Tag Archives: evangelism

Rebuke, Exhort! Don’t minimize and “tolerate”

St Paul wrote the largest amount of the content of the New Testament. Certainly the Gospels are specifically about the life and teachings of Jesus. But on the road to Damascus Jesus personally knocked Paul off his donkey and made Paul focus on who Jesus is and what being a Christian is all about. From there the Holy Spirit took Paul in hand and led Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries of Christianity and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Christian teacher. Many people like to minimize doctrine, but without Paul’s writings on doctrine we would have very little understanding of our Christian faith, a lot of what we accept as normal Christian practice, we would have to guess about, without Paul.

Paul founded a number of churches during his mission trips and he spent a lot of time and ink teaching people the important aspects of being a Christian. His “epistles”, letters, were written to people in Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Colassae, and undoubtedly other groups in the Roman Empire. These were to address issues the churches were dealing with, or to pass on to them important aspects of being a Christian. In addition to Paul’s epistles to the churches, he also mentored, at least two pastors, Timothy and Titus. His letters to them were how to be pastors and how to lead congregations in the difficult times that these churches, all Christians, were going through at the time of Paul’s letters. Much of what Paul writes about is directly applicable to the Christian church and Christian pastors today.

Paul was not a shrinking violet, he had to contend with an immense amount of adversity during his ministry which culminated in being beheaded. As I said, Paul was probably the greatest missionary and pastor in Christian history. But if you really read Paul’s writings most Christians today, would be taken aback by Paul’s straightforward, even abrupt pastoral style. He wasn’t playing around, things had to be done in the church and in confronting a pagan and hostile society. Again so much of what Paul had to deal with we see today. While I’m not telling people to go out and be contentious, look for fights, or not try to be winsome and inviting, I am saying that there will be many times where you have to be straightforward in proclaiming the Gospel and not worry about who will be “offended”, or upset. As Christians and certainly not pastors we are not here to patronize people, or play to the crowd. As a pastor I took vows, to my death, promising to proclaim the Gospel. Many will be offended as Jesus tells us in KJV Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” The adolescent whining you will often hear while proclaiming the Gospel is just a convenient way for people to not deal with the truth. They will be held accountable for their silly little posturing, but we can’t let them intimidate us into shutting up about Jesus and that’s what they’re shooting for.

Believe me if they had interacted with Paul, they would think that someone like me is a little candy cane. Paul wanted to make it clear to churches, like Corinth and Thessalonica, that the Gospel is not about kid gloves. It’s about people’s eternal life, that is the ultimate issue, even if people don’t recognize it. It’s not up to us to candy-coat it or treat it like entertainment. It’s up to us to proclaim it with great knowledge, great compassion, integrity and urgency. Treat the Gospel in a way that is with utter respect as to its importance, not the way most people treat it which is a secondary issue and why worry about it, God will work everything out. I get that attitude all the time and it is just not true.


Paul writes to Timothy, one of his disciples who he is mentoring as a pastor. Timothy is in Ephesus, he is a young preacher and it would seem that he was contending with a lot of different people who were teaching false doctrine. Paul tells Timothy: “ESV 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Paul is telling Timothy you know what is important, you know what you need to do, don’t stop doing it just because there are some people who are opposing you and trying to shut you up. We see that in too many young pastors today, “I don’t want anyone to get mad, I don’t want to offend anyone”. I look at it in terms of; “am I worried about upsetting this guy here, or God”? If it’s a choice, I’m sure not going to upset God. Paul makes it clear that it’s about what is in Scripture.

To underline that he goes on to write in the strongest terms: “ESV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is serious and he’s telling Timothy; by all that we hold as holy, you need to go out and teach that. Don’t pull punches, don’t tell people what they want to hear. That’s not your call, your call is to tell people what God has given us in Scripture. Anything else would be to “suit their own passions”, which isn’t God’s intention, is it? Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort. These are not make nice words. Paul’s words are telling Timothy to make sure people understand these words are serious. Don’t let people get away with it if they’re trying to sell nonsense. We see that today with so many false teachers, it’s no less today than it was 2,000 years ago. Today when you’re faithful to Paul’s teaching you’re going to catch all kinds of flak as to how mean, judgmental, unloving, whatever phobic and whatever other adolescent prattle you hear from people who don’t want to hear God’s word and want to wallow in their nasty little sin. But they still expect God to come through for them and save them, do things their way. Bizarre, but people today truly expect everything their way and that includes God. After all, to quote the prattle from false teachers, God just wants us to be happy! Huh!? God wants us to become mature Christian disciples. That’s much more than “happy”.

Titus was probably an older man, another of Paul’s disciples and he was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Ever hear the expression “Cretans”? Not a flattering expression. Titus apparently had to deal with some pretty crude actors.

Paul gave Titus the same direction. Don’t be bashful, preach the truth of the Gospel: “ESV Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” The last part “Let no one disregard you.” Don’t be brushed off or ignored, don’t let people patronize you, and wow you see a lot of that in the world today dealing with Christians. No! This is the truth, you may not like it but don’t be cavalier about it either, this is serious, treat it as such.

Paul goes on to write: “ESV Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Yes doctrine does matter, don’t play around or minimize it, preach it. “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,” Have Christian integrity, stick to what you know is the truth, be faithful and strong. But do it with dignity too. Don’t look silly and get all emotional and flakey. Assert the truth and move on. People too often don’t treat Christians seriously, make them take you seriously know what you’re talking about. Now more than ever we need to take those words seriously and stop putting on shows of “tolerance” or accommodation. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) There is no other truth! You may disagree with me, but you have to take Jesus’ words seriously.

As Christians we get a lot of just straight out stupid messages from the world. Too often we make the mistake of trying to dignify them, of being too gracious. Paul, Timothy, Titus and us, we don’t have that luxury. We need to be serious strong disciples and evangelists and witness in a way that we will be taken seriously. It’s not always going to result in conversion, but, Paul told both his disciples, don’t be bashful, rebuke wrongful teaching. Don’t get defensive about someone telling you you’re being judgmental. Say what you want and try to use weenie words to avoid the truth, I’m telling you the truth, and it is judgmental. If you disregard the truth of Jesus Christ : “ESV John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” I’m telling you the truth, if you chose to ignore it or minimize it you’ve “judged”, “condemned” yourself, not me.

Patrick’s method of evangelizing the Irish reblogged from David Mathis

Remember Saint Patrick

March 17, 2014

Remember Saint Patrick

Saint Paddy’s Day is for the pagans.

You might say it that way, and then carefully wash your Christian hands of all the carousing and empty revelry that makes all things Irish into an excuse for a godless spring party. But you might say the same thing, and mean it not as a call to circle the wagons, but to charge the hill.

Deep beneath much of what the day has become is the inspiring mission of Patrick pioneering the gospel among an unreached people, despite the frowning face of the church establishment. Saint Patrick’s Day, in its truest meaning, is not about avoiding the lost, but bringing them good news. It turns out Saint Paddy’s Day really is for the pagans.

The Gospel to the Irish

The March 17 feast day (first declared in the early 17th century) remembers Patrick as the one who led the fifth-century Christian mission to Ireland. Unlike Britain, the Emerald Isle lay beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire. The Irish were considered uncivilized barbarians, and many thought their illiteracy and volatile emotions put them outside the reach of the gospel.

But Patrick knew better. In a strange and beautiful providence, he had spent six years among them as a captive, learned their language, and developed a heart for them. Like Joseph sold into slavery to one day save Egypt and his brothers, God sent Patrick into slavery to ready Ireland for a coming salvation.

The Surprising Turn

Patrick was born in the late fourth century — many speculate around 385 — in what is now northeast England. He was born among the Celtic “Britons,” to a Romanized family of Christians. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather a priest. But his parents’ faith didn’t find a place in his heart in his rearing. In his youth, according to George Hunter, “he lived toward the wild side” (The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 13).

But God soon arrested him with severe mercy. Kidnapped at age sixteen by Irish raiders, he was taken back to the island, where he served as a slave for six years under a tribal chief, who was also a druid. While in bondage in Ireland, God unshackled his mind and opened his eyes to the gospel of his childhood.

“God sent Patrick into slavery to ready Ireland for a coming salvation.”

And so, as a captive, “he came to understand the Irish Celtic people, and their language and culture, with a kind of intuitive profundity that is usually possible only, as in Patrick’s case, from the ‘underside’” (14). When he eventually escaped from slavery in his early twenties, he was a changed man, now a Christian from the heart. He studied for vocational ministry, and led a parish in Britain for nearly twenty years.

Reclaiming Retirement

That could have been the end of the story. But at age 48 — “already past a man’s life expectancy in the fifth century” (15) — Patrick had a dream, which proved to be his own Macedonian Call (Acts 16:9). An Irish accent pled, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

Having known the language and the customs from his captivity, and having long strategized about how the gospel might come to the Irish, he now answered the call to return to the place of his pain with the message of joy. The slave returned to his captors with good news of true freedom.

Back in Saint Patrick’s Day

But this would be no ordinary mission. The Irish Celtics were “barbarians.” They may have had a few Christians among them, but as a people, they were unreached, with no thriving church or gospel movement.

“Patrick, the former slave, returned to his Irish captors with good news of true freedom.”

Patrick would take a different and controversial approach to the prevailing missionary efforts of the fifth-century church. Instead of essentially Romanizing the people, by seeking to “civilize” them with respect to Roman customs, he wanted to see the gospel penetrate to the bottom of the Irish culture and produce an indigenous movement. He didn’t mean to colonize them, but truly evangelize them.

Understanding the People

Hunter tells the story in the first chapter of his book on Celtic evangelism.

The fact that Patrick understood the people and their language, their issues, and their ways, serves as the most strategically significant single insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity, and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning from this movement. There is no shortcut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how. When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the High God understands them too. (19–20)

Patrick knew the Irish well enough to engage them as they were, and build authentic gospel bridges into their society. He wanted to see the gospel grow in Irish soil, rather than pave it over with a Roman road.

Ministering with a Team

Essential to Patrick’s strategy was that he not fly solo. Just as Jesus sent out his disciples together (Luke 10:1), and Paul and Barnabas went out together (Acts 13:3), so Patrick assembled a close-knit team that would tackle the work together, in the same location, speaking the gospel and making disciples, before moving on together to the next tribe. It was, what Hunter calls, a “group approach to apostolic ministry.”

We have no detailed record of Patrick’s ministry teams and strategies, but according to Hunter, “from a handful of ancient sources, we can piece together [an] outline of a typical approach, which undoubtedly varied from one time and setting to another.”

“Patrick wanted to see the gospel grow in Irish soil, rather than pave it over with a Roman road.”

Patrick’s teams would have about a dozen members. They would approach a tribe’s leadership and seek conversion, or at least their clearance, and set up camp nearby. The team “would meet the people, engage them in conversation and in ministry, and look for people who appeared receptive” (21). In due course, “One band member or another would probably join with each responsive person to reach out to relatives and friends” (22).

They would minister weeks and months among them, eventually pursuing baptisms and the founding of a church. They would leave behind a team member or two to provide leadership for the fledgling church and move, with a convert or two, to the next tribe. With such an approach, the church which grew up among the people would be “astonishingly indigenous” (22).

Priority Time with Pagans

While Patrick’s pioneering approach is increasingly celebrated today — and is a model, in some respects, of the kind of mission needed in our increasingly post-Christian society — most of his contemporaries weren’t impressed. “The British leaders were offended and angered that Patrick was spending priority time with ‘pagans,’ ‘sinners,’ and ‘barbarians’” (24).

But Patrick knew such an approach had good precedent. The one who saved him while a nominal Christian and an Irish captive was once called a “friend of tax collectors and sinners,” and said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). The stakes were high, but he knew it was worth the risk.

Something Worth Remembering

Instead of acquiescing to the religious establishment, Patrick took the gospel to the uncouth, and ventured all for the unreached Irish. Instead of coasting toward a cushy retirement, he gave nearly three decades to the nation-transforming evangelization of Ireland. Patrick truly was for the pagans.

According to tradition, Patrick died March 17. Many think the year was 461, but we don’t know for certain. While today’s trite celebrations may leave much to be forgotten, for those who love Jesus and the advance of his gospel, Patrick has left us some remarkable things to remember. And to learn from.

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“Patrick took the gospel to the uncouth, and ventured all for the unreached Irish.”

Church renewal suggestions

I’m still, kind of, a new pastor. As part of my seminary education I was vetted as a “church planter”, then the district president whose district I was called to thought that I should apply those skills in an effort to conduct a renewal program. I was called to an ancient/stately church in York, Pa. that just cried out for a renewal effort and so here I am.

Now that I’m approaching five years here, I have a few lessons that I thought I should share. As a disclaimer this is not a shot at anyone or any group, simply observations things that I would recommend to anyone else who might be starting a renewal.

This is in no particular order, unedited, but should be sufficiently readable for anyone interested:

One thing I would do if I was to do another Renewal is to sit everyone down together, right at the beginning, employees, leaders, EVERYONE and make it very clear. If I’m being called here to do a renewal, you need to understand right here, right now, this is not about you. It is about you supporting what is going to happen, it’s about you (no matter what you are) making sacrifices, putting in extra time, going the extra mile, supporting efforts that you may not “like”, making an extra effort for new people. Agreeing that there needs to be small groups and you need to lead them. If you don’t feel “qualified” then agreeing to put in the time to learn about discipling and actively discipling. Making the extra effort to invite people and to do “faith sharing moments”. If you are not going to do this, right here/right now, then say so and the “Renewal” will stop right here. This will be, at least, a three year commitment [I would give them the slips that I gave to the Discipling Group.] Sign them and commit to doing what you’re supposed to be doing. If these things don’t happen, then it ends right there.

No fussing because you have to push a little harder, you might be inconvenienced, you might have to adjust to different things. If you do not understand at the outset that this is not about you and is about team, it is about the Body of Christ, then own up to it now and forget it. It’s not about you, it’s never been about you, but you seem to think it is. It is about the Body of Christ, it is about making the church an effective witness to Jesus and effective discipling group of Christian disciples.

You also understand that you are there to be cheerleaders, for the pastor, for new members, for those who have stepped out to do new things, those who are about making Christian disciples. Yes there are other things that are necessary, but the celebration is for those who are going out and saving the dying, reaching out to those in a dying world who would otherwise be lost for eternity. Those who have a conscience and truly understand that they will be used by God to reach those who are lost, who cannot stand the idea that someone may be lost because of what they did not do. Those who understand that God is never going to have a problem with those who make a good faith effort to reach the lost, but will hold them accountable who refuse to make the effort because they don’t think they’re ready or capable or yada-yada. Those who understand that when God calls us we are to respond, not when we think we’re ready. Those who understand that their procrastination, they’re phoney perfectionism is just an excuse. It’s not a virtue, it’s a sinful, straight from the pit of Hell cop-out.

That they will ask and have an open minded conversation about things they “don’t like or bothers them”. Sure if things are being done arbitrarily or capriciously then it’s certainly acceptable to question, but if there’s a lot of thought and research, then accept it, do what is necessary to adjust, but don’t sit there and refuse to make necessary adjustments in order to make the church more effective and more welcoming.

If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say it, forget about it. Seems that the MO is that no one does anything, because if someone does do something, it’s open season for people to pick apart the other person’s efforts. If you haven’t done something about it and it’s been hanging for too long and someone has done something, then you are to say how wonderful it is that person is doing, that you are so pleased that something’s being done that should have been done a long time ago.

There has to be an understanding that we are not here to celebrate the same old/same old. I am only interested in celebrating those who have stepped out in faith, have taken up the gauntlet, have taken a chance. I’m going to be much faster to celebrate someone who took the chance, even if it might be sloppy, and I’m not going to celebrate the person who just criticizes and doesn’t have a better idea. A spirit of criticism of gossiping is sin, it’s not acceptable. If you’re not going to find a way to do it better, then you need to keep your mouth shut about anyone else who is actually doing.

So, that’s it, so far. Again these are various lessons not meant to impugn anyone or whine and complain, but I think that lessons that I’ve learned that should be shared with others. I will continue to blog on this, infrequently and probably incompletely. If anyone is interested and wants to set up a dialogue on it, I would welcome the opportunity.

Action oriented, not afraid of risk, being what you need to be in Jesus.

I will be frank here, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this and I’m not sure there is a definitive destination. I wouldn’t be surprised to get feedback that “wow”, that was five or so minutes out of my life I’ll never get back.

Back hey, lets rush in, where angels might fear to trod.

“Gallup identified three basic leadership styles and determined the dominant style of each CEO from the Inc 500 and national sample.” (Inc Magzine Sept 2014 p 31)

The chart compares “Activation, Strategic and Relational”. By far, Inc 500 CEO’s are more on “activation”, then the other styles. Activation is described as “Action oriented, focused on results, unafraid of risk, forceful, pushes people to improve, high expectations.” If I was to pick anyone in the Bible that I’d describe as an entrepreneurial, risk taking, CEO type. It would be St Paul. Yes, he was relational, but I really think that it was in terms of results. He had no compunction about confronting, he repeatedly said we should rebuke, exhort. He wasn’t bashful about pushing on people and people at all levels of society.

“ESV 1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
We might think that Paul was being a little crass. I really read this passage as saying: “I will do whatever it takes to get the results (within the law). But what is the real point of getting those results? Now I’m not going to say that Paul “led” someone to Christ, that he converted people, however you want to state it in Reformed theology. But let’s just say in terms of being used by the Holy Spirit to witness to others to Jesus. Sure Paul could, although I’m sure he wouldn’t, claim to have all these converts. But clearly, he was used powerfully by the Spirit in order to bring thousands to Christ in his relatively short ministry. In an era where there was no mass communication, transportation, lacking a large organization, Paul showed up in a city and within what we can guess was a short period of time, established meetings, designated leaders and, essentially built churches.

Did Paul build relationships? Absolutely. I don’t see how you can be a leader and not build relationships as a part of the efforts to establish an organization. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I think that when people start to associate with you in a common cause, they are more motivated to help to establish that organization, then they’re concerned with building a relationship. In fact I would submit that, especially for guys, that relationships are built as a result of the efforts put forth for the enterprise to grow.

Paul said that he would do whatever it takes in order for someone to come to Jesus and to be saved in Him. Sure there’s a relationship involved, but I don’t think Paul was particularly concerned whether he had a “relationship” with each person. The goal was for them to know Christ as Savior, if a relationship grew out of that, and they certainly did, so much the better. But the goal for him and should be for all of us is to do what we can do in order for someone to come to know Jesus.

If Paul was in the corporate world and made promises such as “I am made all things to all men,” it might even seem somehow unauthentic. “Do whatever it takes to make the sale???” I suppose, but… What is the goal? The emphasis seems to be in building relationships and I understand that and that would be highly desirable. I’d love to have an active, deep relationship with everyone in my church. I’m not sure that everyone would want that in my church, but that would be the ideal. But would that be achieving the ultimate goal? No.

Let’s face it, there’s no guarantee that I will wake up in the morning. I’ve lost two brothers, both younger then me. I have no assurance that I will be able to build a relationship with someone else. Even worse what happens if they die without any evidence that they are in Jesus? Hey if I don’t wake up in the morning I know that I will be in the presence of the Lord. Can I say that about everyone I know? No, I can’t.

Yea, relationships are great. I think that they are really the result of people who share goals and dreams, instead of people who are unequally yoked? Yes, there’s certainly something to be said that you don’t want to make someone a “project” and you certainly don’t want them to feel that way. There has to be a sense of urgency, is it really ever too soon to know Jesus as Savior? Life can be too fragile and when we lack of sense of urgency, we can fail to faithfully follow how the Holy Spirit leads us.

It’s not a hard sell and I know that. I think it is frankness, candor, putting it on the line and knowing that what you say will be rejected. Remember, they’re rejecting the Holy Spirit, not you. It’s the Holy Spirit who puts us in the presence of those He wants us to witness to.

Inc CEO’s put aside fear of risk, they to push people to improve (can you improve in salvation? Salvation is a vast improvement over damnation!) and they have expectations. Let’s have high expectations of the Holy Spirit, if He leads us, as He led Paul, to “be” what was necessary to “be” in order to show Christ to others, then let’s have a sense of urgency and follow the Spirit’s leading.

We need to always keep in mind, that we cannot drag anyone into the Kingdom, it certainly will always be the work of the Holy Spirit. But if we are being urged by the Holy Spirit and we do not put into action what He is leading us to do, we take the risk that we have failed. We can sin as much by omission as we can by commission. We aren’t on commission, for those who are baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Spirit, when we hear the preached Word and study the Word, when we take the Body and Blood, we are saved in Jesus. But we aren’t being faithful to Him who died for us when we put off pointing others to Jesus.

I’d like to talk about it more. We meet Wednesdays at 10am at the coffee shop corner of W King and Beaver St’s in downtown York, Pa. Feel free to park behind the church, I’ll even buy your first cup of coffee. Just look for me.

We are called to take risks and be bold as the church and as individual Christians.

I worked in corporate finance for 20 years, mostly for very large corporations and organizations. I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard always in an operational capacity and I worked in other capacities in other sectors. The common denominator with these is that the status quo is just not acceptable. Standing still, same ole/same ole, “we never did it that way before”, however, is the MO with most churches. I’m not talking creative worship or “user friendly”, any of the quasi Christian attempts to entertain or be “relevant”. (I just read recently about a woman serving on the “worship team”, who wasn’t sure she was ready to go on stage.)

When did worship become entertainment?

In terms of risk in the church, it’s not about monkeying around with age-old worship in favor of “entertaining”, people-pleasing. Worship is worship. Frankly if we got serious about it, we would begin to realize the benefits of genuine worship, plus genuinely lifting up our Creator/Sustainer/Savior up to praise, glorify and give thanksgiving to.

But yes, in other ways we need to take “risks”. Way too many churches discourage anyone they somehow consider “different”. Far too many people have a very general definition of “different”.

“Success” as a Christian, in the church, is always about Jesus and those who are truly disciples of Jesus, those who are saved. Period. Yes, numbers, money, activities are great. But that is not success. It is in the world and that’s the way it will be, but the church is about becoming and living as the Body of Christ. But does that mean just passivity or are we expected to risk, to step out and be bold for Jesus? The answer, obviously, is to be bold for Jesus.

This is probably self-evident, but Inc Magazine writes: “The INC 500 ENTREPRENEURS excel in every area identified by Gallup. But they absolutely dominate in three strengths: risk-taking, business focus and determination -compared with the national sample. Those strengths are, not coincidentally, the ones most universally associated with business starts, survival and scaling.”

These are not areas that Christians excel in. There is no risk taking, there is an excessive focus on being conservative. Nice, non-commital worship, restrictive use of the facility, nice-pleasant studies- don’t want to get into the controversial. One area that’s especially showing up in the church is; that Jesus isn’t the only way. Too much accommodating the individual and less and less faithfulness to true worship and what we do to serve the Lord. It is risky to tell someone that they have to be a member of the church in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Too many encourage you to follow the easy path and worry more about the person than the Lord.

It’s easy to turn people away from using the church facility. One thing that bugs me is that with few exceptions, the church sanctuary is used once a week. There should be more worship during the week, not to use the sanctuary for other things, but to increase worship opportunities, making worship more accessible and meaningful. The rest of the facility should be in regular use for small groups, groups that serve the community. Too often it’s easier to just say no, or only accept the “safest” groups or situations.

I’m not saying that churches, for the most part, do this with mean-spirited. I’m sure most people feel a genuine duty to protect what is there, especially when there’s been a long familial relationship with a particular church. You certainly don’t want to tear up Great-Great-Aunt Tilly’s whatever. It may have nothing to do with church or worship or be obsolete or beyond repair, but who wants to be the one to do the deed? Having said that, tough decisions do need to be made. Not arbitrarily, not because “well that’s so old”, but with the intent of what is going to serve best, what glorifies God and helps people in their Christian-disciple lives. To do that means stepping out in risk. The group that would like to use the facility may not be the “right” kind of people, but you need to welcome them, integrate them into the life of the congregation and help them to grow in Jesus. You disciple them, you take the risk. God put them there for a reason, for you to take the opportunity to be a good disciple of Jesus.

This can be fun, it can be exciting, it can be a rush like you’ve never known. The exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to salvation in Jesus is unforgettable and frankly even addicting. When you really do step out and take that risk, you are going to want to keep going.

“Gallup says those with a talent for risk-taking possess a highly optimistic perception of risk but are also rational decision makers who have an extraordinary ability to mitigate that risk. The assessment shows that Inc 500 founders are more likely than other entrepreneurs to take more and bigger risks. But they are also more likely to optimize their chances for good outcomes and, consequently, rapid growth.” (Leigh Buchanan Inc Magazine September 2014 p 30).

We are children of God, the Creator of all, the great sustainer. How can we not be optimistic, how can we take such a negative view when the Holy Spirit is really pressing on us to do something? How can you not be excited about the opportunity? Yea, I guess the vast majority of people in the world see risk as scary and unproductive (why try? It’s not going to work). OK. So? If we are His, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always “succeed”, but really is their any doubt that it’s not going to be an experience that is rewarding, in terms of growth, in terms of strengthening, in terms of building relationships, on and on? We are the children of God He who will do miracles, they will usually be subtle, but when you think back, you will see the miracle. We need to start taking the risks that the world does. Our risk-taking results in eternal reward, where people in the world are so less reluctant to take risks for material gain that will just end up destroyed. Yea, I don’t want to knock down, Great-Grandfather Elwood’s desk, not lack of respect, but what is truly helping people to come to Christ and what is truly glorifying God. Within those parameters we need to take risks, everything else are lesser considerations and should never keep us from our greater calls.

And I am not saying “name it and claim it”, but it has been my experience that when you do take a risk, we Christians call it faith, that people see that and respond. Often you will get the support you need for a particular “risk” and sometimes you even get more from people who want to encourage the church to continue to step out in faith.

How do we as risk takers in the world, readily understand how that looks as a Christian and how to we live that as disciples of Jesus and part of a church? Join us on our Wednesday morning Coffee Breaks, shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts, 10am, park behind the church and walk about 20 yards. First timers? I will buy you a cup of coffee. God bless.

Los santos de Jesús, los que viven con autenticidad Primera Saint Johns, 02 de noviembre 2014

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el nombre de Dios Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el Nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo. Yo voy a decir buenas santos de la mañana de York y vas a dar los buenos días en Saint Jim, buenos santos de la mañana de York …
Y todo el pueblo de Dios dijo AMEN! Celebramos hoy el Día de Todos los Santos, que es también el mismo día como Día de la Reforma que observaremos en el culto de esta tarde, el día en que Martín Lutero clavó sus 95 tesis.
Halloween, que se observó el viernes, tiene sus raíces en un día de fiesta pagano gaélico llamado Samhain [Sawin pronunciado], que es cuando se pensaba que los espíritus y hadas podían moverse con mayor facilidad en el mundo físico. Las almas de los muertos visitaban los lugares donde vivían. Halloween es la segunda fiesta más observado después de la Navidad. Para aquellos en el mundo secular que les gusta pensar en cómo pragmático y la realidad que son impulsados​​, un escritor señaló que “Halloween es él último día de fiesta de fingir … nos vestimos y ‘pretender’ ser alguien o algo distinto de nosotros mismos. .. “En otras palabras, simplemente pone de relieve la falsedad del mundo en que vivimos. un mundo que niega la realidad de un cariño, Dios Creador y trata de hacer en algo mucho mejor que no lo es. El mundo ama a preocuparse de su auto con el aspecto falso de “espiritualidad” que muchas personas hoy en día comprar fácilmente en y negar la verdadera espiritualidad que es Jesucristo. Sigo buscando, pero no encuentro donde explica que lo que la gente realmente piensa que tipo de espiritualidad va a hacer, excepto que les da la sensación de estar en control, pero nunca realmente cómo se realiza ese control. ¿Cómo funciona en términos de la eternidad? Nadie parece ser el más mínimo interés. El mundo habla un buen juego de ser “auténtico”, de autenticidad, pero que rara vez se ve, es sólo en términos de su percepción ilusoria de un mundo sin Dios y luego se preguntan por qué siempre se siente perdida, asustada y sola. Sólo hay una fuente de autenticidad y que está en Jesús. Cuando estamos a un santo en Jesús son verdaderamente auténtico, parte de la cual está siendo humilde, que es cuando confiamos en el Señor para vivir la vida que Él nos ha salvado para. Para estar seguro de ser cristiano es mucho más que las Bienaventuranzas, nuestra lectura de hoy, pero sin duda modelar autenticidad cuando hacemos nuestro mejor esfuerzo para vivir esa vida a través del poder del Espíritu Santo. Las Bienaventuranzas no son nuestras obras, que son el fruto del Espíritu Santo que está trabajando a través de nosotros. Todavía el pecado, el mundo piensa que debemos vivir en la perfección. No, los santos siempre serán personas falibles, el anciano vive en cada uno de los santos, pero el Espíritu Santo nos mueve una y otra vez a la altura de las Bienaventuranzas. El mundo trata de vivir sus propias virtudes, pero es muy claro que esas virtudes son sólo para mejorar su propia vida y el fruto de su propio espíritu, el espíritu del mundo y no del Espíritu Santo. Roy Lloyd dice lo siguiente: “… un hombre que llegó en 1953 en la estación de ferrocarril de Chicago para recibir el Premio Nobel de la Paz. Como él bajó del tren … como las cámaras destellaron y funcionarios de la ciudad se acercaron … él les dio las gracias cortésmente. Entonces él pidió ser excusado por un momento. Caminó a través de la multitud hacia el lado de una mujer de negro anciano que lucha con dos grandes maletas. Él los recogió, sonrió y la escoltó hasta el autobús, la ayudó a subir y le deseó un buen viaje. Luego Albert Schweitzer se volvió hacia la multitud y se disculpó por mantenerlos esperando. Se ha informado de que un miembro del comité de recepción le dijo a un reportero, “Esa es la primera vez que vi un pie sermón. ‘” Schweitzer fue un teólogo alemán, luterano, un organista que estudió Bach, un médico, un médico misionero a África. Fue galardonado con el Premio Nobel de la Paz por su filosofía de “Reverencia por la Vida”, se evidencia en su fundación de un hospital en Gabón alrededor de la vuelta del siglo XX. Es interesante cómo un santo de Cristo, que produce tanta fruta como un discípulo cristiano, por lo realizado y aún en una gran multitud, era el único que se dio cuenta de una anciana que necesitaba ayuda, entonces y allí, para hacer su próxima conexión para su viaje. Un simple acto de un hombre que sirvió a nuestro Señor de una manera tan magníficas, un gran santo de Cristo.
David Kinneman fue el orador en la conferencia en Carolina del Norte que asistí. Una cosa que él regresó a una y otra vez en su presentación fue que las generaciones más jóvenes de hoy en día y, a mi juicio la mayoría de la gente en el mundo, están buscando, es authenticty, genuinness. Ellos saben y nosotros, los que están en Cristo saben que el mundo no es genuino. Todas las instituciones del mundo fallan en repetidas ocasiones y, sin embargo tratar de convencer de su autoridad y autenticidad, incluso mientras ellos imponen en nuestra sociedad y en repetidas ocasiones fallan. Todos nosotros podemos relacionar con la forma en que podemos ver a través del fino velo de la hipocresía que nos rodea. La iglesia es a menudo acusado de hipocresía y, a menudo por una buena razón. Tratamos de convencer al mundo de que somos santos perfectos en Jesús y sin embargo nuestro intento se hizo añicos cuando nos fijamos en los santos verdaderos. Pablo llamó a sí mismo el jefe de todos los pecadores. Él no dijo que en un intento de que parecen ser piadoso, él sabía de los pecados que había cometido en contra de Jesús y su iglesia y él los reconoció y continuó a producir el fruto del Espíritu Santo. No es como una especie de forma de expiar sus pecados. ¿Por qué? Sus pecados han sido pagados a la Cruz, Pablo sabía que no había nada que pudiera añadir a sacrificio de Jesús por nosotros. Jesús pagó por nuestros pecados a través de Su sufrimiento y sacrificio. Nosotros, como sus santos, somos salvos en Su sacrificio, sino como sus santos que fielmente seguimos el liderazgo, ánimo, esperanza y promesa del Espíritu Santo, que es la única manera en que podemos vivir las Bienaventuranzas. Reconocemos nuestras faltas, nuestros pecados. Cuando tratamos de convencer al mundo de que somos perfectos, y sobre todo el mal del mundo, el mundo puede ver a través de nosotros. Pero cuando reconocemos que la única manera de que somos perfectos es a través de Jesús y sólo a través de su gracia y el perdón, que todavía luchamos y todavía fallamos en el pecado, entonces el mundo conozca la salvación a través de Jesús.
Estamos valioso, nosotros somos su creación y somos salvos por Él a través de Cristo. Tenemos que recordar lo valioso que somos para Dios. Juan escribe: “ver qué tipo de amor [que es el amor ágape} el Padre nos ha dado: que seamos llamados hijos de Dios; y así estamos. La razón por la cual el mundo no sabe de nosotros es que no lo conocía … pero sabemos que cuando él se manifieste, seremos semejantes a él, .. “Vamos a ser sus santos y vamos a ser perfecto, no en nosotros mismos, sino en Aquel que murió por nosotros, y debido a que somos valiosos para el Padre y Él ama a sus hijos con la expresión más alta del amor.
Dr. Lutero escribió: “Mañana tengo que dar una conferencia sobre la embriaguez de Noé [Génesis 9: 20-27]; así que deben beber suficiente esta noche para poder hablar de que la maldad como alguien que sabe por experiencia. “Lutero era auténtica, no te estoy diciendo que imitar autenticidad a ese grado, pero es reconocer que somos tentados y ocasionalmente fallar.
Dado que los ancianos, los santos en Cristo se reunieron alrededor del trono de Dios en el cielo, como leemos en Apocalipsis 07:12, los santos alabando a Dios y lo adoran, vamos a tirar hacia fuera las letras insertadas en su boletín y Alabemosle aquí y ahora: Te amo Señor, letra de Petra …
La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Shalom y Amin.

Where are you being guided to in Jesus? First St Johns, York, Pa. October 26, 2014

Please click on the above link to hear the audio of this sermon

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are led by and follow the Holy Spirit said … AMEN
Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians tells us that: “…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:12) Those who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ are constantly being guided, are constantly being charged to walk, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Marge and I were moved to pick up our lives in Massachusetts to go to St Louis for a season, complete education and then to be led to where? We didn’t know, but as things unfolded and we were faithful, we were guided to be in York, Pa. Dr Jerry Kieschnick asked me, as I received my call papers if I knew where York, Pa was? Not really, but in our faith we didn’t question where York was, we were led here and have been made a part of this great family in Jesus here in York.
On this Reformation Day, we remember Dr Martin Luther, posting the 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on All Saints Day. As I’ve said before, Dr Luther wasn’t looking for some kind of showdown, too many times we see him depicted as a Christian version of a gunfighter at the OK Corral. That was not his intent. He was a brilliant man who never stopped studying, as he studied, the more he realized that there were problems with the doctrines that the Roman church was teaching. He was a teacher at the time and the more he had to deal with these doctrines, the more he felt led to start a journey of inquiry. He never anticipated what would happen as he nailed his document to that door. His whole intention was to raise these issues in a genuinely collegial sense. He wasn’t looking for a brawl, a battle, but I have no doubt that God led Luther to do this in order to raise issues about God’s church that demanded discussion. The Roman church, at the time, chose not to discuss those issues. Luther wrote: “In the year 1516. I began to write against the pope. In the year 1518 Doctor Staupitz released me from obedience to my order and left me alone at Augsburg when I had been summoned before Emperor Maximilian and the pope’s legate, who was then at the place. In the year 1519 Pope Leo excommunicated me from the church and so I was released a second time. In the year 1521 Emperor Charles excommunicated me from his empire and so I was released a third time. But the Lord took me up.”1
Many times when we are led to leave, by God, we’re told to leave by the world. Luther has the distinction to be told to leave three times, you think you have it rough, you may be told to leave your work, your school, wherever, because of your Christian beliefs, but probably only once. Luther got “shown the door” by the head of the Augustian Order where he had lived and served as a monk, by the head of the Roman Catholic Church and then by the head of state of the largest empire in the world. Luther could honestly say that he had been thrown out of better places then most people. Sometimes to be thrown out of places that are just frankly not good to be in to begin with, is a badge of honor. No one wants the shame of being publicly asked to leave, but afterwards you realize that being thrown out was the right thing, was something that needed to happen in order to glorify God, then so be it and God speed.
It is then usually a case of not just being led somewhere, but also a commentary on being thrown out of somewhere. Jesus told His disciples that they would be thrown out of houses and towns; “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5), each of the Synoptic Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels, do not tell all of the same events or sayings, but apparently they were all so aware of the fact that they would get tossed out of places, that they all made a point of relating this direction of Jesus. Did that mean that they had failed, or were somehow not completely adequate disciples? No, it could well mean that Jesus was making sure everyone knew that they had a chance to hear the Gospel, if they rejected it, well too bad for them, Matthew 11:23-29: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” If any place had its chance it was Capernaum. Jesus had been led there, most of the disciples lived and worked there, all sorts of miracles and preaching went on there. What happened? Luke 4: starting at verse 17, do you remember what Jesus did? After reading Isaiah He declared that He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…” Jesus was the anointed of God, the Messiah. Their response? Woe, wait a minute there, this is Joseph’s son, He’s saying that He’s the Messiah? No, I don’t think so. Jesus responded, yea, kinda figured, because no prophet is acceptable in his hometown, and that is when the people in the synagogue tried to hustle Jesus down to a cliff to throw Him off of it. Yea Jesus got run out of Dodge, but did that make Jesus find a corner to sit and cry? “They threw me out of my hometown, wah, what will I do?
Sometimes we are moved as Paul described to the Thessalonians. Now Paul had certainly been moved around by the Holy Spirit, a lot of places we don’t know about. But he tells the Thessalonians: “…like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2: 11). The Greek word Paul used peripate,w like the English can mean how we conduct ourselves and to also literally walk. No doubt Paul expected that some of those in Thessalonica that he was preaching to would be led on their own literal walk or journey.
Luther was led on a walk, to initiate that walk he was thrown out of somewhere else. The door was closed on him at the monastery he was at the church he preached at and even the country he lived in. Clearly God was using an exclamation point to emphasize that it was time for Luther to step out in his Christian faith. That wasn’t Luther’s perception, no doubt he was otherwise comfortable and at home where he was. God emphatically moved Luther so that Luther was left without any choice. He had to pursue the issues that he raised. These issues weren’t going to be in terms of some hypothetical debate, something that maybe would result in changes or maybe not. No! God didn’t leave any room for Luther to maneuver, there was only a straight line and that was to see through the establishment of a church that would faithfully preach the Word of God. A church that would be faithful to Scripture, God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The question before you is this: Are you truly listening to what God is saying to you? Are you faithful in prayer, not the kind of prayer that’s “OK God listen up, this is what I need from You and what I need You to do!” But prayer that is also asking and seeking God’s will in your life, where he wants you to walk to? I doubt that most, if any of you, are being asked to pick up and leave York. Dick and Gloria have already gone and returned from their mission trip in Liberia. But, God might be guiding some of you to short term mission in Africa, Haiti, Guatemala, or maybe to Helen Thackston charter school, your next door neighbor, the man or woman in the cube next to you at work, to a young man or woman who may be making bad decisions and needs someone to turn them to Jesus. You might have to walk across the world or across your lawn.
Ya, here we go, take out that journal and pray over it and listen for God’s guidance. Where is He directing you to and who is He directing you to witness to or to serve, to faithfully build a relationship with in order for them to come to know the love of Christ? What comfortable place are you being asked to move out of? You may have to stand up against the powers, but the Holy Spirit will give you the words.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

Celebration, Feasting, Drinking, because we are His and that’s something to celebrate Isaiah 25: 6-9, Matthew 22: 1-14 First St Johns October 12, 2014

For the audio of this sermon please click on the play button

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and God’s children celebrated and said AMEN
Feasting, that is really about? … Celebrating! Absolutely! Many churches have banquets to celebrate the year, and the ministry God leads them to perform, to recognize those who serve their church and in a festive way God’s love and delight in us. I’m told that the men here at First St Johns used to bring a keg of beer into the meeting room in the school building. I’m not encouraging the idea, but hey we’re not Baptists! Martin Luther certainly did nothing to discourage drinking of beer. In our reading in Isaiah, the Hebrew word that is used for banquet is hT,v.mi ((mishtah) which means “feast, drink, banquet”. I’m not saying “hey, let’s go get a keg”, I’m not saying no, just no stupid. The ancient Israelites would have readily understood that part of what Isaiah is describing as a banquet would be drinking, probably wine. We live in a world where fear is so prevailing. Yea, we celebrate, but it’s always with sort of detachment, at arm’s length with each other. We get to celebrate once a week! Too many people see it as a chore, an obligation to be fulfilled. We get to be in His presence every Sunday morning and that is a celebration. I hope it comes across to you, that when I lead worship I’m doing it in a way that is enthusiastic, excited, I get to be here, I get to lead worship in this magnificent place, I get to tell everyone how great God our Father is and what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us. If that’s not worthy of celebration, well what is? We can get into a discussion about how we worship. Many people would claim that liturgical worship isn’t “celebration”, that it’s just a rote way of doing the same thing. We’ve let the world tell us how to “celebrate”, we forget what celebration is in the worship of Jesus.
A “Satanic Black Mass” was held recently in Oklahoma City. Fox News noted that “dozens” participated in the mass, while those who stood opposed to the “mass” far outnumbered the participants. Kudos to the Roman Catholic Archbishop who held Holy Mass at a local church, that was attended by over 1200 people, almost a hundred times those who attended the Satanic Mass. The Archbishop’s message was something to truly celebrate in the face of the world’s depraved observance: “as Christians “we know that Christ conquered Satan. The war has been won, Christ has conquered, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”1
Notice how the world mocks Christianity? They mock the mass, the liturgy, worship like we Lutherans conduct. You never see them mock worship like those of, let’s just say those who are all happy-clappy, telling you that it’s all about you and being “happy” and being entertainment versus what we do, which is worship. I truly think of our worship as a time of joy, there should be exuberance and celebration, I feel joyful and enthusiastic when I lead worship and I hope you will tell me if I’m not being joyful or it’s not coming across. I don’t see worship as a chore, I see it as a couple who are members here told me, “I get to come to church and worship”. The rest of the world holds back in fear and worry, they are afraid that they will be criticized or that their dignity will be affected. We get to celebrate every week and as I greet people as they leave worship I see joy, I see enthusiasm. But then they go back into the world, they let the world’s agenda dampen their joy and enthusiasm. They let the world’s message beat them down, “that wasn’t ‘fun’, that was boring, rote ritual”. No it’s not! We get to remember all that has been done for us, all that we have to be joyful and thankful for. Why do we let the world impose on us with its cynical and depressing attitude?
It’s often because we really believe the world’s message, that it’s a scary, fearful, ratrace, and now that you’re back in that world, you have to put aside that church stuff and realize how scary it really is.
It’s not! Unless you let it be. We have the promises, grace and love of Christ in our lives. There’s nothing to be afraid of! Jesus tells His disciples in John 16: 33, just before He is to be crucified, that yes, difficult times are ahead; “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The world can’t harm you, the world’s opinion doesn’t matter, I have overcome the world and since I am in you and you are in me and I have overcome the world, you have what I have given you, what I have promised you, joy, confidence, the knowledge that this world is not the real thing, it is not genuine. What the world says and does is phoney, only what I say, the Lord and Savior of your life is genuine, what you receive here in worship is genuine and you should celebrate that and take that attitude back into the world. We need to push back against the world. We are all so afraid of rejection, “oh here comes that crazy Bible thumper”. Heavens, that takes away our dignity. At last week’s conference someone made the comment that there is always push back against our message in Jesus. D’uh! Of course there is, how could it be otherwise? Jesus told us there would be. The conference was centered on our ministry to younger generations, that these people have left the church. Why? I submit because there is a serious lack of genuineness in the church. Why believe something that no one really stands up for and asserts that this is what is really important. No one is going to buy something that they feel is not genuine in its claims.
We don’t celebrate our faith and our worship, we don’t show what it means to be genuine in our discipleship and then we wonder why no one is buying. Those in the world know how phoney and irrelevant the world’s institutions are. They are looking for the genuine and we have it right here and we get to celebrate it in worship every week. I submit to you that instead of this sanctuary and building being so empty the rest of the week, that we come for other worship, Matins, confession, prayer, other small groups. What else can we do to make our worship more genuine, every day, not just on Sunday? Let’s spend more time in prayer, studying Scripture, sharing our faith with brothers and sisters and those in the world. That’s what the younger generations wants and they know, that when it’s done right, not the phoney stuff the world tries to convince us is “church”, that it does produce joy, peace, comfort and assurance that God is with us, that He loves us 24/7, that He wants what is best for us. That’s why Satanists mock what we have and not the phoney worship. But we take it for granted, we let the world drive us down, instead of us going out and showing the world what true joy and love is.
Isaiah is telling the Israelites, this is what’s going to happen. It’s not some vague metaphor, it is genuine, true, giving hope and assurance. When you really let it become part of you, realize what God is promising, you should be at least this high off the ground (holding your fingers at least two inches apart). God is going to provide us a feast of rich food of well aged wine. He’s telling this to a people who often live hand to mouth, we get plenty of food, they never had enough, God is telling them ‘you will have a gift far beyond your imagination, you will have joy and all you could want.’ Jesus is telling us that we are not worthy of His great wedding feast, but you know what? He wants us to have it, He wants us to have a time of joy and plenty beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Even now we are so blessed, provided with so much, and yet we have no joy. Please remember what we’ve been given, share it with others, the joy grows only when you share it with others and then you see the effect of their joy and how it builds yours in Christ our Savior. Spend some time journaling on all that you have to be joyful for.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

SOWING THE SEED OF THE GOSPEL First St Johns July 13, 2014 5



Help us Lord to trust you and plant according to your guidance, help us to know that it’s Your will that is important, that You will decide what the fertile soil is and will save who You will save and help us to trust in Your will. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who sow the Word of God in faith in Him said AMEN …
Clearly in today’s readings Jesus is telling us that it is up to us to spread the Gospel, in verse 19 he plainly states that; “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom…” while he tells the crowds about a “sower”, He is talking about evangelizing. Matthew Henry explains: “There are eight parables recorded in this chapter, which are designed to represent the kingdom of heaven, the method of planting the gospel kingdom in the world, and of its growth and success.”
So, who are sowers here?… Yeah, everyone, we are all planters, we are all called to sowing God’s word. That doesn’t have to mean quoting chapter and verse of Scripture, but it does mean, we are all to be a sowers. I know a few of you were raised on farms, I’m sure more than a few others have gone out and actually planted. So I’ve got a lot of veterans here to tell me how “sowing” should go. Jesus is talking about the fact that we are called to sow the seed. Yes, in this day and age a farmer is going to “spread seed” in a more systematic way. He uses big machines to plow up soil and then another big machine to put those seeds into places that he expects will be fertile soil. Does that mean over hundreds of acres that all the seed is going to be in fertile soil?… Probably not, even in a well plowed field there are still going to be places that just don’t work. Does that mean that his efforts are useless? No… John MacArthur points out in his commentary on Isaiah; “Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes…”1 We expect that every seed we sow, as God’s farmer, is going to fall on fertile soil, produce a nice big crop. Matthew reminds us in 5:45: “ESV For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Sure we may be getting the seed of the gospel and God may be providing the rain, but if for His reasons, He has not chosen to make you fertile soil, that seed will not take root. John MacArthur asserts: “…He [Jesus] does not speak to the multitudes except in parables (v 34). Jesus’ veiling the truth from unbelievers this way was both an act of judgment and an act of mercy: judgment because it kept them in the darkness they loved (cf John 3:19); but mercy because they had already rejected the light, so any exposure to more truth would only increase their condemnation.”2Jesus is telling His disciples, which would include … us; despite what you think, it’s not in My plan that everyone will know salvation. There are going to be people who are going to resist God to the end: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” (Jn 3:19) We’ve talked about those people before, those who are condemned because they’ve chosen to do it their way. Jesus is quoted 6 different times saying, “they will be cast into darkness and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is telling us, that no matter what we say and do, there are going to be those who are not going to respond to the Gospel, they are so sunk in their sin, no matter how we cast the seed of the Gospel, we will be throwing that seed onto ground that is a path, it’s made so that we can walk on it and not slog around in plowed ground, the seed that hits the ground is only going to lay on the ground, the birds are just going to swoop in after the farmer and eat it. Or will be thrown onto rocks or into thorns and there won’t be a crop.
Jesus finishes this by saying: “He who has ears, let him hear.” Well, we all have ears, is that what Jesus means?… No. Spiritually speaking, none of us has ears. None of us has hearing that is really tuned to what the Holy Spirit says to us. How do we receive ears that are on the proper frequency? How do we get this fancy equipment, that the rest of the world doesn’t have? It has nothing to do with what we do, it has to do with what the Holy Spirit chooses to do. None of us deserves, none of us is smart enough or holy enough or anything enough, but when the Holy Spirit gives us “ears”, puts us on the right frequency, when He makes sure that we are hit with the Word/the seeds of the Gospel, then we grow in that good soil. How are we made into “good” soil? By what Christ did for us. Our soil is hard, we can think of it as our soul, all of ours. Our soul is made hard at birth, nothing that we necessarily did, but in terms of being born into our sinful condition. We are all born that way, our nature is not to be perfect, even at birth, our parents weren’t perfect, how could they produce anything that is perfect? As Paul tells us in our epistle reading; “If you live by the flesh, you will die…” We are born in the flesh. What does it take for us to be reborn into the Spirit?… Baptism. What does it take for us to be renewed in the Spirit? The Body and Blood of Jesus, His preached word. There is no middle ground. We are born in the flesh and the Spirit does not put to death the deeds of the body, what are those deeds? Just being the body that has not been baptized and has not received the Body and Blood of Jesus. When we are baptized, we are led by the Spirit of God, we are sons and daughters of God, our sins are forgiven.
In verse 11, Jesus answers His disciples who are asking, “why does He speak to the “them”, not the disciples, but everyone else, in parables?” We understand they’re talking about everyone other then Jesus and the disciples and Jesus says it’s not for them to know the secrets or mysteries. Strong describes this as: “the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly” God has chosen His people, He is obviously going to talk to them in a way that is unique to that relationship. We understand and accept what He tells us in His Word. We may not always agree with it, we may not always feel comfortable with it, but we understand it. This is the seed that is thrown on to fertile soil. We are the fertile ground, we have been plowed up by baptism, by the Body and Blood, by Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins when He was crucified on the Cross. That has been some hard plowing, but it’s been done in us, who know our Savior Jesus. When we throw out the seeds the Holy Spirit leads us to throw out we have to remember this. We expect success otherwise, why should we waste our time. Therein lies the essence of faith. In faith we do what we are led to do, to sow the seed of the Gospel, it’s not up to us to decide who will, who won’t be saved. That is judging, we are told to discern sin and rebuke those who sin, but we aren’t to judge. He is the one who has prepared the soil. Maybe the soil hasn’t been plowed, maybe it will be and the Holy Spirit is using you to begin the preparation process, or maybe we should in love sow the Gospel and maybe that person just won’t and never will understand. But in faith, we did what we were led to do and whether it was plowed or not, whether it was good soil or not we leave it up to God to decide.
So be a sower this week, throw some Gospel seed out there. Get out your handy/dandy journal and write about how that went. Pray over your planting, because you planted, because you prayed, God may use that to bring someone to Him, to know salvation in Christ. But either way you acted in the way God gave you the faith to act and you can be at peace knowing that God has used and moved you and you faithfully acted according to His will and not yours.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.


Who is God leading you to witness to?

I find it fascinating that people don’t want to share their faith in Jesus because they feel that they might be “forcing” people to change their beliefs. They have no problem telling you how much better their baseball team is (we of course know it’s the Red Sox), why their make of car is better, why Boston/York/St Louis is better than anywhere else, etc, etc.

But when it comes to a truly life changing decision, a decision that effects a person for eternity, well… ya…. It doesn’t matter, just so long as you sincerely believe, yada, yada. Ya what a cop out. There is only one way “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” [Jesus] (John 14:6). Say what you will, there is a God, He is the origin of all creation, He does sustain our lives, world, universe and He has revealed Himself in the Bible. You are probably a very nice person and done wonderful things, but sin still separates you from God. Believe what you want, but that’s the way it is. God has given us a way to come to Him, to be His adopted child. His revelation, the Bible and His Son Jesus who died as the payment of the penalty that we incur in our sin. Any other way, which are either all devised by man, or by Satan have you jumping through all the hoops and then maybe, just maybe, you might have some kind of eternal existence. I’m here to tell you, if that eternity isn’t in Jesus, it’s not going to be pleasant. We can do it God’s way, which is loving, caring, compassionate and what is best for your life now and for eternity.

What prompted this, which I should be doing on a regular basis anyway, is an article  in Leadership Journal (yup the new issue’s out!!). An interview by Daniel Darling with Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel is a Christian, he was a devout Muslim who was led to Christ by a serious, devout and knowledgeable Christian he refers to as David.

“When I met my friend David, everything changed. He was able to defend his faith and as someone who was strong in his beliefs, I felt a bond with him and we became friends.” Qureshi was a very serious Muslim who based his faith on devoutly pursuing his faith. Learning, reasoning, and especially talking to Christians who really didn’t know what they were talking about and it seems, to me, that they really didn’t care. Now I don’t expect everyone to be an expert Christian evangelist/apologist. I really don’t. Having said that, they could be a lot more serious in their faith. Taking time on Sundays to attend Bible study, worship, listening to Christian radio, doing some extra reading. Not asking for a lot of heavy lifting, but taking a genuine interest in your faith, ya versus taking it for granted.

Now again, I know we are not always going to know everything we need to know, always what to say. I think I’m pretty experienced in this and I can’t say I’m always right on and right by the numbers. Having said that, is that a reason for just avoiding the fact that the Holy Spirit has put someone in front of you that He intends for you to witness to that person? Matthew 10:19 Jesus promises that we will be given the words we need when we are witnessing to others about Jesus. I’ve had that experience, it doesn’t come as a bolt of lightning, but you can often feel that the Holy Spirit is guiding you. Cut to the chase, we are called to be faithful, not always to be somehow “successful” in our terms, but to faithfully follow His leading. “The historical evidence he [David] provided for Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as Jesus’ claim to be God, made all the difference. When I contrasted the evidence for Christianity against the evidence for Islam, I knew that intellectually there was no comparison.”

I think that Nabeel’s advice about reaching a Muslim for Christ is really on the nose and frankly can be our ordinary way to reach all others: “I think the Lord gave us the perfect instruction for evangelism in Matt 22: 37-39, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … and love your neighbor as yourself.’ When you love the Muslims around you by treating them like family and helping those who need help, they will come to know you more and perhaps even wonder what makes you so loving.” How do too many people “love the Lord”? “how come me God?” “Gimme more God.” “I want, I want…” Maybe loving the Lord could be, going to worship, witnessing to others, serving His church, quit making excuses. “How come I’m the only one…”- you say? When you’re really not doing a whole lot.