Bible, Life's Moments

Evangelism Hero…for Guys

One thing I think we can agree on is this: every man would give treasure and fame for one moment in which he could rescue a damsel in distress while delivering a Chuck Norris round house kick to the dastardly villain. Sweeping the fair maiden up in one arm, he would first use his free hand to tuck his nunchuks in his belt, tie the bad guy up with the telephone cord just ripped from the wall, then jump to safety from the third floor window, deliver the damsel into the waiting arms of her awed, but now annoyed boyfriend, and then disappear into the quiet of the night with the soft voices of the crowd drifting along in the wind, saying, “Who was that guy?”

In fact, if truth be known, there are few men who would not heed the call to battle if it meant saving someone’s life. He would run through fire, swim through ice, sling rocks at giants, wield a sword against the talons of a dragon or an M-16 against a terrorist. He would offer his final half-ounce of water in a burning desert, tie the last parachute on the back of anyone but himself while the plane spiraled toward the ground, or dangle by the strength of only his finger tips over a precipice of peril to reach a fallen and frightened stranger.

You would do this. Wouldn’t you? Though the socially polite thing to say when asked this question is, “Well, I would like to think I would act heroic, but I guess you don’t really know until you’re faced with the situation for real.” However, deep inside, deep in your heart of hearts, you just know. You know you would take up the challenge. It would seem like instinct, but upon further reflection, as you looked back on your David against Goliath moment, you would know. You would know that you had been preparing for that moment your whole life.

“3, 2, 1, swish. Buzzzzzz!”

“Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Bases loaded. Down by three. Pitcher’s ahead, no balls, two strikes. Pitcher seizes his advantage. It’s a fast ball low and away. You have to protect the plate. Swing. Foul ball. Next pitch. Same location. Change up. It throws your timing off a fraction. Swing! Another foul ball. Next pitch. Heater high and inside. Foul ball. Pitcher starts to sweat. He delivers the pitch. The fatal mistake. A curve ball intended to leave you standing. But you know it’s yours. One micromeasurement too little from the pitchers wrist-snap. The curve ball hangs. Crack off the fat of the bat. Walk off homerun.”

“Run, run, dive, tuck, roll, back up again. Bopbopbopbopbop fires from the barrel of your Thompson 45…and then you see it…the white flag of surrender. Your enemy has met his match.”

“You hear the creak of a floorboard and a small thud as something goes bump in the night. Every fiber in your radar starts to tingle. You pick up your 19 inch, 6 D-cell MagLite and silently position yourself hidden behind a corner. Soft foot steps indicate someone drawing closer. A stranger! An intruder! In less than a second you realize your precious family is in jeopardy. Swing! Down slams the 50 oz MagLite against the jaw line of the creeper’s head. He goes down. He’s out. You turn on lights. Check for weapons. Secure them. Remove his belt. Bind his hands behind his back. Only then does anyone else finally enter the same room. Quickly, you demand, “Call 911.” You stand sentinel over the bad guy.”

A thousand scenarios have played themselves out through your imagination. You’ve been preparing. You are prepared.

In fact, even this one seems possible: “A left, a right, a round-house kick. Down goes Chuck Norris!”

In true moments of victory, your evaluation would not be pride. It would not be arrogance. No, it would be a simple evaluation of something you have always known. There would be no need to inform anyone else. It would be more than enough to have that certain knowledge now safely tucked away in your Man Portfolio. Stamp it bright red with “For Your Eyes Only” and then file it under H for Hero. Pull it out every now and then, not to gloat, but to prepare yourself even better for the next magical moment.

You can relate to this, right? Then why is it that so many of us who know Jesus as our Savior, know his truth as our wisdom, walk with his Spirit as our scout, and acknowledge his Father King as our Liege Lord, fail to heed his call to arms? Why do we pass by as Satan’s victims languish in the bowels of his infernal kingdom of darkness?

Why, especially since one of the most often used motifs in the Lord’s Great Commission strategy is the motif of rescue?

Look. In Luke 4:14 through 19 we read,

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  

In Mark 10:45, we hear the Savior say, 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In John 8:34-36 we read about when Jesus said,

Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The Holy Spirit of God moved the Apostles of God to pick up this motif and record it in the word of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:17 and 18,

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

When writing to a young pastor, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2 through 4,

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote (10:3-5),

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Let there be no doubt, there are damsels in distress. There are feeble men with neither the physical presence nor spiritual strength to engage the spiritual combat of our times. There are weak-willed women walking like zombies into the pit of despair. There are wonderful little children, confused and frightened, covering their eyes both at night and in the broad day light. There are teenagers acting brave on the outside, but running scared from what torments them on the inside. And there is a dragon on the loose (Revelation 12:1-17). He’s looking to scorch every man, woman, and child. And there is a roaring lion on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8). He is looking to devour the rich and the poor, the big and the small, the busy and the lazy. The dragon would torch his own mother if he had one. The lion would consume his own pride if he thought it would help his cause. The dragon is foul of breath and the lion is fierce of stench…for those with spiritual sense. For the blind, the lost, the unbelieving…the lion covers himself in light…a flimsy raiment of white silk…and the gullible fall for it until it is too late. They have but one hope: the Lord of Hosts and those of his who will rally to the sound of his voice…Go, therefore, into all the world.

The enemy’s challenge is no different than a rude man talking offensively to your wife, mother, sister, or girl-friend. This is the same as a neighborhood bully slapping your precious ten year old daughter. This smacks of the same evil as the users and abusers who lead our boys and young men away. This is terror. This is abuse. This is crime. This is kidnapping. This is false accusation, slavery, discrimination, and torture. This is war!

This is why the Holy Spirit guided Jude to write in verses 20 through 23,

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

When we leap into the fire, when we charge across the battle field, when we bend down to lift a child from the dung-heap of humanity, when we take up weapons of spiritual warfare, we are to outfit ourselves in the gospel armor. This is not jihad. It is the firm conviction and faithful compassion of a tender warrior. The Apostle Paul wrote this very thing to the First Church of Ephesus:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

When Jesus readied himself to return to his Father’s side he prepared his disciples for the departure. Central to his instructions is what we have come to call the Great Commission. It was not the Great Suggestion. It was not the Great Sound Bite. It was not the Great Encouragement. It was delivered as marching orders…it was the Great Commandment, the Great Objective, the Great Cause, the Great Commission. So, if like that first batch of disciples, we want to be ready in season and out we need to ask ourselves some questions. And just so it lands close to home, let’s be sure the questions are voiced in the first person singular.

1.         What am I celebrating lately regarding my part in the Great Commission?

2.         Do I really believe people need to be snatched from the fire? How is the prospect of a Christ-less eternity for the lost demonstrated in my worldview?

3.         In Mark 2:40-45, I can read about Jesus touching a leper. The Bible said he (Jesus) was moved by compassion. Is this true of me? If I prepare like a ninja to protect my family or to rescue damsels in distress, what would preparing for this kind of compassion look like?

●  How do I assess the needs of people I know who do not know the Savior?

●  How do I assess the needs of people I meet occasionally?

●  How do I assess the needs of those I may only meet once?

●  In what ways do I have consistent contact with unchurched people?

●  How do I identify and build relationships with the pre-Christians in my life?

4.         When I look at the following chart of evangelism styles, where do I see myself? If I asked my closest loved ones, what might be their evaluation?

Let there be no doubt, only one of these quadrants is biblical: missional. Let there also be no doubt, I do not have today’s nuance in mind when I use the word “missional.” In stead, I mean it in its normal sense: the sense that points to every believer being on mission. With this in mind: the Church is a missionary force and every born-again believer is a missionary.

5.         In what ways do I help my local church to corporately work at evangelism?

●  If the following statement is true, “Some give so others can go,” what am I doing to facilitate its truth?

●  What other resources do I have or can I acquire to facilitate the above statement?

●  When was the last time I balanced my Great Life-style vs. my Great Commission ledger?

Just thinking out loud. Peace.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14.15 NIV

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Bible

Biblical is the New Radical

I have searched high and low to find someone else who believes the Church of America has grown woefully inadequate to its calling. It would seem that rather than bringing glory and honor to God (Eph. 1), the American Church has become exceptionally self-centered. Yet now, from time to time, I glimpse bright spots…glimmers of hope that we might return to our high calling. David Platt, in his new book, Radical, creates one of those bright spots by writing about something he calls radical, but is really something biblical.

His basic premise is that American Christians have exchanged God’s glory and God’s gospel for the American Dream. I believe the evidence supports his premise. So, as I turned every page of this biblical–not so much radical–gift to both the church and the unchurched,  I found my hopes being boosted. Here was a pastor of a very large church voicing anxieties like these:

“Soon I realized I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important. So what was I to do? I found myself with two big questions. The first was simple. Was I going to believe Jesus? Was I going to embrace Jesus even though he said radical things that drove the crowds away? The second question was more challenging. Was I going to obey Jesus? My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him. In other words, my biggest fear is that I will do exactly what most people did when they encountered Jesus in the first century” (Radical ch. 1).

Amazing! It is amazing not because a megachurch pastor is willing to risk what our American church culture values, but that it has become necessary for a humble pastor to refer to biblical truth and biblical obedience as radical. In fact, maybe “amazing” was the wrong word for me to use at the beginning of this paragraph. Perhaps sad or tragic would have served better.

Pastor Platt rounded out his challenge by discussing such “radical” needs as actually being hungry for the word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit, extending God’s grace to the lost, seriously asking ourselves “How much is too much materialism,” shunning titles, position, and prestige for the sake of becoming servants, and realizing that evangelism/missions is not an option. And again I found myself thinking, “Amazing. Biblical has become the new radical.”

Finally, Pastor Platt’s book should not be considered a one time read. It should become a companion to an ever present attempt to implement the purposes and plans of God found in the Bible. While that may be a radical notion to God’s people living in 21st century U.S.A., it is hardly a radical idea in the heart and mind of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Note: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.” You can download and read Chapter One at http://www.radicalthebook.com/resources.html.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Judas and Lady Gaga

While I can not say that I fully understand all that Lady Gaga wants to say through her new single, Judas (coming out on her up-coming album Born This Way), there is a part of the song that moves me to tears. Toward the end of the song, she sings

“I wanna love you,
But something’s pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
And Judas is the demon I cling to, I cling to.”
 
Maybe the Catholic Church is right when they suggest she is just being disrespectful (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/04/19/lady-gagas-new-song-judas-causes-holy-week-uproar/).  However, I am inclined toward grace, so I hope what she meant when she penned these words is something like this: “Oh, Jesus, I know you are the last, best hope. I know you are the one I need. Still, something in me moves me to cling to Judas instead.” If so, Lady Gaga is in the company of many: partially blind people catching a glimpse of heaven while clinging tightly to the thrills of hell.
 
Either way, I am reminded of what our Lord Jesus said about the people of Jerusalem as he made his way to the Holy City (Luke 13:34):
 
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
 
We all know that the level of hostility generated by the good citizens of Jerusalem toward the Savior rises far above that offered by Lady Gaga. We also know Jesus knew what they were about to do to him. Still the Lord’s heart was moved to compassion on their behalf. He is thinking no differently where Lady Gaga is concerned. He loves her. His Father loves her. The Holy Spirit loves her.  In fact, the Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote (2 Peter 3:9),
 
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
 
And just so his intentions were clear, he followed that with this (2 Peter 3:10),
 
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
 
Together they mean one thing: while the Lord is very patient as he awaits people to flee the kingdom of darkness and run into his waiting arms, his patience will not last forever. It will not last forever in the cosmic sense and it will not last forever in the cause of Christ for one lost person. Like Lady Gaga, there are precious souls all around us. Let’s stop complaining about their antics and attitudes and start leading them via love and service to the Messiah.
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Bible

Soar. A Book by Pastor Kenny Luck.

When I was young, I jumped from airplanes for the 82nd Airborne Division. When my parachute deployed, I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom. The brief time spent floating to the ground stirred every one of my five senses. While it was not quite like soaring on the wings of eagles, it was the closest I have ever come. Oh man, life exploded into vivid reality every time the jump-master yelled, “Go, go, go!”

Pastor Kenny Luck’s book “Soar” aims to help men capture this same experience. Well, like one of my nephews is prone to saying, “It’s the same, but different.” Same in that Pastor Luck wants Christian men to really, truly come alive; different in that Kenny desires us to truly and finally feel alive through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we do, we soar!

In fact, if all I had ever read from this book was a short section from chapter eleven regarding a part of the Holy Spirit’s mission in my life, I would count myself more than satisfied with Pastor Luck’s presentation of the Spirit’s ministry. Here’s what that short section says:

“The mission of the Holy Spirit in your life is to cause spontaneous or continuous spiritual fervor over things that matter to God. All of the following are signs the Holy Spirit is working in your life on a specific matter:

You have conflicts internally. You are thinking twice about decisions. You are remembering the consequences of similar actions in the past. You are having cautionary dreams or consistent streams of thoughts that warn you of certain actions. Your internal radar is flashing red about certain people or situations. You are feeling unusually conflicted in certain situations. You are getting unsolicited but personally targeted advice from various sources (for example, a sermon this past weekend, a friend says the same thing, and then your Scripture reading for the day puts the nail in the coffin).”

This alone, regarding the Holy Spirit’s leading, is worth the price of the book…and much, much more. Think about it: every time you experience these signs, you are experiencing the work of the Majestic, Magnificent, Marvelous God of all creation laboring personally and privately in you, through you, and for you ultimately for his own glory. Amazing! It is the answer to the cry of so many Christians, “Please, please Lord, I want to experience your presence, your favor, your glory”

In three divisions, Transitions, Transformations, and Transactions, Pastor Luck helps us see how the ministry of the Holy Spirit keeps us intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually “in the moment” with God.

Finally, as a fellow pastor, Pastor Luck’s approach causes me to celebrate. This is not a treatment of the Holy Spirit based on emotionalism or experientalism (sorry, that might not be a real word). Pastor Luck asked the question, “What does the Bible teach about the leading, guiding, and teaching ministry of the Spirit?” He asked, “What does the Bible teach regarding walking and living in the Spirit?” In the end, Pastor Luck clearly discovered that what the Bible actually teaches about life in the Spirit is far more satisfying to both our emotions and experience than much of what we have come to understand in the past about phrases like, “I sensed the Spirit’s leading,” I was moved by the Spirit,” or “the Spirit led me.”

Read “Soar” if you want a theology of the Holy Spirit that changes your psychology. Read “Soar” if you want answers about really experiencing the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, soar in the Spirit, by living what Pastor Luck has pointed out from God’s word, if you crave a sense of awe and exhilaration in your life with our Savior.

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Life's Moments

Before She Leaves

Prodigal. The word itself stirs fear in the hearts of moms and dads.

Why not? We bring them into the world. We teach them to crawl. Then they walk. Running and jumping and leaping and playing and poking and prodding come next. We love them. They hug our necks. We make sacrifices and they soak up everything we give.

As they grow, we tell them, “You are the light that pushes back the sadness of my days.” All the while that ugly, painful, frightening word lurks in the recesses of our minds. Prodigal. Prodigal. Prodigal.

Oh, God let her not be a prodigal.

And tonight, as I spend this last bit of time praying for my daughter before she leaves for Bible College in the morning, I stare that ugly word down…and I thank the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…because she is anything but a prodigal.

“Further up and further in,” Jess. You are a light that reflects a greater light.

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Bible

Social Gospel x 2

PART DEUX GRAYBe careful when you accuse someone of having no compassion…

Be careful when you accuse someone of not caring…

…when he or she steadfastly refuses to take up your cause.

Jesus was quite clear that failing to invest ourselves in the lives of the less fortunate is at best problematic and more than likely sinful. His story of the Good Samaritan and his admonitions concerning the “first should be last” are more than enough for us to comprehend this side of compassion.

However, he was equally clear about the spiritual side of things. We must never mistake his desire for the eternal well-being of lost people as a lack of compassion. It is ultimate compassion that our Savior believes, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36).

There is a tension about these two sides of compassion among Christ’s followers, but not within the heart of Christ. The former is Christ-likeness manifest in kindness. The latter is Christ-likeness manifest in love–agape love. The first must always possess potential for revealing the second.

And while this debate has raged among Christians for a century over the social gospel of liberal Christians, we must now apply it to The Social Gospel: Part Deux…the social gospel of conservative Christians. The social justice and public policy activism of conservative Christians has exactly the same potential for good or bad as its liberal counter-part. The life-changing message of Jesus Christ may just as easily be lost in the shuffle during proclamations regarding fiscal, sexual, and self-defense issues as it can during proclamations regarding the need for universal health care or racial reparations. It simply will do no good to argue which is closer to the heart of Jesus if either or both fail as advertisements on behalf of our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection as a ransom for lost people.

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”  Hebrews 9:15

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