Archive for January, 2008

In my reading of Luke 1 this morning, something jumped out at me – the contrasts between Mary and Zechariah. One young, the other old. One female, the other male. One a commoner, the other a priest. One betrothed, the other married. Perhaps the biggest contrast between the two of them, though, is Mary’s faith and Zechariah’s lack of faith.

After the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son (a child they had been praying for fervently), the priest said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). Not exactly a faith-filled statement. Gabriel tells him, “you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time” (Luke 1:20).

Mary, on the other hand, had no such unbelief. Yes, she did ask Gabriel “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) But she obviously trusted God to do what He had promised through Gabriel, because of her reply – “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). The mother of Jesus trusted God and submitted to Him, even though she couldn’t have fully understood what the rest of her life would entail.

A postscript: Zechariah didn’t continue in his unbelief – read Luke 1:57-79.

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Good and Pure Words

Good, and thought-provoking, words from Purechurch:

“Three things confuse a Christian; Yeah, four confound any man.

Unbelief masquerading as wisdom,
Enthusiasm presenting itself as faith,
Fear pretending to be patience, and
Permissiveness claiming to be love.”

Amen and amen!

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Scientology 101

A very interesting – and long – article on Scientology can be read here.

If you want a crash course in what this group believes and how they operate, read it. It’s being talked about in the culture (and by our neighbors), therefore it wouldn’t hurt for us to have some knowledge about it. It’s also a good opportunity for us to present the real Jesus as opposed to the house of sand built by L. Ron Hubbard.

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“Why Don’t We Evangelize?”

Dever starts out by making the remark that most of us would flunk Jesus’ call to evangelize. Honestly, I agree with him. I don’t like to, but I have to say I think he’s right. The point of this chapter, writes Dever, is to consider some of the most common excuses we use to justify our lack of evangelism.

1. I don’t know their language.
We may not know someone’s language, but there are things we can do to overcome that obstacle. We could learn their language. We could also get evangelistic material they can understand in their own language – the point is to hear and understand the gospel.

2. Evangelism is illegal.
Yes, proclaiming the gospel is illegal in some countries, but it isn’t in the United States. Very few of us face this obstacle.

3. Evangelism could cause problems at work.
Evangelism might cause problems at work if it isn’t done in a proper and appropriate way. But it doesn’t follow then that evangelism shouldn’t happen. All of us need to work within the guidelines we have at work (which may mean not proclaiming the gospel during work time except on rare occasions). “We don’t want our evangelism to stand in the way of the evangel – the good news” (emphasis in the original).

4. Other things seem more urgent.
If we’re too busy to evangelize, we’re too busy. While there are a multitude of things we can, and should, do during any given day, many of them are not as urgent as the gospel.

5. I don’t know non-Christians.
Dever calls this “the excuse of choice for mature Christians” and the most common excuse for not evangelizing. This justification may have quite a bit of truth to it. As the years go by, many of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him have fewer and fewer non-Christian friends. As a pastor, that’s especially true. Dever thinks one of the answers is for us to determine how we can fulfill our roles in our families, churches, and to those who need to know Christ.

Next, Dever deals with objections we (Christians) think non-Christians will have when we try to evangelize them. “People don’t want to hear.” “They won’t be interested.” “They probably already know the gospel.” “It probably won’t work. I doubt they’ll believe.”

The solution, according to Dever, is to plan to stop not evangelizing. He then offers a twelve-step plan.
1. Pray. We often forget to pray and leave God out of the picture.
2. Plan. We plan for other things, why not evangelism?
3. Accept that evangelism is our job, not someone elses.
4. Understand the fact that evangelism may not be your gift, but it is your duty.
5. Be faithful to God in this area.
6. Risk. Evangelism involves takiing a chance – be willing to do it.
7. Prepare. We need to be ready and equipped for the opportunities God gives us.
8. Look for the opportunities God gives you.
9. Love others in general and specifically those with whom you share the gospel.
10. Fear God, not people.
11. Stop blaming God. We need to stop excusing ourselves from evangelism because God is sovereign. God sovereignly choosed to use us as the means to His ultimate end.
12. Consider what God has done for us in Christ

All in all, this is an excellent chapter. It was convicting in that I’ve probably used most of these excuses myself (and know how wrong they are). The chapter was also encouraging in that Dever provided positive steps to move beyond these excuses to actual evangelism.

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Marcia Segelstein has had enough. She writes, “Enough is enough again. My boiling point has been reached. Peddling soft-core pornography to kids in order to peddle clothes is beyond the pale.” She lays out her complaint and case in an article posted on the Breakpoint website. Anyone of us who have seen things like this should definitely agree with her, in my opinion. You can read her article here.

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Mark Dever’s introduction is the tale of two evangelists.

The first evangelist is John Harper, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1872. In 1886, God saved him by His grace, and as a result he began to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. After serving in the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, Harper started a church which had five hundred members by the time he left thirteen years later.

Harper was asked to preach at Moody Church in Chicago (for a second time), so he booked passage from Southampton, England to New York on a new passenger ship called Titanic. You know the story after that. Harper’s daughter, Nana, and a cousin who was traveling with them were put in lifeboats and ultimately rescued. Harper went down with the ship, but not before preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen – one man in particular who was Harper’s last convert. As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

The second evangelist is Dever himself. He readily admits that he is no John Harper. He writes, “If there is a time in the future when God reviews all of our missed evangelistic opportunities, I fear that I could cause more than a minor delay in eternity.” I like that kind of honesty. It will probably get him in trouble with some (he is a pastor after all, and pastors shouldn’t have a problem with that according to some), even though it shouldn’t.

Dever asks why we are so slow to tell others the best news in the world? He asks a question many others ask, “Should I evangelize if I don’t feel like it?” These are a few of the questions he attempts to answer in his book.

Pastor Dever says it is his prayer that a “culture of evangelism” would be developed in the church andthat evangelism would be normal – in our own lives and in the life of the church. That’s a very noble cause which I pray is achieved, too.

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Approximately 46 million unborn children have been killed in the United States alone since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Here’s what it looks like in visual form. Amazing and amazingly sad.

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Sad Anniversary

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision that overturned the abortion laws in all fifty states, making the killing of unborn human beings legal any time during pregnancy for any reason whatsoever. A day that will truly live in infamy.

Here is part of what I prayed as I led our congregation in prayer at both services this last Sunday:

“Heavenly Father, we come to You this morning through Jesus Christ, who is our Lord, our Savior, and our Mediator. We praise You because You’re the Creator of all things – including each one of us.

In Psalm 139, You inspired David to write, “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. my frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

Lord, You’ve created each of us in a fearful and wonderful way. You’ve made us in Your image and likeness, and because of that every human being – from the moment of conception to their very last breath – has dignity and value and worth. When that life is destroyed, Father, it’s an insult to You – a slap in Your face. We’re saying that someone You have fearfully and wonderfully made is worthless in our eyes. Life is precious because You’ve given it to us as a gift. May we always treat it that way.

Lord, I pray that we would repent of abortion, abuse, euthanasia, callous hearts and apathy. may we repent individually, as a church, and as a nation. “Search us, O God, and know our hearts. See if there be any wicked way in us and lead us in the way everlasting.”

Father, we know that there are some of our brothers and sisters who’ve been involved in these things. Forgive them, restore them, and comfort them. And we ask that You would forgive those of us who haven’t always been gracious and haven’t always stood for the truth. Show us, Lord, how we can be loving and compassionate and gentle and kind, while at the same time be holy and just and righteous. I pray that we would balance grace and truth. Lord, may we glorify You in all things, including the sanctity of life.

In the Name of the One who is life, Jesus Chirst, Amen.”

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I’ve just started reading The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever (Crossway, 2007), and I’ll be “blogging” it. I’ll give some thoughts on each chapter and make some comments. I haven’t done this before, so it should be interesting.

Dever is pastor of Capitol Hills Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and founder of 9Marks Ministries. My wife and I have read two of his other books – The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church – and have been both impresses and blessed by them.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a short book (about 120 pages), which makes it easily accesible to a lot of people. (I’m beginning to agree with the idea that a book should be less than 200 pages if anyone is going to read it in this day and age.) Let’s face it, 800-page books that weigh six pounds are difficult for anyone to digest.

The preface for Dever’s book was written by fellow-Together for the Gospel member C.J. Mahaney (of Sovereign Grace Ministries). What stood out to me the most in this two-page piece was the fact that Dever eats lunch at the same place – a particular Subway (I don’t know if it’s every day) – and frequents the same businesses around Capitol Hill Baptist. He probably does it where he lives, too. Dever does this in order to build relationships and look for evangelistic opportunities. He knows the people he sees – and they know him, too. Dever has a plan – he’s intentional. That’s the point – he’s doing it on purpose.

Mahaney’s preface is good because of that interesting piece of information, along with the fact the Dever walks as he talks, which is fast. Tidbits like that make reading more enjoyable. You feel like you know the author.

So far, so good (with the book and the “blogging” of it!). As I read more, I’ll write more.

If anyone has read the book, please give your own review.

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Reasons to Read

Colin Adams gives 20 reasons to read good Christian books. Very good! You can read them here.

A tip of the cyberhat to Justin Taylor.

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