Mar 29, 2008

My Christianity is MINE!

Tuesday night brought forth another wonderful evening in liberal academia. Where I attend school not only espouses a ridiculous amount of liberalism and emergent theology, but it espouses a facade of Christianity and even claims Christ as the center of learning. The irony here is not that we should be shocked that a Christian School has essentially gone soft, it's that even in a place that elevates the name of our Lord as the center of it's mission, He is not welcome in class discussion.

Why isn't He welcome? Well simply put, we can speak of Jesus and Christianity in all the manners that reference Him as a means to man's end. Or when it involves the loose fitting description of what most would claim as being Christian. Well, they're Christian because they aren't Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish. That would summarize the simplistic view of Christ that many in the class have seemed to hold. There is a desire of everyone within the classroom to satisfy a form of tolerance for those who don't believe in Jesus, are offended by His name, and quite simply don't agree with any kind of Christian contributions to discussion.

At one point the conversation in class came to an example of praying in public in Jesus' name. The individual was advised after he had done so by those whom he was praying for, that everything he said was right on and they agreed with the prayer. However, they did not agree with him praying in the name of our Lord, because they did not believe in Jesus Christ. They then advised him that this was not proper or tolerant of other people's beliefs. It may just be me, but this seems to reflect intolerance toward the praying man's beliefs no?

Now the highlight of the evening. An encounter with the Professor. Interestingly enough, a paralegal with a Master's in Social Work should have some form of psychological training in her academic career. That said, I found it odd that she was unaware of the theories I addressed with her in class. The response to her statement "all people are basically good, and become bad, because of their environments." I'll spare you the intricate details of all that followed, but here are some of the most interesting points.

  • Tabula rasa (Latin: blank state) refers to the epistemological thesis that individual human beings are born with no innate or built-in mental content, in a word, "blank", and that their entire resource of knowledge is built up gradually from their experiences and sensory perceptions of the outside world.

I challenged the teacher's statement based on my presupposition of original sin (Rom 5:12). When asked what theory she was advocating, she had no idea what Tabula rasa was. I was astounded, and knew at that point, I was going to be engaging her opinion, not her training. The conversation ensued and the class eventually became very riled up. As soon as the exchange began, the gasping, gnashing of teeth, and contempt filled the room. I was beginning to feel alone and outgunned. However, I continued to discuss this theory with the teacher. Her relative approach is that the environment of individuals influences their progression/declination in life. Their behavior is based on their environmental experience (ecosystems theory). This is not something I outrightly reject. I do add one thing to this theory though. The way an individual responds, reacts, and progresses in their environment is directly effected by their relationship to God through Christ and the Cross. No Christ, no good. At this point the boos and jeers were flying. Now the class had delved full on into postmodern relativism at its best.

The teacher stopped, looked at me and clearly and as plain as day said, "What is true for you, may not be true for me." I knew at that point, I should let the teacher go on teaching the class and let it rest. There was no more progress to be made. I had to concede to her authority as the teacher and quite simply, I didn't want to earn a quick ticket to failing land. I did end on a high note though. Upon her statement being made someone blurted, "You can't tell me what MY christianity is." I responded in as much meekness as I could muster and stated that while this may be true for her, it is not true according to Scripture, and Jesus Christ has already defined what Christianity is (Luk 14:26-30). I also did the best I could to emphasize in class that we need to have a definition of truth, and absolute if you will. This must be defined by someone who is greater than we are and has all knowledge. This source is the Bible, and it is the only authority to which we can refer to with confidence. This antagonized the class further and the commentary about Christianity not being believed by all people and therefore negating it's validity as an authoritative source. I ended with the comment that while they may not affirm it, that doesn't change it's truth.

Sadly, this was what I had expected in the University I attend. Also, those who proclaim Christ as Lord and say on one hand that He is their savior, quickly retreat when the necessity to proclaim Christ's truth is brought about. This class has married the feel good, add a little Jesus, and sprinkle in some scriptures thought with the profession of social work and born an illegitamate child that is clearly a spawn of satan. When Jesus' name can be used to promote good and social justice it is admirable and noble, but the moment you emphasize His name as Lord, Creator, and author of truth, you are repulsive, rejected, and silly for even thinking so.

Well, I'll take that. And if I have to be silly, that's fine with me. The clear aggitation of the class and their response to the claims made by Christ and the Scripture was a good sign. Someone was convicted, and someone heard truth proclaimed. Phil Johnson touched on this earlier this week at Pyro in a post about Paul on Mars Hill in the book of Acts 17:22-34. He said,
We need to remember that. We're tempted to think that when people reject the gospel it's because we have done a poor job of presenting it. Sometimes that may be true, but it's not necessarily true. Of course, our job is to be as clear and accurate as possible, and not to be a stumbling-block that keeps people from hearing the gospel. But the gospel itself is a stumbling-block for unbelievers, so people will stumble and even get angry when they are presented with it. And we have no right to try to reshape the gospel so that it's no longer a stumbling-block. You can't proclaim the gospel faithfully if your goal is for no one ever to be offended or upset by it.

This is the dividing line my friends. This is where we see the truth of who really believes, affirms, and stands for truth, and who rejects and denies Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road, and quite honestly, Im grateful that I even get to have even a sliver of understanding when it comes to the Word of my Lord.

Mar 23, 2008

Obscene phone calls and Christ crucified.

Saturday night was seemingly uneventful at work, and the night had gone pretty calmly. That is unusual for any one of my closing shifts at work and I was prepared for the unexpected to occur at any moment. Not many people desire to gorge on Mickey D's late at night before Easter Sunday. The typical customers, were well, typical Saturday night customers. It was just way too quiet to be true.

The phone rang many times, which is also typical at the restaurant, but one phone call was extremely obscene. The question I was asked was inappropriate and not worthy of repeating, but let's just say my response was one of inquiry and for them to justify their level of maturity. "Are you serious? Would you please consider having intelligent conversation, if not I am hanging up now." It would seem this person decided to call back later on in the evening. It was still slow and the phone rang again. Normally, there would not be time to have a phone conversation with someone but tonight, like I said, was different.

The individual on the line this time must have been the same one as before because their obscenity had escalated to a higher level. This time I interrupted their statements and asked them if they had a moment. They said sure, this opened the door wide and clear. I stated very plainly and bluntly that if they did not repent and put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ to save them from their sin, they will perish and be damned in hell for all eternity. Their response was of disbelief and a blatant non-caring attitude. The conversation continued and they dismissed their need for a savior based upon not believing in hell. I emphasized the importance of understanding that whether we believe in something or not, doesn't change it's existence. I also emphasized the importance that Jesus placed on hell as He spoke of it more often than He did heaven.

This individual not only silenced after I explained to him our state before God without Christ and that he will be without excuse on the day of judgment (Rom 1:18-22). I also pleaded with him to consider his eternal salvation and the importance of his fate. I told him that if he had planned on refuting Christianity and it's believers that he owed it to himself to at least pick up the bible and read it for himself first. I told him to begin with the Gospel of John.

Please pray for our anonymous caller. This person obviously new me as they had said my name at one point in the conversation. They ended in response by stating they had appreciated what I said and that these words actually meant much to them. They thanked me and we hung up peacefully. Then I smiled, and praised God for the opportunities He allows me to participate in.

Now, I thank God for His grace and mercy, His divine appointments, and His sacrifice for the sins of men. I am unworthy of serving such a gracious God, but oh how I rejoice in His love for me, that He has called me His own! Thank you Lord Jesus!

See, you can witness too! Just remember it is a privilege and a command. Not an option...

The Gospel

Please, consider your eternal destination. If you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord click the first button and read very carefully, with an open bible and examine the verses to understand where we as human beings stand before a just and holy Creator. Secondly, the video will present to you the need for the ongoing devotion and adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our sustenance and joy.

Two ways to live: The choice we all face

The Gospel in six-minutes from Pastor John Piper.

Mar 21, 2008

Well said brother, well said...

A friend has posted comment on the preceding post "Do you not know..." and instead of leaving it obscured in the comment section, I've decided it is worthy of being read up here. Please join in the conversation and let us know what your take is. Remember, the purpose is to edify, encourage, and build up the brethren that we may serve Him better in all things!

Faithful Servant,

you are absolutely right… too often decisions are made without ever first considering the consequences that will inevitably come to pass. A careful study of our first parents, Adam and Eve, demonstrates that bad choices are even made by those who are fully informed of the consequences that will follow. In their case, the choice they made to partake of the forbidden fruit revealed their unbelieving disposition toward our Creator, Jesus the Christ. I believe the same applies today. Fallen men and women make choices contrary to God’s revealed will (found in the Bible alone) because they, in the ultimate sense, possess an unbelieving heart: they believe that regardless of their actions that divine discipline will not follow.

If the members of the Body of Christ have as a chief end to do all to the glory of God, then prior to following through with any decision making at all one should be asking themselves “How will this bring glory to God?” Or they may ask themselves “Will following through with this decision result in disobedience to any of the precepts/or permanent principals found in the Bible?” These are questions we must all be asking our selves if we are going to glorify Christ before a lost and fallen world.

Failure to make a right decision should never result in the excommunication of a brother or sister in Christ. The fact of the matter is, as a result of The Fall and the entrance of sin and death into the world, we need much help in making right decisions. If that were not a reality, then why did God the Holy Spirit inspire Proverbs 24:6? If we did not need help in the area of decision making, then why did He include all the exhortations in the Book of Proverbs? The whole Bible is full of much needed instruction. We are a needy people! Excommunication is necessary only when the sinning brother out rightly refuses to acknowledge their sinful behavior. They know that what they have done is wrong and a demonstration of their hatred toward God and the Bible, but because of pride they choose to “save face”… at least they think they are. As you properly noted in your article, chastisement from the Lord will eventually follow.

This is where the Body of Christ, if properly functioning, comes in. When a brother or sister is found to be in sin, another member of the Body should privately, prayerfully, and lovingly attempt to help them see where and when they went wrong and then help them to prayerfully seek God for direction in correcting the error. The difficulty comes when our brothers or sisters refuse to repent of their sinful behavior. When this occurs, the prescription for Church Discipline found in Matthew 18 should be followed. The hard question that needs to be asked is how long does one persevere with the brother or sister who refuses to acknowledge and repent of their sinful behavior?

The Body of Christ, if properly functioning, also willfully comes to the aid of the brother or sister who has been wrongfully dealt with. They seek to glorify Christ by addressing the manner in a way that results in reconciliation and the beautification of the Church’s Head, Jesus the Christ. True unity within the Church will seek to both help the brother or sister who has fallen into sin and will also provide aid to the one who has been wronged.

Serving Him
for His glory and honor...

Mar 19, 2008

Do you not know that it hurts?

An interesting thing has occurred to me. So many of us believe that we fully grasp the consequences of our actions before we make decisions. So many times does this behavior incessantly repeat itself. On the contrary, the Christian, should learn from the mistakes that have been made. The benefit would then be applying the lesson learned from the consequence to any actions thereafter. So what of the behavior that causes tension amongst members of the body of Christ? When bad decisions are made, consequences occur, and chastisement (by the Lord) follows, what then? Does the failure to make the right decision warrant excommunication of the offender? To what degree and extent are consequences to be carried out?

I raise these questions not in a rhetorical sense, but in an inquisitive sense. I would like some answers. Preferably from the parties involved, but also from those who may be able to provide some insight on the matter. The matter at stake is difference of opinion and disagreement about a issue that has little, if any relevance to salvation and walking with Christ. Greater still, I ask the question, how can you go from fellowship and co-laboring in evangelism to no communication, no response to attempted communication, and no attempts to continue co-laboring. If there has been sin against any members of the body, then that sin should be made known and reconciliation should occur?

Mat 5:24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

So reading in Matthew, I observe the teachings of Christ, and the principle of reconciliation toward others when offense has occurred. Now I would ask the question, if you are making offerings up to God by way of worship, are you doing so without offense to God, or are you offending God by your worship for leaving such matters unattended? Or is it downright apathy and a willful choice to ignore it until it goes away?

On to the last part of my concern. In the case of division, and the clear cut obvious nature of it's existence, what is to be done next? Division is clearly defined as being a separation between two things. Whether these things be people, places, or things, they are no longer in unification or like-mindedness. The Greek word σχίσμα (schisma), is the root word from which we base our own English word schism. It is a metaphorical definition of division or dissension. In reference to I Corinthians 12:25 this point comes home in a full thrust. Paul was instructing the Corinthian Christians to treat each other (as different as they may be) and care for each other the same as those who were similar. The attitude toward the gifts of others or the lack thereof is to be the same. We grieve when others are afficted, and we rejoice when others are exalted, all this we do as if it were occurring to us. This is unity amongst the brethren in the spiritual sense. Not a denominational, creedal, or formal allegiance. But in a purposeful, intentional, and cohesive bond that is unbreakable because it exists in the whole that is Christ's body. Existing eternally for His glory and Temporaly for His purposes.

What's my point? Well, I would ask that if you preach Christ crucified, reconciliation of sinners toward God, and a righteous standard of living, then you should also exhibit that in your personal relationships with others. And where we fall terribly short (I do all the time), we attempt to correct the behavior, learn from it, and move on. Furthering our purpose, unison, and commission in the same spirit without division. If we are considering the differences of our brothers and their shortcomings when interacting with the body, we are also considering our own. This should be of the first things we consider before we cast our stones (or apathy) at each other.

Adding it up...

I was checking out want-ads in the local area and came across an interesting one. This particular job listing was for an individual to work in church in a well to do city north of Detroit. For sake of naming names, let's just call it a "big one." It even has plenty of financial clout to do what it wants. Nonetheless, here's the ad.

Resource-Size Parish seeks an experienced person to lead our Christian Formation of Children, Youth and Families. Our parish has over two hundred children and youth. We would be best served by an individual who has the right combination of spiritual gifts, maturity, ministry development, and dynamic leadership to build a coalition of adults that will support the growth that we are planning. Resources, brand new children and youth facilities, and support of the Parish and Vestry are in place. (emphasis mine)

If I could draw your attention to the bold word "we." Without reading too much into this, its as almost if the ad is self-disclosing of who they are entrusting with the building of their "targeted" group doesn't it? It also conflicts with the scripture too. Interesting? Nah, just truth displaying itself for those who know Christ. Man being man and assuming that in and of himself there is no need for means outside of his own power and agenda. As if he has any of these without God anyway?

Acts 2:47 - praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Mar 16, 2008

Can you feel this?

Listen to the words, then tell me, have you ever felt this way? Do you feel this way? How many of us are humble enough to admit our struggle? Can you say that pride and arrogance are not a dilemma faced daily? I feel these words, this struggle, and battle with this dilemma daily. Pray for me...

Mar 15, 2008

Jesus binds the strong man...

Mat 12:28-29 NASB "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (29) "Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Just thought it's interesting how the deity, authority, and omnipotence of Christ is consistently challenged. Whether it be a cult, individual, or scoffer, they all take their shot and diminishing the power of Christ. For example, the preceding verse depicts Jesus challenging the Pharisees and their allegations that He was casting out demons by the power of demons. This is typical of those who wish to dismiss or even worse deny what is truly the work of the Spirit.

The strong man's house is plain to see as the house of the enemy himself, Satan. Many take this verse and misconstrue it into a prescription for binding Satan and binding his evil spirits/works upon them. But that is not what this passage "plainly" states. If we look at Scripture, we can see how easily the strong man's house can be understood as being the enemies' in this context (2 Cor 4:4, Phi 3:19, Eph 2:2)

Jesus' powerfully proclaims His deity in the statement, "...kingdom of God has come upon you" and promptly places the Pharisees and their accusations in their rightful positions, which just so happens to be error. The Gospel of Luke echoes this very same statement (11:20). Jesus makes His point apparent, at least in a plain reading. Jesus asks them (Mt. 12:27) to account for who among them casts out demons and by what name do they do so? So Jesus states a powerful tangible here, "If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God..." then they are basically in a whole lot of trouble, for the kingdom of God has come upon them!

So here's the thrust of this passage. We have assurance in the power of Christ. No doubt He has asserted not only His authority (Spirit of God), and His strength (Mt. 12:30), but His grace for those who follow and attribute to Him all glory and honor! Jesus has bound the strong man, plundered his house and taken what was his (Us). Anyone else who would say otherwise and blatantly deny what Christ says is obvious, and ignore the forgiveness of sins by the Son of God stands and stays condemned (Mt. 12:32).

Mar 10, 2008

Hypocrite hunters, listen up!

Many people spend a great deal of their time and dedicate a great deal of their ministry to tearing down strongholds of false teaching and heresy. It's as if the primary cause of attacking these institutions, people, and teachings is the primary thrust of their interpretation of the great commission. To determine just what kind of dedication I am referencing we'll need a benchmark. This benchmark can be stated and answered by the response to this question, "If someone were to ask what the majority of your teaching consisted of, what would it be?" Breaking down the system, or Christ crucified?" Often this line gets blurred by the preaching of Christ crucified being skewed and misrepresented by the consistent preaching of a message that is nothing more than a vile hatred of others masquerading as the gospel. Or, simply put, a veil of self-righteousness that is a reflection of the true state of one's soul. This veil must constantly be donned and flaunted in order to maintain one's own self-deception.

See, it's not that I have an antagonistic stance against speaking truth of false teaching and ravenous wolves, I have an abhorrence for those who do nothing but focus on this type of ministry and further illustrate their spiritual condition with the hypocrisy that is shown by their own actions. This saddens me a great deal and raises much concern, often when I present this perspective I am considered a dissenter, divider, and worse yet, unsaved. The question I ask is not what determines false teaching, as this is often apparent, but what authority do you have to condemn it?

Mat 7:15-20
(15) "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? (17) "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. (19) "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) "So then, you will know them by their fruits.

This passage makes a clear, concise, and razor sharp incision into the cancerous tumor of wolves and false prophets. It also gives a brief and distinct description of what these offenders will be like. So now the dilemma of dividing those whom we disagree with theologically and those who are downright deceivers and impostors to the very core is presented. Because we disagree with their particular interpretation does not distinguish them as a false prophet or teacher. Once again, we still have the problem of knowing the heart, and in order to condemn, we must know their hearts. But to know them? Well to know them, who they are, what they are, and to beware of them, Jesus (v20) says we will know them by their fruits. We seem to confuse the authority and omniscience that Christ had when He condemned men for their deeds and teaching with our own authority to preach the Gospel. These are two distinct and separate actions that cannot be intermingled.

Act 5:34-39 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. (35) And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. (36) "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. (37) "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. (38) "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; (39) but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."

This same man who was Rabban (higher even than Rabbi) in the Pharisaical sect, is the same man that stood up and spoke the truth that runs parallel to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7:15-20. Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) was not giving instruction on what to do with such teachers, but was commenting on the very principle repeated throughout the OT, God's sovereignty when dealing with human enterprise (international standard bible encyclopedia, Gamaliel).

The principle of the very words spoken by Gamaliel in v38., "...if this plan or action is of man, it will be overthrown;" is a solemn reminder that we in and of ourselves do not determine the destiny, fate, or direction that ministries do and should go. Considering that our actions are seen by God (always) and men (sometimes), we should always be aware of how our actions may be being perceived. The unbelieving world is always looking for fuel to add to its growing and ever increasing anti-Christian sentiment. Individuals who propagate these hypocrite, heresy, false-prophet hunting expeditions should be ever mindful of this. Being ambassadors of Christ and elected to preach His Gospel to all men for salvation must always remember our status and place when carrying out our evangelism and ministry efforts. When we focus our primary efforts on dismantling, debunking, and exposing false ministries, teachers, and hypocrisy we have lost the thrust and goal of our primary function, to glorify God. Gamaliel goes on to say in v39., "but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God." Now, the point is hit out of the ballpark. Who's to say the purpose of these teachers or ravenous wolves is not the purpose of God? Who's to say His sovereign hand is not working amidst this false-fire? Could it also be that this not only contradictory to the teachings and preaching of Christ, but is a form of judgment upon man who is and will remain unrepentant? It is instructed by a man who stood opposed to the Messianic fulfillment of Jesus, but his statement is echoed throughout scripture in the form of God's sovereignty. What's the point? Let God deal with them, as He already is.

Mar 4:11-12 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, (12) so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN."

In closing, my proposition is this. This is not a treatise to promote inaction on behalf of the members of the body of Christ when dealing with those who masquerade as Christian and bring shame upon is name. This shame is only brought upon them as God as made it clear that He will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). We have no part in the deterrence of human action in relation to God's sovereign will based upon our own course of actions. I would suggest that we as messengers of the Most High God be humble and always vigilant in our understanding of our place in the order of things. Simply put, while false teachers and prophets have a much longer reach than in times past, this does not affect the dispensation of God's wraith, judgment, or redemption of men as He sees fit per time and place.

If a Pharisee, can understand the nature of God's encompassing Fatherhood and direction, how much more that you, a saint, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and indwelt by the Comforter Himself should embrace this idea? All men, everywhere, will have their sin brought out into the open. Our job is to preach to them the one and only person who can redeem them from the judgment, Jesus Christ.

Mar 8, 2008

Sinners understanding sin

Twice this week I've had the experience of sharing the Gospel with people who seemingly understand it. Twice this week I've walked away from those conversations with an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. However, of these two conversations there was hope and joy that the Lord is sovereign and He will do His will as He sees fit.

One, a co-worker returned to work and commented about a conversation we had previously regarding the realities of Hell. Although I noticed the look of concern upon their face when I initially dropped them off, all that I could do was pray that the Lord was using that conversation to reach them. This co-worker's comments were refreshing and comforting. What they had said assured me that the Lord is working all things together for His purposes and is revealing His plan of salvation to all people everywhere. This person's comments were, "After what you said to me, I've been thinking a lot about it. If I were to stand before God, I would have nothing to say to Him, or any justification for why I should be allowed into heaven." Since that conversation, our interactions and conversations have seemed to change 180 degrees! Please pray for this persons salvation and that the Lord continues to soften their heart.

Secondly, it's always interesting how the Lord continues to put you in places you least expect it, especially when it comes to people you thought you'd never see again. A decade ago I had a group of friends that was pretty tight nit. We did everything together, legal and illegal. If you were to label it, it was our "gang" and we never caused too much trouble, just enough to stay entertained. We also partied together, drugs, booze, and other illicit activities that don't warrant much mention. Eventually this group began to break up and everyone was going their own ways after high school. We all sporadically remained in touch over the years, some more than others, but eventually not like we used to.

As a result of our separations we all learned very quickly what real life was about, and it was no longer a joke or game. We all also continued to embrace our partying habits as if it were not a hindrance. The escalation of these habits were inevitable and 90% of us graduated to harder things, some sooner than others. As a matter of fact, all of us had resulted to using cocaine, heroine, meth, and many other hard drugs. Making a long story short, 28 years old being the median age amongst us, two have died and the remaining are hanging on to a thread called life.

One of these individuals has resurfaced and become reachable. I received a phone call two friends of mine were in the hospital and one was about to have her leg amputated from blood poisoning (resultant of heroin use). The other, my best friend from high school is there with her, and barely a shell of a man. The last time we spoke was at the funeral of our mutual friend who had also died from a heroin habit. My own heroin habit became as bad, if not worse than the rest of us, eventually leading to homelessness, but all of the group has become hopelessly lost and addicted and show no sign for the better. With this common thread running between us I called ahead to the hospital to inform them I was coming. They didn't know who to expect, junkie James, or a clean James.

The strongest testimony that I could've laid out before my friend was that I've been drug free since the last time we saw each other 2 1/2 years ago. Greater than that is the fact that its been almost 4 years since I last used heroin. He was amazed at this accomplishment and surprised that everyone is still hooked on heroin. He thought he was the worst and least of us all. I explained to him what it was that has kept me clean. I spoke to him about what really happened when I first got clean, and that Jesus Christ shattered my hard heart and made it new. I also told him that if he were willing to come 49% of the way, I would come 51% to help him. He nodded in all the appropriate places, agreed with all the things he should have, and even admitted to his need for help from God. But to no avail, the immediate evidence was not enough to give hope. I told him that he needed to cry out to God for forgiveness and ask Him to save him.

Joh 6:37 NASB "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

I did my best to make it clear to him that no program, simple little prayer, or church attendance would change him. He has a heart condition that can only be changed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and I hugged him, told him I loved him and promised to be there for him. I hope to return and speak with him further in the coming weeks, as they will be there for another three.

It's a daunting task to know that you can be utilized by God to convey a message and Gospel that utterly changes lives. It's also very encouraging to know that no matter what, your efforts are nil without the power of Christ behind them. Ironically, without Him, you are just blabbering jibberish that the human heart rejects and disdains on it's own. There have been many moments when I thought I would never see my friend again, and was just waiting for the phone call for the funeral to come. But maybe, just maybe, the change in my life that Christ has done will be the evidence provided to my friend that Christ can do that for him as well.

While it seems that both of these encounters illustrate that they "understood" their need and their sin, does it mean they really "understood?". Just as the Ethiopian Eunuch read the scroll and learned about the prophecy of Christ, he needed someone to explain it to him, and the Lord utilized that to bring about repentance and faith in Christ! (Romans 10:14-15)

When there's apprehension or reluctance to go and preach the Gospel to others, I always keep this in mind, they may not be here much longer. The doors Christ opens are often obvious and we must constantly observe and demonstrate obedience toward Him and His calling on our lives to be faithful ministers of the Gospel. And if that reluctance strikes and discouragement comes, just remember we've been instructed and commanded!

Mat 28:18-20 NASB And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Mar 3, 2008

I get to do what?

"What makes us so terrified to witness? The thought that our influence or methods impact the decision that people make!"

At what point do you admit you have created your own stumbling block with your own rebellion? Or the load of sin you are carrying with you begins to weigh you down and out of service? How great an insult is it to Jesus Christ that we ignore His commands to make disciples of every nation and baptize them in the name of...because we don't feel up to par today? I would contend that we create our own brick wall to bang our own head against when we feel that our sin is so great that He who died for us cannot forgive it. Oh, woe is me that I may walk in the path of the "eeyore" and ignore, hinder, and restrict myself from sharing the Gospel in all that I do.

If we believe that our sin is so great that we cannot confess, repent, and receive forgiveness so that we may be about the Father's business, then we have a major pride problem. The remedy may not seem simple, but it's solution is. We must consult the Word of God, pray for forgiveness, and muster the resolve to stand firm in the faith according to the measure we have been given, and go!

I have, on many occasion, allowed my self-defeating sin to hinder my participation in the will of God. By this I do not mean that we pick and choose when we are in His will, but that we are participating obediently when we are doing His will. My sin problem, this bondage of the flesh, seeks to inhibit, and prohibit the victory until the day we are glorified in resurrection. But until then, this war can only be won through the Spirit and in Truth.

Finally, the mere thought that I get to participate in the Father's will, carry out the great commission, and be utilized as a mouthpiece to preach His glorious Gospel is overwhelming. The second that I restrain or attempt to talk myself out of evangelizing, ministering to the brethren, or caring for the "least of these," then I need to step back and take a reality check. This reality check is easily realized through the understanding that He has chosen us to do His will here on earth. We should count it a blessing that we are even allowed to speak His truth, let alone know it.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
(Php 1:21-27 NASB)

Photo Credit: Jesse Fullagar

Mar 1, 2008

If you ever worry...

Today while witnessing to a co-worker the question of hell arose. I was not in a position to expound on the vast theology that lies behind the doctrine of hell, but I was able to touch on it's reality based upon Jesus' teaching (Mt. 5:29, Mk. 9:47-48) in regard to it's severity. This was only a flirtation with it's total reality.

This quickly led our discussion into the realm of what kinds of people will be there. We had a few conversations here and there in regard to this subject, but never was able to quite give a clear presentation based upon scripture. This individual not only often jokes about Christianity but downright insults it as well.

Nevertheless, given the circumstances and events of the past few days, I do not find any irony in the fact that what I had read prior to my conversation with this individual was going to be utilized in ministering to them. I also find no irony in the principle that it readily applies to the concern of worrying about how others treat us, whether or not they change (better or worse), and whether or not we feel vindicated by the world. It's funny how simple scripture lays it out and paints such a vivid picture of it.

If you have ever been in a position that causes you to think, "They should get this, they deserve that, it isn't fair, then what I am about to quote will offer some comfort in those matters. The Scripture says, we do not have to worry about whether someones actions receive proper consequences or not, we have no part in this act of retribution. It is actually self-centered and self-absorbed to believe that we can influence or carry out justice in the manner it is "absolutely" deserved.

Either way we look at it, good or bad, God will take care of these things. And to answer my coworker on the realities of hell? I simply emphasized what the Gospel was, what it was not, and what rejecting it cost.

It is a safe bet to believe that God will...

dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
(2Th 1:8-9 NASB)

Be faithful to Him, and speak truth to them...