εὐαγγέλιον – And God Ordained Encounters

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And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear… – 1 Peter 3:13-15

I haven’t written a post in a while but I felt compelled to share good news today.   The verse above is one of the most well known “evangelism” verses, however most only quote the second half. They sort of forget about the suffering and the threats and troubles that come along with evangelism.   I’ve been engaged in street evangelism and open air proclamation of the gospel for over a year now and my knowledge and boldness grows each time I got out. Disclaimer: this article is not about me.

I write today to encourage Christians. Those that have truly been bought by the blood of Christ. Some of you might evangelize. Some of you might evangelize a little, and some of you may not at all. But I want to encourage you today. I want to tell you what God has done. I want to give you hope that your efforts, no matter how small, are never in vain. The simple act of passing a gospel tract to someone can change their life for all eternity. I will quote my friend Tony Miano and we should never use the four letter word “only”. I “only” passed out tracts. No, if you passed out a tract, you presented the gospel to someone and that is a significant event. That is to the praise of His glory, and should never be minimized.

Today, is Thursday and it’s normally Emma Goldman day. It’s a wretched place that systematically kills babies.    I could go into a long why we didn’t go to EG today, but the bottom line is that God had another plan. It was decided we (Donnie, Roy & me) would meet at the church at 11 and walk the streets of downtown Davenport for a couple hours, passing out tracts and attempting to engage people in gospel conversations. That was our plan. As we pulled up to a snowy sidewalk I asked the guys to pray. I was particularly moved to seek the Lord’s guidance today that He would arrange our encounters and that we would practice 1 Timothy 2:24-25. That we would be gentle and compassionate.

Encounter 1. Demon possessed Vietnam Veteran. No more than 30 seconds after getting out of the truck I attempted to hand a man a tract and he began yelling and cursing at me.   The three of us attempted to reason with him but he was having none of it. He claimed to be a Catholic, showed us his crucifix and repeated a prayer that he says each day, and though his lips may honor the Lord, his heart was far from him. Especially as he repeatedly used the Lord’s name in a vulgar manner. We walked away humbled and dismayed at the anger in this man and prayed the Lord would be merciful to his soul.

Encounter 2. Alan. We moved up to 4th St. and walked past the Scott County Courthouse and one man got semi-angry with brother Roy as he attempted to give him the gospel and then I saw Alan and asked him if I could give him some good news. He refused. I turned and said to him, “sir may I ask you, what would happen if you died today, do you know where you will spend eternity?” He turned and said to me “No, I do not know.” Quick rabbit trail: friends, never let an immediate “no” discourage you. Always ask a follow up question if you can, you will be surprised at how one question can change things. I like to ask if they know what happens when they die, or if they have been born again.

Alan, listened intently as I presented the law and the gospel to him and urged him to repent of his sins and place his faith in Christ. He never took his eyes off of me and he seemed genuinely moved by the encounter. I asked if he had a church home and invited him to join us this weekend.

Encounter 3. Neicey. We turned left from the courthouse and headed toward the river front and walked past a short black woman in a huge orange coat. The hood was pulled up and under the big puffy coat she was bundled up even more. I could hardly see her face. Donnie handed her a tract and I believe she declined the initial offering. Donnie pressed the issue and asked her if she knew where she was headed after death. Without hesitation she said “Hell”.   Not in a prideful way, but in an almost sheepish way. I asked her if she knows what hell is like? She said, no, but I expect you are going to tell me. I described hell as the bible describes it. Utter darkness, no relief from the torment, eternal conscious suffering, with nothing good there. I said God provides us with goodness here on earth even if we don’t believe in Him, and just then the sun came out and warmed us and I said, see how He just provided His grace to us?

She began to describe that she couldn’t be forgiven because she was a murderer and had actually spent time in prison for killing someone and that this morning she had prayed and asked God if it was possible she could be forgiven and that He would send someone to tell her. She said she expected it would come from being in a church, but would have never expected three men on the street to show her the way of salvation. I described to her that Paul was a murderer and read to her from the book of Acts how he consented to the death of Stephen and while still breathing out his murderous threats the Lord Jesus Christ reached down and saved him. We told her the law is a tutor to bring a sinner to the grace of God and that she needed to repent and turn to Christ. She began weeping.

The conversation continued for some time and we all pleaded with her to trust in Christ and we asked her to join us in church to hear the preaching of the word, to enjoy the fellowship of the saints. I encouraged her to open her bible to Psalm 51 and read about David the murderer and adulterer and to cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.  As we prayed for her and then walked away the three of us were nearly speechless considering the goodness of God, His providence and an encounter that we will not soon forget.

We had several more encounters throughout our time and as we walked back toward the truck I attempted to hand some tracts to some people that were dressed fairly nice. They looked very clean, very nice and as I asked them to take a tract they politely declined. I pressed them. “Do you know what will happen to you when you die?” “No thank you” was their reply. I said, I hope you’ll consider that question today.

How about you? Will you consider that question today?

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one according began to make excuses…

Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind,’…

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'” – Luke 14:16-24

Will you come in? Will you dine with Him? Will you understand that you are blind, maimed and poor? Very few understand their condition.

If you are a Christian will you tell others that they might be saved?

 

Kevin

Are You a Jonah?

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Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittal, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. – Jonah 1:1-2a

Jonah is not a book of the Bible that I spend a lot of time thinking about. We have a really cool puzzle that my daughter Lydia just loves putting together. It’s an oversized puzzle, so even I can do it, and it shows a cartoon character Jonah being spit out of the great fish’s mouth onto the sand. It’s a really great image. But I must confess I’ve not given a lot of thought to Jonah until recently.

This past Lord’s Day, during our prayer time, I was asked to pray corporately, praying from Jonah. As I read chapter 2 in preparation I was struck by how much like Jonah I am. How often I run from the presence of the Lord, or at least I think I run from His presence. Of course, where can we really go that He is not there right?

But it appears Jonah really thought he could just go the opposite way and that was going to be alright with God. Jonah thought that God’s arm wasn’t long enough to reach him. Doesn’t it appear that way? Was this the same God that did all those miracles? Is this the same God that by His spoken word created everything? What a foolish thing for Jonah to do…

Because I know I would never do that…I’m pretty sure you would never do that either…Say I sarcastically…

How many times have you blown opportunities to tell someone the good news?

Ouch…

Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

Homologéō – to say the same thing as another; to agree with, assent. Many will say they “confess” Christ, but in their actions deny Him. It’s quite different to actually agree with Him than to open our mouths and say Jesus is Lord. The bottom line is do we live like it?

We must consider the words of our Lord, when He said “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done all these things in Your name…” And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

This past weekend for the first time I went into the open air and preached the gospel. Like Jonah I was attempting to run from God and avoid the inevitable disagreement with Him that desired my own earthly comforts, pride, selfishness and personal desires. I mean, honestly, who wants to go out and take the abuse that you are sure is coming your way? Isn’t that why there are “professionals” that teach in churches, pastors that get paid for this? Shouldn’t they be the ones going out and doing this sort of thing, if this sort of thing should even be done today, which many will say?

Then I once again remember the words of Jesus and my pathetic heart melts…

Matthew 16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

I desire to save my life…

Last Saturday, by the grace of God I began a journey to lose my life and it was humbling and even humiliating beyond words. Yet it was exhilarating and thrilling to stand up in front of a God-hating crowd and proclaim His name. To tell them He IS Lord, and they must submit to Him, or perish in their sins.

Do I think, or expect that everyone reading this will go to a public arena and preach? No, I don’t think that is wise for everyone. You should go under the protection and blessing of your church, but we should all be proclaiming His name in whatever opportunities He presents to you. It might be the grocery store, or the coffee shop, maybe sitting next to someone on a plane. Whatever, wherever, whenever you are presented with an opportunity to proclaim His name, be obedient to the call and lose your life.

Who knows what will happen.

Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Never forget that Salvation is of the LORD, but as for us, we must proclaim the good news and trust that God will grow His church. Amen!

Kevin

What are you talkin’ about?

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Evangelism should be an important part of the life of a Believer.  There is plenty of scripture that leaves no doubt about the truth of this.  The Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to “Go” did He not? (Matthew 28:19)

The gospel is “good news”, the word means news, Euaggelion glad tidings of salvation through Christ the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ, the gospel, as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings.

What’s the last thing you were excited about?  Something you discovered that you really wanted to tell people, and let them know this is something that should interest them?  I’ve told lots of people how great Dropbox is.  I’ve told plenty of people how cool my new Thinkpad is with a solid state hard drive.  This really excites me and causes me to want to share the news with others.

Yet I forgot to tell them that Jesus offers sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and eternal life to the dead, all spiritually speaking of course.  Ooops, how did I leave that one out?

But I must tell them

I can’t let myself off the hook by saying “use words when necessary”.  Words ARE necessary.  Romans 10:14 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?

The preacher is a proclaimer.  Not just your pastor or the professional evangelist.  You and me, Believer are preachers.  We can’t proclaim unless we open our mouths.

So now what?  How do we do this?  The fact we should proclaim is clear.  The most notable verse about this comes from 1 Peter and one most Christians are quite familiar with.

This all begins with the concept that those that proclaim the good news are going to be persecuted for it.  In case I forgot to mention it, you will be despised when you bring God’s word to bear.

It’s not optional.

Isn’t this why the modern church has changed the message to be palatable?  It’s easier to talk about the love of God because that is just easier to swallow for most people, those fire and brimstone sermons are just not much fun.  Everyone likes the god that forgives sin, loves everyone and never expects anything in return, certainly doesn’t require us to pursue righteousness and turn from sin.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meeknesss and fear.

I remember before salvation I really didn’t understand this verse.  I get the always be ready part, but I wasn’t sure about the sanctify business and what does it mean with meekness and fear.  What am I supposed to fear?  It just didn’t come together in my mind.  Of course I couldn’t grasp it because my mind was at enmity with God.

Sanctify – means to make holy, that is (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate: – hallow, be holy, sanctify.

The word heart does not mean the muscle beating in your chest; it’s the thoughts and the control center of your being, so when we sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, we are to set Him up in a special place in our minds that He is pure and holy.

Have you sanctified the Lord God in your heart?  This is not something to gloss over; it’s the starting point of this verse.  It’s a directive, not simply a question or a suggestion.  If we desire Him above all things, this should come easy, but it won’t.  It’s not easy; the Christian life is never easy.  This is why the Lord said to strive to enter by the narrow gate.

Charles Spurgeon: Have your doctrinal views, and all your knowledge of Christ, packed away in a handy form, so that, when people want to know what you believe, you can tell them. If they wish to know why you believe that you are saved, have your answer all ready in a few plain, simple sentences; and in the gentlest and most modest spirit make your confession of faith to the praise and glory of God. Who knows but what such good seed will bring forth an abundant harvest? (1 Peter 3 Commentary)

In considering Spurgeon’s exhortation, we must know Scripture.  This doesn’t mean you will be able to give a snappy answer to every non believer that comes along.  This is not the point of this verse it’s a Believer’s responsibility to share their story and offer scriptural truth in a world gone wrong.  The opportunity to point someone to Jesus as the One true hope.

What about the meekness and fear.

The word meek denotes a gentle spirit, or mildness of disposition.  Simply put we don’t need to be aggressive in our approach of presenting the hope we have and as many people will take this as an aggressive stance, we must not offer that in response.

As we take this whole chapter in context Peter is setting us up for the reviling and the suffering that will undoubtedly come our way when we present God to them.  So as a gentle answer turns away wrath, so can we offer our hope with meekness.

What does it mean to fear?

Are we to fear the people we are presenting our hope?  Have you seen the shirt “Fear This”?  Does the wearer of that shirt expect you to be afraid of him or should he be afraid of you?  What he’s trying to let you know is you need to be afraid of him because he’s a tough guy.

Who should we fear?

Proverbs 1:7 Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The word fear means to fear and it also means awe and reverence.  We cannot revere God if we first don’t fear Him as one that has complete power and authority over our lives.  So when we present our hope never forget who we are to fear.  Let’s present a gospel message that will give the listener a healthy dose of fear.

The message Jesus loves you generally won’t cut it.  Unbelievers must know they are headed to hell without the saving work of Jesus Christ, which is something to seriously fear.

There is a delicate balance here to offer the message with a gentle but firm dose of reality.  This is something to enter into with fear and trembling knowing that we represent the God of the universe.  He is worthy to be feared.

Kevin