Thursday, December 20, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Reuben helps Daddy cut the turkey at his first Thanksgiving.

The Suire family on Thanksgiving.

The Bishop family on Thanksgiving.

Abigail playing at Nana and Paw-Paw's house.

We thank God for our family and friends. We hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and are ready for Christmas!
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Our Ladybug and Pumpkin

Here are the pictures from Halloween night. We went to our church's "Cowtown Carnival" and had a blast! Of course, Abigail's costume pretty much fell apart by the end of the night, but she enjoyed pretending to be a ladybug. Reuben didn't quite fill out his costume as much as his big sister had when she wore it two years ago, but he still attracted a lot of attention for being so adorable.
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Sibling Harmony

Happy Together.

Both shirts were a gift from Derek and Kari, whose own daughter is about to be a big sister herself! Don't know if it will be a little brother or sister yet, but we'll probably find out in less than 3 weeks when he/she comes into the world!

Hop on Pop! By the way, we're loving our new love seat (pictured here) and couch (Thanks Deanna!).
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Life with two kids

Reuben's new favorite toy is a stationary entertainer. He can support weight on his legs now.

The whole family! It's the last picture on our old couch. Barry went to pick up my sister's couch and love seat last weekend. She just moved into a new house and got new furniture. We gave our old couch to some Burmese refugees. By the way, these refugees need lots of help, so if you have anything you'd like to donate, let us know!

The classic 4 month pose. He loves tummy time now, and can even do the airplane. In fact, I have a hard time keeping him on his back sometimes because he can roll over so well. I think he'll be crawling, or at least scooting, soon.

Daddy has been biking Abigail around campus. It's been fun for both!

In other news, Reuben and I had the stomach flu yesterday. We're doing better today, but I'm still feeling weak. Please pray that Barry and Abigail don't catch it. When we're not sick, I feel pretty adjusted to life with two kids. It's a little crazy sometimes trying to balance Abigail's potty training with Reuben's frequent nursings, and it takes us an hour to leave the house. I tried grocery shopping with both the kids and it was a disaster the first time, but the second time went a little better. I'm glad that Abigail has gotten used to having a baby around and I can leave them in the same room for a little bit without worrying that she's going to hurt him. Reuben has been sleeping about 8 to 9 hours the last few nights. Praise God for that answered prayer!
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Here come... Abigail!

At 2 years and 4 months old, Abigail is saying all sorts of funny stuff. Her vocabulary and imagination are exploding. As a doting father I wanted to share with you some of her favorite phrases:

  • Mait a mimute! ("Wait a minute!")
  • All-lll the animals. (she says this randomly, and it really cracks me up because she says it with such finality)
  • Here come... Abigail!
  • Beek-a-boo
  • Mink mamingo (pink flamingo)
  • hippopotamus
  • Here da church... here da [mumbling]... see da puh-eeple! (this is the old game played with the hands of saying, "here's the church, here's the steeple, open it up and see the people")
  • Ouch! hurt da booty (she got this from a Dr. Seuss book where someone is stung by a bee on the butt)
  • Wake up Tad, we got a big problem! (this is from a kid video)
  • ::singing:: One misty, moisty morning, when poudy was da wedder (also from a kid video)
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

10 Years Ago: A Testimony of God's Changing Power

A lot can change in 10 years. I graduated Leander High School in 1997 as Karen Suire -- the valedictorian and voted most academic (pretty nerdy, huh?). I would have told you back then that I was a Christian. I considered myself to be a good person. I even quoted Scripture in my commencement speech. But I didn't really know God or have a commitment to Him.

Having everyone think I was smart didn't make me as happy as I thought it would, so I decided to seek happiness elsewhere. My main goal my freshman year at UT was to date and have lots of fun, all the fun I thought I'd missed out on in high school. As my life spiraled down into rebellion and immorality, I felt empty and lost and lonely as ever. That year made me realize that I had a heart of darkness. I couldn't kid myself any longer -- I was a "sinner in the hands of an angry God," to quote Jonathan Edwards.

All the while, the Holy Spirit was drawing me into a Christian group on campus called Longhorn Life. A very special girl named Pei Lee befriended me and tirelessly ministered to me. (If you're reading this Pei, I want to thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone and investing in my life.) She and the others I met in Longhorn Life were unlike all the other "Christians" I knew -- they lived out their faith with high standards and they genuinely cared for others. What a stark contrast they were to myself! I remember singing "In the Secret" at a home group meeting and how the line hit me, "I want to know you. I want to see your face. I want to know you more." Because of Pei's love and encouragement, and my increasing hunger to know this God she worshipped, I agreed to go to a 10-week Christian camp that summer. It changed my life.

The summer of '98 is the first time I really understood the Gospel and responded in true repentance and faith. I asked Jesus into my heart at a young age, and I think that God had been working on me ever since then, but I don't think I was born again until that summer. My eyes were opened to my state as a lawbreaker before God who could offer nothing to save myself. Romans 6:23 says that my sins earned me death (i.e. eternal separation from God in Hell). A holy and perfect God cannot be around sinners. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). That's the Good News, folks. Jesus Christ -- God in the flesh, the only one who lived the perfect, sinless life -- paid the penalty we deserved by dying on the cross. But not only that, He conquered death, rose again, and now offers us eternal life (see Romans 6:23 again) and we can be with Him in Heaven forevermore! Isn't that amazingly wonderful!? So, how should we respond? We need to repent (tell God we're sorry and turn from our ways to His ways) and put our faith and trust in Jesus alone to save us.

Well, that summer I learned that it's more than an intellectual assent to the facts. One of the speakers challenged us to count the cost of being a disciple (Luke 14:25-33). To follow Jesus, you must commit to let him lead. And the path will be narrow and difficult, but it is worth it for the reward. We're talking about eternity here -- our short lives are but a blip on the radar screen. "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." I'm not saying that our good works save us, but we are only saved by the kind of faith that produces good works (see James 2).

I'd like to say that after I made that commitment to follow Jesus that I never again wavered. No, I still had my struggles. But after that summer, something was different in my heart and life. When I fell into sin, He picked me up again and restored our fellowship. He has proven faithful and true, even when I haven't been. He continues to work on me, to chasten me, to sanctify me. He has poured out his goodness on me. He has satisfied me as with the richest of foods (Psalm 63 -- my favorite psalm!). He has blessed me with a wonderful husband and two precious children. After working for a Bible software company for 3 years, I have even had the opportunity to stay at home with my children while Barry attends seminary. All glory be to God!

Our Cute Kids

Here are some recent photos of our beautiful children so you can see how much they've grown. Abigail is 2 and Reuben is 3 months old.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

School Days and Books

I want to be a life-long learner but not a life-long student!

As the fall semester of seminary begins for me I find myself excited and overwhelmed. I am excited by the wisdom and knowledge I am getting through my classes and through the mentoring of my professors. Also, I am excited about growing in character as I try to put into practice what the Lord is teaching me through the Bible. However, I am overwhelmed with the amount of reading and work that goes into my classes. This is why I said I do not want to be a life-long student.

In a couple of weeks I will turn 29 and in a couple of months I will attend my 10-year high school reunion. I feel a little sheepish about telling people that I am still in school. I guess I am worried that they think I am a loser since I don't have a successful, secure job or a big house or other things like that which I could drop casually into a conversation.

But I should really get over any feelings of embarrassment because I am happy about where Jesus is leading me in regards to full-time ministry. (Editorial note: my happiness it not really the determining factor though. Jesus is the leader of my life so I would follow Him anywhere even if it meant pain, sorrow, or death.)

I am hoping that my 10-yr reunion will be a good opportunity to share with my classmates about Jesus and what He has done in my life. I hope to give every one of my classmates a gospel tract and to share the gospel verbally with as many as possible. Those of you who are Christians and are reading this please pray that God will use me to do this on Oct. 12-13. (Those of you who are reading this and are not Christians probably think everything I have said up to this point is pretty strange. Check out THIS and maybe on down the road the type of things I have written above will make sense.)

On a different note, I've noticed that I am addicted to books! I've always liked books, but only recently have I discovered that they are the essential tools of a pastor. The number 1 book of the pastor is the Bible of course. But in studying the Bible it drives the pastor to other books as well: Greek books, Hebrew books, commentaries, background books, books about the Lord's Supper, the Trinity, Heaven, Hell, and so on. And the irony is that all the books that the Bible drives the reader to are then measured by the Bible.

For example, I find myself reading a commentary on the Bible to get insight to what a passage says and then sometimes I find myself disagreeing with the commentary because when I read the passage in the Bible again, it is clearly not saying what the commentator says it said!

In addition to the crazy amount of books that I have to read for this semester, I have created my own list of books that I want to buy and read. You can see it by clicking on my Amazon wish list on the right side of this blog. Check out some of these books for yourselves. Although, I haven't read any of these yet, they have come highly recommended from others. If you are feeling especially generous you can buy one of these for me through the same site.

PS. Time does not allow me to write out all the love and appreciation I have for my friends and family. We recently visited our old church in Austin and it was so good to see again the people we love--you know who you are! Thanks for being our friends.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Red, White, and Reu

I never thought I would love another. After loving my wife and our sweet daughter Abigail, I thought I didn't have any more love to give, but my love for our son Reuben grows day by day as I get to know him better. He is just over a month old now.

Here's our little guy dressed for the 4th of July. Like many Americans, we celebrated Independence day by dressing up in red, white, and blue and having a cookout. In fact, Karen and I went to one set of neighbors for a cookout at lunchtime and then a different set for dinner. I am pretty full of meat today. It was a great day of food and friends and enjoying our family.

I feel like I should say something deep and meaningful about freedom since today is the 4th. Freedom is something we take for granted... soldiers have died... America is the best... You've heard all these sorts of things before, so I will take a different angle.

It is true that Americans (including myself) enjoy amazing freedom that was bought at a costly price that we often take for granted. But let's look beyond that and realize that anything that we have that is good comes from God.
Matthew 5:45 For he [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

All people on the earth are blessed by God in some way. We should first of all be thankful to God, the Creator. As the verse above shows, we are living in a time when good and evil people alike are enjoying living, breathing, eating, etc. Even people who don't acknowledge God and commit wicked crimes like rape are often not brought to justice and live relatively comfortable lives. However,
it is appointed for man to die once, and after
that comes judgment... (Hebrews 9:27)
Judgment? That's right all people will be judged by God and He will punish them justly for what they have done in this life because He is a holy and perfect God. No longer will the wicked person sin and flip God off and go on living in comfort. God will send them to Hell.

Woah, Barry, what does this have to do with freedom? Everything. People talk about freedom as being able to do what they want. But people already do whatever they want to everyday. If you don't believe me then watch the nightly news. So that is not where true freedom is found.

Many people turn to religion hoping to be free from drug addictions, poverty, divorce, and other problems in their lives. But no one can be completely insulated from these problems. How many people do you know who die rich, healthy, happily married, free from addictions, and pain? True freedom is not found in solving these problems.

What about guilt? Can you feel it piling up? You lie, steal, swear, hate, lust, and other things you don't want to admit and wish you could get rid of the guilt or those who make you feel guilty. Or perhaps you learn to justify it through lame, just-so, reasoning that always makes YOU the exception to the rule. I know, I have done the same thing.

What if we could be forgiven for our sins? What if we did not have to fear the judgment of a holy God when we die who demands nothing short of perfection? Would that be true freedom? Yes! To be free from the guilt of our sins... To know that a God who can throw you into what is described as an everlasting fire has pardoned you... That would be freedom. No country could take that away. No gunpoint, torture, disease, poverty, could erase that eternal freedom.

But how can this be? The way I described God above sounds like every person who ever lived would fall short of God's perfection and be condemned to Hell.

God himself is the answer. Only He is perfect and could pay the punishment for our sins. Because God is not only holy but also loving, He sent His son, Jesus, to earth to be a man and pay the punishment that scum like you and me deserve. Jesus, being fully God and fully man, could pay the infinite price that mankind owed. Jesus did this as a sacrifice for us by dying on a cross. He was a sinless man and the only one who could pay the penalty for the wrath of God that you deserve. On the third day after dying, Jesus rose from the dead which shows that death had no power over him.

What you need to do to be truly free is to cry out to God and admit that you have broken His laws, you have sinned against Him, your Creator. If you do not believe you have done wrong then you have made a mockery of Jesus. You are saying, "No thanks Jesus, I am perfectly fine without you doing anything for me." That is called self-righteousness. And might I remind you that if you stand before God in your own righteousness you would be justly condemned.

Again, you must cry out to God to ask forgiveness for you sins against Him, and turn from them (with His help) to show you are serious, and trust in Jesus alone for your forgiveness then you will forgiven and free. You will be saved by trusting in Jesus alone for your righteousness, for Jesus is the one who can save you from the God's wrath. Only God can save you from Himself.

Which would you rather have: God's wrath upon you, or God's undeserved mercy?

There is so much more I wish to say but I pray that the God will draw you to Himself even through these few clumsy words of mine. Post a comment if you have any questions for me.

Here are some lines from a patriotic song. Happy 4th of July!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored/
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword/
His truth is marching on.
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Friday, June 15, 2007

Reuben's Labor Story

My doctor had encouraged me to be especially aware of the baby's movements in the womb toward the end, so I tried to track his movement patterns on Monday the 28th of May. In so doing, I began to notice the uterus tightening periodically, which I initially wrote off as Braxton Hicks contractions. But later that evening, I began to time them and noticed that they were coming at somewhat regular intervals of 12 minutes apart.

I had a feeling that this was the beginning of the end. I told Barry as much, and we both agreed that it would be wise to go to bed and try to get as much sleep as possible. I knew that I would wake up eventually if this was the real deal. When I didn't wake up until 8 am, I figured that I had misjudged in typical drama queen fashion.

I went into the doctor's office for a scheduled appointment at 2 in the afternoon (on Tuesday). I had to get a biophysical profile, which means a sonogram, nonstress test, and exam. The sonogram showed that the amniotic fluid was back to an acceptable level, so that was a relief. But it also showed the baby had gained quite a bit of weight. The nonstress test showed something very interesting: my contractions were 8 minutes apart. Then the doctor came in and we discovered I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced.

My doctor advised me to eat a good dinner, as she expected to see me at the hospital soon. She said if the contractions continued at 15 minutes apart or less for more than an hour, I should head up to the hospital.

Barry and Abigail picked me up at about 5 pm, and taking the doctor's advice, we went to Cousin's BBQ for dinner. All the while in the car, I was timing my contractions. Keep in mind that these contractions were completely painless -- I could only feel a tightening sensation. They were still coming about every 8 minutes. On the way to Cousin's, we called Barry's mom and asked her to come to Fort Worth, just in case.

After we got home, we started rushing around to gather our things for the hospital. Barry encouraged me to sit and relax, and we put in a Veggie Tales tape for Abigail. I noticed that the contractions were now 5 minutes apart, and there was a slight crampy feeling. This made me very nervous, so we called our neighbors, Keith and Amy, and sent Abigail over. Then we headed for the hospital. The ride to the hospital was so very different from when I was in labor with Abigail -- I was excited and pain-free!

We arrived at the hospital at about 7:30 pm. I felt ridiculous showing up at the hospital without being in any sort of pain. I told the nurses at the check-in station, "I may not look like I'm in labor, but I think I am." They took me to the triage room to monitor me before admitting me. I was pretty sure at this point that I would be sent home. I was 4 cm when they checked me. An hour later, I was 5 cm, so they gave me a real room. I still wasn't convinced that I was really in labor, though, because I just didn't feel much pain. I walked around the room for hours, thinking that it would help get things moving. It didn't. The contractions were still coming 4 to 5 minutes apart and without much pain. Barry's mom stopped by the hospital at about 11 and we chatted. I was happy to have something to take my mind off the clock. I never understood before why the books recommend bringing playing cards or magazines to the hospital, but now I do.

We decided to get some rest, so we laid down and tried to sleep. I think my body being relaxed made the contractions start to come on stronger. There was no doubt I was in labor now. I tried to do my relaxation breathing. It was amazing how fast the contractions went from being completely painless to very painful. My contractions tend to double peak, too, so after an especially painful contraction, I thought, "I remember this, and it's only the beginning -- I'm not going through this again!" I called for the epidural.

I couldn't believe how fast the anesthesiologist arrived (it was about 2 am now). Before I had another painful contraction, the epidural was inserted and I was going numb from the waist down. By the way, I had been so nervous about that needle and it ended up being no big deal at all -- all I could feel was the bee sting of the numbing shot.

When I was pregnant, I had asked two different women who had had both natural and epidural deliveries, and both had said the same thing: "Wow, what can I say?" My sentiments exactly. No comparison really. After I had the epidural, I slept off and on all night.

At 6 am or so, my doctor came in and examined me. I was between 5 and 6 cm. Time to break the water to get things moving. That really did the trick. Though I couldn't feel it, I could see that my contractions on the fetal monitor were now coming close together. At about 8 am I was fully dilated, but I could only feel a very slight pressure. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to feel to push. However, they propped my legs up and told me when to hunker down and push. Having pushed out Abigail, I already knew what to do. Reuben came out in about 3 contractions, or 6 pushes or so -- very fast!

I couldn't believe my eyes: there he was all blue and crying and perfectly healthy (he quickly became a nice red color), and all without feeling any pain. And his face looked boyish right from the start. He was born at 8:21 am on Wednesday, May 30th, weighing in at 8 lbs. 10 ou. and 20.5 in. long. We sure do love our Reuben Ellis Bishop (or Mr. Ru, as we like to call him)!

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Friday, June 01, 2007


We have a new baby! Reuben Ellis Bishop was born on Wednesday, May 30th, at 8:21 am. He weighed 8 lb. 10 oz. and was 20 1/2 inches long. I'm sure Karen will post soon with more details and pictures. Here are just the basic facts (the dad version.)

Thanks to so many of you who prayed for us. The Lord answered your prayers for us and He gave us a smooth delivery and a healthy baby. And now for a Bible verse.

Psalm 127:3-5
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

June 6th Birthday?

Looks like Reuben's birthday will be June 6th, unless I go into labor before then. We have an induction scheduled for 7 am on that day, which is my original due date. The baby is measuring pretty normal, but the amniotic fluid is a bit low, so please keep that in your prayers. I had a non-stress test (fetal monitoring) today, and the baby is doing great. Please also pray that I'll go into labor early so that I don't have to be induced. However, June 6th happens to be my parents' anniversary, so it would be a really neat anniversary gift for Nana and Paw-Paw!

For those of you who know about these things, the baby has dropped to -2 station. A week and a half ago I was 50% effaced and less than a centimeter dilated.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pregnancy Update

Just thought I'd post an update on the pregnancy. First of all, we think we're going to go with "Reuben" instead of "Ruben." It's the Biblical spelling, more traditional, and looks better with "Ellis Bishop." Abigail has already given Reuben his first nickname: "Ru Ru!"

I have gestational diabetes again. It's not as hard emotionally as it was last pregnancy because I already know what to expect. However, it's still tough to keep to the diet and the rigid eating schedule when I'm hungry and busy. It's especially hard around holidays or special events. I didn't get to eat any Easter candy this year. Cheese and peanut butter have been my staples the last few weeks. My latest pregnancy craving: crunchy peanut butter and bananas -- mmmm. Also delicious and fewer carbs: peanut butter and whipped cream on high fiber toast.

Anyway, the diabetes appears to be under control. The only time my blood sugar levels have been too high is after lunch. I began to suspect that my high fiber-low carb tortillas were lying on the package. Since cutting back on my quesadillas, it's been better. I'm really motivated to keep the levels low because my doctor is threatening an early induction if the baby gets too big. Abigail broke her collar bone coming out, so that is a concern with this one and further reason why my doctor wants to induce. I'd much rather go into labor naturally.

Please pray that labor and delivery will go smoothly, that the baby will be healthy, and that God would give me a peace about the situation. May His will be done.

Have you heard that Lincoln Brewster song "Everlasting God"? It talks about strength rising as we wait upon the Lord, a la Isaiah 40:31. That's been encouraging to me lately as my body has been more tired, and as I've been doubting whether I'll be able to handle labor, postpartum recovery, and adjustment to life with two kids.

Please pray for Barry, too, as he'll be registering for classes this week. Pray for the Lord's guidance in how many and which classes to sign up for. He'll probably be taking a 3 hour class this summer that should end before the baby is born, and 13-16 hours of classes in the fall.

Praise God for getting Barry through last week, which was the most difficult one of the semester. He had two papers and a Greek test. He is relieved to have that behind him, and now can relax a bit more until finals, which are May 4th through the 9th. Barry has been working so hard this semester, and has been faithful in all the things God has put on his plate. He naturally gets tired and discouraged every now and then, so please drop him an encouraging word if you get a chance.

Praise God also for giving us such a special little toddler. She has a real passion for life; she's always running and jumping and dancing. We're working on the alphabet song and learning how to count (I often hear her say "3, 4, 8, 9, 10!"). She's done great in her toddler bed, which is a huge blessing, since we'll need the crib before you know it. She's even gone poo poo and pee pee on the potty a few times! We were going to wait until after her baby brother arrived to start potty training, but she was showing an interest and started telling us before she had to go (sometimes), so we figured we'd just go with the flow (no pun intended, hee hee). But we aren't doing any intensive training yet.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eggcelent Easter Pictures

Here is Abigail petting a bunny at her first Easter Egg Hunt. It was on the seminary campus a couple of weeks ago.

They had a little train for the kiddos. I can't tell you how happy she was to be riding this train. In this picture she's gleefully waving bye-bye. She bawled when the ride was over.

Later that day, we went to Gatesville, where the bluebonnets were beautiful.

Here's us this morning at Southcliff Baptist Church. It was a cold Easter here in Fort Worth (we even had snow flurries yesterday!), but we enjoyed the church service, which reminded us that the point of Easter is not the ushering in of spring, but the fact that Jesus lives, and through his conquering of death, we too can have eternal life if we repent and put our trust in Him. Happy Easter!

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Alphabet Fun

Here's our smart little girl showing off her knowledge of letters. She's amazing! This video was taken about a week ago at 21 months old. Also, she said her first three word sentence yesterday: "Da-Da bring juice."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Confession and time to go fishing

And [Jesus] said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."—Matt. 4:19
I have a confession—I have been a follower of Jesus and I have not been a fisher of men. What gives? This doesn't really make sense in the light of the verse above. Jesus says if you follow Him then he will make you a fisher of men. However, I have not been actively, consistently sharing my faith for many years. This is a problem.

Perhaps you may think that Jesus was only talking to His disciples about the time during His earthly ministry. But I don't think so because the last thing that Jesus said to His disciples before he ascended into heaven was "to go and make disciples of all nations..." (Mt. 28:19) Perhaps you may think that the disciples and the early Christians took the gospel into the whole world and fulfilled this Great Commission of Jesus. This interpretation would mean that Christians today would not have to go and share the gospel and make disciples. In fact, this was the interpretation of the church during the Middle Ages and evangelism almost ceased. The church during this time lost the gospel and fell into ritualism and mysticism. Abuses were rampant in the church. The gospel was "rediscovered" by the Protestant reformers who found it by reading the Bible.

No, it is evidently clear that there are many, many people in the world who still who have not heard the gospel. The Great Commission still applies to Christians today. So if you are following Jesus you better be a fisher of men. I can think of two reasons you would not be a fisher of men.
  • Either you are not truly a follower of Jesus, or
  • you are a follower and you are sinning in disobedience.
I have been the second one. But something that saddens me more than my own sin is that I have the feeling that I am not alone—that many other Christians are in the same boat.

However, I want to share some hope for all of us as well as ways to get out of this problem.

First off, God is faithful and He will give us strength to do what He commands. Indeed, the Lord has woken me up lately to the reality of Hell and the urgency to share the good news of forgiveness of sins by trusting in Jesus. Pray for forgiveness and ask for strength to be obedient to Him.

some helpful steps

But step #1 should actually be this: make sure you are a truly born-again, Christian first. Jesus said that unless you are born again you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It would be foolish to share the gospel with others if you yourself are not a follower of Christ or you don't know that for sure you will go to heaven or how to even get there. Have you ever noticed that on airplanes they tell parents that in the case of an emergency to put on their oxygen mask first and then help their children. In the same way, you will be no help to others (most likely) if you yourself are perishing. I must at this point tell you the gospel in a nutshell but click on the link afterwards for more information.

The Bible, God's word tells us that man is sinful. That means YOU. You cannot do enough good works to please Him. He is the Judge of the Universe and He will and must punish all evil. The Bible says that if you keep the whole Law (lets say a number like 600 laws) but you are guilty of breaking 1, then you are guilty of breaking all. (James 2:10) Jesus said to be perfect as the Father in heaven. Have you ever told a lie, used God's name as a cuss-word? Have you ever not put God before all other things in life? Then you have broken some of the 10 commandments. Jesus says that if you look at someone with lust in your heart then you have committed adultery. These would make you a liar, a blasphemer, an idolater, and adulteror. If God gave you justice then He would send you and me and everyone to Hell.

However, the good news is that God is not only just, but He is loving. He sent his own son, Jesus, born of a virgin and who lived a sinless life to die on a cross to pay for all your sins. The punishments that you deserve in Hell he paid with his own life. He arose from death showing that he was not only man but fully God and ascended to the right hand of God. The good news is that people like me and you can be forgiven and saved from the wrath of God when we trust in the salvation and payment of God, Jesus. We must repent, (turn from our sins and ask forgiveness) and put our faith in Jesus to save us. Our good works will not save us. If we try to stand in our own merits (good or bad) before God he will damn us to Hell. When we stand covered in the righteousness of Christ through faith then we are spotless. Here is more.

Step #2, Christian, make sure you know what the gospel is. How can you share it if you don't know it? It is truly a testament to God's grace how many people get saved in spite of muddy explanations of what the gospel is. Go to the Bible first and read, read, read! Also, read as much evangelism materials as you can. However, all of these materials are not created equal. Some gospel tracts are nothing more than a magic prayer formula to ask Jesus into your heart without any sort of mention of sin or repentence. How can Jesus become the Lord of your life if there is no change in the way you live? If you think you can pray a prayer but keep doing all the fun sins you want to hold on to, then your true god is yourself. You worship you. You are the boss.

Step #3, Do you have a testimony? Is there a clear period in your life where you asked God for forgiveness and trusted in Jesus alone (not yourself) to save you? There should have been some sort of change. Suddenly, you should have different desires, like the desire to follow God. I don't mean that you don't sin anymore. But you should struggle with sin rather than diving happily into it.

Step #4, Get out of your comfort zone and tell people about your testimony. Or you can tell them the gospel. Or you can give them a gospel tract. I have been doing this lately and it is always difficult. Most likely we will all struggle with the fear of rejection. However, we must fear and love God more.

But we must be motivated by love! It is so loving to tell someone about their dire situation and then to share the forgiveness and hope we have in Jesus. Not everyone will be happy with you but just plant a seed of the gospel and pray for them. Move on to someone else if you are rejected and lovingly share the gospel with them.

Build up slowly to share more and more. I have been giving out tracts lately and I am working towards longer conversations of sharing the gospel with strangers.

You can do it! The Bible says the righteous are as bold as lions. Throw yourself fully on God and get out there and share your faith. I am trying to do the same.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My Story has Changed

I'm surprised at the amount of feedback I receive from people who read my blog, especially since I post on it so rarely. However, I can't tell you the amount of times I have started to post something and then had to leave it unfinished because I had to do something else more urgent.

There are a lot of things I could talk about in this post—my recent trip to Turkey, how seminary classes are going, our new church, my new ministry internship, etc., etc. All of these are good things! Since this is one of my rare posts, I want to use it to tell you about the BEST thing that has ever happened to me. In the process you will learn a little about me and why I titled this post MY STORY HAS CHANGED.

As most of you know I grew up in a small town in Texas called Gatesville. My parents were Christians and every time the door of the church was open we were there—Sunday morning & evening, Wednesday nights and special events as well. Church was a way of life for me. Every Sunday I heard the message that I had sinned against God and because of that I was going to Hell. But I also heard that if I believed in Jesus then God would forgive me and I could go to heaven. I greatly feared Hell. By the age of 7 I walked down an aisle during church, prayed "to receive Jesus" (as we often say in church), and then I was baptized a few weeks later. I was now officially a Christian in everyone's eyes, including my own.

As I grew up I read the Bible occasionally and I prayed most nights. I didn't really understand the Bible though and when I prayed I always asked God to do something for me. By the time I was in Jr. High and High School I would beg God and bargain with Him to answer my prayers for some particular girl to like me and go out with me. In fact, during this time the most important thing to me was girls and popularity. I had moderate success in these areas. I always had a steady girlfriend and lots of people liked me.

Sounds like a Christian, right? Let's see, The only time I prayed was to get God to do what I wanted to do and I cared more about girls and what other people thought of me than about God. Also, I should mention that I fell into (or intentionally slid into) immorality with my girlfriend in highschool. I was a legalist though. In fact, I thought as long as I didn't sleep with my girlfriend then I wouldn't be damned to Hell because if there was one bad sin then that was probably it. I thought of myself as a good person. I might not have told you that because of having a false humility but deep down I thought I was a great person. I thought, "sure I sin, but not as much as so-and-so. I don't do what they do. I am better than most people I know. If there is someone going to heaven, it is me." In other words I thought good people (like me) go to heaven and bad people go to Hell.

Fast forward to college. My highschool girlfriend dumped me my freshman year. I tried to get other girlfriends, hoping to fill my needs, but they saw through my shallow desperateness. I was alone in a new town and depressed and angry at God. After a short time in a Christian cult I stopped going to churches all together. I didn't know what I believed anymore. I was burnt out on life and beginning to believe I wasn't a good person because I was doing some stuff I knew that was wrong.

Some other college Christians invited me to a church and I eventually went. These people were different because I could tell that they really wanted to follow Christ. They didn't date, they read the Bible and prayed. They were excited about God. There was something they had that I wanted. Through this church I went to a program that lasted all summer in Myrtle Beach, SC. One night there I remember lying on my face alone at the beach and praying something like this:
"Oh God, please forgive me! I have ruined my life. I try to stop lusting and sinning but I can't. I am so sick of me. Please forgive me. Jesus wash me clean by your blood. Take my sin away. Please God, I am so tired of running my life. I want to follow you. I want you to be the leader of my life. I will do anything you want me to do, just don't leave me to myself."
This is merely a paraphrase of probably an hour long prayer of crying out to God asking for His mercy. After years of sinning I knew I was no longer a good person and that I deserved Hell. My only hope was to throw myself on God's mercy and beg forgiveness. After all, I knew John 3:16 from childhood—that God had sent His son Jesus to die on a cross and pay for the sins of the world, for even a dirtbag and adulterer like me. However, up until this point I had trusted my own goodness—not in Jesus. My true attitude had been, "No thanks Jesus, I don't need you, I'm just fine."

That night was the BEST night of my life because the Creator and Judge of the Universe forgave me and made me a new creation. I was now born again. I had truly REPENTED of my sins—I was sorry for what I had done and I wanted to change but realized I could not without God. And I put my FAITH in JESUS—the only one to come down and die and rise again and ascend to majesty in heaven. Buddha didn't die to pay for my sins, Mohammed didn't rise from the dead. It was Jesus, God himself, alone who suffered on my behalf. In His righteousness alone could I stand before the Father and not be torn to pieces and damned to Hell. In my own good works, I would be shown for what I was—a false convert, one who had claimed the name of Christian but I had followed my own god of ME and what I wanted to do. I had drunk from the idol of lust and worshipped at the temple of popularity.

My life has been changed radically. God has given me new desires to follow Him. I read the Bible and it makes sense because I realize it applies to me. Now I pray and I realize that I am dependent on God for everything—my life, and my eternity. The Lord helped me to overcome the lust I had been enslaved to before. Life is not easy because it is hard to follow God. I am not perfect or sinless but God is growing me in holiness and gradually showing me new areas He wants to change. But I am FORGIVEN!

WHY in the world would I tell you all this stuff about me? Because I fear that many people, especially in America have grown up in or gone to church at some point. They have prayed a prayer, raised a hand, been baptized, been confirmed, etc. and they say they are a Christian. But they are FALSE CONVERTS like I was. God will send them to Hell because they are trying to earn their way to heaven. No one can stand before a perfect God and say anything. For example, if you have told 1 lie in your life, just 1, then you have broken God's law (Exodus 20:16) and God says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8)

PLEASE, I beg you for your own sake to get right with the Creator of the universe tonight! You may die at any moment and you will stand before God in judgement (Hebrews 9:27). You're very soul and eternity is at stake. Remember you must REPENT (confess and turn away) from your sins and put your FAITH in Jesus Christ and His righteousness to save you. Jesus must become the Lord of all your life or He will not be your Lord at all.

Still think you are a good person? Take this test."
Check here to learn about false conversion. Listen to the audio file on that page.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!

Barry (above: second from the left kneeling down) has been in Turkey since Dec. 27th, and he's having a wonderful time. He's with a group of SWBTS seminary students and 2 professors. It's part of the Traveling Scholars program. They're following one of Paul's missionary journeys and also seeing the 7 churches of Asia from Revelation. Sounds like he's loving every minute of it!

I'm sure he'll post an entry all about it when he gets back on the 12th. In the meantime, check out the school photographer's blog, who happens to be Barry's roommate on the trip, to see some of the awesome sights he's been enjoying.