Monthly Archives: August 2014
On Monday Ryan and I usually record the “famous” Eagle Heights Q & A Podcast in which we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. For the next few weeks Pastor Ryan is gone and so I will be answering questions via blog.
To give some context, the following is a synopsis of the sermon for August 31st.
There are many means that God might use to bring a person to faith in Christ, but the primary way people hear the gospel is through an ongoing relationship of trust and credibility. Even if God uses an event-like gathering or evangelism program, it is still because of an existing relationship of influence that brings the person to the event in which they hear the gospel. Instead of exclusively depending on programs or events as gospel-sharing mechanisms, every Christian should see their life as the program God uses to extend His grace to others when we speak of Jesus. I want us to cultivate a culture of evangelism in which every person embraces the privilege of sharing the gospel through the relationships God gives. No Christian should have to wait on their local church to plan something before they attempt to be ambassadors for Christ.
During the sermon I brought up two different types of appointments. Earlier in the sermon I suggested that God may grant us a hearing with someone to speak of Jesus through a “divine appointment.” As an example of such an encounter, I referenced Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:25-40. I also mentioned a conversation I had with a man while getting the oil changed in my vehicle. I believe it was in response to this portion of the sermon that we received this question:
“How do we sort through/reschedule/prioritize ‘appointments’ or even know if it’s just a coincidence? We can’t physically be invested in everything. One is blind and deaf if they don’t have daily ‘appointment-like’ opportunities. How do we decipher ‘appointments’ we physically and spiritually invest in and one’s that are just spiritual?”
I thank the person for the question and will try to respond as best I can to what I think was meaning to be asked.
To begin with, I don’t find coincidence to be a biblical doctrinal category. I am convinced from my understanding of the scriptures that God is omnipotent and providentially orchestrating every interaction and opportunity. If a meeting is coincidental, it because we have not seen it as a divine appointment. This, I think, speaks to the comment that “one is blind and deaf if they don’t have daily ‘appointment-like’ opportunities.” I am convinced that it is our responsibility as ambassadors who have been made alive together with Christ, to be physically alert that every interaction is pregnant with the spiritual possibility to live and speak in such a way so as to speak of Jesus. We won’t do that if we are prayer-less and have our faces buried in a phone. How do we decipher whether God has brought us an opportunity to build a relationship that might allow us to speak of Jesus? Initially, I think it is as simple as praying for a sensitive mind and heart and being willing to see where things go. If I am sitting at the doctor’s office and the person across from me never looks at me, I guess I could force a conversation, but it is likely a clue that they simple don’t want to talk.
When I said ‘divine appointment”, it probably wasn’t the best descriptor. I agree with the question-asker, every moment is a divine appointment. What I was trying to communicate was that there are moments in which God opens the door for us to cut to the chase and speak frankly about a personal need to trust the finished work of Jesus. Much like the description of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:25-40. The Ethiopian had a need and Philip was sensitive to the Spirit and God has already made a way through Jesus life, death and resurrection.
If I have misunderstood, please let me know.
I wish I wouldn’t have said that!
It seemed like a good thing to say at the time, but just a moment later I was wishing for a do-over. Surely I could have said something more constructive and hopeful!
I was on a morning walk through the neighborhood at around 6:45 a.m. when I saw one of our dedicated Richmond Rocket Teachers getting in her car, to go to the classroom to invest in the lives of children who were created in the image of God. We exchanged some very normal greetings and then I said “it”.
Brace yourself for my well-intentioned, but misguided attempt at encouragement.
“You have made it to Thursday. You are over half way there!”
After I said it, I wished her a great day and began to think about what I said, what it meant and what it implied. I don’t know how the statement was received, and I have no reason to think that it was taken adversely, but with every step I took I was increasingly bothered by it.
Is this simply me being overly self-critical, too analyticical? Both are possible, but the gnawing at my conscience was telling me otherwise.
My statement exposed a paradigm that this teacher’s calling was simply a necessary inconvenience that must be endured for the sake of getting to something better. Namely, a long weekend without children.
I am not saying that is what she thought or thinks. I am also not saying I don’t value teachers and the investment they are making in the lives of children – children like my own. My parents were educators and I went to school to be a teacher, and I became a Bible teacher.
What I am saying is that the seemingly harmless statement says something about me, and likely expresses the way a lot of other people think about a lot of different life situations.
Like most jobs in the world, if not all, teaching is a difficult profession, but shouldn’t the teacher see his or her job as a gift, an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others? Shouldn’t I see my calling and job as a special privilege; as an opportunity rather than an unpleasant chore? Shouldn’t you see your job and all of your life as an opportunity to serve others and make a difference? Life may not be all I would like it be, but all I presently have is what I have. For the glory of God and the good of others, I want to make the most of it while I can.
Too often we get stuck in a rut of wishing life away by longing for some better future because we have failed to see that life is a gift from God that no one has earned or deserves. Life is too short to live in a future that does not yet exist and is not guaranteed. Tomorrow is a dream. Today is the only gift I can open and enjoy.
I need to be careful about what I say, but also need to examine my mind and heart. That’s why I say the things I say.
If you have made it here and you are reading these words, I hope that you will take the time to read a little further and help me with some sermon prep. Let me assure you that your name will not be used as a part of the sermon I am preparing.
I was recently at a conference with thousands of Christians and in the introduction we were asked to raise our hands to indicate how we came to turn from our sins and trust in Christ by faith. I was very surprised that a majority of the crowd came to Christ a certain way.
Please take the time to read carefully the options and indicate the way that God brought you to a saving faith in Christ. If none of the answers describe your experience, please briefly leave a comment.
Here’s where it might get tricky, so a little clarification might help. If a friend with an ongoing relationship invited you to a revival/camp/event, then pick the means that had the most influence for you hearing the gospel. Which one had the bigger impact? God may have used all of these things, but which one was most influential?
Thank you for your help and I hope God uses this to help you reflect on how God saved you and leads you to be thankful for the people in your life that shared their lives and the gospel.
On Monday Ryan and I usually record the famous Eagle Heights Q & A Podcast in which we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. For the next three weeks Pastor Ryan is gone and so I will be answering questions via blog.
Before I share and address the questions that were submitted by text, I want to do a quick recap of what the sermon was about this week.
In Speaking of Jesus Part 2, my aim was at least threefold. First, I wanted those listening to be aware of what the gospel is not. The true and saving gospel is narrow (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23) and exclusive (John 14:6) and, therefore, there are many perversions of the gospel, “which is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). On the flip-side of the coin, one of my objectives was to clearly articulate what the gospel is, using the meta-narrative format of GOD, MAN, JESUS, RESPONSE, RESULT. Finally, I hoped to persuade people to truly think about whether they really knew and believed the gospel. For instance, if a person can’t succinctly explain that which has saved them, are they really even saved? We must know and love the gospel!
In response to the sermon, we received two questions that I am glad to answer.
God must have anticipated what our nature would be. Many people are shy, are reluctant to confront others, or for similar reasons find it uncomfortable to share their convictions with others. Why do you think God didn’t make our very nature in a manner that would make it easier to share the gospel?
There is no doubt that some of us are wired differently than others when it comes to being social. Additionally, I would argue that some have a gift of evangelism, meaning, the Spirit takes their personalities and social inclinations and empowers them for Kingdom work. The Bible teaches us that everyone is different and this is a good thing. It is in fact, a grace thing. Our diversity as a a part of the body of Christ reminds us that we need each other because God has made us that way. However, I would warn against inadvertently and unwittingly blaming God for choosing to disobey. Our God-given strength in one area is not a reason to excuse ourselves from following Jesus in another area.
Inspired by the Spirit of God, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are saved for the purpose of “proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called out darkness into His marvelous light.” There is no qualification for this purpose defining verse. If you are a part of the people of God, then you were saved to proclaim, and proclaiming requires the use of words. For without words, no one can be saved (Romans 10:14-17).
Let me pose a couple of questions that will also help us to think through what it might mean if we absolve ourselves from the responsibility to speak of the words of Jesus because we are introverted. Can God be glorified in weakness? Is God more glorified in your strength or weakness? I hope He is glorified in both, but if we struggle in an area, would it not be a greater opportunity for God to be made much of when people marvel that God used a person in an unexpected way? Perhaps we should see our lack as the opportunity for God to do more. I doubt the person asking the question meant it this way, but if not careful, we might find ourselves concluding that God is small and so is His ability to use us for His great glory.
If we want to be an evangelistic church, then why do we not have any form of visitation or is it only left to the elders and deacons?
In the sermon I said that I desire for us to have a culture in which we speak of Jesus regularly without the need of an event our program. I want the gospel to be so real to us that it overflows out of our lives to others.
To speak to the question, let me first say that we do in fact do follow-up/outreach/visitation. On the organizational side of things, we have a staff person contact every person by phone who visits and fills out a guest-response card. I also hear frequently that members, on their own initiative, invite guests to lunch and their Core Groups. Follow-up is happening.
Visitation is not the same thing as evangelism. Yes, the gospel can be shared when we do visitation, but often times we are sharing the gospel with the already convinced, or at least we are sharing with those who believe they are Christians. And by the way, I am not categorically denying the usefulness of an organized visitation program. What I am questioning is whether it is the best use of time and resources. The truth is that most unconvinced and unbelieving people will never come to a church building or church gathering. By the way, they will likely come if they are invited by someone they trust – a friend, neighbor, co-worker. Who have you invited?
As I have already said, we want people to see themselves as the visitation program where God has placed them. If every Christian would see themselves as the traveling program, we would be far more effective.
The other reality is this. When we did do visitation it was the same small group of people who came and so only a slice of the church was attempting to speak of Jesus, and the visits mostly proved unfruitful – meaning we often did not catch people at home. We want every member of our church to own the privilege of being gospel preachers (speaking of Jesus).
Think of it this way: When we gather to worship and build each other up, we want people to hear, believe and obey all that Jesus commanded so that we all go out on visitation, all week long. This is our aim.
I hope I correctly understood the questions and answered them in a straight-forward and helpful way.
We started a new sermon series yesterday and through the first sermon I wanted to communicate that one of the reasons we don’t speak of Jesus and share the gospel with more frequency is because we have a low view of God. We are not amazed by the presence of God.
So from Exodus 3:1-10, the 46th Psalm and Isaiah 6:1-9, I explained and concluded that “in every case, an unsettling encounter with God of awe and wonder preceded mission to others.” And after delivering the message two times, I felt pretty good about it.
Then came Monday morning, and I thought, “Oh no! I hope no one thought this…”
You can hear the sermon by clicking HERE and the sermon series is called Speaking of Jesus.
Here it is. Here is one implication that I would not want someone to draw based on what I meant.
I would not want someone to conclude they need an awe moment, or a regular awe moment to obey! Sometimes people say really strange and unbiblical things like, “I need to pray about whether or not I need to be a part of missions, or whether I need to speak about Jesus to others.” In other words, they spiritualize to excuse their decision not to trust and obey. A person might need to pray for help to do those things in the strength that God supplies, but they surely don’t need to pray about whether they should do those things.
The Bible is clear that some things are the will of God for everybody, and proclaiming the message of Jesus is one of them.
I would be horrified if someone came away from yesterday thinking, “I should wait to share the gospel until I have some sort of close encounter with God. That’s not what I meant or mean.
What I meant to say or want to say is this: Our lack of speaking of Jesus is very likely proportionate to the wonder we have, or don’t have, in response to God. I believe strongly that one of the reasons we don’t speak confidently about Jesus is because we see God as little and not awe-inspiring. People who have true wonder of God and awe for God, tend to be worshiping and obedient people. They tend to be people who delight to praise the God who captivates them.
Another way to say it is that our evangelism problem is a theology problem. Like looking through a microscope, we look at God through the lens of the world and believe God to be little. Instead, like looking through a telescope, we should have have been looking at the world through the lens of God’s word that we might see Him as He really is: BIG!
Not only do we see this in in the three aforementioned passages, but we see it in Acts 2:41-43, as well as, in Paul’s conversion, his thereafter life and his epistles. The example and call to reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28) of God is all over the Spirit-inspired word and I believe it is closely tied to the desire to speak of Jesus regularly.
Amazingly, many of us who claim to be saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, have a low view of God and we are not amazed by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Ergo, we don’t speak much of Him. Can that be anything but wrong?
A.W. Tozer wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” He is certainly right!
In my short ministerial career I have done more than a few memorials for those who have passed from an earthly life into eternity. Some were uncertain or hopeless and not easy. Some were a celebration of a life well-lived.
Being the primary minister for my grandmothers celebration was both easy and difficult.
It was easy because Edith Lucille (Cook) Prentice, known as MaMaw by her family, was a kind and good woman while she was on earth. She trusted in Jesus and it showed through her life. I sincerely did have difficulty coming up with anything negative to say about her. When my mother posted on Facebook that she had died, the overwhelming theme of the many comments was that she was such a kind, sweet woman who was always smiling.
But it was MaMaw’s reputation of kindness and goodness that also made my preparation challenging. I did not, and even now, do not want to idolize her because she was such a wonderful woman. For this reason, it was important that I struck the right balance in paying tribute to her.
MaMaw passed away on August 4, 2014 at the age of 96, which is even more impressive considering she was a cancer survivor of over 40 years. She died in Tulsa, but until 2009, she had lived all her life in Haskell County.
When I learned that her days were drawing to a close, I began to think about what made MaMaw the great woman that I had come to know. Besides the fact that she made the best banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies in the world, what about MaMaw made her worthy of our respect and honor?
She was so many things. She was loving, caring, generous and servant hearted – to name a few, but her life was consistently marked by consistency and loyalty.
You could see this in the little things of her life:
- She always had Wrigley Spearmint or Juicy Fruit Gum in her purse. Was it for her grand-kids or her? I don’t know but I knew I could count on MaMaw for a stick of gum.
- If she was in Stigler, her garage door was almost always open and her door to the house unlocked; almost as if she was extending an open-house invitation. This made it easy for me to go in and partake of a can of mandarin oranges. I can’t remember a time I was disappointed to find she had none in the cupboard.
- She always sat in a certain area of Stigler First Baptist Church without being a territorial curmudgeon. She was a faithful church attender and served consistently in the nursery, the library and the church kitchen.
- She was a loyal Baptist. When she moved to the assisted living center in Tulsa, I one day asked her if she was going to church (chapel). She said she had, and informed me that the ministers were of different denominational varieties. She further explained the most recent minister was a Methodist and wanted me to know he was a nice man and did a good job, but I was not to worry for she was still solidly a Baptist and she would not be converted.
- She wanted all her grandchildren to have some sort of quilt or blanket she had made with her own hands. She was industrious.
- She was a loyal Oklahoma State Cowboys Fan! I would say, as a fan of another team in the state, she was even a little combative about it at times. She had an OSU pillow that was with her right up until to her final moments of life.
- As best she could, she was very supportive of her grandchildren and their extracurricular activities. On one occasion she attended one of my American Legion Baseball Games in Poteau and I was trying to pitch. In other words, I was having a hard time throwing a strike. One of fathers of a teammate was not impressed and was letting me know about it. MaMaw, who was sitting not far from him, turned and said, “Sir, that is my grandson!” Translation: “Be quiet or I’ll have to come up there!” She would never say something like that, but the man got the point and ceased from his hostilities.
These were all little things and some may seem insignificant, but they are little things that displayed her consistency and loyalty. Little things are telling things!
She was also consistent and loyal in big things:
- When I would visit her in her home, her Bible was always visible, and there was evidence of its regular use.
- She was known in her church to be a “prayer warrior”. I heard members of Stigler First Baptist describe her this way on several occasions. I know for a fact, she prayed for me constantly.
- She was loyal to her husband who died on January 18, 1978. She was married to him for 41 years and remained faithful to her covenant for 36 years after his passing. That is 77 years of loyalty. Without a doubt, this has had a lasting influence on the marriages of her children and grandchildren. There have been thirteen marriages of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to this very day there has not been a single divorce. My grandfather died when I was three years old, but many years later I can remember MaMaw weeping because she missed her husband.
In my view, she was a consistent and loyal woman. In small things and big things, she was a great woman!
And this is also why speaking and writing about her is hard. It is hard because while I want to honor her for the things she did and the person she was, I don’t want to idolize her or miss the source of her strength.
From where she stands now, imagine what she would say to me and to you. Consider what she thinks about her own greatness. I believe strongly that if she could speak to us right now, she would say, “NO!” Or, “Be Careful not to make too much of me!” Rather she would say, “Honor me by making much of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of sins; for the forgiveness of my sins!”
MaMaw was a loyal Christian and my hope and joy is grounded in the fact that she was consistently loyal all of her life to our loyal and faithful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. MaMaw was a Christian! In fact, MaMaw is a Christian! Jesus, the eternal Son of God is the source of her greatness.
What is a Christian? A Christian is not just a good or moral person. Mark Twain once said, “Church (Christians) is good people standing in front of good people, telling them how to be good.” Mark Twain was wrong!
A Christian is someone, like MaMaw, who acknowledges they are not righteous or good (Romans 3:9-20), but they belong to God by faith in Jesus Christ, who is their perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), and therefore, they want to trust and obey Jesus everyday of their lives. Because MaMaw was forgiven by faith in Christ alone, she wanted to honor Him with all her life.
Jesus was the source of MaMaw’s exceptional life while she was on God’s Earth!
Because of MaMaw’s legacy and influence, I hope others will follow her example and trust fully the words of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As CS Lewis succinctly pointed out about such supernatural claims, “Jesus is Lord, liar or a lunatic!” The resurrection emphatically proclaims that He is the way, the truth and the life! The resurrection proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord!
And because Jesus is the Lord of all, those of us who are trusting in Him, like MaMaw trusted in Him, can claim the kinds of wonderful and hopeful promises found in Romans 8:31-39.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
MaMaw is not dead, she is alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5). So let the memory of her life plead with you to trust Christ and live well for Christ. Be grateful and celebrate the life of MaMaw; a kind, consistent and loyal woman who knew God through Jesus. Trust in Him! Honor MaMaw by Honoring her Lord!