Wolves Beware

Wolves beware. The Church and her shepherds are watching you.

Romans 16:17-20 – Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The Church has many eyes and needs all of them. In a fallen world like ours – a world infected with corrupting sin and scheming sinners – Christians face many troubles. Jesus was clear, “In this world you will have trouble.” And is it any wonder? Our three ancient foes – sin, death, and Satan – are hell bent to punish and destroy the Church, if they may. A tireless trio of division and conflict.

By cunning deception they recruit the weak-willed and vulnerable to do their bidding in a war against Christ and His Bride. The pawns in their sinister plot are neither angels nor demons, but flesh and blood creatures; people who have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Paul calls them dissenters and hinderers, who purposefully divide the church. Well-trained by the enemy trio, they mingle among the churches, often undetected by the naive. Flattery and smooth talk are the weapons in their assault. Their lips drip with honey, and their bite is full of poison. Ruled not by the Lord in His glory but by their own appetites, they will not stop from undermining the truth and dividing the people. Slaves to the desires which rule them.

Paul’s remedy to those who caused division among the Church of Rome was of simplicity and peace. Look here and look up.

Look here: “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hinderances.” Like shepherd sheep, watch out for the flock to which you belong. Be on guard. Be suspecting. Be watchful. For the Devil – with his captive minions – prowl like lions, hungry for the herd. Don’t be taken by their craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).

Look up: The Bridegroom is jealous for His Bride; and with a burning envy. The God of peace is a God of war. He will not allow His Beloved to be put to shame. The Devil and His recruits will not endure. He will crush them.

Flock, keep an eye on the wolves who wish to divide you for a time.
Church, gaze intently at your Husband who keeps you in His care forevermore.

The Necessity of SPEAKING the Gospel

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” This quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic preacher who lived in 13th and 14th centuries. Although there is no reliable record of Francis saying this-that is, before the 1990s-many Christians have been quick to adopt the quote as a motto for evangelism. Whatever the quote’s origin, it’s confused at best, and entirely untrue at worst.

To say Christians should preach the gospel and use words when they necessary is to confuse the very nature of the gospel. First, we should know what is the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the verbal message or announcement about the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The gospel is good news; good news of Jesus’ grace toward sinners, seen in His perfect life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. But catch the point again: The gospel is a message, and messages are meant to be spoken. In fact, they must be spoken. considering the way God talks about the gospel in Scripture, we must conclude that the gospel does not go out except by the verbal proclamation of its good news. The gospel can be spoken. The gospel can be written. In whatever way the gospel is communicated, it will always come out in words. This means that if we are not speaking to people about Jesus and His incredible grace, we are not sharing the gospel. There are many good deeds for us to do-and we should do them-but unless we are speaking the words of life, we are not sharing the gospel. Our good deeds may open doors for us to speak up, but we speak up we must!

Second, the gospel is a message about what Jesus has done. It is not a message about what we have done, or what we must do. It is about Jesus. Every now and then, we hear someone say something like, “I’m not comfortable talking to people about Jesus. I prefer to live out the gospel in front of others.” While it is true that the gospel intimately transforms the way Christians live, this statement is a kind of oxymoron. Live out the gospel is a contradiction. The gospel is not something we can live; it is not a series of commands like the law; it is an announcement to be heralded to all who need to hear.
Have you been trying to live out the gospel, or have you been speaking out the gospel? If you have been aiming to share the gospel with your life, it’s time to link your life with words of life. It’s time to speak up. I know what a challenge this change can be; it’s a change I had to make myself.

Five Stages of a Gospel Conversation
For many people, the most difficult part of sharing the gospel with someone is starting a conversation. If you are a Christian, you probably know enough about the gospel to lead someone to Christ. Therefore, the problem is not that the gospel is hard to explain, but the problem of starting a conversation that gives most Christians trouble. Basically, an evangelistic conversation is made up of 5 stages.

Stage 1: Positive Contact
When attempting to share the gospel with someone, you should try to begin with a “positive contact.” I’m sure you have heard the popular business line, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is not only true when interviewing for a job, but is also true of evangelism. A positive first contact may be the difference between someone listening to your gospel and turning a deaf ear. Therefore, a positive first contact is as easy as committing a simple act of friendliness. How is your day going? Has the store been busy today? Do you have any weekend plans? These are simple examples of how you might make a positive contact.

Stage 2: Common Ground
After making a positive contact, the second stage in an evangelistic conversation is finding what you have in common with the other person. You may not realize it, but all people have things in common with each other. We all have a hometown, a daily routine, and family or friends. It is on common ground that people relate to one another. This can be done simply by asking the other person a question or two about himself. These questions should be simple and down-to-earth. Showing genuine interest in the life of another person is a great way to reveal the love of Christ. Our objective should be to take the first reasonable opportunity to share Christ with others.

Stage 3: The Shift
In every witnessing encounter, there comes a time when friendliness becomes evangelism. This happens when you shift from the natural to the spiritual. The “natural” consists of common ground conversation topics we discussed earlier. In order for a conversation to be evangelistic, you must learn to shift from the natural to the spiritual. Without the shift, you are nothing more than a friendly person. If you have done some preliminary work to make a good first impression and establish common ground, the shift from the natural to the spiritual can be fairly easy. There are many ways to shift a conversation from small talk to spiritual talk, like discussing troubling current events like war and racial tensions; or simply asking spiritual questions like “Do you go to church around here?” We just need to keep our eyes open for opportunities.

Stage 4: A Gospel Presentation
The fourth stage in an evangelistic conversation is a clear gospel presentation. This stage is the most important of all. Romans 1:16 explains that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation for those who believe. Remember, if your conversation does not reach this stage you have done nothing truly evangelistic. Since this stage is so important, you should find ways to grow in your ability to share the message of faith in Christ. Read books, watch videos, and talk with other Christians to sharpen your ability to communicate clearly.

Stage 5: Questions and Answers
The 5th and final stage of an evangelistic conversation concerns questions and answers. As you clearly share the gospel with others they will usually respond with questions about the Bible, the world, and salvation. This takes time as well; to learn to answer key questions posed by your hearers. You can learn about this as you study the Bible and are purposefully involved in church.

Well, now you know all you need to know in order to begin and end an evangelistic conversation. All that is left is for you to begin putting these principles into practice with God’s gracious help. It’s time to speak up. You must!

*FBC OWB

10 Summer Blogs (for Pillar Blog)

In this next segment of our summer blog series at Pillar Network, we turn attention to ten blogs to read this summer. As you can imagine, narrowing our focus to just ten blogs is an impossible challenge. We could write this segment a hundred times and there would still be more to say.

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Unity in Diversity

Our country (and our world) needs unity in diversity. We need an answer to the question , “how can ‘the many’ diverse people be brought into ‘the one’ unified crowd?” It is the problem of the one and the many.

The answer can only be found in the God of the Bible and His revealed purposes for our world. The Triune God is the ultimate answer to the question. He, Himself, is the ultimate unity in diversity; three distinct Persons in one united fellowship.

We see He is the answer when we look at creation. In His world we find example after example of unity in diversity; in every tree lush with a diversity of leaves, every cloud full of countless rain drops, every creature made of intricate parts all working in unison.

Most profoundly, we see He is the answer in the Gospel of His Son. Only the sacrificial, saving, life-changing power of the Gospel will bring together the many kinds of people as one. Political platforms won’t do it. Government policies won’t do it. Education won’t do it. Campaigns of kindness won’t do it. None of these can transcend the fundamental and fallen differences between the people of the world. None of these can reach deep enough into the problem of human sin, where the problem of disunity lives.

Only the Gospel can transcend an entire world in need. Only the Gospel can solve the conflicts so embedded in our souls. This is why Jesus came; sent by the Father, in the power of the Spirit. The One and the Many God is at work to bring together the many into one. And one day His work to bring many nations together will be complete; a diversity of people worshipping around His throne, fellowshipping around His table. A rainbow of colors in a choir of languages singing as one the riches of His grace. This will be heaven.

How can the many diverse people of the world enjoy unity as one? It can only happen as they stake their lives on Jesus and His good news. He is the answer to our problem of the one and the many.

Pulse

I was working at the library today when I saw an older man sitting at another table. He was reading a newspaper. Then, he put down the paper and pressed two fingers against his carotid artery. With his other hand he held up his wristwatch. The man held this position long enough to determine his heart rate and then he gazed up into space with a look of contemplation. It seemed clear to me he was taking account of his current vitals and what they could mean. After a while, the man returned to his paper. Continue reading “Pulse”

Page Flip on Kindle

I have long loved amazon Kindle books. They are weightless, inexpensive (usually), and out of reach by small children who love to tear the pages. I have progressed ever-so-slowly from the earliest iterations of the Amazon reading devices until now I actually own an iPad. I read Kindle books on my iphone and computer as well, via the Kindle for PC/iphone/etc apps.

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Nothing In My Hand I Bring by Ray Galea

Promoting helpful Christian reading is important part of the Church’s responsibility to promote the announcement of good news. This post aims to promote a well-written resource for those seeking to better understand the differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

Nothing in My Hand I Bring became available in 2007 as a publication of Matthias Media. It was written by Ray Galea. A recipient of a thoroughly Catholic upbringing, Galea did not want to simply take His Catholicism for granted. He set out to investigate these differences between Protestant Christians and the Catholic friends, neighbors, and family among whom he was raised. The book is a re-tracing of Galea’s investigation; an investigation which led him to Christianity through faith in the Christ alone. This challenging and invaluable book is helpful for many reasons. Here are a few reasons why you should read this book.
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Brain Religion

“As Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and youth group leaders, we constantly see young people pulled down by the undertow of powerful cultural trends. If all we give them is a “heart” religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a “brain” religion-training in worldview and apologetics-to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home. If forewarned and forearmed, young people at least have a fighting chance when they find themselves a minority of one among their classmates or work colleagues. Training young people to develop a Christian mind is no longer an option; it is part of their necessary survival equipment.” -Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth.

Another Reason to Join a Church

There are many good reasons to join a local church. But there is yet another: love. In this way, I do not mean just the Christian compulsion to love; to love other Christians. I am referring, instead, to our inability to love – our inability to love everyone with the same intensity and devotion.

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The Jesus of the Kingdom Hall

Enjoyed a friendly 30-minute conversation with two ladies who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were walking down Stanbery and wanted to talk.

I’m praying for their eyes to be opened to the true Hope of the world. JW hope in a savior who was created (not Jesus the uncreated, eternal second Person of the Trinity) and they hope in him by their works (not by grace alone through faith alone in His finished work).

We talked about many Scriptures and their clear meanings. In the end they understood me, but were unmoved. The ladies were very kind and gracious as I differed with them. Pray for change.

My conversation this morning reminded me of another fundamental difference between the Jesus of the Kingdom Hall (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and the Jesus of the Bible. One of the ladies I spoke with said, “If we thought we didn’t have to go door to door [to merit salvation], we’d be at home watching Martha Stewart.

See, that shows the real motive of the JW life: to merit something for yourself with your works. The motivation is not “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” as an act of worship which springs out of gratitude for His marvelous grace and good news.

Only the Jesus of the Bible-who gives salvation as a gracious gift-can compel selfless service to Him; not to get something from Him, but simply because He is infinitely worthy of all our joyful obedience.

The real Jesus is better.

 

One Kind of Grace for All Kinds of Sin

As the Pride Festival and Parade rolls on in my city, I am reminded of my own incredible need for God’s grace to forgive, save, and change me. No matter how we sin, all of us are guilty before the living God, straight and homosexual alike. Listen to these striking words from the Bible: Continue reading “One Kind of Grace for All Kinds of Sin”

Putting Your Past in Its Place by Steve Viars

Title: Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness
Author: Stephen Viars
Publisher: Harvest House, 2011
Paperback: 244 pages
ISBN: 0736927395

Everyone has a past and many people struggle to rightly deal with their pasts. Pastor Stephen Viars takes aim at this problem in his new book, Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness. After twenty years of pastoral ministry and countless cases of biblical counseling, Viars is well-qualified to write on the subject of handling the past through the gospel.

Viars’ Purpose
Viars’ main purpose is to develop a biblical theology of the past that is practical, helpful, and down-to-earth (18). With an eye on readers who are stuck in the past of past suffering and sin, the author presents biblical hope and help. Yet, the book is not about a step by step process, but a Person-God Himself. Viars writes, “My greatest concern is not that you learn a series of biblical principles or even take a few steps of behavioral obedience. Ultimately, God offers us the possibility of experiencing a vibrant, joyful relationship with Him. Unfinished business in the past will rob us of the delight we can find in Christ” (202). He masterfully shepherds readers toward lasting change; putting the past to work for good.
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Struggling with Spiritual Disciplines

I imagine most church members would find it hard to believe their pastors struggle with practicing spiritual disciplines. If any group of people should excel at personal Bible reading and memorization, prayer, worship, evangelism, fasting, and a number of other important Christian exercises, it should be the shepherds. And yet, surprisingly, many pastors do in fact struggle to consistently practice them. In certain seasons of ministry, good and important ministry needs tend to crowd out the everyday disciplines of Bible study and prayer. The struggle is real.

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Prepare Your Heart for Sunday

As another week passes and another Sunday arrives, we should ask one another: Are you ready to gather together again? Sunday is a special day! A day we think of as the highlight of our week. And in that case, it is a day that deserves forethought. For every Christian, a certain preparation for Sunday is in order. Even some meditation on a few simple questions can help us prepare our hearts to worship and hear from God.

Questions like:
-Is my body rested and ready to give the Lord my attention on this Lord’s Day?
-Is my heart prepared to sing to the Lord for all He has done for me?
-Are my ears tuned to His word so that I can hear important truth for my life?
-Is my mouth ready to speak gospel truth to by brothers and sisters when we gather?
-Is my courage up to meet new people and welcome them to my church?
-Have I invited and prayed for others who will join me today?

You can make questions like these a regular part of your weekend meditation, and be better prepared to serve in and be the Church this Sunday.

What are some questions you ask yourself to prepare for Sunday? Please leave your comments below.

Jews Rejoicing with Goyim

“If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” – Peter

Do you struggle to rejoice when God blesses people you dislike; or people with whom you are at odds? See the way these noble Jews in the book of Acts glorified Yahweh when they realized He had chosen to grant repentance to Gentiles-people who were formerly outside the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.

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