 20th Century," Dr. Walter A. Maier was the preachingest preacher in the world during the 1940s, operating through twelve hundred radio stations in a number of different languages.]
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"Andrew became a soul-winner at once. He quickly found his brother and brought him to Jesus. We can learn valuable lessons from him. To be a soul-winner one must first himself be a follower of Jesus. Men who have never seen the beauties of the Lord are not fit to tell others about Him. One of the surest signs that you are born again is your desire to see others saved. Andrew does not appear to have been brilliant. He was just a man or ordinary capacities. He was just a young convert. But he was able to win a soul. Your ability to be a soul-winner does not depend upon whether you have a college education--it depends upon your love for Christ and your fellow men. God loves to take the weak things of the world and confound the wise. He can use our talents today if you really love Him."
Charles E. Fuller, Dec. 19. Manna in the Morning. Boston: Fellowship Press, 1943.
I expected the pastor to say: ‘That’s a picture of a carnal Christian!’ Instead he said that it was a picture of a Christian until the day of his death.
So I sought out the preacher, and spoke with him in this way: ‘There are some Christians who say that we can shoot the old black dog dead, but they agree that we can raise another black pup; so let’s not bother about that. But don’t you believe that it is possible to chain the old black dog up to keep him from doing damage? And don’t you believe that it is possible not to feed the old black dog at all?’
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 10, “Sanctification Threefold.” Full Surrender.
As shadows cast by cloud and sun
Flit o'er the summer grass,
So, in thy sight, Almighty One,
Earth's generations pass.
And while the years, an endless host,
Come pressing swiftly on,
The brightest names that earth can boast
Just glisten and are gone.
Yet doth the Star of Bethlehem shed
A luster pure and sweet,
And still it leads, as once it led,
To the Messiah's feet.
0 Father, may that holy star
Grow every year more bright,
And send its glorious beams afar
To fill the world with light.
--WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
“There is a difference between forgiveness and cleansing. Hitherto, I had always regarded the promises of 1 John 1:9, “He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, as two ways of describing the same blessing. But I have come to see that two different things are promised therein. The things that are forgiven are “sins”, acts of sin, specific sins; the thing that is cleansed is the whole personality, cleansed from all unrighteousness.
My small boy, David, was once told not to play in the tempting mud puddle. He disobeyed. To his dismay, he discovered that the muddy evidence of his disobedience was written all over his face and hands and knees and clothes. Fearing just punishment, he stayed out late, until the twin forces of fear of the dark and miserable hunger drove him in. By this time, we were so relieved to see him that we forgave him promptly. But as soon as he was forgiven, his mother took him to the bathroom, and stripped off his dirty clothes, washed his dirty face and hands and knees, and then put him into the tub for a complete bath, finally deciding to give him a shampoo. So he went to bed, not only forgiven of his disobedience, but as clean as a new pin.”
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 9, “The Cleansing of the Christian.” Full Surrender.
"Out of the midnight sky a great dawn broke,
And a voice singing flooded us with song,
In David's city was He born, it sang,
A Saviour, Christ the Lord. Then while I sat
Shivering with the thrill of that great cry,
A mighty choir a thousand-fold more sweet
Suddenly sang, Glory to God, and Peace--
Peace on the earth; my heart, almost unnerved
By that swift loveliness, would hardly beat.
Speechless we waited till the accustomed night
Gave us no promise more of sweet surprise;
Then scrambling to our feet, without a word
We started through the fields to find the Child."
-- John Erskine
Monday, December 17, 2007
“Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.”
(William Shakespeare. “Hamlet”, Act 1, Scene 1)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
“As a chaplain in the Forces overseas, I can say quite simply that to me profanity was a sorer trial than any terror of war. Profanity included vulgarity, lewdness, sacrilege, blasphemy, and horrible mixtures of all four. By far the worst was the taking in vain of the name of the Lord. The men used to tell me that they meant nothing by it, that they were not even thinking of God when they thus mentioned His name. Nevertheless, the Lord did not hold them guiltless while taking His name in vain.
I found that men swore either to shock people, to be mean, or to hide inferiority. Their profanity showed a lack of education, breeding and character. It lowered self-respect, cheapened the better things and defiled the whole personality. It shocked people of good taste, provoked contempt, fouled the atmosphere, set a bad example, and disqualified men for decent society. Worst of all, it offended God.
Upon return to civilian life, I discovered that many men who no longer moved in circles where foul language prevailed switched to minced oaths. Unfortunately, a large number of professing Christians adopted the same silly and subtle vocabulary of simulated swear-words. According to the Webster Unabridged Dictionary, such words as “gosh” or “gee” are minced oaths, euphemisms for “God” or “Jesus”. A minced oath is recognizable by similarity of constants or vowels occurring in the original oath. Everyone should recognize “darn” as a substitute for “damn”, “heck” as a substitute for “hell”, and other words as a substitute for expressions too crude to be hinted at in print. Expletives beginning with “g”, “j”, or “c” should always be suspect. Expressions beginning with the preposition “by” are nearly always substitute swear words even if their point is blunted by the use of some derelict god or other ridiculous name.
For a Christian to excuse his substitute oaths by saying that he means nothing by them, and is not even thinking of the significance of the words, sounds like the excuse of profane swearers overseas. It jars one’s tender memory to hear professing Christians, including leaders, use words which had an ugly origin in vulgarity or lewdness. One even hears nice old ladies use expressions which in their original form would shock the users speechless. The best way to avoid using language which sounds profane to the initiate is to avoid using extravagant expletives. The obedient Christian wants to avoid the very semblance of evil. Experience has proved that a new convert can eliminate minced oaths.
Let the person who is inclined to scoff at condemnation of fashionable expletives remember that Christ Himself taught that unnecessarily garnished language is a product of evil. The Lord’s brother, James taught that the man who controls his tongue can control his whole personality, so let the scoffer try to eliminate his questionable epithets for a month. If he cannot do it, he is in bondage to a bad habit; if he can do it he will find that the habit is unnecessary. The English language has the richest vocabulary in the world, yet some verbal cripples have to hobble along with questionable crutch words.”
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 5, “Sins of the Tongue,” Full Surrender.
Friday, December 14, 2007
“The most effective prayer for a heart-hungry believer is an Old Testament petition found in the Psalms of David (Psalms 139:23-24):
'Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my thoughts;
And see if there be a way of grief in me,
And lead me in the way of eternity.'
I never fully understood the significance of this prayer until I heard the verse translated into the Scandinavian tongues. There the word “search” is rendered “ransack”. It takes little imagination to picture the thoroughness of a job of ransacking as compared to mere searching. Ransacking turns things upside down and brings to light things that are hidden or forgotten. In time of backsliding, the Spirit is quenched, and as life goes on the natural tendency is for a convicted person to forget the unpleasant episode. In conviction of sin, the debris of ordinary living is swept aside and the offending thing is brought to attention. Hence, if the believers are to avoid superficiality in confession, a thorough ransacking of the heart is necessary.”
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 4, “The Searching of the Heart,” Full Surrender.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
“[A]n Irish friend of mine borrowed a sum of money from me. He had been gambling and was in danger of losing his job. He agreed to pay me back weekly installments, but never did. I felt annoyed whit the fellow for a couple of years. Finally I decided to forgive him. But who suffered? The debtor or the creditor? The sinner or the sinned against? Obviously the sinned against. I could have taken him to court, in the which case he have suffered. How much would he have suffered? The amount that he owed me! Instead I forgave him, and so I suffered; and I suffered the amount that he owed me, that I had forgiven him. Thus I learned a second principle of forgiveness---the one who forgives is the one who suffers.
Such reflections made the Cross more real to me. It was necessary for someone to suffer, for someone had to pay. But the one who forgives is the one who suffers, so it was necessary for Christ to suffer. Moses could hot have suffered the Cross, not Jeremiah, nor Peter, nor Paul. It had to be God, the only One who could forgive. And Christ Jesus was God made manifest in the flesh.”
J. Edwin Orr, Chapter 2, “Forgiveness of Sins” Full Surrender
Timmy Brister has compiled the following direction that I will prayerfully consume this next year:
"Commit to reading one Puritan Paperback a month. You can do this by blocking out 30 minutes each day (~10 pages) after personal Bible reading as supplementary to your spiritual growth. To make it easy for you, I have created a sample monthly reading list below.
January: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (128 pp)
February: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (221 pp)
March: The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson (252 pp)
April: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (253 pp)
May: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (225 pp)
June: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (130 pp)
July: A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge (287 pp)
August: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (228 pp)
September: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (224 pp)
October: The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (207 pp)
November: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (256 pp)
December: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine (148 pp)"
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
"No one told Ananias and Sapphira that they had must sell their property in order to remain in Christian fellowship. No one compelled them to offer the proceeds to the general fund of the infant Christian Church. Their maximum inducement was the power of godly example and exhortation. They saw others making a financial sacrifice, so they thought of a way whereby they might gain like approval without making the full sacrifice.
Likewise, the acts of consecration made by Christians today are all voluntary. No one is told that he must spend so much time in prayer in order to remain in fellowship. Neither is any one told that he must give a tenth or more in order to be recognized as a Christian. Nor is any one told that he must witness to so many people each week in order to prove that he is a believer. These things are done, but on account of godly example and exhortation rather than by compulsion.
Another noteworthy fact is that Ananias and Sapphira were unaware of the seriousness of their offence. They appeared to be unaware of any offence against God at all. The Apostle Peter told the husband, "You have not lied to men but to God!" one cannot imagine that Ananias and Sapphira sat together in conference and planned to tell a lie to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was far from their thoughts. The Apostle asked them how they had schemed such a thing in their hearts, but it does not seem likely that either husband or wife fancied themselves in a battle of wits against the Holy Spirit. They were unaware of His involvement.
So it is with Christians today. They scheme and plan and cheat and deceive in ways that involve the Holy Spirit, who cannot ignore broken vows. But the offenders are generally unaware of their offence. They think that it concerns themselves alone, and that failure is their own affair.
"How is it," asked the Apostle, "that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?"
Ananias and Sapphira made an agreement together to sell their land and keep back part of the price, but it seems unlikely that they discussed the matter to the extent of saying, "Let us see how far we can provoke the Holy Spirit in this way!" The Holy Spirit was not in their thoughts.
And today many Christians, by keeping back part of the price of consecration, by making vows that are speedily broken, are guilty of provoking the Holy Spirit. No wonder they are making little or no progress in spiritual things. The fact that they have not suffered severely is but evidence if the long-suffering of God in times of spiritual decline."
Orr, James Edwin. Full Surrender. Chapter 1, "Broken Vows."
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
J. Edwin Orr tells of the tour where, "we walked round a beautiful garden which occupied a former piece of waste land. The gardener showed us round. 'Those are beautiful roses,' we said to him. 'I planted them,' replied the gardener, with justified pride. 'What a beautifully-cut hedge!' we remarked next. 'I trimmed that,' he said.
At the garden gate, we found an old fellow watching a smoking heap of refuse. 'What have you been doing?'
'Working at the garden,' he said.
'Well then, what have you to show for your labour?'
'Nothing, Sir,' he replied.
'Then you cannot have been working!' we told him.
'Sir,' he asserted, 'When we came here, this garden was a piece of waste land, overgrown with weeds, full of stones and sand, swampy in one corner, and pretty hopeless all round.' We got interested. 'Well, sir,' he went on, 'I broke up the land, and I destroyed the weeds, and dug out the stones, and carted away the sand, and it was my job to drain the swampy corner.' We listened with growing appreciation. 'I am saying nothing against the other fellow who planted the garden. He did his job well. But where would his planting come in if I hadn't first rooted out and destroyed the weeds?'
Both men's labour was necessary, but the rooting-out and destruction of weeds preceded the planting of flowers and shrubs."
Read J. Edwin Orr's article here.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
1. Clear large space on table for wrapping present.
2. Go to wardrobe and collect bag in which present is contained, and close door.
3. Open door and remove cat from wardrobe.
4. Go to cupboard and retrieve rolls of wrapping paper.
5. Go back and remove cat from cupboard.
6. Go to drawer and collect transparent sticky tape, ribbons, scissors, labels, etc.
7. Lay out present and wrapping materials on table, to enable wrapping strategy to be formed.
8. Go back to drawer to get string, remove cat that has been in the drawer since last visit, and collect string.
9. Remove present from bag.
10. Remove cat from bag.
11. Open box to check present, remove cat from box, replace present.
12. Lay out paper to enable cutting to size.
13. Cut the paper to size, trying to keep the cutting line straight.
14. Throw away first sheet because cat tried to chase the scissors and tore paper.
15. Cut second sheet of paper to size by putting cat in the bag the present came out of.
16. Place present on cut-to-size paper.
17. Lift up edges of paper to seal in present, wonder why edges now don't reach, and find cat between present and paper. Remove cat and retry.
18. Place object on paper, to hold in place, while cutting transparent sticky tape.
19. Spend next 20 minutes carefully trying to remove transparent sticky tape from cat with pair of nail scissors.
20. Seal paper down with transparent sticky tape, making corners as neat as possible.
21. Look for roll of ribbon; chase cat down hall and retrieve ribbon.
22. Try to wrap present with ribbon in a two-directional turn.
23. Re-roll up ribbon and remove paper that is now torn, due to cat's enthusiasm in chasing ribbon end.
24. Repeat steps 12-22 until down to last sheet of paper.
25. Decide to skip steps 12-16 in order to save time and reduce risk of losing last sheet of paper. Retrieve old cardboard box that you know is right size for sheet of paper.
26. Put present in box, and tie down with string.
27. Remove string, open box and remove cat.
28. Put all packing materials in bag with present and head for lockable room.
29. Once inside room, lock door and start to re-lay out packing materials.
30. Remove cat from box, unlock door, put cat outside door, close door and re-lock.
31. Lay out last sheet of paper. (Admittedly this is difficult in the small area of the toilet, but try your best!)
32. Seal box, wrap with paper and start repairs by very carefully sealing down tears with transparent sticky tape. Now tie up with ribbon and decorate with bows to hide worst affected areas.
33. Label, then sit back and admire your handiwork, congratulating yourself on making good of a bad job.
34. Unlock door, and go to kitchen to make drink and feed cat.
35. Spend next 15 minutes looking for cat, before coming to obvious conclusion.
36. Unwrap present, untie box and remove cat.
37. Retrieve all discarded sheets of wrapping paper, feed cat and retire to lockable room for last attempt, making certain you are alone and the door is locked.
38. At time of handing over present, smile sweetly at receiver's face, as they try and hide their contempt at being handed such a badly wrapped present.
39. Vow to yourself that next year, you will get the store to wrap the thing for you.
Monday, December 03, 2007
How wonderful it was to return to the street after missing a couple of weeks (one, to illness and another to Thanksgiving). Nick was not able to lead the team, so we met and prayed about my stepping in for the week. Our training time started off rather small, but by prayer and worship time, we had a dozen people.
One change we have enjoyed in our training time is that, instead of watching a video or taking in yet another lesson, we’ve been walking our way through the book of Acts. When we started a few weeks ago, we were listening to chapters 1-4 being read in the ESV. The next week we listed to chapters 5-8. This week we did not have the CD, but why not do it the old way? We read chapters 9-12 out loud together then shared some thoughts as we took in the sounds and sights of God’s Spirit at work in the early church.
What a wonderful reminder that this is not our work, but His work being done through obedient servants. When we go down to Five Points, the people there are not exactly looking for us to come; rather, we are the buzz-kill. We Christians are the pests, the fanatics. Yes, I suppose we are fanatical about forgiveness of sin and eternal life, which is why when the LORD says, “Go!” we say, “How far?” and He says, “all the world!” WOO HOO! Fanatics about forgiveness and life telling fanatics about death and hell about the love of God. Oh, how we need to pray!
Preparing for our prayer time, I brought a chapter of R.A. Torrey’s book, “How to Pray,” reminding us that prayer is not merely saying words with closed eyes, but using words to frame God’s truth into our lives, that we may obey Him and let Him be successful. I read from the second chapter on Acts 12:5, “Praying Unto God:” 1) Prayer is coming into God’s presence; therefore beware the wandering mind; 2) prayer is without ceasing; that is, with intense desire or “stretch-out-ed-ly;” and 3) prayer is powerful when in unity of fellowship. After a wonderful time in prayer and worship, we hit the streets.
We crossed paths with another ministry team from Northeast Columbia. I love it when new teams cross paths because we approach each other with tracts in hand, not knowing what is going to happen, but when the tracts come out, we enjoy a wonderful laugh and time of fellowship, introductions all around, then we spread out again with the good news.
I made some new tracts (Beer Trivia, and a Rock Music Trivia tract) and they were going like hot-cakes. A very tall young man crossed the street and I got him as he stepped up the curb, “Didja get one of these?” I held out a Rock Music tract. I asked, “Do you recognize any of these names?” I asked. He looked them over: Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix . . . he smiled when he saw Hendrix.
“Do you know what all these folks have in common?” I asked.
“They sang rock music,” he said. I pointed out that they all died at the age of 27, and I gave him some details. We talked about their musical influences and styles, then I asked how old he was. “19,” he said, looking down at me (did I say he was tall?).
I looked up into his chest and said, “If the average person dies at the age of 70, you have just over 2500 weekends left to live. What are you going to do with your time?”
He looked down at me, eyeballs nearly bugging out of his head when he thought about how much time he really did not have to live. I asked him about school. He attends Benedict College, but is looking to transfer out. I pressed him about what field of study he was interested in, with just over 2500 weekends left to live, assuming nothing else happened between now and age 70.
Psychology. I smiled. “Do you know what I am doing out here tonight?” I asked. He shook his head. “Psychology,” I replied. “Do you know what that words means?” He thought he did, but was not sure. “Something to do with the mind”, he said.
“Not exactly. Psychology is the study of the soul. How’s your soul? What are you like on the inside?” I asked.
“I really don’t know,” the boy said, a thoughtful smile growing as he crossed him arms, stroking his chin.
“Let’s do a little soul-study and see what kind of person you really are. Would you consider yourself to be a ‘Good Person’?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
I thanked him for his honesty, but pressed on. “How do you know you are not a ‘Good Person’? What is your standard of measurement?” He shrugged. He new he was not a good person, but was bothered that he could not tell how he knew. “Something going off in your conscience?” I asked. He laughed nervously and said “yes”.
I said, “Tell you what. Let’s look at the Ten Commandments and see how you do.” He took a step backward and he continued laughing nervously, hands waving that “no, no!” sign.
“Have you ever told a lie,” I asked.
“Yes,” he admitted, well engaged and intrigued.
“So what does that make you? What are people called who tell lies?” I asked.
“Liars,” he admitted, and laughed.
“Have you ever stolen anything?” I held up one finger, and went on.
“Yes,” he said a bit more slowly, still smiling and intrigued.
“What are people called who steal things?” I wanted to know.
“Thieves,” he admitted.
“Have you ever committed adultery?” I pressed, now holding up two fingers.
“No! I’m not married!” he said with an aire of relief, staring at my fingers.
“Jesus said that if you’ve looked at a woman with lust, you’ve committed adultery with her already in your heart. Have you ever looked with lust?” I held up three fingers as he hung his head down with that “I’m so busted” look. He kept smiling out of embarrassment.
After admitting to taking God’s name in vain, using God’s name as a curse-word I reviewed our conversation so far, that he admitted he was not a good person but did not know why, though his conscience told him so. I ran through my four now-raised fingers, reminding him that he admitted to being a liar, a thief, and an adulterous blasphemer at heart. What did he think of my soul-study? He shook his head in astonishment, the nervous smile still ever-present.
“If God were to judge you by the Ten Commandments, would be innocent or guilty?”
“Guilty,” he said.
“Would you go to heaven or hell?” I asked.
Here two things happened simultaneously. Just as he was about to balk, we were interrupted by a well-meaning individual, but the conversation was almost lost because of the interruption. I usually expect some kind of interruption somewhere around this point.
When I got the conversation back, my new friend was ready with questions: “What about other religions?” He felt he was sincere, though I usually hear something like this about this point. I asked him if he knew what Jesus thought about other religions, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” His arms crossed as his hand went to stroke his chin in contemplation. His response?
He told me that he felt the purpose of anyone in life is to basically wander until they discovered their purpose in life. Nobody really knows what they are supposed to do until they “discover” it.
We talked for a while about the absolutes of how the conscience dictates guilt when he admitted to breaking God’s laws—everyone is in the same predicament (sin = lawlessness). I also told him that his purpose in life is spelled out plainly in scripture, that we are to love the Lord God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love anything or anyone else, even to set out to discover our own purpose is to love ourselves more than God.
He thought some more, then came back with another objection, that Jesus rejected worship and only wanted to teach people how to worship God, and that God does not hate anyone. I showed him some passages (Psalm 5, to name one) that showed what God thinks of sin and sinners, trying to help him understand God’s desire to not see anyone perish, but that all would come to repentance. He tried to tell me that the Bible does not command repentance, so I showed him it did (Acts 17:30)!
I pulled out my Romans Road gospel tract and walked him through it, explaining the substitutionary atonement and pleaded with him to do more than think about what was being said. Then I asked if I could pray for him. His eyes grew huge again, and he looked down at me with incredulity. “Right here? Now? In front of everybody?”
“You bet,” I told him, and I took off my hat (it was 40 degrees) and prayed that God would continue to speak to his conscience, that he would go home and read the gospels and make that life-changing discovery.
Though he listened, he finally gave me his reason for not repenting. He “did not want to give up the good life.” I shared with him the difference between the life he was now living and an abundant life. As a typical 19 year-old, he wanted to party and was in control of his own life. I shared my testimony and contrasted the life I thought would be my own with the abundant life in Christ Jesus. “Besides,” I concluded, “you can’t control your own body functions. What makes you think you can control your own life?”
He shook my hand, thanked me for talking with him and made his way down the sidewalk.
I will close this by telling you that one other team member brought some song books and we stood on the corner and sang some Christmas songs and some evangelistic songs together. At one point a small crowd gathered and someone threw money at our feet. Not long after that two tipsy young ladies came along and sang with us, and that produced a convoluted conversation that I will not attempt to reconstruct here. I only stressed the need to repent, for God does not allow drunks in heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10, Rev. 21:8).
About 1:30 in the morning, after I got home, a thought hit me: I didn’t pick up the money. My partner didn’t either. Oh well.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
“There are many Christians to-day who are doing things that are not pleasing to God, and leaving undone things which would be pleasing to God. When you speak to them about these things they will confront you at once with the question, "Is there any command in the Bible not to do this thing?" And if you cannot show them some verse in which the matter in question is plainly forbidden, they think they are under no obligation whatever to give it up; but a true child of God does not demand a specific command. If we make it our study to find out and to do the things which are pleasing to God, He will make His study to do the things which are pleasing to us. Here again we find the explanation of much unanswered prayer: We are not making it the study of our lives to know what would please our Father, and so our prayers are not answered.
Take as an illustration of questions that are constantly coming up, the matter of theater going, dancing and the use of tobacco. Many who are indulging in these things will ask you triumphantly if you speak against them, "Does the Bible say, 'Thou shalt not go to the theater'?" "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not dance'?" "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not smoke'?" That is not the question. The question is, Is our heavenly Father well pleased when He sees one of His children in the theater, at the dance, or smoking? That is a question for each to decide for himself, prayerfully, seeking light from the Holy Spirit. "Where is the harm in these things?" many ask. It is aside from our purpose to go into the general question, but beyond a doubt there is this great harm in many a case; they rob our prayers of power.”
R.A. Torrey, Cha. 3, “Obeying and Praying” How to Pray (scroll down for the complete book online)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
"Many a church is praying for a revival that does not really desire a revival. They think they do, for to their minds a revival means an increase of membership, an increase of income,an increase of reputation among the churches, but if they knew what a real revival meant, what a searching of hearts on the partof professed Christians would be involved, what a radical transformation of individual, domestic and social life would be brought about, and many other things that would come to pass if the Spirit of God was poured out in reality and power; if all this were known, the real cry of the church would be: 'O God, keep us from having a revival.'"
R.A. Torrey, "How to Pray" (scroll down for the online book)
Monday, November 26, 2007
Someone pointed me to some church planting resources a while back, among which was the following article by Dr. Tom Cheyney. Tom serves as the Strategic Resourcing Manager within the Church Planting Group of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and is responsible for developing world-class resources for partnering churches, church planters, and those who work with them.
Tom’s “article” is meant to be motivational, “20 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT CHURCHES.” I will warn you from the beginning: some of Tom’s reasons for planting churches are hardly reasons at all; therefore, be prepared for my responses which I feel are offered in the same tone as his. I think it sad that something as important as church planting is treated so lightly, so I am simply responding (reacting?) to Tom’s “article,” not criticizing. Tom’s 20 Reasons are BOLD.
20 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT CHURCHES
The apostle Paul said: “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded accordingly to his own labor (1Corinthians 3:8). By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each should be careful how he builds” (1Corinthians 3:10).
1. “Church planting is the most effective evangelism tool anywhere (Acts 6:7).” Isn’t this backwards? This reason we build and paint the nursery is not so that we can have a baby, but because the baby is on the way. Planting a church for the purpose of evangelism is like a farmer needing a field, so he will casts seed to get it. A wise farmer will not so much as build a barn before he has planted. Acts 6:7 reads, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” The church is planted because the gospel is planted and bearing fruit.
2. “Many tools exist to assist you in planting a church with the North American Mission Board.” What did we do before the NAMB? Is this really a good reason to plant a church?
3. “Church planting is the Great Commission at its best. Multiplication is the heart of a church planter. Replenishment is part of God’s amazing vineyard. That which is watered, ultimately becomes a source for future planting. (Isaiah 55:10)." I agree fully with the Great Commission, but what precisely is being multiplied, replenished and resourced? The Great Commission is about broadcast of the gospel. Multiplication and replenish-ment should be that of individuals who gather in local bodies, not merely the multiplica-tion and replenishment of local bodies themselves. The context of Isaiah 55:10 is God’s Word that “will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (55:11) It is God’s Word (rain, snow—see 55:10) that provides man with what he needs.
4. “You long to establish new life and to break new ground. You are a cultivator and gardener of spiritual life.” Again, does the sower sow seed (the gospel, God’s Word) or barns? And who is it that causes the growth? “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” (1 Cor. 3:8-10) Did you notice in the verses above #1, just under the title that 1 Cor. 3:9 was missing (“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building”)
5. “New churches tend to grow much faster than older churches.” So when the new church becomes an old church, we should rush out and plant another new church! Read what this pastor has to say (note 4th paragraph down).
6. “It is a holy privilege to exercise your gifts under God in providing a growing new church, fashioned on the New Testament.” When does “new” become “old” and what about the whole counsel of scripture, rather than the last 27 books?
7. “New churches produce more ministry leaders (Acts 16:5)." I don’t see how Acts 16:5 proves the point except that when evangelism is aggressive, the church grows with true converts. Here’s what R.A. Torrey thinks, “It is a great privilege to preach the Gospel, but this world can be reached and evangelized far more quickly and thoroughly by personal work than by public preaching. Indeed, it can be reached and evangelized only by personal work. When the whole church of Jesus Christ shall rouse to its responsibility and privilege in this matter, and every individual Christian become a personal worker, the evangelization of the world will be close at hand. When the membership of any local church shall rouse to its responsibility and privilege in this matter, and each memberbecome a personal worker in the power of the Holy Spirit, a great revival will be close at hand for the community in which that church is located. Personal work is a work that wins but little applause from men, but it accomplishes great things for God.” (“How to Work for Christ,” Vol 1.)
8. “Lost people matter to God.” Yes, they do. And we do evangelism until they are found and are able to be made part of the church, as regenerate members.
9. “You can give life to the vision God gave you for your life’s ministry.” If God has not breathed life into it, it’s dead. Sorry, but I just don’t have life-giving capability.
10. “Church planters have more fun.” So does anyone else who fills in the blank for the “_____ have more fun” bumper-sticker (plumbers, cowboys, truck drivers, etc.).
11. “You long to penetrate a city and found a flagship church.” I do? Yes, I do plan to penetrate a city, that much is true. But I don't need a fortune cookie to tell me this. A “flagship” chuch? How about a biblical church? There are too many flagship churches where I live.
12. “Your family’s faith will grow.” I pray this is so (like so many other ministry families can attest--and there are some that do!). I could not begin to tell you about the way my kids . . .
13. “Church planting is relational and enables you to make many new friends for Christ.” Now here is some good insight. Church planting is very relational as people grow and serve together. Also, when enemies of Christ are made through the new birth His friends by means of evangelism—I give a hearty “amen!”
14. “You will have more people praying for you.” About as many as pray for our evangelism ministry? Oh, goody!
15. “Church planting is complete evangelism.” I am going to assume the writer means, “evangelism completed.” Or there is an echo in here . . .
16. “You have a desire to see future planters and pastors to be called to ministry from your ministry investment (Proverbs 11:24)”. I just want to see lives changed for the glory of God, in the image of Christ (see #18). If they become planters, pastors, missionaries, teachers, then they had better also be godly men and women, husbands, fathers, children, etc.. I just don't need a fortune cookie to tell me this.
17. “Why clean up after someone else when you can start fresh from scratch?” So . . . if I don’t like my church, I can go plant one just for me! ;-)
18. “You are not afraid of hard work (Proverbs 13:11).” And nothing but. Oh, and I really enjoy criticism too!
19. “You can have it your way.” See #17, and let's plant at Burger King.
20. “You can’t wait for this to end so you can be obedient to the Lord and enlist right now!” No comment.
“Early one morning in the Chicago Avenue Church prayer room, where several hundred people had been assembled a number of hours in prayer, the Holy Spirit fell so manifestly, and the whole place was so filled with His presence, that no one could speak or pray, but sobs of joy filled the place. Men went out of that room to different parts of the country, taking trains that very morning, and reports soon came back of the out-pouring of God's Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Others went out into the city with the blessing of God upon them. This is only one instance among many that might be cited from personal experience.
If we would only spend more time in prayer, there would be more fullness of the Spirit's power in our work. Many and many a man who once worked unmistakably in the power of the Holy Spirit is now filling the air with empty shoutings, and beating it with his meaningless gesticulations, because he has let prayer be crowded out. we must spend much time on our knees before God, if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
R.A. Torrey, “How to Pray.” (scroll down for the complete book)
Sunday, November 25, 2007
"There is no comparison whatever between what will be effected by good preaching and what will be effected by constant personal work. Take a church of one hundred members; such a church under an excellent pastor would be considered as doing an exceptionally good work if on an average fifty were added annually to this membership. But suppose that that church was trained to do personal work, and that fifty of the one hundred members actually went at it. Certainly one a month won to Christ by each one would not be a large average. That would be six hundred a year instead of the fifty mentioned above. A church of many members, with the most powerful preaching possible, that depends upon the minister alone to win men to Christ by his preaching, would not accomplish anything like what would be accomplished by a church with a comparatively poor preacher, where the membership generally were personal workers."
R.A. Torrey, "How to Work for Christ." Find all three volumes here (scroll down).
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Dr. David Soper, in God Is Inescapable, suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Undoubtedly this is true. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. Dr. Soper says that when a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison.
—Ray O. Jones
Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Charles Dickens said that we are somewhat mixed up here in America. He told an audience that instead of having one Thanksgiving Day each year we should have 364. "Use that one day just for complaining and griping," he said. "Use the other 364 days to thank God each day for the many blessings He has showered upon you."
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
“Our spiritual cravings are not strong enough to give life to the mighty conflicts of prayer. They are not absorbing enough to stop business, arrest worldly pursuits, awaken us before day, and send us to the closet, to solitude, and to God; to conquer every opposing force and win our victories from the very jaws of hell.”
E.M. Bounds on “Hezekiah, the Praying King,” in Prayer and Praying Men.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Nor man a Christian, till he's born again.
The egg's at first contained in the shell;
Men, afore grace, in sins and darkness dwell.
The egg, when laid, by warmth is made a chicken,
And Christ, by grace, those dead in sin doth quicken.
The egg, when first a chick, the shell's its prison;
So's flesh to the soul, who yet with Christ is risen.
The shell doth crack, the chick doth chirp and peep,
The flesh decays, as men do pray and weep.
The shell doth break, the chick's at liberty,
The flesh falls off, the soul mounts up on high
But both do not enjoy the self-same plight;
The soul is safe, the chick now fears the kite.
But chicks from rotten eggs do not proceed,
Nor is a hypocrite a saint indeed.
The rotten egg, though underneath the hen,
If crack'd, stinks, and is loathsome unto men.
Nor doth her warmth make what is rotten sound;
What's rotten, rotten will at last be found.
The hypocrite, sin has him in possession,
He is a rotten egg under profession.
Some eggs bring cockatrices; and some men
Seem hatch'd and brooded in the viper's den.
Some eggs bring wild-fowls; and some men there be
As wild as are the wildest fowls that flee.
Some eggs bring spiders, and some men appear
More venom'd than the worst of spiders are.
Some eggs bring piss-ants, and some seem to me
As much for trifles as the piss-ants be.
Thus divers eggs do produce divers shapes,
As like some men as monkeys are like apes.
But this is but an egg, were it a chick,
Here had been legs, and wings, and bones to pick."
(from “A Book For Boys and Girls; or Temporal Things Spiritualized.” By John Bunyan, London. First published thirteen years after Bunyan's death.)
Monday, November 19, 2007
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January 14-18, 2008 Courses
Genesis to Song of Solomon (BIB 5112)
Strategies for Evangelism and Church Planting (ICS 6084)
January 21-25, 2008 Courses
Prophets (BIB 5113)
Prayer and Discipleship (MIN 6430)
TIME FOR PRAYER:
Leisure time is a strange phenomenon. While we seek a break from activity through rest and relaxation, how easily we fill that time with activity. Free time is really not as free as it could be. I’ve not been on a cruise before, but I hear they are the most tiring vacations on the planet because people are kept so busy. It takes me a couple of days just to rest from a regular vacation!
If we were to make a list of all things we could do in our free time (TV, movies, internet, sports, reading, yard work, etc.), where would prayer fall in the list? Is prayer a “free time” activity? My main problem with effectual prayer is that, for some reason, I have allowed it to migrate out of meaningful conversation with the Most Supreme, High and Holy God Who Reigns Above All, to a free-time activity. I struggle with prayer time because I am too busy. This makes prayer an optional activity, doesn’t it? Martin Luther did not think so. He is quoted to say that he had so much to do in one day that he had to get up three hours earlier to pray!
Think with me on this: does it matter if I am a morning person or an evening person? I have to get up and go to work, whether I am a morning person or an evening person. I have my husbandly and fatherly responsibilities regardless if I am a morning or an evening person. You see how this goes. Why should my prayer life depend on my morning or evening level of alertness? If my phone rings at my desk while my first cup of coffee is still brewing, I must answer it and converse with whoever is calling. I believe God wants us at our best and our worst.
Imagine you are in a dark night, in a tight spot and in deep waters. Will you wait for morning or evening to pray? Consider Jonah. Did he catch a glimpse out the whale’s blowhole for a glimpse of the morning or setting sun before he prayed? Was he in a good mood when he prayed? If a prayer of desperation is timeless because prayer itself is timeless, why wait to pray?
Here’s a HUGE “what if”: what if God was a morning person to your evening person? Ridiculous, I know. Since He is the all-time person, remind me again why we treat prayer according to our preference? And what happens if we “miss?” Wait for the clock to cycle around again? “Sorry, God, I missed prayer time. I’ll make it up tomorrow.”
Our hearts are set on God, or not at all.
ON BREATHING AND PRAYER:
Often the illustration is given that prayer is like breathing. I believe that prayer is less about the “act” of breathing (“in” and “out”; “talking” and “listening”) and is more about the “what” of breathing. Do we live because we breathe, or do we survive because of what we breathe? In order to live we need air and air must be breathed. I can inhale and exhale underwater but that does not mean I will continue to live. If we fail to breathe, life gets interesting because we are missing one vital element of survival, then we gasp out of desperation to do regain that which we deprived ourselves. If we follow the analogy and say that prayer is the activity then prayer is a presumption on God, like presuming that oxygen must exist because I breathe. “Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.”[i] In other words, God is the environment (in Him we live, move and have our being), therefore we must pray.
Prayer is the Christian way of life. “Every prayerless day is a statement by a helpless individual, ‘I do not need God today.’ Failing to pray reflects idolatry —a trust in substitutes for God. We rely on our money instead of God’s provision. We rest on our own flawed thinking rather than on God’s perfect wisdom. We take charge of our lives rather than trusting God. Prayerlessness short-circuits the working of God. Neglecting prayer, therefore, is not a weakness; it is a sinful choice.”[ii] Prayerlessness is practical humanism.
Hudson Taylor admonishes, “If we want to see mighty works of Divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:3).
Test yourself: when do you breathe best, morning or evening?
