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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Discernment and Christian Liberty

MacArthur in chapel at TMC recently preached a message on Christian Liberty and Decision making with ten points, all beginning with the letter “E.” He called them the E's of Decision-Making. These are questions we can ask ourselves when the Scriptures aren't explicit on a particular activity... I'll go back through these later and fill in the Bible references MacArthur cited.

Expedience - will it be profitable?
Edification - will it build me up?
Excess - will it slow me down?
Enslavement - will it bring me into bondage?
Equivocation - will it cover for my sin
Encroachment - will it train my conscience in the wrong direction
Example - will it set a helpful pattern
Evangelism - will it lead others to Christ?
Emulation - WWJD?
Exaltation - will it glorify God?

I think the best way for Christians to learn discernment is to subscribe to the Chapel @ TMC Podcast and start listening to this and other great sermons! :)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Scary Moment Tuesday

I think every parent experiences this at least once in their child's life: a near death experience! Aimee had taken the kids to the pool in the midst of our most recent string of 90 degree days. Suddenly a carefree day at the pool turned to a slow-motion nightmare sequence! Our oldest daughter (age 10) was watching Myles (year and 1/2) as she often does, being very responsible for her age. Tuesday she had a lapse in judgment, though, and sent Myles down a small slide alone, either thinking Aimee was at the bottom to catch him, or that he would be fine in the shallow water, till she went around the other way.

Aimee was near the big blue slide in this picture (several feet to the left of where the kid in the blue shorts is standing). Adriana sent Myles down a much smaller slide on the other side (not visible here).

Aimee was on her way to watch Sophia swim, when something told her-Someone told her-to take one more look at Myles. That is when she saw Myles sun hat floating in the water; he had gone under! It was very shallow water (maybe 2 feet) but Myles, after sliding down, wouldn't stand up. Aimee trudged toward him frantically. One life guard was also running to help, while a second blew a whistle to clear the area. Soon a hushed crowd looked on as Aimee had picked up our boy and instinctively began to pound on his back.

His skin had turned pale white and his eyes were open wide! Thankfully he began coughing and out came some water. Slowly he pinked up and was back to normal after a few minutes. The lifeguard repeatedly asked him if he was ok, and finally he nodded and replied, "Yes." This of course, was the first time he'd ever said the word "yes". He also added some unintelligible words that only babies understand, but his tone of voice conveyed that he was telling them all about what had just happened!

Aimee and I have continued to thank God for his protection and for sparing our boy. We certainly have a deeper appreciation for the gifts of our children and the brevity of life. Of course, God has also used this to remind us to never take our eyes off our kids (especially Myles)!

Here's a picture of Myles in our back yard the day before this happened.

"Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. (Matthew 18:2-6)'"

Friday, August 3, 2007

Pray for modern day martyrs!

The Lord has recently opened my eyes to the fact that all over the world Christians are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. I'm adding (Voice of the Martyrs) to my favorites websites (see below) and will be praying more diligently for persecuted Christians.

Please share if you know of any other resources to share on how to pray for those who are suffering, even to the point of death in many cases, in the name of Christ.

Here are two examples I've come across ...

North Korean Evangelist Faces Death for His Faith
Son Jong Nam awaits public execution because of his faith. For more than a year, the former North Korean Army officer who became an underground evangelist has been beaten and tortured.

Final Testament of Mehdi Dibaj
After spending nine years in an Iranian prison on the charge of apostasy, he was eventually tried before the Islamic courts in December 1993 where he gave this courageous defence.
Due to pressure though from human rights groups, Mehdi Dibaj was released in January 1994. His freedom was short-lived. On June 24th he was returning from a retreat to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. He never arrived for the party and on July 5th the authorities found his murdered body. Click the link for the full story.

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike