Thursday, June 05, 2014

Let the Little Children Come to Me

I'm cutting into my study time to write this short post. Perhaps it will speak to someone who wrestles with the same truth.

It's VBS time in southern America. If you are not of the typical church culture, that stands for Vacation Bible School, which is a 5-day opportunity churches take to teach children of all ages truths from the Bible. Our church is particularly adept at creative ways of teaching. I admire how our teachers can do so much with so little.

Day 4 of the typical VBS week is evangelism day. Someone, often the pastor, sits down with the older children and shares the truth of the gospel, which has been emphasized all week long in the classroom teaching. The evangelist is there to reap a harvest brought on by all the seed-sowing efforts of those great teachers.

This is where I wrestle. This is where I have always wrestled. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” So we know we can guide these little ones to him. And we can conclude (not assume) that a child can believe. But how do we present the gospel in a clear and meaningful way? How do we avoid making "churchians" versus Christians?

First, I am grateful for the Holy Spirit. It is His work to convict of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is not mine. It is His work to show the children their lostness and illuminate their hearts to understand the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.

That being said, I still tremble at the task of child evangelism. I know many, many people who have "believed" as a child, only to repent and truly believe later.

Today I had the help of two great workers. We acted out the gospel message, using as our main prop Evangecube's "Big Cube." It's a great tool, when used right. I quizzed the children at the close to see how many got the message right. Their answers were on target. Their readiness? I'm reluctant to declare them "saved."

I'm persuaded that some who listened today have already come to Jesus. I am equally persuaded that others will come to Jesus in time. But I did not and cannot be so persuasive as to coerce them into the church culture without the inward change that only Christ Jesus brings through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

Some say never evangelize children. I think we need to leave that up to the Holy Spirit--especially in light of Jesus' command mentioned above.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Behold the Lamb!

When John the Baptist saw Jesus as he walked, he looked and exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John watched Jesus as he walked. For three more years Jesus walked. He walked north and he walked south. He walked into cities and walked out of them. Jesus walked away from some disingenuous people, but walked up to many more. 

One day, after about 3 years of healing the ill, giving sight to the blind, opening deaf ears, strengthening weak limbs, and raising the dead, Jesus walked up to the gates of Jerusalem. There a crowd awaited him. There, in the presence of those who should know better than anyone else, Jesus fulfilled yet another prophecy: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.-- Zech. 9:9

They should have known, those religious leaders of Israel. Those scholars of the Law and the Prophets. Those men of great importance. They should have seen. But they were blind, both by choice and by the god of this world. 

Just a few days later we find Jesus walking once more. He walks up the stairs to an upper room that has been made ready for the last Passover the Lord Jesus will celebrate with his disciples until his return. He teaches, admonishes, warns, and prepares his disciples for the inconceivable. And after a few hours together, hours that puzzled his small band of disciples, Jesus walked down the stairs, out the door, and on to Gethsemane. Gethsemane, the garden with the prophetic name: oil, or olive, press. It was there that the weight of the agony of taking away the sin of the world weighed hard on the Lord Jesus. As the press began its work, Jesus sweat great drops of blood. His soul was pressed. His heart pounded like a hammer squeezing every drop of oil from the olives beneath its head. 

Back and forth Jesus walked from his place of agonizing prayer to the place of the three unfeeling disciples, all bound with ropes of sleep. Not an encouraging word would be found from his three closest friends. Not one look of compassion showed on their faces, limp with the sleep of the hour.

From there, late into the night, Jesus walked to trial after trial, stopping only to be questioned, mocked, beaten, and whipped. Surely those legs must be tired by now. Jesus has walked so many miles. He has not gone the second mile, though that is all he has asked of us. He has gone so much farther. One more walk and for three days his walking will be done.

With a cross as heavy as a large man of his day, Jesus began his walk outside of the gates of Jerusalem. He walked on as far as his legs would carry him. The soldiers compelled another to walk with him. Simon of Cyrene, carry that cross! Jesus, fall in behind him! Onward they walked, the legs of Jesus now heavy with both pain and grief. The cacophony of the crowd is almost indistinguishable. Some are laughing, some are crying. Some are begging for mercy, some are braying like stupid donkeys. 

At a place shaped like a skull the procession ends. Jesus won't walk anymore--not for the next 3 days. In fact, those feet that carried Jesus so many miles are now carefully arranged and fastened to the vertical beam of the cross with such ferocity that no man with half a heart could look on. His hands are equally impaled and Jesus is raised up from the earth. 

In his mind he has to have thought, "I was born for this. This is my destiny." We know one thing he thought: who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame... (Heb. 12:2) In a way that remains a mystery to the human mind, Jesus became sin on that cross, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. We can throw around the big words: imputed, propitiation, expiation, etc.; we can throw them around, but the mystery will remain in the same darkness that surrounded the cross for 3 hours. 

When Jesus finally came down from the cross, he came down as a corpse. He was dead. No man took his life; he laid it down. He had become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God saw the travail of his soul. And God was satisfied. The perfect sacrifice had finally been made for the sin of the world.

Joseph, Nicodemus, and a handful of women hastily prepared the body and buried our Lord Jesus in the tomb of the rich. Don't worry, Joseph! He's just going to borrow it for a few days.

On the first day of the week, early in the morning, an angel of God rolled away the stone. We like to say that the angel rolled the stone away so we could walk in, not so Jesus could walk out; but does it really matter? He has defeated death and if the King of kings wants to walk out, I think it's his prerogative. He doesn't need to, that's for sure. But we beheld him for three years as he walked from place to place. Maybe he wanted to stretch his legs one more time before presenting himself to his father in heaven. 

Behold the Lamb! He was the Lamb who willingly walked to his death so you would be able to walk into life everlasting. 

Take a good look...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy New Year

“Happy New Year!” is the call of most of the world in these days. That’s precisely what I want for you and me, as well as for so many that I know around the world. 

We can have a Happy New Year. Let me tell you what will make that possible for you:

It will be happy if we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scoffers. 

It will be happy if we meditate in God’s precious, wisdom-giving word. 

It will be happy if we ensure that Jesus is Lord in our daily lives. 

We will have a happy new year if we think on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, and whatever is of a good report [that eliminates the obsession of some for most of the news broadcasts!!]. 

We will be happy if we place into practice those things which Jesus has both taught and commanded. 

Finally, we will have a happy new year if we give more than we receive. 

All these things are simple principles God gives for true happiness. Make this the happiest year of your life; seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

I look forward to worshiping the Lord God through Christ Jesus in the coming days, weeks, and months. Ultimately, that will produce the deepest joy and greatest measure of happiness.

Let’s be happy together.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson Was Right

Phil Robertson was right. Period. No need to debate this. What Phil said is what nature teaches. What Phil said is what the word of God teaches. What Phil said is what true Christianity teaches. A&E is Christophobic. If they can call practicing Christians homophobic, we have the equal right to call them Christophobic.

Mr. Cruz misunderstands true Christianity if he thinks true Christianity endorses or accepts homosexuality. True Christianity teaches that ALL sexual behavior outside of marriage is sin. True Christianity teaches that ANY practicing sinner can repent, believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be washed and justified (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Does this mean true Christians are homophobic or that they even hate those who practice same sex? Not at all! A true Christian is compelled by the love of Christ to love and reach out to all. A true Christian loves the practicing sinner enough to warn them that the road they have chosen leads to destruction. To quote Mr. Robertson, The true Christian "would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me." 

By the way, why did Mr. Cruz and A&E overlook that statement? Could it be that their agenda includes silencing the voices of true Christians from the public arena? 

Let me end as I began: Phil Robertson was right. Period.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tis the Week before Christmas and Christ Wants Us To Make Him Known

'Tis the week before Christmas. I suspect there will be thousands of blogs, Facebook posts, and Tweets that admonish us to keep Christ in Christmas. I wonder if, while we are scurrying about, making sure we have the right to say "Merry Christmas," and not just "Happy Holidays," or "Season's Greetings," are we also making sure we take the time to share the Christ of Christmas?

Let's be real about this. Much of what we want is the right to our tradition. Much of what I think Christ wants is our passion to make Him known to the world around us. We need to make him known to the one who cuts our hair. We need to make him known to the clerk at the store--that clerk with tired eyes and a heavy-hearted or bored look as she swipes your purchases across her scanner and announces the charges of your latest run through the store. We need to make him known to the busy server at your next restaurant.

We need to make Christ known in hundreds of people groups and hundreds of countries where his name is a rare thought. A simple offering to a missions agency or society, such as the IMB of the SBC will go a long ways in fulfilling that.

We need to make Christ known to our families. Honestly, that can be a daunting task. Some subjects are off limits at our Christmas celebrations. Oddly, Christ is not invited to his own party in some houses. It's as though we say, "Hey, it's Christmas! But don't you dare mention the J-word around here! You may offend someone!" Well, you know what? Make Christ known, anyway; just don't be obnoxious about it.

[Obnoxious...; I like that word. It sounds like you just let off a sudden stench with your mouth. I could go somewhere with that, but don't want to lose the message of this post.]

Yes, it's the week before Christmas. It's a great time to make Christ known. After all, He is the reason all this stuff started in the first place.

Friday, October 04, 2013

I Have Resources; So Do You!

There are 43 thousand of them. They live in the edge of the Amazon in northern Peru. Thirty dollars a month would be the average income for many of them. 

I am speaking of the Aguaruna Tribe. [that's Ah-gwa-ROON-ah for us Gringos]

Next week I will meet some Aguaruna Baptist pastors in Lima, Peru. They will make the sacrifice and pay around $20 to ride the bus and meet me there. These men are coming because I have the blessing of being able to minister to one of their needs. I have resources...

Just like the average Aguaruna family, these pastors (there are 35 of them) have few resources. They also have a limited education. Seminary is the proverbial pipe dream for them. But I have resources....

A pastor from Lima called me several weeks ago. He invited me to participate in a world missions conference in Lima. I consulted with the Lord and with my missions team. The team and the Lord both urged me to accept the conference. In the subsequent phone call, the pastor told me about the Aguaruna pastors' needs. And I thought of my resources...

Maybe it was the Smokehouse Salad from Dickey's that did it. Or maybe it was the high-fiber cereal that morning. But I was stirred. I wiped away tears as I listened to Roy. I groaned in my spirit. 

Roy had a vision. He wanted to place a Thompson Study Bible in the hands of 35 pastors. He wanted to know if I could help find funding for that. I love a man or woman with vision. It excites me. I agreed to try and immediately sent out the word. God gave me everything I prayed for and then some. What excitement rang through my heart at that time. I had resources. Others I knew had resources. God gave me and them the resources.Now I get to share them with others. 

I have other resources, as well. These resources are less tangible than dollar bills. I sense that I am about to be called on to use those intangible resources to train some trainers. This is because God equipped me for times like these.

You see, when God equips you, He does so in order to make you a blessing for others. He did not equip you just for you. You are important for the work of the ministry. I bet you have resources you did not even consider to be resources. But they are. I know they are because, as someone once said, "God don't make no junk." 

Just tell God you want to be used in Christ's Kingdom. Then wait patiently for God to lead you to cash in your resources. 

When God calls on you, enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ready to Risk What It Takes?

I am a preacher. I know there are those who would say, "No; that is what you do." It may be something I do, true; but it is who I am. I was called TO BE a preacher. The verb, "to be" is one that declares my identity. So my identity is that of BEING a preacher.

As a preacher, I must take risks. Among the greatest of those, I must risk failure. Yes, preachers fail. Before you begin to go moral in your thought process, let me explain that. Every time I stand to preach I risk failure. If I have not met with God before preaching, I have failed. If I do not connect with my audience, I have failed. So I must risk failure.

But I have discovered that it is possible to take such risks and also be comfortable in doing so. Standing to preach in a plushly carpeted, air-conditioned, soft-seat and well-lit auditorium in America is comfortable. But now I have observed others and discovered I can sit on a nice, tall chair and preach. I can put on my Ked's or Converse, my jeans, my wrinkled shirt, and I can be one of the guys while I preach. I can expound the word of God for 30 minutes, give a brief invitation to respond to the word, shake some hands, shed some tears with broken believers, and then climb in my air-conditioned, leather-seated SUV and drive off to lunch somewhere. Yes, I can be comfortable, even as I risk failure.

Or, I can risk failure in other ways. I can take up the Pauline mantle and be a missionary to the Gentiles. Or I can take up the Petrine mantle and be a missionary to the Jews. I could even take up the Thomasine mantle and go to India, if church traditions about that are correct. But the risk is far greater. The risk is far more important. Consider the following excellent video from IMB.

There is a big world waiting for you to do what it takes; waiting for you to risk it all.

In case you don't know anything about me and my wife, we did risk it all. Please let me brag, and do it to the glory of the Lord. We were front-line missionaries, appointed in 1988 and who returned in 2010 in obedience to God's call.

We do risk it all. My wife just returned from Chile; I went to a secret location in Asia and ministered to Christ-followers who risked going to jail just by being in the same room with me, as I taught them the word of God. And I am headed to South America in October to challenge Peruvians to go into all the world and to risk it all.

Yes, we risked it all. We risked terrorism. We risked robberies. We risked failing health and major illnesses. We risked persecution. We risked dangers on the road and in the air.

We would risk it again tomorrow if God sent us. The glory of God is worth doing what it takes. The lostness of man and the love of Christ are worth doing what it takes. Are you ready to do that? Are you ready to risk what it takes?