Wednesday, July 27, 2011

True Courage, True Heralds

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Do you realize that you sneeze at 120 miles per hour? Did you also know that every time you sneeze, you have been programmed to close your eyes? Where does your hair grow from? How can the thin layer of skin on your head send out a special hair, different from that which grows on the arm, or on the eyelids or eyebrows? Imagine if you had eyebrows or eyelashes that grew to the length of the hair on your head.

Have you ever studied the ordinary garden snail and wondered how its shell is able to grow in proportion to its body? A baby snail has a baby shell. As it doubles in size, it doesn’t discard it; the hard shell also doubles in size. Does the snail have a mind brilliant enough to make its own shell?

How does a grubby little caterpillar lose all its legs while inside a cocoon, grow two fresh ones, then form itself into a beautiful butterfly? Consider your fingernails: where did they grow from, and what makes their substance? Notice how your hands hold a book, with the fingers cradling it and the thumbs holding the pages. Both thumbs bend forward, or you couldn’t hold the book. Hands have been designed to grip and feel.

How is it that your lungs keep breathing irrespective of your will? You have been doing it without a second thought while looking at your thumbs. In fact, becoming conscious of it can hinder the process. Lungs seem to work best without any conscious thought from the mind. How does your subconscious mind continually feed you with thoughts, even while you sleep? It talks to you and keeps you company, and it never stops. Try to stop it yourself. Close your eyes and think of nothing for five minutes. You can’t. Your mind has been set in motion, and it has little to do with your will.

Think of the complexities of the human mind. It is feeding your understanding with knowledge right now by translating ink shapes on these pages, speaking them to your mind, and automatically filing them into your memory bank.

At this moment, your liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, salivary glands, etc., are all working to keep your body going. You don’t even have the power to switch them off and on. As you sleep tonight, your heart will pump seventy-five gallons of blood through your body each hour.

Your lungs are designed to filter oxygen from the air you breathe. These organs contain 300 billion tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Your entire blood supply washes through your lungs once every minute. In your lifetime, the marrow in your bones will create approximately half a ton of red corpuscles.

The focusing muscles in your eyes move an estimated 100,000 times each day. The retina, covering less than a square inch, contains 137 million light-sensitive cells. Even a wide-eyed Charles Darwin said, “To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

Your brain contains 10 billion neurons, microscopic nerve cells. Your stomach, which produces four pints of gastric juice each day, has 35 million glands lining it. The next time you enjoy a delicious meal, be thankful to God for the 8,000 taste buds that He put into your mouth. Imagine how boring eating would be without them. In addition to taste, the tongue was made to shape speech.

Your ears were designed to capture sound. Its grooves, bumps, and ridges are made to catch passing sound waves and channel them into the eardrum. What if your ears faced backwards or your nose was upside down (what a nightmare in a rainstorm), or your mouth had two tongues? If humanity just happened (with no purposeful de- sign), why don’t we see such creatures? In fact, we see the very opposite. From the teeth of a dog to the legs of a grasshopper, one can see practical design in everything that has been made.

Creation reflects the genius of the Creator’s hand. Explain how a sparrow knows it is a sparrow and stays with its kind, or how a baby knows to look into the eyes of its mother when no one has taught it to do so. How was a wasp made so that its wings flap at 100 times every second, or the housefly at 190 per second, or the mosquito at an amazing 500 times every second?

The most godless must have a sense of awe and wonder when standing beneath the mighty power of Niagara Falls, gazing into the Grand Canyon, or staring into the infinity of space. How much more should we be humbled by the Maker of these things. 

Adapted from, The Evidence Bible.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comic Con Trolley Preaching

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe If We Had Been Muslim or Jewish

Our time at Comic Con on Saturday was amazing. It made an afternoon of evangelism on Hollywood Boulevard seem like a quiet afternoon at the park. I think we quite literally smacked a demonic hornet's nest with the gospel, which would account for the over-the-top heckling and blasphemy.

Mike Stockwell (shown above) was the first to preach. The crowds were huge and constantly changing. When Mike had finished preaching, a young Hispanic man approached him, shook Mike's hand, and thanked him for preaching the truth of God's Word. It was obvious to those of us who were there that this was a brother in Christ.

The young man then placed his hand on Mike's shoulder and began to pray. The rest of us quietly bowed our heads and joined him as he prayed for Mike and for the continued proclamation of the gospel.

When we finished praying, a San Diego Police officer approached us.

And this is what he said.

He told us that he did not want us doing any more "prayer circles" at the corner. He said we were blocking the sidewalk. He said if we wanted to pray we would have to "do it over there." He pointed to an area that was clearly private property belonging to either the convention center or the adjacent hotel.

We spent three hours on that corner preaching the gospel, distributing tracts, and engaging people in conversation. We even used amplification. None of which seemed to bother the officer, who was maintaining a position about twenty feet from where we stood.

The corner was packed with hundreds of people. It was veritable sea of humanity.

As you will notice in the above photo, we did not join hands or link arms to pray. People were free to walk in front of us, behind us, and through us for that matter. The young man who prayed was not loud--certainly not as loud as our preaching or as loud as the responding hecklers. With the cacophony of noise in the area, it was a challenge to hear him when just standing a couple feet away.

Mike and I tried to explain to the officer that we had not organized a "prayer circle," as he called it. What took place was spontaneous and initiated by a passerby. We also tried to explain to the officer that the corner was clearly in a constant state of congestion. People were moving from place to place, and people were standing still and talking on the sidewalk. We weren't "blocking" the sidewalk any more than anyone else. But the officer didn't want to hear it. Obviously, there was something about a group of Christians praying that bothered him.

In order to keep the peace and to make sure we could continue preaching, we chose not to argue further and assured the officer that we wouldn't organize any "prayer circles" on the sidewalk.

As I made the 150-mile drive home that night, I thought much about the encounter with the San Diego police officer. And I began to wonder.

Would the officer had told us we couldn't pray on the public sidewalk if we were Muslims?

Or what if we had been a group of Jews who decided to stop and pray at that corner, on a public sidewalk? Would the officer's reaction had been the same? Sadly, I think not.

Remember, we were not a group of Christian missionaries in North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq. We were a group of Christian U.S. citizens, on a public sidewalk in San Diego, CA.

And if you are a Christian reading this and think this is an isolated incident, you are spending too much time cloistered in churches, Sunday school classrooms, or home Bible studies. It's time you get out and see what's really happening to your Christian brethren in your country.

Opposition to Jesus Christ and His gospel is growing in the United States. It's not simply happening "over there." It's happening right here; right now.

Yes, we struck a demonic hornet's nest with the gospel, during our time at Comic Con. And we'll be going back, next year.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When Hecklers Get Too Close

The Third Street Heralds, along with members of the Living Waters team and folks who attended the Transformed Conference at Calvary Chapel Oceanside, went to Comic Con yesterday afternoon. It was intense from start to finish.

The Third Street Heralds took up a position at a street corner, adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center. There, we preached non-stop for three hours and distributed thousands of gospel tracts.

Sometimes hecklers don't say a word. Sometimes they try to heckle or interrupt the preaching through intimidation. And one way they try to intimidate the preacher is by taking a position in close proximity him or her. This is what one many tried to do to my brother, Bill McCarty.

One of the benefits of conducting street evangelism with a team is that there is both physical and spiritual strength in numbers. Whenever someone tries to get too close to a brother or sister on the box, other members of the team simply form a human shield between the preacher and the heckler.

And that's what I tried to do for Bill when the man you will see in the video tried to intimidate him with his mere presence. Brothers Mike Stockwell and Steve Pivovaroff (both considerably larger men than me), were nearby. The man had a look in his eyes with which I have grown all-too-familiar, through twenty years of law enforcement and several years preaching the gospel on the streets. Evil. He was literally covered from head to toe in tattoos. One of his tattoos, located just below his lower lip, read: "Psalms." Every muscle in his body seemed tense, as if he was about to explode. And he did explode; but in a way I did not expect.

Here's what happened.

Learn from My Mistake

The hug and kiss from the heckler could have been avoided, but I made a tactical error. Instead of simply letting the heckler walk away, I called out to him and thanked him for stopping by. Yes, I was being sarcastic; and it was a fleshly moment. When the man turned around and started back, I extended my hand to shake his hand. He grabbed my hand, which gave him the tactical advantage over me. In a blink of an eye, he had his arms around me and planted a kiss on my cheek. The encounter could have turned out much worse. Much worse.

So learn from my mistake. If you have a potentially dangerous heckler in your midst and they choose to walk away, let them walk away. Don't fall into the trap of pride and arrogance as I did.

As a side note: there was a police officer standing about twenty feet away. He could clearly see the intensity of the moment, but he did nothing. In my next article, I will share with you how the officer, at a different moment of time, took police action. You're not going to believe this!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sermon Prep - 'America: The Modern-Day Valley of Slaughter'

I'm not accustomed to sharing a sermon text before it is preached, let alone before I've finished writing it. But there's something about this sermon that compels me to share what I've written thus far so I can solicit the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will preach this sermon for the first time at Granada Hills Community Church on Sunday, August 7, 2011. If you're in the area, you're welcome to come.

Here's what I've written thus far:

Sermon Title: "America: The Modern-Day Valley of Slaughter"

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 7:1-8:3


For those of you unfamiliar with the prophet Jeremiah: Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned some forty years, from 627-587 B.C. He served as God’s herald to the people of Judah from the reign of Judah’s last good king (Josiah) to sometime after the fall of Jerusalem and the start of the Babylonian Exile.

Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet,” for he loved his people and his heart was grieved over their rebellion and unrepentant sin against God. But don’t be fooled into thinking that because Jeremiah wept that he was in any way weak. Jeremiah knew the Lord was with him. He knew he was called by God to serve as one of His prophets. And although Jeremiah’s was a lonely existence, filled with trials and tribulations, he was courageous, patient, and showed great physical endurance and spiritual faithfulness.

The overall theme of the Book of Jeremiah is one of judgment against infidelity. Quite literally, Jeremiah was called by God to call His people to account for their sin of spiritual adultery. The nation of Israel was an idolatrous whore in the eyes of God. But while Israel broke covenant with God, God would never break covenant with them. Oh yes, they would be punished for their sin; but God is faithful, even when His people are faithless.

By today’s man-centered evangelistic standards, Jeremiah was an utter failure in ministry. For forty years, Jeremiah cried out like a lone voice in the wilderness, like a trumpet to deaf ears, only seeing two of his brethren repent and return to God—his scribe, Baruch and an Ethiopian eunuch named Ebed-melech who served King Zedekiah. Jeremiah saw only two converts in forty years.

But Jeremiah’s prophetic, open-air ministry was anything but a failure, for he was faithful to the call of God in his life. God gave him his marching orders and he stepped out in faith. He didn’t do it to please man, but to please his great God and King. He loved God and he loved people. And he preached as though lives depended on it, because the lives of his countrymen were weighing in the balance.

So, the next time someone asks you for results—the next time someone asks you how effective you are when you hand out gospel tracts, or when you engage strangers in spiritual conversation, or when (if this applies to you) you herald the gospel on the streets—simply tell them that you are as successful as Jeremiah. For salvation is of the Lord and not a result of the efforts of man. And any effort to proclaim the gospel to the lost, so long as it is done biblically, is a successful effort, regardless of the response of the hearer.

Jeremiah 1 contains all of the book’s major settings, themes, and characters. It also chronicles God’s direct call on Jeremiah’s life, as well as God’s promise to protect Jeremiah through his storied and difficult ministry.

Jeremiah 2-6 five messages from Jeremiah, with a common theme—the adultery of Israel. In Jeremiah 2:1-3:5, Israel is depicted as a faithless spouse. In Jeremiah 3:6-4:4, Jeremiah calls Israel to repent for its spiritual adultery. In Jeremiah 4:5-31, Jeremiah warns his people that devastation looms on the horizon in the form of an invasion. In Jeremiah 5:1-31, Jeremiah spells out the future consequences of Judah and Jerusalem’s refusal to repent. And in the saddest and most tragic message of the five, which is found in Jeremiah 6:1-30, Jeremiah prophesies of God’s rejection of the people who rejected Him.

And that brings us to our text this morning—Jeremiah 7:1-8:3.

Textual Survey and Major Sermon Points

Let’s take a brief survey of our passage, before we study its various parts. The passage, although it extends through all of Chapter 7 to just the first few verses of Chapter 8, is one prophecy. Remember, the chapter and verse system of the Bible is not inspired. It was determined by men to make the Bible more readable and easier to study. While the Word of God is inerrant and infallible, the chapter delineations and verse numbering system are not. Sometimes a Bible writer’s thoughts and intentions carry over from one verse to the next, one paragraph to the next, one chapter to the next.

Our passage for this morning is the first prophecy in a larger group of prophecies spanning from Jeremiah 7:1 to 10:25. And the prophecy to which we will give our attention today gives evidence to one of the most tragic forms of hypocrisy ever committed by Israel—they habitually and wantonly violated God’s commands while, at the same time, believed they had refuge from God’s wrath and their enemies in the Temple of God.

In Jeremiah 7:1-7, we see that the people do, in fact, trust in the security the Temple provides. In Jeremiah 7:8-11, the nation profanes the Temple and blasphemes God with false worship. In Jeremiah 7:12-15, Jeremiah warns the people that their behavior will lead to the Temple’s ultimate destruction. In Jeremiah 7:16-20, Jeremiah warns the people of one of the consequences of their sins—God will no longer answer the intercessory prayers of the people of Judah. Jeremiah explains why this is the case in Jeremiah 7:21-26. God will not be mocked, fooled, or impressed with man-made, man-centered religious practices. And lastly, Jeremiah 7:27-8:3 declares that God will judge Judah by way of desecration and destruction.

For the purpose of this message, we will consider not only three major areas of sin on the part of the people of Israel, but the striking similarities between the Israel of 2,600 years ago and the America of today. Before we do that, however, it is important that I make something very clear. The passage of Scripture we are studying today was not written about the United States. In fact, you will find no mention of the United States anywhere in Scripture. Again, we will focus on a tragic period in the history of Israel and how modern-day America resembles it.

My friends, history does repeat itself. Tragically, America has learned nothing from her Judeo-Christian ancestry. For those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it. And it appears that America relishes in the opportunity to repeated Israel’s history, going so far as to surpass the ancient nation’s level of debauchery, idolatry, and murderous ways.

You see, my friends: like Israel, America has committed adultery with other gods. America has refused to obey the voice of the Lord and repent. And America has blasphemed the one, true God by sacrificing her children to false gods. Oh, yes, unbelievers in the United States—those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—are doing all of this. But those who now profess to be His people through faith in Jesus Christ are also committing these awful sins in the House of the Lord, in the Church. And as Jeremiah prophesied about Israel, so it is true about the United States. America, my friends, has become the modern-day Valley of Slaughter.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So, What About Evangelizing The Homeless?

The above photo was making its way around Facebook, yesterday. For the record, the sign reads: "Family kidnapped by ninjas. Need money for karate lessons." Some folks on Facebook thought he was looking for $4 karate lessons. But I digress.

I will say this for the man in the photo. He's creative. In fact, I heard from a fellow evangelist in Canada that some of the homeless in their area actually have contests to see who can come up with the most creative signs.

So, who are the "homeless?" The homeless in my community (and in your community, too) are homeless because they want to be, and because they have no choice.

The homeless are mentally-ill, and they are more lucid and intelligent than you and me.

The homeless are criminals, and they are as loving and caring as your grandmother (assuming your grandmother is a nice lady).

The homeless are lazy, and they are willing to do any kind of honest work to avoid begging from the likes of you and me.

The homeless are an intentional burden on society, and they are men and women who fought to defend our country and who deserve our attention.

The homeless are unsavory opportunists, and they are decent optimists.

The homeless are Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Atheists.

The homeless are lost and bound for Hell, and they are born-again and bound for Heaven.

The homeless are one set of circumstances away from you and me, and we are one set of circumstances away from them.

In other words, the homeless among us are people--sin-stained, fallible human beings with souls. They are people who will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. They need the Lord Jesus Christ like everyone else. Therefore, if you do not share the gospel with the homeless because they are homeless, you must repent of your shameful indifference and prejudice.

That being said, I do believe there are right and wrong ways, safe and unsafe ways, to evangelize the homeless among us. What I would like to put forth are not hard and fast rules, but merely suggestions based on my own experience, conscience, and the Word of God. Let your personal experience, conscience and understanding of the Word be your guide. With that, I hope you find this helpful.

Gospel Tracts

Contrary to the musings of those interviewed by Christianity Today, gospel tracts are (and have been for generations) an effective way to present the gospel to the lost. Gospel tracts can go places the Christian cannot go--to a lost person's home, for instance, where it can be read privately and at the person's leisure.

Those who discount the distribution of well-written, biblical gospel tracts as passe, irrelevant, and/or ineffective are either simply ignorant of the historic effectiveness of gospel tracts or have fallen into the trap of believing that the gospel somehow needs the help of man's creativity. While they may not say it with their lips, they say it with their attitude toward the simple proclamation of the gospel--whether in verbal or written forms. To them, the gospel is not enough. To them, the power of God for salvation is not the gospel, but the gospel plus relationships, plus service, plus contextualization, plus...

When distributing gospel tracts to the homeless there is only one rule of thumb I follow. I never give a money gospel tract, like the Million Dollar Bill, to a homeless person. I distribute tracts like these by the thousands. But to give a money tract to a homeless person can be so very easily taken by them as mocking their present situation. And, if they are not in their right mind, they may actually try to use the tract to buy something, which would present an entirely new set of problems for a person already struggling to survive.

Cash Money

As a rule, I do not give cash money to homeless people. The reason should be obvious. I do not want my money to be used to put a harmful substance up their nose, in their arm, or in their liver. Many people are homeless because of drug and alcohol addiction. The last thing I want is to feed their addictions by way of my wallet.

So, what do I do if I come across a homeless person asking for money, for food? I offer to feed them.

When a homeless person asks for money for food, I will either give them a gift card to a local fast food restaurant (I recommend carrying fast food gift cards in your car and/or your evangelism backpack or box), or I offer to walk with them to a nearby restaurant and buy them something to eat. Handling the situation this way serves multiple purposes. First, it's the most practical way to put food in a homeless person's stomach without having to worry about the person misusing cash. Second, by walking with the person to a nearby eatery it gives you time to share the law and the gospel with them. And third, it often reveals the genuineness of the homeless person's request. If a homeless person asks for money for food and they refuse your offer of a gift card or to buy them something to eat, then rest assured the reason they want your money is not to fill their stomach.

If a homeless person asks for money for transportation, help them arrange for the transportation and buy their ticket. Pay the cabbie. Pay the bus driver. Buy the subway ticket. But don't give the homeless person cash. Again, their reaction to your offer to pay directly for their transportation will reveal much about the genuineness of the homeless person's request.

Oh, and if a homeless person asks you for twenty-five cents to pay their rent (and I hear this often), I recommend not believing a mere quarter is all they need to secure housing.  Try to help them find a shelter instead of giving them money.

Safety Considerations

Let's face it. Many Christians are naive. Many lack "street smarts." Many have a pollyannic view of the world and the people in it. They lack the common sense to realize that there are people in the world who will use a simple act of kindness against the person exhibiting the kindness. And many Christians are particularly naive when it comes to dealing with the homeless.

If a homeless person asks for a ride, don't put them in your car. Don't assume that all the person wants is a ride. They may want your car, or more. As stated above, help arrange for their transportation if you are able and feel so led.

Do not follow a homeless person into any secluded area. Make sure your interaction with a homeless person is in public view--preferably in a relatively crowded area. Acquiescing to what sounds like an innocent request to follow a homeless person can lead to a tragic ambush.

Unless you are going to conduct a patdown search of the homeless person (and I don't recommend doing that), you have no idea whether or not the person is carrying weapons on his or her person, or in their personal belongings. Never place yourself in a position in which you find yourself alone and isolated with a homeless person.

Chris Yarzab captured this beautiful moment (as well as the photo of the homeless man receiving a meal) during an Ambassadors' Academy. Two ladies in our group had the opportunity to share the gospel and pray with a homeless gentleman. Needless to say, men in our group (including Chris) were close by and keeping an eye on the ladies.

Notice that the ladies have their eyes closed while praying for the man. There is nothing in the Bible that says you must bow your head and close your eyes to pray. A Christian can communicate with their Lord in any language and in any posture. For safety reasons, I recommend praying with your eyes open--not only when praying for a homeless person, but anytime you are conducting evangelism on the streets. You can't defend yourself against what you cannot see.

Make sure when praying with strangers (homeless or otherwise) on the street that you limit physical contact to that which is both appropriate and safe. You do not want to put yourself in a position where a stranger can grab hold of you and render you defenseless.  Nor do you want to put yourself in a position where a stranger can later allege inappropriate physical contact on your part.

Service and Evangelism--They Are Not One and The Same

While this article is not exhaustive regarding the evangelization of the homeless, I hope it has been instructive. Before I close, I would like to make one more important point. Service and evangelism are not one and the same.

There are many wonderful ministries around the world that focus on the needs of the homeless. Praise God! And I hope I've already made my position clear. Christians should help the homeless in practical ways, whenever they have the means and the ability to do so.

Sadly, however, there are likely many ministries to the homeless, whether para-church or church-based, that fall woefully short when it comes to the primary mission--the gospel.

Service is not evangelism. Feeding, clothing, housing, and hiring the homeless is not evangelism. Loving the homeless is not evangelism. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, and Atheists work hard to feed, clothe, house, and hire the homeless. Christian, without the verbal proclamation of the gospel, your efforts regarding the homeless are no different in the heart and mind of the homeless person than the efforts of the unbeliever.

Feed the homeless? Yes! Clothe and otherwise help the homeless? Yes! But if that is all you do, Christian; if you stop there; then all you have accomplished is to make the homeless person more comfortable on their way to Hell. If you give a homeless person your coat and a hot meal, but you do not give them the gospel, and if they die that night in their sleep they will go to Hell warm and filled.

No homeless person (no person, for that matter) receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior because you loved and cared for them. They receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior when the Father draws them to Himself, causes them to be born again and, as a result they repent and believe the gospel they have heard--hopefully from you--placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

Can God use your act of kindness as a means of preparing the homeless person to hear and respond to the gospel? Certainly! Service and evangelism should go hand in hand. But they are not synonymous terms. It is a both/and, not an either/or proposition. Serve the homeless. Love the homeless. Love them enough to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.

Christian, be the "Good Samaritan" in a homeless person's life, today.  And as you meet their physical needs, please do not forget to meet their greatest need--the need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Open-Air Introduction and Declaration

I recently preached a sermon on the importance of the street evangelist's relationship to the local assembly of believers. The sermon was born out of an article I wrote about the issue of Nomadism within the street evangelism community. Another sermon I've preached in a few churches, including the recent "Jersey Fire" conference, is a message titled Him We Proclaim, which emphasizes the importance of exalting Christ in open-air preaching.

One of the things I love about preaching the Word of God is the study that goes into preparing to open the Word of God and teach it and preach it to others. The sermons I have recently preached is affecting change in my own open-air preaching.

The photo is of my waterproof open-air preaching Bible (I will provide a detailed review of this Bible later this year). One of the things I have written inside the Bible is my "Open-Air Declaration." From now on, along with a personal introduction, I plan to make this verbal declaration before I open air preach.

I believe it is very important that those who hear me preach in the open-air know two things about me--which Jesus I represent, and to which church I belong.

What follows is my personal introduction and declaration. I want to encourage my Christian brethren who herald the gospel in the open-air to do something similar in a way that is consistent with your unique personality and church affiliation.
My name is Tony Miano. I am a member of Granada Hills Community Church where I serve as an evangelist and Bible study leader. I am here, today, with the prayerful support of my church leaders and church family.

I am here to proclaim to you this day the One whose name is above every name—the One before whom every knee will one-day bow and every tongue will one-day confess. For “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and the Author of our salvation. He is the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Life, and the Bridegroom. He is the Chief Shepherd, the Christ of God, and the Cornerstone. He is the Deliverer, the Descendant of David, and the Door of the sheep. He is the Eternal Father and Eternal Life. He is the firstborn among many brethren, the firstborn from the dead, and the firstborn of all creation.

He is God with us, the Good Shepherd, and the Guardian of our souls. He is the head over all rule and authority, the head of the Church, and the head of every man. He is the great I AM, the image of the invisible God, and Immanuel. He is Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Son of God, and the Judge of the living and the dead. He is the King of Kings, the King of the Jews, and the King of Zion. And He is the Lamb of God, the life-giving Spirit, and the Lion from the Tribe of Judah. He is our Mediator before God the Father, the Messiah, and the Mighty God.

Jesus Christ is the Majestic One! And it is Him I exalt and His gospel I am here to proclaim.
Again, the purpose of this introduction and declaration is to let listeners know that I represent the only true Jesus Christ who has revealed Himself in His Word (and not a false Jesus like the ones propagated by the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, and liberal quasi-Christian denominations); and to let them know that I have the support of a local church.

I hope other street evangelists will do the same to show their submission to Christ and His Body.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

America: The Modern-Day Valley of Slaughter

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Whole Nine Yards

If you listen to most modern preachers, they will tell you how God can help you. He’s your friend and He’s there for your happiness. He has a wonderful plan for your life.  However, with a spiraling world economy, the increase in global disasters, wars, unstoppable diseases, massive floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, tsunamis, and escalating violence, it’s not so easy to make the promise of a bliss-filled future for those who respond to the gospel. 

Words mean different things to different people. While some preachers would say that a “wonderful” plan means that God will be with us in the lion’s den, they don’t mention the lions, and so they are disillusioned the first time a lion looks at them as lunch. God isn’t portrayed in Scripture as some sort of divine butler who comes at the beck and call of humanity. There’s no promise of perfect happiness in this life. The Christian life is rather portrayed as the opposite. The Bibles promises tribulation, temptation and persecution for those who live a godly life in this sinful world. 

Consequently, skeptics are right when they say that the church is filled with hypocrites—those whose lives don’t reflect what we know they should. And our land is filled with those who think that they were once Christians who have fallen away from their faith. The following letter is typical of those in this category: 

“Ray believes I was a ‘false convert’ and was never a ‘true Christian’ the entire time I believed I was a born-again evangelical Christian for many years. I spoke in tongues, had the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, laying-on-of-hands, the whole nine yards.” 

He may have thought that he had the whole nine yards, but he was thrown a curveball. Sadly, this person (just one of very many) is almost certainly the product of the false gospel—the promise of an improved life. Notice the “evidence” he cites of his supposed conversion. It was that he possessed gifts, when the Bible says that it is by fruits (not gifts) that a Christian is known. 

The Scriptures list the evidential fruits of conversion as the fruit of righteousness (always doing the right thing), the fruit of praise (giving God due praise for His kindness, etc.), the fruit of thanksgiving (having a thankful heart for the “unspeakable” gift of everlasting life, etc.), the fruit of repentance (living a life of holiness—no longer serving sin), and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness and temperance). 

Instead of possessing these fruits, the false convert deceives himself, and plays the hypocrite. He doesn’t come to “know the Lord” because his sin still separates him from God.  He holds onto secret sins (lust, selfishness, a covetous heart, bitterness, etc.), and it’s only a matter of time (as with Judas) until he is exposed as a pretender. Many hypocrites stay within the Church, sitting among God’s people—as goats among the sheep--and will be sorted out on Judgment Day. 

The reason the false convert had a false conversion is that he didn’t find a place of biblical repentance in the first place. He never saw sin in its true light. That’s why the Ten Commandments should be used in our witness, and not the unbiblical “God has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life” gospel. 

Instead of trying to attract the sinners to the Savior, we should rather do what the Bible does. It drives them using the Ten Commandments. It is similar to the way the police may have an amnesty for illegal weapons.  They would say, “You are violating the law by possessing illegal firearms. If you hand them in before the end of this month you will not be prosecuted.” And therein is the essence of the message of the gospel. We have sinned against God by violating His Law.  In His sight we are criminals. There’s going to be a terrible Day of Judgment, when God reveals His anger against all evil, but He is rich in mercy and offers amnesty. If we lay down our weapons of hostility, He completely forgives us because of the cross. 

When we leave off the fact that sinners have violated God’s Law and are under His just wrath, there’s no reason for them to lay down their weapons. Instead of fleeing to the cross to be saved from God’s wrath because they have sinned against Him, they instead experimentally come to the Savior to see if His wonderful plan is better than theirs. There’s no fear of God, there’s no knowledge of sin (which comes by the Law—see Romans 3:19, 20, 7:7, 7:13), and there is no conversion to Jesus Christ. 

A woman named Kim once wrote to us and said that her husband had our video series, saying that she mocked Kirk Cameron and me, calling us “The Hokey Brothers,” and naming the video series “The Won't Work Series.” In other words, she didn’t believe in the use of God’s Law to bring the knowledge of sin, and be used as “a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” (see Galatians 3:24), and said, 

“Late one night the phone rang and it was a very nervous man who said that a woman at Union Station (that's in DC) gave him my business card… It turns out a friend had … double parked, ran to a security guard and handed him my card saying, ‘This is the woman who will answer your questions about God’.  He stammered on the phone telling me the story and then said that he had kept the card for a year, thrown it away several times only to dig it out of the trash.  Clifton then went on to ask me question after question about scripture.  My husband found passages so that I could read directly as I spoke to Clifton over several hours.  Well after midnight Clifton was still questioning why he needed God and I went ‘full Ray’.  ‘Have you ever told a lie?’ I queried.  My husband was pounding the pillow laughing as I was mouthing to him to shut up.  Within minutes Clifton's heart changed.  He was crying at his need for God and saying that he never knew why he needed Him.  We prayed and I never heard from Clifton again.  My husband, however, never misses an opportunity to laugh at my now former mocking at Ray.” 

So if you are a Christian, make sure you do what Jesus did when you present the gospel to a lost and dying world. If they are humble and have a knowledge of sin, give them grace (John 3:1-5). If they are proud and self-righteous, give them the Law to humble them and bring the knowledge of sin (Mark 10:17-22). Do what Paul did in Romans chapter 2. He  said to his hearers,   

“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” (Romans 2:21-23). 

Imitate Paul. Do what Jesus did. Open up the divine Law as He did in the Sermon on the Mount, and show sinners the seriousness of sin and its fearful consequences. To fail to do so is the ultimate betrayal, the terrible repercussions of which will only be seen in eternity. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Evangelist's Responsibility to the Local Church

Here is a new message I preached yesterday at the Jersey Fire conference.

If you are unable to listen to the message by using the above player, you can listen and/or download the message, here.

And a lower quality version is available for download, here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Evangelism Basics: Tools

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Evangelism Basics: Tracts

Tony's Amplification System

I am often asked about the portable amplification system I use when open-air preaching. I presently use a Revel VoiceAmp. This lightweight, very portable system, which retails for $349.00, has served me well for about two years. It's held up fairly well under the pressures of frequent use.

What I like most about this amplification system, with the included headset microphone, is it allows me to have hands-free operation. Since most of my open-air preaching is done with Bible in hand, not having to hold a microphone is critically important to me. And its waist pack design allows me more mobility than traditional sound systems.

The sound quality of this sound system is fair. Sound quality does get a bit tinny at higher volume levels. But, in my opinion, what you lose in sound quality you gain in portability, convenience, and mobility. And the system is small enough to fit in a standard-size backpack, for transportation.

The stock system has good volume, even with its little 25 amps of power. However, I had mine modified. Instead of a system powered by two 9-volt batteries, mine is powered by two rechargeable remote control car batteries. The modification was made by my friend and Ambassadors' Academy grad, Mike Snyder.

Here's a video Mike produced, which describes how he made the modification to my system.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Mayflower Compact, a Condemned Pastor, and Freedom in Christ

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Heckler from a Christian University

Friday, July 1, 2011

Weed-eaters in the Church

Have you ever thought of using a gas-powered weed-eater in a flower bed? If you have, do you honestly think you could eradicate the weeds without damaging at least one flower?

If you are a gardener or fond of gardens you wouldn't likely dream of doing something so careless. You, and even someone whose thumb is covered in the slightest shade of green, would shudder at the thought of taking a weed-eater to a flowerbed. Even the novice gardener would opt for a set of pruning shears or some other handheld garden tool in order to avoid harming any of the flowers. The reason is flowerbeds are typically small compact areas, with the flowers growing in close proximity to one another.

Great care is required while trimming and weeding small flowerbeds. Better to let the weeds grow until such time as they can be removed from the flowerbed without harming the flowers. Or, if time is of the essence and it becomes necessary to quickly remove the weeds, great care should be taken in weeding the flowerbed. Again, one doesn't want to do anything to harm the beautiful flowers.

He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'" (Matthew 13:24-30).
Sadly, today there are many "weed-eaters" in the Church--men and women who see it as their mission to uproot, cast off, and otherwise dispose of what they consider weeds in the Church. And they always seem to forget (conveniently so) the important parable just quoted. These "weed-eaters," who delude themselves into thinking it is their "calling," for the sake of the Church and the glory of Christ, to not only identify false converts in local churches but to also harass them (what the "weed-eater" would call "speaking the truth in love") to the point that the accused leaves the church. Yet Jesus, using the striking image of a parable, calls His disciples to do the opposite.

If you look closely at the parable, Jesus makes a distinction between the servants and the reapers. The "servants" are over-zealous followers of Jesus Christ and the "reapers" are the holy angels. The master (Jesus Christ) instructs the servants to leave the tares (false converts) be, lest they damage some of the wheat (genuine believers) in the process of rooting out the tares.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on the parable, writes:
Note, It is not possible for any man infallibly to distinguish between tares and wheat, but he may be mistaken; and therefore such is the wisdom and grace of Christ, that he will rather permit the tares, than any way endanger the wheat. It is certain, scandalous offenders are to be censured, and we are to withdraw from them; those who are openly the children of the wicked one, are not to be admitted to special ordinances; yet it is possible there may be a discipline, either so mistaken in its rules, or so over-nice in the application of them, as may prove vexatious to many that are truly godly and conscientious. Great caution and moderation must be used in inflicting and continuing church censures, lest the wheat be trodden down, if not plucked up. The wisdom from above, as it is pure, so it is peaceable, and those who oppose themselves must not be cut off, but instructed, and with meekness, 2 Tim. 2:25. The tares, if continued under the means of grace, may become good corn; therefore have patience with them.
"It is not possible for any man infallibly to distinguish between tares and wheat..." Sadly, there are professing followers of Christ who claim they can distinguish, without question or error, the tares from the wheat--the false convert from the true. Beware of ones such as these, for they themselves could very well be tares among the wheat; and not simply tares that grow upright (easily distinguishable) amongst the wheat, but rather tares that are intertwined with the wheat--appearing to be real wheat while choking the same.

Are you a tare-hunter in the Church? A weed-eater? Are you so prideful as to believe you have the ability to infallibly distinguish the tares from the wheat? Do you arrogantly assert yourself as a "reaper," a task given to the holy angels, and not to you; instead of humbly serving Christ as a slave in the field?

Repent, lest you shipwreck your faith. Examine yourself. Test yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. Look closely in the mirror. What you see may not be amber waves of grain.

The Dichotomy Between Disciplining and Murdering Children

Some of the same people who are vehemently against spanking children are just as passionately in favor of aborting children. They protest the corporal punishment of children once they leave the womb, but they promote the murder of children in the womb.

One person, writing anonymously, stated: "Spanking is simply another form of terrorism. It teaches the victims that might makes right, and that problems can be solved through the use of violence by the strong against the weak."

While I disagree that "spanking is simply another form of terrorism," let's replace the word "spanking" with "abortion" in the above statement. Those who are proponents of abortion assert, by their support and/or actions "that might makes right, and that problems can be solved through the use of violence by the strong against the weak." And who is weaker among the Human Race than unborn children?

Dr. Benjamin Spock was quoted as saying, "If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start." Yet multiple sources indicate that part of his platform as the People's Party candidate, during the 1972 Presidential Election Campaign was the legalization of abortion.

Toronto Star Columnist, Ken Gallinger, in an article titled "The Bible Is Simply Wrong About Spanking," wrote: "Spanking is an act of violence, so ethically, it could be justified only if there was absolutely no other way to improve the way kids act."

However, in an article titled "Should Lives Doomed to Hardship Be Aborted," which dealt with the birth of conjoined twins, Gallinger wrote: "I'm not, incidentally, arguing that it would necessarily have been ethically wrong had the mother made the decision to abort the pregnancy. If she had taken that step, knowing her own limitations and being realistic about the life ahead for these kids, it would be right to respect her decision. Sad, but right."

Gallinger did write in the same article that he thought the mother made the "nobler choice" by electing to raise the children. Small comfort, however, when he sees nothing unethical about aborting the same children, had the mother decided to do so. This is yet another example of the dichotomy for some between their views regarding the discipline of children and the murder of the same.

Interestingly (and unfortunately), Gallinger is a "minister." He serves at Lawrence Park Community Church, in Toronto, Canada. The church logo indicates the church prides itself in being "united, unorthodox, and unlimited. The home page on the church's website also indicates that the church is unchristian.
Lawrence Park Community Church is committed to being a radically inclusive and welcoming congregation. We preach and live a Good News that is contemporary and challenging. Whatever age you may be, whatever stage of exploring faith you may be at, you will find support, encouragement and spiritual stimulation in our congregation.

Theologically, our approach to the Christian faith is progressive and contemporary. We worship a God who is more 'within and among' than 'beyond'. We proclaim Jesus as "The Way" to life -- but we do not accept the notion of Jesus as "the only way". We understand ourselves to be a part of Canada's faith mosaic -- even as we affirm the beauty and dignity of other parts of that mosaic as well.
Sadly, Gallinger is one in a growing number of apostate pastors polluting pulpits around the world.

The same tragic dichotomy regarding Dr. Spock's and Pastor Gallinger's views regarding the discipline and murder of children is also seen in the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the AAP's Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, in a policy paper titled "Guidance for Effective Discipline," parents should not spank their children.
Because of the negative consequences of spanking and because it has been demonstrated to be no more effective than other approaches for managing undesired behavior in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in developing methods other than spanking in response to undesired behavior.
However, while the AAP would seek to develop alternatives to corporal punishment, they would seek to develop no such barriers to adolescents murdering their unborn children. In a policy paper titled "Counseling the Adolescent About Pregnancy Options, the AAP's Committee on Adolescence wrote:
Premarital sex, pregnancy, and abortion engender strong personal and individual feelings. Pediatricians and other health professionals should not allow their personal beliefs and values to interfere with optimal patient health care. The physician needs to respect the adolescent's personal decision and her legal right to continue or to terminate her pregnancy and not impose barriers to health services from another provider. Should a pediatrician choose not to counsel the adolescent patient about sexual matters such as pregnancy and abortion, the patient should be referred to other experienced professionals.
Such is the dichotomous mindset of many people in the world, today--philosophers and psychologists, columnists and clergy, medical organizations who are mandated to "do no harm," and people on the street. On the one hand, they profess to want to keep children from physical harm while, at the same time, they have no problem with the harming of children in the most depraved way--murder in the womb.

The godless (whether they wear a reporter's fedora, a clergyman's collar, or a clinician's coat) see no dichotomy in their thinking. The reason is simple enough. According to their secular worldview, they have no universal and eternal barometer for morality. They can rationalize such polar opposites as protecting children from harm and murdering children in the womb because their barometer for morality does not extend beyond their personal preferences. All such attempts to harmonize the parental philosophy of not spanking children with the murdering of unborn children by their parents (and by their doctors, and by pro-abortion politicians, and by professing Christians who vote for them) is nothing more than another attempt by sinful mankind to suppress the truth by their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

There is no dichotomy in a biblical, Christian worldview regarding the subject of disciplining children and murdering them. God's Word makes it clear. Children should be disciplined and, if necessary, with corporal punishment. And children should never be murdered.
"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,but the rod of discipline drives it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).

"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die" (Proverbs 23:13).

"The rod and reproof give wisdom,but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15).

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:7-11).
"You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).