Happy Reformation Day!

No, I’m not one of those Anti-Halloween people. But it is also Reformation Day, observing the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed those 95 Thesis. In honor of this day, I thought I would share just an observation on the event. The Thesis were written in Latin, a language that the Germans couldn’t read. The point is that Luther wasn’t trying to create a revolution or trying to incite the people to rebel and fight. What he was trying to do was raise concerns, written in Latin, so the other priests and those in charge could talk. The problem was that The Roman Catholic Church wasn’t in the mood to ‘talk’. They wouldn’t hear Luther’s debate, but rather branded him a heretic and made him hide in an attic, fearful that the moment he revealed where he was, he would be killed.

So in honor of Reformation Day, why don’t you read over these 95 Thesis. The link is to the right.


Gone Fishin’

This past Wednesday I planned on the spur of the moment that we should go fishin’ on Friday night. When I told the kids this at youth group, I got a mixed reaction. One kid, Ricky, said, “YES! I love fishing!” But most kid just had somewhat of a blank stare like they were thinking, “umm… why are we going fishing?” What they didn’t know, and I didn’t explain, is that ‘going fishing’ is my new phrase for street evangelism. Christ told His disciples that they weren’t going to fish for fish anymore, but He was going to make them fishers of men.

With it being totally last minute, I wasn’t really expecting much turnout. One of the local high schools where most of the kids go was having their homecoming dance or something like that. And Ricky, who really wanted to go, had to work his school’s football game for ASB. I told them to meet me in front of the movie theater at 7 if they wanted to go. So Leah and I showed up, she got a bite to eat, and we waited.

As I was expecting, there weren’t any kids there. But I was fine with that. I know they would do it, if I gave them some more notice, and it might be better, because I was going to be testing out this new ‘Way of the Master’ method. So the wife and I prayed for boldness and we started talking to people.

The first young man we talked to was named Tino. He said he was a soldier and would be going back to Iraq soon. he also said he was married and had a few kids, but didn’t have a ring and also said he was living in a motel room. My skeptical alarm went off, but continued ignoring that. I asked him if we could ask him a few questions. When they realized that I was witnessing to them, the girl that was sitting next to him perked up, and it turned out she was a pastor’s daughter from a local church.

When I asked him where he was going when he died, he said I didn’t have to worry, because he had a relationship with Jesus. I decided to pry a little further and asked him what he would say if God asked him, “Why should I let you into my Heaven?” His answer gave me all the info I needed. He gave the normal, “I’ve been a generally good person…” So I asked him if we could ask him a few questions to see if he was right. I asked him if he’d ever lied, and he admitted he was a liar. I asked him if he had stolen anything, and he admitted he was thief. I asked him if he’d every taken the name of the Lord in vain, and he admitted he was a blasphemer. I asked him if he’d ever lusted after a woman, and eventually he admitted he was an adulterer.

Then I asked him again, what would God say to you if you asked to get into Heaven. this time it was a little different. He realized that he wasn’t good enough at all. He realized that even the stuff he did awhile ago still mattered. I told him the illustration of him being in a court room and the judge telling him he must pay a $70,000 fine, and if he didn’t he’d go to jail. What would the judge think if you said, “well, i’ve tried to generally be a good person.” Obviously he’d show you the door to your jail cell. But what if a man you didn’t even know came in with $70,000 came in and said, “I love this man and I want to pay his penalty.”

By the end of the conversation he knew he had quite a bit to think about and I gave him my info to contact me if he needed to talk. Please pray for Tino.

Then we talked to a group of for high schoolers, Leroy, Jake, Georgie, and Alorra ( i have no idea how to spell the two girls names). We ended up giving them the same talk for over a half hour. It was great! They asked questions, seemed really interested, and all of them were really struck by the end. I gave them the info for our youth group and a couple of them said they’ll come on Wednesday.

I think one of the most refreshing things for them was for them to hear someone go through the Gospel in a logical progression, clearly explaining why they were sinners, and letting their conscience condemn them instead of us starting the conversation with telling them they were sinners. They were refreshed to hear someone say something that actually made sense and was authoritative. By the end of the conversation I told them i really enjoyed talking with them and really liked them. Please pray for Leroy, Jake, Georgie, and Alorra.

The Compassion of Christ Part I: He Chose to Touch the Leper Continued

After Christ chose to heal the man by touching him, something no one was willing to do, he gave the man a stern warning. The verb that he used is somewhat of an obscure and difficult one to precisely define. What we can know is that Jesus was serious about the following charge. He had a deep emotional tone and manner in the following charge. Jesus sent him away and charged him to say nothing to anyone until he talked to a priest. The charge to not talk to anyone before talking to a priest was so strong, Jesus uses a double negative, giving it emphasis in the Greek.

Why would he do that? I believe Christ is continuing to hide his messianic identity for the masses. Mark has a theme of secrecy where Christ commands demons, those who he healed, and even his disciples, eight times throughout Mark. Jesus had such a sense of His own identity and job, He did whatever He had to to hide his true identity. As we will see, Jesus was afraid that what ended up happening would happen.

Jesus commands the healed leper to fulfill the law and present himself to the priest, as proof. This proof is two-fold, I believe. The first is the traditional proof that he was cleansed. When a leper was cleansed, the Levitical law commanded that they must present themselves to a priest to make it official. But I think the second purpose was even more significant. The word ‘proof’ has an idea of evidence. I believe Christ was telling the healed leper to present himself as proof of His Messianic identity. Jesus was very specific in who He revealed Himself to, hence why He would begin to speak in parables. This man would be walking proof of Christ’s Messianic nature.

Well, as we can see in the text, this man disregarded his request. I don’t know how much I can blame the man. he just couldn’t contain his excitement. And what was the result of this? Jesus had to retreat from society because so many people were flocking to Him to witness the power that healed this man who had been a leper. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the narrative, it is the leper that is isolated, and at the close Christ finds Himself alienated from society. This was not a surprise to Him. I believe He knew, if not from some level of God-inspired knowledge, then from human nature. Jesus knew this was the price to show compassion. He knew it would put Him at an inconvenience.

To leave this text without asking ourselves some questions is to miss the entire point of the passage. Jesus did not ignore the opportunities to serve those that were considered unclean. And not only did He choose to serve them, but He did it in a manner that communicated a deep compassion.

So let us ask ourselves? Who are the unclean that we find it difficult to minister to? Who are the ones that our society chooses to shun, but Christ chose to touch? Who are the people to which our automatic reaction would be to turn away from? I think the obvious is the homeless, the diseased, or the underprivileged. I think it is easy for us to think of every reason in the book why we should refrain from going out of our way to help someone. “I just don’t have the time.” “They’ll probably spend the money on booze.” “They need to hear the Gospel more than they need a meal or shelter.”

The fact is that compassion is to be a characteristic of the Gospel itself. Our salvation itself is a product of compassion. And when people think of Christians, compassion should be one of the first characteristics on their tongues. I don’t know when we began to think that it is better to share just the Gospel and if we have time, show compassion. I’ve heard the phrase said many times, “Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.” Obviously, the Gospel is words, logos. But it is also a mindset and lifestyle. It is a lifestyle lived out loud in the life of our savior, and how dare we ignore it in our lives.

The Compassion of Christ Part I: He Chose to Touch the Leper

Evangelical Christianity is not always represented well. Unfortunately, when an American thinks of a Christian, a negative picture pops into their mind. Maybe they think of people screaming with signs that spew hatred at funerals or abortion clinics. Maybe they think of a greasy looking preacher with a nice smile that only has his own interest in mind. Maybe they think of a conservative Republican whose convictions and platforms make them incensed. If anything, there are have been plenty of people who have claimed the name of Christ, but have failed to exercise the compassion of Christ. Too many churches have become content with concentrating on people who look just like them and witnessing to people who think like them. Churches have left the hard inner city for an easier suberb.

And then there are churches that are operating today under the title of ’emerging’. It is very easy for us to look down our nose at them, but often times they exercise more compassion on the lost than the average church. Certainly they have their problems, but they have such a heart for those that the church has lost track of.

Look around your churches. Look up and down the rows. What do the people look like? Do they look a lot like you? This is something that I have been really convicted about. What would my church look like if I reached out to the people that the rest of our country is ignoring? What would it be like if we had a homeless guy in the back of our church? Would the smell bother people? Would his or her appearance make us uncomfortable?

This past week I preached a message on the compassion that Christ exhibited with his life. I would like to take this time to include the observations from that message. Since there is a lot, I will split it up into multiple posts. The first section is on Mark 1:40-45 and the story of Jesus cleansing the Leper.

40. And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41. Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44. and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof them.” 45. But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Before we get into the text, I’d like to say a little bit about leprosy. Most of us are familiar with the malady itself, but I’d like to share some things that I read that just reminded he of the horrifying effect of leprosy. Leprosy is a skin disease that was difficult to diagnose and heal. It would attack the extremities first, rotting away the skin until things like fingers, toes, your nose or ears, fall off. They were commanded to separate themselves from society because they were unclean according to the Mosaic Law, and anyone who came into contact with them would also be unclean.

The scribes counted as many as 72 different conditions that were defined as leprosy. Those who had leprosy were required to make their appearance as repugnant as possible so people knew that they had leprosy and knew to stay away from them. They were subject to superstition and fear and they were seen as being punished by God. People would look at them and think, surely this man has greatly sinned! It was described as a living death whose healing was equivalent to being raised from the dead. Lastly, it would ultimately rob you of your name, your occupation, your habits, your family and fellowship, and your worshiping community.

The first thing we see in this passage is that the leper exercises some faith. As I said previously, anyone who had the infliction of leprosy was to separate themselves from society. They were under no circumstances to come and approach people. But here we see the leper disregard the law for the pursuit of Christ. He recognized that Christ was greater than the law. The leper comes before Christ in an act of submission, begging him for a solution for his sickness.

Notice something very significant about this man’s request. He never questions Christ’s ability to heal him. He is exercising faith in the very fact that he knows Christ is able to do it. The question is he does not know if Christ is willing. And he was not seeking a temporary relief from his condition, but knew Christ was able to make him completely clean.

In verse 41 we see Christ’s reaction. This word ‘pity’ means a strong compassion, almost with a tinge of anger. Jesus wasn’t showing anger at the man, but at sin itself. He looked upon this man and saw the effect that sin has in man. This leprosy may not have been a direct result of sin, but it was certainly an effect of the fall. Jesus ached to see man suffering because of sin.

Jesus’ reaction of healing is also very interesting. Jesus certainly could have chosen to heal this man by commanding the disease to depart verbally. He could have had him dunk himself in a river. Jesus could have healed him from a distance. He could have done any number of things to heal this man, but I believe he specifically chose to touch the man with his hand. Put yourself in this man’s shoes (or sandals). Who knows how long it had been since he had experienced the human touch. This is something that we take so for granted. This man could not kiss his wife. He could not hold his children. He could not hug a friend. This man had not been touched in years, and Christ chose that very action to cleanse the man from the disease that had robbed him of his life.

to be continued…

A New Kind of Atheism

Watch out! There’s a new definition of ‘athiesm’. Here’s a traditional definition from dictionary.com:
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Here’s the new definition of atheism:

A without god belief.

Here’s what Marie Castle from Atheism Human Rights says about the definition.

“the reason we’re without God beliefs is because no one comes up with any decent evidences for one. We’d be happy to believe in one if we could find one that lives up to my moral standards or even one you could actually justify. But thousands of years go by and no one comes up with anything except a bunch of mythology. So we’re without a God belief because we don’t see why we should have one.”

They got into an argument over what Atheism literally means, and the lady was trying to say that ‘belief’ is implied in the definition of ‘without God’. They have changed this definition because they cannot answer to this challenge: if you say there is no God, then you are saying that you have done everything to search out any way there is a God somewhere throughout the world. To say that there is no God is an absolute saying that you have investigated every potential ‘god-belief’ and have concluded that there is no God. Now they just say: i choose to have a without God belief.

You can hear a great conversation with her on the weekend edition of the Way of the master radio program.

Mike Seaver Teaches Me the Way of the Master

This morning in my evangelism and apologetics class we had the priviledge of having Mike Seaver come and teach us ‘The Way of the Master’. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Seaver is actually Kirk Cameron. He was a child actor in the sitcom ‘Growing Pains’ and got saved around the age of 19. But he didn’t really fully get everything until around 2001, when he started getting involved in Ray Comfort’s ministry ‘Way of the Master’. This ministry has a TV show, a radio program, a website, and more. They basically train people to walk up to strangers and share the Gospel.

The thing I like about this approach is that it does not start with calling the person a sinner, but gets them to come to that point themselves. We know that the Gospel is an offense to those that don’t believe, but this gets them not to throw up a wall immediately. I know all of you at FBC will be going through this program and I would reccomend it. Romans makes it very clear that the law exists to convince man that sin abounds and Galatians speaks of the law being a tutor that brings people to the Gospel.

Kirk had a good point with an illustration. He said that when we look in a mirror, we look in it to see ourselves for who we are. When we realize that we need to get cleaned up, we don’t take the mirror off the wall and rub ourselves with it. We go to the water to clean that which the mirror revealed. You can make the obvious connection.

One of the problems that I would anticipate is that this does not start with the existence of God. I don’t know how someone would react that doesn’t believe in God or believe that the law is the very words of God.

If you’d like to learn more about this, follow the link the the right under apologetics.

Hey Phil, Need Some Help With That Hole?

I know that most of you who read this are in NH, but I thought i’d let you in on some of the fun that we’re having with our election for Governor. The race is between Ahnold and Phil Angelides (now known as Wahngelides). Suprisingly enough, Wahngelides, even though he’s running in a very liberal state, is waaaaay behind in the poles. He’s double digits behind Ahnold in the polls. The same Ahnold that had a 59% DISapproval rating after the special elections last year. How could this be?

Well, Wahngelides has decided to make his campaign all about running the national election. I swear these are words that have come out of his mouth. He’s accused Ahnold of being in cahoots with Bush. He has attacked Ahnold over Hastert, the speaker of the house. He’s running on what we’re doing in Iraq. Did anyone tell him he’s running for governor of California? Not a national office? He’s tried associating Ahnold with Bush, but just at the wrong time. Bush’s approval ratings are actually up!

Recently Ahnold appeared on the Jay Leno show and the next day Wahngelides appeared outside of the NBC studios complaining that he should get equal time. He said, “I’d be a good guest. I can be funny and I could get along with Jay.” He was WHINING about not being on the show. (and you should try to find some audio of it. His voice was so annoying, like the nerd that was complaining about not being popular.) Again, can someone tell him he’s not running for a national office, and that Joe Schmoe in Shaboigan doesn’t care about him?

Well, then he did the unthinkable at the same conference. Ahnold had said that he’s been closer to Oscar than to George Bush (meaning the Oscars for those that are a little behind). Wahngelides said that Ahnold should be up for an Emmy for being a Republican that acts like a Democrat.

pause for disbelief…..

Ummm… Phil…. I thought you said he’s so conservative that he might as well be George Bush… But now you’re saying he’s liberal… so why should anyone vote for you Phil?