Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Lost Art Of Witnessing

    “…you shall be my witnesses….” Acts 1:8

   Family members of ours attend worship at Life Church, which is a teleconferencing kind of church.  In other words, the person who started the Life Church movement preaches in Edmond, Oklahoma, but he is seen and heard in 199 other locations across, Oklahoma and Texas, and perhaps other states.  As I understand it, each of the 200 locations has a pastor who shepherd the flock in that location, but the preaching is done from Edmond, the home church.  This past Sunday the 200 congregations of Life Church baptized 3,000 people, and average of 15 per location  That is a phenomenal record of achievement of the most important thing a church should do, bring people to Christ.  I commend the Life Church movement for what they are doing.  At the same time, I recognize that too many churches in my own denomination have gone more than  a year without baptizing a single convert.
   Going a year without a convert is not an issue if the people of that congregation are faithfully witnessing.  After all, Hudson Taylor went five years without a convert after going to Burma as one of the first missionaries of the modern missions movement.  Converts are the business of the Holy Spirit, not the church members.  The business of the congregation is to obey the command of our Lord, as seen above, to be witnesses of His grace.  My own experience has taught me that if we were all being the witnesses we should be, there is no way a church could not be baptizing new converts on a regular basis.
   Back in the 50’s churches were always having what they called “soul-winning” training.  A Baptist preacher named Gene Edwards wrote a number of books on the subject, books that were taught in many churches in week-long studies in how to lead people to Jesus.  One of those books, Soul Winning Made Easy, taught a methodology one could memorize and use to “lead” people to Jesus.  Truthfully, it was an exercise in mental gymnastics designed to trap people into answer “yes” to a series of questions, the last of which was “Will you accept Jesus as your Savior?” .  Because of the way he had answered all the preceding questions there was no way for him to gracefully say “No” to that question.  When he answered “Yes” we would consider him saved, and rejoice.
   That is not what Jesus was talking about when He told us to be His witnesses.  He wasn’t talking about memorization of a foolproof method for bringing people to Jesus.  All Jesus wanted His disciples to do was to deliver an honest testimony of what the Lord’s grace has done in our lives.  If you are a person who organizes their thoughts, think of it as being this kind of testimony:  First tell what your life was like before Jesus came into it.  Then, tell how Jesus came into your life.  Finally, tell what your life has been like since Jesus came into it.
   In discipleship language a witness is someone who gives first-hand testimony of an event he/she experienced.  This is the art we have lost.  We are just not witnessing as we should or as we once did.  If we were, the baptismal waters would be stirred regularly. At least, that is what I believe.  With whom have you shared your experience with Christ this week?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wrong Choices Cannot Produce Right Outcomes

   The world has been noticing events in Ferguson, Missouri this past week.  It is a week of so many wrong choices.;  Some of them are as follows:

·        A policeman (presumably white) shot an unarmed college student (black), when witnesses say he was on his knees with his hands in the air.

·        Crowds of black men began rioting, looting stores, carting off all the loot they could carry.

·        Ferguson police responded with overkill.

·        State police were called in, but they will not arrest looters.  Store owners are being told, “It’s none of our business.

·        The governor chose only this past Saturday to declare a state of emergency.

   With so many wrong choices, it is no wonder the situation has gotten out of control.  There is never a way for things to go right when there are so many wrong choices.  That is true not only in Ferguson, but in life in general.  There are so many people who seem to feel they can make wrong choices about their eternal destiny and things will still go right for them when they leave this earth.
   For instance, you cannot choose to ignore the claims of Jesus Christ  and hope things well turn out well in eternity. 
   You cannot choose to walk through life as though there was no heaven and expect to go there.
   You cannot choose to live life like you want to and have the life you want in the afterlife.
   Wrong choices make wrong outcomes.  Believe it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God’s Protection

    As we watch the slaughter of Christians in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, many must be asking, “Where is God?  Why isn’t He protecting these fellow believers?”  At the core of these questions is the one big question—“Is it God’s will for His followers to be slaughtered?”  Now the focus is on the will of God, instead of the protection of God.
 
