Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grand pa

Something happens psychologically to your brain.

I mean no one wants to be called grandpa. “You’re too slow, grandpa,” a taunt athletes make to each other (or at least I’ve been told. I’ve never been much of an athlete, except when I made the final point my eighth grade year in the final minute of my final basketball career as a B team 3rd stringer! I am proud to say I was the only 3rd stringer of the B team, a title of dubious distinction.)

No one, that is, except for, well, grandpas, I suppose.

Tucker Clark can call me Papa (what I called my grandpa, A.W. Clark...yep, I am the middle link between two Clarks, two generations apart). Or “Pa” which is what I called my other Pa ‘Keown. Or granddad, which is what my kids called Waymon Terry “W.T.” , Melissa’s Dad.

I have even thrown out there “great dad”, you know like how you call your uncle’s father. You don’t say “grand uncle,” you say, “great uncle” so “great dad” has a nice ring to it, if I do say so myself.

Then of course, there’s Pops, Pappy, DanGrad (now that’s a tongue twister if I ever heard one for a kid), and in the comments below you can add some more I am sure.

Jaime McKeown already has my name lined out and Terrynce Caleb  has asked what I want to be called. I’ve been indifferent with no rhyme or reason except that maybe I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to BE a granddad or a Papa or even a great dad.

You see, until I became one, I didn’t feel old enough. Not because I wasn’t old enough, I am. At 53, I am older than Terrynce’s granddad was when he became one at 48. But I’m not as old as my Pa Keown was, who was 58 when I was born. My Papa Clark was born in the 1800s (Now that’s old!) And had my daddy lived, he would have been 55 when Caleb was born! Well, 54 but he would have been 55 on his next birthday. And, I’m not 54, I’m 53! But my calendar and my mirror and my memories belie my feelings of whether or not I feel old enough to be one.

But that was then. On November 18, 2015, I officially became old enough, and my feelings finally caught up with me, and I truly felt like “I really am a grand pa.” Or Grand dad. Or Poppy. Yep, something happens to your brain! Whatever you want to call me, little Tuck, will be just fine, I’m ready now.

P.S. And Tuck, just don’t call me “great dad” after all...after seeing how your daddy took care of my wonderful daughter-in-law through the birthing process...and how lovingly he holds you now, “great dad” can only apply to your dad, and my son, who I am so proud of.



Winning

“Hey, I’m going to a funeral , do you want to come?”

I’m not surprised by the answers I got from my kids and you wouldn’t be either.

I said it jokingly (is that wrong to joke about a funeral?), knowing they are here to celebrate a newborn baby, whom they will love forever, not to mourn the passing of a well-lived long life of a Christian whom they (nor I for that matter) never knew.

While the humor may be a tad morbid, it is ironic that we Christians can puzzle over a Biblical truth that says the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.* Irony is also found in that the most cynical and pessimistic book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, is written by one of the most celebrated, richest, indulgent and even wisest human in the Bible.

Irony and but not surprise is fond that even today, we see a man who just a few years ago claimed he was winning when he clearly was not now has HIV and a mess of legal problems.  My prayer is that he will now seek and find God and truly be winning.

Not all will give birth to a baby, that blessed event. Not all births are joyful nor are all lives blessed or even at the end thought to be worth living. Or even worthy of living. Some deaths of notoriously evil persons are indeed celebrated. You yourself may have even envisioned driving hours to dance on a grave of someone who has hurt you.

But a funeral message for the believer can be surprisingly uplifting. And someday, from heaven’s perspective, we may see the wisdom of Solomon after all. And truly be …

… surprised.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

I will love you


“How much must you hate me?”
That question came from an atheist to Christians who refuse share with him the horrors of hell and the blessings of heaven.
What is true hatred? What is the most hateful thing a Christian could do?
The owner of a patent for a life-saving medicine was recently criticized for sky-rocketing the cost of the pill by 7,500 percent! That greedy CEO effectively said, “I will only save the lives of those who can afford it,” loving money more than people. His greed led him to virtual hatred of those who desperately need that medicine. His puny excuse that the gouging pays for “research” does little to help those whose poverty condemns them to death because they cannot afford the cure.
Do I hate people so much that I refuse to tell people how to gain heaven and avoid hell? I may not be greedy like the CEO but do I “love” the luxury of being politically correct so much that I put the price of salvation so high that I keep silent about heaven and hell?
I have an orientation to sin. You might say I was born that way. By my nature, I am a naturally born sinner. But someone showed me years ago that I not only could be forgiven but that I could be delivered!
That person was my mother.
She shared with me a book that showed me that our lives were like a garden overtaken by weeds. True, I had a few good flowers as a remnant of the garden’s original purpose, but without a Gardener, weeds had overtaken the garden and my life was not the beautiful garden that He had intended it to be. Once the Gardener comes in, He will take away the sinful weeds of our lives. I distinctly remember a picture in the book which showed that even after the Gardener takes over the garden, sinful weeds will still creep back in. Yet He would be there to give order to the good plants and flowers and take away the bad weeds which would otherwise again overtake the garden.
But what if my mother “loved” so much that she told me I should enjoy the garden with thorns and thistles and weeds. My garden of beautiful plants would instead be garish brier patch!
It would be like her “loving” me so much that she only told me of the pleasures of playing in the street without warning me about cars which could kill me. What if I was only told of the wonderful rose bush, but not told about the poison ivy intertwined and the painful thorns and the wasp nest hidden therein?
When I was in middle school, a friend sold me a switchblade at school. Another taught me to smoke. Another gave me pornographic pictures. Did those friends love me? A principal found out about the switchblade and took it from me and actually had the gall to punish me for having it! What a hater he was!
What if that principal had simply said, “boys will be boys,” and let me continue to brandish my switchblade, inhale cancerous toxins and degrade the bodies of others to merely objects of sensual exploitations? Would that be love?
How much do I hate you?
I hate you so much that I will not tell you about God’s definition of sin and its earthly consequences and eternal penalties.
I hate you so much that I refuse to tell you of God’s grace that can deliver us from our sinful addictions and carnal orientations.
I hate you so much that I will be silent about God’s ongoing forgiveness, yes, even after salvation when those weeds of sin infiltrate back into your life.
I hate you so much that I will not offend you by telling you that I too struggle with sin. I will keep my pharmaceutical cures to myself, or will only sell it to you at great cost against my luxurious laziness. Until you can afford my cost of silence, I will live in the riches of political correctness and love you so much by encouraging you to embrace, accept and encourage you to relish your garden of weeds. I will not lower the costly cure for your disease of sin.
I will love you to hell.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

God Novels From Galveston -- Mike

 “You are sort of a free agent, then.”

I said this to Mike after he told me he had been raised a Buddhist but had abandoned his faith even before he left his native country of South Vietnam. He looked at me for a moment and then he understood I was speaking about his lack of religious affiliation, then smiled broadly. “Yes, I am a ‘free agent.’”

His accent was still thick but his comprehension of English was sharp. He came to America more than 40 years ago, shortly after the fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north. “Mike” was not his native name but he had wanted to adapt to his new country, so he picked the name.

It was late afternoon when Adrian and I came across him. He was sitting in a beach chair low to the ground and the only way I could sit even lower than this small-statured man was to sit directly down on the gray Galveston sand. We conversed a few minutes about his journey to America, his successful career and now his retirement and his family he was vacationing with.

“What do you think about heaven?” I asked, trying some way to get into a conversation about Christ and ultimately ask him about whether he thought he would go to heaven.

“People have told me it would not be good for me to go there,” he said, “because I would be very lonely. All my friends would be in hell,” he said, pointing down to the unseen place below the sand underneath us.

Mike came as a refugee with only his wife. Now 75, he has children and grandchildren whom he proudly pointed out as a boy played out in the water with a woman. Jet black hair and olive complexion, the young boy was undoubtedly of an all-Asian descent but clearly raised in America.

Mike had lost everything when he came to the United States. Even though he fondly thought of Christians as he had been sponsored by a Methodist church when he came to Texas, he had never adopted the Christian faith.

“Mike, none of us know how long we will be here. I could die tomorrow,” I said. “But at 75, you do have a head start on me. Do you know what will happen to you after you die?”

He shook his head no, but still politely smiled.

“I know you are here with your family, do you have time to let us tell you what the Bible says it takes to get to heaven,” I asked, pointing to my friend Adrian, who was standing and silently praying as Mike and I talked.

“Yes, yes, I am not busy,” he said. We quickly shared with the older man what we had been sharing all week long on our mission trip to the island. He listened but I soon began to doubt whether our conversation would last much longer. His gaze wandered back to his grandson, and after my brief explanation, he said, “The church was very nice to me and my wife when we came but we never joined.”

“Going to heaven is much more important than going to church,” I explained. As I followed his gaze out to his family, something hit me.

“You know when you came here, you did not know anyone here in America, did you?” He shook his head. “At first it might have been lonely, but now look at all of them,” I said pointing at his family. “They are living here in freedom because you paved the way, you took a risk in coming here.

“What if,” I continued, “what if you again paved the way and made a decision to go to heaven when this life is over? You would not be lonely. You could make the way and tell your family, your children and grandchildren that you are a Christian and you will be going to heaven. What if you left a legacy like that for them to join you, just like you did in coming to this country?”

I can’t explain it, but as Mike looked out at the Galveston waves, it was almost like I could see 40 years of history in this new country flash across his face. He had made a successful career here, learned a new language, raised a family, now living in retirement. It was as though he was reliving it and now ready to make a new decision for a new eternal life, all over again.

“Yes, I want to receive Christ,” said the man who had been raised Buddhist, left his faith and then his war-torn country to come to a new country. I looked up to Adrian and asked him to help me up from the sand. Mike also stood up from his chair and all three of us joined hands and he prayed to receive Christ as His Lord and Savior. He received heaven as his next adventure to which to lead his family.

After we prayed, his grandson came running up, wet from the Gulf coast water and full of life and joy. “My name is Collin,” he said in perfect English. I asked Mike if Adrian could give him a bracelet and if we could tell the boy the story of how we can go to heaven. “Yes, yes, of course.” Adrian and I explained the dark, red, clean, blue, green and gold beads on the bracelet. After listening, Collin ran back out to ocean again and showed the woman there his bracelet. She waved and smiled at us. Collin came back and showed us a big shell they had found. He showed us the hole he dug in the sand.

I gave Mike a card with my address, phone and email and asked him to write me. (Please pray that he will.) I assured Mike that he would not be lonely in heaven if he leads his family to follow Christ. But before I left, Mike took my hand and looked up at me very seriously with his sincere almond eyes.

“You are wrong, you will not get to heaven before me,” he said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked my new brother in Christ.

“Because God will let you live a long time to tell more people about this. What you are doing is a very good thing.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Parable on Repentance


Key Principle #4: REPENTANCE (part 1 )

“There is no more confused message that you and I could give
to a lost and dying world than to live in sin
and at the same time to tell people about the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
God will not use a compromised life to reach a compromised world.”

Joe Focht, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia
2And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried...to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms... 6Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." 7And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them--walking, leaping, and praising God.
Acts Chapter 3


     One sadly lacking aspect of the modern church is that it has forgotten its roots. The very foundational sermon of both John the Baptist and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was a message of repentance. The gospel of Mark, perhaps the first of the gospels written, can hardly get out of the gate without laying down the word of "repentance" in the fourth verse of the first chapter.

     Peter's first sermon climaxes in Acts 2:38 with a frank and solemn response to the crowd's cry of "what must we do?"

"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

     One of my college professors referred the book of Acts as “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit,” compared to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being “the Gospels of Jesus Christ.” In the gospels of Jesus Christ, our Lord used parables to show the truths He was teaching. And in chapter 3 of “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit,” God uses a parable to show the story of repentance, but not a parable in words, rather a parable through a real life situation of raising a lame man.

A Parable of Repentance

The man was born lame;
we are born in sins.

He had to be carried to ask for alms;
we are helpless to save ourselves.

He looked to Peter and John, not for healing, but for alms.
Many, if not all, initially look to Christ not for a cure but for a crutch.


     Peter did not give the lame man what he wanted, he gave him what he needed. A spirit-filled believer will point sinners to salvation and once redeemed to repentance. Not only was the lame man healed, but God gave him strength to walk and knowledge not only how to walk (remember, he was lame from birth), but also how to leap and praise God. God also gives us salvation and gives us the ability to walk, run, and leap for joy in our Christian walk through repentance from sins. Though he could walk, he held on to Peter and John, and though we are delivered from our sins, we need other believers and the church to lean upon.

     When the lame man was healed, he could do many things he could never do since birth. But there was one thing he could never do again. Once healed, the lame man could not go back and beg for alms; no one would give him anything since it was made known he could walk. Likewise, we cannot experience salvation and then expect to go back to our sins and derive the same pleasures. We were saved to work out our salvation, just as the lame man was healed to work out his newly acquired ability to walk. Look at Phil. 2:12:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

     The topic of Peter’s sermon is a topic of repentance and conversion, or changing your heart, mind, and action as a part of salvation. The lame man’s life was changed after his healing and our lives will be changed after our salvation. The man could walk, but now had to get a job and work for his income, but not for his healing. We also must repentant of our sins as spirit-filled believers, not for our salvation, but because it was for our good works we were created and saved. Read Eph. 2:10:

10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

     The church today should not at all be surprised that repentance is a major part of the New Testament, but is it a part of preaching today in our churches? Is repentance something that you find yourself doing as a regular part of your Christian life? Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ preached a regular message of “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

     If your newspaper carries the sermon titles in its religion section, I would be utterly shocked to see such a title in any church, but it was a major if not the main topic of the sermons of the New Testament.

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rewards of being Spirit-filled


Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 3)
Acts 2:41-47
Rewards of being Spirit-filled

        The tongues of fire and the understood languages were used on the Day of Pentecost to proclaim the Word, will and works of God. It was a sign of God’s power for unbelievers to see that God has poured out His Spirit on them, and 3,000 people were saved. Speaking in other languages was again shown on several occasions later in the book of Acts, each with a significant reason and each with salvation for unbelievers. Paul explained later that speaking in other languages was not a sign for believers, but for unbelievers. However, using your spirit-filled tongue to proclaim a prophetic message in an understandable language is a wonderful way to edify other believers (see 1 Cor. 14:22) and a great reward for you.

        In fact, the Holy Spirit prompting us to prophesy was direct fulfillment of prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 as shown in Acts 2:17-18. To prophesy does not only mean “fore-telling” or speaking God’s truth before it happens, but also it means “forth-telling” or speaking God’s truth that should be happening now. Both sons and daughters, men and women, will prophesy, Peter said. For nearly two thousand years, there has never been so many women so ably proclaiming God’s Word as there are today. Women like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Anne Gramm Lotz, just to name a few. Now some denominations don’t want women to serve as pastors, perhaps, but I for one don’t want them to be silenced either. And judging by the book sales, I’m not alone.

        Now it would be really cool to be able to fore-tell the future, especially in these days of economic roller coasters. But for me, I would rather forth-tell the truth of God’s word, especially if it means that people, when they hear it, will be “cut to the heart,” and be willing to change their ways (Acts 2:37). Honestly, outside of being able to be on the cover of National Enquirer, a dubious honor at best, and maybe make some serious money, or avoid losing serious money, on the stock market, what is the benefit of fore-telling the future if it is not accompanied by forth-telling the Word, will and works of God?

        Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” doesn’t mean that you don’t have the Holy Spirit when you aren’t filled (is a triple negative too hard to follow?). Let me say it again with a single negative: If you aren't filled with the Spirit, you still have God's Spirit; however, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have all of you. There may be a certain area of your life that is not under the obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that will grieve the Holy Spirit. Still, you are always sealed by the Holy Spirit all the way until the Day Christ comes and redeems us to heaven (Eph. 4:30). Don’t think that just because you don’t feel filled that somehow the Holy Spirit has left you, because Jesus promised us that even though He went away physically, the Holy Spirit indwells us and Jesus said the Holy Spirit will abide with us forever (John 14:16).

        God baptizes us in His Holy Spirit at the time of salvation and fills us a various times after salvation to accomplish His will, including that of bringing the Good News of salvation to a lost world.  We get the power to be witnesses through the infilling of the Spirit. And Acts chapter two shows us two very important lessons to remember about spirit-filled evangelism and the both deal with the calling of salvation:

1)             God is the One who sovereignly calls sinners to repentance and salvation (verse 39). It is the responsibility of God to call people to salvation.  Acts 2:39 “For the promise is to you …as many as the Lord our God will call.” Romans 8:30 shows that God initiates the call to be justified, Romans 9:24-26 states that He calls us to become His people and children. (See 1 Cor. 1:26-28, Rom. 8:28, Eph. 4:1, 1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 2:13-14, 2 Tim. 1:9, and a good concordance or crosswalk.com for more references on God calling us)

2)             Likewise, whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (verse 21). In response to God’s call, the sinner calls out to God for saving grace. Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (See also Rom. 10:13-15). Even though God calls us, we must respond and make the calling and election sure (1 Pet. 1:10) by calling on the name of the Lord to be saved.

        As a Spirit-filled Christian, it is not your responsibility to save anyone, nor make them be saved. Once saved, the new believers were baptized, followed the teachings of the leaders, fellowshipped with other believers, participated in the breaking of bread or communion, prayed, kept regular worship with other believers, gave a good witness to others and led others to salvation (Acts 2:42-47). All we are to do is be faithful in those things and leave the results to God. Peter, the fisherman, would probably agree with this summary of the Spirit-filled life experience:

“We catch them, God cleans them!”

Risks of being Spirit-filled


Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 2)

Acts 2:12-13
Risks of being Spirit-filled

        When God’s Spirit fills you, others who look at your life may become confused or perplexed by the difference He makes in your life (Acts 2:12). Others may mock you (2:13). But some will become convicted (verse 37) and even converted (verse 41).

        Speaking the Word of God will set you apart and may even intimidate others who are unsaved, or walking contrary to the ways of God. But for other believers, there’s no greater joy than being around a spirit-filled Christian and being a part of a spirit-filled church. If you don’t know for sure if your church is spirit-filled, then it probably isn’t! I’m not talking about a church which raises hands or sings great praise choruses, for that’s not the sign of a spirit-filled church in and of itself. The Biblical test of being spirit-filled is whether the Word and Works of God are present and evident and spoken of.

        Is your church constantly talking about the things of the world or are the members talking in ways that promote gossip, worldliness, materialism, money, politics, sports or entertainment? If it is the latter, then it probably isn’t a spirit-filled church. And the same goes for you and me. You see, the risk of being a spirit-filled Christian is that you’ll be different from the world and maybe even different than your church. You’ll want a church that influences the world, and not the other way around.

        It’s not easy to tell a pastor or fellow church member you wish they were more spirit-filled without coming across as judgmental, so I don’t suggest you do so unless you know you are being prompted by God. Simply live your life and follow God’s promptings. Stephen was spirit-filled, but also filled with indignation at the religious leaders and used his tongue to call them stiff-necked and rebellious. You may not get rocks thrown at you if you are spirit-filled and you are surrounded by religious people are not, but then again, you just might get a few rock-hard glares from stone-glazed eyes, peering down some steep-sloping noses. Don't say I didn't warn you!

        In a previous posting, I made a quote about people going across the globe but not going across the street to evangelize. I say that because it is certainly true of me and I say that to my shame. But I made that comment once while on a mission trip and three people heard what I said. One thought it was good, another got convicted, and a third got angry and gave me quite a tongue-lashing later on. Sometimes our tongues can be like throwing a rock into a pack of dogs: the one who barks is likely the one who got hit!

        If you want to be spirit-filled, you had better know your Bible. As mentioned earlier, spirit-filled is symbolized not with an ear or eye and blissfully not with a nose, but with a tongue. When God’s Spirit fills you, you better be prepared to speak and what you say better be true to the Bible. As we saw in Principle #2, during the fifty days leading up to Pentecost, Peter was saturating himself with the Scriptures, and those scrolls were not available at your handy-dandy corner Christian Bookstore in those days. When Peter used his tongue on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted Scripture by heart. Verses 17-21 from Acts 2 came from Joel. Verses 25-28 as well as 34-35 are from the Psalms, written by King David. Scripture memory is important in the life of a spirit-filled Christian.

        One morning, I was at the SonRise Breakfast, a weekly event in Tyler, Texas, and the guest speaker (who happened to be my pastor at the time) had slept in and forgot he was supposed to speak. Since I was on staff with him, they asked me if I had something to say, and I did and felt the infilling of the Holy Spirit as I spoke with power. Afterwards someone said he had heard me preach numerous times before, but this was the best he had ever heard me speak.

       Paul wrote to Timothy to always be ready to give a defense for your faith and to preach the word in season and out.  A spirit-filled person runs the risk of suddenly being used by the Holy Spirit and His infilling, but also may have the blessing of seeing 3,000 come to Christ, as Peter did.

Reasons to be Spirit-filled


Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 1)

Acts 2:4

        Ask yourself a painful question…is your church spirit-filled? Want an even more painful question; are you Spirit-filled? I say it is a painful question because it is to me and many of the churches I’ve seen. You may answer that and say, yes, I am spirit-filled and so is my church. What does that mean to you?

        This is what it meant to the early church and what it should mean to us today. A spirit-filled church is a power-filled church and it is a witness-filled church. A spirit-filled Christian is a power-filled Christian and a witness-filled Christian. It comes as a result of waiting on the Promise of the Father, being obedient to Christ and being saved and baptized by the Holy Spirit.

Reasons to be Spirit-filled

        I’ve always had a difficult time visualizing this scene. I’ve seen it dramatically depicted in movies, but still, most difficult is how did a divided tongue of fire appear and how did it rest on people. Have you ever wondered why a tongue?

        Why not an ear? Suppose God decided that the way to demonstrate the infilling of the Holy Spirit was to have ears of fire rest on each person and then people could hear and understand other languages or even hear the utterances of God. Or suppose God wanted to manifest His infilling Holy Spirit with an eye of fire appearing on the people, allowing them to see visions of heaven, of the future, of distant lands. I think the answer of why He chose a tongue is as obvious as the nose on your face (and I think we can all imagine why God did not choose a “nose of fire” to appear, but still He’s God and he could have). He chose a tongue so as to show that we must go and tell others of the wonderful works of God, and especially how great is His salvation.

        In Genesis chapter 11, God divided the tongues of people to scatter them abroad (11:8-9). When the people had one language and one speech, they sought to make a tower to heaven, a pagan tower to exalt themselves and to make a name for themselves. They wanted to keep from being scattered and filling the earth, which was God’s first commandment to humanity (Gen. 1:28) and repeated again to Noah and his family (Gen. 9:1, 7).

        The divided tongue brought confusion and God is the one who divided the tongues and languages. Wait! Did God author confusion? Did that contradict 1 Cor. 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” No, humanity rejected God’s commandments and thus was the cause of God coming in judgment to accomplish His will of filling the earth. In Acts, the multitudes were confused, not because they didn’t understand but because they did understand, in their own language the wonderful works of God.

        This particular type of infilling was a unique, never before occurring and never to be again repeated (at least not so far in human history) event. Pentecostal brothers and sisters and other charismatic believers may indeed practice speaking in tongues, but nothing like this. If it occurs at your church, please contact me because as I mentioned I have a hard time visualizing this. People understood not only in their language, but in their dialects.

        Pentecost came seven weeks after Passover. Passover was the first Jewish celebration of the year, marking the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt (see Lev. 23:4). And of course, Passover was also the time in which Jesus died.

        Seven is a holy number and seven weeks of seven days is especially holy. Sometimes Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks, which is a celebration of the harvest of grain (Lev. 23:16). Each celebration of the Jews foreshadows different events to be fulfilled in the church, and Pentecost celebrates the first grain harvest for the Jews, but for the church, it celebrates the first harvest of souls with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

        Notice that the indwelling is permanent, but the infilling is not permanent. Christians must continually and repeatedly seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and not being filled is usually a result of not being obedient to God. An infilling of the Spirit almost always accompanies a boldness to share the Word of God (see Acts 4:8, 31; 6:5 with 7:55; 5:18-19).
 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't Let The Accuser Keep You From Witnessing


Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 3)

Acts 1:8-26

Don’t Let Opposition From The Accuser keep you from witnessing

      Thirdly, don’t let adversity and opposition stop you from witnessing. Acts. 1:21 says “Let another take his office.” That word office is episkopen or sometimes translated as bishop or overseer. Peter used this word of position for what Judas held. Judas had a position of leadership, as did all of the apostles, and when his position was open, Peter found a Scripture which stated it should to be filled.

      If you read Psalm 109, you’ll quickly see Peter was studying Psalms. Read verse 3, “They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause. In return for my love they are my accusers but I give myself to prayer thus they have rewarded me evil for good and hatred for my love.”

      Peter had heard Jesus use this same Psalm 109 on the night He was betrayed. John 15:25 ("But this comes to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause'") proves it is a Messianic Psalm; that is, parts of this passage, written a thousand years previously, was a prophecy about Christ and also about Judas. So here in Acts, Peter quoted the same Psalm which Jesus referred to on the night Judas betrayed Christ. That prophecy said that Jesus would be hated without a cause. So Peter undoubtedly read on in the Psalms to see what else might be prophetic. He didn't have to look far. In Psalm 109:6, it reads, “Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand.” That word accuser is the word also translated as Satan. Jesus said that he had chosen 12 disciples, but one of them was a devil. John recorded that Jesus knew from the beginning that Jesus was going to betray Him. And Jesus said that Satan had filled Judas’ heart.

      That’s the way the devil works. Satan will tempt you to fall and then when you fall, he’ll accuse you of not being good enough for God and fill you with guilt and feelings of worthlessness. When Satan was through with Judas, he left him with nothing but guilt and remorse. And if we are not careful, the devil will do the same with us and effectively steal our witness.

      In Psalm 109: 8, the Psalmist, likely King David, prophetically said that Judas’ days would be few and so they were and that after his death, “let another take his office.”  Judas’ days were few, with his final days overwhelmed with guilt and the accusation of Satan. Judas walked with Christ for three and a half years, was called a disciple and part of the inner twelve. Meanwhile, that same night, a thief on the cross simply called out to Jesus and said “Remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” 
 
      Both Judas and the repentant thief on the cross entered death’s dark domain that evening. Judas, who had been with Christ in life, was separated from Him for all eternity in death. The other, the thief on the cross who asked Christ to merely remember him, had lived separated from Christ in almost all of his life. But in the final fleeting moments of this existence, the thief did what Judas did not and would not do. He called upon all of God's mercy and is forever in heaven with our Lord.

      What a great testimony: we should never allow anything, including opposition, to stop us from sharing a witness to the gospel. By faith alone, a life-long thief can have eternity and without faith, a man by all outward appearances to be an upstanding Christian disciple, lost his soul.

      Look down Psalm 109:30, “I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.” In just a few days, Peter would do exactly that. He who was too terrified to testify and stand up to a little servant girl, would soon lead 3,000 people to Christ.           

      Don’t let excuses, failures or adversity stop you from witnessing.

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Let Failures Keep You From Witnessing

            Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 2)
21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us ... one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. ” ... 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles."          Acts Chapter 1 
 
        It is this passage of Scripture that has led to an erroneous division in clergy (those who make a living as a minister) and the laity (those ministers who earn a living other than through the church). The word “lot” is kleros from which we get clergy, so whenever we read “the lot fell on Matthias,” it could also be said, “and the clergy fell on Matthias.” But as we see in Acts 1:8, it’s not just the clergy who are to be witnesses for Christ, but everyone who receives the Holy Spirit, or in other words, all Christians.
       As we saw in the previous blog, some use the excuse of "not being a member of the clergy" to not be a witness. Look at what Robert Coleman said about the division of the clergy and laity in his book, The Master Plan of Discipleship:
Biblically speaking, we cannot define clergy and laity as mutually exclusive terms…Radical distinctions between the pulpit and the pew did not develop until well into the second century. The word kleros…has the meaning of “a share, a land received by lot, or inheritance.” …When the reference is to recipients of God’s promise as the church, the terms relate to all believers who have received the inheritance of Christ (Acts 8:21; 20:32; 26:18; Rom. 4:13, 14; 8:16; Gal. 3:18, 29; 4:1, 7; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Titus 3:7; Heb. 6:17; 9:15; 11:7,8; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; 5:3). In the New Testament usage of these term, then, everyone in the church is a clergyman or an heir of God. (pg. 11)
         But there are other reasons people use which keep them from witnessing.
 
 Don’t Let Failures keep you from witnessing 
        Not only should we not let excuses keep us from witnessing, but we should not let our past failures keep us from witnessing. Look at Peter. He was the disciple who whenever he didn’t know what to say, he said it anyway. Peter was a go-getter and Jesus liked that, but even go-getters get gotten at times by some type of failure.  
        During the 10 days of waiting and praying after Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter had to have been reading through the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, which still is so inspirational during times of affliction and sorrow. He obviously turned to Psalm 69 because that was what he quoted about having someone take Judas’ spot in Acts 1:20.  
        Here are some of the verses that gave Peter comfort. 
1 Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I have come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying, my throat is dry. My eyes fail while I wait for my God. 
        Now don’t you think that was a great passage for Peter to read? During the past three and a half years, Peter had proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, swore he would never deny him, yet only a few hours later, he swore he never knew the man. The Bible says after the third denial, he, like the Psalmist, wept bitterly. All the disciples were grief-stricken by the events and by Jesus’ absence. Death is devastating. I don’t care who you are and how much you know that they are "better off in heaven" and free from suffering, still, death is absolutely devastating. The Psalmist said he cried so hard that his throat went dry and he couldn’t even see. There is no shame in crying over the things that God cries over.  
        Let’s read some more from the same passage which Peter read in Psalm 69:
5O God, You know my foolishness and my sins are not hidden from you. 6Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me. Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel...19You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries are all before You. 20Reproach has broken my heart and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 
        At this point of loneliness and sadness, Peter turned his thoughts toward his own failures. He may have been isolated and ostracized from the other disciples. It probably sunk in to him how lonely it must have been for Jesus to have suffered and have all to forsake Him. The fisherman apostle undoubtedly continued to read this Messianic prophecy in the next verse, Ps. 69:21. “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” 
        Peter’s heart must have leapt out into his throat from his chest when he read this, knowing that Christ had also been given vinegar to drink on the cross. Psalm 69 then speaks about calling out for vengeance on those who betrayed him. Who else was a greater betrayer than Judas himself? Talk about a gruesome, painful death, Judas’ own bowels had bloated and spilled out after he had hung himself in remorse of being used and tossed away by the devil himself. No wonder Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 and applied it to Judas. “Let their dwelling place be desolate. Let no one live in their tents.” 
        Peter failed Christ, but was restored by Him. Judas, on the other hand, failed Christ but didn’t repent and did not experience the restoration, but rather the wrath of God, culminating in his death. As the Psalmist said, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28) 
        If you have ever failed (is there anyone that this doesn’t apply to?), learn what Peter learned: “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Prov. 24:16). The righteous fall just like everyone else, but they get back up again. Jesus restored Peter. Don’t let your past keep you from living your future for God and don’t let your failures keep you from being a witness to God. By the way, who was it that wrote this Psalm? Oh, yeah, David. Not David the adulterer, David the murderer, David the liar. David, the forgiven one. David, the man after God's own heart, even when it was broken.
        Judas was overcome by his remorse and died. Peter, on the other hand, overcame his remorse and lived to be the leader in the church. If you have failed and you feel like you are the chief of all sinners, look at Peter. Look at Paul, who coined the phrase, “the chief of all sinners.” And ladies, look at Mary Magdalene, who was likely a prostitute, although we are not for sure. We do know that seven demons were driven out of her, yet she became a close follower of Christ.  
        So what am I saying? If you have failed in the past, just remember Peter, Paul and Mary.
 
 
 
 

Good news on book publication (kind of)


Romans 8:28 states that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. I am claiming that on the publication of the GoJODaaT.

Crossbooks, my publisher that I have been working with for nearly a year now, has gone out of business. So why is that good news? I believe that is going to lead the book to be published by a larger publishers, either by B&H directly (affiliated with Lifeway) or another publisher such as Thomas Nelson (the publisher of my preferred translation in the book, the New King James Version).

So above is the suggested cover design and my prayer is that God will actually achieve a wider distribution than Crossbooks would have provided. Drop me a note if you will join me in prayer (I believe you have to create a log in account in order to post comments).

I will be updating my corrections to the blog over the next few weeks so that a "cleaner" reading of the devotionals will be on the internet. You may begin by going to www.johnoneday.blogspot.com .

Key Principles for the Church: # 2 - - WITNESS

Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 1)
ACTS 1:8-26
6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
       
     Lawyers and judges say that one of the most convincing (but sometimes least accurate) evidences you can bring to a trial is to have an eyewitness of an event, depending of course on the reliability and believability of the witness.

        Luke researched the gospel and also the book of Acts by going to eyewitnesses of the events. I think it is extremely important that Luke says several times that Mary “pondered these things in her heart.” How would he know that unless he spoke directly to her?

        The use of witnesses by Dr. Luke was very important to him and it is also important to God today. God gives us dunamis power (Principle #1) for many reasons, but the ultimate reason is so that we can be a witness both verbally and demonstratively in our lives. This leads us to see that giving a testimony about our faith is the second key principle found in the book of Acts. The Greek word for witness is martyr and the English word martyr signifies the most radical form of witnessing: to testify so strongly that you suffer and possibly even die for your faith.

        If being a witness is so important and was so import to Luke and to Christ, who said, “You shall be my witnesses,” what, then, stops us from being a good witness for our faith? Another word for witness can be a testimony or a proof to the world, or in the case of Acts 1:6, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, that Jesus is who said he was. So there may be several reasons that stop us from being a witness or a proof for Christ, but none of reasons are good reasons. There are at least three reasons that come to mind why the early disciples could have used for failing to be a witness.

        Today’s blog will look at the first reason some use: Excuses.

Don’t Let Excuses Stop You From Witnessing

      Don’t let excuses keep you from witnessing. Someone has defined an excuse as "a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie." Some people erroneously think that only certain people are spiritually gifted  to witness, and others are called for other things, such as service, mercy, teaching, giving, exhortation, pew-sitting. Yes, some people think that pew-sitting is their spiritual gift. A few of those people think that they are only called to sit on a certain pew and no one else better sit there, especially a visitor.

       Someone said in a class the other day, "I can't get up and speak. I'm no Moses." I immediately said to him, "Moses wasn't a Moses either." He immediately knew what I was meaning. Heroes like Moses, or in today's reading, Peter, were not some supernatural saints. Peter was a fisherman. Moses was a shepherd. The only thing that can keep us from being a witness is an excuse.

      The gift of an evangelist is a spiritual gift, but it’s not just the evangelists who are called to evangelize. The overwhelming preponderance of Scriptures shows that it is the entirety of the body of the church who is called to witness. In the last 20 or so years in which I have served in the full-time ministry, I’ve learned one thing (well, I hope I have learned more than one thing): I came across many more people in the ten years of secular work who were unsaved than in the years of full-time ministry work I’ve done. The reason being is that when you are in the full-time, vocational ministry, almost everyone you come across is already saved. The co-workers are saved (at least for the most part). The friends that you have in the ministry are mostly all saved.

        Now it is true that when you are in the ministry you get some opportunities to see people in an unsaved environment but the situation is not as natural as it would be if you were not in the full-time ministry. Sooner or later in a social setting, and most of the time it is sooner, people will ask you, “So what do you do for a living?” and no matter how you phrase it, the people pretty soon pigeon hole you as being a minister. My great-grandfather, who was a preacher and county minister for Parker and Palo Pinto counties, would share, “Well, I sell fire escapes.” But even with that line, pretty soon people figure it out.

        It’s like the phrase I once heard about being a Texan. You can always tell a Texan, but you can’t tell him much. Well it’s true of ministers too, you can always tell a minister, but you can’t tell him much. 

        People have an opinion of you that a minister is "paid to be good' and in many cases, the ministers are over paid for the little amount of good they do. You may laugh at that, but does that mean everyone else who is not a paid minister is "good for nothing"?

        I hope you and I are both "good for nothing". I hope that your minister would be just as good if he wasn’t paid by a church as he would be if he was. But on behalf of all ministers everywhere, if you are a part of the budget and finance committee, don’t let your minister be "good for next to nothing". Pay your minister as an esteemed member of the body of Christ and pay him well because the Bible says that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

        Even if it were true that ministers come across more opportunities to witness, to leave witnessing and evangelism only to the clergy would still be unscriptural and it still wouldn’t be right.

        The people who say witnessing is not for everyone are people who generally don’t want to be obedient to the Scriptures and as a result as we saw this morning, they don’t experience the full power of God. Notice that Jesus says “you shall be witnesses to me.” He doesn’t say, “You can be witnesses to me” or “you may be witnesses to me;” He says you SHALL BE witnesses to Me. You’ll either be a good witness or a bad witness but you will be a witness.

        There are those who want to be a witness in their Jerusalem, but they either don’t want to or cannot go to Judea, Samaria or to the end of the earth. You don’t necessarily have to be a goer, you can be a sender. That’s what the missionary offerings are for. In all of my missionary journeys, someone else has always helped send me in part or in whole, either financially, spiritually, prayerfully or emotionally through encouragement.

        On the other hand, there are some people who will go across the globe to be a witness for Christ on a mission trip but they won’t go across the street. They will go around the world, but not around the corner. God has called each of us to be a witness for Christ.

        Don't let a "skin of a reason stuffed with a lie" keep you from being a witness.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Empowering the Church: Spiritual Immersion

This is part four of empowering the church, a key principle for the church as a whole and individual Christians in particular.



Key Principle #1: EMPOWERED part 4

"...for John truly baptized with water,
but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit
not many days from now."
Acts. 1:5

The Power of Being Immersed By His Spirit

        We often are not empowered as a church and as individuals because we don’t understand what it means to be immersed with the Holy Spirit. I like the translation of “immersion” better than the word “baptized” in verse 5 because the word baptized is not actually translated from the Greek, it’s transliterated. What I mean is, the Greek word, baptizo, was not translated into an English word when the Bible was put into our language hundreds of years ago. When the Bible was first put into English, the most common form of water baptism was not immersion (that is, totally putting under water) but rather by sprinkling or pouring water over, in many cases, a baby as a form of Christening.

        In fact, the Anabaptists were persecuted not because they were against baptism, but they were against the practice of sprinkling or pouring water over babies who were not at an age to understand and become Christian believers. These Anabaptists practiced total immersion in water and it was only those who had truly professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

        The persecution of these believers was so severe that if anyone ever chose to get immersed, the established church would even condemn the believers to death by drowning. They essentially said, “So you want to be immersed, do you?”

        So in that historical setting, imagine the translators rendering Acts 1:5 like this: “For John truly immersed with water; but ye shall be immersed with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Rather than face the wrath of the established church, the translators opted to simply transliterate the word and thus coined a new English word, but it obscured a central doctrine not just on the Biblical mode of water baptism, but the theological truth of Immersion with the Holy Spirit.

        Whether you believe that water baptism should be through sprinkling, pouring, immersion, or should be taken figuratively, the church today has lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit of God is to be immersed in the believer.

        When a person is immersed in his work, or a person is immersed in a book, it means to be absorbed. A ship that sinks into the sea is absorbed by the sea and a person who is immersed or baptized in the Holy Spirit is a person who is absorbed and saturated with God’s Spirit. That’s what is so special about the second chapter of Acts and the Day of Pentecost. For the first time in human history, God’s Spirit became fused into the very body, soul and spirit of a human being. Prior to that, the Holy Spirit came upon people, only to leave when God withdrew His empowering presence from that person, generally because of sin in the life of the person.

        Since Pentecost, the immersion of the Holy Spirit is permanent. Paul said that Christ in you, Christ’s Holy Spirit immersed in you, is the hope of all glory. You can no more un-immerse God’s Spirit within you any more than you can unscramble an egg or unmix your sugar and cream from your coffee. Some people think that salvation is like vinegar and oil, you have to keep it active or else it will separate. That’s not immersion, that’s cohesion; that’s not salvation, that’s salad dressing.

       So ask yourself. Are you a friend, a lover of God, so much so that you want to be a "Theolphilus" type person? Are you waiting, even actively tarrying, for God's presence and power? Are you obeying God in all things? Are you immersed in God's Spirit? If so, God’s power will abide in you.