Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bible translation: Isaiah 4

1 And in that day seven women will take hold of one man to say,
“We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes,
only let your name be upon us– remove our shame!”
2 In that day the bud of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious,
and the fruit of the land majestic and splendid, for Israel’s survivors,
3 And the one remaining in Zion
and the one surviving in Jerusalem–
even every one written among the living in Jerusalem–
will be called holy.
4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion
and cleansed away the blood of Jerusalem from her midst
by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of destruction,
5 Then the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion
(over her sacred assemblies)
a cloud by day,
and smoke and the brightness of a flaming fire by night,
because glory will be a canopy over all.
6 And a booth will be a shade from the heat by day
and a place of refuge
and a place of shelter from the storm and from the rain.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Evangelistic Encounters: 8/25/07

When we went out into the community around Kosmosdale Baptist Church this past Saturday, Brian and I spoke with a man we'd met before who said he would visit the church, but never did. He kept saying that he felt uncomfortable coming back to church after so many years. We encouraged him that the people would not make him feel uncomfortable and Brian challenged him with the fact that the church is the only institution Christ personally established during His earthly ministry, that it is through this institution that He is bringing His kingdom into the world, and therefore it is vital that we come together in His church. The man said he would think about it.

We spoke with another man who talked to us through his glass door, without opening it. He said that he was planning on going to South Jefferson Baptist Church, but he did not seem to want to want to speak with us. As we know SJBC to be a Gospel-proclaiming church (the pastor is one of Brian's neighbors), we let him alone.

The next man we spoke with insisted that he was satisfied with his own church- a Baptist church down the road with which Brian and I are not familiar. We tried to emphasize that we are not primarily out to speak with people about a particular church congregation, but about the Lord Jesus Christ, but he would not listen as we tried to engage him in Gospel matters. He simply kept repeating, "I'm satisfied with my own church, thank you," and seemed to be getting very irritated, so we left.

Finally, we saw a trucker washing his truck in the road. We talked to him for awhile about many things. He began to talk about some of the bad weather he had been through, then about different bizarre weather, such as rain storms and snow in Texas, at which point I quipped, "Global warming." He began to talk about how he did not really trust the scientific community when it came to global warming. From this topic, Brian segued into another matter where science is unreliable- namely, issues involving the origins of the world and especially people. (Brian is a charter member of the Creation Museum.) From this topic, Brian was able to present the Gospel. The trucker, whose name is Jeff, started to speak about how there are many more commands in the Old Testament than just the ten commandments. I asked him just to consider the ten for a minute and asked if he believes he has kept these commandments. He said he kept all the commandments except the one against taking the Lord's name in vain, which he does on occasion when he is very angry. Taking him at his word, I quoted the full text of the third commandment, namely, "You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Brian expanded upon the concept of God not holding us guiltless, explaining the biblical concept of God's wrath against sin. Jeff said that he knew we would all face judgment. I asked if he were standing before God in judgment, what he thought he would say for himself in light of his own admission that he had broken the third commandment. He said that he had tried to live a good life. Brian reminded him that God has said he would not hold anyone guiltless who has broken His commands, that just as a righteous human judge will not bend the law, our heavenly judge will not bend the law either, so we all must face judgment. I repeated the question about what he thought he would say. Jeff finally responded, "Then I don't know what I'd say! What would you say?!"

I told Jeff that if I were facing God in judgment that I could say nothing to Him except to confess that I have sinned against Him and that I am entirely deserving of death and Hell- I would confess that there is no reason within my own natural self that God should accept me and no hope in myself to be saved from judgment. I said that I would say, however, that I trust in Jesus Christ alone, who has died on the Cross as a perfect payment for the sins of all who believe in Him, and who has risen from the grave, offering eternal life to all who trust in Him. I told Jeff that Brian and I enjoy meeting new people, but the main reason we were talking to him and others is because Jesus Christ died on a Cross to save sinners, and rose the third day so that we can have life in Him. We can only have this life as we trust in Him, forgetting any thought of pleasing God by our own good deeds, because we have sinned against Him. (I kept stressing how it is the work of Jesus and not our own work that saves us.) By this time, Jeff was though cleaning his truck and wanted to go inside to his family. As we parted, we urged him to think on what we had said, and we invited him to church to hear more of the Good News of Jesus, he said he would keep thinking about it and that he might bring his family to church (though they didn't come last Sunday, the day after this conversation).

Please pray for all with whom Brian and I spoke, and especially for Jeff.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Meditation: 8/25/07

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I desire to love Him and to demonstrate this love through obedience to His commandments. I desire to do His will and to represent Him in the world even as He always did the will of His Father and provided us with the image of the invisible God.

Yet when I desire to live for His glory, I find that I still continue to live for my own pleasure. Even in my best moments, I continue to perceive selfish motives. Preferring my own desires to the holiness I should have in Christ, I engage in grievous sins.

I thank God my Father, who is holy and just, and yet full of mercy and lovingkindness. I thank the Lord Jesus, who suffered for my sins and died to ransom my soul from Hell. I thank both God and Christ for the gift of the Holy Spirit, my Comforter in the trouble I bring upon myself, convicting me and drawing me back to the Way.

As I am convicted of sin, my first reaction is to think of resolutions of how I will approach similar situations in the future. I fall into the trap of thinking that I will escape further sin by my own resolve. Certainly, I will sin if I allow myself to have an attitude that is set against the God's commands. However, I must know that my I will not become the man God would have me to be through sheer will-power. I must seek conformity to Christ by faith, trusting in His grace for the work He has promised to complete in my life. As I take up my cross daily to follow Jesus, I must focus upon His Cross to realize the gravity of my sins against God. I must trust in the life of the resurrected Christ to impart a truly transformed life to me.

I pray to God for wisdom that I would discern the difference between slothfulness in seeking Him, versus seeking Him in such a way that I would exalt my own meager accomplishments and fail to glory in Christ alone. I pray that I would resist temptation through Christ- for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Evangelistic Encounters: 8/11/07

Practical evangelism lesson #1: When going out into the community to evangelize on a Saturday afternoon, go earlier instead of later.

Usually when my friend Brian Shank and I go out into the community around our church (Kosmosdale Baptist) on Saturdays to talk with people about the Good News of Jesus Christ, we hit the streets at about 2PM. This Saturday I showed up at Brian's house later, so we did not get out into the community until a little after 4PM. This turned out not to be as good a time to go because by 4PM on Saturday most people are out either out having fun with their families, or they have been sitting around the house drinking too much alcohol.

So when Brian and I approached two older men sitting in a garage drinking beer, the more talkative of the men told us he already knew more about the Bible than we do and that he is already a Christian. Then he cussed at us and said, "Bye!" waving at us dismissively. Now, usually when people indicate that they are refusing to speak with us- that they have no interest in hearing about Jesus- Brian and I may ask if we can leave a booklet (for example, Ultimate Questions) with them, but otherwise we honor their wishes and leave them alone. In this case, however, we were both so struck with the discrepancy of the man claiming to be a Christian and yet cussing at us and dismissing what we had to say, that neither Brian or I made a move.

Not knowing what to say, I simply commented, "You seem to have a lot of animosity." The man protested that he had no animosity for anyone, he just already knew what we had to say and didn't want to hear it.

By God's grace, Brian had the boldness to bring up the Ephesians 5, which contains the command, "Do not be drunk" (v.18)- the man with whom we were speaking was at least half drunk- and makes it clear that no unclean person will inherit the kingdom of God (v.5).

Having already cussed at us, I half expected the man to jump up and attack us, but he simply protested that he wasn't drunk and that the two garbage pails full of crushed beer cans were all given to him and his friend by neighbors. He also tried to accuse us of being judgmental towards him. Brian and I said that we were not judging him- that we are sinners just like him- but that we are concerned for his soul, based on what we were observing. We spoke of the present salvation from sin that we are meant to have through the death and resurrection of Christ. The man kept insisting that he was "saved" because he prayed for forgiveness every night before going to sleep and that he felt Jesus in his heart- apparently defining "saved" by a prayer and a feeling.

We challenged the men to examine themselves by the standard of God's Word to determine if they were truly saved, and Brian insisted that Christianity is not only a daily prayer, but seeking God in all of life.

Being dismissed several more times, we finally left, saying that we would be praying for them. The men said that they would be praying for us as well.

The only other conversation we had was with another man who smelled of beer, but did not seem nearly as effected by alcohol as the first two men. We had a good conversation with this man, who said that he had been thinking of his need to go to church for the last two days. After I spoke with the man some about sin, Brian was able to speak with him extensively about the Gospel. As Brian began trying to press the need for the man to repent and place his faith in Jesus, the man said that he just wanted to go inside to think over what he had heard. Though we told the man that, "Today is the day of salvation," we also did not want to press him into making a false profession of faith, so when he again mentioned that he wanted more time to soak it all in, we thanked him for his time and left. Though he said he would be at church on Sunday, he did not come.

In this post, I have not given the names of the men with which we spoke, as- due to their (at least partial) drunkenness- mention of their names might be particularly embarrassing to them. However, I ask Christians reading this post to pray for these men, as God knows their names and their great need for salvation through Jesus Christ.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Evangelistic Encounters ["Follow-Up"]: 8/4/07

The longest job that I've had so far was five years as a grocery stock clerk at Publix Supermarkets from July 2000 to August 2005. During this time, I realized that if I am to be a career missionary (for which career I am currently in training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), I must already consider myself to be a missionary in whatever situation the Lord has me. I wish I could say that I kept this mindset at all times, that I constantly kept the eternal spiritual condition of my co-workers in view, and that I used every break at work to speak to my co-workers in a way that glorified God, but this is not the case. There were many break times when I spoke to others concerning matters of no consequence at all (such as movie or music preferences), or when I simply wanted to eat alone rather than speak to anyone. However, the Lord did bless me with the resolve to speak to all members on my grocery teams concerning the Gospel, and he gave me success in this regard. When I say "success," I mean success in the sense of having opportunities to clearly speak of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, I saw very little fruit from my witness. Only three people I know of made professions of faith in Christ in relation to me speaking with them about the Gospel, and I never saw any fruit at all from one of these professions.

The most encouraging witnessing opportunity came from my friendship with a co-worker named Rodson Philogene. Rodson had been influenced by the teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and did not believe in the deity of Christ- he genuinely believed that the Bible taught that Jesus is a lesser being to God the Father. Over a period of time, I was able to demonstrate from the Scriptures how Jesus Christ and His Father are one God. Being convinced of this truth, I began to press Rodson with the Gospel call- that if Jesus is who the Bible claims, one must submit to His will and trust in Him alone for salvation. I pleaded with Rodson to call out to God for mercy- for forgiveness of sins based on the perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the break room of Publix one day, Rodson prayed to the Lord, confessing his sins and asking forgiveness through Jesus. Shortly afterward, I gave him a copy of John Piper's book, The Passion of Jesus Christ, which he received thankfully and read voraciously.

Sometime after this, I moved to Woodstock, Georgia and transferred to the Publix in Canton, which was nearby. (I had worked with Rodson at the Publix in Powder Springs, Georgia.) I began working on my Master's degree and trying to provide a witness to my classmates at Georgia State University as well as my co-workers at Publix. Abby and I were married, we moved to Auburn, Alabama, and after one year we moved to Louisville, Kentucky. During all of these transitions, I lost touch with Rodson.

Last Saturday, Abby and I were back in Georgia visiting our families. Driving from Abby's parents home to my parents home, I passed by the old Publix where I used to work, so I decided to stop in and see if any of my old co-workers were still there. The only stock clerk that I knew who was working at the time I went by was Rodson (though a couple of others I knew were on break). I stopped by and spoke with Rodson for awhile. He kept saying how glad he was to see me, and I was genuinely glad to see him as well. Rodson is now married with a baby son named Ralph. Rodson told me he is doing well spiritually and is in the process of preparing for baptism through his church. I was glad to hear that Rodson is going to be baptized, but somewhat concerned that he has waited so long to do so.

Please join me in continuing to pray for Rodson, that he would be a true disciple of the Lord and a witness to his co-workers.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Evangelistic Encounters: Clarification

In writing the posts under the "evangelistic encounters" category, I am very concerned that I in no way portray myself to be the main character or protagonist in these posts. I want to make it very clear that any time Brian and I are out in the community around our church [Kosmosdale Baptist] speaking to people about the Good News of Jesus Christ, Brian generally tends to do more of the talking. More importantly, neither Brian nor I are depending upon the intelligence or emotional persuasiveness of our own presentation of the Gospel (see I Cor. 2:1-5), but we are entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin before God, of the righteousness that God requires (which righteousness only Christ can provide), and of the judgment that we all must face (see Jn. 16:8-11). We are entirely dependent upon God's grace to grant spiritual life to people who are dead in their trespasses and sins against Him (see. Eph. 2:1-9).

Along with these core convictions concerning the sovereignty of God in salvation and the necessity of a special work of His grace if people are to be saved from their sins against God (and saved from the penalty of their sins, which is eternal Hell), Brian and I also recognize that God has chosen to manifest His grace through the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. This Good News (or "Gospel"), as perfectly revealed in the Holy Bible, acts as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit, working faith into the hearts of unbelievers to whom this message is proclaimed (see Rom. 10:14-17; II Tim. 3:14-17).

As we have sought to be more faithful in Gospel proclamation, the Lord has given Brian and me grace so that we have become more adept at working together to communicate this Good News (though we still have much to learn). Typically, when we meet people out in the community, I will introduce Brian and myself as members of Kosmosdale Baptist Church who are concerned with telling people about the church and (more importantly) about the Lord Jesus Christ. Then I will try to get the conversation started. At some point, Brian (usually) will state the basic facts of both sin and the Gospel and will speak of the proper response to the Gospel; namely, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. I will try to ask questions to gauge the understanding of the person to whom we are speaking and then Brian and I will continue interacting with the person, answering questions, clarifying different issues, and trying to elucidate the urgency of the situation for someone who has not trusted in Christ.

You can see from the above statements that during any particular evangelistic conversation, I speak (at most) only about 1/3 of the time.

Yet in these "evangelistic encounters" posts, I have and will continue to give more direct quotes from myself than from either Brian or anyone with whom we might converse. This is not because I think what I say is more important, but simply because I wish to be very careful not to misrepresent anything someone else might say. Whereas I could easily misquote someone else, I am less likely to misquote myself, and even if I do I will know that I am communicating the basic intention of what I meant to say.

Please pray for Brian and me as we continue to seek faithfulness to God in telling others the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Evangelistic Encounters: 7/28/07

In the weeks since my last "evangelistic encounters" post on this blog, I have been focused on getting my course-work done for the summer semester here at SBTS. In the couple of occasions that I have been able to go out into the community around Kosmosdale Baptist Church, I have been focused on inviting people to take part in Vacation Bible School. Therefore, last Saturday was the first time in a while that my friend Brian and I have gotten the chance to go out into the community for the express purpose of speaking to people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Last Saturday we spoke with three people. The first was a lady who turned out to be a member of another church in our area that has a reputation for faithful Gospel proclamation. This lady encouraged us in our evangelistic efforts, saying she would be praying for us.

The second person was a Roman Catholic lady who was quite unwilling to converse with us (we have found this to be typical of Roman Catholics in our area). We were, however, able to leave an Ultimate Questions booklet with her.

The third person we spoke with was a man who introduced himself as "Bigen" [this is how he spelled it when we asked- I'm guessing this is a nickname]. Now, every time I have ever been in an evangelistic conversation with someone, there always comes at least one moment of awkwardness, where I am struggling with what to say. With Bigen, this happened right after Brian and I introduced ourselves. I had already said that we were in the neighborhood talking to people about Kosmosdale Baptist Church and (more importantly) about the Lord Jesus Christ, but then I momentarily blanked about what to say or ask to keep the conversation going. After a few seconds that seemed like minutes, I finally said something to the effect of, "Here's the deal- Brian and I are here today because we are concerned for your eternal soul. Life is so very short compared to eternity, and the Bible teaches that when we die, we will face God in judgment and either spend forever with Him in Heaven or be punished forever in the torment of Hell. Brian and I believe that due to the work of Jesus Christ, we have certainty that we have eternal life. So if we love people at all, we will tell them the Good News of Jesus." This caught Bigen off guard (honestly, I was a little surprised myself, as I was not planning to speak in quite that way), but as we began talking with Bigen, we found that he had been raised in church and had even been a Sunday school teacher for awhile, though he had not been involved in church in quite some time- therefore, I think he appreciated the sincerity of what I said. Brian told Bigen the Gospel message: about God creating the world for His glory with mankind made in His image, about the fact that Man sinned and due to sin the world has become corrupted and subject to death, about the reality that we have all personally sinned against God and earned His punishment, and about the work of Jesus Christ in providing substitution for God's wrath through His work on the Cross for all who would believe in Him. After Brian spoke, I said to Bigen, "From what you've heard, you see that we are all sinful and that we are all in one of two groups: Either we have had our sins paid for by Jesus Christ, and we can know Him by faith, or we will suffer in Hell for our own sins. Thinking of yourself, which group would you be in?" Bigen indicated very seriously and forthrightly that he is in the second group. As we began to disuss the seriousness of his situation, Bigen indicated that he thought the choice was his to make and that he could choose to repent and believe in Jesus at any time. Brian and I warned him about hardening his heart to God's grace and we informed him that we are all naturally God's enemies, loving sin, so that we will never one day just decide to repent. I pointed out that there is always something in us that wants to go our own way, something that wants to do things that we know to be wrong, and Bigen agreed that this was his experience as well. Brian implored Bigen to ask Christ to change his heart and to place himself under the preaching of the Word, which brings faith. Bigen kept saying he would think about it, but he made no indication of actually being ready to repent. Before we left, I asked Bigen if we could pray for him and he said we could, so we stood in his front yard imploring God for His soul. After we said, "amen," we asked if we could stop by his house again some time when we are in the neighborhood, and he said, "OK."

Please pray for those mentioned above, and especially for "Bigen," that he would come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.