   This I know for certain—God is able to protect His followers.  I also know God is able to destroy those who are persecuting His followers.  However, the way things are now it is easy for these butchering soldiers, those who are killing Christians, to shout, “God is on our side”, because it appears Her is letting them have their way.  I remember, though, a bit of history.  I remember how God dealt with an army from Egypt who sought to kill His people.  It seems to me I remember they were drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued the people of God.
   I remember also how God used a boy with a slingshot to route the army of the Philistines after the boy killed their hero, the giant, Goliath.  Is God capable of repeating such acts as these in modern times?  Absolutely.  Will He?  I do not know.  What I do know is that one day He may call on me to give up my life for Him.  I confess, I hope that does not happen, but if it does, I hope I am ready to do it.  Here’s what you haven’t read in the papers or heard on the air—500 Christians were slaughtered when they refused to convert to Islam in one Iraqi village. 
   What do you suppose would happen in America if someone took over your town and demanded that you renounce your Christian faith or be killed?  You see, that is the real crux of things.  We should worry less about God’s protection and more about our own faithfulness to Him.   In a world increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, how many Christians will remain faithful to the faith they profess?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spiritually Speaking..Obama Makes Right Call

   In a presidency marked by almost unanimously making the wrong call (or no call at all), I give the president high marks for his decision to finally order airstrikes on ISIS.  This army of Islam has made a name for itself as a ruthless, barbaric killer of all who do not hold the beliefs of Islam.  They have been seen beheading children, and slaughtering adults who are Christian or any other religion except Islam.  Fleeing from their onslaught are thousands of Christians and others who found themselves trapped on top of a mountain that stands a mile higher than sea level.  This ISIS army would slaughter every one of these people if they had not run to hide in the mountains.  ISIS is NOT an army of God, but an enemy of God, with designs on the death of all who do not follow Islam.
 
   This evil, barbaric army of Islam has murdered its way across Syria, and Iraq.  The fact that they march in the name of Allah is a sham, since this ISIS army shows none of the mercy of the god they purport to serve.  Of all the armies of this world in my lifetime, which includes the armies of Nazi Germany, this ISIS army takes the cake for sheer evil deeds.  They have declared war on America and all who fail to worship as they do in their Islamic traditions.   Rather than pit themselves against military men and machines, they have chosen to go against innocent, non-military civilians.  They have called down on themselves American bombs and I for one hope America bombs them back to the Stone Age, which judging from their actions would not be a very long trip.
   The goal of this evil cadre of “soldiers” is to take land away from other sovereign countries and build an Islamic state in the Middle East, a state which could be the launching pad for well-trained terrorists who would go throughout the globe wreaking havoc.  They have already vowed to raise the flag of Allah in the White House.  I would hope President Obama would see this as a declaration of war against America and act accordingly.  These targeted bombing sorties are a start, but they must not let up.  This army must be destroyed completely.  Since their goal is annihilation of all “unbelievers”, our goal should be to make sure they get what they have vowed for others and wreak havoc on themselves.
   The United States could destroy ISIS within a week with constant bombing, strafing, missiles, etc.  Not one single solder would need to be on the ground.  Our air superiority and drone arsenal are sufficient to wipe these varmints out completely.  This nation would stand united behind the president if he would answer the ISIS declaration of war with an unlimited air war against them.  The sooner the better.
   In my opinion, a war against this evil force would be a just war, one that would bring glory to the Lord God.  How long must we wait to enter the fray?
  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Living The Difference Is Easier Said Than Done

   Leadership at our state convention of Baptists are already talking about this year’s annual meeting, to be held in Waco November 17-19.  Because of the central location I suspect attendance at this year’s meeting will be good.  My aversion to meeting in extreme locations is well known, so I will not stretch that argument out.  At least for this year, we are meeting in what I consider a good place.  There are several aspects of this year’s meeting that are new.  Most notably, it will now be possible for a church to register her full slate of messengers on line.  You can preview that process by clicking here.

   The chosen theme for this year’s meeting intrigues me.  It is “Live The Difference”.  No preacher worth his salt would miss the opportunity to preach a sermon on that subject, either from the words of Jesus, or Paul or James.   I suspect, as much as anything, it is the desire of the planners to get people to think about that theme as often as possible from now until November.  What does it mean to live the difference?
   There will be theme interpretation presentations at the meeting, I am sure, but it is really each person’s job to decide what it means for him/herself.   However, most of us will first have to decide what is “difference”.  For inspiration one need only see the life of Jesus as it is compared to His peers.  His difference was a sinless existence.  Comparing His life to those who lived around Him is not difficult.  He was different.  What made Him different was that He lived the life set out for Him by His heavenly Father.  For those who think that since He was God’s Son that it must have been easy for Him to be Who He was, think again.  We are told that Jesus was tempted in every way exactly like we are, and yet remained without sin. 
   You and I will never be without sin.  It’s too late for that now, even if we could live the remainder of our days without sin.  We will never be sinless.  All of us are the same on that score.  You can scorn those who commit heinous sin (as you see it), but when all is said and done, you are still as big a sinner as anyone.  That is why it is not our place to judge another’s sin.  That is for the Father to do.  It is our place to live differently as much as it is possible.  In my own mind, that simply means seeking to live life the way Jesus asked us to live it.  We should use our preaching to recognize sin, but it is not the preacher’s place to judge that sin.  We see the same-sex lobby getting stronger and stronger, but beyond recognizing it as sin we have no place in the judgment of it.  We may not sin the same way as they do, but we are still sinners.
   Living the difference, it seems to me, means devoting our lives to those things which help draw people to Jesus.  I want people to look at what I do and say, “That reminds me of Jesus.”  Living differently seems to suggest that I should devote my life to becoming more Christ-like.  That would be me living the difference.    

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Believing In Jesus Is Not Enough

   Some in my audience will disagree with my title of this post, “Believing In Jesus Is Not Enough.”  For years those of us in ministry have told people that all that was needed for someone to  be saved was to believe in Jesus.  Well, there is more to it than that and we had better get it straight.  Now, if by saying that you believe in Jesus means that you believe in Everything the Bible says about Him, that is enough.  But, if you only believe that He was a wonderful prophet who lived a good life, that is surely inadequate.
 
   Some people who consider themselves religious who say they believe in God and in Jesus, also that they have a problem with His being born of a virgin, or His living a sinless life, or His coming back from the dead.  The Apostle Paul said, “If there is no resurrection, then on what can we base our faith?”  The trouble with Jesus is that you have to take all of Him, not just the parts you like or can explain.  There is so much about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that cannot be explained by the physical laws of science, and to accept Jesus must include accepting all of the inexplicable.
   We live in a culture that is willing to take Jesus for the exceptional prophet of God that He was, but do not accept Him as the only begotten Son of God.  So, one could say that these people believe in Jesus, but that is not a belief that will provide salvation for their souls.
   Believing in a saving Jesus means accepting that….
·       ... He was virgin born
·        ...He was sinless all his earthly life
·       ...He was willing to be tortured and killed in the most cruel manner possible…just to pay for our sins
·        ...In three days after His crucifixion He stopped being dead and walked out of His tomb.
·        ...He appeared in His resurrection body at least 40 times to His followers.
·        ...He is coming again at a date He does not yet know.
   If any of those things is not true than Jesus has sinned by lying to us.  He said all of those things about Himself.
   So, saying that you believe in Jesus is not sufficient.  As He once stated, “Even the devils believe.” 
   What we need to communicate to the world is that believing in Jesus has to mean believing all those things above or it is not belief at all.  For those who say they cannot believe those things about Jesus that are supernatural, we must say, “It’s all or nothing.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People Are Thinking

   My recent post on the immigrant children now ranks as one of the most responded to of all my blog posts.  So many good Christian people have responded, mostly on Facebook, but some personally.  It seems my own personal journey regarding this immigration crisis has turned out to be the same journey many of you are making.  It seems we are all struggling with the battle between our politics and our Christian responsibility.
 
    When you stop and think about it, this is not an isolated circumstance at all.  There is always an on-going battle between our personal politics and our spiritual duty.  The Bible repeatedly warns us that life will be a constant struggle between our own desires and the will of God.  Finding and doing the will of God is still our foremost priority in life, if we are disciples of Christ.  Doing His will is always the best way to be more like the Master.  The issue is not so much trying to be more like Jesus, but the issue is to seek, find, and do His will, and in so doing we will find ourselves becoming more like Jesus.
   If you are looking for a study for your small group, this would be a good one.  “How do I know what is God’s will and what is my own desire?”  A study like that must begin with each person sincerely desiring to know and be committed to do God’s will.  My own experience is that finding God’s will is very closely associated with prayer.  It seems to me a study like the one proposed above would include a large segment of time for ardent prayer.  The first principle is to ask God to know His will.  When you ask you will be confronted with God’s question, “If I show you my will, will you do it?”  Knowing God’s will and doing it are two entirely different aspects of a disciple’s walk with Jesus.
   I am convinced there are many Christian people today who are asking to know God’s will regarding these immigrant children.  Even though we have now been told that more than half these children have at least one parent already here in the USA, and that they have been told the process will turn them loose in return for their promise to return for a court hearing, which a majority simply ignore, there are still thousands who will remain in custody in various places.  These are the children we must minister to the name of Jesus.  Politics aside, how must we respond to their needs.  Do we just let the government take care of them?  I say, “No, we cannot.”  We must seek to intervene in the name of Jesus.
   Because I know my own struggle with this issue, I am sympathetic to all who are themselves struggling with it.  Some of my friends likely disagree with me.  Some may not disagree, but they do not necessarily agree.  But, I know that every one of them wants what I want, to know and do God’s will..