Are Prayers for Vegas insufficient?

As were all of you, I was horrified to awaken to the news of the ‘deadliest mass murder in US history.’ We were shocked and we grieved. Then we became angry as those who, ‘never let a serious crisis go to waste’ began the politicization of tragedy. Of course, many of us also prayed. Our thoughts and prayers went out to those affected (one of whom is the granddaughter of one of our own who hid under a table during the rain of gunfire).

With so many thoughts swirling through my mind, and so many arguments being presented, I didn’t know where to begin. But then, a national late-night talk show host said this, “your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient.” There it was, the tired argument that often surfaces after a tragedy, just framed with different words. It’s as if to say, “where is your God?”

This argument is not new, David wrote in the 42nd Psalm, “As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” This argument is offered as proof from unbelievers that God is feckless at best and nonexistent at worst. That the wisdom of man is superior to that of God.

“Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient”

The pure arrogance of this statement. How did he come to that conclusion? Does he have the mind of God? Can this comedian declare the end from the beginning [Isa 46:10]? How did his thoughts become worthier than those of the Almighty?

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:9]

Prayer is essential

Our God is very clear on this matter, He wants us to pray, but He commands us to pray within His revealed will. For many, prayer is nothing more that the rubbing of a magic lamp so the powerful Genie will grant their wishes, this is NOT prayer. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” [James 4:3]

We are to pray

  • According to His will [Matt 6:10; 26:42] which would require us to learn of His will.
  • In faith, without wavering, [James 1:6].
  • Not to eliminate problems, but for strength to endure them, [Acts 4:29; Eph 6:19].
  • For our leaders, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” [1Tim 2:1-8]
  • That the word of God may have free course, [2Thess 3:1; Col 4:3]

In a sense, prayer is not enough

…if not followed up by our own obedience. James wrote, “And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” [James 2:16] We are to act, but what kind, for what purpose? The context of the James passage is not benevolence, though individual benevolence is a command. The main context is SALVATION. Note verse 14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

In all the above passages, there is a connection between prayer and the spreading of the Gospel. The enemies of God want the opposite, hence their mocking, “where is thy God?” So often during tragedy, folks begin to ponder their own future [Ecc 7:2].  Now IS THE TIME TO ACT, it’s the time to lead people to the Love of God found in Christ Jesus. Acting as lights of the world, we need to shine that light into this dark world with the truth of God’s word, the truth of salvation and the truth about Heaven.

Why is there so much evil?

I would be remiss if I failed to remind you of the answer. FIRST, there is no such thing as evil if there is no God. Do we call animal behavior of death evil when the roaring lion kills the infant water buffalo? We are more than animals, we have free will, which brings us to the SECOND answer. Free will has been given to us from God. He wants us to love, but with the ability to love, we can also hate. Without free will, choice, we cannot love. From where do wars, murders and fighting arise? They come from our worldly desires…

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” [James 4:1-6]

But James reminds us of the solution

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” [7-10]

In other words, the answer to evil is turning to God. Isn’t that accomplished through evangelism? “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14]

-Spencer

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THINGS JESUS NEVER SAID

Some of the biggest challenges I face as an evangelist are the things people THINK are in the Bible or they BELIEVE Jesus taught.  The evangelist, like the statue carver, must chip away everything that doesn’t belong. Some of these beliefs are so firmly attached that it requires a lot of pounding. Below is a list of things folks THINK Jesus said, but never did. Perhaps this list can help you in your personal work. (editors note; there are far more than these listed and may show up in a future article. Seb)

The uppercase words are ‘things Jesus never said’

Jesus never said… “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, TO ASK ME INTO THEIR HEARTS.”

What He really said…  ”…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” [Mat 28:19]

 

Jesus never said… “Mt 7:1 Judge not, AND REMAIN SILENT WHEN YOU SEE FOLKS DO EVIL.

What He really said… “that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Mat 7:1-2

 

Jesus never said… “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them TO CHOOSE 1 OR MORE OF 58 GENDERS?”

What He really said… “made them male and female,” Mat 19:4 [cr. Gen 1:27]

 

Jesus never said… “IT’S MY OPINION”

What He really said… “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Mat 28:18 [cr. Mt 7:29]

 

Jesus never said… “If the world hates you, REMEMBER, CHANGE WHAT YOU TEACH TO CONFORM WITH THE TIMES, MAKING IT EASIER TO FOLLOW SO EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOU AGAIN.

