Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cold or Hot?

Today we are off to West Virginia skiing with 10 UNC international students. The weather is not looking to good... rain and wind, but for sure COLD. Most of the students have never been skiing. None of them are believers. Please pray that they would be open to hear the Gospel!

Also please pray for the people we will be ministering to in Argentina. There are 10 BCM students going- most of them have never been over seas. Except one who is actually a Argentinian. The temperature will be 95 degrees, nice and HOT. The missionaries we will be working with have a blog that you should check out.

Please pray!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday funnies

One of my favorite blogs is Girl Talk... especially on Fridays when they have something funny. This week was extra cute and funny... check it out

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Husband Finally Wrote an Entry

Here is Steven's Message on how ungodly fear affects our evangelistic fervor. Enjoy.

Fear: The Sinful Barrier to Evangelism

Psalm 27

Fear is such a budding topic that it pervades all of our life and even in areas we think it doesn’t. Fear’s progression in life expresses itself in a typified manner constantly. Children already fear as if there are monsters hiding in the closet and lurking deep in every dark room. Teenagers express their own fears perhaps just as vividly as children or maybe while watching scary movies. I hate scary movies. They keep me in suspense continuously moments after seeing them and I need calm company to help bring back everything to reality occasionally. “What Lies Beneath” is a prime example of the types of movies that make me cringe. As adulthood pushes itself into our lives, one would even assume that we would put away childish fears and anxieties. Have we? If you were to work at a gymnasium you might even notice a lot of people working against their fears by trying to run on a treadmill to heaven or lift earth to God himself as if he were watching. But, you still can notice how fear is seeking after man’s approval. Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), in its pronounced form, affects about one in fifty people. It is worry run amok. The compulsion is the action intended to neutralize the obsession. In its less disruptive form it is fairly common: most people think about germs and contamination, and it’s not unusual to triple-check the alarm or even double-check the stove. But, it can become life-dominating. Fear seeks to make you a slave of its reality and forces people to believe there are needs that have to be met. Fear is screaming at you from all directions and is seeking to make you a slave of its false realities. The problem is that while all of this is going on there is an alternative voice we should be listening to primarily. This voice is God’s who continuously all through-out Scripture is saying, “Do not fear!”

God speaks:

After this, the word of the Lord came Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Gen. 15:1)

The night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Gen. 26:24)

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.” (Gen. 46:3)

The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.” (Num.21:34)

The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” (2 Kings 1:15)

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

“Do not be afraid, O worm of Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (Isa. 41:14)

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Dan. 10:12)

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Matt. 10:28)

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matt. 14:27)

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matt. 28:10)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

When it comes to specifically evangelism, most evangelizers do not listen to the voice of God consistently throughout Scripture. The questions that spring from fear consistently run through the evangelist’s mind. Questions like: Will this person hate me after I share Christ with them? Will they think I’m a bigot and ignorant of other people? How will they respond when I tell them Jesus is the only way to salvation? Will my believing friends think more of me because I’m sharing Christ? Fear shows itself time and time again concerning evangelism as even many cower when seeking to point people to Christ in conversations and yet there is this sense in which evangelism seems to be a point of interest for some who value its means to even salvation in their eyes. There are numerous reasons why people do not evangelize and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others and there may be some that I’ll not cover.

Why don’t people Evangelize?

1) Fear of Man
2) Lack of Confidence
3) Believe they have to have all the answers
4) Apathy
5) Feel it is for experienced people
6) Don’t see the need for it based on Secular Humanism/Tolerance

Barna Group Statistics (2007)

Probability of accepting Christ, segmented by age

• Nearly half (43%) of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (2004)
• Two out of three born again Christians (64%) accept Jesus Christ as their savior before their 18th birthday. (2004)
• One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. (2004)
• 49% of born again Christians shared their faith in Christ in the past year taking a non-Christian friend to church so they could hear the gospel. (2004)
• 78% of born again Christians shared their faith in Christ with in the past year by offering to pray with a non-Christian person who was in need of encouragement or support. (2004)
• 21% of born agains shared their faith in Christ with a non-Christian person in the past year by sending letters or e-mails explaining aspects of their faith and encouraging them to consider it more closely. (2004)
The Responsibility to Share your Faith
• Adults' View On Having A Personal Responsibility To Tell Other People Their Religious Beliefs: 2007-35% 2006-39% 2005-34% 2004-35% 2002-35% 2000-31% 1998-29% 1996-31%
• 49% of Blacks strongly agree that they "personally have a responsibility to tell other people about their religious beliefs" versus 34% of whites, 32% of Hispanics, and 26% of Asians. (2007)
• Americans living in the South feel more of a responsibility to share their faith with others than do adults in other regions of the country, with 45% of southerners feeling a sense of responsibility to share their faith with others, compared to 40% of Midwesterners, 27% of those living in the West, and 21% of those living in the Northeast. (2007)
• More than half of born again Christians (54%) feel a sense of responsibility to tell others about their faith. (2007)
• Overall, Catholics (19%) are less likely than Protestants (47%) to feel a responsibility to share their faith with others. (2007)
• Mosaics are the generation least likely to strongly agree that they have a personal responsibility to tell others people about their religious beliefs. Compared to the 25% of Mosaics who strongly agree with the tested statement, 30% of Busters, 39% of Boomers and 41% of Elders strongly agree. (2007)
• Married adults (37%) are more likely than are singles (28%) to believe that it is their responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs. (2007)
• People that make less than $35,000 a year are the most likely to agree strongly they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others; 47% believe so compared with 35% of those that make between $35,000-$60,000 and 26% of those who make more than $60,000. (2007)

There are times to listen to our fears and anxieties because they point us to the things we value. There are times when we don’t listen to them because they point us away from God and his truth. David is showing us in Psalm 27 how not to listen to our fears and anxieties. David saw his need to relinquish all fears to the commanding voice of God and to acknowledge his continual dependence upon God’s character. Psalm 27 was an amazing confession and prayer to God in seeking total reliance upon him during his retreat from Saul. I believe this Psalm can assist us in fighting fear, by fearing the One who can destroy both soul and body, but also the One who is our Light and Salvation. Fear is consistently looking for new answers and is trained to see catastrophe and we must speak this Psalm over others, but not forget to overhear what we are saying in the process.

Battling Fear in Evangelism through Psalm 27, while Trusting in God Alone

1. Confident in God’s character (v. 1-3)

The confidence in the Psalmist lies, not in his own abilities or in the strength of his forces, but in the Lord. He has definitely experienced the presence of the Lord as described by the metaphors of “light” and “stronghold.” “Salvation” could be translated “my victory” or my deliverance. When you are afraid you call out to the Lord by his name and it brings peace, deliverance, and strength. What is ironic about all of this is that he is running from his pursuer Saul even though he is the anointed King of Israel. His confession here in calling out to who God is would reveal the true Stronghold of David’s life which made his wilderness lair feel safe. The Psalmist knows and believes to be true that his focus is not on his deliverance, but upon his Deliverer.

The Psalmist is continually looking at the greatness of the Lord in relations to the insignificance of his own problems: “evildoers” or “an army”. There is strong language when it says the evildoers seek to “eat up my flesh”. David is referring to them as “savage beasts” who seek in cruelty the devouring of human flesh. This is a pretty scary sight. Evil men desire to do none other than devour the flesh of the King of Israel at that moment. Before this trial had even come into David’s life I believe he had firmly decided to rely on the power of God who can destroy any army at any second and yet be the safe stronghold He promises to be in the day of trouble.

Are you confident in who God is and who He will say He’ll be in times of distress and anguish? When God is calling you to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with one of your closest friends have you already decided in your heart to remain firm and fearless because of who God is? When we know more of who God is our faith will grow and our love for people will result in us sharing the Gospel. It is important that you remember the character of God continuously. When was the last time you spent your mornings looking deeply at the images of God presented in Psalm 27? Center the psalm around Jesus Christ. He is the true Deliverer from our arch-enemy (Matt. 12:22-29).

2. Dwelling in His Presence (v. 4-6)

Paul had one purpose found in Philippians 3:13, in order to finish the race God had started in his heart. David as well decided to focus all of his energies in his primary purpose. Verse 4 begins very similar to Psalm 84 where David’s main delight is to be in the presence of God even if it meant for him to be a gatekeeper. What is so amazing about this Psalm is that it conveys that David’s main desire is not to be relieved of suffering or hardship, but to dwell richly in the presence of God. David was remembering the God of Moses, who promised the Hebrews his Presence and his rest (Ex. 33:14). Moreover, David recalled how God was pleased with Moses and allowed him to be a witness to his glory (Ex. 33:18). While all Israelites knew the presence of God, they also knew that there were degrees of nearness. At the beginning of the New Testament, we find the same pattern. Herod’s temple was heavily partitioned, with each wall prohibiting some from going any closer to the Presence: Gentiles were farthest away, then women, men, priests, and the High Priest. Given the time in which he lived, David was making a bold request. He wanted more than God’s veiled and safe presence. He wanted to be concealed under the shelter of his tent and to be lifted up high upon a rock (v. 5). He knew God’s forgiving love and he knew that God would not deny needy people access to his throne room. There is a catch when you seek the Lord. It means more than just finding a safe place. It means that you order your life according to the laws of the kingdom.

Besides desiring to dwell in the presence of the Lord all of the days of the Psalmist’s life; he also desired to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (v.4). In David’s day, creation was called beautiful (Job 38:31), women were beautiful, kings could be called beautiful (Is. 33:17), and Jerusalem, the place of God’s temple, was beautiful (Ezek. 16:14-15). Only in this Psalm is God himself called beautiful. I really believe people are naturally drawn to the presence of true beauty. Beauty invites and attracts, and inspires people or ideas to great things. When the New England Patriots took the field against the New York Giants almost 2 weeks ago for the Super Bowl; despite how many people wanted the Giants to win, there was sense in which it still would have been great if the Patriots had won the Championship and capped off a perfect 19-0 season. There is beauty in that idea. When I watched the sun rise over the Brazilian mountain sides of Rio de Janeiro there was the innate sense of beauty within that scene that took my breath away and left me wanting more. I think that is what sums up what David was feeling in this particular Psalm in that all the other things of the world that seemed beautiful to him couldn’t compare to the beautiful Savior, God himself. All of our attention needs to be focused on the One who is perfectly faithful in suffering, his law, and his sacrifice through Christ. All of this will lead to rejoicing and praise.

If it is your desire to seek after the dwelling place of God and to dwell richly in his presence; you must order your life around His Kingdom purposes and plans. This might mean doing some Gospel-Realizing. What I mean by Gospel-Realizing is that we do what David did in really understanding that “Salvation is really and truly from the Lord!” But, it isn’t so much that we understand this truth as much as we allow it to become a transforming factor in how we obey God. David understood his purpose for living and it was to know the God who saves and dwell richly in his presence and I think this will effect how we do evangelism if we understand that doesn’t stop with just seeing and savoring Christ, but spreading this to others.

3. Desperate Prayers for Doubting Hearts (v. 7-12)

It really isn’t until v. 7 that David actually begins talking to the Lord. Prior to praying to the Lord he has been talking about the Lord and the desires of his heart. David’s senses are telling him that God is absent or turned away. The instruments of God’s history and promises of faithfulness-tell him that the Lord is the One who loves more dearly than any father or mother. The repetitious language communicates the intensity of the soul searching and the greatness of his need. The phrases used, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud”, “be gracious to me”, “Hide not your face from me”, and “Cast me not off; forsake me not” all convey the depth of David’s heart for relief from adversity and suffering. The reality is he knows that he is in the midst of darkness as his senses declare, but the reality is that he responds to this by knowing that God is light. When you are faced with a difficult trial or circumstance, know that you have a loving father who is waiting to assist and be there for you. This is how David had to respond to his trial in that he had to believe that God was going to be there in light of history and his promises of faithfulness in the past. Do you believe God will be there with you every step of the way during evangelism? We have to believe this or our evangelism will grow cold in our hearts.

Understanding ultimately that God is the one who opens the hearts of people to the Gospel is essential in understanding also our role in evangelism. We are the instruments God uses to open the hearts of people to understand fully the Gospel message. Look at v. 8 and you can peer into the fact that David is responding to God in saying, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Do you believe that God is the one who saves people? God is also responsible for opening the doors of evangelism as even Paul asked the Colossian Church to pray for an open door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ (Col. 4:3). When you are tempted to doubt God’s ability to use you in sharing the Gospel with others; ask Him for an opportunity. We need God’s favor and his grace upon us and as even David asked the Lord in v. 9 to not turn (natah) or even hide his face from him; he’s persistently asking God to finish his perfect work he started with David. This work is not completed any man as David states in v. 10 that even moral man is inferior to the paternal mercy with which God encircles his people. As mentioned before, God is the one who ultimately saves people and causes the growth in individuals. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 explicitly mentions that God is the one who causes the growth of salvation in individual people despite some planting and others watering. Evangelism many times is about planting and watering. Sometimes this concept must make us as believers step back and realize that God is the one who saves, but we still have to be faithful in sharing the Gospel even if it is just planting a seed.

Now in v. 11-12 we get to the specifics of what David is praying for and asking God to do. The first thing he prays specifically for his guidance and this prayer does not arise out of a confession of sin, but out of a great desire to do God’s will and to experience his fellowship. To stand on “level ground” as mentioned in Psalm 26:12 signifying an area which all obstacles have been removed. Within v. 12 David takes his second request a step further as the psalmist prays for victory over his enemies who seek his destruction. “Give me no up to the will” is better translated “Give me not up to the desire or lust of mine oppressors”. The psalmist afterwards adds that he is persecuted both with slanders and false accusations, and also by open violence, so that even his integrity was overwhelmed by lies and dishonest gain. Taking the message of Christ to hard areas even on this campus will incur ridicule and to say it won’t is to say a tolerant crowd will accept an intolerant message. The Gospel is an offensive message and has many enemies. Paul mentioned this in Philippians 3:18 as he states that many of his former companions walk still as enemies of the Cross of Christ. The response should be similar to David in that he trusted and hoped only in God to teach him and lead him on level ground where no obstacle will befall his judgment and no enemy will destroy his confidence. How ironic that Christ would take upon the sufferings of David and even all mankind and humble himself before the Father’s will so that he might perfect the sufferings of David in Psalm 27. Christ ultimately handled perfectly the sufferings of ridicule and violence breathed upon him by God himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Suffering is a mark of evangelism and all believers should expect it at some time or another in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. If not, I wonder what Gospel is being proclaimed that not even some would take offense to its message.

4. Confident in God’s Promises (v. 13-14)

Because of God’s promises to Israel, there is confidence that God will again deliver his people. David and his mighty men will return from battle and their deliverance will be marked in the history books forever by the God who saves. But, the fact of the matter is that it hasn’t happened yet because David is telling all the people to wait. Sandwiched around the exhortation to be strong and take heart is the encouragement to wait for the Lord. Wait, wait patiently for the Lord. The hope is based on the promises of God and on God’s covenant name, Yahweh. In v.14 the words of encouragement are reminiscent of Moses’ words to Joshua (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9). While anxiety and worry over someone’s soul or even perhaps a general circumstance prefers immediate deliverance, God might delay it, giving us time to trust him and wait by faith. God is never waylaid and is never late in delivering his promises. God knows what we need at exactly the right time in our lives despite the financial, social, or even spiritual circumstances. Waiting for the Lord also mean to cultivate faithfulness as Psalm 37:3 declares as people trust in the Lord.

To wait patiently and to persevere in believing in the promises of God, we must become radically confident that God will do what he says he’ll do. Learning to wait on God’s timing even in evangelism may be an easy thing for some, but harder for others who constantly are sharing Christ with those closest to them in seeing no results. D.A. Carson writes, “There are people who went to Korea in 1900, planted churches, and saw the church grow to a quarter of the world’s evangelical population today. There are people who went to Japan about the same time-and no place on God’s green earth did the church grow more slowly than in Japan. What are you going to do? Say, “All the ones who went Korea are spiritual-particularly loved of God?” The ones in Japan aren’t blessed of God? God works on another scale.”

Conclusion & Application

There’s a story about Alexander the Great, who had a general whose daughter was getting married. Alexander valued this soldier greatly and offered to pay for the wedding. When the general gave Alexander’s treasurer the bill, it was absolutely enormous. The steward came to Alexander and named the sum. It was 10x the amount needed for a wedding. To his surprise Alexander smiled and said, “Pay it! Don’t you see-by asking me for such an enormous sum he does me great honor. He shows that he believes I am both rich and generous.”

Are we insulting God by our small ambitions and low expectations for evangelism today? Are we saying that God’s arm is too short to save by our fear?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).”

For Further Reading:

"Questioning Evangelism" by: Randy Newman
"The Gospel and Personal Evangelism" by: Mark Dever
"Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" by: J.I. Packer
"Above All Earthly Powers" by: David Wells
"Running Scared" by: Ed Welch

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Church Growth

As I was studying to lead a discussion on the prosperity gospel I came across many ideas for a blog entry. However, in light of the corporate church worship this morning at FBC Durham and a great web site resource, discerning reader, I was compelled to write on the significance of church growth. What does the rate church growth at one specific local church tell us about the church and pastors?

My answer is A LOT!

What is the number one question people in the world want to know? I would argue it is: How can I be happy? What will make me happy? Joel Osteen tells his church God will make you happy. FBC Durham would say God can make you happy. So then the only difference is can and will. God will or God can make you happy. Which one is it?

Psalm 16:11 tells us: in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Joel Osteen tells us a more rewarding life can be obtained if you change the way you think about your life.

Four Christians who gave their testimony before being baptized today at FBC Durham each spoke clearly about the sin that entangled them and of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ that has cleansed them of their sins in the past, present and future. Only because of Christ are they able to experience the fullness of joy.

Where is that message at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas? It is not coming out of Joel Osteen's preaching. He gives a straight forward guide to improve you life for good and help you experience victory, joy, and satifaction every day! (taken from the inside flap of his book Your Best Life Now). He claims to know God's best, but when asked on Larry King Live he did not have an answer for if a Jew or a Muslim was a Christian. All these inconsistencies are easily found with a few minutes on Lakewood's website, a few glances at his book, and a couple interviews with him. The amount of error he produces would take an entire book to address. So I will just consider church growth.

How might one go about joining Lakewood church? How might one join FBC Durham or any other Bible believing baptist church? The testimonies this morning were given after months or in most of the cases years of questioning and learning the deep concepts of the Christian faith, sitting under the teaching of a pastor who has studied and memorized the Word of God for 20+ years, and after God revealing the ugly deception of sin. It was only after much revelation of Christ and his atoning sacrifice were these believers able to believe. That is how the church should grow.

Sadly this is not how Lakewood has grown. According to the Discerning Reader:

On October 3, 1999, Joel Osteen assumed the position of Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church. Under Pastor Joel and Victoria Osteen's leadership, Lakewood has grown in every area of ministry. Lakewood has added two additional worship services in order to accommodate its growth in an auditorium that seats 7,800. With nearly 30,000 adults in weekly attendance and over 2,500 children attending weekly children's programs, Lakewood has doubled in attendance in the last two years. In addition, Lakewood's weekly television program can now be seen in an additional 100 million households in the US and Canada

All the church knows is attendance not salvation. I desire for you to hear the testimonies of suffering and sin spoken from the baptismal this morning. That was true salvation! This positive/motivational crap that Osteen gives is empty and hopeless. I do not serve a God that is empty or hopeless! I will go as far to say that what Osteen preaches is not the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Observe for yourself. He's probably on tv right now... go listen... or just go on you tube.

Other questions I have thought about-
Why is his picture taking up the front of his book and church website?
Where is a cross, Bible or Scripture in his book, website, or in his church?
Why does he never even say the word sin?
Why does he say, "the Bible says..." but then misquote it horribly?
What translation does he read?
Why won't he publish his financial statements?
Why are all the leadership of the church related to him? (I'm suspecting the answer is that they'll keep all his secrets safe because they profit.)

Any comments are welcome!