Skip to content

To Preach or Serve Tables?

deacons

(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.

Blessings.

Girls and Sports… A Biblical Design?

women_sports

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?

But why?

“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.

 

Kevin

R.I.P.

rip

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?

 

Kevin

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

%d bloggers like this: