Thursday, September 17, 2009

Get up, Get out and Share Your Faith!!

Sharing our faith does sound scary and that's why it's so easy to fall back on the ever popular method of 'lifestyle evangelism' where we do our best to live out our faith in the hope that people will ask us why we are so different....yet, how many people actually ask you or me that question?

Some of us are intentional about starting relationships with others so that eventually we can share Christ with them.  The trouble with that is that the deeper the friendship gets, the less likely we are to share our faith for fear of losing that friendship when we get around to sharing.

Yet Jesus said to Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation (Mark 16:15).  He called us to preach the Word, to be prepared in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), and to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

This is something that none of us can ignore.   The message of the cross is offensive and we WILL face persecution, but it will be nothing compared to what those without Christ will suffer for all eternity.  Consider this...

FOR US - the worst thing that can happen is that we could be spit upon, or told to, 'Get Lost', or even tortured or murdered.  JESUS said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11

FOR THEM - The worst thing that WILL happen to those without Christ will be a conscious eternity in Hell:
"Everlasting punishment" (Mathew 25:46)
"Weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:51)
"Fire unquenchable" (Luke 3:17)
"Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (Romans 2:8,9)
"Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
"Eternal fire...the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 7,13)

How can I be silent knowing what I know about the reality of Hell?  Yes, people may ask me questions I can't answer - that's okay, I can admit that I don't have all the answers, but for me, the most important thing is to try and keep them on track.  I want to get them back to their conscience;  the part of every person where there is conviction of sin.  I hope that through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they will see that if they die in their sin and stand before a Holy God they will get Justice from a God who is good and who cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that they are lawbreakers.  His Holiness and Righteousness demand that He must punish all sin and that place of punishment is Hell.  If they fear going to Hell (and many do) then I will share the Gospel with them, rather than cast the pearls of God's salvation before a proud person who continuously tries to justify their own goodness.  For those who hear the Good News, most are thankful to God and even amazed by His love that He would punish His Son instead of the ones who really deserved it.

After sharing, my prayer is that now that the seeds have been planted, God will grant that person repentance and faith.  My prayer is that those who've heard the Gospel will understand that they are not the ones who must accept Christ, but that He must accept them...and the only way He will do that is if they turn from their sins and put  their trust in Jesus Christ who has paid their debt in full upon the cross......a debt that none of us could pay ourselves.

So, I would encourage you to study and practice and be ready to share your faith.  I believe that God is calling His Church to be ever more diligent in these last days to share the truth of the Gospel with a lost and dying world.  The time is short and Satan is well aware of that.  The road to destruction is gaping open and many are running headlong down it's deadly path, but there is only ONE narrow road that will lead to life and only a few find it.   

"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? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Romans 10:14

Here is an excellent resource page to get you started:

Get up, Get out and share your faith!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't Quit!!

What a difference a day can make! Yesterday I went into Vernon to share the Gospel. After praying, I met a young man taking pictures of the scenery who was quite willing to listen to what I had to say. He said that he was a decent human being and that he did his best to be kind, but as we went through God's moral Law, he saw that he fell short of God's perfect standard. He was concerned that if the Bible was true, he would not be going to Heaven. I shared the Gospel and when I asked him what he thought of God taking a punishment that he rightly deserved, he acknowledged that God was "very kind and pretty awesome to do that for me". I gave him something further to read and went on my way.

The next fellow, Gabriel, was a French-Canadian fellow who told me that he was going to Valhalla when he died. He said that it was a type of waiting place, but I've since learned that it is thought to be a place where Norsemen go to do battle after they die. They then go on from there to feast with Odin and other warriors. You'd be surprised at the myriad of beliefs out there when you take the time to ask. I read once that a person's idolatry is as far-reaching as their imagination. Man forms a god to suit themselves or more specifically, to suit their sins and then worships it.

I asked him how he happened upon his belief in Valhalla and he said that it just sounded good to him. It would be something he'd like. He admitted that he was a pretty good person and again as he looked into the mirror of God's moral Law found in the 10 Commandments, he saw himself in truth and agreed that by God's standard, he was not good at all.

He still insisted that he was going to heaven though, so I asked him what the judge would say if I told him that on my way into court for robbing a bank, I had washed the judge's BMW. Gabriel laughed at the analogy and reluctantly admitted that his 'good deed' couldn’t bribe a good and just judge, nor could it free him from paying the consequences of his crime.

He was concerned enough for his soul that he wanted to hear the Gospel. He struggled with the fact that many of his friends were either Jewish, Muslim or Hindu and found it hard to believe that they would be going to Hell. I explained to him that only God can convert a human being; that it is a supernatural work. If God convicts you and grants you, Gabriel, repentance and faith, you can run to your friends and share the good news of the Gospel with them and they don't have to die in their sin. I told him the road to life was narrow and that only a few find it, because men love their sin and would rather hold on to it, than forsake it all and follow Christ. I asked him if he'd part with his eyes for a million dollars - I told him that with the money he could see the world!! (bad joke) But he said that he wouldn't and understood that his soul was worth far more than his eyes. Matthew5:29 We finished our conversation and he walked away reading a little booklet as he went.

Finally, I talked to three young fellows who when asked if they'd ever stolen anything, chuckled and admitted that they had done that very thing a few minutes ago!

Quick as a wink, I pulled out my police whistle and blew it with all my might, then screamed, "Thieves, Thieves, over here!!!" ...okay, I'm kidding, but that may have been kind of funny ...just kind of. Anyway, one of the three took the conversation very seriously, which is what I often find. Others may joke around, but one will be listening and it is always best to speak directly to that person. I know that as he listened, his face expressed concern and my hope is that he was under great conviction. May God continue to draw him in.

The next day, however, was different...
Curtis Baycroft (who really needs some lessons on how to apply make-up) and I went out into Armstrong to evangelize. The first fellow we talked to was painting pigs on windows to display the theme of this year’s IPE "Going Hog Wild". I gave him a million dollar bill and when I told him what it was, he picked it up, held it in front of me and looking into my eyes, proceeded to rip it in half! He crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. Either he was rich and had enough million dollar bills, or he had a bit of a problem with Christianity.

He said, "There is no god, Babe! You can go to the farthest galaxy and ask them if they believe in Jesus and they'll say, 'no'." I wanted to say, "I ain't your Babe", but I wasn't very quick on the draw. He went on to show his absolute displeasure with anyone 'religious', and went up one side of me and down the other side of Curtis.

We listened and interjected a few things here and there, but it seemed that everything fell on deaf ears. I wanted to leave him with something to think about and knowing that the Word of God is a sword that can pierce the soul, I calmly said, "The fool says in his heart that there is no God. That's not a fool like the three stooges kind of fool. The kind of fool described in the Bible is someone who knows the truth, but suppresses it. Sir, you know there is a God because of creation all around you and your conscience bears witness to the fact that there is a God. In the end, you'll have no excuse."

He went on to tell us how sorry he felt for us, so we politely said our 'good-byes' and went away.

Now here's the thing. It would be so easy to quit at that point because it wasn't a very pleasant experience. It was discouraging, somewhat shocking, embarrassing, frustrating, belittling and just plain difficult to listen to. It would have been easy to say out of self-preservation that I am never going to chance getting berated like that again...

Yet I have to think that what that man said to us is nothing compared to what Christians have had to endure in the past and are even enduring at this very minute...which is a reminder to pray for our brothers and sisters sharing the Gospel in so many hostile countries.

For me, it was a learning experience. How am I going to handle a similar situation in the future? What did I say that I could have said differently and more effectively? Will I ever look at pigs painted on windows in the same way again?

One of the many things I learned from the AmbassadorsAcademy last July was that no matter what, we can't with that in mind, we carried on to another part of town. We prayed first and then met a man who took the million dollars and then listened to what we had to say. We left feeling encouraged and blessed after a bit of a trying morning.

I am reminded of a verse in 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Whatever you are doing in His service, never quit...take courage and carry on. Our labor is not in vain.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sovereignty of God

Not quite a year ago, the weather was nice, Malory was finishing off her LPN training, Tara and Preston were settling in to their new townhouse in Tualatin. Life was drifting along as it should, as we'd hoped and planned and dreamed and even prayed it would, but that's not how it turned out. In a single the end of a heartbeat all of our frail, finite, human plans came to an end forever.

As a parent the thought that our eldest daughter, Tara, was married to a wonderful, responsible and loving young man was a great comfort. It's not that our daughter was 'hard to marry off' and that some blind fellow had finally come along and scooped her up, it was that the young man who came into her life was just so right for her and she for him....a perfect match. We always felt that she was in such good hands with Preston Clay Newby.

God knew this as well and throughout their six short years together, Tara taught Preston about life beyond books and study and work and he in turn taught her the things of self-discipline and a deeper faith and what it is to live in pursuit of Godliness.

On the night of September 15th, I had come home from work, grabbed a bite to eat and dashed off to get my hair done. I was excited to see Tara, Preston and my precious grandson, Jacob the next afternoon when they would arrive from Portland, Oregon. I busied myself around the house getting their room ready and thought of the upcoming week. Tired and satisfied that the house was as good as it was going to get, I climbed into bed and began to drift off.

The phone rang...that awful sound you dread to hear so late at night. It was Tara telling me that Preston had been hit by a car and to call his parents. I made the despairing call, tried to calm their worst fears and told them that I would call them back as soon as I talked to Tara again. I dialed Tara's cell again and as she tried to explain what had happened, I heard a paramedic's voice in the background say, "I'm sorry, Ma'am, he's gone."

This couldn't be happening; it's not the way we'd planned it. As I tried to make sense of what I had just heard, as I cried out to God to bring him back, Tara said over the phone, "It's okay, Mom, he's dancing with Jesus." Yes, some would put it down to the fact that she was in shock, but there was a peace and a calm assurance in her voice, not in keeping with what she'd just gone through, that I know could only have come from the presence of God in her...words that brought me back to reality.....the striking reality that if Preston was really gone from this earth, he was at that very moment, actually in the presence of Jesus. Still, that didn't change the harsh fact that Tara stood alone on the side of the highway and we couldn't get to her fast enough.

Some would question the reality of God at this point. Others may wonder if through some fault of our own, God was punishing us...those thoughts do tend to go through our minds. For whatever reason God chose to call Preston home that night, I am forever grateful that God had prepared me for this crisis weeks before.

I had been listening to teaching on the Sovereignty of God. I learned that if God is surprised by events taking place on this earth, then He ceases to be the omnicient - He ceases to be the all-knowing God and He isn't in control. There is nothing that surprises Him and nothing that He hasn't ordained.

The night before the accident, I was listening to Todd Friel talking on this subject and he said, "Christian, tragedy is going to strike. Don't think you can avoid it and when it does, you had better know what you believe about the soverienty of God so that you can trust Him and rest in Him and even praise Him through it all."

I shut off my Ipod and the tears began to flow. I got on my knees and prayed to God. I acknowledged that tragedy had never struck our family, but that if it did, I would continue to trust in Him, to praise Him and to look to Him because He is God and He is in control. I remember individually committing each member of our family to Him and said that if He would take any of them, I would still praise Him...I would still trust Him. God was close to me in that time of prayer and I felt a blessed assurance as I settled into bed that night.

The next night, we received Tara's call and as I drove down to Portland through the night, although the tears flowed and the grief was intense, I was overwhelmed with a peace that really does transcend all of our earthly understanding. Tara was not alone on the side of that unforgiving stretch of highway, God was with her and Micah and Jacob... and God was still in control and I could praise Him and even thank Him for whatever it was He was doing in our lives.

Do you understand the Sovereignty of God? Do you know full well that nothing surprises or shocks Him; that He has seen the end from the beginning and in spite of all our earthly plans, His plans will always trump ours. If you know this, when tragedy strikes, you will continue not only to walk with Him in faith, look forward to what He will do through and beyond that valley, but you will continue to praise Him and His peace will cover you.

Isaiah 45:5-7 I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I form the light and create darkness; I, the LORD, do all these things.

God is good and worthy of all praise.

Credited to our Account

Lately, while listening to my favourite radio host, he spoke of the righteousness of Christ being credited to our account. I had never really given that much thought except to consider that I would be covered by the righteousness of Christ instead of my sin....but what does that really mean?

If 2000 years ago, Jesus had just come to this earth as a mature adult, established himself as God and that same day, died on the cross to pay for our sins, as christians, we would have indeed been found not guilty, but we would still have just had a blank slate, which of course, would have been far better than the filthy slate we presently have.

But because Jesus, the man/God, was born and raised among us... because he was tempted in every way we are yet was without sin.... because he obeyed the Law in thought, word and deed, not breaking it at any point...all of his obedience which resulted in His perfect righteousness can now be credited to our account. Think about it, our slate won't be blank, but will have all of HIS credits on it! God won't just say that we're forgiven; He'll say that we're not guilty. It will be as if we had lived that same righteous life Jesus did. Wow!! That is imputed righteousness and that is truly amazing grace!!

Look at Romans 8:3-4 "For what the law was powerless to do (in that it couldn't save us) in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, (because we can't keep it perfectly) God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be FULLY MET IN US, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."    Christ'sRighteousness

What a kind God we serve!!! Not only did Jesus take our punishment and pay our fine, but he gives us His perfect righteousness. How great and merciful is our God!!


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