Thursday, July 31, 2008

Law and Gospel

John Colquhoun (1748-1827) wrote about the relationship between Law and Gospel.

Read Part 1: "The Establishment of the Law by the Gospel"
Read Part 2: "The Uses of the Gospel and the Law"
(these open in pdf)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spurgeon, on Toads

“I know this, that when God the Holy Spirit gives a man a view of himself, he is utterly loathsome in his own esteem.

One of the cardinals of the olden times—when cardinals were sometimes saints—happened to pass by a meadow where he saw a shepherd leaning on his crook, weeping. He stopped to ask the lad what made him weep. The lad replied by pointing to the ground, for just at his feet there was a toad.

‘I was weeping,’ said he, ‘to think that God should have made me, a creature so infinitely superior to this loathsome reptile at my feet, and that I should have made myself such a creature that this loathsome thing is superior to me, because it has never sinned.’

As the cardinal went his way, he said, ‘Verily, has it happened, that the foolish and unlearned enter into the kingdom of Heaven before us, for this peasant has found out the Truth of God.’

Vipers nor toads are more venomous or more loathsome to men than man must be to God, or would be to himself if he could see himself with the eyes of the Truth of God, and if the veil of pride were once lifted from his eyes. The image of God in man is all obliterated. We have ashes for beauty, shame for glory, rottenness for health and Hell for Heaven.” (C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon #468, Volume 8, “Ezekiel’s Deserted Infant.”)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Gold Card For Seeking God's Will: Principles for Pleasing God in the Choices of Life

(adapted from McQuilkin, Robertson. An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, 2nd ed. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1995.)

I. Recieving Directions: Understanding the Will of God

A. Consult Scripture, the first and most important part of Divine guidance;

B. Pray for faith to trust God, for strength to obey, and for wisdom to understand;

C. Chruch. Seek Godly counsel from impartial, mature, wise Christians;

D. Reason is a gift of God but not infallible. Use it in combination with the above.

E. Have inner conviction that God is pleased in our choice that follows a decision.

II. Principles for Pleasing God in the Choices of Life

A. The Directed Life: Proverbs 3:5-6

1. Trust God.

a. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart," The supreme qualification for experiencing God's direction in life is faith. Faith is not merely passive; it is active obedience, actively seeking His will.

b. "and do not lean on your own understanding." This does not say that we should not use our own understanding, but that we should not "put our whole weight" on it, that we should not rely on it as people of the world do. Rather, we should rely on the Lord wholly.

2. Know God. "In all your ways acknowledge Him"

a. The word translated "acknowledge" is ususally the word "know" in the Old Testament. It is that profound Hebrew word that goes far beyong intellectual comprehension; it means to experience personally.

b. When used of man's relationship to God, like a man's relationship to his wife, it encompasses a life of intimate belonging, sharing and love. In other words, the promise of guidance is for the one who loves God and walks with Him daily, maintaining that intimate relationship.

B. Questions to ask on questionable or "gray" areas:

1. It it from the Lord? Does it bring praise to Him? (1 Corinthians 10:31; cf. Romans 14:6-8);

2. Can I do it in His name (on His authority, implicating Him)? Can I thank Him for it? (Col 3:17)

3. Can I take Jesus with me? Would Jesus do it? (Psa. 139:7; Gal 2:20; 1 Pe 2:21; Mt 28:19-20; Jn 14:16-17)

4. Does it belong in the home of the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor 6:19-20; Eph 4:30)

5. Is it of faith? Do I have misgivings? (1 Jn 3:21; Rom 14:23)

6. Does it positively benefit, build up (not simply, "is it harmless?")? (1 Cor 14:26; Rom 14:19; 15:2; Eph 4:12-16)

7. Does it spring from, or lead to, love of this world and its value system? (1 John 2:15; Mk 9:47; 11:14-15)

8. Does it involve union with an unbeliever? (2 Cor 6:14)

9. Does it come from or have the potential of leading to bondage? (1 Cor 10:23)

10. Is the motive pride, or love? (1 Cor 8:1)

11. Is a godly mind-set the context of my decision on the matter? (Phil 4:8; Rom 12:1-2)

12. What does the church say about it? (Rom 14:18)

13. Would I like to be doing this when Jesus comes? (1 Jn 2:28; 3:2-3; Mt 24:44-51; Lk 23:34-35; 1 Thess 5:2-4)

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Why should I believe what's written in the Bible? How do I know it's not lies [presumably] like all the other holy books out there?”

[I received this question via e-mail the other day.]

This is a great question that can be answered on many levels. The most simplistic is to consider the thread of continuity, or major theme that runs through the Bible. Do you know what it is? Death. The Old Testament shows not only where it came from, but from the very beginning records how God promises to destroy it. The New Testament tells how He did it. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (Romans 5:12, 15)

Consider how science is either corrected by scripture or confirms what the Bible has always contained (the earth is flat vs. the earth is a sphere (Isaiah 40:22); the earth sits on a large animal vs. the earth free-floats in space (Job 26:7); sick people must be bled vs. blood is the source of life and health (Leviticus 17:11); the ocean floor was flat vs. the ocean floor contains deep valleys and mountains (2 Samuel 22:16; Jonah 2:6); hands washed in still water vs. hands washed in running water (Leviticus 15:14).

The historical accuracy of scripture is unmatched, and archeology has and still is confirming the people, places and events.

One of the strongest proofs that you know the Bible is reliable is your own conscience. “Conscience” means “with knowledge.” Let me show you what I mean: would you consider yourself to be a “Good Person?”

I look forward to your reply!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Does Genesis 1:26 teach the Trinity?"

[This was another fun question from my Kenyan experience]:

Genesis 1:26 reads, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'"

If "us" does not imply the Trinity, then who is "us?" Our options are simply: 1) The Trinity; 2) God, speaking to Himself in "plural of majesty;" that is, in the vernacular of the majestic. 3) God + whoever else may be present. 4) I can't think of another option.

Since option 4 speaks for itself, let's consider option 3. Why would God add or be added to whoever or whatever may be present? Regardless of the reason, why would He want to make something or someone else based on that conglomeration? There is no reason for any such action, as He is all goodness and everything excellent. If by "us" God intended to make man in the image of Him + something inferior to Him, what does that say about God? Since God cannot change or be changed, this option does not follow. Is God incomplete that He requires an addition?

"Jewish tradition generally maintains that the plural is to be explained as God taking counsel together with the angelic assembly in the work of creation. Against this is the clear scriptural affirmation that only God creates and that the angesl, as created beings, cannot be creators with Him." (Merrill, Eugene. "Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Implied In the Genesis Creation Account?" The Genesis Debate.)

Option 2 is plausible, but incomplete. "Plural of Majesty" may also be thought of a "The Royal 'We.'" For example the Queen may say, "we are not amused." This is a ruler who speaks with a collective voice, the voice of the people. The problem with this view is that "plural of majesty" is not an ancient form--it is relatively new. Mark Twain has helped to realize that people with tapeworms and pregnant women may also use this term, "we shall have our bath now." What if what the Queen says is NOT representative of the people? Interestingly, the Qur'an is "we" and "us" statements. Can the Christian point to these passages and say "there is proof of the Trinity" based on this premise? Islam will quickly defend itself by saying that this not the case at all, but merely one person speaking with a collective voice. This really supports the Muslim position and the Christian foothold becomes shaky.

We should not be so quick to give up our stance, though. While there is still only one person speaking, "plural of majesty" still may be useful because we are learning something about God we did not know before. He is not merely a passive creator, but one that is simultaneously majestic, transcendent, powerful, holy, mysterious and exceeds the limitations of grammar, "including the singular noun form" (Merrill).

The only solid option is the first, but here's the catch: we only know this teaches the Trinity in retrospect. If you lived in Moses' time, you would not have heard or read this and thought, "He's talking about one God who exists in three persons!" From the aspect of the progress of redemption, we are getting prepared for the idea (the seed is planted) but not fully understood until much later (when it comes to fruition). The doctrine of the Trinity is not the point of the passage, but there is the heavy hint especially considering who was moving over the surface of the waters. That was not an impersonal force agitating the waters, but a person described as a Spirit who will later say He wants man made in His image.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Keen Edge

"I believe, also, that one of the best ways of convincing men of error is not so much to denounce the error as to proclaim the Truth more clearly. If a stick is very crooked and you wish to prove that it is so, get a straight one and quietly lay it down by its side. When men look, they will surely see the difference. The Word of God has a very keen edge about it and all the cutting words you need you had better borrow from there." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

If the big ones don't get ya', the little ones will kill ya'.

"Little sins, like little thieves, may open the door to greater ones outside. Christians, recollect that little sins will spoil your communion with Christ. Little sins, like little stains in silk, may damage the fine texture of fellowship. Little sins, like little irregularities in the machinery,
may spoil the whole fabric of your religion. The one dead fly spoils the whole pot of ointment. That one thistle may seed a continent with noxious weeds. Let us, Brethren, kill our sins as often as we can find them. Someone said—'The heart is full of unclean birds. It is a cage of them.' 'Ah, but,' said another Divine, 'you must not make that an apology— for a Christian’s business is to wring their necks.'

And so it is. If there are evil things, it is our business to kill them. Christians must not tolerate secret sins. We must not harbor traitors. It is high treason against the King of Heaven. Let us drag them out into the light and offer them upon the altar, giving up the dearest of our secret
sins at the will and bidding of God. There is great danger in a little secret sin. Therefore avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and shun it—and God give you Divine Grace to overcome it!"

Charles H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One God, One Gospel

"As there is only one God so there can be only one Gospel. If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a Christian's duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away. The man who perverts it is the worst enemy of God and men; and it is not bad empter or narrow-mindedness in St. Paul which explains this vehement language (Gal. 1:8), it is the jealousy of God which has kindled in a soul redeemed by the death of Christ a corresponding jealousy for the Saviour. Intolerance like this is an essential element in the true religion. Intolerance in this sense has its counterpart in comprehension; it is when we have the only gospel, and not till then, that we have the gospel for all."

"The Cross of Christ is man's only glory or it is his final stumbling block."

--James Denney, (1856-1917) in "The Death of Christ."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday in Five Points

This last Saturday, we were able to explore a different avenue of ministry--the Calvary Chapel Lexington team went to Five Points! There was scheduled a "festival" in Five Points, but it was not well attended, as other events in Five Points usually are. The truth of the matter was that it was an event to bring people down to the local shops, a "savings event." Shops along the 600 block had "games" along the sidewalk, to draw people in from the malls and back into the downtown area. I expected at least a small crowd, but hardly anyone came downtown. The guy in the dunking booty really got off fairly easy.

Many of the shops are not your standard fare--probably because the Five Points area is the University of South Carolina's "party central." Beside an overabundance of sleazy bars, there are a few specialty shops. Among the few traditional clothing stores one can find a bakery that specializes in making dog treats, a cigar and wine store, and a used book store.

I stopped into a tee shirt shop that specializes in tee shirts that I will not describe--but they did have some nice, shiny hookah's on display! I stopped in another shop known as Natty Vibes (Natural Vibrations), a local Rastafarian shop--a little smokey from burning incense, throbbing with the beat of reggae and pictures of Bob Marley at every turn. I find a hint of irony in all the Bob Marley memorabalia that his last words to his son, Ziggy, were "money can't buy life." I wanted to talk with the girl behind the counter, but she seemed to happy doing other things--a bit too happy.

Throughout the bulk of our time, I wanted the team members to have their own conversations with people, and they did a great job. Tim talked for a few minutes with a Gamecock bedecked man, who seemed much "happier" now than he was early when we saw him--a few fumes betrayed his influence. Tim did a great job taking the fellow through the law, but his wall of pride was too high (as I'm sure his mind was too) to really hear the gospel.

Earlier, Tim met a small group on the corner and gave them each a Million Dollar Bill. They were not interested in talking about spiritual matters, and all but one kept the bills. I noticed one guy who took special care to fold the bill and put it carefully into his pocket after he read it.

David snagged these skateboarders, but they showed a divided interest. Few wanted to go on down the street, but David held the attention of a couple of guys a little longer as he took them through the law and made his way to the gospel. A couple of guys tried to lead the group away, but I stepped in and asked them their opinion about what they were hearing. One guy told me he heard it all the time in Myrtle Beach and "believed it." I pressed him for what he believed, but he got more agitated and wanted to leave. Eventually, they did leave, but not without some Million Dollar Bills.

When we first arrived, we had not been on the street seven minutes when I saw this young man across the street. As we made our way up the walk, he crossed and practically came right to us. How providential! As he passed, I handed him a tract and asked, "didja get one of these?" He stopped and looked at it--no he had not.

He seemed pleased to receive the tract and wanted to know who we were "with"; that is, what church were we from. We told him. He told us about his church.

I asked if he thought he was a "Good Person," to which he replied to the affirmative. I asked him what standard he was using to come to that conclusion. He spoke for a while (this guy liked to talk!) about what he thought about himself, and vacillated that maybe he was not as good a person as he thought. What about the Ten Commandments--had he thought of looking at that as a standard? No, he had not.

We went through a few and as we did, one could not help but notice that this guy really liked to rationalize things--he talked and talked. He talked so much about this and that that it is difficult to reconstruct the conversation here. As he talked, Steve and Tim listened, I prayed (I hope Steve and Tim were doing the same). After he got out what he wanted to say, I took him back to the point-at-hand and held him personally responsible as we considered how sin offends God. The young man knew some Bible verses and was familiar with key terms, but when it came down to it, he began to realize that intellictual consent does not equal salvation. He needed to be cleansed from sin.

After I gave a brief testimony and taking him down the Romans Road, I finally asked, "is there any reason why you could not right now, today, repent and confess your sins to God and ask Him to save you?" He looked around for a moment and, quite honestly, surprised me when he said, "I don't want to do it right here." I began to think and pray about what to say next--not wanting to force the matter, but wanted to stress the urgency. I noticed that he was strangely quiet and even his face began to look different. Suddenly he said, "let's do it over there" and motioned to a sidewalk off to the side of a restaraunt.

We moved over to the sidewalk against the building where the young man repented of his sin and gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. As he prayed, a car pulled into the lot and of all the places they could have parked, they parked directly across from us--four guys standing with heads bowed, talking to God.

Wow. What a day--Praise God!

25 Amazing Facts about God's Word

Dr. Larry Dixon, Professor of Systematic Theology in the Seminary and School of Missions of Columbia International University is quoted as saying, "A Bible shut tight is but a block of paper." Consider a few wonderful facts concerning God's Word:

1. Keeps man alive (Deut 8:3)
2. Is close enough to obey (Deut 30:14)
3. Is always right (Ps 33:4)
4. The heavens were made by it (Ps 33:6)
5. Obeyed by angels (Ps 103:20)
6. Sent by God, through which He heals and delivers (Ps 107:20)
7. Provides purity (Ps 119:9)
8. Settled in heaven (Ps 119:89)
9. A lamp and a light (Ps 119:105)
10. Is true (Ps 119:160)
11. Magnifies God (Ps 138:2)
12. Moves quickly (Ps 147:15)
13. Tested, proved (Prov 30:5)
14. Does not return "empty-handed", but accomplishes what it was sent out to do (Isa 55:11)
15. Like dynamite! (Jer 23:29)
16. It happens [update your bumper sticker with this one!] (Ezek 12:25)
17. Was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)
18. Sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17)
19. Cannot be imprisoned, bound (2 Tim 2:9)
20. Quick (Heb 4:12)
21. Powerful (Heb 4:12)
22. Sharper than a two-edged sword, even able to divide between soul and spirit (Heb 4:12)
23. Discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12)
24. World-framer (Heb 11:3)
25. Lives forever (1 Peter 1:23)

(Suggested by Meredith's Book of Bible Lists.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Scuttle the old ship and sink her altogether!

“There was a poor man about sixty years old; he had been a rough sailor, one of the worst men in the village; it was his custom to drink, and he seemed to be delighted when he was cursing and swearing.

He came into the chapel, however, one Sabbath day, when one nearly related to me was preaching from the text concerning Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. And the poor man thought, ‘What! did Jesus Christ ever weep over such a wretch as I am?’ He thought he was too bad for Christ to care for him.

At last he came to the minister, and said, ‘Sir, sixty years have I been sailing under the standard of the devil; it is time I should have a new owner; I want to scuttle the old ship and sink her altogether! then I shall have a new one, and I shall sail under the colors of Prince Immanuel.’

Ever since that moment that man has been a praying character, walking before God in all sincerity. Yet, he was the very last man you would have thought of. Somehow God does choose the last men; he does not care for the diamond, but he picks up the pebble-stones, for he is able, out of ‘stones, to raise up children unto Abraham.’ God is more wise than the chemist: he not only refines gold, but he transmutes base metal into precious jewels; he takes the filthiest and the vilest, and fashions them into glorious beings, makes them saints, whereas they have been sinners, and sanctifies them, whereas they have been unholy.”

Paul’s First Prayer.” Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 25th, 1855, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Take a Seminary course right where you are.

Columbia International University, Seminary and School of Missions has three courses being offered online this Fall. These are three of many courses available through Distance Education.

The registration deadline for the following courses is July 29, 2008.
Coursework begins August 19 and ends December 5, 2008.

Special Note: Enrollment in any one of these courses requires approximately 10 hours of work per week during the course dates indicated, including participation in web-facilitated discussion topics and adherence to syllabus due dates.

BIB 5112 - "Genesis - Song of Solomon: God's Plan of Creation and Redemption" (Online) with Dr. Bryan Beyer

GRE 6210 - "Greek 3: From Exegesis to Exposition" (Online) with Dr. William Larkin

HEB 5110 - "Hebrew 1: Beginning Grammar" (Online) with Dr. Alex Luc

For more information, click here.

Truth Wars: Episode II "The Kingdom Strikes Back."

ht: Truth Matters

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saturday in the Park, part 3: Making "history"

The team had gone ahead into the park while I stayed in the parking lot talking with the couple. I finally made my way over there and stood for while looking to see where the teams were. I saw one talking to a couple sitting on a bench. I made my way over to him. By the time I arrived, another team member joined us. We stood by the fence for a moment and talked, passing out tracts to people as they came by. I saw a couple of Junior High schoolers coming down the side walk, so I got ready for some fun.

Stopping them I said, "I have in my pocket your answer to the question I am about to ask you. Ready? Out of the three most common shapes (circle, square or triangle) which do you think is the most 'popular' shape?" Now, I have to give away a secret here to explain what this all about. This is based on a so-called "mind reading" trick used by slight-of-hand magicians. No matter what a person says, I can produce a card with that object, having "read" their mind. What the person does not know is that I have three cards, one in a different pocket. On each card is a shape: one with a square, another with a triangle, another with a circle--and that circle card is extra-special. I'll show you in a minute.

If a person says, "square" I simply pull the card with the "square" from my pocket and the person is amazed that I have "read" their mind! I can go on with another illusion that swings into a gospel presentation. The same thing happens if the person says, "triangle."

The girls agreed that "circle" is the most popular, so I reach in my pocket and pull out this green card with a gold circle. Drawing attention to the gold, I ask something like, "what makes gold so precious?" with the intent on getting to the fact that gold is precious because it is pure.

Then I ask, "Have you ever heard of someone having a 'heart of gold?' What do you think that means?" It usually means a person who does good things, helps others, does'nt lie or steal . . .

I then can begin my "good person test." The girls admitted to lying and stealing. I folded the card back to show a black heart. Their eyes got huge, mouths dropped open. One girls said, "you are making me feel like a guilty criminal!"

"Well, this is how God sees the heart . . ." I began, as two policemen came up behind me. They motioned for one of the team members to come aside to talk. I continued with my presentation, keeping a view in my peripheral vision as to what was going on. Another young man joined the girls and, though he had a bad attitude and was intent on interrupting, said he knew what all "this" was about and was already saved.

"From what?" I asked. He did not know. I took him back through the "good person" test. When I asked if he'd lied, or stolen, he admitted he had. Then I asked if he obeyed his parents every time. He snapped to attention, his eyes got big and he said, "I GOT it!"

"Got what?" I asked. "I know what I am saved from now! Sin! Lying is sin! Stealing is sin . . ." he smiled as the girls stood uneasily nearby.

"And if you disobey your parents, that is sin too, isn't it?" I asked and he agreed. The cops kept talking and I felt the need to hurry.

I folded my card again and showed the cross and talked about Jesus dying on the cross to pay for sin and when we repent (fold, fold) our hearts are made clean (white heart). They thanked me for talking with them, and made their way down the sidewalk.

I gave the police my undivided attention. "You guys all together?" They asked.

"Yes, sir." I replied. "Can I help you with something?"

The officers informed us that we were breaking Columbia City Ordinance by stopping people for conversation. They made it clear that because the park event for the evening was a sponsored event, we could not approach anyone with the intent of distracting, impeding, preventing enjoyment of, etc. said concert event. If we continued, they would be forced to use force against us. They made it clear they understood our religious "right" and would uphold our right to the 1st Ammendment, but under the City Code that protected sponsored events in the park, we would be viewed as disruptive--even by carrying on a conversation with someone who was attending the event. In other words, we could not stop anyone for any reason. We can only carry on if we are approached. We were welcome to continue our work outside the park or at any other time, but not during these events. We then found out that part of the reason for the crack-down was because of political parties who were making their way through the crowds (which is something we do NOT do) to get candidates on the ballot--and they were being disruptive. We just got caught up in the mix and law enforcement had to be fair.

In one sense, history was made. The Gospel is as welcome as the weather--only if someone wants to talk about it at sponsored events . . . like Sunday, September 7. More on that later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Edwards, Cross-centeredness and Application

"One unmistakable indication that a preacher has placed the cross at the center of his life and preaching is when the cross is central to all other discussions of the Christian life. A cross-centered preacher extends the gospel’s centrality beyond the conveyance of salvation to all the sin struggles of the Christian life. He injects the gospel into parenting, marriage, and counseling—and brings the hope of the cross to all of life’s experiences."

(Read the rest here)

Saturday in the Park, part 2: "I don't want to mess it all up."

We were still in the parking lot when I saw a young man and a young lady getting out of a car. He seemed like he was trying to be cute for his date, and she was irritated because he just could not seem to do anything right--poor guy. I approached them with a couple of Pocket Testaments and said, "Can you believe a whole week has gone by since July 4? Did you guys get one of these?" They took the Testaments--yes, she was obviously mad at him for something and he thought it was funny.

"You guys heading down to the concert?" I asked.

"Yes," she pouted, crossing her arms.

"Did you have a good 4th of July?" I wanted to know.

"She did with her family. I had to work," he volunteered. I asked where he worked and he told me. She is about to enter her last year of high school. He graduated in May. She also told me she was considering law school in the future.

"When it come to the 4th of July, what things come to mind?" I prodded, to get a conversation going. They consulted each other about hot dogs, fireworks, family.

I wanted to go deeper (obviously). "When you think about 'freedom,' what come to mind? How do you think Americans in general view 'freedom?'" They had not really thought about it. He wanted to entertain the thought, she pouted at him with crossed arms, still mad about whatever he was doing before I arrived on the scene. I let them off the hook--a little.

"Do you think people today have the same view of freedom that our parents and grandparents do?" Obviously not. At least they agreed on something. We talked for a few minutes about the difference between freedom as "doing what you want" against "doing what you should." This thought caused the young man to become very serious--he savored the thought of the difference, acknowleding that freedom is doing what one should and how people take advantage of freedom. Then he asked, "you asked where I worked. What do you do?"

I told them I work at the Seminary and School of Missions of Columbia International Univeristy. I also told them (looking right at the girl, to get her attention) that I was interested in Law as well. That got her attention.

I asked both, "would you consider yourself to be a 'Good Person?" They both laughed when he said, "no" and she said, "yes."

"Ok, here's where I get interested in 'law'. You ready? 'Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?'" I asked. They agreed they had not. She took special interest in making certain I understood that HE had not . . .

"Have you ever lied?" They looked at each other and both admitted they had . . . and often. They admitting to being liars.

"Have you ever stolen anything?" They had, admitting to thievery in some detail.

"Ever murder anyone?" NO! Of course not! I pointed out that God sees hatred as murder and they quickly confessed to being serial killers. The smiles were disappearing.

"How about adultery. Ever done that?" They were quiet for a moment and almost at the same time said, "we're not married!" It does not matter as Jesus sees lust as adultery. Yes, they had.

I reminded them of their admissions and asked about innocence or guilt if judged by the Ten Commandments. They admitted guilt. Destiny: heaven or hell? He said "hell." She said, "heaven." He took a step back and told her about how she was certianly NOT going to heaven. Whatever she was mad about with him had disappeared and now I became the target as she began to school me on God being a forgiving God.

We talked in some detail about Revelation 21:8 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, about the unrighteous not inheriting the Kingdom of God. I stressed that the forgiveness He offers is bound up in the fact that Jesus died to pay the price for sin, and that they both needed to repent. Repentance and forgivness go together.

It got quiet. As I took them down the Romans Road in my open Bible, even the parking lot seemed to disappear. Every time I looked at a text, they looked and read. Every time I looked up, they looked me right in the eye. All the clowing and ribbing and feigned anger disappeared. She clung to his arm as I talked about death, judgment, crucifixion, forgiveness, and new life in Christ Jesus. I had them open those Pocket Testaments and showed them the diagrams of how sin separates us from God and there is nothing we can do to bridge the gap ourselves. God's love is seen in the cross of Christ.

He looked in my eyes and asked, "if we've all sinned, what makes you sure you are going to heaven and we are going to hell?" I shared my testimony, stressing not only how the Law revealed my heart, but how I repented and put my faith and trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I paused, then asked, "is there any reason why you could not, right here, right now, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from the penalty and power of sin?"

They were quiet for a long time. She looked down. Then he told me what I was not expecting to hear, "I really want to do this, but I'm afraid. I don't want to mess it all up. I don't want to be a hypocrite, asking God to save me then go on and sin more in my life." Wow. We talked for a few minutes out of 1 John about walking in obedience and the need for ongoing forgiveness. The stress was on initial deliverance from the beginning.

I did not want to push, but I finally felt I'd said enough. Time for God to work. I gave them each a Romans Road tract and told them to read the Testaments. They thanked me for stopping and talking with them.

I saw them later in the park, sitting on bench. When our eyes met, they smiled and waved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Calls to "repent" disrupts gay bishop's "sermon.'

Openly gay US bishop Gene Robinson was forced to halt a sermon at a west London church after being heckled. As Bishop Robinson began his sermon a member of the congregation repeatedly called him a "heretic" and said "repent, repent, repent".

He began his sermon by saying how sad it was that the Anglican Communion was tearing itself apart. But he was stopped when the man in the congregation shouted that the schism was the bishop's fault. The man's protest was followed by slow hand-clapping by members of the congregation, and Bishop Robinson halted his sermon while a hymn was sung and the protester was escorted from the church in Putney, south west London . . . . Watch the video here. The original article is here.

Other comments by the bishop: "When someone stands up and says homosexuality is an abomination, does that make you want to get to know God?"

My response: If God says homosexuality is an abomination, why would you continue in the very thing He hates? People like the bishop put forth a god that does not exist, a god that tolerates, condones, approves, loves the same sins the world does. "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

Another comment: "You know, whatever you think makes you unworthy, I don't think God wants to hear it any more." No, your god does not want to hear it. The God of the Bible already knows what your heart is like, no matter what you think of yourself. "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Bishop, our Lord Jesus Christ healed more sick, lame and demonized people than we will ever know. Which one did He turn away because He was tired of what He saw and heard? To your knees, man--and to your Bible!

Yes, bishop. Do repent. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

Saturday in the Park, part 1

Saturday night, July 12 became (in a sense) a historical night for our evangelism team (more on that later). Before every evangelism outing, we meet about 1 ½ hours beforehand for prayer and Bible study in the Gospel of Mark. We are looking to our Master for further examples in evangelism by studying His interactions. Mark 2 gives us four controversies for our example, where objectors questioned Jesus’ ability (2:1-12), His motives (2:13-17), His actions (2:18-22), and His beliefs in contrast to tradition (2:23-28). We came up with four contemporary questions that are answered by timeless principles found in Jesus’ reply:

Questioning Jesus’ ability, the Pharisees asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Even today people feel paralyzed in their sin, perhaps reasoning in their own hearts that they’ve sinned too much to be forgiven. Jesus not only forgives, but brings healing that one can be released from the paralyzing bondage of sin.

Questioning Jesus’ motives, the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax-gatherers and sinners. When Jesus first came to Capernaum the first time (chapter 1) the house was filled with the sick and demon possessed. Everyone else was left outside. When Jesus came back to Capernaum, the house was filled with Pharisees so there was no room even for the sick, who had to stay outside (that’s why the man had to be let down through the roof). Now Jesus is in a house filled with sinners, and the Pharisees are outside. Why is He eating with these people and not with those who see themselves to be righteous? The reason is because they don’t see themselves as sick. They are not broken over their sin. One present-day objection to the gospel is, “there are people who are worse than me. I’m no sinner.” Jesus said He came to call the sinner.

Questioning Jesus’ actions, the Pharisees were not satisfied with His eating. Now they questioned His fasting. Luke tells us this question is on the heels of the previous question, as the Pharisees were not merely standing outside watching Jesus eat with sinners, but they wanted to make their religiosity clear: they were fasting as they watched Him eat. Why won’t He follow tradition? Jesus did not come to patch up the old, but to introduce something new. Presently I often hear people say things like, “You can’t do ministry this way,” or, “Well, at my church . . .” Jesus did not come to keep the status quo, to do things the way they’ve always been done.

Finally (as if eating with sinner was not enough, and fasting was not enough) the Pharisees catch Jesus and His disciples eating again—this time in the fields, plucking and eating grain. They sought to question Jesus’ beliefs, strongly suggesting Jesus does not keep the Sabbath. Jesus responds, in effect, by saying “You guys ever read the Bible? We’re not doing anything different than David.” This reminds me of the objection people raise to believing the gospel by the so-called “denominational” problems—why do these people do ‘this’ and those people do ‘that’?” The only truth they need to hear is that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

(more tomorrow)

Monday, July 14, 2008

How do I know if an idea is from God or from myself?

A note from France reads: "How to know that idea is from God or by myself?" or "when something comes up or happens, how [is one] to know that 'this something' is God's will or from my thinking?" This is a very deep question and may not be easily resolved in one reply, but here is an attempt:

I think we have a clue in Isaiah 55:8, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD."

Think of a prisoner who has the freedom to pace up and down in his cell, but he must stay within the walls of that cell and can go no further, no matter how much his will might desire it. So it is with man. Because of sin, man is imprisoned within a cell of corruption and wickedness which permeates to the very core of our being. Every part of man is in bondage to sin – our bodies, our minds, and our wills. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the state of man’s heart: it is “deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” In our natural, unregenerate state, we are not spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Romans 8:6-7). These verses tell us that before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not submit to God and His law, neither can we. The Bible is clear that, in his natural state, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. Man's will is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained by his cell.

Interestingly, the Bible teaches that everyone has a conscience ("con" mean "with" and "science" means "knowledge"). The conscience is what the Holy Spirit addresses when convicting of sin; for example, no man can say he does not know that lying or murder is wrong. God requires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). The Bible goes on to show that lust is adultery of the heart and hatred is murder of the heart, etc. We learn from the Bible that breaking God's standard is sin and we need to repent and turn from our sin and put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sin.

God has put within every person the ability to know right from wrong, so if there is a thought that causes the conscience to say, "that's not right" then that is God's warning to you that His standard is compromised or broken and that thought must be rejected. When your conscience lines up with God's standard, then those thoughts must be affirmed. A great preacher once said, "When God's will is your will, you will have your will."

I pray I've answered your question.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"The Glory of the Cross" by Samuel Zwemer

"The Glory of the Cross" by Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952), Christian Missionary to Muslims.

This is perhaps the most moving book I've read concerning the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This undated work (I suspect it was written in the years shortly before his own death--his quotation of hymns throughout the work sets the "record"--if someone knows a certain date, than information would be wonderful) of 130 pages is a little more than a casual devotional read.

The first two of the ten chapters explain the nature of the gospel, followed by deep, insightful glimpses into Christ's passion that pass nearly unnoticed: He was blindfolded, bound, spat upon, stripped naked. Consider how this cowardly world would rather not look at him, much less be looked upon by Him--man must either look Him in the face, or declare Him to be myth. The one who made the hand folded His own in prayer before they took Him in the garden and bound Him for fear before the court. The last person he touched before His body was broken was the one who received his shorn ear back to his body. His body dripped as those who hated him spewed the poison of sin from darkened hearts and out their mouths (but not until He was blindfolded and bound). The second Adam took the shame of our nakedness, as the first Adam experienced moral and physical nakedness in the garden because of his sin.

Then Zwemer talks of His crucifixion.

When He cried, "My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" He was watching all the sin and shame of life pass before His eyes . . . His suffering is seen not in that He merely died, but that He took on Himself the blight that was so offensive to Holy God as a sacrifice. He died not because it was unbearable, but out of obedience. We have no concept of what "lonely" is. He who knew no sin became sin for us.

Zwemer draws astounding resources from his personal library, helping to reconstruct the scenes we cannot properly imagine. Quoting Studdert Kennedy, Zwemer bewilders the modern world with Jesus. "He looks as contemptible as ever with His ragged rabble of a Church that shouts Hosanna on Sunday and runs from the Garden of Gethsemane on Friday; that protests like Peter and then betrays, that disputes who shall be greatest and thinks it is extravagant to wash men's weary feet; with His crowd of wretched parsons [preachers], poor human fools like me, who preach the Gospel and cannot live it, who try to be loving and are not even amiable [friendly]. He is as ridiculous as ever, just the same Christ that sat with a dirty purple horse-cloth on His bleeding back, and a crown of thorns set sideways on His head, with a mock scepter in His hand, and the spittle of a drunken soldier rolling down His face, just the same Christ, but I am afraid of Him, as in his heart of hearts, I believe modern man is frightened of Him. He is disturbing, unnerving. He saps self-confidence and murders pride. He makes men want to go down on your knees, and no strong man should do that except to the Almighty."

Zwemer drives home our one aim, the heart of the gospel, the indespensable truth, our "distinctive, supreme, impelling message to the non-Christian world . . . 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.'" Despite our freedom to preach the gospel (or lack thereof in some places, as John the Baptist lost his freedom to make declaration) if we lose the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have lost the gospel. Jesus "fills the horizon of history. He cannot be hid. But men gaze upon Him and turn away, or gaze on Him and follow Him to the end."

Friday, July 11, 2008

“. . . Are there angels who fell and then believed?"

"When man sinned, Christ came to save mankind. The Bible says Satan was cast down with his angels. Where does it say what happened to angels who believed? Are there angels who fell and then believed?"

[This question is part of a series of questions I answered while speaking at Pastor’s Conferences in Kenya, Africa in July 2004. This question immediately followed the question (and answer) you will find in the preceding posts.]

Here is what the Bible says about the belief of fallen angels, “You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)

No, there are no angels who fell, then believed; that is, repented. Their rebellion is final. No angel could claim ignorance regarding the matter of his rebellion, nor will a fallen angel come to repentance. Scripture teaches plainly concerning “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6)

Do not miss this one distinguishing feature between men and angels—men have the opportunity to repent of their sin and put faith and trust in Christ Jesus. One who does not repent is no different than a fallen angel—he may believe all the right doctrines, but without repentance and faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin.

There are times when I will sometimes say to a person, “You believe in God, so do demons. You believe in Jesus, so do demons. You believe Jesus died on the cross and rose three days later, so do demons. What makes you different than a demon?”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The "Stoning" of Richard

I didn’t want to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to preach this morning. I was full of justifications for not going, but I went anyway and prayed that God would anoint the time. I walked with purpose over to the people waiting in line and asked them, “Are you here for your lotto tickets or for the DMV?” They laughed.

I greeted each person waiting in line with a warm “Good morning” and handed everyone a Gospel tract. A woman at the end of the line handed the tract back to me. “I’m not interested,” she said. I took it back and thought, That’s okay; she’ll soon be hearing the message anyway. Taking my position adjacent to the line, I began to preach.

(read the rest here)

Journal of a Voyage

Here's the full title of a book that looks to be a thriller of a summer read:

"The Journal of a Voyage in the Missionary Ship Duff, To The Pacific Ocean in the years 1796,7,8,9,1800,1,2 &c." Comprehending Authentic and Circumstantial Narratives of the Disasters Which Attended the First Effort of the London Missionary Society. Interspersed with a Variety of Singular Incidents and Adventures, with an Appendix Containing Interesting Circumstances in the Life of Captain James Wilson, The Commander of the Duff, when He was Engaged in the Wars in the East Indies, and Taken Prisoner by Hyder Ally's Troops--His Bold Attempt To Escape, and Subsequent Difficulties." By William Smith.

Here's the link to download this page-turner. With a title like that, who needs Indiana Jones?

That captain sure seems to be an intriguing chap . . .

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Is God a Spirit?"

On one hand, I was surprised to hear this question come from a Kenyan pastor at the Pastor's Conference; but, on the other hand, remembering the animistic background and influences of the culture, this was a very important question from the student. We can easily turn in our Bibles to John 4:24 and say, "See there, Jesus says, 'God is Spirit,'" and be satisfied (for the most part) with the answer. Realize that we Westerners do not view the spirits in the same way as most others in the world, so this question comes as a "loaded" one. Interestingly, even the Western (neo)pagan, witch or other interested party should be interested in this question.

I owe my good friend, Dr. Phil Steyne of Columbia International University, credit for the following:

First, those outside the biblical worldview believe that all objects contain an impersonal power, or life-force. This "charge" flows from one object to another and is meant to be used and manipulated by those who are able. This is a kind of pantheism ("god" is in all things). This power or force is synonymous with "spirits" or "gods."

Second, since certain rocks, trees, mountains (or geographical areas), sacred objects/idols/fetishes, shrines and persons (both alive and dead) contain spirits, they may be manipulated by man.

Third, since these powers/forces/spirits/gods are many, they may be co-equal, or heirarchical and are believed to have specific spheres of control either spatial, personal or chronological. In other words, powers can be used to move objects, "possess" or control persons, or cause a "domino effect" of events.

Now, all this means is there is either one God (monotheism), or there are many gods. "Some believe in a supreme god above lesser deities . . . this god not considered to be intimately involved with or concerned for man and his world. Instead men seek out the lesser powers to meet their desires." (Steyne, Gods of Power). To the student asking the question, the implication is "is God a personal being" or more specifically "can He be known?"

In a power-conscious system, man is the focus of all life so all powers/forces/spirits/gods exist solely for his or her benefit. Consider what this means when someone says, "pray for me" in any context outside the biblical worldview: they are looking for a manipulation of power that will grant them success.

G. Ernest Wright explains for our consideration:

"Israelite faith . . . was an utterly unique and radical departure from all contemporary pagan religions. The latter were all natural and cultural religions . . . . Natural religion in Biblical times analyzed the problem of man over against nature. In the struggle for existence the function of religious worship was that of the integration of personal and social life with the natural world . . . . The life of the individual was embedded in the rhythm and integration of the cosmic society of nature . . . . In the faith of Israel . . . there is a radical and complete difference . . . The Israelite did not analyze the problem of life over against nature. The latter plays a subordinate role in the fiath, except as it is used by God to further His work in society and history. Instead, the problem of life is understood over against the will and purpose of the God who had chosen one people as the instrument of His universal, redemptive purpose. This election of a people was not based upon merit, but upon mysterious grace . . . . Here then, is an utterly different God from all the gods of natural, cultural and philosophic religions. He is not immanent power in nature nor in the natural process of being or become . . . He transcends nature, as he transcends history . . . He is unique, sui generis, utterly different." (Wright, "God Who Acts.")

So is God a spirit? Yes, and we have that confirmation in scripture. But what kind of spirit is He? Is he this deistic being that sits remotely at the apex of some kind of heirarchy? Can He be respected? Can He be known on personal terms? That God is creator, sustainer and judge is widely accepted; however, He is also Father to those who are brought to Him on His terms--this means that He is living, personal and intimately involved in the smallest details in the lives of men. So far, any god that falls outside the Biblical definition is an idol, a god of one's own understanding and cannot be known--he does not exist.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Albert Comfort? Ray Einstein?

I think he's right. What do you think? Here's what Ray has to say.

15 Facts about Wisdom

(for: Ron S.)

1. Blesses the man who find it (Prov 3:13)
2. Uncomparible (Prov 3:15)
3. The foundation of understanding (Prov 4:7)
4. Found when sought (Prov 8:17)
5. Treasury (Prov 8:21)
6. Rooted in the person of God (Prov 9:10)
7. Pure (James 3:17)
8. Given by God (James 1:5)
9. Peaceable (James 3:17)
10. Gentle (James 3:17)
11. Reasonable (James 3:17)
12. Merciful (James 3:17)
13. Good (James 3:17)
14. Unwavering (James 3:17)
15. Without hypocrisy (James 3:17)

Suggested by Meredith's Book of Bible Lists

Monday, July 07, 2008

"How could some see God and not be changed?"

This question was one of many (so far) fielded at the end of the first day of lectures I gave in Kenya, Africa on the subject of "Man, Sin and Salvation." This specific question is best understood in context with other questions preceding this post.

Is it possible for one to see God and not be changed? Perhaps that is a better question. So far we have noted the devastating effects of an encounter with God, taking special observation at the extension of grace from God, that one should be allowed to tolerate His presence. One simply cannot see God and not be changed.

"But," one may ask, "what about Jesus? Since Jesus is God, how could people encounter Him and not react the same way as those in the Old Testament?" While deity of Christ is sure, we must also remember the manner in which God revealed Himself as the Son. Philippians 2:6-8 gives us an idea about how this happened: "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

He knew that we would not understand what it meant for Him to be equal with God, so in order for Him to accomplish His plan, He "emptied Himself"; that is, He manifested Himself physically as a servant, subject to the laws of the universe geographically and physically. He remained fully God while being fully man.

Jesus lived on this earth among the spiritually dead, who were spiritually blind and deaf as well. And we read that those who encountered Him were changed, in some way or another.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

"All the people who talked with God feared and respected Him. How is it the way we fear is so different?"

[One thing I greatly admire about my Kenyan students is that they really know how to ask questions. If you've been following along since late last week, I've been sharing questions students asked me when I traveled to Kenya in 2004. It seems that once the questions began, the more difficult they became--stay tuned to see what I mean.]

As I consider the question, two thoughts come to mind: first, the fear of the Lord is one theme that deserves serious study by every believer. We see in scripture that communication with God brings about such deep reverence, fear and respect on the part of the one with whom God is talking. The second matter that comes to mind is that there does seem to be a careless attitude, a lack of fear and respect on part of many who say they know the Lord; however, such flippancy does not go unnoticed in scripture.

Recall with me the Sinai experience. Moses is on the mountain, and the people gathered around with the stern warning not to come near nor touch the mountain. Moses hears God's voice and the people hear thunder. Moses sees the glory of the Lord pass before Him and the people percieve lightning and fire. Then, during the giving of the Law, the Lord God makes it clear that He will be dwelling in the midst of the people and if the people are going to enjoy His terrible presence, they must abide by the moral, ceremonial and civil law (which merely shows the deficiency in all men and how God will provide the righteousness needed). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was going to be the centerpiece of the people, tabernacling among them.

What a horrible experience to wake up in the morning and walk out the door (as everyone did) to see that cloud standing over the black tent in the middle of the camp. One could not go to the bathroom inside the camp, for that would make him unclean, and believe you me, there are not enough sacrifices to cover that need alone. Might as well live outside the camp and remain unclean, out of fellowship, away from the presence of the Lord until the day you die--and whoever touched your body would be unclean. What a compound problem.

But God made it clear that He was the Lord, and He was to be trusted to provide the cleansing needed to enjoy His presence. The sacrifice would have to come from Him, and would be made by Him, to Him, that we could even live in His presence.

Now, this same God makes us (me, you, all who repent and believe) His dwelling. Where is the fear? Is there fear? Should there be fear? Certainly He is to honored and exalted as God as He never changes. The same God who caused plagues to break out lives in those who trust and obey Him. The same God who caused idols to topple lives in us. The same God who made the earth open and swallow disobedient people lives in us. The same God who caused people to go up in flames lives in us. The same God that caused people to fall over dead for telling a lie lives inside me.

Personally, I think we take God too lightly. We are too self-assured that we forget the grace and mercy He shows us in Christ Jesus. The fact that we are not consumed (for example) is a demonstration of that grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. I think that reverent fear can and should be restored by meditating on the Cross.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gilbert Peach Festival

Today we began our Independence Day celebration by meeting together at 8:00 a.m. for a brief Bible meditation (Hebrews 9) and prayer before going to the Gilbert Peach Festival. Our team consisted of 8 brothers and sisters from Calvary Chapel Lexington, fully armed with gospel tracts and the joy of the Lord.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this display of the Ten Commandments near the middle of the park in Gilbert. The first stone is an engraving of Psalm 19:7-10, followed by columns, each with one commandment (the video is not stellar, but you get the idea):

Chris, Barbie and Steve do a great job passing out tracts and talking to people. They had some good conversations and two teenage boys may have entered the Kingdom of God today after hearing the law and gospel:

The Gilbert Peach festival (I am told) got its start when the farmers celebrating bringing in the last of the peach crops. Everything peace is found here: tea, pies, cobblers, ice cream . . . this was probably the best local festival I've ever attended:

Kathy joined us for the first time, and passed out tracts like a pro . . . even the local law enforcement got an earful:

I'll relate some conversation stories later, but here is a snippet of people receiving some IQ Tests:

Tim's getting to be an old pro. Time to get him talking . . .

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Preaching outside a Revival

What do you think happens when a handful of evangelists set up a small box to preach the gospel to folks waiting in line for a Todd Bentley event? Read about it here.

"Stone Cold" in Finlay Park (part 3)

"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times. Then Jesus said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'" (Mark 4:8-9)

Ron and I made our way up the Falls in the Park by means of the stairs in the terrace. Off to the side sat three youths, just looking for something to do. Ron gave them each a "Will Your Good Outweigh Your Bad?" tract. I was glad to see him actually walk them through the test on the front of the tract, reading it through with them line by line. This is a great way to use tracts in evangelism.

The youngsters were so polite and engaged in conversation, asking very good questions. The girls seemed to be very receptive toward how God saw their heart, and knew they were in trouble and needed forgiveness and cleansing. The young man, on the other hand, was objectionable. To his credit, he is perhaps the most polite objector I've ever talked with. He was very forward and honest with his opinion and accepted teaching quite well. At one point I thought we should separate the girls from him so that they could hear the rest of the gospel presentation unhindered, but then I realized it would not be a good idea, so we stayed and our conversations blended well.

The young man was very plain--he admitted his offence before God, and at first objected to the reality of hell. By appealing to his conscience and using some logical illustrations, we agreed that a criminal (whether caught or not) is called "criminal" by virtue of his breaking the law. We also agreed that, once caught, it is his offense that sends one to jail, not a vindictive judge with dice and a roll-a-dex by his bed. God must punish sin, and it is not God's will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The young man agreed, but plainly held his position.

The girls, on the other hand, seemed to be so impacted by what they were hearing. The girl in the middle seemed to well up with tears a time or two when we spoke of God's love and mercy. I think they were also upset that they knew they needed to repent, and their male friend would not. They sat quietly by and asked questions as we moved through the subjects. Ron and I took turns thinking through the questions, answers and objections.

In all, I believe we stayed a good 45 minutes with these three. At the end, I presented to them another opportunity to repent and turn from their sins and gave them each a Pocket Testament. I challenged the young man that, if he was open-minded, he would read this short book (in about the same time it takes to watch a movie) and think about what his conscience is telling him--he knows the truth.

As we turned to go, I thought we should pray for them, so Ron led us in prayer, talking to our Heavenly Father about the state of their souls. As we said goodbye, the young man thrust his hand out, and shook ours, bidding us a good evening, and thanked us for taking the time to talk.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Stone Cold" in Finlay Park (part 2)

"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. " (Mark 4:7)

While waiting for another team member to join us I made my way over to the fence toward the backside of the concert area, where many people would stand who did not bring chairs or blankets. I did not know it, but one team member had already been through this area and could not give away a single gospel tract or Million Dollar Bill.

I found a guy standing with his back against the fence, looking toward the stage enjoying the Variety music of the evening. I handed him a gospel tract. "Didja get one of these?" I asked.

He took it, looked at it. "Nah." Holding onto the tract he crossed his arms, and went back to listening to the music.

"Mind if I ask you a question?" I asked.

"No, go ahead," he replied.

"Do you have a Christian background?"

"Sure," he answered. "My grandfather is a pastor in a Mexican church. I grew up in a church and know all about it." He went back to listening to the music.

Ok. Silence settled between us.

"Have you ever heard anything like, 'God has a wonderful plan for your life?' What do you think of when you hear that phrase?" I pressed for a conversation.

"I dunno. Means different things to different people I guess." He listened to the music.

"Would you consider yourself to be a 'good person'?" I asked.

"Yeah, I guess."

"Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?"

Silence between us as the band play some oldies song.

He looked at me like, "are you still here?" Perhaps I should have gone away, but I really wanted to see where this guy was.

"Should I repeat the question?" I asked.

"Nah. I guess I've kept 'em."

"Have you ever told a lie?"

"Sure. We all have." Was his textbook retort.

"Have you thought about what lying makes you?" I pressed.

"A sinner." He went back to the music, arms crossed.

"Have you ever committed adultery?" I asked.

"No. Me and my girlfriend have been going out for more than four years now." He replied.

"Have you ever 'entertained' lustful thoughts?"



He looked at me and emphasized, "NO." Translated means, "go away."

Ok. Let's see if we can get his attention. "Have you kept the 1st Commandment?"

"Maybe. What is it?" He asked.

"Well, if you don't know, how can you say, 'maybe?'" I explained, "The first commandment is that you will have no other gods before the true and living God. In other words, have you loved the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength all the days of your life?"

"Yeah, I've done that." He said.

"God's Word says you have not, so either God is lying or you are--and God cannot lie."

"Yeah, I already said we're all liars."

This guy was dead asleep in sin and I really wanted to see him both alarmed and awakened, so I went on. "If God were to judge you by the Ten Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?"

"Guilty," he answered immediately.

"Would you go to heaven or hell?" I pressed.

Silence. The music played on. I thought I would let the question sink in a little, so I waited nearly 30 seconds. That's a long time without saying anything. He looked at me.

"Would you like me to repeat the question?" I asked. He just looked at me like, "what are you still doing here?"

"Would you go to heaven or hell?" I asked again.


I paused so he could savor his answer. "Does that bother you?" I finally asked.

"Not really."

"It does not bother you that the paycheck you get at the end of your life is death and hell for punishment for your sins of lying and for loving things lesser than God?"

He just looked at me. My heart broke. Finally I said, "I really have some good news to give you, but I don't think you are ready to hear it. Think about how, by your own admission, you have sinned against a Holy, Righteous God and will have to stand before Him on Judgment Day. Unless you repent, you will perish."

He just looked at me, then turned back to the music.

"Have a nice day." I said, and I moved on down the sidewalk.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

"Stone Cold" in Finlay Park (part 1)

"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." (Mark 4:3-6)

Our Saturday, June 28 evangelism outing almost got rained out. Don't get me wrong, we need the rain badly, and when it came I was so thankful for God's provision. Storms amaze me as they remind me of how awesome our God is: He makes lakes float above our heads and makes them leak to the earth--sometimes it seems like the water falls all at once, but it doesn't. The torrents still demonstrate His control. He sends out lightning to decorate the sky. Thunder rolls and echoes through the walls of those watery canyons and the earth. His voice is like thunder . . . During a storm I can only stand at the window and praise God.

Five of us gathered for Bible study, prayer and worship while the rain fell. We are taking a closer look at the life of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Mark, taking special care to see how He did evangelism. In the first chapter we saw (to name a few principles):

1. The centrality of preaching for the forgiveness of sins in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ;

2. The necessity of being filled with the Spirit to begin and sustain ministry. This not only reflects our obedience to our Lord but our separation from the world, resting in the assurance that God will accomplish what He has set out to do;

3. The authority of God through the Spirit as we teach others, model, admonish and lead;

4. The need for compassion, being genuine, and ready for the spectacular.

By the time we finished our study and prayer time, the rain stopped and we made our way to Finlay Park. Our drive-by confirmed that the concert was still "go" so we parked on the next block, strapped on our backpacks of tracts and books and walked over, only to be confronted by this sign:

So tramp, tramp, tramp we stamped back to the car. Drop off the backpacks and strap on the fanny-packs. Better follow the rules!

We got back to the entrance and split up. Joe went right to work, spending a good amount of time talking with this guy:

I found two men and a lady sitting on a park bench. By the time I approached with my Million Dollar Bills, another younger lady joined us. I passed out the bills and we enjoyed the moment of wishing they were real. As one man (who never smiled) tried to hand the bill back to me (why take it if it was not real?) I became aware the other man was drunk. The young lady asked if she could have the other for her husband--they got one last week (!)and wanted more. I asked her why she wanted more--did they notice the "Million Dollar Question" on the back?
No, they had not.

Could I change the bills so they could become legal? No, that would be stealing . . . and lying.

"Would you consider yourself to be a 'good person?'" I asked both ladies and men. Mr. Frowny maintained his composure and the others said yes, they were "good people."

"Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?" Mr. Drunk sloshed his words about being good and the older lady on the bench turned the bill over between two fingers and looked at the back. The younger lady said she had broken them all . . . "except," she said proudly, "I have not committed adultery."

Now, if I am talking to a woman in a one-on-one situation, this is one place I will not go. I would rather ask about murder than adultery, or honoring parents. Since we were in mixed company (and because she brought it up) I though it would be alright to go ahead. "Jesus said that if you look with lust you've committed adultery. Have you done that . . . looked with lust?"

"Waddya mean?" she asked.

"You know, looking at someone with sexual intentions? Lust." (Yikes, this is getting uncomfortable).

She thought for a moment. "Yeah, I suppose I have."

I reiterated, "Jesus said that to look with lust is the same as adultery--so by your own admission you actually have broken the 7th Commandment . . . " I did not get to finish my thought.

The older lady on the bench shook her finger at me, raised her voice and scolded me for not giving the girl a chance. "That's not what Jesus said. He didn't say that. No! Beside, you did'nt give this girl a chance before you go off misquoting scripture. That's not what Jesus said."

I reached for my Bible, "Matthew 5 . . ." that's all I got out. She sat up on the edge of the bench and tried to tell me that it's all a matter of interpretation. You have to interpret what Jesus was saying.

"Well, ma'am," I began, "when Jesus said . . . " that's all I got out. I don't know if there was a big ol' angel standing there with his fingers clamping my mouth shut, or what, but all I could do is look at the woman. She sat back and crossed her arms.

"This was a good evening 'till you came around." Her voice lowered as she mumbled something about coming down the park to hear good music then somebody comes along and ruins her evening with bad preaching . . .

I told the young girl to read the back of the tract this time. Mr. Frowny and Mr. Drunk carried on in their own little worlds.

I told them to have a nice evening and thanked them for their time.

Seed sown.

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