Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Six Objections to and Misconceptions about 'The Way of the Master' (Part 2)

Objection #2 - It scares people off.

I can understand this objection/misconception in light of some of the "bad" open-air preaching taking place on streets around the world these days. There are some "preachers" on the streets who live for confrontation. They rarely get to the gospel during their preaching because they spend the bulk of their time inciting people with uncharitable rhetoric and, once they've raised the hackles of their listeners, they spend the rest of their time defending themselves instead of contending for the faith.

Those described above are often referred to as the "hellfire" preachers. An unbiblical "hellfire" preacher is not one who simply talks about sin, judgment, and Hell in a biblical and loving way. An unbiblical "hellfire" preacher is one who uses the threat of Hell and judgment to justify self-righteous, mean-spirited talk and condescension toward their audience. There is little or no grace in their tone of voice or rhetoric. And again, they rarely get to the cross of Christ and the beauty of His sacrifice in their preaching. Sadly, there are times when "hellfire" preachers do little more than call people names, under the auspices of confronting them about their sin, and command people to repent.

With the above in mind, I can understand why some might conclude that all open-air preaching "scares people off."

But let's not forget that there is a biblical model for what is commonly referred to as "hellfire" preaching. I can say without equivocation that I know several biblical "hellfire" preachers--one in particular. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus said:
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire" (Matthew 5:22).

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." (Matthew 5:29-30).

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves" (Matthew 23:15).

"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell" (Matthew 23:33)?
To characterize all open-air preaching as being the same as what can be deemed unbliblical "hellfire" preaching would be a mistake. And to lump any mention of Hell in either open-air preaching or during one-to-one conversations into the category of unbiblical "hellfire" preaching, is to lump Jesus into the same category; for Jesus talked more about Hell than anyone else in Scripture.

There is also a misconception held by those who raise this particular objection. It is the misconception that confronting people regarding sin and bringing them to the stark reality of the consequences of sin (namely eternity in hell) is somehow going to scare people away from coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

Before a person will come to an understanding of their need for salvation, they must first come to terms with why they need to be saved (they've sinned against a holy, righteous and just God) and from Whom they need to be saved (that same holy, righteous, and just God). Talking about the Law of God, sin, judgment, and Hell--whether during open-air preaching or one-to-one conversations--won't scare a person away from Christ; certainly not the humble sinner who recognizes his or her need for the Savior. No, if the Holy Spirit is working on the person's heart, hearing about sin, judgment, and Hell will rightly prepare the sinner's heart to hear about the grace, mercy, kindness, and love of God.

Frankly, such a point of view, as expressed in Objection #2, is a sad minimization of the power and sovereignty of God. Salvation is of the Lord. There is nothing finite, sinful man can do to thwart the plans of God. This does not give Christians license to run amok, intent on offending people for the sake of being offensive. But the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). God can, does, and will use the proclamation of His gospel to draw sinners to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether or not that gospel is, at times, marred by the sinful behavior of the one proclaiming the gospel.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is more powerful to draw sinners to Christ than sinful man is in repelling sinners away from Christ.

When confronted by a Christian with this objection, I will gently ask, "How do you think I should proclaim the gospel?" The all-too-common response is a wide-eyed stare and silence. Such a response often comes from the sudden realization that while they criticize me for the manner in which I proclaim the gospel, they are doing nothing to proclaim the gospel. It's as if the person leveling the objection is trying to justify their failure to share the gospel by criticizing how I share the gospel.

At the moment, I can't remember who said the following; but I agree with the sentiment. To the Christian who objects to biblical evangelism while, at the same time, not personally evangelizing the lost: "I would rather do what I'm doing than what you're not doing."

But I won't close this installment with a swipe at my Christian brethren who find biblical evangelism too confrontational and scary. Instead, I would like to leave them with this exhortation. Please be more concerned about where the lost will spend eternity than what the lost will think about you if you lovingly confront them about their sin. And trust more in the sovereignty of God and the power of His Gospel to save than in the perception of man's ability to scare others away from Christ.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Six Objections to and Misconceptions about 'The Way of the Master' (Part 1)

A gentleman named David, from Victoria, Australia, recently emailed Living Waters.  His email was long, but well-worth the time it took to read.  I learned that David and I share a background in law enforcement.

For the purpose of brevity (not one of my strong suits), I will only share David's questions and then try to answer each one as best I can.  I will also address each objection/misconception in individual blog posts.
My exact questions:

How do I answer my minister;
How do I answer my church friends;
How do I answer the people I contact with this message(the good test);
-----When they say:

1. This is too confrontational
2. It scares people off
3. It makes YOU look like a fanatic
4. Living Waters (WOTM) says that this is THE ONLY way to preach the great commission.
5. Living Waters (WOTM) is anti pentecostal churches
6. Living Waters (WOTM) is just stuck in the Law and don't understand the teaching of Grace.
First, I would like to address how David or any other Christian faced with these objections should answer pastors, other Christians, or unbelievers. The answer is simple, really. Answer each person with kindness, respect, and love. Oh, it will be tempting at times to answer sarcastically, since objections such as these are often (but not always) presented sarcastically and self-righteously. But it is important that the adherent to biblical evangelism does not respond in kind.  Don't let your frustration get the better of you and lead you down the well-worn path of sinful talk and behavior.

Take it from someone who has blown it more times than he can count. Sarcasm born out of frustration regarding these issues does not make one's case stronger; nor does it endear one to your opponent. It often has the opposite affect, especially upon one who already carries the presupposition that biblical evangelism and those who practice it are "judgmental."

Objection #1 - This is too confrontational.

I highly recommend Jon Speed's book, Evangelism in the New Testament. Jon does an excellent job giving a very concise treatment of this common objection, by showing that the vast majority of Jesus' and the apostles' evangelism encounters were, by definition, confrontational.

This notion that biblical evangelism (presenting the Law of God to the proud and the grace of God to the humble; using the Law of God lawfully, as God intended--as a mirror to show the unrepentant sinner how they appear before a holy and just God; and then presenting Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the propitiation for those who God has caused to be born again, resulting in their repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) is too confrontational, is a position and mindset held by some as a result of a fear of man.

If the evangelism employed and taught by Living Waters (Way of the Master) is consistent with the evangelism principles taught and/or described in Scripture, the the use of the adverb "too" with the word "confrontational" is inappropriate.  While it may be confrontational, if it is biblical it cannot be "too" confrontational.  Therefore, those who hold that the application of the biblical use of the Law prior to the biblical proclamation of the Gospel is too confrontational should better qualify such a position and statement this way: "It is too confrontational for me."

Many people, Christians included, are uncomfortable with confrontation.  This is not to say that those engaged in biblical evangelism should seek confrontation when confrontation is not necessary for the furtherance of the Gospel.  Confrontation for confrontation's sake is not evangelism.  It's a fight.  However, one's personal discomfort with confrontation does not in any way invalidate confrontation, when approached and engaged biblically,  as a means of helping a person to understand their sinfulness and their need for the Savior.

What is unbiblical is the avoidance of confrontation because of either a fear of man ("What will this person do to me or think about me?") or a desire to please man ("I won't confront this person because I want him to like me.")  Such an unbiblical avoidance of confrontation shows not only an unbiblical love of self, but also an unbiblical lack of love for God, His Gospel, and the lost.

S.T.O.P. Wrong Thinking

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Fear. Anxiety. Worry. Depression. Anger. Bitterness. Jealousy. Covetousness. Pride. Envy. All are more than negative emotions. All are sinful thoughts. I've heard some refer to such emotions, such patterns of thought, as "stinkin' thinkin'."

Earlier this year, a wise, younger brother in the Lord shared with me a biblical and effective way to fight off sinful thinking. He taught me the acrostic "STOP." The acrostic represents the following spiritual disciplines: Seek the Lord; Think of things above; Other-mindedness; and Perseverance.

The verse that best represents the "T" in the "STOP" acrostic is Philippians 4:8 in which Paul encourages his readers to think rightly by thinking about that which is pleasing to God and consistent with His holy character.

So when negative thoughts invade your mind and you begin to dwell on them, stop! Seek the Lord in prayer. Having done so, dwell on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. If you seek the Lord in prayer and dwell on the before-mentioned things, not only will the sinful thoughts fade and disappear; but you will also find yourself thinking more of others. And, by God's grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit, you will be better equipped to persevere through the trials of life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—-of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. ~ Hebrews 11:35-38
I turned on my computer this morning to find the above photo and the following posts on my friend, Shawn Holes, Facebook page. Shawn is presently in Nepal to open-air preach with missionaries in the area.
Please pray. We just returned back to the house after fleeing from a mob of people that erupted at us, and nearly getting killed. I took this photo just moments before the crowd turned. Jesse was preaching the ten commandments and quoted Jn 14:6. They went crazy picking up rocks and 2x4's and hitting Jesse. Ricky jumped in and stood the gap. More details to follow. Jesse is hurt but ok. We are all safe...

Jesse and Ricky took some hard core punches, had lumber slammed against them, and rocks were thrown at us and hit us. I have no injuries. I am so proud of the men. Jesse and Ricky did not punch or hit anybody and could have at any time. Praise the Lord for His protection. If we hadn't escaped out of the park by running form the pack of people to the police station across the street it would have been a sad ending to the story. Jesse and Ricky both have injuries so they will need healing. I can't but help but believe that your prayers are giving us the courage to be protected and able to share the cross with a lost and dying world. I am still praying for a great awakening here but it will only be by God's grace...

This comment was just posted on Jesse's Facebook: Both Project Jagerna & FPGM websites have been temporarily taken down for security reasons. We are trying to figure out what to do. Jesse & Ricky were stoned and sustained multiple injuries to the head, back, legs, etc as trees were literally torn down and they were pelted with logs, water jugs, fists, feet, big rocks, poles, etc. Benches were torn apart and the pieces used to attack. Thankfully, nothing serious, we think, but too risky to go to the hospital right now. After the adrenaline has simmered, lots of pain. This thing will probably be in the papers as a riot broke out after we left and Bishnu also narrowly escaped. No personal information was given out, but their faces are on lots of cell phones and video cameras. Trying to decide whether or not to leave the country or just to got out tomorrow to another location and keep preaching. The people in that crowd were monsters, made for hell, as is this country. Jesse was simply preaching grace to the humble and law to the prideful. After the apostles were persecuted in Acts 4, they prayed for more boldness and then kept preaching boldly. Perhaps that is the answer. Please pray.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews described some of the soldiers of the Lord, from centuries past, as those "of whom the world was not worthy." Shawn Holes, and many of the open-air preachers I have come to know, respect, and love can likewise be counted among those of whom the world is not worthy.

The world is not worthy of my evangelist brethren who leave the comfort and safety of home, whether for an afternoon at a local fishing pond or to travel half-a-world away, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The world is not worthy of my evangelist brethren who love the lost so much that they willingly face violent hatred and physical attacks from the very people they seek to save.

The world is not worthy of my evangelist brethren who love God so much that they deny themselves in authentic and tangible ways, take up their crosses and follow Jesus Christ.

The world is not worthy of my evangelist brethren who are often mocked more by Christians who do nothing to reach the lost than by the lost my brethren are trying to reach.

No, the world is not worthy of my evangelist brethren who worship the Lord in spirit and in truth as they herald the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, in the open-air.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Fool For A Client

Friday, January 20, 2012

Who Can Tell Me?


Who Can Tell Me?

“Who can tell me where I came from?”
The little boy would ask.
His question was a good one
Yet he faced a trying task.

Each man had different answers
As he was soon to learn.
This brought him great confusion
And it caused a deep concern.

He first went to his schoolmates
And they spoke with one another.
“I know,” said the brightest one,
“You came from your mother.”

Now this had satisfied him,
Yet only for a time.
For as he grew, year by year,
His thoughts began to climb.

He then looked all around him
At all that he could see.
And his mind began to wonder
How it all had come to be.

He thought about the universe,
The span of outer space,
And every star and planet
That exists in every place.

He thought about the rounded Earth,
Its tilt and its rotation,
And all the seasons that occur
In yearly circulation.

He thought about the darkness
And he thought about the light.
He thought about the sun and moon
That rule the day and night.

He thought of all the creatures
Of the land and sea and skies,
Of all the different species
And their variance in size.

He thought of all the plants and trees
And all that each provides,
Each growing from a tiny seed
With roots the soil hides.

He then looked at humanity
The sea of different faces,
Varied tongues and characters
From many distant places.

He thought of mortal bodies,
With features so profound;
And the sense of taste and touch
And smell and sight and sound.

He thought of reproduction
And the miracle of birth.
He thought of human life itself
And all that it is worth.

He then considered human will:
Both the weak and strong.
He thought about the conscience
That discerns the right from wrong.

He thought about emotions
And feelings that arise.
He thought about the love and hate
And tears that flow from eyes.

He thought about the anger
And the joy that’s all around
He thought about the happiness
And sadness that is found.

And filled with curiosity
This boy would daily strive,
In hopeful expectation
That his answer would arrive.

He spoke with scientific men
Who claimed his question solved.
They told him of a real big bang
And that all things evolved.

He then spoke with philosophers—
Heard some of them insist
That there’s no true reality
And we do not exist.

He spoke with many people
From different groups and sects,
And heard the vast opinions
Of various intellects.

Now baffled by confusion,
A very troubled youth,
Unable to discern
What is error, what is truth.

He almost gave up looking
But he took a second look.
And very unexpectedly
He found a special Book.

As he gazed upon the first page,
He knew his search was done.
His questions all were answered
In Genesis chapter one.

With a nod of understanding,
He smiled, so elated.
For now he surely knew—
“In the beginning, God created. . .”

By: Emeal ("E.Z.") Zwayne

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

God Is Faithful, So You Can Endure It

Each year we are blessed with new neighbors. Michelle took this picture a couple years ago. Michelle features some of her photo artwork on her new blog, Through A Different Lens.

One of the few pairs of nesting Canada Geese gave birth to some cute little fuzz balls. One of the nesting pairs of ducks are likewise proud parents.

As a man whose home is filled with the high-pitched squeals of a lovely wife and three beautiful daughters, I've grown accustomed to such verbal reactions to the sight of something adorable--something like goslings and ducklings. "They're sooooooo cuuuuuuute!" And, as a man relatively secure in his manhood (my man card has not yet been revoked), I must admit the little critters are cute.

You'll notice in the picture that the goslings are nestled close to their mother. There are times when the mother goose will draw her goslings completely under her wings, shielding them from view of predators and from the dangers of the world around them.

The picture reminds me of Psalm 36:7. "How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings."

The other day, when Marissa first discovered the goslings and chicks, we took a walk around the lake to enjoy the little, beautiful evidences of God's creative power. And as the waddling balls of fuzz put smiles on our faces, we realized that the likelihood was they would not all survive to adulthood. Cats, coyotes, and other dangers would surely make life difficult, even perilous for them. Life for the little ones would require endurance. But, for now, we knew they would be safe under the shadow of their mother's wings.

Life does require endurance, doesn't it? And there are times in the life of the Christian when he or she feels as though they have no strength left. "Endurance" becomes not a word or concept that invokes encouragement, but rather it is a word that merely adds to the weight of one's physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens.

Friends and family encourage, admonish, even command you to hang in there. They say, "Don't quit! Don't give up. God will see you through the trial." And often times those same loved ones will point you to 1 Corinthians 10:13--a verse well known to most Christians. They tell you, "God will never give you more than you can handle."

You hear the words of encouragement. You crack a smile to acknowledge the love with which the words are spoken. But inside you might be saying, "You don't understand. How could you understand? You have no idea how heavy my burden is. I'm dying inside. The physical pain is too great. The despair is too deep. And I feel farther from God than I've ever felt." You teeter on the brink of blasphemy as you think to yourself, "For whatever reason, God has chosen this time to not keep His promise and instead has given me way more than I can handle."

When a person reaches such levels of despair they tend to see and hear things differently. The lens of life through which they see the world is clouded by pain, depression, and sin. For example, if a friend or family member were to quote 1 Corinthians 10:13, they might hear it this way.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. And God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape."

Now, if you are familiar with the verse maybe you've already identified the problem. Yet this is how many Christians recite the verse from memory. What I've written above is not the entirety of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Two key phrases are missing. Here's the verse again. The changes will likely jump off your computer screen, but I will emphasize them so that no one misses them.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

The two phrases most often left out of recitations of this well-known verse are the two phrases that provide the greatest hope in the midst of troubled times. "God is faithful . . . that you may be able to endure it."

I used to lead a Discussion Group at the church we previously attended. I patterned the group after the discussion groups led by the great preacher and teacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, more than 60 years ago. People came to the group with questions that stemmed from their personal study of God's Word, conversations they had with others, and then-current events that challenged their Christian worldview. Together, we opened the Word of God and searched for the answers to our biblical and life questions. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and study.

One night I started our time together by leading a devotional study of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Allow me to share some of that study with you now.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man..."

"My situation is unique. No one has struggled as I have struggled these last several months. Sure, lots of people experience pain and suffering, but nothing like this. I know I'm loved and I've got lots of support, but I am utterly alone in this trial."

Have you ever thought this way? Have you ever thought that your situation is unique--that the biblical adage "there is nothing new under the sun" somehow doesn't apply to you? You're not alone. Many people have thought this way; are thinking this way right now.

The fact that many people have and are thinking this way doesn't change the fact that to think this way is to believe a lie. That's right. It's a lie.

The Word of God makes it clear that your situation is not unique. It may be unique to you. It may be unique to those around you and those who are helping you through the trial (the same Greek word translated here as "temptation" can also be translated as "trial"). But according to the first phrase in 1 Corinthians 10:13, whatever you are experiencing right now, whether its origin is physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of the three, is not unique."No temptation (or trial) has overtaken you that is not common to man."

There is great encouragement in this truth, if you are willing to receive it. You are not alone. People, saved and unsaved, have experienced every aspect of your particular trial to one degree or another. Some have experienced similar circumstances, but to a lesser degree. Others make your present situation look like the proverbial walk in the park. Still others may experience circumstances that seem to mirror your own. In any case, you are not alone. Whatever your present trial may be, others have walked where you walk. Others will walk where you walk.

But there is far greater encouragement to draw from this verse than the reality that others have experienced and will experience trials as great or greater than your own. While misery loves company, majesty is an even greater companion than shared experiences with other people.

I'm about to share with you a sizeable portion of Scripture for a blog post. Please, I beg of you, even if you are familiar with the passages, take the time to read every Word. There is nothing I will say to you in this post that will carry more weight or bring more encouragement and correction that the very Word of God.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was opressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, se he opened not his mouth. By opression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grace with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Out of anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His sould to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors. ~ Isaiah 53:3-12

Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. ~ Hebrews 2:17-18

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

"And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." ~ Luke 22:44

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you many not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. ~ Hebrews 12:3-4
Not only have other people, like yourself, endured times of great hardship and trial; but Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords suffered in every way you have suffered, yet without sin. He is intimately familiar with your trials--not only as the omniscient God of Creation, but as One who has experienced and endured your trials.

If you are in Christ, you are not alone. No temptation or trial has come your way that is not common to man. And no temptation or trial has come your way that Christ Himself has not endured. Your situation has not taken Him by surprise.

And "God is faithful."

Yes, God is faithful. Even if we, in the midst of a trial, "are faithless, He remains faithful--for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Yes, God is faithful. He is faithful to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). He is faithful in all His words and in all the works of His hands (Psalm 145: 13). He is faithful to guard His beloved children from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He is faithful to keep every one of His promises (Hebrews 10:23). And, in the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13, God is faithful to not allow you to be tempted or tried beyond your ability.

What great encouragement! What great encouragement, if you will receive it. When you find yourself in the midst of a trial, it is so very easy to lie in bed, during an anxious and sleepless night and shout to the ceiling, "I can't take it! I can't do it any more! This is just too much, Lord! The physical pain hurts too much. The cloud of sorrow and despair is just too thick--so thick I cannot see or hear You, Lord. The guilt and shame for sinning against You, Lord, by having so little faith is unbearable. Lift this burden or take me home!"

Take heart. Be encouraged. You have the ability to see the trial to the end. Why? God has promised in His Word not to give you anything that, in Him and through Him, is beyond your ability to endure. Therefore you will make it. As a follower of Christ, God has not given you a spirit of fear. Rather, He has given you a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). And it is through that God-given spirit, through that very precious gift of power--power to fight, love--love for God and love for others, and self-control--self-control over your thoughts, words, and deeds; that you can endure whatever trial the Lord allows to come your way.

If what we have seen in 1 Corinthians 10:13 thus far is not enough to bring encouragement in the midst of a trial, our great and gracious God has yet more to offer. Not only does God promise not to allow any temptation of trial in our life that we cannot endure; but He also promises a way out.

"But with the temptation (or trial) He will also provide the way of escape."

While these words are indeed an encouragement, they come with a sobering and challenging reality. Yes, God provides a way of escape from every temptation and trial. God says it in His Word, therefore you can believe it. But the way of escape is not always the way we might expect or even want. The letter to the Hebrews makes this clear.

"And what shall we say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets--who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escapted the edge of the swortd, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight" (Hebrews 11:32-34).

Yes, God has proven Himself, time and time again, to be faithful in sustaining, healing, protecting, and prospering His beloved children. All of the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11 experienced trials--everything from barren wombs to lion dens. And God was faithful to provide each of them with relief--with a way of escape from their God-ordained circumstances. But physical, emotional, financial, and relational relief is not the way of escape for everyone.

"Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Now, that second passage may seem discouraging at first; especially if you find yourself in the midst of a significant trial. I understand. No one wants to hear that trials sometimes end unpleasantly. But that's the reality of the life we live in a fallen, sin-stained world. That is, sometimes, the reality of the life we live in sinful flesh. Everything doesn't always work out as we planned. Health doesn't always improve. Finances don't always recover. Relationships dont' always mend.

Sometimes the way of escape the Lord provides isn't instantaneous relief from pain, suffering, or sorrow. Sometimes the way of escape He provides requires you to simply, tenaciously, patiently, and faithfully endure whatever trial He has allowed in your life.

"...that you may be able to endure it."

But take heart! Be encouraged! Have hope--real hope! God is faithful, so you can endure the trials of life! He will see you through to the end. And remember, the Christians hope is ultimately a future hope (1 Peter 1:3-9). The Christian's hope is to one-day be with the Lord forever in heaven. In the meantime, our lives are to be spent doing that which brings God the most glory; and that is to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order thay he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:28-29).

One way we bring ourselves, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, into conformity with the Lord Jesus Christ is to follow in His footsteps, even in (especially in) times of suffering. Again, there is nothing we have endured, are enduring, or will endure that Christ has not already endured. "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8b).

Oh, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! Not only has God provided a way of escape through His Son Jesus Christ during times of temptation and trial, but God also lovingly provided the only way of escape from sin and spiritual death through the same Lord and Savior--Jesus Christ.

Do you find yourself in the midst of a trial? Be encouraged. Don't lose heart. God is faithful, and so you can endure it.

The Gospel

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's About the Cross

It's not about the size of the crowd,
It's not about the next YouTube video,
It's not about the next blog post,
It's not about the next Tweet,
It's not about that.
It's about the cross.

It's not about apologetics,
It's not about philosophy,
It's not about logic,
It's not about science,
It's not about that.
It's about the cross.

It's not about starting a new ministry,
It's not about starting a new team,
It's not about the next gospel tract,
It's not about the next DVD,
It's not about that.
It's about the cross.

It's not about popularity,
It's not about celebrity,
It's not about nicknames,
It's not about notoriety,
It's not about that.
It's about the cross.

It's about the cross.

Evangelism and the P.I.T. Maneuver

This story was originally posted on another blog, on May 24, 2008.

By now, most of you have probably heard of the P.I.T Maneuver, also known as the "Precision Immobilization Technique." The fundamental purpose of this maneuver is to bring a dangerous vehicle pursuit to a quick and safe resolution. The maneuver is accomplished when one car pursuing another can force the pursued vehicle to abruptly turn sideways to the direction of travel, causing the driver to lose control and stop.

Yesterday, I went to Hollywood Boulevard with Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Mark Spence (Dean of the School of Biblical Evangelism, and other members of The Way of the Master team to film some interviews for Season Three.

Ray rode with me. We followed the suspect vehicle driven by this man (pictured left)--Mark Spence. I use the term "suspect vehicle" because whenever I follow Mark anywhere in a vehicle, he makes his mission to try to "lose me" (as he says). Mark will readily admit that to this point he has been unsuccessful.

During our drive to Hollywood, Ray remarked that I appeared to be following Mark "very closely." I explained to Ray how Mark likes to try to "lose me."

"Tony, do you know how to do a pit maneuver?" Ray asked.

"Why? Would you like to see me 'pit' Mark?" I asked.

Before Ray could answer, I snuggled up to Mark's right rear quarter panel, and then quickly ducked in behind him, before I came too close.

("Close" can be a subjective term, which may be defined differently, from one person to the next, depending upon one's perspective. Note: no evangelists were harmed or in any danger during the making of this story. And no vehicle code violations occurred.)

Ray gasped and chuckled. I think his reaction was a combination of surprise, fear, and humor. Ray immediately picked up the phone and called Scotty, who was riding with Mark.

"Scotty, did you see that? Tony almost did a pit maneuver on Mark?"

Apparently, both men were aware of the "close call." (Again, "close" is both a relative and subjective term.)

Had I followed through with "the pit," it would have been a beautiful move. But I digress.

As we continued our drive to Hollywood, Ray likened the P.I.T. Maneuver to the Law, and how the Law is a wonderful gift from God to show sinners their true spiritual condition and to literally spin them around--causing them to turn from their sin, in repentance and faith.

One of the very special blessings of serving with Living Waters is the time I am allowed to spend with Ray. Quite frankly, his mind is beautiful. I think it is safe to say that I learn something during every conversation I have with my mentor. I can listen to him talk about God and evangelism all day long.

I told Ray that I was going to expand on his analogy, in a blog article. So, here it goes.

Why Use a P.I.T. Maneuver in Evangelism?

So many times I have watched as fellow evangelists get bogged down in lengthy conversations with people who would characterize themselves as intellectuals or "free thinkers." Typically it is the skeptic, agnostic, atheist, or false convert that falls into these usually self-assigned category.

Round and round the Christian goes, debating everything under the sun, making hardly a dent in the proud-hearted unbeliever.

In law enforcement, the longer a pursuit lasts, the more dangerous it becomes, and the more likely the end result will be tragic. The longer the pursuit, the more brazen and over-confident the suspect may become. The longer the intellectual argument, the more self-righteous the unbeliever may become. The longer the pursuit, the more fatigued, careless, or even discouraged the pursuing officer may become. The longer the intellectual argument, the more discouraged and even frustrated the evangelist may become.

Again, the P.I.T. Maneuver is effective when properly applied because it can shorten an otherwise prolonged pursuit, with minimal risk to the officers involved, the general public, and even the suspect. The Law is effective when properly applied because it moves the conversation from the intellect (the place where the unbeliever justifies his or her self-righteousness and unbelief), to the conscience (the place of the knowledge of good and evil, and the existence of God). See Romans 3:19-20; 7:7; Galatians 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:8 for further study.

When involved in a pursuit and contemplating using the P.I.T. Maneuver, an officer will pick the best time and place to make his or her move. The officer will wait for the suspect to make a mistake--wrong turn, change in speed, or any one of a number of lapses in judgment (not that running from the police isn't enough of a lapse).

The same can be said for applying the Law when engaged in spiritual conversation with an intellectual. It really doesn't take much to take such a person off their game. For instance, instead of going several rounds with an atheist about evolution, simply ask, "So, how did life begin." They can't answer that question. And while their wheels are turning as they grope for an answer, you "P.I.T." them with the Law.

"Okay, since you don't know how life began; and since in the vast sum of what you do not know there is, at the very least, room for the possibility of God's existence; what do you think happens to someone when they die? Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"

There are many other examples I can give. But, for the sake of brevity (not necessarily one of my gifts), allow me to reiterate this. Don't feel compelled to engage in lengthy, intellectual conversations with unbelievers. Listening carefully and look for that opportunity to move the conversation from the intellect to the conscience. And then "P.I.T." them with the only thing that can spin them around--cause them to repent and turn to Christ--the Law and the Gospel.

Thanks, Ray, for helping me to apply yet another law enforcement analogy to evangelism.

Friday, January 13, 2012

O 'Me' of Little Faith

One reason Christians fall into sin, whether short-term or prolonged, and miss blessings from God is because they sometimes lack the requisite faith to stave off sin and to experience the oft-missed blessings from Him. Jesus had much to say about this.

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of anxiety and miss the blessing of contentment that comes with knowing that God is faithful to meet the needs of His people in times of want (Matthew 6:25-43).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of fear and miss the blessing of peace that comes with knowing that God is faithful to be with His people in the midst of the storms of life (Matthew 8:25-27).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of doubt and miss the blessing of assurance that comes with knowing that the Lord can be trusted in any circumstance (Matthew 14:28-32).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of self-reliance and miss the blessing that comes with seeing the Lord use them for His glory (Matthew 17:19-21).

Several times in the gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples with these words: "O you of little faith." I experienced such a rebuke, today.

I had the honor and privilege of going to Cerritos College, today, with my friend and mentor, Ray Comfort.

Initially, things did not look promising. As we walked onto the campus, we saw a lot of people (it's the first week of the new semester), but we also heard loud music. Loud music and open-air preaching without amplification are not typically a good mix. But I was with Ray Comfort.

Ray walked up to the DJs who were playing the music and asked them how long they planned to play. Ray came back and said with a grin, "They'll be done in four minutes."

And, true to their word, the DJs soon said their good-byes, packed up their gear, and left.

We set up in one of our usual spots. Things were looking up. Ray climbed atop the box and began to ask trivia questions in an effort to give away "180" DVDs and draw a crowd.

Nothing.

Ray and I have preached on the campus of Cerritos College for a few years, now. Neither Ray nor I could remember a time when the people on the campus were more apathetic. And we've seen some tough days on the campus. Any good open-air preacher can handle being ignored by the masses. But this was almost embarrassing.

I began to feel uncomfortable--discouraged--almost anxious. I began to think: We're wasting our time. There's plenty to do back at the office. We should just call it a day, and come back some other time. I hope Ray doesn't ask me to get up there.

My thoughts were interrupted when Ray said, "Tony, do you want to give it a try?"

I got on the box and began to ask some trivia questions. Again, nothing. We were on a college campus, with students walking from class to class and milling about, but you could have heard a pin drop. It had been a long time since I felt like a "freak show" standing on the box. I didn't like it.

Defeated, I stepped off the box.

Ray, with a look of determination and a tone of voice to match, said, "We're not going home defeated!"

I half-wondered if Ray had read my mind and didn't like what he was reading.

We waited ten-to-fifteen minutes, hoping the student presence in the area would increase. It didn't. But that didn't deter Ray. He hopped back on the box, determined to find someone to climb atop the heckler box and engage him.

The time it took Ray to find someone seemed interminable, but in reality it was probably only a few minutes. I can't think of any other evangelist who has the tenacity of Ray Comfort. Decades of experience, a passion for the preaching of the gospel, and a love for the lost--it was both humbling and convicting to watch Ray draw the crowd with the grit and determination of a battlefield commander and the skill of a master tactician.

I stepped away to pray. I ask the Lord to forgive me, O me of little faith.

Because of my little faith, I fell prey to the sin of discouragement, as well as the before-mentioned sins, to one degree or another. And had the Lord not brought me to confession and repentance, I would have missed some wonderful blessings.

Ray finished preaching the gospel. Before he could ask me if I wanted to preach, I was climbing atop the box. For the next thirty minutes (or more--I lost track of time), I engaged both sincere hecklers like Carmen, and disingenuous hecklers like Benjamin. And I preached the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although scattered throughout the general vicinity, the crowd numbered over fifty--and people were listening. The eyes of two culinary arts students never seemed to leave me. Students to my left and my right--some with arms folded, some nodding their heads--were listening.

Before stepping down, I let the crowd know that if anyone wanted to talk, I would be happy to do so.

As Ray got back on the box, I walked into a grassy area behind us. I was immediately met by a young man (who will remain nameless). He looked downcast and worried. "Can I talk to you?" He asked.

"We've met, before." He told me.

The young man began to pour out his heart, confessing sin and his lack of assurance of salvation. So demoralized was he, fleeting thoughts of suicide had crossed his mind.

He told me that for the last year he had been involved with the International Church of Christ campus group. The ICC is a cult. The ICC focuses much of their attention, on college campuses.

When he told me he was involved in the ICC, I remembered the circumstances of our first meeting. Several months ago, after preaching on the campus, I believe the same young man approached me. He was very friendly and began by thanking me for preaching. But it didn't take long for me to see through the facade to his true agenda. He wanted to argue with me about the ICC's belief that baptism was required for salvation. I rebuked him for sharing a false gospel and called him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, several months later, he came to me broken and contrite. I spent some time counseling him, sharing the gospel with him, and listening to him. I prayed for him and gave him my contact information. I'm waiting to hear from him so I can help him find a solid, Bible teaching church in his area.

O me of little faith.

Because I didn't see the Lord working during that first long hour on campus, I assumed He wasn't working. O me of little faith.

Because my thoughts were more about me and what people thought of me, I let that negatively impact my concern for the lost people on the campus. O me of little faith.

If I had followed my sin-stained heart and mind, I would have left the campus without preaching the gospel and therefore would have missed the opportunity to minister to a hurting young man. O me of little faith.

I learned some hard lessons during the two hours Ray and I spent on the campus of Cerritos College, yesterday. I learned I need to have and exercise more faith when I take to the streets to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I learned that I need to pray specifically and more diligently against the sins of pride and selfishness before I hit the streets.

And I learned that I need to pray specifically and more diligently, asking the Lord to deepen my love for the lost and to fashion me with more perseverance and greater awareness of His presence.

I was reminded that "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

I was reminded that "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

And I was reminded of how blessed I am to have Ray Comfort as a friend, leader, and teacher. "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7).

Thank You, Lord.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shadow of the Almighty

While on vacation, I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading. One book I read, one that I received as a Christmas gift from Mahria, was Elisabeth Elliot's "Shadow of the Almighty - The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot" (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1958).

Elisabeth Elliot tells the remarkable story of her martyred husband's life by using his journals and letters to serve as the foundation for her narrative. Jim Elliot was only 28-years-old when he and four other missionaries died at the hands of murderous Indians, in the jungle of Ecuador.

In "Shadow of the Almighty" the reader is given so much more than a cursory sketch of Jim Elliot's life. The depth of his love for Christ and his commitment to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ pours from his letters and journal entries chronicled in the book. On several occasions, I found myself reminding myself that Jim Elliot was only in his late teens and early twenties when he wrote some of the journal entries I read. His hunger for the things of God, the development of his worldview, his ability to mine the deep riches of the Word of God, and his awareness of and battle with his own sin speak of a soul much older and more mature than his earthly years should have indicated.

I could not help reflecting on my own walk with Christ as I read the testament of Jim Elliot. While difficult not to put such a hero of the faith on a pedestal, reading the book didn't drive me to be more like Jim Elliot. It did, however, motivate me to strive to be more like Christ--to pursue with greater passion Christ-likeness in my own life.

I highly recommend "Shadow of the Almighty" for every follower of Christ who desires a closer walk with Him and who want to step outside of their comfort zone, for the glory of Christ.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Producer of "Fireproof" and "Courageous" Endorses 180!

"I am so glad I took the time to watch '180.' It is gutsy and very powerful. May God continue to use this mightily to open they eyes of millions for the sake of the unborn and the cause of Christ!" Stephen Kendrick – Producer of Fireproof & Courageous

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Fear of Displeasing Dad

I was six years old and in the first grade. I learned more than reading, writing, and arithmetic that year. I also learned some rather colorful adjectives from some of my classmates.

One day, during lunchtime, I decided to try out my ever-increasing vocabulary during our daily conversations over our lunch boxes. To my chagrin, one of the lunchroom monitors overheard me as I waxed eloquently with profanity-laced phrases.

The lunchroom monitor told me to stop swearing and that she would be telling my teacher about my "dirty mouth."

"That's not good." I thought.

I returned to my classroom after lunch and awaited a scolding from my teacher. But it didn't come. For a brief time I thought I was off the hook. Maybe the lunchroom monitor turned her attention to some other student with more heinous behavior and had forgotten about my little verbal faux pas.

Ahh.....nope.

Just as I began to relax and think the incident in the lunchroom was behind me, the door to my classroom opened. And who walked into the classroom? Not a student late to class. Not another teacher. Not a school administrator.

My mom!

She scanned the classroom, obviously looking for me. When our eyes met, she gave me a smile (if it could be called that), which carried with it a dual meaning. "Tony, I love you." And, "Tony, you're dead meat."

My mom talked but a few moments with my teacher. Once or twice she glanced my way. The dual smile seemed a little less loving and a little more ominous. My mom turned to walk out the door. She made sure to smile at me one more time.

Needless to say, I didn't learn much the rest of the day.

I'm sure I walked home from school slower than usual that day. I didn't hesitate to walk in the door of my house. I figured the best course of action was to face the wrath that was sure to come and take whatever punishment my mom would give me (I anticipated a few good whacks on the backside).

I found my mom in the living room. "I called your dad. He will deal with you when he gets home from work."

That was all my mom said. That was enough. I made my way upstairs to my room, and I waited.

The wait felt eternal; but when I heard my dad walk into the house I wished I could have waited a little longer. I walked downstairs. I didn't wait for the inevitable call from my dad's strong, baritone voice.

I fought as hard as I could not to let my fear show. My lower lip desperately wanted to quiver, but I wouldn't let it.

"What happened at school, today?"

My dad already knew the answer; but he wanted me to give an account of my actions. I dared not dodge the question by reminding my dad that he knew what happened. I told my dad what I did. A summary of the incident was insufficient. My dad wanted to hear exactly what I said.

Repeating the words that earlier in the day seemed like fun to utter now left an awful taste in my mouth. I felt like a poor excuse for a son saying the filthy words in my dad's presence. Spewing the words was no longer fun--not with my dad listening.

Once my confession was complete, I waited for my punishment. My dad rarely spanked me (not that I didn't deserve it far more often than I received it). I thought for sure that this would be one of those rare and painful occasions. But when my dad had passed sentence I would have preferred corporal punishment.

"You're grounded for two weeks." My dad said.

"That's not too bad." I thought.

"You will go to your room as soon as you get home from school."

Again, I thought I was getting off easy. That is, until my dad further explained my punishment.

"And that means no baseball for two weeks. You and I will not so much as play catch."

I was devastated. So displeased was my dad that he was taking from me not only what I enjoyed the most in life, but what my dad loved, too--our time together tossing a baseball to each other.

My greatest fear was realized. My fellowship with my dad was broken. Even though it would only be two weeks, it was two weeks too long.

I was miserable for the next two weeks. Using the foul language my other six-year-old friends found to be so "grown-up," had no appeal to me. All I could think about was the next time my dad and I would play catch again.

This morning, I shared this story with a small group of men I have the honor and privilege of discipling. I appreciate R.C. Sproul's thoughts chronicled in his modern-day classic, "The Holiness of God," which reminded me of the incident that occurred almost forty years ago. Sproul writes:
Martin] Luther explained it this way: We are to fear God not with a servile fear like that of a prisoner before his tormentor but as children who do not wish to displease their beloved Father. We come to Him in confidence; we come to Him in boldness; we have access. We have a holy peace (p. 154).
The fear I had of displeasing my dad was not born from a dread that my dad would punish me too harshly. I was wrong and I deserved whatever punishment my dad decide to mete out. No, my fear was that of a son who loved his dad and hated the thought of disappointing him.

Those who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ live everyday with a holy fear of displeasing God while, at the same time, live with a holy peace that comes from knowing that like an earthly father who disciplines his children out of love, his or her heavenly Father does the same.

"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 disciplined 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).

So, my brother or sister in Christ, fear God as a young boy all those years ago feared displeasing his dad. Live as a legitimate child of God who loves his or her Father so much that the thought of displeasing Him breaks your heart. When you do fall short of His glory (and you will), know that the Father will discipline you for your own good, because He loves you, and in order to draw you ever closer to sharing in His holiness.