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.