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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Preaching in Athens

Here are two videos preaching in Athens. We had dozens of great conversations because of this preaching. Pray especially for Lenin, Erica, and Albert, three who had long conversations with us and left thinking.

We had some musical hecklers who said, "Me and God don't need a middle man."

I responded with:

The hecklers eventually broke their strings and headed out, they drew a crowd for us and that crowd gave them quite a bit of money; pray that they won't gain the world but lose their soul.

Here is the song they are singing in the background:

Later in the night I challenged David to preach a short message to a standing crowd, he got the major points of the gospel in less than a minute, great sermonette:

Laboring in Vain

One of my favorite verses is from the 127th Psalm,

Unless the LORD builds the house,
__those who build it labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1

Part of this verse, often left out, says that God gives to his beloved sleep. Today I felt terrible, I’m not sure why, I thought it was sleep deprivation. I promised one of my students that I would go evangelizing with her at 3pm, I’m not sure why I made the promise, because since I’m working night-shift, 3pm is the equivalent of my 3am. I couldn’t break this promise, so I drug myself out of bed, felt terrible, but went anyways, I expected to merely be prayer support for my young evangelist friend, but found a sufficiency in the Holy Spirit once I reached the park and had great conversations both with me doing the talking and also simply watching my friend preach the gospel with boldness and authority.

It was extremely tempting to cancel this missions trip, especially when it became apparent that woefully few evangelists were coming. But I trust (often not as much as I should) that God is faithful; he has been faithful in the past, I expect he will be faithful to the end (Jeremiah 31:3). So, I went evangelizing expecting the Holy Spirit to do something amazing.

During our brief two hours at the park, we talked to at least twenty people, most were at least willing to listen, and some were greatly impacted by the gospel. My most favorite event happened when God answered a prayer I’ve had for a while. In the past year I have witnessed to a young woman, (N), four times, and other evangelists have also witnessed to her. This young woman has a fa├žade of pure happiness, but you don’t have to work with middle/high schoolers long to be able to discern what is a true happiness and what is merely a performance. I’ve long felt that this girl’s veneer is hiding a deeper pain. My prayer was that I would get to talk to her in a smaller group than I normally talk to her, which is usually at least six people; today she was at the park with a boy. I approached her and asked how she was and then asked if she’d been reading her Bible and thinking about the things of God. She told me she has been praying a lot, and disclosed that her life is hard. We had a good conversation about prayer (1 Peter 5:7), and I was able to encourage her, and invite her to church, as well as suggesting two other good churches in the area. It was a wonderful opportunity to encourage this young lady and hopefully continue the work which will lead to her regeneration (Colossians 1:24,28-29).

I left this conversation praising God that he had organized that meeting even when I wanted to be home sleeping. The Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet, almost immediately four teenagers walked by and I recognized one of them as a girl I’ve witnessed to in the past. We quickly struck up a conversation, and I realized why the girl seemed so familiar, it is because the last time I talked to her, she ran off right after the bad news and didn’t want to hear the good news. As far as she knew, and probably told her friends, that someone in the park was telling people they were all going to Hell. Fortunately this time she was interested in hearing the whole message.

These students were impacted by the gospel, and had some excellent questions. They promised me they would go home and read their Bibles.

So how does all of this relate to the verse I began with? That unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain? It is because of several other verses, the one I really want to get to is the last one, but I want to build a firm foundation;
…I will build my church… - Jesus, Matthew 16:18
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 3:9-11

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

– 1 Corinthians 14:12

And my favorite verse, and the one that drove this whole blogpost and missions trip,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
God has been working since the beginning, indeed he is working still. He is in the process of making all things new, starting with the souls of men. Beloved, this is a ministry which we are privileged to partake in. If we do not rise up, then relief and deliverance will arise from somewhere else, for Christ will not lose a single of his saints, but you are robbing yourself of a blessing.

I have been on missions trips both far and near, the farthest to Hawaii, the nearest to cultists who showed up on my doorstep. I have preached to huge crowds, and I have witnessed to individuals; I have delivered the saving message of Jesus Christ to rapt audiences, and I have failed to gather a crowd; I have seen men cry for their sins, and I have heard them curse Heaven; I have preached with eloquence, and I have tripped over my words; I have been puffed up, and I have been humbled to my knees; I have had delight, and I have felt misery; I have been happy to witness, and I have felt it was a burden.

I have never had a routine witness encounter, I have never felt tedium in preaching the same message thousands of times, I have never felt my time could have been better spent.

Wednesday afternoon I went out with my feet dragging, but I came home with leaps of joy (Psalm 126:5-6); these are the words of eternal life which are being sown, they will not return void. The labor we do in Christ is not in vain, because the Lord is building the church. Are you participating in this endeavor? Are you building on the foundation of Jesus Christ? Are you partaking in the blessings of your Resurrected Saviour? Are you eager for manifestations of the Holy Spirit?

Beloved, strive to build up the church, strive to exalt your Saviour, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.

And finally let me pray for you, as Paul prayed for his friend in Colossae,
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

– Philemon 6

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sheep Without a Shepherd

Something I do which is considerably different that most of my evangelist brothers and sisters is that when I go on missions trips I always pray for sermon illustrations and events that will edify Christ's church. I definitely love the church far more than I love the lost (see Jude 20-23), and my goal in evangelism is first and foremost to see my dear students sanctified, second to call lost sheep home, and third to make sure that the reprobate have no excuse on judgment day and will by no means be able to say, "I didn't know."

This year at the Superbowl I actually forgot to pray for sermon illustrations, but fortunately the Holy Spirit knows how to pray for me even when I am slack or forgetful or neglectful in my own prayers (Romans 8:26-27), and this past week abounded in sermon illustrations. Without a doubt my most powerful event of the weekend, which drove me into deep prayer, compassion, and contemplation, relates to Mark 6:34:
When he (Jesus) went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
On Saturday night, in downtown Dallas, we were preaching at the DART train station. As I started preaching, several people got up and left, but some became attentive, either turning directly towards me or at least inclining their ears, and I preached a short 4-5 minute sermon going over the need for a Saviour and the advent of a Saviour, and concluded by imploring my audience to repent towards Heaven and place their faith in the Risen Christ for salvation. Many heard the gospel in this short period of time.

Two of my audience were especially close to me, young girls aged 15 or 16, dressed completely inappropriately both for the cold weather and to be seen by anyone but their future husbands. Not wanting to approach them, in somewhat less than my preaching voice I asked, "What do you think ladies? Do you believe it?" Their response rocked my world. They said,
"Oh yes, we're Southern Baptists."
I thank God for the compassion that he showed me in that instant, these girls went from being targets of evangelism to members of what should be my Over-Shepherd's flock. What part do we have in judging those outside of the church? Our job is to judge those inside of the church, and these poor little lost lambs were clearly consumed in the pride of life; they wanted Steeler and Packer fans to ogle them for their loveliness, and no doubt their mission had been accomplished.

Now, as these little girls were no longer just strangers, but potential sisters, I moved a bit closer to them so we could have a conversation in a normal voice. They were from a town about 40 miles away, and I think my preaching had convicted them, as one of the girls kept tugging at her way-too-short skirt. I left them with some wisdom from 1 Peter 3:3-6, and gave them a copy of Ray Comfort's, "God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life", and made sure that they were on their way home.

I left this conversation totally crushed, thinking both for the sanctification of these two girls within my denomination, and for my own students who surely are constantly tempted with their own beauty to fall for flaunting themselves. I don't want to merely point this at my sisters, for later that night we talked to several young men equally as lost and sinful who claimed the name of Christ.

Outside of an Usher (rapper) concert we had a long conversation with a boy who thought he was a Christian, though he denied the Trinity, the inerrancy of scripture, and believed that he had the right to be drunk and at a party where sexual immorality ruled the day. Admittedly I had far less compassion on this young man, though his sin was probably more grievous, it seemed more from his own choosing than merely in the young ladies who seemed unlearned. Hosea said it best that, "My people perish for lack of knowledge...my contention is with you, O priest."

The following morning I spent over an hour in prayer, both personally and corporately, and I became utterly consumed in anger for the youth pastor of the two girls, I've wondered over the past few days if this was justified, and based on my experience of topical preaching, I believe it was, because so many pastors are only preaching on what they want to preach, and not the whole counsel of scripture. I have preached verse by verse through 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Peter, and Zechariah, as well as Revelation 1-3, and quite a few Psalms, and my students know the importance of both inward and outward holiness, because each of these books talks about this topic, among many other topics. I pray that none of my students would ever cause an evangelist to pray imprecatory prayers against myself, instead that my students would light up a world of darkness, having no reason to be reviled for their own sins, but persecuted for the righteousness which they carry.

All of this to say, the church has been corrupted beyond recognition, the pastoral care has diminished to topical and feel good messages, it has resulted in our lambs wandering amongst wolves in mini-skirts and naivety; like sheep without a shepherd. Beloved, I implore you to know your Bibles and preach the whole counsel of scripture, don't skip the hard parts, don't bounce through random books, but preach what God wants his flock to know, verse by verse through the Bible.

Christ did not say, "My sheep hear fluffy and feel-good sermons, full of interesting anecdotes, and they follow me." No, he said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Preach the whole Bible, the voice of Christ, the Word of God, the full counsel of scripture. Call lost sheep home, Christ said that if you love him, you ought to feed his lambs, make sure you are focusing on the sheep and feeding them the Bread of Life, not just entertaining goats.

There are an innumerable mass out there who are like sheep without a shepherd, taught stupidity and paganism by hirelings, of whom Christ says, "Woe to that worthless shepherd." Beloved, I pray that this is neither you nor I, that we would be leading our flocks into the truth, pointing them to Christ, declaring the full counsel of scripture, encouraging them to grow in holiness, teaching them to hate sin and the things of this world. I pray that none of my students would ever be these lost little lambs wandering among the wolves, enticing them to lust, encouraging them to sin, but that my lambs would forever be beacons of holiness pointing to the cross where the King of Glory died to save his church and sanctify his bride.

Oh beloved, please be doing likewise.