Friday, December 28, 2007

Missions Websites

John Piper raves about the ministry of Operation World, and for good reason. I had some time to look into their website today. Along with their valuable resources, they have a daily prayer list to highlight various prayer needs in world missions. Today's entry was about Urban Evangelism. I'll quote it here, but you please visit OW to learn more.
For the first time in history, half of the world's population lives in or near a city

Challenges for Prayer
This major shift in population from rural to urban necessitates a radical shift in thinking and strategy among churches and missions reaching out to the unreached

1 Appropriate strategies for evangelizing the major non-Christian cities of the world
2 The urban poor, the biggest single challenge
3 The decaying inner cities of the West. In the midst of affluence many cities have a rotten core.
4 Christians' preconception of missions needs to shift from a 19th Century rural, tribal image to a modern, urban one
5 The mobilization of a trained and efficient work force
6 The essential and effective use of all modern methods of communication
From Operation World Web Site (, 12/28/07. Copyright ©2001 Patrick Johnstone
OW also features nations in the news, of which Sri Lanka is featured. Seeing how we shared how Peter just visited that country in mid December, I spent some time reading up on it. The Lord is really needed there, and there is much reason for hope as the Christian church there grows, but they need our prayers. Click here to learn how to pray for Sri Lanka.

This picture features street dwellers in Mumbai, Inda

I also discovered another missions website about a ministry in Asia, Servants to Asia's Urban Poor. According to their website: "Servants to Asia's Urban Poor is an international movement: a network of Christian teams living and working amongst the urban poor in Asia's mega cities, participating with the poor to bring hope and justice through Jesus Christ." What a radical and beautiful concept! To think of Westerners giving up their comforts and wealth to live and suffer with the poor in Asia to reach the lost for Christ! They feature an interesting recent article about a family that conducted an experiment to see if they could live on $200 a month! What an eye opener!

As the Servants site points out, "The urban poor are the largest and neediest unreached people group confronting today's church. We ignore this challenge at our peril: "I was hungry... and you gave me nothing to eat" (Jesus, Matthew 25:31-46)

Please pray that the Lord would lead you to explore these resources and to be obedient to the Great Commission, by praying, giving, or going with the Good News of Christ to all people groups!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pletcher Sri Lanka Trip

Peter sent an update on God's work in their mission trip to beautiful Sri Lanka mid December. I'll share that here along with pics he sent. The entire Pletcher family joined the group from their church (a total of 16 adults and 6 children). While in Sri Lanka they spent time in Colombo with a missionary pastor who took them to Kandy, a devout Buddhist city, and then up into the tea country. Everywhere they went, they were well received by the locals and had the opportunity to share the gospel through tracts and passing out Bibles. Their pastors also had the opportunity to speak at several different special services that were held while we were visiting. Here is Peter's email. Thanks to the Pletchers for sharing the testimony and pictures!

"We had a great time and experienced a very open and for the most part welcoming people. We arrived on Wednesday into Colombo for our pastors to speak (Brother Crocker and Brother Moore) to the Tamil service and also to the Sinhala/English service at Colombo Bible Baptist Church where Brother Unruh pastors (these services go on simultaneously at different locations on the Church property). The next morning we left at 8 a.m. and traveled to the city of Kandy which took about five hours. In the city center, we divided up and spent a couple hours passing out tracts. Kandy has a significant Buddhist temple which attracts devout Buddhist from all over the world, as such, the city of Kandy has a strong Buddhist following. We had some who would not accept the tracts or would ask why we are trying to spread Christianity into such a strong Buddhist area but for the most part people gladly accepted the tract and would begin to read (tracts were written in Sinhala). Prior to handing out the tracts, I had asked what the literal translation was on the front cover. We were surprised to find that many of the people could speak a fair amount of English, so when we were asked by a young man who was with his group of friends "Do you even know what this says?" I pointed to the Sinhala on the front cover and acted like I was reading/translating into English. They were all surprised and we enjoyed a laugh.

"We continued up into the Mountain area to a small town of Nuwara Eliya and stayed at the St. Andrews Hotel. This town is about one mile high in elevation so our bus had a lot of climbing to do as we began our day in Colombo which is at sea level on the West coast of Sri Lanka. The cooler 14C (57F) temperature was also welcomed as it never gets this cool when at sea level near the equator. Sri Lanka's 4th largest export is tea and is grown up in the mountain area. It is amazing to see how they use all the land available by terracing the steep slopes. Most of the pickers are ladies who must pick at least 16 kg (35lbs) per day to earn $2. If they pick less than 16 kg of tea their pay is docked but if they pick more, they are given a small bonus. Tracts were also put into plastic bags with small gifts inside such as small lotion or shampoo bottles, pens, etc. Along the drive up, the tea pickers or village people would be along the side of the road for which a packet was thrown out the window. The tea pickers would quickly collect the packet .... this is not a method which can be used in Singapore as you would be fined for littering but was very much welcomed in Sri Lanka.

"On Friday, we went into Kotagala, a tea plantation village, where one of the local pastor's sent out by Colombo Bible Baptist Church has an out reach ministry. The children had already gathered for the Neighborhood Bible Club. Our group helped lead in teaching them some Bible songs and told them the Gospel story (Brother Shanker, the local pastor gave the translation). Afterwards, the children were then taught a game which was played with great enthusiasm. For most of these children, it was their first time to hear that Jesus loved them. After the children's meeting, preparations were made for the evening evangelistic meeting at the other end of the soccer field. A Gospel film was shown and pastor Crocker gave a short message and invitation afterwards. Fifty-nine people came forward to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ! Bro Shanker conducts a Church in a tent which is attached to the back of his house located in Kotagala and will be following up on these decisions. We understand that our group is the first to go into this tea village with such an outreach and we pray that the impact and seeds sown will grow for many more to hear and receive the gospel. Our church had also collected clothing back in Singapore and we left the boxes with Brother Shanker to be used as an outreach ministry to the village people.

"After a long day of travel back to Colombo on Saturday, we were back at Colombo Bible Baptist Church for three services on Sunday with a meal in the afternoon under the tent prepared for all those who attended. We flew out at around 1:30 a.m. Monday morning back to Singapore since I needed to work Monday morning while the rest of our Church group flew back on Tuesday morning. The Lord certainly blessed our trip and by the following Monday morning, the church had already received in the mail responses from 6 different people who had put their trust in Jesus Christ as a result of the tracts passed out. We were constantly reminded of Luke 10:2 "Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." So many people whom need the Lord and someone to give the gospel message."

By the way, the Pletchers celebrated Morgan's 1st birthday immediately after returning from this trip. Happy Birthday, Morgan!

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Way to Think about Sharing the Gospel

What does a can of Coke have to do with sharing the Gospel? You’ll find out if you keep reading.

Sometimes I write blogs about sermons I’ve listened to. This is one of those. I was recently introduced to Rick Holland's preaching. He is is the college pastor at Grace Community Church and an excellent communicator. You can find his sermons here. FYI - you can also find there some by Steve Lawson and CJ Mahaney.

The Rick Holland message is called "What you must get right to get the Gospel right." Without stealing the thunder too much, I’ll share some tidbits, his four S’s to summarize the Gospel, and finally explain the pop can story.


  • Regarding the Lordship: In the book of Acts, which chronicles the founding of the Church, Jesus is referred to as Lord 92 times, and as Savior only twice!
  • Works are a response to a salvation given, not a way to get salvation. They’re the caboose not the engine. (Eph 2:10) The fruit and not the root. (1 John 2:3) If you’re a Christian, you’ll live like it!
  • On the tension between the sovereignty of God in election and the responsibility of sinners: No one ever went to Heaven by their own choice. And no one ever goes to hell because of God’s choice.

Summary of the Gospel
gave four S’s to help summarize the Gospel so you can share with people the Lord puts in your path!

  • Sovereignty. He is Lord, the Creator God. He’s Holy, the only true and unique Living God. He alone is the Sovereign of the Universe. Sovereignty means King. “If you don’t start there the other pieces of the puzzle don’t fit”, explains Holland. He mentioned Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes, “Remember your Creator (Eccl 12:1)”
  • Sin (the problem). The origin of sin comes from Adam and Eve. We are born sinners, and then we sin. We’re not born innocent and become sinners after we sin. We’re born sinners. We have personal culpability before God because of our sin. “In the words of my brilliant theologian son," says Holland, “we are in trouble with God because of our sin.” Because of our sin we deserve to be damned to Hell and punished by God. Because of our unrighteousness and His righteousness and His righteous standard.
  • Substitution. Once this is established, the Good News can be joyfully proclaimed! God sent His Son to substitute and take the punishment in our place, instead of us, to give us His righteousness. The facts of the cross (1 Cor 15:1-4) come into play here and were fleshed out in the first sermon in this two part series.
  • Submission. Because God is sovereign and has rescued us from our sin by substituting His Son for us, He requires, demands, and we have the privilege of, submitting to Him. A faith that believes and a faith that works. “You lose your life as a Christian, but you find His in you. It is much better!” Holland didn’t quote Jim Elliot, but I will: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Pop Can Story

Holland told a great story about a guy who approached those waiting in line to get into Magic Mountain. He had a box of empty Coke cans that had a coupon for a $10 discount to the park printed on them. He would just go up to people and say, “Hey you want $10 off? I can get you $10 off with this coke can!” Holland said, “Ok. Do you want anything in return?” The answer: “No, I just want to help you get $10 off.” Holland later thought, “This guy’s a little weird. But he’s nice. He gave me a $10 coupon and was delighted enough to go to everyone in that line and give it to ‘em. I have eternal life that’s been given to me. That is a gift that we can offer to others. Have you ever been as giddy as that guy in the line over giving the Gospel (Good News) to someone?

I’ll close by addressing my two audiences. Everyone falls into two groups:

  1. Those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord: Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Matthew 28:18)." The fact that you ignore this fact does not make it go away the same way someone on drugs can't make the law of gravity go away if they jump from a building thinking they can fly. Have you dealt with your sin problem (a problem we all have according to Romans 6:23) by believing on the Lord Jesus as your substitute? Have you submitted your life to Him, repenting (turning your back on) your sin and putting your trust in Him as the only way to be reconciled to God? You can do so today! Don’t wait!
  2. Those who love Christ and treasure Him as Lord: Are you sharing the Gospel? Are you as giddy as that guy was giving out the pop cans? You have eternal life, don’t keep it tucked up inside of you! You might look silly, in fact Jesus said if they hated Him they would hate us (John 15:18)! But to those who will come to know Christ, you are the bearer of the most important gift that was ever given!
Merry Christmas to all!

"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together!" (Psalm 34:3)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jesus life was the greatest life ever lived

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

-Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Our pastor in the evening service Sunday preached from Philippians 2, the great passage that speaks of Christ's humbling Himself to take on human flesh to a) demonstrate God's love for us (Rom 5:8) and b) to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Pet 2:24)!.

The main points were:

1) Christ is our perfect example of submission
2) Christ is our perfect example of humility
3) Christ is our perfect example of sacrifice
4) Jesus is Lord!

The question for each of these points (1-3) is, if Christ were grading you in your practice of submission, what grade would you be getting? How is your submission to the Lord and to others (see v 3-4 which speak of considering others more important than yourselves)? How is your humility? Are you living sacrificially the way Christ is? How would Christ grade you?
Finally, on #4, in vv 9-11, we are reminded that Jesus is Lord!

The early Christians were often persecuted for not yielding to emporer worship. In fact, many were fed to lions or shredded by gladiators for refusing to say "Caesar is Lord!". Scripture tells us that God gave Jesus the name that is above every name! "Jesus is Lord!"

Romans 10:9 says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

This belief includes 3 things:

  • You must believe Jesus is God (Immanuel means God with us)
  • He is in control of everything even when things seem so uncertain and out of control!
  • If you believe He is Lord, that means you're willing to submit your very life to him!

"and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor 5:15)"

God with Us

"If I could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: 'God with us.' We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than the baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth." - John MacArthur

Friday, December 14, 2007

Piper on the New Birth

I've been so blessed by a series of messages John Piper is giving on the new birth, or to use the theological term: "regeneration". My prayer is that you will listen to these messages on this essential topic and that God would speak to you through His word!

There are more to come, but here are the messages available so far:

You Must Be Born Again: Why This Series and Where Are We Going?

What Happens in the New Birth? Part 1

What Happens in the New Birth? Part 2

Why Do We Need to Be Born Again? Part 1

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tim Tebow

No heisman for Chase Daniel, sorry MU friends.

Glad it happened to Tim Tebow, though. A home-schooled missionary kid who lives out his faith by visiting orphanages in the Philipines run by his parents and preaches at state prisons in Florida.

Tebow made history by becoming the first freshman/sophomore to win the heisman!

Here is a story some time back by the NY Times about Tebow.

Congrats, Tim!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Random Thoughts on Tough Questions!

Ryan shared this link, a list of the most influential books in MacArthur's life. Someday I definitely want to read all these (and immortalizing the link on this blog will help) ... but only after I read ALL the Piper books I got from his $5 sale!!! Sure, I'll probably get to Truth War before I finish the Piper collection, but I'm currently reading Let the Nations Be Glad! and this quote blows me away (bold added)...
"The infinite horrors of hell are intended by God to be a vivid demonstration of the infinite value of the glory of God. The biblical assumption of the justice of hell is a clear testimony to the infiniteness of the sin of failing to glorify God. All of us have failed. All the nations have failed. Therefore, the weight of infinite guilt rests on every human head because of our failure to cherish the glory of God. The biblical vision of God, then, is that he is supremely committed, with infinite passion, to uphold and display the glory of his name. And the biblical vision of man without grace is that he suppresses this truth and by nature finds more joy in his own glory than he does in God’s. God exists to be worshiped, and man worships the work of his own hands. This twofold reality creates the critical need for missions. And the very God-centeredness of God, which creates the crisis, also creates the solution.
Here's a discussion question you are welcome to comment on. Somebody explain that! It's true, I believe it. But, wow! I had to stop reading and just stare out the window for several minutes to try to get my mind around that last sentence! I gave up.

My daughter Sophia is real smart. And I'm not. She's been asking me a lot of questions about spiritual matters of late, and quite possibly is a new believer after having repented and praying a very sincere-sounding sinner's prayer. We've been praying for Sophie but are still yet to see fruit other than the rebellious fruit we're accustomed to. Still, unregenerate or not (see Real Life Child Converts), she has been asking some great questions for a 6-year-old!

Last night was no exception: "Why was God never made?" Fifteen minutes into my rambling on and on (in pure ecstacy!) I realized she was just playing me to get to stay up late! So I put a stop to that and hugged and kissed her goodnight (again!) As I walked down the hall, she said, "I think a hand has always been. And it made God." She couldn't get her mind around God's eternality, and neither can I? But I rejoice for that! I love that God's thoughts are higher than ours and that He is infinitely holy and righteous in every way, yet has chosen to save me and restore me to fellowship with Him through the cross of Christ!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Where in the World is Peter Pletcher?

Some of you Countrysiders remember Peter Pletcher who attended nearly a decade ago (when he was still single!) The Lord put him in my brain and stirred my heart to check up on him, it had been a long time but I used to run with him and often wondered what became of him. A simple Google search led me to this page on Lincoln Electric's website which gave me Peter's email address. I emailed him, thinking I could very likely be emailing the wrong Peter Pletcher! But how many could there be?!?

Anyway, I got an email back and I've thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up and hearing what the Lord is doing in Peter's life! Here are a few quotes from his emails.

"After I left Olathe, I moved to Louisville and married a wonderful Christian woman (Jill). In 2002 we moved to Shanghai, China where I was the technical manager for Greater China for over 3 years and this is where our first daughter Haley was born in July 2004. Then the end of 2005 we relocated to Singapore where I took on the role of Country Manager Singapore and we had our second daughter Morgan born December 2006. In Sept 2007, I took on the responsibility of Global Business Segment Director -Offshore but will remain living in Singapore for at least another couple years. "

Many of you remember Peter as a runner so ... "My running has slowed drastically with family and a busy work schedule...however, I did run about 5K today. One of my running highlights in Asia was running a half marathon race on the Great Wall of China!"

Spiritual Life
"We have been very blessed with the opportunities the Lord has given us and are plugged into a good Church here in Singapore. We never dreamed traveling like we have and learning so much about different cultures. "

"We are members and involved at Heritage Baptist Church ( here in Singapore. The Lord has really blessed the ministry and we currently average over 150 people every Sunday. The website is not actively updated so it is really not a good source for the most recent information but at least it will give you a sense of the Church we are going to. (this is something our church is trying to address)"

Peter and his church is leaving tomorrow for a missions trip to a work they are supporting so please pray for them.

Did you know?
"I notice that you have Truth for Life - Allistair Begg's website listed under your favorites. As a matter of interest, I attended Parkside Church (Allistair's Church) when I was in Cleveland for nearly a year during training with Lincoln Electric back in 1995. It was after this training that I moved to Kansas City. I always enjoy listening to Allistair preach and have had opportunities to visit since as I go back to Cleveland from time to time.

Crocodile Hunters
The Pletchers took a family vacation to Australia in October. Their two-week stay took them up to Sydey and up to Queensland to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Australia Zoo, home of the Crocidile Hunter.

While in Sydney, Peter and Jill climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The 3 hour, 1400 step journey took them to the top of the bridge with the awesome view you see here.

At the Australia Zoo, Haley got to play with Robert Irwin (the late Steve Irwin's son) at the play area at the end of the day. They had a lot of fun together!

Couple more pictures. If you want more email Peter and say hello and ask for more!

We miss you Peter! God bless you and the special ministry God has for you in Asia!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!

This is the title of the biographical message John Piper gave on the life of Adoniram Judson at the 2003 Bethlehem Pastors Conference.

Friday I took this sermon with me for the commute (mp3 player) and as I made my way home, listening to Piper recount the suffering in Judson's life, tears filled my eyes. In fact, they nearly filled the car! I was broken over my own apathy to God's Great Commision in light of the sufferings that Judson's endured to bring the Gospel to Burma!

"... Judson went [to Burma] with his 23-year-old wife of 17 months. He was 24 years old and he worked there for 38 years until his death at age 61, with one trip home to New England after 33 years. The price he paid was immense. He was a seed that fell into the ground and died. And the fruit God gave is celebrated even in scholarly works like David Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia: "The largest Christian force in Burma is the Burma Baptist Convention, which owes its origin to the pioneering activity of the American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson"
Read/listen/download the sermon here. (BTW, there are also many other biographical messages about C.H. Spurgeon, Calvin, Martin Luther, Johnathan Edwards.)

Back to Adoniram Judson. If after listening to the bio. message, you still haven't picked up on Piper's passion for missions (especially what he calls frontier missions), you can also read his article The Cost and Blessing of Being a Christian Missionary. Get Desiring God and read the chapter on Missions ... or even read it online for free! (As my friend Luke pointed out, it's refreshing that Piper's generosity is indicative of the fact that he's not "about the money" or "His Best Life Now".)

Sadly, not much is written on Judson. To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson is recommended. There is a children's book called Adoniram Judson - God's Man in Burma by Sharon Hambrick, which my daughter will be reading as part of her homeschool curriculum this year! Piper also mentions a book that Judson wrote on baptism.

So again, download Piper's stirring message here (and listen when you're not behind the wheel.) No need to take notes; it's all in the manuscript. As Piper says, "put your notes away and relax and soak and then get convicted and become a missionary ... that's my goal."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Do Paul and James Contradict Each Other?

My brother-in-law gave me Knowing Scripture for my birthday and it will come in handy as I am now leading a Bible study for the first time (great timing!) It's a great little book on why and how to study God's Word. I won't do a review (Challies does this much better than I could.) Instead I'll share a quote that has been a treat to me. This deals with something I've always wondered about, does Paul contradict James on the subject of justification in terms of works and faith? Here is Sproul from his fantastic book, Knowing Scripture ...

My favorite example of words with multiple meanings is the word justify. In Romans 3:28 Paul says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” In James 2:24 we read, “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” If the word justify means the same thing in both cases, we have an irreconcilable contradiction between two biblical writers on an issue that concerns our eternal destinies. Luther called “justification by faith” the article upon which the church stands or falls. The meaning of justification and the question of how it takes place is no mere trifle. Yet Paul says it is by faith apart from works, and James says it is by works and not by faith alone. To make matters more difficult, Paul insists in Romans 4 that Abraham is justified when he believes the promise of God before he is even circumcised. He has Abraham justified in Genesis 15. James says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” (Jas. 2:21). James does not have Abraham justified until Genesis 22.

This question of justification is easily resolved if we examine the possible meanings of the term justify and apply them within the contexts of the respective passages. The term justify may mean (1) to restore to a state of reconciliation with God those who stand under judgment of his law or (2) to demonstrate or to vindicate.

Jesus says, for example, “Wisdom is justified of all her children” (Lk. 7:35 KJV). What does he mean? Does he mean that wisdom is restored to fellowship with God and saved from his wrath? Obviously not. The plain meaning of his words is that a wise act produces good fruit. The claim to wisdom is vindicated by the result. A wise decision is shown to be wise by its results. Jesus is speaking in practical terms, not theological terms, when he uses the word justified in this way.

How does Paul use the word in Romans 3? Here there is no dispute. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in the ultimate theological sense.

What about James? If we examine the context of James, we will see that he is dealing with a different question from Paul. James says in 2:14, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” James is raising a question of what kind of faith is necessary for salvation. He is saying that true faith brings forth works. A faith without works he calls a dead faith, a faith that is not genuine. The point is that people can say they have faith when in fact they have no faith. The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith, namely, works. Abraham is justified or vindicated in our sight by his fruit. In a sense, Abraham’s claim to justification is justified by his works. The Reformers understood that when they stated the formula, “Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God's Work at StateStreet (cont.)

As an update, I just wanted to give a quick note of praise to the Lord for working mightily at State Street today! We had the kickoff celebration for the KC Bible Study Group (an employee network at work) and it went very well, praise the Lord!

The pizza/pop/cookies were set up just in time and were delicious! The video-conference with Boston and Quincy went smoothly. Everyone could hear and see each other. It was somewhat difficult to fit all THIRTY-EIGHT of the Kansas City folks into the frame, but that was definitely a good problem to have! There was one glitch however: Peter and Julia in Boston had to leave the room momentarily due to a fire alarm that went off in their building! Unphased, they were going to stay on, though I urged them to go in case it was for real! Praise God this was a false alarm!

We asked God's blessing for the food and I gave a 5-10 minute talk about the group (our purpose and plans going forward). As I talked people quietly got their lunch. Then Julia from Boston shared some of the > 10 year history of the BSG in Boston and its origins. Then Phil in Quincy shared some verses that were right in line with the occasion! Peter also shared some wonderful encouraging and challenging words and expressed his amazement at what God is doing!

We took some questions and then enjoyed a time of fellowship and getting to know each other. Twelve of the New Testament outreach bibles we brought were picked up! I praise the Lord for His work here and am so blessed to get the opportunity to be a part of it!

I am so blessed to be in a company that allows this kind of thing! I'm in awe and disbelief that this just happend "at work"! It's an awesome responsibility as well and we are going to need to stay close to God in prayer! We are trusting the Lord to preserve this group and allow us to continue to study His word within the confines of our company! May Jesus Christ get all the glory!

I love Psalm 34, it's been running through my brain of late. It's so appropriate here, so I'll close with this ...

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD,
and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried,
and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life and loves many days,
that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help,
the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

All About Joel

Joel Osteen’s new book comes out on Monday the 15th, so I thought I would take a moment to give my thoughts on his first book, Your Best Life Now. Published three years ago yesterday (10/12/2004). Sorry if this is old news to some. Maybe you’re like me, though, and new to discover this Joel phenomenon!

I love to read, but I’m slow. So I’m very picky about what I spend my time reading. Having heard negative reviews for Your Best Life Now (YBLN) from trusted sources, it never got on my “book list”. Then came the enthusiastic recommendations from multiple friends over the course of a year. Finally, I decided I had to give it a read.

Having listened to the entire book on CD (a nice compromise, eh?), I have very little to add to the two exceptionally well-written reviews that I will provide links to below. I will simply list my objections to the book and suggest one way to look at it that you may not have thought of before.

First my objections to YBLN:

  • Scriptural "silly putty". Joel’s irresponsible twisting of the Scripture to fit his “self-help” Christianity (can you say, “oxy-moron”?)
  • Shallow view of life. i.e. God wants you to have a big house not an apartment. He wants you to get the best parking spot and be first in line at the bank and in the checkout line. Please! Joel would no doubt advise me to live in “expectancy” that God will abundantly bless my fantasy football team!
  • The great "Omission". For a book that offers 7 Steps to reach the highest of human attainment, where is the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ?!? My greatest concern is shared in Wingerd’s review (see link below): that Osteen gives millions of people a false assurance of their standing with God, with his minimizing of sin, ommision of Jesus Christ (except as an after-thought) and failure to present the Gospel clearly (at all really!)

If you don’t see what all the fuss is about YBLN, may I suggest this: Read John Piper’s Desiring God (as I've mentioned before you can read it online) and contrast it with Osteen's superficial Christianity. While I was trudging thru YBLN, I was also reading DG, especially the chapters on Missions and Suffering. Piper’s illustrations were of missionaries who were joyfully giving their lives in service to Christ, allowing themselves to become destitute financially, brutally persecuted for their faith, even martyrd for Christ (knowing their reward was in Heaven for suffering for Christ). Osteen, meanwhile gave story after story of people living their “best life now” (including many of himself), getting promotions, making wise business deals, etc., ad nauseum! The contrast was sharp!

Here are a couple of quotes from Daryl Wingerd’s review of YBLN. I will then close with some Scripture to ponder.

“Nevertheless, here is my view in a nutshell: If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you. But if you believe, with the Apostle Paul, that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6 NKJV), if you desire a deeper and more biblical understanding of God and His ways, if you desire to see Jesus Christ exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, if you believe a Christian's greatest hunger should be for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and not for money, health, or easy living, then you would do well to look elsewhere.”

“Oh, I nearly forgot! Joel Osteen does share the "plan of salvation" with the readers of his book. The reason I nearly forgot was because it seems Osteen nearly forgot too. His "gospel presentation" as it might be loosely defined by some, spans one half of one page, and is neatly tucked on the very last page of the book— after the endnotes! It is not even given the courtesy of a page number in the table of contents. Additionally, Osteen's "gospel presentation" contains no Scripture references, no indication of who Jesus Christ is, no mention of His death on the cross or the necessity of His death in the place of guilty sinners, no teaching about the importance of Christ's sinless life, nothing about His resurrection from the dead, no reference to the grace of God, and no plea for the reader to respond by trusting in Christ's work.”

Wingerd gives a balanced and biblical review of Osteen’s book. He does mention some of the good things about the book, (namely the later chapters on giving, etc) while eloquently pointing out the dangers.

A Critical Review of YBLN

Challies speaks more to Osteen’s ministry as a whole and does a great job of expressing what I was thinking when I read the book, but couldn’t quite put my finger on!

Challies review

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

God's work at StateStreet

StateStreet has allowed some Christians to start up an employee network group, a Kansas City "chapter" of the Bible Study Group originating in Boston. We are hosting a kick-off meeting on Oct 23rd to introduce our group to the 1,300 employees in KC! We're offering pizza and pop and will be available for this "meet 'n greet" to introduce ourselves and answer any questions. We plan to provide handouts describing our group, and encourage folks to suggest Bible studies on a signup sheet. We plan to make free Bibles available to pick up. We're also planning a short video-conference with the Boston group to say hello and speak on their 10-year history of the network group there!

Here's the flyer we were allowed to display on each floor of our two buildings (8 in all!) The flyers went up late Monday, and I've already been contacted by 4 people who are interested in joining the group! And we haven't even been mentioned in the mass KC-wide email ... this comes tomorrow (Wednesday)! Everyone we talk with is so excited about the group! Please pray for this effort to encourage believers and bring God's Word to the lost at StateStreet! As I type this there are two other locations seeking to get up and running, California and Scotland!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Piper Quote - Unlce Sam and Jesus Christ?

Just had to post this quote I came across in John Piper's Desiring God.

"The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won't enlist you in his service unless you are healthy, and Jesus won't enlist you unless you are sick. "

Piper then referenced Mark's gospel:

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).

To continue this theme, God led me to a message Jerry Bridges gave at the Desiring God conference. Bridges gives 4 Essentials for Finishing Well (this sermon is a must listen!). The second point really stayed with me: a daily appropriation of the Gospel. Here are the notes from the sermon, from DesiringGod:

"The gospel is for sinners. Before we spend time in communion with God, we must come to him with the attitude of the tax collector who prayed, "Have mercy on me, a sinner," and trust God alone to make us righteous. This alone will give us the confidence to approach God and have communion with him.

If we don't daily appropriate the gospel then we will begin to base our spirituality on our performance, which will eventually lead us either towards pride or despair. But reminding ourselves daily that we are sinners and that, by God's grace, we've been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, will equip us with true and pure motivation to continue following Jesus and renouncing the desire to love this world. We ought to work hard, not in order to earn God's approval but because we already have it."

Thank you, Lord, that you justify sinners like me and clothe us in your righteousness! Help us to come to you today as hopeless sinners and look to You for justification and sanctification! Amen!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Real-Life Child Converts

I gotta get this one on here quick. The Cubs first post-season game since '03 (remember Steve Bartman?) is on right now!!! (BTW, click this image to read the blog of another Christian Cubs fan, the incomparable Phil Johnson!) Go Cubs!

This week, I'm again featuring an article from Jim Elliff's ministry, Christian Communicators Online. You can find numerous short articles on their site,, this one included. A friend at work today told me his very young son just accepted Jesus into his heart. What to make of this? Read on...

Real-life Child Converts

Jim Elliff & Steve Burchett

Even younger children may be converted. That may seem like a strange statement in our day when supposedly tens of thousands of children are coming to Christ at younger and younger ages. This seeming explosion in childhood conversions is evidenced in one denomination where, between 1977 and 1997, there was a 250% increase in the number of baptisms of children under the age of six.1 However, in the history of the church and evangelism, people have believed that children could be converted because "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does" (Psalm 135:6), but they have alleged that it was almost impossible to know if a child had been converted at a very young age.

God has converted younger children. For example, Jonathan Edwards tells the story about a 4 year-old girl he knew named Phebe Bartlett.2 Phebe was born in 1731, and at the age of four, though her parents didn't think she would be able to understand the gospel at such a young age, her eleven-year-old brother began telling her about Jesus. Soon thereafter she professed to have peace with God through Christ, and her profession of faith was accompanied by a changed life. For instance, highlighting Phebe's love for meeting with the church on Sundays, Edwards writes, "Her mother once asked her, why she had such a mind to go—whether it was not to see fine folks? She said, 'No, it was to hear Mr. Edwards preach.'"

Phebe's love for God and His Word lasted—58 years later (1789) she was still showing forth the character of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Examples could be multiplied throughout church history of boys and girls whom God saved at young ages. But throughout the entirety of the Bible, it seems that there is only one childhood conversion mentioned. Who? Samuel.

The common way to think about Samuel is as a just-weaned child being dedicated to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest (cf. First Samuel 1), yet most Old Testament scholars believe that by First Samuel 3, Samuel is already somewhere between 11-16 years old. This is significant because Samuel does not become a child of God until chapter three. First Samuel 3:7 says, "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him." The next few verses of First Samuel 3 include the record of God saving Samuel. So Samuel at his conversion wasn't even a very young boy!

Since the Bible contains only this one example of the conversion of a child, this should lead us to be extremely cautious about reports of large numbers of children coming to faith in Christ at a church camp or Vacation Bible School. We live in a "statistic hungry" day, and we often determine the success of our ministry to children by counting the number of professions of faith. Too often, these statistics are based on hands raised, aisles walked, or prayers prayed, but we would be wise to recognize with our forebears that really knowing if a child has been saved is quite difficult.

Occasionally, we might see potential signs of spiritual life within our children, like the boys and girls George Whitefield mentions in a letter written in 1742. Whitefield, describing a hostile environment he found himself preaching within (nearly losing his life), wrote a "Mr. L—" and he included this postscript about the children present, "I cannot help but adding, that several little boys and girls who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit, while I preached, and handing to me people's notes, though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, etc. thrown at me, never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me."3 When similar affections for the Lord are evidenced in the lives of our children, it might be an indication that God is at work in their lives and has potentially saved them, yet knowing for certain will be difficult. In the meantime, we should pray earnestly for our children as Whitefield did for these boys and girls, that God would truly "make them in the growing years great and living martyrs" for Jesus.

We yearn for our children to come to Christ early in their lives, and then fearlessly stand for Him all of their days. The conversions of Phebe and Samuel should give us hope. God's work in their lives confirms that children, even younger children, may be converted. Keep preaching the gospel to the children in your life, and God may be pleased to open their hearts to receive the truth you proclaim (cf. Acts 16:14).


1Mark Dever, "Baptism in the Context of the Local Church," Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn D. Wright, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 346-7.

2For the historical account of Phebe, see The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, ), Chapter VIII.

3Quoted in J.P. Gledstone, George Whitefield: Supreme Among Preachers, (Greenville, South Carolina: Ambassador, 1998), 184-5.

[Adapted from a forthcoming book on childhood conversion by Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett]

Copyright © 2007 Jim Elliff & Steve Burchett. Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charles Haddon Spurgeon on Depression

It's Tuesday again, so I'm again featuring an article from Jim Elliff's ministry, Christian Communicators Online. You can find numerous short articles on their site,, this one included.

Mingling Groans of Painand Songs of Hope
Charles Haddon Spurgeon on Depression

It's a good thing he wasn't born in the 20th century. Many believing brothers and sisters would label his tendency to melancholy sinful, or evidence of a lack of self-discipline, or even the result of shallow faith. A psychologist would probably send him away with a prescription and a self-help book with twelve easy steps to overcome depression. But Charles Haddon Spurgeon, perhaps the greatest preacher of the 19th century, had a different attitude toward his affliction.

Spurgeon knew "by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between." He warned his students, "Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy." Although he said, "Spiritual darkness of any sort is to be avoided, and not desired," he never assumed that a Christian suffering depression must necessarily be in sin. Instead, he wrote, "I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God's people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night."

Spurgeon goes on in his book, Lectures to my Students, to give some of the reasons believers fall into sadness. He also provides hope for those so overtaken.

"Is it not first, that they are men?" Spurgeon acknowledged that being a Christian did not make a man or woman immune from suffering. In fact, he said, "Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world." But he points out that through this suffering, we "may learn sympathy with the Lord's suffering people." Paul says something similar in 2 Corinthians 1:4; God "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

"Most of us are in some way or another unsound physically." Spurgeon suffered terribly with a joint disorder that was diagnosed as gout. He was forced to stay in bed, sometimes for weeks at a time in excruciating pain. "I have been brought very low," he wrote to his congregation during one long bout, "My flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. . . . With some difficulty I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope."

With characteristic balance, Spurgeon understood that physical pain and natural temperament contribute to depression, but did not allow his students to use them as an excuse for despair. "These infirmities may be no detriment to a man's career of special usefulness," he said. "They may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish."

"In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labor, the same affliction may be looked for." Spurgeon's schedule was exhausting. In a typical week, he preached ten times. He answered approximately 500 letters, taught in a ministerial college, administrated an orphanage and dealt with dozens of individuals concerning their souls. He wrote for publications, entertained visitors at his home, taught his own family and encouraged his bedridden wife. It is no wonder that his health suffered under such a workload. Spurgeon's church finally insisted on regular vacations for him each year. Spurgeon told his students, "The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. . . . Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength."

"One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low." On October 19, 1856, the 22 year old Spurgeon spoke for the first time in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall in London. The church was no longer big enough to contain the crowds of people who wanted to hear him preach. Thousands packed into the music hall, seating themselves in aisles and stairways after all the regular seating was full, and hundreds more waited outside, hoping to hear part of the sermon through the windows. Just after Spurgeon began to pray, someone in a balcony shouted "Fire!" People pushed and shoved to get out of the building, and a stair railing gave way under the pressure. Seven people were killed and 28 more were injured. The tender-hearted Spurgeon never completely recovered from the emotional impact of this incident. He wrote, "I was pressed beyond measure and out of bounds with an enormous weight of misery. The tumult, the panic, the deaths, were day and night before me, and made life a burden."

Many have experienced a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, devastating financial loss or overwhelming disappointment when a child or a fellow believer has fallen into sin. Spurgeon offers hope from his own experience. "The fact that Jesus is still great, let his servants suffer as they may, piloted me back to calm reason and peace. Should so terrible a calamity overtake any of my brethren, let them both patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God."

"The lesson from wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble." In the end, Spurgeon acknowledged that depression may come to some believers for no discernable reason. He did not consider it an illness, a sin, or surprising condition, but an inevitable season in the life of a Christian and an opportunity to demonstrate trust in the God who will one day wipe away every tear.

Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith's rare wisdom
enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places
her hand in that of her Great Guide.

—Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students

Copyright © 2007 Susan Verstraete.Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in exact form including copyright and web address. Other uses require written permission.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spread the Word!

I wanted Yom Kippur to stay at the top till .. well, Yom Kippur (Saturday) but this deal on the ESV just needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

Did you know you can buy the ESV Outreach New Testament for just $0.50 a copy!?! That's right, 1/2 a dollar! Two quarters! Five dimes! Fifty pennies! Not only that but this is a really good translation. At least RC Sproul, John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, and tons of others think so. It's supposedly very true to the Greek while being so fluid and easy to read! Take a look online and see for yourself! ESV Online

This Outreach NT is also packed with tons of features you'd want to put in the hands of people!

Follow this link to read more about the ESV Outreach NT and some ideas for getting it out there in the hands of those who need it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Was Your Yom Kippur?

I plan to feature a number of articles by Christian Communicators Worldwide here on Promoting Christ. CCW is a ministry of Jim Elliff. I encourage you to browse his site for a TON of resources (articles, sermons, books, ministry tools, CD's and more!) Every Tuesday (until further notice), I'll feature another article from CCW. This one sheds light on Yom Kippur, which takes place Saturday, 9/22/07. (I emailed Jim to ask permission to share his resources and he promptly replied and welcomed me to share the materials. What a neat guy! Enjoy!

When Was Your Yom Kippur?

Daryl Wingerd

Yom Kippur is Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement." The modern observance of this day by Jews around the world is based on the annual ceremony prescribed by God for Old Testament Jews in Leviticus 16. On this day the Jewish high priest would sacrifice a bull, two rams, and a male goat as atonement for his sins and the sins of the people. The high priest would take some of the blood of the bull and the goat inside the holy of holies where he would sprinkle it on the mercy seat—the place on top of the ark of the covenant between the two golden cherubim. A second goat was then led away into the wilderness, symbolically carrying away the sins of the Jewish people. One modern Jewish source describes the importance of the high priest's work this way:

The eyes of all Israel were raised toward the Kohen Gadol's [high priest's] order of service, which began toward the break of dawn. On his success, the atonement of all Israel was dependent.1

The work of the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement was unarguably essential for God's Old Covenant people. First of all, God commanded that it be done, so any neglect of the ordinance would have been disobedience. Secondly, we know that "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). But even in the Old Testament, there are clear indicators that the work of the Jewish high priest and the shedding of the blood of animals on the Day of Atonement was only symbolic, not effective as an atonement for sin.

Abraham, for example, was reckoned by God as righteous (i.e., justified) on the basis of faith well before the Levitical system of sacrifices was instituted (cf. Gen. 15:6). Other prophets, writing hundreds of years after the laws of sacrifice were given, spoke of atonement for sins through a future sacrifice. Consider, for example, the words of Isaiah as he spoke of the Messiah:

He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall upon Him. (Is. 53:5-6).

Although Isaiah seems to be speaking in the past tense, as if the event he was describing had already happened, a few verses later he affirms the forward-looking purpose of God, saying that the Messiah "will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities" (v. 11, emphasis added).

Most importantly, the New Testament assures us that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). The Jewish temple and the mercy seat inside the holy of holies were merely "copies of the things in the heavens" (Heb. 9:23). These copies could be ceremonially cleansed by sprinkling them with the blood of animals, "but the heavenly things themselves" required "better sacrifices than these" (Heb. 9:23). Thankfully,

Christ [the Messiah] did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:24-26)

We do indeed rely on the work of a Jewish High Priest for the atonement of our sins, but not a priest who is "prevented by death from continuing" (Heb. 7:23). The only High Priest whose work makes an eternal difference is the One who died and rose again—Jesus Christ, who, "because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently" (Heb. 7:23). Only this High Priest is "able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:24). Furthermore, Jesus "does not need daily [or annually], like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:27).

Many people around the world observe Yom Kippur as though the annual ceremony were necessary to please God. The truth is, however, the real and final Yom Kippur occurred on a tragic yet victorious day in first-century Palestine. Jesus Christ fully accomplished the salvation of God's New Covenant people, consisting not only of many Jews, but people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9). On that true Day of Atonement, God's great High Priest offered Himself once as the only effective sacrifice for sin. Any continuing work by another priest is unnecessary—actually futile—because, as Paul says, "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the One who "bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).

In the words of Jesus Christ Himself, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).


1Orthodox Union website,

Copyright © 2007 Daryl Wingerd. Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Christ Raises the Dead!

On the bus ride home Monday, I settled into the very back seat of the bus, excited about spending time in God’s Word. I read in John 11 how “Jesus wept” then raised his beloved friend, Lazarus from the dead. This mighty demonstration of His deity and authority over death happend even after four days of decay!

My relative solitude was disturbed when a 40-something, disheveled man took the seat next to me. I didn’t notice him at first, and tried to keep my nose in my Bible, but his odor and apparent desire to talk woke me up. “How ya doing, sir? Good to see you’re reading the Bible.” I looked up and noticed right away he had a nasty black eye. “God bless you,” he said. “that’s the Lord’s work.”

I introduced myself, his name was Mark. I asked if he was a believer and read the Bible himself, and he explained how Jesus Christ came to die for his sins (of which he had repented) and had made Him his Lord and Savior. He was baptized as an infant in his dad’s church (when will I learn that EVERYBODY will proclaim their own goodness!). Only problem is … his life never changed and he continued to sin despite being "sorry". Was this man a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). He still cursed like a sailor and drank excessively (in fact he often pulled out his bottle of vadka from his bag to flavor his clear cup of ice water). The shiner I mentioned was received by some guys who—like himself—don’t act much like Christians. He also complained of broken ribs from being shot recently. Amazingly he constantly gave credit to God’s grace for his even being alive.

His sad story included jail time (I didn’t ask what he was “in for”) and some pretty shocking and tragic family history. I thanked God for His longsuffering and for placing him next to me on the bus.

As Mark shared his story, I prayed and listened and did my best to steer the discussion. He gladly welcomed questions, which I used to try to guide the conversation. This proved to be somewhat like like pushing one of those shopping carts with an obstinate wheel that points the wrong direction! Soon, though, God allowed me to explain to Mark his need to consider his standing before God, and the urgency of testing his salvation in light of his life and Scripture.

To my amazement Mark freely admitted he should be reading the Bible. As if he expected me to pull one out for him, he said he would gladly take one if I had it. The day before this, I had SIX gift New Testaments in my backpack, but I had inexplicably taken them out! I’m ashamed now that I didn’t offer him my new ESV Bible (later I felt like Gollum in LOTR!)

"My precious!"

I did have some Gospel tracts with me and several printed copies of the Bible verses MacArthur put together in showing how to present the Gospel to your children in his book on parenting, (see my last blog, Bad News First, Please!) This is one of the the most biblically comprehensive presentations of the Gospel I’ve seen! Mark coached me to present what I had, but often interrupted to tell about his hard life.

The more I learned about Mark, the more I thanked God that I’m na├»ve and trusting, because if I'd known this man was as scary as I later learned (he claimed to have killed a man!), I never would talked so candidly with him. In fact, I felt very at ease ... aside from the profanity, I rather enjoyed his open-minded honesty (was it the boos?)

I later became aware that my voice was carrying and those around us were listening as well, though no one seemed to want to join our conversation (or even make eye contact!) I remember wishing I’d spent more time memorizing the Gospel passages! Boy, how I struggled to present a clear message! If I had recorded the conversation, I could sell copies to show how NOT to witness!

But God is sovereign, and Mark appreciated that I seemed to care. The bus arrived at the parking lot of the Great Mall and we "stumbled off", Mark because he was now drunk, and me because of my excitement, and because I can’t walk and witness (or even pray) at the same time! A light rain began to fall and a gust of wind scattered the 4-page Gospel printout I gave him. No worries, I took out another copy and took the liberty of putting it directly in his backpack!

As we waited for my bus, I encouraged Mark—with a burden and passion for this man that only Christ could have ignited—to turn his back on the sin in his life, throwing it away from him like he would a live hand grenade (if you hold on to it will destroy you), and to run to Christ in faith! I think I heard this from reading an entry in Adventures in Christianity. I'll never forget that when it was time for me to go, Mark gave me a hug and thanked me for sharing with him.

Not sure what will happen to Mark. A relative of his agreed to give him some work the next morning, if he was sober and showed up at 7:00 am. That truly would be only something God could orchestrate after watching him put the vadka away.
He told me he would read everything I gave him, and would pray to God that night, about what we talked about. He didn’t think he could give up “the drink” because his pain was so great, but I told him over and over he needed to turn his back on it. I also encouraged him not to try to clean himself up, but that God will take him where he's at. I heard MacArthur say once that God justifies sinners and makes them righteous, not the other way around. We don’t get ourselves righteous by cleaning up our life so that God will accept us! This man has nothing to offer God, nor does anyone! “A person cannot receive anything unless it has been given him from heaven (John 3:25-30)” We’re all sinful creatures who only seek our own good. Without God's grace, and Christ's transformation of our lives, we would be just as pitiful and despicable as this man. In fact, we'd still be dead spiritually (Eph 2:4).

Unless God changes Mark’s heart and imparts a new life to him, he’s without hope. Pastor Neal (one of our associate pastors at Countryside) preached Sunday night on Romans 5:1-3. The phrase that I took from that is “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” For Christians who God has transformed, we have a hope that is certain. The Greek for “hope” used in this verse doesn’t leave any doubt as to the outcome. Our English word says “I hope the weather will be nice," this hope is used to convey something that is inevitable! Like Lazarus, all believers were once dead and without hope, but Christ has called us out of our tomb of sin. I pray that Mark will receive that same call and will "come forth" as well. May Jesus Christ, “The Resurrection and the Life” receive all the glory!
If you do not have an assurance of your salvation, take a minute and take this test to see if you are "good enough" to get to Heaven: Good Person Test

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bad News First, Please!

I love movies and tv shows that paint a desperate picture for the hero. Things go from bad to worse in a hurry, and then from worse to impossible! MacGyver always found a way. Indiana Jones always beat the bad guys, hard! Even Napoleon Dynamite, with his other-worldly dance moves, came out of nowhere to save the election for the already-defeated Pedro. Hoosiers, Rocky, all of them were up against impossible odds!

There's nothing more satisfying than to triumph over impossible odds! So if you ever ask me if I want the good news or the bad news first, without question, I want the bad news first!

I just read Joseph's story in Genesis. You really feel for this guy, who is sold into slavery at 17 by his own brothers (ch 37), sold again to the Egyptians (ch 39), then wrongfully imprisoned after finding favor in Potiphar's household. Year after year goes by as Joseph suffers in a foreign land, but the story goes on to reveal how God was working in his life to accomplish His purpose and how He orchestrated Joseph's rise to power to become one of the most powerful men of the world, as he saved the lives of many people through his God-given wisdom during a severe and prolonged famine! At the twilight of a long and influential life, Joseph was able to tell his brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen 50:20)"

Psalm 102 begins in despair: "Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! (v1-2a)." Things get even more desperate. "For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. (v3-6)" Inability to sleep as his enemies taunt and curse David has Him in a very troubled state, ... until his viewpoint suddently changes in verse 12. "But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughtout all generations." The Psalm then breaks into praise for the LORD! Verse 25: "Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. (v 25-27)"

Paul understood this "bad news first" concept. In Romans, he spent most of the first three chapters getting everyone lost (pagans, the religious self-righteous, everybody), before he could give the good news of how to be saved in Christ!

In Ephesians 2:1-3 he describes our condition without Christ as being dead. Doesn't get more hopeless than that. "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 our body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Stop there. Verse four represents one of my favorite turning points in all Scripture. I'll never forget hearing a message by R.C. Sproul (probably one of the first I've heard from him). He was preaching on this text when he blurted out after a dramatic pause, "BUT GOD!!!" Two of the most beautiful words ever penned! What follows is amazing ...

"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)"

Nowhere is it more important to give the bad news first than in the presentation of the Gospel. You must lay down this progression from bad to worse. Perhaps you have heard the analogy of the Dr giving the good news of a costly cure to his patient. He first makes him understand his fatal condition having contracted this deadly disease. Otherwise, he doesn't truly understand the very costly cure that he sold everything to provide for the patient.

The Bible shows us to first describe the Law and man's sinfulness and inability to keep it. The Way of the Master (with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron--remember him from Growing Pains?) has been very encouraging and helpful to me as I seek to share the Gospel. They start with the Ten Commandments to show people that they fall well short of God's perfect standard. If we stumbled in just one area we're guilty of breaking it all, as James tells us.

I haven't found a better presentation of the Gospel, (at least as far as the wealth of Scripture)than in MacArthur's book Successful Christian Parenting that Aimee and I read recently (though I don't think it's in print anymore). He has a chapter on teaching your kids the Gospel and wow, this is quite a collection! Just had to share that, so that will follow the text below. It's long, but if you take the time to read through this, you will go on an adventure from the hopeless and impossible, to the triumphant heights of spiritual victory in Christ! Happy reading!

God's Holiness
God is utterly holy, and His law therefore demands perfect holiness
Leviticus 11:44-45
For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."

Joshua 24:19
But Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

Psalm 11:4-7
The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
the LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous;he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

1 Peter 1:16
since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

Because He is holy, God hates sin
Exodus 20:5
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

Psalm 5:4
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.

Psalm 7:11
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.

Sinners cannot stand before Him
Psalm 1:5
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Psalm 5:5
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.

Psalm 24:3-4
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

Our Sin
Sin is a violation of God's law
1 John 3:4
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

1 John 5:17
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Romans 7:7
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."

Sin is what makes true peace impossible for unbelievers
Isaiah 57:20-21
But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

Micah 2:1
Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.

All have sinned
Romans 3:10-12, 23
as it is written:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Sin makes the sinner worthy of death
Ezekiel 18:4
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

James 1:15
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sinners can do nothing to earn salvation
Isaiah 64:6
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Romans 3:20
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Galatians 2:16
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Sinners cannot change their own sin nature
Jeremiah 2:22
Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord GOD.

Jeremiah 13:23
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.

Romans 8:7-8
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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Sinners are therefore in a helpless state
Hebrews 9:27
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Luke 12:2-3
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Romans 2:16
on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Revelation 21:8
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Who is Christ and why did He come?
He is eternally God
John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Colossians 2:9
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

He is Lord of all
Revelation 17:14
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."

Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 10:36
As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ ( he is Lord of all),

He became man
Philippians 2:6-7
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

He is utterly pure and sinless
Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

1 Peter 2:22-23
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

1 John 3:5
You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

The sinless one became a sacrifice for our sin
2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Titus 2:14
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

He shed His own blood as an atonement for sin
Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Revelation 1:5
and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

He died on the cross to provide a way of salvation for sinners
1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Colossians 1:20
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

He rose triumphantly from the dead
Romans 1:4
and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Romans 4:25
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

His righteousness is imputed to those who trust Him
1 Corinthians 1:30
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

2 Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 4:5-6
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

Philippians 3:8-9
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Thus He freely justifies all who trust in Him
Romans 3:24
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:9
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Galatians 2:16
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

John 5:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

What does God demand of sinners?
Repentance is a heart-turning in Faith, and not an external action or work
Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God calls sinners to repentance
Acts 17:30
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Ezekiel 18:32
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live."

Acts 3:19
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,

Acts 17:30
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Acts 26:20
but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Matthew 3:7-8
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Turn your heart from all that dishonors God
1 Thessalonians 1:9
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Ezekiel 14:6
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Ezekiel 18:30
"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.

Isaiah 55:7
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Follow Jesus
Luke 9:23
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:62
Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

John 12:26
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 15:14
You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Trust Him as Lord and Savior
Acts 16:31
And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Romans 10:9
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Count the cost thoughtfully
Revelation 22:17
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Take up your cross
Mark 10:21
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Mark 8:34-37
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?
Be prepared to follow Christ even to death
John 12:24-25
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Luke 14:26-33
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 10:34-38
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Urgency of trusting Christ
2 Corinthians 5:11
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Isaiah 55:6-7
"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike