Maraca with Bible Verse

Maraca with Bible Verse
1 Timothy 2:5

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's Exciting To See God At Work

    I think so many times, we take God working in our situations for granted. But when we see things happen that we know could only be from Him, it is exciting to see.
   I loved listening to 'The Cross and the Switchblade' because it involves a man who heard from God and acted upon what God spoke to his heart about (yes, I am aware that some Christians do not believe that God speaks to our hearts today, but, He obviously does and this is very evident).
   God is a supernatural being who does things human beings cannot do. He also knows the future and enables people to carry out His works of service, whatever He has called people to do.
   In 'The Cross and the Switchblade', God directed David Wilkerson to talk to certain people in New York City. God arranged for David to meet these people and work with them, and eventually a ministry was born out of his obedience to God. God also put a love in David Wilkerson's heart for the lost boys in New York City. God is not limited though to David Wilkerson's ministry. God wants to work in all of our ministries, if we are serving Him.
   Tonight, on my way to The Conversation ( a 7 week class exploring the Gospel with interested people), I went to Lowe's to pick up some Jiffy Pots. I planned to go to Lowe's this afternoon when I was in another section of town, but ran out of time, so, I went to the Lowe's I go to on the way to the church building instead.
  A few years ago, I was in this particular Lowe's, and I was able to talk about the Gospel with a young man who was a cashier. He seemed to have some understanding of the Gospel, but was off in some of the key areas, and had his own opinions which he seemed to want to stick with. Tonight I went into Lowe's with my tracts, and a couple of the cashiers, who were also young men, saw the tracts and wanted them. I gave them the tracts and explained what they were. I went to get the Jiffy Pots and came back to pay, when I got the same cashier I had a couple of years ago, only this time, he was asking me questions about repentance, eternal security, and related questions. So, I talked with him for a couple of minutes (good thing no customers were waiting behind me). He seemed to want answers to his questions. At the end of the conversation, he actually told me something that he said was just his opinion, but what he didn't know was that it was right out of the Bible. He said that if a person was really saved, that person would be willing to give up everything because of the value of salvation. Those were not his exact words, but that was the point he was trying to make. So I thought that was pretty cool that he still remembered about the conversation we had a couple of years ago, and now was asking some pretty good questions.
   Then at the Conversation, we have one young man who has attended the church for a couple of years, and even went to the Conversation before, but has admitted that he doesn't get it yet. He keeps trying to understand, but nothing happens. Each week we try to explain it again to him. He is honest and really wants to learn the Gospel, but we felt stuck for a while. He feels like he is in the dark, and yet, we feel like God has placed him in the exact place that he is now in, in order for him to see his own need for a Savior. But I am happy to report that he is showing some signs of understanding God now. He is asking good questions and we are there to try to answer them in such a way that will help him understand the Gospel. We are grateful for all of the guests that attended The Conversation this time. Like I already mentioned in one of my blogs, three of the people who formerly attended The Conversation, are no longer with us. Two of them went to be with the Lord, and the other lady was an Atheist. I pray that she had considered what she had heard while in the classes. Perhaps this was the only way she would have been reached. We never heard though, that she came to know the Lord. But we hope that in her final days she would have repented and turned to God.
   I have been trying to come up with a place or find some places where we can effectively share the Gospel with people, and haven't been real successful at this idea. We used to go to Park Avenue, but the people there were very resistant to the Gospel. It got to the point where very few people would take tracts when I went out there. That doesn't mean that it was a total loss though. One woman thanked me for doing that, and I have had some really good conversations with people there. But, I have a real burden for the down and outers, which could be homeless people, foreign people, or just people who don't have a college degree or high paying, high status job. I realized that these people walk up and down the sidewalks not too far away from my house. So, I might try to walk the sidewalks and give out tracts and talk with people there, as I meet them. I can see some good conversations coming up if I do that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Gospel is Offensive, But Are We?

  I have been pondering some things since I have been on Facebook and studying evangelism. One thing I consistently notice is a hostility of people, even Christians, to Christianity, evangelism in particular. Many would rather just serve people in love in order to accomplish evangelism, but as I meditate on what people have said concerning the need to preach the Gospel, I see another angle.
   A couple of years ago, I was sharing the Gospel (or rather, trying to) with a group of college age kids. They informed me that Jesus wouldn't like what I was doing. They didn't believe in tracts. They said what I was doing was offensive. One even said that she wouldn't want me to talk to her unsaved parents. At the end of the conversation, she recommended that I read Rob Bell's book called, Velvet Elvis.
   I looked up Velvet Elvis and found an indepth critique on the book. My conclusion of the book was that Rob Bell abhors evangelism, and more specifically, Open Air preaching.
  I found a video called, 'The Bullhorn Guy' or something like that, where Rob Bell tears apart a street preacher who has a bull-horn. It was very interesting to note his observations.
   Although not many have come right out and said the Open Air preaching is really offensive, I have a clue that many Christians lump evangelism in with Open Air preaching, but not the kind of Open Air preaching that is Biblical. It is based upon the type of activities carried out by Westboro, and Micah Armstrong. There are others as well. If you were to study the video clips or see these people in action, you would be turned off as well to evangelism. (Westboro is the group that holds up signs saying 'God Hates Fags' or 'God Hates Islam'.)
   What does the Bible say about evangelism? Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. He also told us that we would be His witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We are to tell everyone we can the Gospel. Where then is this disconnect between those preaching the Gospel today that is so offensive and what the Bible tells us to do?
   Two things to keep in mind; 1. The Gospel message is offensive. It is hard for people to come to grips with the fact that they cannot save themselves, or that they really are not good people. 2. Because the Gospel itself is offensive, that does not give us the right to be offensive. This is where the disconnect is. I will explain why.
   This actually is a very simple problem, but solving it will not be, but it will help us in understanding why people think the way they do, if we can understand ourselves what this problem is. There is another Gospel out there. It looks much like the Gospel of Jesus Christ but it isn't. It is the Gospel of Pelagianism.
    Pelagians believe the salvation is two-fold. They believe that we must believe in Jesus Christ as our atonement for sin. We believe that as well. But they also believe that a person must follow God in obedience. But the part that is causing the problems, especially in evangelism and teaching others in evangelism is this; Pelagians do not believe that people are born with sinful hearts. They believe that a person chooses to sin, if he or she does sin. They talk strongly of God's judgment, but never talk of His love. Nor do they talk about God's grace in helping a person overcome sin. In a sense, they seem to think they are God, or some kind of prophet for God. They are very condemning in their interactions with people. For example, one of them who I mentioned above, was doing his open air work, when a woman came by wearing a short skirt. He called out to her, 'Hey slut...'.
   This is the reason I believe Open Air work has gotten such a bad name. There is no evidence of God's mercy to the hearers. This indicates that the open air worker probably doesn't think much of his or her own sin. He or she doesn't realize the seriousness of his own sinful heart, because he doesn't believe his has one. Remember, people choose to sin, and these people believe that they are able to keep God's Commandments.
   For those of you not familiar with Westboro or Micah Armstrong, they do Open Air work, but not by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather preaching on God's judgment on America or individual people. They use humiliation in their preaching. (Open Air work is simply a person preaching outside to a group of people).
   Friends, we need to be preaching the Gospel, but we need to have the love of God overflowing our hearts while we do. We give away what God has given us. God showed us His mercy and we are recipients of His mercy, so we mercifully share the Gospel. Those of us who have sinned greatly know the grace and power of God to forgive sins, and we share that with others.
    "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:1-7 ESV
     Do not let this false image of evangelism to shape the way you believe about the work of evangelism. God doesn't call us to hate or manipulate people. He calls us to love and serve one another, even unbelievers. Those who do Open Air evangelism in a harsh way are arrogant. Pride is an abomination before God. Not all who do Open Air evangelism do so in this way. Many are compassionate and full of mercy. That is how God wants us to operate. We speak the truth in love. We don't take the truth and kill people with it. Grace and truth go together and produce liberty for the captives. They will listen to us, even with a hard message like the Gospel, if we show love and mercy. That is how God is, and we are His representatives. Let's represent the God of love to others.