Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions for 2009

Had to get a year-end plug for CCWToday in. There is so much great Christian reading on CCW, you really need to check it out!

Jim Elliff recently posted some Bible reading plans here on his blog. I'm especially excited about the NT in 90 days plan.

MacArthur also has a great Bible Study approach that is summarized here. Grab the audio too (links are provided), it's been one of the most helpful and edifying sermons I've ever heard!

To wrap up the 2008 blogs, I'll close with a few resolutions I scribbled down. Some things I'd like to keep in mind for next year ...
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.
21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)
22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God' s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
OK, so I didn't write any of these. In fact, Jonathan Edwards wrote them BEFORE he turned twenty years old! You can read all 70 of his resolutions here. The following words prefaced his resolutions and reminds us how we ought to make and keep resolutions today!
BEING SENSIBLE THAT I AM UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING WITHOUT GOD' S HELP, I DO HUMBLY ENTREAT HIM BY HIS GRACE TO ENABLE ME TO KEEP THESE RESOLUTIONS, SO FAR AS THEY ARE AGREEABLE TO HIS WILL, FOR CHRIST' S SAKE.

Bring in the New Year with a couple of Funny Videos

If you know Dan Warne, you probably saw this already (he posted on FB). Pretty funny stuff ...



This one is "Arminian Basic Training - How to Defeat Calvinism!" (I love the Bible highlighter idea!)



Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life ... on the job!


Some time ago our associate Pastor preached a fantastic sermon, (maybe one of his best), on the first verses of Romans 12. The message was passionate and memorable. At least I remembered to heed his advice to read John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life. I would encourage you to get a copy of this book or read it online.

There are a lot of quote-worthy treats in DWYL. Some day I hope to talk about his "wartime lifestyle" that he describes on page 111. This time, though, I want to quote from the discussion in Chapter 8, "Making Much of Christ From 8 to 5". Perhaps some day Christ will open the door for the Bonhams to serve as full-time missionaries. For now, though, DWYL is a welcome reminder to make much of Christ where we've been strategically placed at this present time! But how?
Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation? I am assuming from all that has been said in this book so far that the aim of life is the same, whether in a secular vocation or in a church or mission vocation. Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do. Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
I won't quote the whole chapter, but I will list these six answers:
1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship
that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our
work.

2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful,
trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.

3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms
and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the
spoken Gospel.

4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning
enough money to keep us from depending on others, while
focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial
rewards.

5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning
money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in
God.

6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the
web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by
sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
For me the most striking was #3. The way we serve Christ and make Him look good at our jobs "confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel." Working hard and with integrity makes the Gospel "play better". Piper explains:
There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel. In addressing slaves, Paul says they are “to be wellpleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10). The point here is not to endorse slavery (which Paul undermined more indirectly by calling the converted slave, Onesimus, “no longer . . . a slave but a beloved brother,” Philemon 16), but to show that the way we do our work “adorns” the doctrine of God.

In other words, our work is not the beautiful woman, but the necklace. The beautiful woman is the Gospel—“the doctrine of God our Savior.” So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers. Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians. The whole point of the text breaks down if there is nothing for our work to “adorn.” Thinking that our work will glorify God when people do not know we are Christians is like admiring an effective ad on TV that never mentions the product. People may be impressed but won’t know what to buy.
For me, this is both an admonishment to work hard at work and with the highest integrity. It also is a reminder to open my mouth in boldness for Christ! I hate those TV ads that are so good or funny but never tell you the product to buy! That's not good marketing, that's just a waste! I don't want my hard work to be for nothing! I want people to know for Whom I work so hard, to make much of Christ!

DWYL is a good little book! I admit it reads a little slow (philisophical?) at the beginning as Piper reminisces about how God got him to where he's at now. It's well worth the effort, though, and has the potential to be life-changing for many!

As we approach the end of 2008, Don't Waste Your 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Penn Jillette discusses evangelism

This video appeared on Pyromaniacs. Penn Jillette (an atheist) explains his very positive encounter with a believer who gave him a Bible.



Hearing this is encouraging, convicting and motivating. Perhaps Jillette does not convert to Christianity, but it was very helpful to hear his perspective.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A night to remember!

That's the way Aimee (my wife) described the night we had at the Nathan Clark George concert last night. Hard pews notwithstanding that was a great way to describe it!

It truly was a special time! Despite the single digit temperatures outside, my family and I were warm inside Redeember Presbyterian enjoying the heart-warming music of Nathan Clark George.

A crowd of maybe 200 (my estimate) enjoyed this intimate concert, as we got to know Nathan, Mark Stoffel (mandolin/violin) player, and Ross Sermons (bass) through their music. We heard a savory mix of Christmas tunes from the very old and well known (O Come, O come Emmanuel) to the old not so well known (Remember O Thou Man), to the more contemporary and well known (I'll Be Home For Christmas). I bought his Christmas CD and it's fantastic. Of course, they also played some of our favorite NCG songs not necessarily Christmas songs.

The acoustics were absolutely perfect for grand old Christ-honoring tunes! The sound was perfect, and Nathan's rapport with the audience was relaxed and comfortable. He was at ease and seemed to sincerely enjoy sharing his G0d-given gift of music. He was clearly praising God for His glory and for our edification and it was a real treat to listen to!

Being a Nathan Clark nut, and not having met him in person, I just had to say hello as he manned his own cd table in the back before the show (we were among the first ones there). I can't imagine anyone being more down-to-earth and humble than Mr. Goerge. When I asked where he was heading next, he explained how this is the last show of the year and talked about his plans for joining his wife and kids in Tennessee. He was also gracious enough to pose with Adriana and I for a couple of photos.




You can listen/buy Nathan Clark George songs here, and please also check out his mondolin player, Mark Stoffel: very talented in his own right and I have to say a very funny German! Stoffel has recently put together his own CD.

It sounds as if Nathan Clark George at Redeemer will become a Christmas tradition. Watch this blog for announcements about next year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I want a Snuggy for Christmas!


Who wouldn't want to stay warm while looking like their favorite Reformer, Martin Luther?



I think I saw some guy wearing this at the Chiefs game today! -10 wind chill! Why not?!?

Reminder: Nathan Clark George Christmas Concert tonight!

REMINDER: Nathan Clark George (read other posts on NCG) will be putting on a free concert this evening at Redeemer Presbyterian tonight at 6:00 pm! See you there!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spurgeon: Our sin is a boa constricter


I came across this quote and had to share. The picture is funny but Spurgeon's quote is spot on and deadly accurate.
It is easier to save us from our sins than from our righteousness. Our self-righteousness is that hideous boa constrictor which seems to coil itself round and round our spirit, and to crush out of us all the life that would receive the gospel of the grace of God. - CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Jesus describes this self-righteousness through a parable in Luke 18:
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
If you have not come to Christ as a lost and helpless sinner, trusting in His perfect righteousness to provide a right standing with God, you will be eternally lost. Why not rather admit your helpless state and trust in the One who has paid for your sin!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Rolfs at State Street 12/12

Friday (12/12/08) was a special day! Devon Rolf and Family came to State Street and played bluegrass and Gospel tunes in the lobby. What a treat to hear the girls proclaiming Christ to the passers by during the lunch hour! Preston and Jonathan from church also came to make sure the sound system sounded great. And boy, did it! Emma's fiddle burst into flames during one of her solos, which nearly set off the internal sprinklers!

Here are some pictures I snapped (sure wish I could have captured the audio!) ...






Devon Rolf, Jonathan Slaven, and Preston Bowman discussing what they miss (and don't miss) about working in a big corporation.





Thank you Devon and Rebecca (back row), Annie and Abby (twins in white sweaters), and Heidi (front row), and Emma (right)!

You can catch the Rolf family perform in Branson this May!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The bridge is broken!


"I have heard of an army, who, being defeated in battle, endeavored to make good a retreat. The soldiers fled to a certain river, where they expected to find a bridge across which they could retreat and be in safety. But when they came to the stream, there was heard a shriek of terror--'The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!' All in vain was that cry, for the multitude hurrying on behind pressed upon those that were before and forced them into the river, until the stream was glutted with the bodies of drowned men.

Such must be the fate of the self-righteous. You thought there was a bridge of ceremonies, that baptism, confirmation, and the Lord's Supper made up the solid arches of a bridge of good works and duties. But when you come to die, there shall be heard the cry, 'The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!' It will be in vain for you to turn round then."
Thank you Spurgeon for this reminder that we can't get to God by crossing a bridge of our own good works or by keeping a moral code. It breaks my heart to think of my friends who think they can get right with God this way.

The December e-Letter of Just For Catholics discusses the Pope's recent words on justification. Dr Joseph Mizzi does an excellent job of making the issue of justification by faith alone clear. You can read the article here on his blog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Man who lost his family asks for prayer for the pilot

From CNN ...

A Korean immigrant who lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family's house said Tuesday he did not blame the pilot, who ejected and survived.
Dong Yun Yoon addresses reporters Tuesday, a day after a jet crashed into his home and killed four of his relatives.

Dong Yun Yoon addresses reporters Tuesday, a day after a jet crashed into his home and killed four of his relatives.

"Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident," a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday's crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego's University City community.

"He is one of our treasures for the country," Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

"I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could," said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego's Korean community, relatives and members from the family's church.

Authorities said four people died when the jet crashed into the Yoon family's house while the pilot was trying to reach nearby Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Another unoccupied house also was destroyed.

Yoon named the victims as his infant daughter Rachel, who was born less than two months ago; his 15-month-old daughter Grace; his wife, Young Mi Yoon, 36; and her 60-year-old mother, Suk Im Kim, who he said had come to the United States from Korea recently to help take care of the children.

Read the whole story and watch video of Yoon addressing the media.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nathan Clark George @ Redeemer & Rolfs at SSKC

A couple of Christmas concerts to let you know about (get your sharpies out; you'll want to mark these on your calendars!)

First, Nathan Clark George will be doing a free Christmas concert at Redeemer Presbyterian on Sunday evening, December 21st. The tentative time is 6:00 pm, but check his website for updates. Bring $$$ to buy his music!

If you don't know who NCG is, you obviously don't read my blog so you're probably not reading this post either! Or are you?!? If you missed these posts, click here and here ... or just go to his website. NCG is my favorite musician 'of his kind' (of which there is no other.)

Second concert to let you know about: The exquisite Rolf family (Devon Rolf that is) will be performing in the StateStreet Tower 1 lobby on December 12th at noon. You're welcome to come by and listen. There is a public cafeteria in the building so come early to eat, then enjoy the bluegrass and Gospel tunes! Not sure but I think someone who works at StateStreet might have organized this!

Here is a map. The Rolfs will be in 801 Penn (which is the one with the StateStreet sign)...


View Larger Map

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Adriana!


I saved this post for Thanksgiving, because God has given our family much to praise and thank Him for, in sparing our daughter, Adriana (11), on Sunday.

She had a violent, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to some mixed nuts, despite no previous reactions to peanuts/tree nuts before this. Very quickly, Adriana had hives all over her body, face, tongue and throat (which quickly swelled up affecting her breathing.) She could have died.

In fact, had she been with us in Spring Hill (15 minutes from the nearest hospital) she might not have made it to Olathe. By God's grace she was at Grandma's house in Paola (which has a hospital in town.) We now have an Epi-Pen so that she can be injected to stop an allergic reaction, giving us time to get her to the hospital.

Adriana is fine now, but coping with a life without nuts (no pecan pie!) until we can see an allergist in December to determine exactly what she's allergic to.

We're obviously very thankful we still have our little girl!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now Thank We All Our God!



I'm thankful for Joni Eareckson Tada. My wife gets her daily devotional and often shares with me. Today's was a gem.
"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:15)"

I have this game. Well… really, it’s more than a game. For me, it’s serious fun. In my travels around the world, I will sometimes find myself in a great, cavernous hall or cathedral. If it’s empty and no one is around, I will fill the place with music by singing one particular hymn—“Now Thank We All Our God”—as loud as I can. I think it’s important to remind these great places of who designed them, who is King of their space, and that they are only great because God gave the ideas to the architects in the first place.

The first big, important place I remember singing this hymn was in a railway station at eleven o’clock at night with a few of my friends from high school choir. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices…. The second place was in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Then there was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and Westminster Abbey in London. Who from our mothers’ arms, has blessed us on our way, With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. And just last fall when I toured the Sydney Opera House, someone said, “Hey Joni, want to sing something?” I could think of no better song to fill the wide-open spaces of that world-renowned, acoustically-perfect concert hall than to sing my signature hymn. Everywhere you and I go, everywhere we visit, every place, every square foot of ground, is territory we can claim for a song for the God of all nations.

