Evangelistically Challenged

Something I’ve been praying for, fairly consistently, is the opportunity to share our faith with our family. A while back, we used to hope for kind of an “afterschool special” moment; that one day, Emily’s parents or my parents would sit us down and say, “Gee, you’re really different. Why is that?” And then we could share our story, present the gospel and see them get saved. That day.

Too lofty a goal? Maybe.

Anyway, as I’ve been praying, occasionally little opportunities to put something out there pop up. Sometimes I end up taking them, but… a lot of the time, I hesitate or I misread the situation.

Sunday afternoon, for example, I realized in hindsight that there was a prime opportunity and I dropped the ball. My mother-in-law asked me how my preaching went last weekend, which gave me an opening that—I didn’t take.

But I should have, I realized as we were driving home.

I talked a  bit about how it went, but didn’t get into the content of the message too much. While she might not have been all that interested (and even though I’ve sent a link to the audio), I totally blew that opportunity.

What I’m realizing in this is that I’m kind of evangelistically challenged, at least when it comes to family.

I think there’s still a part of me that wants to think that pure “relational evangelism”—that somehow, people are going to ask, “Gee, Aaron, I’ve noticed you don’t drink; could you tell me how to get saved?”—that that’s actually going to work.

But I’m sure, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that it just doesn’t.

Paul writes in Romans 10:14-17:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Getting over being evangelistically challenged means being willing to speak up, even at the risk of offending someone with the truth.

I guess the question for me is, am I willing to get over myself to do it?

Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

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The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship. [Read more...]

"I Just Want My Husband to Be Saved"

This is Fanny. She’s 46, married and has five children. The youngest is in the sponsorship program. Her husband sells eggs from their home.

Our visit to Fanny's home

Her four-year-old son is registered in Compassion’s program at The Ark of Salvation Church down the street.

We came to her home to ask a few questions about how having her son in the program has affected her life. She and her oldest daughter are Christians, and she is glad that her son is now going to a church.

as we talked, we asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about. Her answer was simple:

“I just want my husband to be saved.”

And we did.

First Corinthians 7:14 says that “the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.” Because of her influence and consistent Christian lifestyle, there’s every chance that his heart would soften to the gospel and he would be saved. It would be amazing to see this happen.

To see this family united in Christ.

I believe it can happen.

Fanny and her family

“I just want my husband to be saved,” Fanny told us.

I want that, too.

Does God Get More Glory if Man Has Free Will?

John Piper offers a thoughtful response to this question. The edited transcript follows:

A friend thinks allowing men free will, and yet still achieving his purposes, shows a greater view of God’s sovereignty. What are your thoughts on this?

Let me define the term first, and then I’ll respond. I’m going to assume that by “free will” he means something really controversial, not something obvious. What I’m going to assume the term means is “real, ultimate self-determination,” because that’s the only kind of free will that is controversial. [Read more...]

God Loved You By Calling You

The above is a powerful excerpt from John Piper’s final sermon before beginning his eight-month sabbatical, Consider Your Calling from 1 Cor. 1: 26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I would highly recommend you listen to the whole thing as it’s quite moving and encouraging.

The following text is from the sermon’s transcript:

“For consider your calling, brothers.” What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [Read more...]

Book Review: Once An Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Title: Once an Arafat Man
Authors: Tass Saada with Dean Merrill
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Tass Saada was born in Gaza City in 1951. He was born in a tent. His family one of the many groups of refugees moved out of Palestine.

Moving from Palestine to Saudi Arabia and eventually to Jordan, Saada grew to be a young man characterized by rage. He found a channel for it: He joined the PLO and was trained as a sniper.

He became a murderer. And he trained others—including children—to be the same.

Eventually, Saada left the PLO and came to America. He married, had a family, a successful career… but his life was a wreck. He was a terrible husband, a worse father. While he didn’t actively practice the Muslim faith of his youth, he still identified with it.

Then, his friend Charlie told him about Jesus, and his life was changed forever.

Grace Abounding

Saada’s story as told in Once an Arafat Man, is powerful. He’s very transparent about his past, how he relished in the death and destruction he caused, his selfish motives for marrying his wife, Karen, and his unfaithfulness to her… Saada makes it very plain that he was a very bad man. He’s not a man deserving of God’s grace, and he knows it. That, in large part, is what makes his story so powerful. God had no need to save Saada, yet He did. The same is true for you, if you’re a Christian, and me.

A Dangerous Decision

Converting from Islam to Christianity is a dangerous thing, far more dangerous than I think most of us would realize. To do so brings dishonor to the family, a crime punishable by death. [Read more...]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Him who Justifies the Ungodly

This message is for you: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

I call your attention to the words, “Him who justifies the ungodly.” They seem to me to be very wonderful words.

Are you not surprised that there is such an expression as that in the Bible, “who justifies the ungodly”? I have heard that men who hate the doctrine of the Cross bring the charge against God that he saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. See how this Scripture accepts the charge and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He takes to Himself the title of “Him who justifies the ungodly.” He makes those just who are unjust. He forgives those who deserve no favor.

Did you think that salvation was for the good and that God’s grace was for the pure and holy who are free from sin? Perhaps you think that if you were excellent, then God would reward you. Maybe you have thought that, because you are not worthy, there could be no way for you to enjoy His favor.

You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him who justifies the ungodly.” I do not wonder at your surprise. For, with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder, at it either…

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This truth is a very surprising thing—a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who enjoy it. I know that it is to me even to this day the greatest wonder that I ever heard of—that God should ever justify me.

I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin, apart from His almighty love. I know and am fully assured that I am justified by “faith which is in Christ Jesus.” I am treated as if I had been perfectly just and made an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. And yet by nature, I must take my place among the most sinful. Though altogether undeserving, I am treated as if I had been deserving. I am loved with as much love as if I had always been godly, whereas before I was ungodly. Who can help being astonished at this demonstration of grace? Gratitude for such favor stands dressed in robes of wonder. 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, All of Grace, pp 13-14, 15-16 (Scripture updated to ESV)

By Grace Alone: My Story

grace-alone

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I tend to shy away from talking about it too much because people might think I’m nuts. Then, I remembered that I worship Jesus and most people think I’m nuts anyway. So, for better or for worse, here’s my story:

A Bit of History

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, or one that really practiced any sort of religious belief (unless watching Star Trek religiously counts). From what I recall, the only time someone said “God” or “Jesus” was when someone was exasperated. I learned a couple years ago that apparently I went to Sunday School a few times when I was about six, but the only thing I remember is making a guitar out of yarn and styrofoam plates.

I suppose that’s an indicator of what I learned there, isn’t it? [Read more...]

"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!” [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (07/19)

“He moved out, took all our money, and left me with two children”

A powerful testimony from the Mars Hill Church blog:

After giving my heart to Jesus, he radically changed my life. I stopped being sexually active, changed my circle of friends, started singing in a choir, changed the way I dressed, started treating the people better, and used my free time to get closer to Christ. After college, I met and married a man who was serving Jesus. We had two beautiful boys, we were a part of a church, we served in the music ministry, and things felt right. My life suddenly changed, however, when I caught my husband having an affair. He moved out the same day, took all our money, and left me with two children.

Read the rest at Blog.MarsHillChurch.org.

“Why Johnny Can’t Preach”

Ben Quinn at Baptist Twenty-One offers a concise recommendation for T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach:

If you’re looking for a good book on preaching, you definitely want to check out T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  I realize that most of you theology buffs are thinking, “The last thing I want to read is a preaching book,” but I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.  The literary quality alone is the worth the price of the book ($9.99 at Amazon), and you can read it in one sitting.

Playing off the titles of Why Johnny Can’t Read (Rudolf Flesch, 1966) and Why Johnny Can’t Write (Linden and Whimbey, 1990), T. David Gordon argues, “that societal changes that led to the concerns expressed in the 1960’s to 1980’s in educational circles…have led to the natural cultural consequence that people cannot preach expositorily” (15).

Read the rest at BaptistTwentyOne.org

Dan Kimball: “The Toughest Chapter to Write and Thank You NT Wright”

Dan Kimball shares his struggles writing about the issue of homosexuality:

The most difficult chapter in this book I am struggling with in the final writing and editing is the chapter on homosexuality. I did write about homosexuality before in the They Like Jesus But Not The Church book and my theological understanding of what Scriptures teach or don’t teach on it. I also addressed it in the DVD curriculum for that book, as I interviewed my gay friend Penny for that session in the DVD. The DVD was important as I wanted people to not just think about homosexuality or read about it, but to see the emotions, the eyes as one speaks, and hear the heart of my friend Penny – so that those that may not understand can hear her perspective and damage Christians and the church have done to her over the years.

But this book I am writing now is a trade book not written to only church leaders like my others. So I feel more weight  because the reading audience is much broader and probably more diverse. With this specific chapter, I am finding myself retyping sentences and thinking through how all different viewpoints will be reading what I am writing. So this one is taking several days wrapping it up.

Read the rest at Dan’s blog.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “Money is the Root of All Evil” Exploring the truth that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit & John Bunyan What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and what we can learn from John Bunyan’s experience.

Everyday Theology: “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” Seeking to understand the purpose of godly discipline.

Book Review: Deep Economy Emily Armstrong offers her insights into Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

The cool thing about a genealogy…

A short while ago, I was reading the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. As many reading this would know, the chapter opens with a genealogy of Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham. As I read through it this time, I saw something really neat that I never really paid careful attention to before; that being the people on the list:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ (Matt. 1:2-16).

In it we see men and women, priests, leaders, adulterers, idolaters, wicked kings, murderers, prostitutes, liars, covetous people, and even a gentile or two…

It is a cross section of all the people that Jesus came to save.

Jesus’ earthly family is just like all of us: Liars, murderers, idolaters, religious people, prideful, covetous people; men and women of all kinds.

There is so much more in this genealogy than I’ve ever given it credit for. It gives us the opportunity to rejoice and see that there is no type of person that Jesus cannot save. No sin that Jesus’ death on the cross is not sufficient to atone for. And it shows us that God will use whomever He chooses to bring Himself glory, regardless of their “goodness.”

Had I not stopped to chew on this passage, and just sped through it to get to the “more important” stuff, I would have missed something really cool that God was showing me, and an opportunity to stand in awe of how powerful and meaningful an easy-to-ignore passage of Scripture really is.

Three Simple Letters

When thinking about why I trust the Scripture, I am reminded of the beauty of it’s words. There’s truly no other book as powerful and amazing as the Bible.

And do you know what is one of my favorite words in the whole Bible?

It’s not one that a lot of people really think about, because it’s an easy word to overlook. It’s three letters that are packed with power:

But

Look at 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (emphasis mine).

And check out Ephesians 2:1-6:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following m the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (emphasis mine)

Just in these two examples, we see the power of the word “but.” Without these three letters, we would not see the grace of God in these passages. “But,” as a conjugation, connects opposing ideas, or coordinates elements.

We cannot love God on our own… but He loved us and died for us so that we can!

We were condemned, dead in our sins… but God, in His mercy and grace, made us alive!

Without the intervention of God, we’d be left stranded on our own, lost in our sins. “But” shows God’s intervention on our behalf.

That’s why a word like “but” is so powerful.

I trust the Scriptures because even the most seemingly insignificant words are rich with meaning.

I hope you will find as much joy in the simple words as I do.

Reflections on the Old Testament

A short time ago, I completed my read through the Old Testament. After I told Emily that I’d finished, she asked me a great question: “What do you take away from it?”

Anticipation.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read of men and women who try to pursue God on their own terms and fail. Who pursue things other than God and it destroys them. And we see the hopelessness that comes from trying to follow the Law apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

The Law and the Prophets teach us one thing: We are completely incapable of following the Law. And even if we conform morally, our hearts become proud and we trust in our moral conformity rather than in the God who gave us His Law!

So when we don’t follow the Law, we sin. And when we do follow the Law, it shows us just how broken and evil we really are.

But in the midst of that, there’s so much hope.

Salvation will come.

God has not left us in the darkness of our rebellion.

He has not left us in our pitiful moral conformity.

The Lord will come (Zech. 14:5) and will be king over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1b).

God is coming, and His herald will come before Him to prepare the way… “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:2).

Made in the Image of God: Holiness

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

One of our most important shared attributes with God is holiness. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as being holy:

Psalm 22:3 says, “…you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 89:18 calls God “the Holy One of Israel.”

Psalm 99:9 says, “the Lord our God is holy!”

Isa. 6:3 says, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Prophet Habbakuk calls God, “my Holy One” (Hab. 1:12).

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

His name is holy (Ezek. 36:22). His words are holy (Jer. 23:9). His Spirit is holy (Luke 1:35). Absolutely everything about God is holy. It is unique, set apart, pure, good and true. There is no malice in Him. No evil, “no darkness,” is in Him at all. He is perfect.

More than 600 times, the word “holy” appears in the ESV translation of the Bible. Every time, it refers to God’s name, character, covenant, dwelling place, offerings, statutes, law… and His people.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44)

[Read more...]