and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:40-41
Doin’ Some Ministry
I’d been looking forward to the day all week… actually if the truth were known I’d been looking forward to this type of a day for months ever since Tony arrived in Iowa. We’ve done some ministry together, mostly going to the abortion clinic, but we hadn’t really hit the streets for a full on day of open air evangelism. Street preaching and gospel tracting, hopefully leading to some decent gospel conversations.
I suppose in some circles Tony is kind of a “big deal” at least he’s achieved some notoriety among those “odd” Christians that engage in evangelism and open air preaching or “field preaching” as some like to call it. Called that because of the great ministers of old such as George Whitefield that gathered large crowds in the fields to preach when they were kicked out of their churches. Or the greatest field preacher of all time the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
I suppose Tony is sort of a big deal but he’s not really a big deal to anyone that gets to know him. He’s just Tony and he’s a dear brother in the Lord and a humble servant of the King. But at one time it was watching Tony’s videos that I came to realize that maybe I too could do open air preaching someday. Watching how he did it seemed so natural and so conversational, if you will, that I thought I didn’t need to be a “professional” to do this. Years later who would of ever thought he’d be a member of my church.
It’s funny how things go because as we wrapped up our teaching that Saturday morning on God’s Providence, and providentially it turned out that the email only went to me and not to the church so instead of their potentially being several men wanting to go it was only me and brother Tony that were going to hit the streets.
Heading to Galena
Nothing unusual about the day other than it was as gorgeous a spring day as I can ever remember and after Men’s Bible Study Tony insisted we stop for iced coffee before heading toward Galena, Illinois (okay a slight exaggeration). A small burg known for its intimate downtown, old American charm, and many visitors from all over the Midwest. The town U.S. Grant chose to settle down after his presidency and well after he helped secure victory for the North to keep the Union together. Galena is a fun place to go and for a couple evangelists it’s loaded with just what we need. Lots of people in a tightly confined space, ready or not, to hear the gospel of Christ.
After a quick lunch at Culver’s and paying the rent due on my coffee, we headed toward the downtown to scope out the most advantageous place to preach and pass out tracts. It didn’t take long to identify a good place. Main street is one-way and it’s tight and narrow with lots of shops and restaurants on both sides of the streets and as it turns out the acoustics are just what a street preacher wants. With or “without” amplification. I’ve preached a lot in the open air in the last several years but I’d dare say Tony has probably preached thousands of times in the open air and his skill is polished and refined. He has a great rhythm and yet it never sounds rehearsed. I learn from him every time I hear him and as I prayed for him and stepped to the other side of the street he strapped on the Aker Amp and began to speak. It was calm, sure and steady with a great deal of gentleness and love for the lost that flowed from my brother. It was very edifying to me as a believer.
Not so Fast…
As it was my turn to go and I was preparing to start I said “Good Afternoon”…. and the words no more came out my mouth and Galena’s Finest rolled onto the scene. I thought, “oh no… are they going to shut us down?” The officer’s were extremely polite and direct and said you have your right to free speech here but you can’t use amplification. Tony discussed it with them for a few moments and we gladly submitted to their request. Tony told him that we are required to submit to their authority as Romans 13 tells us. As a side note this would be quite advantageous to us later on in the day. And as a matter of evangelism technique whenever possible it is always good to agree quickly to the officers terms.
Tony came over and encouraged me to not allow it to effect my preaching, to stay within the power of my own voice, don’t strain, but preach with boldness and authority. Because the acoustics were so excellent, Tony later told me that my voice carried well down the street and he had no trouble hearing the gospel as I declared it. I don’t recall the length of time I preached, it is often a surreal experience as you concentrate on the glory of Christ and lose track of time, but I suspect it was 35 to 45 minutes.
Half way through an angry townswomen asked if we had a permit while interrupting my sermon and Tony came over to intervene that I might continue on. She was loud and boisterous, Proverbs 7 comes to mind, and would not easily be put off. She had a big voice and she began to try and yell over the top of me but after a short while she meandered her way back to whatever she was doing.
Tony went again next and that is when things really got interesting. Not sure how long he had been going but I suppose it was 20 minutes and as I stood on the corner across the street I heard Andy coming… I heard the horn…. You’ve heard loud and angry horns before, but you’ve not heard this kind of an angry horn before and as the big Dodge Ram Truck veered straight toward Tony he didn’t appear to be going to stop until Tony became his personal hood ornament. I stood and watched in semi-horror, and semi-confusion as to what was going to happen. Tony stood his ground, to my amazement, didn’t even budge an inch. Andy decided rather than face a murder charge, he best move to the side a bit and missed Tony by inches. The whole while keeping the angry horn on full blast. You can watch the video here.
Andy was not a “happy camper” as one might say and he was screaming through the window and calmly Tony told him to have a nice day…. It was comic relief in the moment of not sure what was going to happen next. After he drove away it was not the last we’d see of him that day. Moments later he was back and yelling at the top of lungs about his love for Zeus, Thor and Aphrodite. I’m really not sure what his point was but one thing was evidently clear was his hatred for the God he knew (Romans 1).
Our encounter continued for a while and Andy was not backing down and one point he said he had been a Catholic for 12 years and he almost calmed down to the point of normalcy. It almost appeared like he was going to have a rational conversation for a moment but not so… Moments later the Galena Police came onto the scene again. In hindsight, they knew Andy fairly well. When the officer asked him for his identification he refused and quicker than you can swat at a mosquito Andy had his arm behind his back and the officer was slapping on the cuffs and tossing him into his vehicle.
Providence had taken an interesting turn and after things settled down the officer’s asked Tony and I if we’d come make a statement. We gladly obliged and we began a short walk up the hill to the station and were chased down by three young kids probably around 10 years of age. They were telling us how thankful they were that we were there preaching the gospel. Their mom was in hot pursuit and as I handed them all tracts and thanked them mom offered a friendly wave and mouthed a big “thank you” to us.
Some Great Take-a ways
There is a lot to be thankful for in our time in Galena and I’d be remiss to not mention my conversation with Elliott and his wife Pam. Elliott thanked us and told both Tony and I that when he was saved God flooded his mind with every seed that had been planted along the way included hearing and seeing street preachers. He asked for my email and I hope to continue to encourage one another along the narrow and difficult path of Christianity. But along that path there is joy. Joy in the fellowship with a dear brother. Even if he is or isn’t a “big deal”. Joy in suffering for the sake of Christ and the joy of the gospel. Joy in a beautiful day in Galena Illinois. Joy that God provides for and protects his people in all circumstances. Even if it had turned out differently.
God is good and worthy to be praised.
I live in an empty house in many ways… I desire my house to be emptied. What is it about my house that I really don’t care for? I guess it’s the body of death that I wander around in that I’m referring to. This temple, or as Paul said this tent. We all live in them and the Christian hopefully has a better understanding of it than the average person.
2 Corinthians 5:1-3
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
I want my earthly home to be destroyed because it’s not a very good one. In fact it’s a mess and the closer I draw to Christ and see His amazing goodness the more I’m overwhelmed by my wretchedness. I desire a better place. A cleaner place, a place that glorifies and honors Him instead of bringing Him the shame I so often consider in my fleshly life. I see that my desires continue to shift in that I really hate my sin. I really hate that I try to overcome certain things and the going is very slow.
Lest I sound too gloomy there is hope… But shouldn’t we sometimes just stay in this place? Shouldn’t we just bathe in our own filth for a while? Not that Christ hasn’t overcome because He has but I mean for me? And for you? Shouldn’t this help us understand what it took to accomplish our redemption? Really give us a glimpse of the misery we are in?
2 Corinthians 5:4-5
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
Here is the good news!
For believer’s we have a guarantee. We have a guarantee of salvation because the Spirit has been given to us. The word means a guarantee, earnest money, a down payment and the full amount to be paid subsequently. It’s a sure thing.
We see two truths existing side by side in the way that God so often shows us things that are sometimes hard to understand. The fact that we need to detest ourselves yet in that have the utmost of all hope. We hate our sin, but we love our Savior. We detest our flesh but seek the Spirit. There is this bizarre thing going on that is almost too much for the human mind to make sense of. It’s like a puzzle that makes no sense on the surface but as we stand back and gaze upon it later on it all comes clear.
God is that way in so many of the things He does. We don’t understand how sorrow and mourning produce repentance and faith. We don’t get that persecution brings joy. We don’t get it because we can’t see it the way God sees it. We only see the short term, the temporary state of our being.
We don’t always recognize that God is producing in us something that is far more valuable than what we want for ourselves. Perhaps we want something that seems good but maybe God says you are not ready yet. And so we wish for things but God says, “No, not yet, or maybe ‘No, never’ because I have something different for you.”
It’s hard to understand sometimes and I must admit in my flesh I don’t like it and I want this earthly tent to be gone. I want to be in glory with Christ where the struggles of the world are done. But then again, He says “No, I’m not done with you yet…”
And sometimes it’s just great to say it all out loud and cry out to Him for help. “Lord, cleanse me…. Lord forgive me for I am in a sad state of affairs… “
In all of it I find if we don’t know what to do then we can only trust and we can only do our best to obey. It seems obedience is a recipe for success if you will. There is a time when just laying down our arms and giving in to that which we know is true is the best way to go. But yet so often we fight against it. And I don’t want to do that but yet when I do, when I receive the chastening, it produces a peaceable fruit of righteousness and I know I’m a son that has been trained for it.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
The day is coming friends when we will appear before the judgment seat. All I have to offer the Lord is my obedience and that is not enough so my hope must be in the Lord Jesus Christ and that is enough. My focus and my desire needs to be Him and all the rest falls into place. That is my desire. I hope it is also yours.
I consider myself a ponderer… because I like to ponder things long and hard before I make decisions. Maybe I’m really just a procrastinator. I think it’s possible that is more like it, but the bottom line is I should have written this article a long time ago.
I had an amazing conversation this past week with a long time friend. In the time I’ve known this friend I’ve gone from being a guy that talked about Jesus to being a guy that actually and truly lived for Jesus.
Even before I was truly regenerate I would discuss Jesus with my friend. And he noticed that. His wife also noticed it but when the Lord really saved me I went from talking about Jesus to living a life that gave me purpose in really being more diligent in how those discussions went. As my friend and I had this discussion this past week he said a couple things that really resonated with me.
Things like this… “well I’m not sure I’m all the way there yet, but I’m trying.” In digging a little deeper I realized that this is not a theologically correct statement, but I understood what my friend meant. What really encouraged me about this conversation, that was evident to me, was that his life looked very different than what it used to look. I think he was struggling to say, “hey Kevin, maybe God saved me, but I’m not really certain…” He didn’t have the words to articulate this but it’s possible he meant it.
As I consider his life before and as he described things that were happening in his life I have to ask the question. Did God save him? Is God “saving” him? It’s a question that takes on a pretty significant issue which is just how does that really happen? And there are other questions that need to be answered in this whole process.
How does God save? What does it mean to be saved? For what purpose does God save? I’m sure there are more but let’s start with these.
I bring up the topic today because when I look back at my life from pre-salvation, to initial salvation and then the sanctification and growth process I’ve almost forgotten how much God has accomplished in my life. In my discussion with my friend he said that he desired to learn so much more and in his own way was sharing what little information he knew with others in his life. And it dawned on me… wow, that was me… How could I so easily forget not everyone understand this stuff. And this “stuff” is pretty important.
How does God save?
This very question has a presupposition that most people will miss. What do we need to be saved from?
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
To get to our question we have to start somewhere and that starting place is the “lostness” of mankind. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in it, He created man. God created man happy and holy (Question 21 in the children’s catechism). God not only created mankind but he gave us a soul that will never die and told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil lest he die. When Adam disobeyed God he plunged mankind into spiritual death. Mankind was cursed.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked… Ephesians 2:1-2
To have a starting point in salvation one must come to an understanding we are not only lost but we are dead. Dead spiritually with no ability on their own to come to God. Without hope and without opportunity because we are not only unable, but are also unwilling.
The part of “how God saves” is through an understanding of this predicament. God moves in the heart of a dead sinner by presenting the law of God that one might come to understanding of their helpless and hopeless condition. The law is a tutor that brings us to Christ through the message of the gospel (Galatians 3:23, Romans 1:16). The gospel is the good news which sets a sinner free from his captivity and slavery to sin (Romans 6:7).
This message of the gospel must come from an outside source because the sinner will not come to this revelation on his own. It generally comes through either reading the word, or mostly through the proclamation of the message through a messenger. A “preacher” if you will…
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14
God uses the preaching of the word to save souls. For most all this is a foolish message (1 Corinthians 1:18) but yet this is how God does it. And if you weren’t saved via the gospel message you must examine if you’ve been saved to this gospel?
What does it mean to be saved?
When God created man the Genesis account says that God created man in His own image. That God breathed life into man.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
The word breath means spirit, inspiration, soul. God gave man a soul. Created in His image Adam would live forever. Upon Adam’s disobedience he plunged all of mankind into death and the curse of God.
To be saved means that God can redeem us from the curse. He not only saves us from the curse, He saves us from the power and the penalty of the sin that we are born into. God did this for a simple reason but a reason that is not popular with most people. If you’ve been saved you must recognize that you were saved by God, saved for God and saved from God.
The God of the universe acquiesced to take on human flesh that He might accomplish what Adam could not. Christ came to be the better Adam. To fulfill the law that we would not be cursed under the law.
For what purpose does God save?
I’m unpopular in present day evangelicalism. I’m unpopular because God’s word is unpopular and I place my trust completely in what it says. I’m not trying to be arrogant in that statement because many will claim the same thing. But yet when it comes to the Sovereignty of God and the claims that He makes in His word we can get to a point pretty quickly that will separate the best of friends.
God saves for His glory
God is a God of love and God loves His people but the Bible says God does not love all people equally and the exclusivity of this statement is offensive. For many this makes God some sort of a monster that is toying around with people. I don’t see it that way but yet I’ve struggled with the concept just like I think most “normal” people would.
The Scriptures are clear but yet often times hard to accept.
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. – Ezekiel 36:22
This verse is God focused. This verse shows us some hard truth. God has tolerated a sinful creation that rebelled against the Creator. And to reveal the glory of the Creator, He in His Sovereign plan, for no reason other than His purposes chose out a group of people to glorify His name on this earth.
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:24
Man is not a victim. Man is a willing participant in his sin. The sin that he loves and is unwilling to give up. There is so much more to say but yet the gospel message is simple and the offer is free to those that will come. And today I must ask you a very real question.
Will you come to Him today? On His terms, not yours?
For as an evangelist brother of mine says… “God will not negotiate with sinners…”
Do you recognize that, not only do you sin, but you are a sinner? If you are weary of the battle, then give it over to Him today and you will also find rest for your weary soul.
Do that today; for that is the purpose for which Christ came. I’m hoping He came to save you.
Guest Blogger: Jay Simon
(Clarification: although the words have unique meanings related to the role of church leaders, I will use terms like elder, pastor, shepherd, and overseer interchangeably in this post)
I’m blessed to be a member of a church where deacons serve a vital role. Men who bear that title have a daily, tangible impact on my life, and that gives our pastors the opportunity to shepherd more faithfully. Having attended churches in the past which (admittedly) struggle with the distinctions between elders and deacons, I now enjoy the fruits of a ministry that has found clarity in this area. I yearn for everyone to get a healthy grasp on these roles so all Christians can experience the same.
I’ve known numerous pastors who were willing (even eager!) to serve the physical needs of the church. While I commend them for their humble, servant attitudes, doing so actually handcuffs their ability to serve the spiritual needs of Christ’s body. I believe this happens because Christians lack a biblical understanding of elder and deacon roles. Church members expect their elders to meet every need, but the church functions best when we align ourselves with God’s design. I’m convinced that a key reason for the fruitful pastoral ministry at our church is the faithful service of the deacons. I could make a list of all the tasks our deacons perform, but we’d be better served by considering the lesson in Acts chapter 6.
When the Apostles oversaw the appointment of deacons (note: although the word “diakonos”, which means servant or minister, is not used in Acts 6, we understand this to be the institution of the office of deacon), their reasoning was simple,
“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
No one said serving tables (or, by extension, all physical needs) wasn’t important, but just that it wasn’t the duty of the Apostles, who laid a foundation for the role of pastor-overseer. Pastors are not above planning meal schedules or helping church members move, but they are called to another role, one so vital that it must not be neglected. The Apostles understood their responsibility,
“We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
A few years ago, I had an enlightening conversation with one of my pastors, who happened to be devoting a lot of time to planning an upcoming church event. He was a lay elder, so his shepherding time was limited by his full-time job and his primary ministry to his family. In our meeting, he was fulfilling his pastoral role by counseling me, but he was also worried about his assignments for the special festivities. I had the opportunity to remind him of Acts 6 and encourage him not to burden himself with the event, since his primary role was that of a shepherd.
The Bible tells us my pastor’s time would have been better spent in prayer and teaching, rather than finding church members to fill roles and provide food items. Assuming an event is worthwhile, then it’s important for someone to handle logistical tasks, but not a man whom the Holy Spirit has made a shepherd of God’s flock. We “regular” Christians can be a great encouragement to our pastors by not asking things of them that should be done by deacons or even other non-leaders from the congregation.
If you are a pastor, you must not spend your time planning events or creating church budgets in lieu of shepherding the flock through teaching and prayer, for to this you have been called! You may oversee the forming of budgets, but to give up counseling time to balance line items is a waste of the gifts God has entrusted to you. Some of you may gather in rented spaces for worship, meaning you have “church-in-a-box” that must be set up and torn down every Sunday. And you probably think you should lead by example by showing up early to un-stack chairs and plug in audio equipment. This might sound odd, but I want to suggest that you skip setup and let someone else do it. Letting everyone else carry chairs doesn’t make you lazy, but it might make you a more faithful overseer of God’s church. What pastor couldn’t use an extra hour to fine-tune his sermon or pray for those who will gather to hear it?
If you scan the whole of the New Testament, you’ll find that virtually every activity undertaken by elder-shepherds falls under the umbrella of “prayer and the ministry of the word”. It really is that simple. I’ve heard too many stories of overburdened pastors, many of them bi-vocational, who struggle to find time to prepare sermons and meet regularly with their congregants, which hurts the whole church. Even worse, many of these men work so hard in their pastoral ministry that they sacrifice family time and disqualify themselves by failing to manage their own households well.
I want to encourage pastors to simplify their ministries until they can do the most important things well. If that means cancelling events or even getting rid of a few church programs, then glory to God! Those programs probably weren’t necessary in the first place. The Bible is clear that you will be held to a strict standard for the way you shepherd the souls under your care, so throw yourself into the study of God’s word and into improving your preaching. Part of your responsibility includes teaching your church what the Bible says about elder and deacon roles, so you may be unintentionally misleading them by taking on time-consuming tasks for which others are better suited. Weed out any duties that don’t fall under your teaching and prayer ministry, and I believe you’ll be amazed at the increased fruitfulness that follows.
It has always been my desire for others to contribute to this blog and I’m grateful for Jay’s talent. – Kevin
One of the questions I consistently receive as a parent is what sports do your kids participate in? That is an interesting question to me. I’m not against sports and in fact I was a kid that was carted all across the state of Iowa when I was in school. My parents sat countless hours in school gymnasiums waiting for me to spend 4 or 5 minutes every hour or so to battle for position on a wrestling mat. I wasn’t a half bad wrestler through high school but as I think back on it now I consider the tremendous amount of effort I put toward this pursuit. I don’t know if it was wasted effort because it shaped me in some ways that I wouldn’t be the man I am now and God had His Sovereign Hand over the whole thing, but I consider the things I could have worked for that would be far more beneficial to me now.
I don’t write to offend anyone so please consider what I say before you come to a conclusion. I also write as the father of four daughters. For me that is a different conversation than if I had four sons. I would want to raise sons to be men. Not juveniles, not adolescents, but men. God fearing men. Men that will stand in the gap and fight for the gospel. Lord willing. But I write as a father of girls. So I need to insist on a different standard.
I’m not raising girls to act like boys. I’m raising girls to become women. God fearing women. Not adolescent and or juvenile girls, but godly women that strive to serve the Lord and only One True King. That is not an easy task because they are sinners. And because they are sinners something needs to break the hard and stony hearts that control them. Three of the four are unbelievers and I’m thankful we can trust God to do rightly, but as for me, I must strive to teach them the principles of the Scriptures and the truth of God’s word.
“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:9
I suppose in most cases when asked the question in a drive-by fashion I respond, no they don’t do sports, their activities are music, art, and dance… I’m not afraid to confront the topic, but I need to have some time to develop the conversation. I want to develop the conversation so I’m not shooting from the hip and unnecessarily offending someone. If they be offended by the gospel, that is another topic, but I strive to give good answers. Solid and biblical answers.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. – Titus 2:3-5
The goal for a Christian man raising daughters should be this Scripture. I can be certain this will offend far more than a Christian man keeping his daughter out of sports and I think it’s important to see how the relationship between organized sports, especially as they achieve higher levels of success, and this Scripture mix like oil and vinegar.
In sports the goal is to win. Yeah, I realize some will protest and say it’s about things like “developing character”. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe sports develop character. Teaching the Scriptures develops character. Character that God desires. It won’t teach my daughters how to “win” but it will teach them how to love their husbands. It will teach them how to love their children. It will teach them how to be made wise for salvation. And at the end of the day does anything else matter?
“That the word of God may not be reviled.”
A Christian that is intent on God’s glory will seek the highest good for his family. He will seek God’s goals for his family and not his own. He will lay down his life for his family and that usually, and almost exclusively, means different priorities from the world.
I won’t develop the idea of what happens in young women that pursue sports to very high levels. I think we can look around and see the development of the competitive spirit among women is not what God would seek. Women were created different than men. Yes, that is still true. This is not a newsflash.
But Satan is always twisting things around. Many of today’s movies are going to highlight women as the hero. I’m not saying women are weak. I’m not saying women are not valuable. In fact I value the counsel of my wife above almost anyone else. She has a brilliant mind and can actually think circles around me in most cases. But she is not to be competing with me. She is to be complementing me. Completing me. Helping me. This is a big difference.
Sports do not help this. They teach independence and self sufficiency. They teach competitiveness and aggressiveness. At least if you want to be “competitive”.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7
I’m to treat my wife different than a friend or a man. She’s not weak, but she’s weaker in many ways than I am. And I will confess she is much stronger than I am in many ways. But she is unique. She was made woman and that is an amazing thing and I desire my daughter’s to be as God intended them to be. Not to be trained up like men.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ – Mark 10:6
Don’t miss this distinction and also don’t miss that the world is corrupted by sin and by the evil one and he desire to destroy whatever he can. included the God given roles. He does it through deceit and misdirection. He is clever.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’?” – Genesis 3:1
Satan twisted what God said. He distorted the truth and it plunged mankind into sin. If our greatest desire is to honor God in all things then we need to consider that His plan is better than ours. His ways are higher and we need to conform to the mind of God as revealed to us through Scripture. If your daughter plays soccer does this destroy any hope? Of course not, but consider the goal… I believe God has clearly given us examples to follow and I don’t find any real value in sports for my daughters.
And that is my reasoning. I hope you’ll think about yours.
Rest In Peace…
There have been an abundance of celebrity deaths this year and it is those deaths that cause people to consider life and death. Most recently we’ve seen George Michael and Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame, a day later Debbie Reynolds the mother of Carrie Fisher died. This past year has included Prince, David Bowie, John Glenn a total of 72 celebrity deaths in 2016. Even more shocking is that every year 55.3 million people die. That’s 151,600 per day and 6316 every hour.
None of us will escape death. It is as inevitable as taxes right?
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27
It is my assertion that most people are practical “Universalists”. In other words, most people believe that almost nobody will go to a place like Hell and be punished for their sins. That’s why so many people say “rest in peace”. It doesn’t really matter that a person’s lifestyle and testimony of life completely contradict biblical theology. It doesn’t matter that they lived in complete rebellion to their Creator. I won’t pick out any of the above named celebrities but I’m not aware that any of them professed Christianity and even among professed Christians Jesus said few will find life.
What does it mean to find peace?
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:14
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
This all seems pretty straight forward and easy to understand in fact as we are working our way through the holiday season it’s almost guaranteed you had one of these verses on a Christmas card. We all desire peace don’t we? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can only be found where there is peace in the land and so we must consider if Jesus accomplished His mission and it doesn’t seem like He did.
Where did Jesus go wrong?
If He is the Prince of Peace and He is to bring peace how do we reconcile this? Did you notice that in Luke 2 it says that He is going to bring peace to those whom He is pleased? This forces a deeper question… How can one please God?
Romans 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
If God must be pleased in order for us to have peace then we must understand the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. God’s word tells us that the natural man cannot receive the things of God for they are foolishness to him and that by nature we are children of wrath dead in our sins and trespasses… We see a difference in the relationship between the type of a person that can please God and the natural man who is in the flesh that cannot please God.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. – Romans 8:6-7
It is the Spirit that gives life and it is the Spirit living in us through Christ that causes us to be accepted by God and for God to be pleased. Through no work of our own, but only through the work of Christ on the cross. This is the imputation of God’s goodness to the sinner. The transfer of His righteousness on our behalf. Not that we are made righteous, but legally we are declared as we should before the Father.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. – Romans 8:9-10
What an incredible statement of what Christ accomplished on the cross for those that will believe upon His name. You can have peace with God through Christ and the Spirit indwelling your heart. Now we can please God. Now we can be accepted by God through faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6
By faith and faith alone only can we please God and by pleasing God through faith we can now have peace. We have peace with God, we have peace in our hearts, we have peace with as many around us as will live at peace with us. As far as is up to us we will live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18).
But it’s not always up to us is it? And actually the problem with peace comes when you proclaim a truth to those that don’t want to hear it. This is an attempt to make peace but it’s an attempt to make peace between man and God. These two things don’t mix and when the gospel is presented it often brings conflict. Peacemakers are more concerned about others relationship with God than they are about the relationship with other men. And persecution is sure to follow.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. – Matthew 10:34
This really messes things up doesn’t it? Or does it?
The Sword of the Word divides. It brings conviction and it brings truth, it shines light in a dark place. It breaks up hard ground in some cases but this is not good news to sinful ears. This is what Jesus meant. His doctrine would divide people. Even those of a household.
There is only one way to rest in peace. And that comes at a high cost. It can cost our lifestyle. It can cost our family. It can cost our job. It can even cost our life.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. – Matthew 16:25-27
What’s it worth to you? Is Christ worth giving it all up? I can’t answer that question for you but I do ask you to answer that question for yourself. Because ten out of ten people die. The odds are 100%. And it is appointed once for you to die and then the judgment.
Are you ready?
Will you rest in peace?
I recently saw this quote on a church sign and I thought about it on my way to where I was going. It really seemed like a good quote at first blush and as I thought more about it I wondered if it’s true. I don’t mean to say it’s not true in the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives. That is unequivocally true. That is without a doubt what will happen in the life of a believer; they will be changed or they were never converted.
Paul tells us this plainly.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
This is absolutely about changed lives. It is the evidence of a changed life. God gives us new desires, new goals if you will…
Why write a blog article about this? Am I mincing words? Splitting hairs? Picking nits? It seems so judgmental in some ways to take what seems like a positive message and ask questions about it. The reason I ask the question and the reason I want to think about this topic is that I see, with many evangelical churches, the idea is to appeal to emotion or appeal to our sense for a life that is better in a temporal or earthly sense.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
Well there you go… an abundant life. That is the goal Jesus has for everyone right?
But of course in the context of the Lord’s message he is contrasting killing and destroying with life.
This word life ζωή zōḗ refers to more than just a temporary life. It means life eternal. See Matthew 7:14, Matthew 18:8
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
When we consider the message of the modern church it seems they mostly want to appeal to the desire for things to be better in the temporal sense and this is what drives them and in turn they teach from this perspective leading to more people thinking it’s all about them.
We must look at cause and effect because there is a cause and then there is an effect. God is the cause and the effect that flows out of that cause is seen. The effect is fruit and the effect is a changed life. There is no doubt about this point. Faith without works is indeed a DEAD faith.
What about the cause, how does the cause factor into the equation and why? What is the purpose of all of this, although not completely wrong, why is the message somewhat misguided?
Jesus gives us a pretty good clue in His conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus had bought the message hook, line and sinker. He believed God was there to restore the nation of Israel to prominence. After all these years of oppression and God’s silence, finally, someone arrives on the scene that is doing things nobody had ever seen. No doubt this guy is sent from God. Because NOBODY can do these signs unless God is with him. That is what Nicodemus said, he clearly got it. But did he?
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. – John 3:14
Whoa… did Jesus really just say that? The Son of Man must be lifted up… He of course was referring Numbers 21:9 and the Israelites needing to look to the serpent on the pole to be saved from sure death, Nicodemus didn’t miss this reference, but by being lifted up He is displaying the glory of God in the work that Jesus was sent to do, the work of salvation for His people. He came to prepare a way for eternal life for those that would believe. And in this conversation Jesus refers back to the message that He said Nicodemus should have already known. In effect He said, “I can’t believe you don’t know these things.” “What is the matter with you, aren’t you the teacher of Israel?”
What a stern rebuke.
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. Ezekiel 36:22-23
Here is the reason God changes lives. He does it for His names sake. It is His glory He is concerned about and while we are the recipients of Divine favor and Amazing Grace, it is all about Him. That is a seismic shift in the thought process. Is our thinking focused on His glory or our benefit?
The basic concept of Secular Humanism that all is for the benefit of man and all thought revolves around us. Instead, Biblical Christianity says it is all about Him and we are just in awe of the mercy that He would show to despicable little creatures is beyond my grasp.
I know it’s subtle and I know to some it appears nitpicky, but what is at the heart of the matter is eternally important to God. He saved us to be ambassadors to make His name known to all the nation’s and if we are mostly focused on us then it gets tough to think outside our theological boxes.
Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it. – Ezekiel 36:36
The word meek is not a word that is en vogue today. Most people don’t know what it means and if they did know what it meant they still wouldn’t be interested in any attempt at being meek. For the Christian this is an exceptional word and one of the biggest evidences of saving faith we have. It is so important that Jesus used this in His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of the first qualities that enters into the life of a believer after salvation.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5
Whatever comes to your mind when you think about meekness is probably not what it actually means and the most important thing to understand is that meekness is not weakness. It does not mean mousy, or shy. It does not mean cowardly or withdrawn. It does not indicate a lack of desire to engage people. Actually quite the opposite.
πραΰς praÿs, apparently a primary word; mild, i.e. (by implication) humble:—meek.
“The term sometimes was used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze. It was used of colts and other animals whose naturally wild spirits were broken by a trainer so that they could do useful work.” – MacArthur New Testament Commentaries
This is not an admirable quality by an unbelieving world. In this world we are expected to be aggressive, assertive and take charge kind of men or women. The only way to get ahead is to attack. But here Jesus says, “No!” Be mild, be humble, be meek.
Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle (meek) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Meekness comes from a lowly heart. A low moral opinion of oneself. Not thinking too highly of yourself. This is the exact opposite of what the world desires in a person. This is the exact opposite of what we want in ourselves. We want to be noticed. We want to be acknowledged for our greatness and our accomplishments. We desire our fair share of notoriety.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3
I don’t know about you but that is not easy is it? I mean is that natural for you because it’s not for me… There is only one way to meekness and that is through the power of the Spirit.
There is also another side to meekness. Which does not appear weak. It is a level of boldness that comes through the empowerment of the Spirit as well. Jesus was lowly and gentle and Jesus was bold. Jesus was confrontational. Jesus was sarcastic and sometimes seemingly rude. Jesus is our perfect model and left us a perfect example to follow.
John MacArthur in his commentary says this:
“Meekness does not connote weakness. The word was used in much extrabiblical literature to refer to the breaking of an animal. Meekness means power put under control. A person without meekness is “like a city that is broke into and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). An unbroken colt is useless; medicine that is too strong will harm rather than cure; a wind out of control destroys. Emotion out of control also destroys, and has no place in God’s kingdom. Meekness uses its resources appropriately.” (MacArthur New Testament Commentaries)
Meekness is an essential quality for the Christian. It doesn’t come naturally and it doesn’t come easily. It is imparted to the believer in regeneration but it is a skill that requires refinement. It is a way to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. We need to develop the qualities that God says He gives us in salvation to bring Him glory. Let him who stole no longer steal… (Ephesians 4:28) It is an evidence of saving faith that should grow as the believer grows in holiness.
Put off the old man that grows corrupt and put on the new man, be renewed in the spirit of your mind… Ephesians 4:22-24
When we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, we develop meekness and are submissive to the call to proclaim His name. This often takes us to places that require boldness. It demands a level of confrontation that many are uncomfortable with. The Christian and the unbeliever can be uncomfortable. The Lord demands it and it is indicative of saving faith.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. – Matthew 5:11
Most won’t sign up for this. Most that profess Christ won’t desire persecution. They won’t seek this type of meekness. This is hard. This is narrow and restrictive, this is often viewed as judgmental.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13
Can this be said of you? Can this be said of me?
Will you be accused of being meek and there be enough evidence to convict you? May the Lord grow us in His grace to be meek and to be bold that His name might receive the glory for which we were saved.
I was thinking the other night, while driving home, that I’ve never stopped at a green light. I always do my best to stop at red lights however. Have you ever thought about why you don’t stop at green lights? I mean you’ve driven through them countless times but have probably never stopped at one right? You don’t stop at green lights because you know that God exists.
That might seem like a stretch to make this jump but we know that certain things are true, we all know this, because we don’t live in absolute absurdity. If we didn’t know that 2 + 2 = 4 then we’ve got problems in the universe. The bridge you go across isn’t going to hold up. When you press the brakes on your car they might not stop.
But because God is a God of logic and reasoning and absolute truth we know that absolute truth exists and we know this by the world around us. We know that because certain things point to truth that there is a source of truth out there. Otherwise the world falls apart.
However, there are also problems and problem arose out of sin. And that’s why sometimes people run red lights and hurt people that are proceeding through green lights.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17
and so man died…
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3
In man’s rebellion to the Creator he makes his own rules, and sometimes that involves running red lights and sometimes it involves far worse things. It involves things that will ultimately destroy that person in the end. Because they’ve rebelled. They’ve sought their own way. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
The next time you drive through a green light consider that the God that made you has given you breath and He is also the God you will give an account of your life. You will be judged by Him for all you’ve ever thought, said and done. And for me that is a terrifying reality.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-6
For those that turn from their sin and receive Christ as Lord and Savior you no longer live with the fear of death. You can be brought into the glorious light of Christ and live eternally with Him.
And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
Today was a special day not because of anything I did but because of what God did. He is the reason for all things and He has purpose in all that He does and all occurs because of Him. But today was special and He encouraged me and the others with me on this day in an extraordinary way.
Today is Thursday and it’s the day we go to Iowa City to the Emma Goldman Abortuary. This is one of two clinics in Iowa City that take the lives of unborn children and snuff them out before their time. They murder these little precious souls before they have an opportunity to see the light of day. It is a sad day in that respect.
Today was extraordinary not because lives were saved, although God has His purposes in those lives regardless of how long they live. Nothing surprised God today and nothing is out of the reach of His Sovereign arm and good pleasure. He sits in the heavens and does as He pleases. So nothing caught Him off guard today. But He blessed us. He blessed us with sweet fellowship and He blessed us with a common cause to proclaim His name and to make His name known to those that went inside the killing place, those that walked past and those that stood guard.
There was a new procedure in place today at Emma. They, for the first time to my knowledge, had deathscorts. What is a deathscort you ask? It is a person hired to escort the women into and out of the “clinic”. I suppose they are there to “protect” the men and women that go into the “clinic”. They are there to help them along the road that leads to the termination of the small child that is safely snuggled in the womb of its mother. At least for a short period of time.
The deathscorts are an obvious answer to the consistent presence of a small church that committed itself to doing abortion ministry on the streets of Iowa City. Two weeks ago the Police were called and I had a nice conversation with the officer, and he told me he disagreed with us, but he was there to defend our right to do so if we are acting lawfully.
Apparently Emma has become more “concerned” that we are effecting their business and they need some help getting them in the door. They know if they get them in the door the odds are much higher they will go through with it. They are so nice to them in the clinic and so supportive and I’m sure they continue to carry this facade all the while removing the life inside of the mothers. It’s sad and it’s tragic on so many levels.
Yet, the encouragement and the blessing that comes from the Lord even in such a place of horror is that God is still Sovereign. As brother Todd engaged the deathscorts, I’m sure they had no idea how they would be confronted in their new job. Todd delivered the good news of Christ with passion and urgency and told them that He and He alone can save them from their sins. Even the sin of murder as they are complicit with what is going on inside of that place. The nice Catholic woman that was present because of the 40 days of life had no idea what she was going to hear when we began to engage them and she was in complete shock as she scurried for the other side of the parking lot. I tried to engage her in conversation later to tell her why we do this but she wanted nothing to do with it. She was content to rub her beads and pray to the god that was not hearing her prayers.
The encouragement came from the angry kid that asked me if homosexuality was a sin and I said that God tells us it is and yes, I believe the Word of God. The encouragement came from the conversation with Katy that had never heard the gospel before through her upbringing as a Catholic and had no idea how to get to heaven other than her own good works. She was quickly exposed to the truth of her good works being filthy garments in the sight of a Holy God.
Encouragement came as we went downtown to openly proclaim Christ in the public square. The crowds were huge and many that would never hear the truth of Christ’s love outside of an open air preacher being present. The religious woman dressed in the garb of a clergy woman holding a sign that said “God loves all” and when I asked her if she could be wrong about that would only ignore me.
The encouragement kept coming and as we gave away 150 DVD’s of “The Biggest Question” in a short hour that many received with joy and many mocked as the Scriptures tell us they will. It was all about Him and nothing about me and although I had the greatest uplifting I’ve had in a while I labored for Him and I put no confidence in my flesh.
As I exchanged some text messages with Todd later I said this to him.
“Well I’ve had many good days but this was special. Not sure why maybe having you and your family. A combination of the conversations and the deathscorts. The rejection by the Catholic woman and the open air preaching. It was all so good and so amazing. Maybe I was just humbled that God would save a wretch like me and use me for His glory. My cup runneth over…”
So much more could be said about this day but here is the bottom line for me as an evangelist and as a Christian. When a Christian fails to do evangelistic work, they lose out on the biggest blessing that God could possibly bestow upon them. To suffer for the sake of Christ. I never thought I was suffering for Him today but we were ridiculed, mocked and reviled by many today and I consider it pure joy as I encounter those that despise the Lord that I love. He told me this would happen and because of this I was not surprised.
I write this today to encourage brothers and sisters that take to the streets. I write this today to afflict those that are comfortable in their Christianity. I write this today to encourage those that might be considering gospel ministry. I hope that nothing in this speaks of me other than my wretchedness, but I belong to a great Savior and that is worth boasting about.