********

Try it! The next time you’re in a big empty building—or even the great cathedral out-of-doors, declare his praise out loud… in a psalm, a chorus, a hymn, or a shout!

Great God and Savior, may your praise be on my lips more and more as the days and weeks of this year slip by.
I'm thankful for this hymn Joni introduces.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
I'm thankful for the story behind the hymn.
Martin Rinkart (cir­ca 1636), a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny, dur­ing the Thir­ty Years’ War. The walled ci­ty of Eil­en­burg saw a stea­dy stream of re­fu­gees pour through its gates. The Swed­ish ar­my sur­round­ed the ci­ty, and fa­mine and plague were ramp­ant. Eight hund­red homes were de­stroyed, and the peo­ple be­gan to per­ish. There was a tre­men­dous strain on the pas­tors who had to con­duct do­zens of fun­er­als dai­ly. Fi­nal­ly, the pas­tors, too, suc­cumbed, and Rink­art was the on­ly one left—doing 50 fun­er­als a day. When the Swedes de­mand­ed a huge ran­som, Rink­art left the safe­ty of the walls to plead for mer­cy. The Swed­ish com­mand­er, im­pressed by his faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands. Soon af­ter­ward, the Thir­ty Years’ War end­ed, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand cel­e­bra­tion ser­vice. It is a test­a­ment to his faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.
We have much to be grateful for in America, even in this current financial downturn. Our God is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Adoption is a picture of the Gospel!

My friend Luke talked about adoption in our Bible study group at work. He mentioned that his church is really getting behind this ministry, after having seen a video from the Project123 site-based on James 1:23
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction (James 1:27a)
Here is the video



Luke and his his wife (with two biological sons already) have sought to join their church in this ministry. In the last year, they have been very close to adopting only to endure the disappointment of the birth mother choosing another family.

Luke attended a conference called Together for Adoption, which focuses on "vertical" and "horizontal" adoption.
Together for Adoption (T4A) sponsors regional adoption conferences that focus primarily on vertical adoption (i.e., God adopting us in Christ), with a secondary focus on its implications for orphan care and horizontal adoption (i.e., couples adopting children). In fulfillment of our objectives, we desire to see conference attendees walk away from a T4A event:
  • understanding why it is that vertical adoption is the highest blessing of the gospel
  • rejoicing afresh in the gospel
  • moved to act on James 1:27 both locally and globally
My hope in posting this is that you will visit some of the links on adoption (see below) and be reminded of the believer's glorious adoption into God's family through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Having meditated on the truth of our undeserved adoption, perhaps you will be led to consider adoption in your family.Luke mentioned a quote from a speaker at the conference. He said, "We should all have our heart in adoption, but we will not all have our hands in it." In other words, even if you are not led to adopt, you can encourage and support those who do and the organizations that assist them.Here are some sites to check out:

The Gospel in 6 Minutes

This is from DesiringGod.com ...

What's the Gospel?
What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.
That’s the gospel.

You Can't Outgrow the Gospel
You never, never, never outgrow your need for it. Don’t ever think of the gospel as, “That’s the way you get saved, and then you get strong by leaving it and doing something else.” No! We are strengthened by God through the gospel every day, till the day we drop. You never outgrow the need to preach to yourself the gospel.

How the Gospel Strengthens
Here’s an illustration, and I use it not because it’s any big deal to speak from my life, but because it’s what I walked through and where I most pointedly in the last year experienced the power of the gospel to make me strong. (Many of you are walking through things much heavier than prostate cancer—much heavier.)

Do you remember the verses that I shared with you back in February that were almighty for me? It was that moment right after the doctor says, “I think we need to do a biopsy,” when this stab of fear comes. It didn’t last long, mercifully.
And then came—what? 1Thessalonians 5:9-10. It’s just as pure gospel as you can get.
God has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,who died for you so that whether you wake or sleep you will live with him.
Settled. Peace like a river.

The Gospel Is Perfect for Your Needs
That’s just gospel—perfectly timed, perfectly applied, perfectly suited to my need. That’s why the Bible is so thick—because there are so many different needs that you have. And there are suitable places where the gospel is unfolded for you, so that if you immerse yourself in the whole book, always with an eye for what Christ has wrought for you and purchased for you in this thick, glorious history of God’s interaction with people, he will give you what you need.

Therefore, everything in me says, and I hope to say until the day I die, “Now, to him who is able to strengthen me, according to Paul’s gospel, to him—to that God—be glory forever and ever.” God came into history in Jesus Christ; he died in order to destroy the power of hell and death and Satan and sin; and he did it through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Plea to Believe
I know that there are people reading this who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation. So I’m just going to plead with you here at the end, lay down that rebellion. Lay it down. And simply embrace the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Righteous One, died for your sins. He was raised on the third day, triumphant over all his enemies. He reigns until he puts all of his enemies under his feet. Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.

I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the gospel.
Don’t put it off.

[This text is an edited transcript of the audio. It is excerpted from the sermon, “God Strengthens Us by the Gospel.”]

You can hear the audio of this message here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Romans Wordles

Here are a few 'wordles' of Romans I made using Wordle.net. I copied the text from BibleGateway, then put the result in Notepad. Then I did edit/replace to get rid of all verse numbers. Enjoy!







Ever read through Paul's glorious letter to the Romans? Why not pick it up today?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journey to Financial Freedom


Just a quick note to give praise and thanks to God for answering our prayer to pay off our most daunting credit card. We held this one for 12 years and have ALWAYS carried a balance, with interest rates up to 23%. God impressed on a good friend to confront me with my sinful lack of diligence and responsibility in this area. We are now committed to free up our finances to be used by the Lord for His purposes. Our credit card debt has dropped 58% after that talk. Once these are gone we will trust God to continue with our other debt!

Like us, if you carry credit card debt, please go to your knees and plead with God for wisdom and strength. Then watch for Him do amazing things in answering your prayers! BUT DON'T JUST WATCH, He is calling you to actively do what it requires to get out of debt (and this will mean sacrifice). But do all this in His power and strength!

Jim Elliff has written at least two great articles about finance. Please read!

Dying with Debt
7 Principles of Finance for the Believer

Thanks to those who have counseled, prayed and encouraged us on this journey! We will update periodically to boast in the LORD!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fall pictures

Just wanted to share a few fall pictures.

First, a couple of pics of Myles enjoying the KC Pumpkin Patch. He's got some older buddies (the House boys) who he loves to hang out with. Here he is with one joyfully running to the next attraction.



You have to enlarge this one and notice the complete joy on his face as he goes down the slide!


Perhaps the caption for this one should read. "Granddad and Myles have heart-to-heart talk after Myles knocks out soccer kid." (this is NOT what happened, just kind of looked like it)

A couple weeks ago, Aimee painted our living room walls as high as she could, then I finished up with a friend's scaffolding and ladders (thanks Mark!) to get those really high walls!


We are getting our house ready to sell and painting was a huge step that is now out of the way!

Finally, our dear friend Deb shot some family pics at the OP Arboretum. It was a beautiful day and the pics came out great!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Augustine!

Happy Birthday, Augustine of Hippo! The great Christian leader was, next to Paul and Christ, the most influential to Christianity!

He loves Thee too little
Who loves anything together with Thee,
Which he loves not for Thy sake.
-Augustine

Monday, November 10, 2008

The heavens declare the glory of God ...


I learned recently the number of stars that are estimated to be in our 'observable universe', with the aid of telescopes and computers.

That number is 10 to the 25th power or 1 followed by 25 zero's ...

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!

It has made me praise God for His incredible creative power, and it's blown my mind to think that this Creator sent Christ to die in my place for my sin, giving me an eternal relationship with the One who created this infinite universe!
Found a great article that discusses this and puts it in perspective ...

I hope this causes you to rejoice in the Lord (always - Phil 4:4) despite the fact that it's Monday.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Good article on a Christian response to the election ...

My wife's cousin, an Obama-supporter, sent a 'mass email' with a quote from Leon Wieseltier, of The New Republic:
“Americans who were not moved by what happened the other night were in some way un-American. A dry eye was a misinterpretation of American history.”
For the most part I agree. Many tears were shed, but those who voted ProLife were not shedding giddy tears of joy. But all is not lost. The Lord still reigns!

I loved these helpful words from 'My 2 Cents' ...
America has a new President-elect—one to whom most evangelicals (myself included) were opposed during the election due to his stance on abortion. So what?

* So we rejoice and rest in God’s sovereignty (Dan 2; 4:34-35; Psalm 75:5-7; Prov 21:1).

* So we start praying for our new leaders (1 Tim 2:1-4).

* So we put to rest the hysteria that I’ve heard from many Christians and pastors. Some have suggested that the future of the church and our ability to minister the gospel hung in the balance along with Oval Office during this election (and the ones in 2000 and 2004). Well, here’s a news flash: The gates of hell are no closer to prevailing against Christ’s church today than they were last week, last century, or during any political regime of the last 2000 years (Matt 16:18). The church will be fine. Mercy, it might be better off. The progress of the gospel has never depended on governmental leaders. It has thrived under Presidents, Kings, Emperors, and Dictators (2 Tim 2:9b). It will continue to do so.
Read the entire article, ...

Christians and the Obama Administration

You won't be sorry.

Finally, here's a funny picture I found today ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Abiding, Not Striving or Struggling


The following is from Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes.

Missionary pioneer J. Hudson Taylor of China was working and worrying so frantically that his health was about to break. Just when his friends feared he was near a breakdown, Taylor received a letter from fellow missionary John McCarthy that told of a discovery McCarthy had made from John 15—the joy of abiding in Christ. McCarthy’s letter said in part:
Abiding, not striving or struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power … this is not new, and yet ’tis new to me.… Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy.
As Hudson Taylor read this letter at his mission station in Chin-kiang on Saturday, September 4, 1869, his own eyes were opened. “As I read,” he recalled, “I saw it all. I looked to Jesus, and when I saw, oh how the joy flowed!” Writing to his sister in England, he said:
As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul.… When the agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith but by resting on the Faithful One.”

As I read, I saw it all!.… As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured into my soul!

Friday, October 24, 2008

5 Solas of the Reformation

Saw this in a friend's signature line at the bottom of an email ...

We know from Sola Scriptura,
We are saved by Sola Gratia,
through Sola Fide,
in Solus Christus,
to Soli Deo Gloria.

For more on the 5 Solas, click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Review of Fireproof


I had the privilege of taking Aimee to see Fireproof this weekend and was not at all disappointed! Fireproof is powerful and entertaining. It is the ultimate date-movie!

It has gripping action that had me nearly pulling my fingers off! It has sincere, believable characters that anyone can relate to; this is no Disney fairy tale! It mixes in hilarious comedy in just the right places! Most importantly, it points to Christ as the answer, not just to marital problems but to the answer of man's greatest need, reconciliation with God. And yet, it doesn't show an unrealistic 'prosperity gospel' where everything instantly turns around the moment someone 'finds Jesus'.

The movie closes with this verse on the screen.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
What a joy to see God's Word written on theater screens across the country, for millions to see and consider! Go see this movie, but be prepared. Aimee calls it a 'true love story'. It's not sappy at all, but there was not a dry eye in the house. We heard many sniffles and even a few honks (honking noses not firetrucks)!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Birthday Blog

Before my b-day festivities commence (I turn 33 today!), just had to get a couple things out.

First, I found a great article about Limited Atonement. It shows convincingly that the difficult doctrine of limited (particular) atonement is inseparably linked to the other five Biblical points of Calvinism. Here is the compelling article by John Hendryx ...

Is it Possible to Deny Limited Atonement?

On the lighter side, I really like the SacredSandwich website. It's funny. Click the Twin Theologians for a very funny review of the new movie Fireproof.

Also, by far one of the funniest things I have ever read (certainly in the last month), is about what happens when a church potluck dinner goes terribly wrong!

It will certainly make you think twice about bringing green-bean casserole!

Churchgoers Survive Potluck Nightmare

Finally, here is a poem I came across in MacArthur's Think Biblically! (p. 53) Kate B. Wilkenson expresses what our desire should be as followers of Christ:
May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow'r controlling
All I do and say

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Early October Happenings

It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I thought I'd post a few things to let you know what God's been doing...

1) I was sent to Boston for work last week. Only my first business trip in 8 years at State Street so I loved it! While not working, I had a good time walking the historic city and meeting Peter, a Christian brother I'd met through the Bible Study Network group at work. Here are pictures (mostly buildings and monuments, but there's a couple of pictures of the people I work with and my buddy, Peter).

Peter shared an amazing testimony of how the Lord preserved him during a period of unemployment and brought him through the trial--he has 5 kids--to the company he's at now. He is paid more and hopes to start up a Bible study network group like we have at State Street!

2) I had posted a recent blog to get the word out about the Omaha Bible Church annual conference featuring D.A. Carson. I did not have an opportunity to go, but they have posted all the messages here ... Making Sense of Suffering with D.A. Carson

3) While God answered my prayers with a 'no' on the Omaha Conference, that opened the door for me to go to a Chinese outreach event at the Balmans farm in Wellsville. I go to church with a brother in Christ who opens up his farm for events hosted by Countryside, such as the Men's Steak-Out, Battle at the Balmans (teens), and this year's 2nd annual Chinese Outreach Event.

It was really neat to spend time in fellowship with some from our church and the Chinese from their fellowship which meets in the north part of KC. Mike Sanders drove the church van to pick up the 50-some Chinese, and then we played volleyball, basketball, trap shooting, and other games. We had an American meal of hamburgers and hot-dogs cooked on a giant grill. Pastor Bryan Neal and I assisted Mike Sanders with the grill (we were also assisted by a young man named Yao Ming--I kid you not, apparently it's a pretty common name in China!) He is a good cook in Chinese food and was determined to learn some American cooking! Not sure he learned much from us three, but at the lest he got the feel for what Americans do.

After the meal, we gathered around a bonfire for some delightful Chinese Christian music. The believers in the fellowship shared a few songs in Chinese after explaining what the lyrics were, all very honoring to Christ our Lord. Then we heard from our associate pastor, Otto Skoog, who gave his testimony through an interpreter, Manuel. Manuel is a brilliant Chinese linguist. He knows at least 4 languages, but his second language was Spanish (thus he goes by Manuel). He also knows English, and Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese Chinese. Otto shared a powerful testimony of how God rescued him from a rebellious life of sin and unbelief. Though once an athiest, God opened his eyes to his need for salvation through Jesus!

What a great night of fellowship with these Chinese brothers and getting the opportunity to reach out to some of the unbelievers in the group as well. I have no doubt that God will mightily use Pastor Otto's testimony in the lives of several of the atheistic/agnostic Chinese friends.

On Sunday, Brian Balman shared with me that he'd been reading Psalm 107 and how it echoed much of the truth we heard Saturday. What a great passage that reminds us of our darkness before we came to know Christ, and the thankfulness of those who have cried out to God in mercy, who alone can reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ!
1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
3and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rolf Family to perform Saturday, Oct 11th!


(click to enlarge flyer)

Just wanted to let people know that the Rolf's will be playing in a concert Saturday. If you haven't seen the Rolfs perform yet you're missing out! What a treat! They play for the glory of God and proclaim Christ in their songs and testimony! Here are the details ...
Saturday, Oct. 11th at 7:00pm. The Alferd Packer Memorial String band will be performing. They are a talented and very funny band that keeps you entertained all evening long. Due to the PCC renovation, this will be held at the Paola Middle School auditorium. Tickets are only $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Opening up the show will be the Rolf family from right here in Paola. If you have not heard them yet, you are missing out. Both of these groups perform fun, family-friendly bluegrass acoustic music that everyone’s sure to enjoy. Tickets can be purchased at the Paola Chamber of Commerce office, Gail’s Glass, or by calling me at 731-3972. Call today for your tickets!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Complete in Christ - Spurgeon

Great quote by Charles Spurgeon:
Our salvation is complete. The robe of righteousness in which we are clad is finished. The atonement for our sins is fully made. We are reconciled to God, beloved of the Father, preserved by his grace, and supplied by His providence with all that we need. We carry all our burdens to him and leave them at this feet. We spend our lives in his service, and we find his ways to be ways of pleasantness, and his paths to be paths of peace. Oh, yes, we have found rest unto our souls! I recollect the first day that I ever rested in Christ, and I did rest that day. And so will all of you who trust in Jesus as I trusted in him.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Skid Row - Part 4

Dan shared these prayer requests...

Hey, I thought I'd post these Skid Row prayer requests. Please remember that every name has a face and a story of desperate need. They are what we collected as a group. Thanks Jillian!

*****************

Please pray for:

- Jesus: a little difficult to understand because of the language barrier and we're not sure how well he understood us either. Pray that he would read his Bible and that the Holy Spirit would speak it to his heart.
- David: Jewish, heroin addict. Really opened up to us about his life and listened as we shared the gospel with him. Pray that he wouldn't see it just as what works for us, but as the hope he needs to be reconciled to God.
- Larry: out of gas, searching and responsive to the gospel.
- Nato: has glaucoma
- Leanne: still very sick
- Warren: didn't believe Scripture was God's word
- Evelyn: wants to see her children, addicted to heroin, needs Hope
- Sheri: alcoholic, raped and abused, pray that she'd understand the gospel
- Johnny Boy: really quiet, talked to him about God
- Dolphus: has a "choice to make"
- St. Louis: wife just got out of hospital, pray for her healing, daughter pregnant and about to have baby, pray that he'd grow closer to Christ
- Teddy: rough life, drug abuse, beginning to understand gospel
- Jermaine and fiancee Natalia: son Nyrel, Jermaine has "learning problem"
- Rod: son, health and well-being
- Victor
- Wolfgang and Evan: from Germany, pretty hard to understand, they were looking for money they had lost
- Mike: was presented with the gospel very clearly, listened intently but said "not right now" when asked if he would like to respond in any way
- Alonzo: hateful to the truths of Christ that were presented to him
- Ricardo
- David: young man was on drugs, asked for food, spent time talking with our group and was impacted by the care they showed him
- Heather: mental stability, has been in and out of hospitals for 17 years
- Tony, Tony and Linda: need housing. Linda can't find her granddaughter
- Wydell
- Jonathan: housing, strength, salvation
- Jenn: health benefits, healing of ribs
- Dawnetta: restoration with son, get him off streets, stop selling drugs
- Nicholas: get into program, salvation
- Kadeem: understand gospel and deity of Christ.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Skid Row - Part 3

September 19-20, 2008

I spent my time on Skid Row tonight being challenged in what I was doing. I did not have the opportunity to talk with any of the homeless, but I was encouraged by my talk with Siona, thinking through what Skid Row has meant to me the last three weeks.

Skid Row has challenged me in so many ways. I have found that my faith is strengthened by going and sharing the gospel with people. This surprised me at first, because my thought has always been “I need to be super strong and not experiencing much struggle with sin or doubts whatsoever if I’m going to share the gospel from the right heart”. What I have found is this – sharing the gospel with people has actually strengthened my faith!

I think it stems from this: at TMC I am constantly taking in excellent Bible teaching, learning from professors and chapel speakers, being challenged by godly friends to run hard after God and to forsake sin – at times this can almost weigh down on me in the sense that I am being challenged so much that I focus almost entirely on the war within, and forget that Christ has paid for my sins and brought me out of the kingdom of darkness into his marvelous light! It’s almost as if we (Christians) tend to surround ourselves with so much light that we forget what darkness looks like – and the areas of sin within us can discourage us to the point of feeling as if we were in the very darkness we’ve been saved from!

What I’ve experienced on Skid Row is that I am faced with people who walk in complete darkness. I don’t mean because they are homeless (that is not a sin in itself) or because some smoke crack and others sell their bodies for unnatural uses – I mean they do not know Christ. They are completely dead and blind. When I talk with them and share the gospel with them, I realize that I have a hope that they do not have, and that I have seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6) – they never have! My doubts and discouragement fade as I see the Holy Spirit working through me and God placing me in situations where He can use me and glorify Himself.

As I said, tonight I spent my time being challenged in what I was doing. I met up with Chris Sykes again. He can come across very intense! He told us (after discussing some very difficult things) that he likes to ask very hard questions so that we all think about what we’re doing. I won’t go in to all the details of our conversations, but they revolved around motives, answering some of the arguments people will come against us with (role-playing the scenario with the guy railing at us from last week, only in a calmer way), and grilling us on our presentation of the gospel. He emphasized the need to get to know people, saying that he didn’t “know” Siona or me, or us him, because we haven’t cultivated a relationship yet with him (which is true). He stressed the dilemma that we face coming down from TMC and not being able to follow-up well with people we talk to. I learned a great deal from our conversation, even though Chris can be a little intimidating! I felt discouraged somewhat talking to him, somewhat confused and offended even, but in the end I could see that all he meant was to be honest and helpful.

As Chris helped us see some of these things, three of our group members were peering down into a large cardboard-box walled off area and talked with Alonzo and another person inside about Christ. They were receiving abusive speech in return, especially from Alonzo who was yelling and cursing the Truth they were being offered.

A man named Mike walked up. He was an older white guy with a ponytail and deep wrinkles in his face. We met him and gave him some water. Chris turned and preached the gospel to him like I’ve never seen. He was concise, to the point, thorough. He said, roughly “Can we talk with you a minute Mike? We’re down here telling people about Jesus Christ. Can I ask you a question – if you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” Mike answered, genuinely and softly, “No, not really.” Chris then told him the good news, and warned him of the wrath to come. He asked him, “Mike, would you like to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior”. Mike said, “Uh – not right now”. So Chris bid him a good night and Mike went on his way. It was incredible. No pressure, concise and thorough, hope balanced with sufficient warning of the consequences of unbelief.

We were a little late getting back to the cars, by the time we all got on the road it was around 1:00 A.M.

Please continue to pray for this ministry – both for the people on Skid Row, their salvation and their safety, as well as for those of us trying very hard to learn how to bridge very real cultural gaps and be effective for Christ in such a hard place to know how to best minister the gospel.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Skid Row - Part 2

September 12 – 13, 2008

I went to Skid Row for the second time tonight. I think we had even more people this time, somewhere around forty people. We went to Del Taco where I had some fun putting together a makeshift mariachi band with some friends, making different instrument sounds with our voices and yelling occasionally like mariachis do! After that I got back on the road with my buddy Blaise and two other gents, Travis from TMS and Tim, and we headed down to City Union Mission. I appreciated his patience with me as I cruised the radio stations for quality Mexican jams. It was fun times in the “pod” (aka Honda Element).

I got to be in a group with Travis, Ashley (from Mexico City), and Savannah. We prayed then headed up to the street. Once again, it seemed so foreign and surreal in a lot of ways, tents lining the streets, people milling about. It was a quieter night. A lot of police were patrolling the area, which might have had something to do with it.

As soon as we began our walk we saw two transvestite men lingering by the side of the road. We offered them tacos and they accepted. We didn’t stop to talk with them, and it’s been bothering me all night. I admit that I was repulsed, but these guys weren’t on drugs or alcohol, and would have been coherent enough to understand what we had to say, regardless of their openness to the gospel. I’m praying hard that God would show me wisdom in handling that sort of situation in the future. I want to love people enough that no matter how repulsive or frightening their sin, I will still reach out to them and share the truth with them.

About then, I saw a man I recognized. His name is Chris, and I had the great pleasure of making his acquaintance last Friday. Chris is a believer who spends his nights preaching to the homeless people on Skid Row. He is uniquely qualified for this task because he used to be one of them. I don’t know much of his history, but from what I hear he has an apartment in the area.

What was so funny is that Travis, the seminarian, didn’t know Chris, and started sharing the gospel with him. It was actually another man that pointed to Chris and said “You should tell him about Jesus”. Chris totally pulled Travis’ leg, saying “Jesus – who’s that?” He kept looking my way and grinning – actually, he’s always smiling but he had that look in his eye like “Yeah, you know it”! Travis started sharing about Adam and Eve, and sin, and Chris kept throwing him curveballs ("Adam and Eve?", "You believe God told a bunch of men to write that book?"), seeming to be a very lost soul to Travis but totally playing “devil’s advocate”. I was trying not to blow his cover, but then one of our TMC guys walked by, looked back and said “Chris, he’s preaching to you?” and started laughing. About that time a bunch more people walked by, giving Chris hugs and saying hey. So the cat was out of the bag. Chris tagged along with us, and spent much of his time discussing the method of evangelism with Travis. They didn’t see eye to eye – it was interesting to me to see the seminarian meet the street evangelist, and to see how their respective Scripture knowledge compared/contrasted. I tried to soak up what I could from Chris’ experience on the streets and how he approached people with the gospel, with gentleness and with boldness, the balance of the two looking different depending on the situation.

We made it a little further down the road this weekend. I passed Clarence’s tent but it was zipped up. We crossed the street and kept offering people tacos. I actually saw the man who came up and asked Siona and I to pray for him when we were praying for Clarence. He was smoking a cigarette and didn’t appear to be on drugs. I didn’t get to talk to him. I’m not sure he remembered me, but he did raise his hand to me when I did so to him. We tried to offer a taco to a girl sitting on the sidewalk with her back to the wall. She refused, to hazed by the drugs she was smoking. Chris preached the gospel to a man standing next to her. It was so cool! He was very direct and confrontational, but the man was very open to listen to him, perhaps because of Chris’ ever-present smile.

About that time we met a lady named Maria. We offered her a taco and actually talked to her for the rest of our time there, probably an hour and a half or so. Ashley and I spoke to her in Spanish, Savannah tried to keep up the best she could listening. Maria is from Sonora, Mexico. Skid Row has been her home for ten years, out of the forty she’s been in the States. She is a house cleaner but doesn’t get paid regularly. She spends her nights inside at 38th and Broadway, but tonight she was trying to get in to a mission in the area we were at. She said most likely she’d have to sleep outside. After chit-chatting for awhile, we asked her if she attended a church, she said no. She said that she’d tried to commit suicide on the train tracks a couple of times and was rescued. Some of her attempts at suicide had left her almost dead in the hospital; three times she told us she’s felt herself “fading”, only to come back before dying.

I was able to share a very thorough gospel presentation with her, talking about how Jesus is our hope and telling her the story of how in Him we can know the end of the story (either Revelation 7 or 20 – eternal life worshiping the Father, or eternal suffering in the lake of fire). I explained how Jesus came to earth to show us the Father, and to die for our sins. Even though we explained that eternal life and peace and joy are found in following Him as Lord, and that a life without hope that ended in eternal suffering was to be found without Him, she wasn’t really interested. She said she didn’t think she could really do it and be faithful. She said she didn’t really think God forgives sin over and over. My heart broke for her, because even though we were showing her these things from God’s Word, the eyes of her heart were very clearly blinded and unable to see them (2 Corinthians 4:4). We prayed for her, that God would save her from the streets, but more importantly that she would repent and turn to Him. After that we talked for quite a bit longer. She warned us that further up the street it’s “really bad, that’s where they inject drugs into their veins”. I hope that our group has the opportunity to reach out to those people as well, as I know some have in the past.

As we were talking to Maria, a fight broke out in front of a mission we were near, a guy walked by and laughed, “free for all, just like the wild, wild west”. Periodically as we talked to Maria, people would walk by and say “Get out! Take your lies somewhere else!” cursing and hurling insults at us and the God we represented. It was an honor to receive these insults for the sake of His name.

A black man walked up and began to rant and rave, repeating over and over “Lies! Lies!” and going off about how white people used this religion to enslave his people. His language was foul and his attitude dripping with hatred. Chris, who is black, stepped in and was actually pretty funny as he countered the man’s assessment of Christianity as “white lies”. The man pointed out all the cops, and Chris made a fake “duck and run” laughing and eventually ignoring the man, explaining to Travis as he did so that sometimes it’s ok to just let people talk. After the man finally left, Chris told Travis, “Even though I don’t like you, God told me not to let the man walk all over my brother like that. I don’t like you – cuz you’re from Oregon, and you’re a Beaver (college football), but you’re my brother and I love you”.

That was the end of our night. Every time I go I can’t wait to go back. Every minute down there is worth it, and the benefit that it has been to my own faith and my own desire to dig into God’s Word even more has been incredible. We serve Jesus Christ, our hope ( 1 Timothy 1:1)!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Skid Row - Part 1

A dear brother in Christ, Dan, is a senior at the Masters College in California. This semester, he's been involved in a ministry that goes out to the notorious Skid Row area in Los Angeles, to share the Gospel of Christ. They go out on Fridays and Dan writes an online journal on Facebook afterwords. I asked him if I could post these here because they've been very insightful and eye-opening. Enjoy.

9/7/08
Hey everybody,

I'm going to start posting notes about Skid Row. These are not in any way for bragging or looking good, but just to share my experiences down there with you. I hope that it is encouraging and challenging. Please pray for the groups that go down every Friday night!

Skid Row – September 5-6, 2008

Tonight I stepped into what felt like another world. At about 9:00 PM I stepped out onto Skid Row. Skid Row is where the greatest concentration of homeless people is found in L.A. From what I am told, it is the greatest concentration of homeless people anywhere in the United States. A group of college students from TMC goes down every Friday night to pass out tacos from Del Taco and talk with people, trying to show Christ’s love physically while at the same time pointing them to the Gospel and their spiritual need for a Savior. This was the first night that I went.

We parked in the underground parking lot at City Union Mission. After praying together, we took an elevator up and exited the building. The word that comes to mind that best describes the atmosphere is “surreal”. The street was lit well enough to see but the poor lighting cast a strange tinge on everything. Tents and cardboard boxes lined the sides of the street. As the night went on I realized that however strange and removed this place seemed, it was very much a reality and filled with people who desperately need the Lord.

I was in a group with Siona, Corrie, and Katie. We talked with a gentleman named “Si”, “Like yes in Spanish”, as he said to us. He was sitting in his tent selling cigarettes and paper flowers in plastic tubes. I didn’t realize until just as I was writing this that these plastic tubes were the same tubes being used to smoke crack. The girls kneeled down to share with Si and his companion, a woman, in the back of the tent. I stood and kept an eye on all that was going on around us.

Siona was to my left being approached by a man with an almost-empty bottle of Jack stuck in his sweatpants. He began to tell us about how we were doing things all wrong – that we “needed to be living like the people, in tents, smoking crack, etc. etc. etc. because that’s how we would be in tune with the truth and communicate love”. I can’t recount everything that he said, both because of the blasphemy and the language and the utter confusion of his theology. He was funny at times, and Siona and I did laugh at some of the statements he made. The sad thing was to see someone who knew so much about the Bible, and so many true facts, but at the same time be so utterly lost and blasphemous in his drunken state. Corrie attempted to counter his false utterances, to no avail. I suspect that in situations like that it is better to listen, learn, and pray for the unreceptive spirit demonstrated. He continued for a good twenty to thirty minutes.

As all this was going on I was struck with the feeling that I was in a whirling cloud of wickedness. A couple feet away was a panel van, and men were coming in and out of it every couple of minutes. I suspect that it was either drug related, or prostitution. Three feet behind me a car played loud music, and several men were gathered around the car “getting their groove on”, very drunk. A very tall transvestite walked up and began to say the most grossly immoral things I’ve ever heard someone say. I didn’t turn around and see all that was happening, but just the thought that directly behind me a man was propositioning himself to men, directly to my right a man was drunk and blaspheming and twisting truth and Scripture and mixing it with utter lies. As we continued listening to Israel (the man with the bottle of Jack and the grievous understanding of Scripture) a man behind me apparently tried to make a move on the transvestite, because I was bowled into when the transvestite shoved the man into me, almost creating a domino effect and sending Corrie and I into Si’s tent.

Eventually Israel left, and I talked with Siona about what had happened. He told me that in situations like that he is constantly praying for grace and wisdom when to speak and when to keep silent. I told him that even though Israel was so lost and blasphemous, some of his comments had some truth. If we are going to reach these people for Christ, can we do so by coming from Santa Clarita once a week, only to return to our warm homes with internet access and soft pillows? When we prepare for foreign missions, we learn to live in the geographical and cultural reality, and trusting God to protect us in his sovereignty, we go. We send people to China, Baghdad, Northern Africa, and hostile tribes across the world, where death, disease, and hunger are very real prices paid for sharing the Gospel. However, I can remember being told on many occasions things such as “Oh, you’re going to downtown KC? Keep your windows rolled up!” Would I be willing to learn to live among the thousands of homeless people in L.A., risking my life and health, in order to share the gospel? Would any of us? If not, are we being inconsistent? Prejudiced? Cowardly?

After Israel left, we moved a couple feet down the sidewalk and were able to talk to a man named Clarence and his wife who were from Tucson, vacationing! He told us of his belief in God, and what he knew. The girls told me later that the woman was a believer, as far as they could tell. She suffered from a football-sized tumor and bleeding ulcers, causing her incredible pain. We were able to give them tacos and pizza. Siona and I saw the girls praying for the lady so we asked Clarence if we could pray for him. I placed my hand on his shoulder and began to pray for him, thanking the Lord for his belief in Him, and asking that God would continue to reveal himself to him and that he would become His child if he was not already. Instantly a man who I’d seen walk by before with a couple people ran up, and joined our “prayer circle”, asking us to pray for him to quit smoking. He was quite noticeably high. He placed his hand on mine, which was on Clarence’s shoulder. Siona prayed for that man. I kept my eyes open, keeping an eye on the girls, and saw that a man was hunched down right behind our prayer group, between the wall and Clarence’s tent lighting a plastic tube filled with drugs. I saw his hazed look almost instantly. It was incredibly sad, because the look I saw in his eyes a hopelessness, a “now what” expression as the drugs took over.

We moved over a couple more feet to talk to a young man named Louie, sitting on a suitcase wrapped in a blue blanket. I had seen him roll up and settle in, with a look of feeling all alone in the world in his eyes. We gave him tacos and conversed with him. He was from L.A. He was less than 24 hours sober, really hoping to get out of drinking and off the streets. I was a little concerned with the way we interacted with him, but I think that he heard a clear presentation of the gospel. He said that he had been saved and baptized. I don’t think he was a believer. I asked if I could pray for Him, and again prayed that God would be merciful and that he would come to know Him as Savior.

By now we had spent three hours talking with people, making only about 30 feet of progress or so down the sidewalk from when we began. The other groups were starting to come, so we finished for the night and headed back to TMC. We arrived on campus around 1:00 AM, but sleep didn’t come until 3:00 or so, because my roommates and I were debriefing our experience together.

I’m looking forward to going back as often as I am able. While maybe I didn’t feel safe, I certainly didn’t feel unprotected. God was with us. I’d like to write some more about what evangelism (around Santa Clarita as well) has started doing in my walk with God, but for now I wanted to get this out there so that 1) I wouldn’t forget the details, 2) You will pray for us as we do this and 3) You would think over some of these things that are rarely thought of.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some refrigerator art...

Sophia colored a couple of neat pictures this month, so I thought I'd share. This first one is of me and Sophia in front of our house.

This one is a picture of the building I work in.

I love how Sophia chose to draw my friend-Tony-when she drew my work. She must have heard me talking about him, because I don't think she's met him in person. So I guess you could say that this is a visual representation (through my 7-yr-old's eyes) of what I have said about Tony. I think she did a fantastic job, looks just like him!

Perhaps this is something like when we try to talk about Christ and demonstrate 'Christ-likeness' in how we live life. We want to paint an accurate picture of who He is because He is so significant in our lives! I want people to "ooh and ahh" when I hold up Christ-as our pastor pointed out in today's fantastic sermon. I am doing my best to describe His majesty and indescribable, unsearchable ways, yet my best efforts are so basic and elementary! However we have the best set of paintbrushes available! Nothing can better inform our speech about Christ than God's Word:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:33-36)

Friday, September 19, 2008

10/4/08 - D.A. Carson is only a 4-hour drive away!


Thought I'd let everyone know about a conference in Omaha in a couple of weeks. We're praying about whether to go to this day-long conference hosted by Omaha Bible Church, and featuring the amazing Don Carson!

You may remember Carson from my 'daily Carson' posts that went up after I read his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation.

The conference takes place October 4th, (the Saturday after I return from a work trip in Boston--so the timing is poor.) But, we might just go anyway!

Here are some reasons why:
  • DA Carson
  • Cheap! $15 for an individual, $25 for families!
  • Very interesting and relevant subject matter
  • It's close. 4 hour trip aint bad!
  • DA Carson
  • completely 'kid-friendly'. They have daycare for young kids and offer a tandem conference for little ones
  • catered food for breakfast and lunch!
  • DA Carson!
  • I hope to meet Erik Raymond-Pastor of Preaching- South Campus OBC-aka the Irish Calvinist
  • Have I mentioned DA Carson?
For Erik's post click here. Click here for the conference page.

If you think you might go, drop me a line and perhaps we can coordinate our trip (if we end up going)!

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike