Skip to content

Changed Lives?

jesuschangedmylifejpg

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

 

Kevin

Meekness? Who wants that?

untamed-spirit-150-2

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.

 

Kevin

Green Lights

light-cityscapes-night-traffic-lights-cities-wallpaper-1

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.

Kevin

Today was a good day…

20160929_193905

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.

God bless.

Kevin

Evangelism and the Church – Part 2 – Practically Speaking

Rev-Andrew-Roddan-1930s

“Preach abroad….It is the cooping yourselves up in rooms that has dampened the work of God, which never was and never will be carried out to any purpose without going into the highways and hedges and compelling men and women to come in.” – Jonathan Edwards

Let’s suppose I’ve convinced you in my last post that evangelism is biblical and it is something that Christians should do.  Let’s suppose, in some small way, I’ve encouraged you or your church to consider an attempt at evangelism outside the church walls.  Many will ask how do I do this?  I mean practically what does this look like?

First of all I want to begin with the confessions of a coward.  I didn’t start out with a burning passion to evangelize the lost in the way that God would have me do it.  I wanted to tell people about Christ, but to go out and do some of the things that I thought about when I really thought what it meant to be an evangelist was just not something I thought I’d ever do.  When I became a Christian evangelism was encouraged in our church and then a providential thing occurred.  Our Pastor was preaching through Romans and Chapter 10 was a watershed moment when it all became very clear.

For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:13-15

Do you see what Paul is saying here?

He is saying that unless someone gives the gospel to the lost they can’t be saved.  This is a remarkable statement and no matter how great of an example you are in your own personal holiness and character unless you actually speak the gospel to someone they won’t be saved.  So how can this be done?  We saw last time some of the methodology Jesus, His Disciples and the Apostle Paul utilized.  We can do many of these today and in no way is this a comprehensive list but this should give ideas for implementing evangelism into your life.

I must also briefly mention that Paul tells us that we should be sent.  We won’t explore this deeply in this article, but in short it is important to have the support and the oversight of a local church.  Many will do evangelism without it and I won’t go so far as to say it is sinful, but when we have the local church sending us there is a great deal of accountability and protection for the evangelist.

On to our list and this is in no particular order.

Sign Evangelism

Have a good sign made with a clear gospel message.  Something as simple as “Repent & Believe on Christ”.  There are many great biblical texts that will proclaim the gospel message to those that pass by.  Stand at a busy intersection holding the sign and offer a tract if it’s possible.  You will reach more people in an hour than most professing Christians would dare reach in a lifetime.

Walk the Streets

This is one of my favorite forms of evangelism.  If you go with one or two others and walk around your downtown area on a weekend evening or anytime there is traffic you can engage people on the street.  Pass tracts as you go and try to have gospel conversations.  Ask them questions like “do you have any thoughts about what will happen after you die?”  You will amazed how many doors this will open.

Bus Station Ministry

Another favorite place to have discussions.  I live in Iowa and it’s cold here in the winter so many people wait inside the bus station during these months.  Sitting down with people and passing them a tract and seeking a conversation is a great form of ministry.  There are many with time to talk and often a willingness to talk.

Jail Ministry

I’ve never done this, but have a friend that has encouraged me to do so.  You may have to get cleared by the jail first in order to be admitted but they generally have no hesitation to have the prisoner’s being given a Christian message.  Make sure you have bibles to take with you.  This may be an opportunity for an up and coming preacher to have an opportunity to preach.

Tracting

I believe gospel tracts to be one of the most efficient and expedient ways to get the gospel into the hands of many people.  One of the favorite ways to do this is to attend events where there are lots of people.  It can be a baseball game or a concert.  Standing on the street corner and passing  the good news to anyone that walks past.  You will need to learn to deal with rejection.  There is no need to take this personally, get used to it.  It is part of ministry.  A well written gospel tract will go places that you wouldn’t imagine.  Recently I had a woman send our church a message from Texas.  She had received a tract and was wondering if she could get more to pass out herself.

Open Air Preaching

I believe open air preaching to be one of the finest and purest forms of evangelism biblically speaking.   God has used this form of evangelism throughout the entirety of the Bible.  This requires a boldness and a love for people.  I also believe that an open air preacher should be vetted and approved by the Elders of the local church.  There are many rogue street preachers that do not preach an accurate message with love and compassion for the souls that hear.   When good open air preaching is accompanied by others that pass out tracts the preacher will have support and questions can be answered.  The open air preacher in many cases will naturally draw curiosity because of the unusualness of this in our culture.  This can be done on college campuses, sporting events, concerts or any place that numbers of people gather.  Regardless of where the preacher goes it is important that the message be clear and the gospel properly explained.

Abortion Ministry

Certainly one of the most difficult ministries.  This involves knowing what happens and how to combat the lies that will be told at these places.  There are many good resources online that can help if someone has an interest and I believe having the Elders of the church assist in getting an abortion ministry started is critical.  Having pre-abortion packets, gospel tracts and an open air preacher are all helpful resources.  Above all put on love and compassion for the souls that you will minister to.

 

I hope this is helpful, this list is in no way exhaustive.  The message of hope and salvation in Christ is a message that must be proclaimed.  If you are a believer it is an imperative and it is indicative of your relationship with Christ.  The Lord did not mince words on this topic.

 

Kevin

 

Evangelism and the Church – Part 1

Evangelism-660x330-e1467035966534

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – 1 Corinthians 1:17

How will the modern church fulfill the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to go into the world and preach the gospel?  That’s almost too obvious of a verse to post initially, and most know this verse from memory, yet I just wonder how churches today do it?  Well, I think I know how they do it, but I wonder what they think about how they are doing it…

Evangelism is possibly one of the most intimidating and overwhelming things to do for any believer, especially if they weren’t saved in a somewhat radical fashion.  I’ve known many that were saved and you couldn’t stop them from talking about Christ to everyone they encountered, but let’s be honest, that’s not most of us.  I want to look at a few things that I hope will be helpful if you have honest intentions and desires to actually evangelize those around you.

What exactly is evangelism?

I think most of us have thoughts when we hear the word evangelism, it might bring up images of some lunatic on a box yelling at people. Perhaps that is a form of evangelism depending on the accuracy of the message .but the simplicity of the word is actually quite interesting.  It simply means “good news”.  εὐαγγέλιον euangélion – a good message, i.e. the gospel.

Matthew 4:23 And He went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 

Here we see a good description of the gospel.  Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom.  We see this as a normal pattern of the Lord’s ministry.  Going into a town, engaging the Jews in the synagogue, preaching on the streets and then healing the people.

And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. – Luke 9:6 [1]

We see this pattern established again and again throughout the New Testament. We see it from John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles.  This is the primary pattern employed for spreading the gospel.  There is no way around this if you are to read the Biblical accounts with honesty.

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”  And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. – Acts 5:20-21

Why the gospel?  What is the significance of the gospel?

Paul tells us something pretty significant about the gospel in his opening remarks in Romans.  He tells us that there really is no other message than the gospel.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

One thing we see is that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  I guess that’s a good enough reason, but yet we also see that it reveals the righteousness of God.  A clear and concise gospel presentation needs to present the righteousness of God.  If that is lacking the message is not complete.  Paul gives us a very long discourse on the sinfulness of man, letting us know that all will give account and all are without excuse.

What are we to conclude about all of this?  God, in His wisdom, has chosen a very “foolish” way to save people.  He counseled within Himself before time began that it was the plan to draw a people to Himself through the preaching of the gospel to save those who believe.  This is what God has ordained and we need to pay attention.  Primarily, we need to be obedient.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Any Christian that is honest about the topic can see the simple way in which the gospel was spread. They may ask if this is the way we should do it today.  Should we seek a different, more pragmatic approach to what God has already ordained?

If this methodology is true and biblical what do we do about it?  If we realize this to be the model that Christ has shown I believe we are only left with one question…  when will you go?

I admit there is fear…

I admit there are questions…

I admit there is much trepidation…

I admit there is the unknown…

But how can it be avoided?  Brothers and sister, we must “Go”…  it is a command.

Next time I’ll outline some biblical methods of evangelism and hope that it helps us overcome our fear and love of self and we can be used by God in the building of His kingdom.

 

Kevin

[1] The gift of healing was to establish the divinity of Christ and to affirm the message of the Apostles to the world.  The narrative is not a prescriptive for us today and if it were we would have people doing as Jesus did and going and healing every disease and affliction among the people as the Matthew 4:23 verse states.

 

Fluffy, Sparky & Acceptable Idolatry

lgbrz02dog1712

I promise, I’m not intentionally trying to offend you, but I might.  I don’t really desire to agitate or irritate people but I do sometimes.

My job is to proclaim the truth.  If I’m going to sell something I’m going to sell the truth.  The truth is not cheap.  In fact most people don’t want it because it’s sort of offensive…  I know there have been plenty of times when I don’t want the truth because it hurts.  It cuts and it opens you up. That’s what the Bible tells us it will do.

Just before the writer of Hebrews tells us it’s important to go to church he tells us part of the reason why.  And it’s a good reason why and it’s also part of what I desire to do today.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works… – Hebrews 10:23-24

The word “stir up” is also “provoke”  παροξυσμός paroxysmós, par-ox-oos-mos’; (“paroxysm”); incitement (to good), or dispute (in anger):—contention, provoke unto.

It means to irritate and agitate.  I’ll be honest I don’t like doing that with people.  I don’t like to get people angry with me.  But that is the purpose of other believers and the church.  So we can stimulate other believers to love and to good works.

I want to address an acceptable form of idolatry today.  There are lots of things that we accept as idolatry in our world.  Our children, their sports programs, their extracurricular activities, our sports programs, our leisure time and on and on…

But what about our pets?

Do you think you have an idolatrous relationship with your pet or pets; because one is never enough right?  I mean they need companionship don’t they?  Don’t they get lonely also?  Here goes a few ways we might want to consider our pets.

Who serves who? 

Paul discusses this doesn’t he?  I don’t think that all Christians worship their animals the way Romans 1 tells us, but there are those that do.  They are four-footed animals and they do need to be served.  A cat won’t clean its own litter box and a dog won’t pick up after itself, have you ever seen people walking their dogs down the street?  What is it they are carrying?  Who is doing the serving?

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. 

Is it good stewardship? 

This might be touching a raw nerve for some but we must sincerely ask this question.  What kind of money do you spend on your animals?  Does this honor God with all your possessions?

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.

Seeking Comfort in them and not in the Lord? 

Jesus Christ is to be our only need and our only desire when it comes to needing comfort from the ravages of the outside world.  Do you love to see your dog because he has no demands of you?  He licks you and wags his tail and never says, “Hey Kevin, did you get that done today?”  He seems to “love” you unconditionally right?  This is comforting.   Is the Lord Jesus Christ being replaced by Fido?

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Are you a slave to your animal? 

Does your pet keep you from being able to go do things?  I can’t go to this place because I need to find a “sitter” for the cat.  Our older girls are constantly watching the neighbor’s cat and dog.  It’s easy money for sure, but what if you didn’t have to worry about it?  Wouldn’t that provide some freedom?  It seems things have been reversed and animals have taken dominion over mankind.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26

Dominion means to subjugate and to rule over.  Man has done that with dogs when they used them for working purposes, such as to herd or hunt but just like so many other things in our society these roles have been reversed.

Animals are only temporal creatures.  Man was created with an eternal soul and that soul will live on forever in one of two places.  For believers they will forever worship their King.  For those that have never turned to Christ for forgiveness and repented of their sin they will live forever in Hell under the wrath of God.  It is an awful and fearful thing.

Animals will die and return to dust.  You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. – Psalm 104:29 

I realize this is a sensitive topic because people love their pets and I’ve been there.  I’ve seen it and lived it.  I’m not making a blanket statement that having a pet is a sin or it is even necessarily wrong, but I want us to ask to what end and for what purpose.  What is the goal and am I honoring God in all of this.  Nothing is neutral.  What is not from faith is sin and that is something we should be consistently thinking about.  Me especially.

Kevin

Harmless Christianity

gopher-snake-imitates-rattler

I had a scary thought today and it resonated with me for quite a while.  What if I lived my life and I’m a harmless Christian?  Have you ever considered if you are harmless?  There are two ways to consider this word and one of them is in the positive and one is in the negative.  I desire to be pure and harmless in the sense of non-corrupt.  That should be the goal of all Christians.

…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world… Philippians 2:15

This is good and right for a Christ follower, to have integrity and moral purity.  What I’m talking about is in terms of effectiveness.

Let’s look at how Paul completes this thought.

…holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. – Philippians 2:16-17

This is what I mean about being harmless.  Harmless to the enemy, harmless to my reputation, harmless to those around me in a spiritual sense.  When someone looks at my life, or when they look at your life, what is it they will say about you?

“He’s a really nice guy…”, “He seemed to provide for his family well and loved his wife and children…”, “He had a great house…”?

Nothing here is sinful, although being nice might be, but these can be godly things, but how have you effected the kingdom of God in your life?  I mean to tell you there are too many harmless Christians out there that never make an impact.  They come on Sunday at 10 and leave by 11:15.  They probably won’t darken the door the rest of the week and then they go about their business; we might even argue if they are really believers but for the sake of this discussion let’s suppose they are.  Are they lukewarm perhaps?

Where is the fire and the passion for God?  What do they do with their time that actually matters to the kingdom?  This is not a performance based measurement system that you should walk away feeling guilty about, unless you should.

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. – Acts 19:15-16

Here’s a good example of being harmless, these guys really thought they were something and they had no impact.  Their ministry was a sham, a facade, in reality their harmlessness or any professing Christian’s harmlessness is a great danger and harmful to the kingdom.  For someone to profess Christ but never do what Christ did, or to love in the way that biblical love requires is the greatest betrayal of the gospel.  This is a heinous betrayal of what you were saved from.

Please take a moment today and ask yourself, how am I impacting the kingdom of God?  When was the last time I even passed out a gospel tract?  Have you had a conversation with someone explaining why Christ had to die?  Have you cried out for the innocent at an abortion mill?  Or publicly proclaimed the name of Christ to a dead world?

These are more forward examples, but if you are a mother you should be teaching your children.  You should be impacting the world that is placed in front of you in some shape or fashion.  Unless you are just content to be harmless…

Pray that the Lord give you courage and boldness.  That He would use you to further His kingdom, this is the greatest joy you can ever have.  That God in His greatness would use earthen vessels in service to the King.

 

Kevin

College, Should I?

belushi

This really started as a short Facebook post that I never thought had that much traction.  Apparently I was wrong…  I don’t have a big following on Facebook, and in fact I really don’t have a big following on this blog but it’s not about big followings for me.

It’s about hoping people will think critically…

God has been gracious to me in so many ways and of course primarily through salvation.  He saved me.  And He put men in my life that have really taught me things that are useful.  Like how to think.  I don’t desire to offend anyone, so if you are reading this and have already been slightly offended, please read on and let’s think together.  For me that means I must think like God thinks and the only way I can do that is through His word.

The post is about going to college.  I have a 16 year old daughter and a frequent question is “where will she go to college?”  I’ve not come up with a good response yet that can stimulate people without making them angry, but I do need to work on that.

Since I’m not intending on speaking directly to anyone in this post I’ll say it this way.

“Why in the world would I send my daughter to college?”

For fathers and especially fathers of daughters, they may want to really consider this statement.  I’m going to speak to Christian men that are attempting to raise godly children that are either saved or they hope will be saved.

“Why in the world would you send your daughter to college?”  And I think I can include sons in this as well in many cases.

In 2016 the University of Iowa ranked as the number 5 party school in the country.  A very prestigious honor for the U of I.  We do ministry in Iowa City and we meet and talk with these kids.  We see some of them on the way to the abortion clinic…  Yes, that’s right.

