Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Take the Acts 17:17 Challenge!

About one month ago, I asked the Lord to help me personally go out in evangelism every weekday with a student from Midwestern. I lined up a Monday student, two Tuesday students, and a Wednesday student (having faculty meetings on Thursday and class on Friday). We were to meet at 3pm, go somewhere in Kansas City for evangelism, and be back before 4:30pm.
My first Monday, I picked up Omar Vazquez at the library, and we went to the West Bottoms right off of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. We knocked on doors for about an hour, and had some good conversations about Jesus. We got back into my car, and headed back to the seminary.
Then something happened on Hwy 35, just ½ mile from the seminary exit. A water hose blew in the upper part of the engine. I thought the car was going to blow up. We quickly got off the road, called a tow truck, and now I was without a vehicle.
The next day I cancelled the Tuesday outreach for lack of a vehicle. Wednesday around noon another hose blew in the same vehicle. Again, I had to cancel my Wednesday outreach. Then on Saturday the head gasket went out on the way to a local church outreach with Fellowship KC.
“A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps”(Prov 16:9)
While I planned to attempt organized daily evangelism, it was not an easy thing to accomplish. There is, in fact, a battle for the souls of men.
While it may not be easy, and while prayer and commitment to the Lord may be needed, I want us to consider what I have found to be the most difficult spiritual discipline:
The discipline of daily evangelism.
In Acts 17:17 we read:
“Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there”(Acts 17:17)
Paul, the busy apostle, who was not only following up on new believers, caring for the churches he planted, and writing the letters that we have come to know as Scripture, while in Athens took on the challenge of daily intentional evangelism. Now that’s a challenge!
In so doing, Paul was fulfilling a command in the Book of Psalms:
 “Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day”(Psa 96:2)
If it was a valid spiritual discipline for Paul, is it not equally a valid discipline for us living today? Is this not of special importance in light of our current decline in conversions, baptisms, and church attendance?
May I suggest several ways in which this discipline can be fulfilled? I would ask you, dear reader, to ask the Lord for His wisdom and guidance as you read these options:
  1. Being ready every day to give an answer to anyone who may ask us for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15). To fulfill this discipline, it would be good to learn a gospel presentation and daily ask God for opportunities to share the gospel.
  2. Keeping a gospel tract in our shirt or purse, and daily looking for opportunities to give one to someone we may encounter. To fulfill this we will need to pick up a packet of gospel tracts to hand out.
  3. Making ourselves accountable to someone else to share the gospel every day, checking in with them weekly to share opportunities that we had in sharing the gospel that week.
  4. Planning a daily routine of evangelism in the marketplace, in the street, or door-to-door, with Sunday taken as a day of rest. Was this not the example of Paul in Acts 17:17 as noted above? I have also been told that this was the spiritual discipline of D. L. Moody in Chicago.
  5. Partnering with people to evangelize every day. I have heard of this level of discipline twice in my life: Don Cass, former Director of Evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, went out daily near lunch time to share the gospel. Loren Phippen, a former Midwestern Student, Associate Pastor at Believer’s Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas, went out daily in his last semester as a student at Midwestern.

Would you, dear reader, consider the Acts 17:17 Challenge? Is it a worthwhile spiritual discipline in light of all that Christ has done for us? Could not the Holy Spirit lead us to accept this challenge at some level? Should we not daily ask God for opportunities to tell of His salvation? Should we not find a friend who could hold us accountable in this very important area?
 “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Priests in OT and NT

In handwriting Deuteronomy, I am sometimes struck by the striking contrasts between in Old Testament and the New Testament. Such is the case with Deut 26:3:
"And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and shall say to him, 'I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to this country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us'" (Deut 26:3).
When Paul went up to Jerusalem in Acts 15 in the context of a theological dispute, he did not obey this command to go to the sitting High Priest, rather he went to the apostles and elders. When Paul went in to the priests to get a head shave, and pay for four others, in Acts 21, it was under pretext to show the Jews that he also kept the law--which head shave did not spare him from a beating in which the Jews sought to kill him (Acts 21:31).

However, interestingly, Jesus sometimes commanded those he healed to go show themselves to the priests as a testimony (Luke 5:14; 17:14 and parallels).

Yet, it was the High Priest "in those days" and "in the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide" (Deut 26:2) who condemned Jesus to death.

Further, Paul was told not long after his conversion of his friends in Jerusalem:
"Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me" (Acts 22:18).
Clearly something happened with the role of the priest between the life of Jesus and the early church! In fact, the Old Covenant was accomplished and the new had truly come. Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). God tore in two the veil in the Temple between the holy place and the holy of holies (Matt 27:51; Luke 23:45).

Because of what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection, we no longer need to make a humble pilgrimage to any particular location to pay homage to a man taking on the role of intermediary, to whom, by whom, and through whom we must offer our first fruits. God "does not dwell in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24).

Amen for Jesus who did it all! And amen for the priesthood of the believer, by which every true believer in Jesus can offer thanksgiving directly to the God the Father from anywhere and at any time--with the blood of Jesus as our only hope and our only mediation.
"It is finished!"

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sharing the Gospel from One Text of Scripture

A student (Twitter: @IWantDan) recently reminded me of the power of sharing the gospel from one text of Scripture. He mentioned how the Lord had used him to share the Gospel from John 3.
John 3 has a number of very interesting elements for sharing the gospel:
  1. The need to be "born again" (which can then be explained), vv. 3, 7;
  2. Nicodemus' (very common) misunderstanding of that spiritual concept, v. 4;
  3. The idea of the serpent being lifted up and Jesus being lifted up on the cross, v. 14;
  4. The idea of "believing" and only believing--a heart attitude (vv. 15, 16, 18), versus "not believing" (v. 18);
  5. Salvation from evil deeds being the purpose of being born again, vv. 19-21;
  6. The urgency of belief, v. 36:
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).
With verse 36 as a call to commitment, John 3 provides a great place to share the gospel from one text of Scripture. Thank you, Daniel!
Other texts that may be used in sharing the gospel from one text are:
  • Isaiah 53;
  • Romans 3:19-26;
  • 1 John 1:7-2:2;
  • Revelation 21:3-8.
I'm sure that the esteemed reader will find other Scripture helpful in sharing the gospel from one text, as the opportunities present themselves, as people's needs differ, and as the Holy Spirit leads.
You may want to consider looking at some sample dialogues for sharing the gospel from one text of Scripture in http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-01.pdf (page 18-20).

Nine Recommendations for Young Pastors

“Everything that was done in the church prior to my time is highly questionable; I am the first one who is going to do everything right!”
This attitude not only infects the young pastor’s view of every ministry in the church, but it also colors his respect for the leaders of the church that called him.
Yet, Paul wrote:
1 Pet 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’
So how can a young pastor enter a church and have discernment without becoming pridefully iconoclastic? Here are nine recommendations for the young pastor:
  1. If at all possible, do not change any scheduled program or ministry during your first year at a church. You will have plenty of opportunity to effect change through a loving pulpit ministry and by adding those things you feel are necessary.
  2. Do not speak negatively of prior pastors or their ministry, even if the situation commends such speech. You need people to be gracious to you, both now and in the future. So model grace by being gracious to your predecessors.
  3. Get to know the leaders of the church, in so far as is possible with you. Listen to them. They likely know the church and the area culture far better than you do. And your longevity depends on your developing positive relationships with these leaders.
  4. Visit your people. Develop a regular program for visiting every member and regular in the church. This visitation is quite different than evangelistic visitation, which is also important.
  5. Love your own family first. If you are married, make sure that you listen to your wife. She will bring a third party perspective on your ministry that you need to hear. Also listen to her as it relates to family time. While it is always a struggle to balance family and ministry, let her know that she is the priority.
  6. Implement change very slowly and cautiously. Know the attitudes of the leaders of the church to any course of action before you bring it up in public. To know their attitudes in advance means that you have been doing recommendation #3.
  7. If you want to do something important to you, such as evangelism, you do not need permission to evangelize. Do it! And bring along others as you find those who are interested. It is easier to add activities to your ministry in the church than it is to bring in the sweeping change of a brand new program for the entire church.
  8. The best and most lasting changes are spontaneous. As you minister the way God is leading you, God will provide opportunities and open doors for which you did not prepare—nor can prepare—because they are not on your radar screen. All that you will need to do is encourage people in the ministry situations that will supernaturally arise through God gifting His people. Then watch God at work!
  9. Love your people. Love the church. Love their community. You can’t teach love, and you can’t fake genuine love. Pray for love and plead for love. For as a pastor you really need to love your people!

Hopefully these few ideas can be a blessing to a young pastor entering the ministry.