BREATHE WITHOUT CEASING:
What do you think of when you hear or read, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? I think of regular, persistent breathing. Here is Matthew Henry’s golden nugget, “The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season. Prayer will help forward and not hinder all other lawful business, and every good work.”[iii]
Paul instructed the Ephesians on the wide range and deep depths of prayer, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). This refers to 1) variety of prayer (“all prayer and supplication”); 2) the frequency of prayer (“always”) 3) submission to the will of God in prayer (“in the Spirit”); 4) the manner of prayer (“be on the alert”); 5) the persistence of prayer (“all perseverance”); and 6) the objects of prayer (“all saints”). [iv] Prayer is the necessary involvement of fellowship with our Great God and Savior.
“I think of praying at all times as living in continual God-consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our Heavenly Father. . . . Thus life becomes a continually ascending prayer: all life’s thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with our Heavenly Father.”[v]
[i]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Includes indexes. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1995.
[ii] Comfort, Ray. “Prayer.” School of Biblical Evangelism.
[iii]Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, 1 Th 5:16. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991.
[iv]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Eph 6:18. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[v]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Ibid.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Do you know what the scariest, most troubling, most worrisome words in the English language are? “Uh-oh,” or maybe “oops!” Imagine you are in the doctor’s office getting a physical and as he is listening to your chest, his eyebrows come together as he strains to listen and you hear a slight, “uh-oh” come from his lips. Or imagine you have taken your car to the repair shop and after your third trip down to check on their progress you hear a crashing noise, metal striking metal and a mechanic under your hood is heard to say, “oops!”
Neil Postman, in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” suggests the one phrase that separates everything from everything is, “Now . . . this.” These two words are the most commonly used words in radio and television, indicating that “what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see . . . the phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world is mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, ‘Now . . . this.’”[i]
It is for this reason that when I think of “the news” I think of watching or listen to something else. I don’t like the news. Neil Postman defines “news” as “trivialization of public information.” How much of what is reported really matters to you or affects you directly? A small percentage. This is another reason I despise going to the airport because on top of all the stress I face in getting from point A to point B (by means of layover 1 and 2), I am firehosed with information that only stirs up my desire to tell the world about Jesus! In today’s world, the news is nothing more than 45 seconds of a fragmented information without a personal context, personal consequence, value or seriousness. At bottom “news” is nothing more than entertainment.
Let’s try an experiment (and we will use some principles Postman describes in his book): imagine you are given the chance to produce a TV show for the station of your choosing and your goal is to reach the largest possible audience. What do you need?
First, you would need a cast, so you must set out to find people who are likable, credible. Who do you eliminate but the ones who are less-than-desirable (for one reason or another). You may even consider eliminating faces that are too pretty, or people who actually look like they are acting. After all, many performers lack credibility as genuine people. You may not want an actor, but a face that is welcome in your own home, a “safe” face.
Second, you would need to consider what you would like to communicate to your audience. Will it be “fact” or “fiction”, “truth” or “untruth?” Whatever you choose, you want to hold your audience for the duration, so whether fact or fiction, it must be believable. This is what the “news” does. It communicates credibility over reality.
Also, how will you begin your show? How will it end? What moods do you want to create? Have you ever noticed that the Evening News asks nothing of you? Advertisers ask something of you, but not the newscaster. “It is quite obvious that TV news has no intention of suggesting that a story has any implications, for that would require viewers to continue to think about it when it is done and therefore obstruct their attention to the next story that waits panting in the wings.”[ii]
Do you want your audience to react? If so, what reaction are you looking for and what would you want them to do? Right here is the difference between “news” and “good news” or “gospel.” Not too long ago I met four young men downtown and our conversation came around to perspective the way we view ourselves and others. Three of the four thought they were pretty good people and the fourth fellow agreed he was not as good as his friends. After a brief survey of the Ten Commandments, all four youths were obviously bothered by what they saw in themselves. One young man said to me, “You know, we came down here tonight to have a good time then we meet you. You are telling us we are in trouble with God because we have broken His moral law as liars, thieves, etc.. This is all bad, very bad news. What are we supposed to do?”
In this world of all bad, very bad news, there is only one kind of good news. I could tell the boys the good news because they understood what the bad news was. I don’t mean the kind of good news that reports how the local food drive went, or who got High School Football Player of the Week. The news I am talking about matters because each person is held personally responsible, personally accountable for how God sees the heart. This news does not divert us with “Now . . . this,” but “because of this” and “in spite of this.” The gospel keeps everything in context and demands a response.
[i] Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. London: Penguin, 1989. P. 99
[ii] Ibid. P. 103
Monday, November 12, 2007
Yesterday at church we were blessed to have Randy Stonehill with us. He played some classic tunes, including the song he co-wrote with Keith Green, “Your Love Broke Through” (which I cried through in it’s near entirety). We could not help but notice smiles creep across the faces of some Emo kids as Randy played his set. Here is a challenging thought on Holiness from Randy (not direct a direct quote, but my notes on what he said):
“We have a tendency to go through life telling the Almighty, 'I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.' God is not obligate or committed to our happiness and this is frustrating for us. He is actually passionate that we understand that HE is THE LIFE—God is more committed to our holiness than our happiness. Happiness is the dream of desperate men. Holiness is the journey of people who are desperate about what’s on God’s heart.”
A flashback from Randy for you to enjoy:
Sunday night we received some great apologetic training from Charlie Campbell (via DVD) at Always Be Ready on the New Age Movement. I like the organization of Charlie’s presentations and strongly recommend you bookmark his page and/or resources.
Friday, November 09, 2007
In case you were wondering what happened to the “Five Points Fridays” posts, I have a good explanation. Two weeks ago I did not go out because I had stayed up all night the night before and was just too plain tired to go down to Five Points after working all day. A small team went regardless, and we praise the LORD for all He is doing.
This reminds me. When I post these reports, I can only best tell the stories I am directly connected with. While there are as many as 20 team-members who go out doing evangelism, I cannot report everyone’s story. They are strongly encouraged to do their own journaling and/or blogging, but what I give you here is just a small slice of what God is doing.
Last weeks “Five Points Fridays” post simply never got written, 'till now. It was clear and very cold. We left CIU with about 13 people, but so many more showed up I think I remember counting almost 24 people total. Since it was so cold it was hard to get people to stop and talk, so my team stayed at Starbucks until we got kicked out.
The highlight of the evening was our impromptu Street-corner Bible study. Our team is often joined by another team from a local church, mostly young men as young as 15 or 16 with hearts burning for the LORD. One of their team members began asking me some very good questions as we walked back to my car for more tracts (we gave out all we had and I, for once, failed to bring extras). We decided to sit down and talk and he kept asking great questions.
So here we are, sitting on a wall on the street corner, right by the cross-walk, Bibles out and searching the scripture. It was not long until his other team members joined us. Picture this: 15 men (one white “old guy” and 14 African-American young men) standing around in the middle of a very cold night at a stop light near downtown Columbia having Bible Study! IT WAS AWESOME!
We talked about the gospel, the death of Christ, the glory of God, the Victorious Christian life, spiritual warfare, love of God, love for God, love for others, aspects of ministry and I can’t remember what else.
At one point in the conversation, one guy thanked us, told us how much he enjoyed the conversation and that he got a lot out of it, and he left! As another young man was bringing up another question for us, it occurred to me that I had not seen the guy who just left before. I asked the other fellas if the guy who just left was with them. Nobody had seen him before. Apparently, while we were talking and people were passing us by, this one guy came back and stood within our group hearing the gospel and having Bible study! When we all realized what had happened, one young man chased our visitor down and talked to him for a few minutes. I really don’t know how their conversation went.
On another note, this last week we visited Calvary Chapel in Lexington and heard an incredible message from 1 Timothy. How refreshing it is to hear the Word of God preached (they prefer to use the word “teach” at Calvary Chapel) book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. We went back Wednesday night to hear Charlie Campbell of Always Be Ready speak on “The Deity of Christ and the Cults.” Though I took a plethora of copious notes, here is a link to his presentation, “An Examination of the Verses the Cults Use to Disprove the Deity of Christ”. I strongly recommend a period of devoted attention to the content as it is one of the best, concise presentations I’ve heard on the subject—complete with a rebuttal and some great suggested talking points.
Now, to close in prayer:
“Oh, precious Saviour! save us from maligning Thy Gospel and Thy name by clothing it with our paltry notions of earthly dignity, and forgetting the dignity which crowned Thy sacred brow as Thou didst hang upon the cross! Like the Apostles, let us be willing to push our limbs into a basket, and so be let down by the wall, if need be, or suffer ship-wreck, hunger, peril, nakedness, fire, or sword, or even go to the block itself, if thereby we may extend His kingdom and win souls for whom He shed His blood. The Lord fill us with this love and baptize us with this fire, and then the Gospel will arise and become glorious in the earth, and men will believe in us, and in it. They will feel its power, and they will go down under it by thousands, and, by the grace of God, they SHALL.”
(A prayer by Catherine Booth (1829-1890))
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)
"He has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." (Colossians 1:22)
"Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:7)
One of the greatest heartaches in the Christian life is the slowness of our change. We hear the summons of God to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). But do we ever rise to that totality of affection and devotion? We cry out regularly with the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). We groan even as we take fresh resolves: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12).
That very statement is the key to endurance and joy. “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” All my reaching and yearning and striving is not to belong to Christ (which has already happened), but to complete what is lacking in my likeness to him. One of the greatest sources of joy and endurance for the Christian is knowing that in the imperfection of our progress we have already been perfected—and that this is owing to the suffering and death of Christ. “For by a single offering [namely, himself!] he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This is amazing! In the same sentence he says we are “being sanctified” and we are already “perfected.” Being sanctified means that we are imperfect and in process.
We are becoming holy—but are not yet fully holy. And it is precisely these—and only these—who are already perfected. The joyful encouragement here is that the evidence of our perfection before God is not our experienced perfection, but our experienced progress. The good news is that being on the way is proof that we have arrived.
The Bible pictures this again in the old language of dough and leaven (yeast). In the picture, leaven is evil. We are the lump of dough. It says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Christians are “unleavened.” There is no leaven—no evil. We are perfected. For this reason we are to “cleanse out the old leaven.” We have been made unleavened in Christ. So we should now become unleavened in practice. In other words, we should become what we are.
The basis of all this? “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” The suffering of Christ secures our perfection so firmly that it is already now a reality. Therefore, we fight against our sin not simply to become perfect, but because we are. The death of Jesus is the key to battling our imperfections on the firm foundation of our perfection.
From John Piper’s The Passion of Jesus Christ
Monday, November 05, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
We all saw the detestation in Southern California from the wild firesthat came ripping through that area. Hundreds of expensive homes were reduced to piles of smoldering ruins. For many, insurance payments will allow them to replace the structures, but it will not be possible torestore exactly what has been lost. No one can reconstitute the ashes, re-glue the beams, and restore the broken windows making the homes exactly as they once were. Fire has a way of permanently changing things.
It is that very property of fire that Jeremiah uses to describe God's Word. The Prophet quotes God as saying, "'Is not My word like fire?' declares the LORD, 'and like a hammer which shatters a rock?'"(Jeremiah 23:29). The point of this illustration, I think, is to demonstrate that God's Word permanently and completely changes the personwho hears it. As fire chemically changes a house, and a hammer permanently changes a rock, so the Word of God permanently alters the person who hears it.
How has the ministry of the Word changed you?
(from my friend, Dr. John Williamson)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
“The Golden Compass” movie is due to be released on or about December 7, 2007. This release is just in time for parents to take their kids to the movies to be inundated with yet another fantasy-adventure just before Christmas, which means book sales will skyrocket for that gift-giving time of year.
Harry Potter is a nursery-school compared to this.
Folks, this movie is dangerous, as are the books associated therewith. The author is Phillip Pullman, a devout atheist, an unashamed outspoken hater of God. Through his writing, Pullman takes his punches out on C.S. Lewis and Christianity. Here are a few highlights of the story:
1) In Pullman’s world, people are accompanied by animal spirits, who he calls “daemons” and everyone becomes a ghost at death. No daemon = no soul.
2) The “alethiometer” (“alethia” in Greek means “truth”) is a Golden Compass with Ziodiac-type markings inside. “What is truth?” is the question at the heart of the story. Truth is measured by the operator going into trances to communicate with spirit beings and fortune-telling.
3) Animals are still in process of evolution (the polar bears have opposable thumbs).
4) Witches are people who are considered to be truly free and powerful;
5) The General Oblation Board (the “church” in this story) practices castration of young boys and female circumcision to repress sexuality and maturity. Read: the church is suppressive of true humanity, expressed in sexuality. So “The Magisterium” are the bad-guys.
6) “Dust” is sin. Children do not have it, but adults can accumulate it. “Dust is consciousness, or awareness of the world around you and all of its possibilities. Children do not attract Dust because they are still innocent and are thought to have trouble understanding the world. Adults, because of the knowledge they have gained through maturation, do attract Dust. Once you become an adult, a fully conscious being, you are capable of sinning, or doing bad things knowingly. The Church authorities in Lyra’s world equate Dust with original sin. They would like to eliminate Dust, thereby eliminating the human capacity to sin. But Pullman suggests that the capacity to sin (and the ability to choose not to sin) is essential to the very idea of humanity. Without that capacity, humans would be zombies.” (see SparkNotes link below)
After that, one may begin to realize that Pullman is no athiest, but a pagan, who knows just enough about God to throw his fist up in His face.
Here are two links you will find helpful:
1) Snopes.com discusses the urban legend behind the story.
2) SparkNotes has the fullest treatment yet of the books with insight on the author.
Avoid this movie at all costs.
Monday, October 29, 2007
“And I beg the little band of would-be missionaries (and I have the honour to call some of you by this name for the first time) to remember that though you give your bodies to be burned, and have not Love, it profits nothing--nothing! You can take nothing greater to the heathen world than the impress and reflection of the Love of God upon your own character. That is the universal language. It will take you years to speak in Chinese, or in the dialects of India. From the day you land, that language of Love, understood by all, will be pouring forth its unconscious eloquence. It is the man who is the missionary, it is not his words. His character is his message.”
“Take into your new sphere of labour, where you also mean to lay down your life, that simple charm [of Love], and your lifework must succeed. You can take nothing greater, you need take nothing less. It is not worth-while going if you take anything less. You may take every accomplishment; you may be braced for every sacrifice; but if you give your body to be burned, and have not Love, it will profit you and the cause of Christ nothing.”
“Is life not full of opportunities for learning Love? Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. The world is not a play-ground; it is a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love What makes a man a good cricketer? Practice. What makes a man a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. What makes a man a good linguist, a good stenographer? Practice. What makes a man a good man? Practice. Nothing else. There is nothing capricious about religion.”
“Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character--the Christlike nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice.”
“What was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practising. Though perfect, we read that He learned obedience, He increased in wisdom and in favour with God and man. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of its never-ceasing cares, its petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sordid souls you have to live and work with. Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is the practice which God appoints you; and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous. Do not grudge the hand that is moulding the still too shapeless image within you. It is growing more beautiful though you see it not, and every touch of temptation may add to its perfection. Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men, and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles. You remember Goethe's words: Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, Doch ein Character in dem Strom der Welt. "Talent develops itself in solitude; character in the stream of life." Talent develops itself in solitude--the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; Character grows in the stream of the world's life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”
Read the full sermon here.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
“We are not here to play, to dream, to drift; we have hard work to do, and loads to lift. Shun not the struggle; face it—’tis God’s gift.” (Maltbie D. Babcock)
“Followers of Christ are also His soldiers—called to do battle with the forces of Satan and evil. Victories are never won while resting in the barracks.”
Last Friday we had a Gideon’s Army go down to Five Points, 12 as opposed to the usual 20 or so. I want to highlight the fact that what I report here are primarily conversations and experiences I have with people. I cannot report for or on behalf of the entire group—I wish I could, but can’t. So you just get one set of stories out of a team’s worth.
This was a strange week. First, it was the last Friday before the end of the State Fair, so many people were there instead of at party-central. This includes those who normally go down evangelistic purposes. Some of our team had volunteered to work the WMHK booth, so they were at the Fair doing face-painting and sharing the gospel there instead of coming downtown.
We prepared for our weekly foray by watching an interview with Leonard Ravenhill. It is over an hour long, but well worth the time as he discusses true and false conversion, the gospel, revival and the church. Highly recommended. Feel free to stop the video and pray about half-way through.
Chapter 1: The [Million Dollar] Sub Pub and The [Million Dollar] Bushes.
The twelve of us made our way to Five Points and split up into 6 teams. Slow night. We had a hard time “getting settled” and walked about three blocks talking with each other. Jill said she wanted to go see if a certain fellow was working at the Sub Pub. We went in and found some other fellow was working as her target was out on delivery. Thanking the young man, we turned to leave and noticed a Million Dollar Bill taped to the wall at eye level with one of the tables. If you sat in the seat and looked at the wall you would get an eye-full of Million Dollar Bills. But then we noticed it was taped on backwards—the gospel message printed on the back was unmistakable to the reader! Talk about an eyeful! Taped on the wall over the next table was one of our “Big Money” tracts! Cool! Talk about “encouraged!”
Leaving the Sub Pub, Jill and I walked down the sloping sidewalk, passing another pub with walls nearly throbbing with music. Passing by, the revelers therein could not help but share their drunken joy by banging on the window, glasses raised in celebration for the sake of celebrating. Wet red-rimmed, glazed eyes bright with the sparkle of the fruit of the vine, shouts of barely intelligible “heeyyyyyyy!” as they banged on the window. We laughed (with sadness) and moved on, but suddenly I froze as an idea blossomed in my head. I took a few steps back and motioned for their attention. Everyone turned, smiling at me through the window, glasses poised in mid-air as the pub throbbed with the thump-thump of rock music. I pulled one of my street tricks out of my pocket and did a money-change trick, the revelers in awe of the “magic” that unfolded before their eyes. “Heeyyyyyy!” They celebrated as the two one-dollar bills became a Five Dollar Bill.
“You like that?” I asked the deaf ears behind the glass. Glasses went up again and cheers announced their approval and they called for more.
I pulled out my wallet and peeked out the edge of a Million-Dollar Bill. Their eyes bugged out as they looked down from the window. I inched another one out, just peeking the corner of the two bills from my wallet. They almost crawled over each other to see what I was going to do next. I inched a third one out and this time began to taunt from the safety of the sidewalk, “You want some of this?” The revelers did not know what to think. I could almost hear them, “this guy is pulling presidential flash cards out of his wallet! What’s he going to do?” I held them out, the partier’s mouths hanging open, staring at the bills. Jill and I took a few of these precious tracts and stuck them into the bushes . . . and walked off, waving and smiling. It was hard to resist the temptation to turn around and see how many came outside to reap the harvest of a crazy man. I pray they read the back!
Chapter 2: Silence, then a Good Conversation
Moving down the sidewalk, Jill and I were impressed that we should just wait on the Lord and not strike up conversations—sometimes those “open doors” are not so “open.” We came back to the fountain and talked for a while about how God was glorifying Himself through our testimonies. We sat, prayed, waited and sat.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I saw two young men sitting on the wall about 30 feet or so behind us. We got up and approached, and they were quick to know we were “up” to something. I did a couple of street tricks and we laughed and had a good time. I swung the conversation over to the spiritual realm by a “story trick” where I “tear the gospel.” I embellished the third man in the story to work in the “Good Person Test” from the perspective of the third person. They stayed with me the whole way, but one fellow started to give the impression he wanted to be somewhere else. It was not long he did abandon the conversation, leaving me to talk alone with Michael.
Michael said he had repented, but seemed to be very unclear as to what God expected of him, so he was living life as best he could. He thought he was going to heaven, but did not know why. I reviewed the Law with him and stressed the human predicament and what God did to provide salvation by taking a stroll down the Romans Road. He seemed to understand what was being said and his countenance changed from “carefree” (when we met him) to “cautionary” (when we went through the Law and he saw his guilt) to “careful” (as he examined his heart and confessed his need for Christ).
I finally asked him, “would you bow the knee tonight and repent of your sin and by faith accept the work God did for you in the cross in Christ Jesus?” He said he would lay on the sidewalk with his face to the heavens, but he was being deceived that he could not get his words right. I reminded him that if he were drowning, he would not worry so much about words, but would cry for help. We talked a few minutes more and he just wanted to make certain he got it right with God, really, really right. I gave him a Pocket Testament and told him to read Psalm 51 and make that his prayer. He was many-times grateful we talked and shook hands. I prayed for him, that God would continue His work in his life. I believe he left a changed man. I never saw what happened to his friend.
We found two other teams not far off deep in prayer. They finally ended and we agreed that we should finish out the evening on a prayer-walk.
Chapter 3: Visitors From Afar
We took our prayer walk down the street a couple of blocks and around the corner. About half-way down, three rather large and burley men stopped one of our students to ask him about his tee-shirt that merely read, “Columbia International University.” He told us he had just passed some of our other team a block or so over and was wondering about a CD he was given. We really did not know what it was, but the “talker” said his two friends were visiting from Bosnia and he was showing them the town. We welcomed them by giving them each a Pocket Testament and a gospel tract.
“Talker” looked down and asked the significance of the book. I told him it was the life of the Lord Jesus Christ making certain to point out that, “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Then he surprised me with some very good questions about the Gospel of John in contrast and comparison with John’s Letters and the Revelation. Obviously some religious background there. As much as I wanted to spring into the “Good Person Test,” we just did not have clear opening to do so, but I answered their questions to the best of my ability. Since we were able to give them tracts and the gospels, we simply trust the Lord to do His work in changing these men’s lives. They thanked us for talking with them and we all moved on.
Chapter 3: The “Drop”
As we were preparing to leave, a car pulled up behind us and the driver wanted directions to a restaurant in the Vista (opposite side of downtown—another party area). We gave him directions, but as I reached for my wallet to give him some Million Dollar bills, Nick was way ahead of me. He stuck his arm in the car with almost a whole package, maybe 75 or so bills and gave them to the guy. Nick told him when he got to the restaurant, ask for such-and-such a person who worked there. When that person came, he was to give him some bills and ask permission to distribute the rest to the patrons. Now, remember, the driver had no clue these were gospel tracts. All he saw was money with lots of zeros. Nick told the guy to take a few for himself, but he had to promise to read the back and pass the others out. The guy’s reaction? His eyes kept bugging out of his head (I’m sure his head was already swimming from alcohol) and he looks at us and says, “This all you going to give me?” We sent him on his merry way, armed with the good news of Jesus to a lost a dying world.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Includes indexes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990.
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