What happens when kids go to college?  They engage in sexual activity which sometimes has unintended consequences.  And then people suffer because of it.  Children die because of it.  Lives are devastated because of it.   I do not mean to be hyperbolic, I mean to be realistic.  I know through conversations most of these kids are sexually active and that happens in college and it more likely than not happened before college.  As a Christian I’m not going to intentionally send my children into an environment where they will be unprotected, and I don’t mean that in the way they mean it.

Charles Spurgeon the great English Preacher said this – “Do not leave your children to wander out without the guardianship of holy knowledge, for there are seducers abroad who will mislead them if they can.”

The Apostle Paul put it this way

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart… Ephesians 4:17-18

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. – Ephesians 5:3-4

For me this is the end of the discussion.  I don’t care if you send them to the state college, to a private college, to a “Christian” college, this will be the norm.  I know, I was one of them, and I fully understand the darkened hearts of young men.

I can’t protect my children from everything that will come into their lives, but I sure won’t send them into combat until they’ve at least been through basic training and probably some advanced training as well.  I will not yield to the spirit of the age, and sacrifice my daughter’s on the altar of this world to get them a “good” job.

We’ve got other options.  There are other ways to do it but as I began this little lecture, we need to think about it.  College marketing groups have sold you and I the “American Dream” of believing that college is the answer to making big bucks, so you can live in a big house, drive a fancy car or two or three, finance your life and live like the Kardashians (almost) and have all this life offers.

I don’t believe college is worthless and I’m not saying it isn’t necessary in some people’s lives, but it is not necessary for everyone.

I’m going to quote myself below from my Facebook post because I think it easily highlights my point.

We can do college for less, but we can certainly do college for a lot more, but I think this is an honest assessment and a fair balance.

Note: this was an unsophisticated Google search. I’ll try and illustrate my point with average annual costs of a State College, according to a website called college data.com.

Average tuition – $24,061
Avg room & board – $10,138
Avg books – $1,300
Avg Total – $35,499 x 4 = $141,996

minimum wage is $7.25 x 30 hour per week x 52 weeks x 4 years is $52,780 (before taxes) I think with a little effort a kid can make a lot more than minimum wage through a bit of ingenuity and hard work.

Let’s add all that up $194,776 You could easily get to twice this with a private college. If by the time my child is 22 or 23 living at home working a minimum wage job, in less than 10 years they’ve easily banked $100,000.00 and not spent $150,000 or more.

Should your child go to college? I don’t know but what sort of a degree would they need to get to start making up the difference? And if they are taught money management skills and how to live within their means and to not be covetous and greedy, being content that makes a whole world of difference in what they actually need to live on.

 

There is a difference between the earning potential of a BA and a high school equivalency and that is estimated about $16,900.00 annually.  We’ve shown above that they can already be $250,000.00 ahead and by doing some basic math it will take almost 15 years to bridge just that gap.  That doesn’t take into consideration that we are still working and most likely earning considerably more money, they’ve not gone into debt and this assumes they actually graduate with a degree which many don’t.

There are hundreds of ideas of how to earn money as children and teaching them the most basic of all skills can place them very far ahead of kids their own age.  My eldest daughter taught herself how to create hair designs by watching YouTube videos and she started a small business that does this for girls parties, or weddings.  She also had an interest in playing the harp so we’ve invested in a harp.  This $4500.00 investment can earn up to $1500.00 on a Saturday playing at a wedding once she achieves a certain skill level.  What an opportunity for a young lady to earn some serious cash but still living under the protection of her home and father and then the opportunity to help in her family income when she is married.

What are your goals for your children?  This is a pretty big deal and a worthwhile exercise to ask this question.  Having a goal eliminates a lot of chasing around and trying to “find” yourself while spending 30 grand a year.

Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art. —Charles Spurgeon

Or Jesus even said it better For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? – Matthew 16:26

Our children are valuable and they are precious to us and I’m not saying they are going to hell if they go to college, I’m saying we need to think long and hard about the goals.  Online courses cost pennies on the dollar and they can educate your children just as well as shipping them off to somewhere else.  It is each parent’s responsibility to care for and protect their children and that doesn’t end on their eighteenth birthday.   May the Lord guide us in this important decision.

 

Kevin

 

Who is Jesus?

rugged-cross

What it is about the name of Jesus that offends so many?

Just who is this Man?

He is the centerpiece of world history and His existence in history is believed by any one intellectually honest. Today I’d like to ask you the question, just as Jesus asked Peter, “but who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) When we look at the Jesus that the Bible portrays we have a very different idea than generally floats around in the imaginations of men’s minds. In fact He is quite confrontational and not even close to what most believe. He forced people to make decisions about who He was. He saw into the hearts of people and challenged them and engaged them in their sin.

If we face the reality of what Jesus said we are forced to decide if He is the Lord. He makes it clear and He declares loudly that He has power and that He has authority to do things that are incomprehensible. I want to look at one encounter that will simply challenge us as to who He really claims to be and two very different reactions. These reactions are no different than what we still see today.

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains…

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” – Mark 5:2-7

What a remarkable set of circumstances we see before us. A man so strong and powerful that he can break chains and shackles and we are about to see the Lord Jesus Christ break this man’s bondage to the one that possesses his soul. The man runs to Christ and worships Him. He falls to his face and recognizes He is the Son of God and commits himself unto Christ’s power not to torment him. Even the demons believe and tremble says James (James 2:19) and here we see it. We see a recognition of who Jesus is by the demons that have complete control over this man.

Then Jesus cast’s out the demons into a herd of swine and the swine cast themselves into the sea. The account tells us that over 2000 pigs went to their untimely death. Have you ever considered why the man never threw himself over the cliff but by the Providence of God to keep him alive that the Lord might save his life and more importantly his soul. Consider today how often God has preserved you. Consider if He can use you for His eternal purposes and how do you respond to your circumstances? We will see that there are two reactions to Jesus.

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

And when He got into the boat he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. – Mark 5:17-20

How do you respond to the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you seen Him work in those that you know? Have you seen radical changes in the life of people that you are near or that you are aware of? Obviously the people of this region knew of this man and the chaos he had caused. They knew he was trouble, because they had attempted to bind him. Somehow he ended up in the caves and was mostly leaving them alone, but then Jesus comes on the scene. The story was told, and they were afraid. They saw the power of God and had to acknowledge it; but yet wouldn’t submit to Him, why?

Because it cost them something. It cost them their livelihood, and it caused a financial burden in their life. Isn’t this so often the case, isn’t it true that where your treasure is there your heart will be also? (Matthew 6:21) And these were pigs non-the-less, a filthy, dirty animal. A representation of everything that was wrong with the Gentiles. They were unclean by definition. But were they incapable, or out of the reach of the Lord? Of course not but they were unwilling. They loved their mire more than they valued the One that could save them from their sin. How often do you turn back to the vomit (Proverbs 26:11) when far greater things await you?

Then we see the demoniac’s response. He begged to be with Him. Is this your response? Do you beg to be with Him and beseech Him? What a difference in the responses. One group begs Him to leave the other begs Him to bring him along. What is important to you this day? Is it to be with Jesus or would you rather He go away? Many will say, “well, of course, we desire to be with Him” but do you? How do you show that?

We see our demon-possessed man show how much he now loves Jesus, because he begins to tell people about the great things done for him. Can I ask you a question? When is the last time you told someone of the great things that Jesus has done for you? Do you immediately depart and proclaim the good news? Because Jesus tells us that many will say they did great things in His name and He says that if you practice lawlessness He never really knew you at all. Jesus did not offer this man’s request, He issued him a command and this command has not been lifted and it applies to us today. So let me ask you another question, will you obey His commands? Will you tell others about the great things the Lord has done for you?

One of the reasons many don’t like the name of Jesus, is that He makes demands on our lives, and quite honestly we just don’t like it. Do you know Him, are you willing?

Kevin

%d bloggers like this: