Monday, May 30, 2011

NYC Evangelism

I was prompted by a couple of people to write about my experience in NYC last week sharing the gospel. I am always a little overwhelmed when trying to do this, and I know that the average attention span is not what it used to be (hang on I got an email) anyway...where was I? Oh yea NYC. So what I decided to do was break things up a little so as not to overwhelm myself or anyone who might want to read this. I am going to share one story at a time over the next month and if you hang in there you will get the whole experience. (not particularly in order)

The most beautiful choir I have ever heard! 5/22/11

Yesterday we went to Union Square in NYC to share the gospel with those whom God would provide. On the way there riding the subway we passed out tracts, had several conversations with people and preached in the open air. Sadly a man named Harold Camping had predicted the end of the world that day. But what satan intended for evil, God used for good. As sad as this was it gave us an opportunity to dis-associate ourselves with that group. Many people were willing to engage in a conversation because they thought we were of the "camping camp".

We then arrived at Union Square where some people had set up an 8' cross with a
sign that said "you are your own savior". There were also a group of "zombies" that had placed a suit of clothes on the ground to mock the rapture. As I walked along the back side of the park I saw things that I don't even want to mention because of there perversion.

There were already some brothers in the Lord sharing the gospel directly behind the mock cross so we set up our prayer station just to the right. Within minutes we were passing out tracts and ministering to people around us. The group that was mocking Jesus were getting more and more disruptive and vulgar as time drew near for the "Harold Camping" predicted end of the world.

They were coming up and interrupting our conversations, making fun of the coming day of God's wrath, and even pushed my friend Jeff into his wife because he was trying to protect her. As things grew more and more intense one of the young men in our group noticed a Mennonite choir that was making there way across the back side of the park handing out tracts. Tom Kiser went to talk with them and they came over to stand with us next to our prayer station. The group of thirty or so young men and women began to sing the most beautiful hymns which drew the crowd away from the mock cross. They sang for close to 20 minutes and as their praises went up to God, the entire mood of the park was transformed.

They may not have been most talented choir in the world (although they were quite good) they were the most beautiful site for my sad and weary eyes that day and I thank God for them.

This is just one of several wonderful things I witnessed God do this week. I'm sure most of what happened was unseen as the Holy Spirit dealt with hearts through the preaching of His word and the printed gospel on our tracts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Division in the ranks

My heart has been grieved as of late with the news that a very well known evangelist came out in severe opposition of the doctrines of grace. I'm not talking about taking a strong position in what he believes, but saying that anyone who falls into the reformed camp believes in another god. I read blogs by some of my friends calling for peace among street evangelists who have a mutual passion, to proclaim forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And I have seen some really angry street preachers. I suppose that whenever you have people together there is going to be some conflict along the way.

My own personal journey goes like this. God saved me 7 years ago while watching a program called "They sold their souls for Rock and Roll" which was put together by an organization called "Cross TV" which is anything but Arminian. Afterwards I began to attend a local Nazarene church where some friends of mine attended. I sat under some good teaching, and some bad. I must say that I dearly love those people whom invested in my life over those four years. But love and friendship aside, I mostly learned how to work myself into the ground thinking that God was pleased with me because of it.

One day I was looking for some music to listen to while I cleaned and I ran across a video that someone put together called "The revival Hymn". On this particular video was a preacher named Paris Reidhead. He began to talk about his first trip to Africa and the motivation behind it. He said that when he got there to tell these poor people how to get to heaven he found out that they had way more knowledge of God then he had ever dreamed. They loved their sin and wanted to stay in it. Mr Reidhead goes on to explain that he became angry with God and felt as if the whole thing was a mockery and a sham. Then one night he was alone in prayer and God revealed to him that he wasn't sent over there for those people. He wasn't sent over there for himself. But he was there for Christ's sake.

I stood at my kitchen sink with the water running and i'm sure a really dumb look on my face. I began to realize that I had been serving in the church to make up for the sin that was still in my life. I was working hard so that God would be pleased with me. It was a burden that I wouldn't carry much longer because God began to send more solid teaching my way. I began to understand that the ONLY reason that I was acceptable to God was because of Christ and anything more than that was based on my performance and works. Once I started to see myself for who I really was I understood that if my salvation depended on anything except Christ alone I was in trouble. And if I could lose my salvation, I would have lost it long ago.

I will end with this. I believe in the doctrines of grace. I wouldn't trade them for anything because it is by grace that I was saved, not of myself. I believe that no one can come to the Father unless they come through the Son. And I believe that no one can come to the Son unless the Father draws them. I stand firm on these things and I disagree with my brothers and sisters from the Arminian camp. But what I will not do is hate them or slander them! I will stand side by side with them to proclaim the gospel and even give my life to defend them. I can only hope that they would do the same for me.

Whenever I start a discussion with someone of an opposite view I will tell them up front that there are basically two types of people. Those who want to discuss issues with the hope of winning someone to their side. And those who just want to prove others wrong. Then I ask them which one they are and inevitably 100% of the time they will agree to the former. I believe with all my heart that there is room for that type of discussion. Minus all the name calling and bashing that is usually associated with a frustrated position. I put that type of thing right up there with burning books. In one of his blog posts Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn makes this comment about book burning. He says this "There is a long history of burning books when you don’t want to actually deal with the ideas that they promote. When the medieval church sponsored public bonfires of the Reformers’ writings, raw power seemed more convenient than reasoned argument. It’s an act of desperation." I realize that this is not in the same context in which Mr. Horton intended it, but I think that the truth transcends the subject at hand.

So on that note I will be using the title "Reformed" when I am asked where I stand. I will do it respectfully and with a smile on my face because I am humbled that A Holy God would save a vile sinner like me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home of Hypocrisy

Recently I met with a friend who shared with me how she was struggling with her faith. Unfortunately the people representing Christ in her home had a less than stellar track record. Before I go on let me say that no home will pass the test of perfection. We all truly do fall short of the glory of God. However, contradictions of what we say and how we live should not be the prevailing theme in the home of a professed believer.

I grew up in a home where the only time you heard mention of God was if His name were attached to a curse word. Contradiction was the norm at my house where my dad would often say things like "do as I say, not as I do" to justify himself. I can remember growing up a very confused and angry child because it was obvious to me, that there were major inconsistencies in placing burdens on our backs that he himself was not willing to carry. (Luke 11:46) To me they were just a tool with which my dad could have power over me. Now my disobedience aside, there was not a lot of grace and very seldom an explanation for why my dad treated me the way he did.

The rooms of the believers home should be overflowing with the river of grace! There should not only be times when punishment is given for flat out rebellion, (which is God's mercy on children showing them that there are consequences) but grace given for accidents and mistakes. I once heard a story of a young boy who turned away from his grandmother when he thought she had finished serving spaghetti on his plate, causing her to drop an entire fork full on the ground. She remarked with anger in her voice "look what you done stupid" The family has learned to laugh about this incident now, but that must have been a very hurtful statement coming from someone whom you love.

The friend that I recently met with communicated to me that she didn't understand grace. Not in the sense of what it is, but more what it looks like lived out. This most likely came from a very legalistic upbringing where the Sermon on the Mount was taught as a set of rules instead of the demands of God which are only satisfied in the blood of Christ. So many people have confused the law of God for something that we need to do so that God will accept us. Instead of seeing it for what it is, a way for God to show us our true state. Remember the song “Amazing grace”? “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”. Through the law we see our sinful state, but if we stop there our condition is utterly hopeless. If we read the next part of that verse though we see the gospel! “Twas grace my fears relieved” Jesus fulfilled that which we could not... the law. (Mathew 5:17) Became that which He was not...sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21) And made a way for us to be something we could never be... acceptable to God. (Philippians 3:10)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friendship Evangelism

There is a topic that has been the source of much debate in certain circles, and that is the topic of Evangelism. Over the past six and a half years I have been a Christian and one of the things that God created me to do was to share the gospel. As a babe in Christ I was in a church that promoted friendship evangelism. I can remember my pastor saying things like "you cannot talk to someone about Christ until you have earned the right". His Idea was that you have to befriend someone and gain their respect in order to have the right to speak into their lives. I agreed with this and went along with it wholeheartedly. I would have never thought about talking to a complete stranger about the things of God.

Then it happened. I was watching TV when I saw a funny little man walk up to complete strangers and have a conversation about things like sin, hell, judgment, righteousness, the cross and forgiveness. And guess what? They actually listened and stuck around to hear what he had to say! My beliefs were challenged and I knew that I would never be the same. No more excuses about not having time to spend with people? before I could only hope that they would stay committed to the gym long enough for me to build enough trust where I could share my faith. I often wondered; How long do I have to wait before I can mention the things of God?

The more I have thought this through over the years I have come to a conclusion. If what my old pastor said was true, then we have a little snag. You see, that same church was all about inviting people to church in order that they might hear the gospel and be converted. Their hope was in the word of God and in the pastors ability to communicate it. But wait, to follow the original logic of friendship evangelism, then the pastor would have had to earn the right to speak into their lives also; Right? He had never met any of those visitors before. As a matter of fact most of the time it isn't until after the service that most people are introduced to the pastor. Sometimes it was because they had responded to an altar call and other times it was a quick handshake or a meet and greet.

You might say that this is different. These people were more than likely already friends with someone from the church who invited them, therefore they came and heard what was being said voluntarily and could have left at any time and may have never come back. I honestly do not see the difference between this and sharing your faith in the open air. Or approaching someone on the street using a gospel tract and then asking what they believe happens when someone dies? They are under no obligation to stick around and answer any of your questions. They are free to walk away at any time.(more than likely with less stress than getting up and walking out of a church) And here is the truth. Most people are more than happy to tell you what they believe and then listen to what the bible says. All this in under ten minutes. Sometimes people even THANK you for sharing with them.

In conclusion I want to stress this. I am not by any stretch of the imagination saying that you shouldn't invest your life in the lives of others in the hope that they will come to Christ. I am only saying that if all we do is be kind to people and wonder when they are going to ask us about "the hope that lies within us" then we have missed the point of the word "Evangelism". I watched a show about the self proclaimed cult know as the Macheads. And they actually have people on staff with the label "Evangelist". One of them was interviewed and made the statement that the word Evangel means " bringing good news". This is coming from a computer company!

I also want to stress the fact that the pastor I am talking about left the church I was attending and took a position somewhere else. He was a good pastor who loved the Lord and the lost. I just happen to disagree with him on his position concerning evangelism. And I still consider him a friend and brother. Church is good, Friends are good and sharing the gospel requires that we open our mouths and speak.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Are your roots showing?

Today I went to a park in the neighboring county called "Hell hollow wilderness area". Despite the name it really is a nice park. The ravine drops 100 feet down into what is called "Paine" creek. (I didn't know the name of the creek until I was doing research for this blog entry) You can walk down the 262 timber steps which put you right at the creek edge. After running up and down the steps twice, my goal was to find a nice spot up river to sit and eat my lunch. I normally would have gone home after church for a nap, but I have been wrestling with some things lately and I just don't know what to do. I don't ever remember a time, as a Christian, when I felt so helpless and unsure about what to do in my life. One of the worship leaders at church quoted psalm 46 this morning.

"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling."

When I heard those words I had to stop myself from crying because although I felt unsure about so many circumstances in my life, this Psalm covered things like the "Earth giving way" and "mountains being moved into the heart of the sea". Were my problems that big? Most would say no, but they are big to me. And I will add that they are important to God.

As I walked toward my "perfect" picnic spot I ran into some trouble. The water was high enough that I couldn't find a place to cross without getting my feet wet. I tried a balancing act on some logs which then got me to some bigger rocks, but I eventually had no choice but to get wet if I was going to continue. I made it across to the other bank and I walked along the waters edge for probably a half mile. I was looking for the place where no one else had been, even imagining finding ancient Indian artifacts or a deposit of gold! As I continued it became clear to me that God was pointing things out to me that totally related to what I was going through personally.

I noticed some trees growing out of the side of the bank. One of the things that really stood out to me was how the roots were exposed due to the years of water rushing over the base of the tree eventually eroding the soil away. Although most of the roots were exposed, the tree continued to flourish and grow at an awkward angle. I began to meditate on this a bit, and here is what I concluded. we are that tree! Now before you think I am getting all hippy tree hugger on you let me finish. Like the tree, we too do not look like we should. Our lives are crooked and imperfect at best. The roots illustrate what we are holding on to in this world. The soil that was washed away represents those things which have no ability to help us cope in this life like jobs, status, money etc. These things are not eternal and will eventually be burnt up. Remember the name "Paine" creek? the water that washes away our hold on those things is a picture of the trials and tribulation that God allows in our lives. The good soil further in is obviously God. The roots of the tree sink deep into this soil providing water and nutrients and stability. John 15:5 "Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." As you look at the picture above notice that there is nothing holding this tree to the bank except the roots. Even a normal tree in your yard looks somewhat stable because it stands straight up. You can't tell how strong the tree is just by looking at it. The roots could be very shallow, and one small breeze could knock it over. Not this tree! A tree hanging off the edge of a cliff with all the soil around its base washed away has no hope but the roots that run deep into the good soil. There were many other lessons that the Lord taught me today through His creation but I will save those for another day. Romans 1:20 "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made". To Him be the glory and may the Lamb that was slain receive full reward for His suffering!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stuck on purpose

This past Tuesday was a very special day because it was the day that I met Don. As usual, before work I prayed to God that I would glorify Him in some way. I went to work, got my list and away I went. My first load was about 25 miles away and the weather was a little less than desirable. When I arrived at the location it was nestled in behind a small farm. I had been here before, but not for about two years. another company had been taking care of this location, but due to mistakes they had made I ended up with the work again. I knew that I could pull in and have plenty of room to turn around once I got to the rear of the property. What I didn't count on was that God had other plans. When I tried to turn around I was facing down hill and I lost traction. most of the time in these situations all I have to do is to put the truck in high range and lock in the axles but not this time. I worked the truck back and forth until I was so stuck that there was no way I was getting out without some help. I have to admit I was quite irritated because i knew that the rest of my day was going to be backed up. What happened next carried my concerns about the day right out the window. The owner of the property, Don, was walking out to meet me and I knew at once that he was not very healthy. He was an elderly man in his mid eighties and he walked like he was going to fall down at any second, but he was determined to help me get out. He reminded me of my grandfather because even though he could barely keep his breath, he wasn't going to let that stop him from helping someone. I asked him if he was alright and he then explained to me that he had lung and brain cancer. All at once I knew what I had to do so I didn't waist any time. I asked him if he was a Christian man to which he replied " well I try to pray". He changed the subject so I pressed in a little harder. "Are you born again?" He said that he was pretty sure that things were right between him and God. I said "that's not something you want to be unsure of" He then explained to me that several people have tried to talk to him about these things. I then asked him if he would give me a chance. with his permission I shared the law and the gospel with him. I made it clear to him that no matter how good of a life he has lived that he has still amassed a multitude of sins. He admitted to breaking at least three of the ten commandments and understood that God was just and had to punish sinners. I asked him if he would think about his sin and consider the price that God paid so that he could be forgiven. He said he would. I told him that if he would repent and put his trust in Jesus for his salvation that God would forgive him, save him and give him a new heart. Then he allowed me to pray with him. What he said next really threw me for a loop. Apparently his daughter-in-law ran off from his son 30 years ago. she left without telling anyone where she was going and they had not seen her since. THIRTY YEARS! Recently she bought a plane ticket and flew from Colorado to Ohio with the express purpose of sharing the gospel with him. He said "she told me the exact same thing that you just did"! I was quite taken back by this. Here I thought of my being stuck in his driveway as a sacrifice. This woman flew clear across the country to share the gospel with one man. God had this man in His Crosshairs and He made sure that someone went. Wont you go and share in God's beautiful story of redemption? You don't have to fly to another country, or another state for that matter, just be willing to let God use you right where you are. Even if it's stuck in a driveway... PREACH the gospel! and yes it's necessary to use words!

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Romans 10:14

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Lost Ring and the Soveriengty of God

I was on my way to Florida for Christmas and as I went through the metal detector, I took off the ring that I was wearing and placed it in the box along with my other items. This was a ring that my mom had given me when I turned 18, and it was very important to me. I’m not even sure why I took it off because it is made of white gold with black Onyx and a diamond in the center, nothing that would set off a metal detector. I don’t wear it very often out of fear of losing it. As a matter of fact I don’t remember the last time that I had it out of its box, tucked away in the drawer of my desk. In my hurriedness to get out of the way, I left it in the container. It was with all of my other stuff, but somehow went overlooked. I was halfway across the airport when I realized it. So I gathered my bags and hoofed it back to the security station. They didn’t know anything about it and told me that they would page over the intercom if it was found. I walked away sad because I figured that it was lost forever. I made it all the way back to gate C20 to hear what I thought was the tail end of a page. All that I heard was “lost….return to the security checkpoint”. So I turned around and made my way back to the metal detectors. As I got there I was greeted by one of the security personnel. She asked me to describe my ring to her, and so I did. She happily handed it to me and I thanked her. What happened next was what I believe to be the whole reason why this happened. In the excitement of everything, I forgot that in my shirt pocket I had a stack of million dollar bill gospel tracts. I try to do this because people will actually ask what you have in your pocket. That makes it very simple to hand them out. Most people will thank you. I always tell them: “there is a Christian message on the back, make sure you read it”. So as I am putting my ring on, the male security guard says, “those look fake” and he pointed to my pocket. So I pulled the tracts out and handed them both one. They thanked me, and then the woman walked over and showed one of the passengers coming through the line and I was able to give him one also. All the commotion must have gotten the attention of the police officer on duty because he was sizing me up as I walked away. (mind you he had seen me four times at this point) So I said merry Christmas and handed him one also. Here is the point to this whole story. God is sovereign, and I believe with all my heart that He knew exactly who was to get the good news of the gospel. Out of all the thousands of people in the airport, these four people were in God's Crosshairs. I have no idea who these people are, but I can tell you this. Besides the officer, this was a completely different group that was on duty when I came through originally and when I went back the first time. Just as the ring that I lost was precious to me, these souls that I crossed paths with today were precious to God. I pray that all who received a tract from my pocket today would repent and come to faith in Christ, and that He would receive all the glory showing that He can use even “[i]the poorest material He has”, me.

[i] From; “Not my will” Francena H. Arnold