What He really said… “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18

 

Jesus never said… “Neither do I condemn you, go and DO WHATEVER MAKES YOU HAPPY.

What He really said… “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” [John 8:11 the woman caught in adultery]

 

Jesus never said… “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to ETERNAL LIFE, and many there be which go in thereat:

What He really said… “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” [Mat 7:13-14]

 

Jesus never said… “I am A way, A truth, and A life: ANYONE CAN GO TO THE MOTHER ON THEIR OWN.

What He really said… “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. [John 14:6]

 

Jesus never said… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my churchES;

What He really said… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” [Mat 16:18]

 

He also said… “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” [Mat 7:24]

And, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” [John 14:15]

If we have time, preach the Gospel

THIS IS NOT another article on being busy, or wasting time. Neither is this article going to tell you never to help the needy. No, this article looks at some complicated issues facing the church. Below are two questions that get to the heart of the matter…

  • Why did Jesus come to Earth?
  • What is the work of His church?

Answering these questions incorrectly can lead to a misunderstanding of the work of the church. We must know the answer, we’ve got to get it right. To do otherwise will cause a lot of us to be lost.

Recently, a brother in Christ stated, “In my Bible, Jesus spent His life helping poor and the needy.” It is statements like this that have led to a complete departure from the God given work of the church. Many denominations have deprecated the work of the church and turned it into a benevolent organization. If that is what God wants us to do, we had better do it. However, what if He gave the church, that He built, a different task?

To find out what our work is, we need to answer those two questions.

Why did Jesus come to Earth?

Looking to what Jesus Himself said on the matter, we find a few passages…

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? [Luke 2:49] Did Jesus say this as the carpenter’s son or as the Son of God? Clearly, He spoke as Emmanuel, God with us.

And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. [Luke 4:43] In this passage, Jesus is plainly saying why He came to earth, TO PREACH THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

When people came to Jesus in John 6, He perceived that they only came for the physical food. What He says to them speaks volumes about why He was here. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. [John 6:26-27] If Jesus’ job was to provide for the physical needs of the poor, why didn’t He feed them again? If you didn’t get it, read vs 29; Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. The work of God, the job Jesus came to do, was to teach people about the Kingdom of God, to pay the penalty for sin so that we could be reconciled back with God. He did the miracles of feeding and healing to CONFIRM that this message, which was alluded to in the OT, was from God [John 20:30-31].

When we look at other passages, we learn what others thought of Our Lord’s work. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. [John 1:29, 36] John the baptizer knew why Jesus had come, it was to reconcile man back to God.

At the circumcision of Jesus, Zacharias said, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,” [Luke 1:76-77]. We are separated because of sin and need a Savior. If we understand the principles of sacrifice from the scripture, then we will have a better understanding of why Jesus came to earth. He came to bring salvation from sin.

Lastly, when we look at the last command He gave while still on this earth, we learn the answer to question two.

What is the work of His church?

What was the last command Jesus gave while still on earth? He gave it after His DEATH, BURIAL & RESURRECTION.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. [Mat 28:18-20; cr. Mark 16:15-16]

Jesus, the founder and builder of the church which bears His name, gave very clear instructions; PREACH THE GOSPEL, MAKE DISCIPLES (through hearing, believing, confession, repentance & baptism) and to TEACH those disciples to obey His commandments. THIS IS THE WORK OF THE CHURCH! Can people feed the poor, YES. Should people feed the poor, once again, YES. And the bible gives us instruction on how and who. It also limits the church collective to needy saints [1Tim 5:16]. We need to focus on preaching the Gospel, to do anything less is to place salvation as a secondary activity to physical concerns, something we do IF WE GET TIME.

What is the key to effective evangelism?

IS THERE A ONE WORD ANSWER to getting more bible studies? The key to evangelism is not probing, listening, preaching, talking, assessing, pain, and especially not manipulating. The key that opens the heart is HARMONIZING.

But you’d never know that from most or our actions. Evangelism is about understanding the other person and their needs. Their fears. Their desires. And their sense of need for the Gospel. People have different motives to respond, and it’s the evangelist’s job to uncover them – and harmonize with them.

REALITY: No two opportunities are alike.

We must adapt to uncover the motives and objectives, understand the opportunities and barriers, meet the needs and desires, and harmonize with the person and the personality. This is the point Paul was making in 1Corinthians 9…

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]

Ever since becoming a Christian, I’ve searched for magic verses, those one or two passages that answer every error. I’ve collected tracts with hopes that these one sheet papers could somehow win souls without much difficulty or controversy. And I’ve tried different methods & systems designed to lead people to obey the Gospel. Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” tract, verse or method. It’s not that these can’t work, rather that they don’t always work. What I’ve found is that I focused too much on getting through the material rather than focusing on and HARMONIZING with the individual. One instance, a person had asked a specific question, though I knew the answer was much deeper, they couldn’t hear it. I never heard from them again.

No one tract, verse or method will work all the time — BUT specific elements of any may apply. I’m NOT saying don’t learn the tract, verse or method — all Bible knowledge is valuable. What I am saying is be yourself, not the method.

REALITY: People don’t always respond the way you expect or hope.

Here are some more clues:

  • The more we believe in Christ, the Scriptures, and yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have. [Romans 8:35-39 …height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.]
  • The more care we show toward others, the more people will come to know, respect us, and listen to us. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]
  • The more we follow up and follow through, the more growth God will provide. [1Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.]
  • The more we study, the more we will know how to react to any situation. [2Timothy 2:15-16 Study to show thyself approved unto God]
  • The more we harmonize with the person’s situation, and offer answers they can apply — answers they perceive as truth, the MORE CONVERSIONS. [Acts 18:28 ‘Apollos’…showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.]

Always Keep this in mind. We are all EVANGELISTS, and people are expecting us to ask for a change. Don’t disappoint them. Just remember that God gives the increase and it’s our duty to serve Him. When people see that in us, they will be more likely to respond.

As mature Christians, our job is to identify with the person and take what we’ve learned in the Scriptures to lead them to the truth about Christ, which is the only true motivation that leads to conversion. Without a conversion to Christ, there is no conversion.

Harmony is understanding, not manipulating. It’s sensing the tone of the situation, and comfort level of the person — And gives them enough trust to hear.

Even though I haven’t found the perfect “system of evangelism,” I am still searching for “the best way” to teach. And what I have discovered along the way are elements, mostly personal (non-manipulative), that when mastered will create an atmosphere where people will listen to the Word.

Here are four elements to master in acrostic form, when mastered, are the surest (and shortest) formula to long term success. A.M.E.N. These have nothing to do with systems, manipulation, or pressure. These words, elements, and characteristics create harmony.

  • ATTITUDE – a positive & joyful countenance. [1Peter 3:15]
  • MEANING – Having a firm understanding of what you are saying and what you are affirming. [1Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 5:12] “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” [1Peter 4:11].
  • EMPATHY – Love is kind…does not envy…does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; [1Corinthians 13:4-6]
  • NECESSARY – Realize that without evangelism, neither you, I nor anyone else can be saved and that it’s necessary for our own salvation as we seek to obey Christ. [Matt 28:18-20; Romans 10:13-17]

Every evangelist I have ever met wants to have more meaningful studies — and the best way to do that is to never manipulate. Manipulation makes people defensive, reluctant, and distrustful. Mastering these elements will make people attracted to you, like you, trust you, believe you, have confidence in you — and then — study with you.

Arguments I can (not) answer

THERE ARE THINGS people say to me that are so very easy to answer, yet impossible to answer. Sounds confusing? Allow me to explain…

Recently, a man I was sharing the gospel with told me that God speaks to him directly. I asked, “how do you know that the voice in your head is God and not something else?” He emphatically replied, “you can’t tell me that God isn’t talking to me!”

No, I can’t…tell him. Oh, I could give him a sound, Biblical answer like, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” [2Thess 2:11]. I could show him the example of Jacob believing a lie about his son Joseph being dead, then NOT believing the truth when he was told that Joseph was alive [Gen 37:12-33; 45:26]. I could show you passage after passage directing us to the WRITTEN WORD OF GOD for our communication from Him. I could show you that the written word of God…

  • Must be Read – Eph 3:3;
  • Is Complete – 2Tim 3:16-17
  • Devine – 1Thess 2:13
  • Final – Jude 3; Gal 1:6-9
  • Causes Belief – John 20:31
  • Calls – 2Th 2:14

…but he already told me I can’t tell him, therefore I can’t.

It’s sad really. Folks are so convinced of lies (I blame the false teachers in denominationalism [Mat 24:5,11]) that it’s near about impossible to convince them of the truth. In another instance, I showed a “faith only” fellow 1Peter 3:21 [The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us] and asked him what it meant. He said, “I know what it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean you need to be baptized!” He was already convinced of what it DOESN’T mean, that he couldn’t read the words and learn the truth.

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It’s easier to convince a person of a lie than it is to convince them that they’ve been lied to.

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Rather than become discouraged, the Scriptures from God teaches us that the real problem is a lack of love for the truth. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” [2Thess 210]. Once the moral compass of truth is gone, then all we have left is our own lusts and desires.

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Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts. Rom 1:24

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When the moral compass of God’s true written word [John 17:17] is ignored, is it any wonder why people are all over the map with their beliefs, worship, methods for salvation and so many other erroneous ideas? Without the truth of God’s written word, it becomes easy to be tossed about with every wind of doctrine.

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That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Eph 4:14

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Friend, if you’re one of those people who believe that God is “CALLING YOU” or The HOLY SPIRIT is leading you separate and apart from God’s written word, then you’re just being led by your own personal thoughts, lusts and desires. [Mat 22:29]

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Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:13-15

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Let’s look at it one more way…

If God is telling men what to do, separate and apart from God’s word, then why are there over 30,000 different Christian denominations? Is God an author of confusion, does He mind that we’re all saying different things?

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For God is not the author of confusion.

1Corinthians 14:33 

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1Corinthians 1:10

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A Sower Went Out to Sow

A SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? Luke 8:5-9

This parable, as told by our Lord and Master, teaches us about the difficulties of spreading the Gospel. In His explanation [Luke 8:11-15] He shows us that we have good seed, which is the word of God, and that the only failure that occurs in spreading the gospel is on the part of the sower or the receiver, God’s word never fails [Isa 55:11].

There are only 2 reasons why someone rejects the Gospel, you or them. They are responsible for the rejection of the Gospel due to the lack of a good & honest heart [Luke 8:15], or because they do not have a love for the truth.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. [2Thess. 2:10]

We fail the master for the same reason, a lack of love for the Word of God. When we obeyed the Gospel, confessing that Jesus was the Christ, we committed ourselves to His service as lights of the world [Mat 5:14]. Therefore, when He said, “go” we said “ok” [Mat 28:18-20]. When we don’t, we become like the son who disobeyed his Father [Mt 21:30].

Here’s where the lack of love comes in, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” [Mat 22:37]. He also said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” [John 14:15]. Love is exemplified in our obedience toward Him. Which command of God shall we omit? Jesus went on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What better way to demonstrate our love toward a Borger neighbor than to share with them the soul saving Gospel message? There are several ways we can share the Gospel with those closest to us…

ONE, we can show it by acting like Christians every day. This was the case with a woman who had an unbelieving spouse; “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” [1Peter 3:1-2]. When we take an honest look at our behavior and attitudes, will we find that extra special difference from the world? Do we have an above average positive attitude, an above average speech, an above average hope, an above average kindness, an above average show of love, an above average level of service? Rather, and I’m no exception, our daily “conversation” would hardly win anyone.

TWO, we can share the Gospel through our love for each other. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:35]. We are like any family, we have disagreements from time to time, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving one another or treat each other poorly. Folks are watching us and judging us by the way we treat each other. If we’re having trouble with loving each other, then pray for them. It’s hard to keep hatred in your heart when you pray for them.

THIRD, we can talk about the Gospel with others directly. This requires an intentional mindset toward spreading the Gospel. With enough practice we can turn nearly any conversation toward spiritual things [Acts 8:35]. Of course, not everyone cares for these kinds of conversation, in those cases just remember Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Do you WANT others to hear the Gospel and obey it? If we want eternal life bad enough, then we can’t help but have the Gospel burst forth from us. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

FOURTH, we can help others in their evangelism efforts. Some folks are really good at starting Bible studies or inviting to services. Your part may be in being the hospitable host or hostess. Perhaps you can help a young mom with her fussy child, allowing her to concentrate on the study. Paul described this kind of evangelism in 1Corinthians 9:19-23. “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” As in the previous point, we have to WANT it bad enough.

FIFTH, we can refer interested parties to other members more experienced in leading a study. A new convert friend of mine is really good at generating contacts, but has yet acquired the skills to lead a study. One day he shall, but for now he is invaluable in making contacts. Cornelius, as well as Lydia & the Philippian Jailor, referred their entire families to those who could teach the Gospel. [Acts 10:33; 16:15, 32]. We can give our friends and family study material. We have tracts or books or we can pass out the Ready reference of Bible topics bookmark. You can even pass along the weekly bulletin.

LASTLY, we can evangelize through our own joy in the midst of all our sorrows and pains of life. This is the meaning of 1Peter 3:15; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” As Christians, if Heaven awaits us, we can endure even the most difficult of lives. That’s how Job got through the worst tragedy of life, the loss of a child. When people see our struggles, but at the same time see us remain hopeful, they’re going to ask why. Sorrows are key moments in a person’s life and if we can’t trust in the Lord, why would anyone want to know about Him.

Preacher or Pastor What’s the difference?

MOST FOLKS, myself included, have a hard time remembering names. However, many can remember what you do, probably because it’s more tangible than a name.    Let me share with you a conversation that I have nearly every single day;

Them: Hello pastor.
Me: Hello, I’m not a pastor, I’m a preacher.
Them: what’s the difference?
Me: a bunch, would you like to study it?
Them: No, I’m good.

This typical conversation has been condensed for space. I’m never short with them, always jovial and kind, but I do use it as an opportunity to engage in a gospel conversation with folks.

This article is for them. For all of us really. It will be posted online as a tool you can use when they ask you, “what’s your pastor like?”

What’s the difference?

Although all pastors are preachers, not all preachers are pastors.

PREACHERS: These people are “a herald, i.e. of divine truth (especially of the gospel)” WE Vines. Although any one can be a “preacher” when they speak about the Gospel, there is a position in the local congregation which is called “the evangelist.” According to scripture, this is a male who is a herald of the gospel during the preaching portion of the worship. He stands up and preaches the gospel, [2Timothy 4:2; 1Timothy 2:12; 1Corinthians 14:34]. It’s unpopular to say “male only”, but this is the teaching of the New Testament. In no way does this teaching speak to the worth of women, rather it is just a defining of roles. [Galatians 3:28]

In short, a preacher is an evangelist who, in addition to going out to spread the gospel, publicly preaches the gospel during the worship of the local congregation. Paul wrote to the evangelist / preacher Timothy, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” [2Tim 4:5]

PASTORS: This is a specific position held in the local congregation, the qualifications of which are in 1Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9. There are some additional information about “pastors”, also called “elders” in Acts 20:17-35. Here we find that these men are to watch over the local church and to feed the flock; “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28]. From this verse it becomes clear why Elders are also Called Pastors.

An Elder / Pastor can also be an evangelist, laboring as his vocation in the Gospel. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” [1Timothy 5:17]

What’s Your Pastor Like?” This is another question that is frequently asked. What they’re trying to determine is his speaking ability and personality. This questions is often asked by a person who’s thinking about visiting a particular church. While there’s nothing wrong in asking about the speaker, it shouldn’t be the FIRST nor ONLY prerequisite for choosing a church. (Other poor qualities for choosing a church are; games, entertainment, cafes of field trips)

One should seek first the truth; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” [Mat 6:33]. I’ve written about this in a previous article, “How to start a church” [April 19, 2015]. The basics of which are 3 points:

  • Reliance on God’s word for their only Authority. [1Peter 4:11]
  • Correct Worship in spirit and truth. [John 4:24]
    1. Assembling on the correct day, partaking of the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]. Preaching, praying, singing (without the aid of mechanical music) and giving [Acts 20:7, 8, 36; Eph 5:19; 1Cor 16:1].
  • Doing the work of the church; Spreading the Gospel, Edification of the saints, and benevolence for needy saints. [Mat 28:18-20; Eph 4:12; 1Cor 16:1]

More could be said about this subject, hopefully this article has peaked your interest in confirming for yourself about the truth of all matters. Search the scriptures yourselves to learn all the counsel of God.  [Acts 17:11; 1John 4:1-3].

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good
[1Thess 5:21]

God’s Succession Plan

ONE OF THE ARGUMENTS against the church is that we have no line of succession from the church in Jerusalem at Pentecost to the Franklin St. Church of Christ. Some point to Campbell as the originator of the church of Christ in America. This is a false teaching, and demonstrates their failure to understand biblical authority. We, as members of the Franklin St. Church of Christ, do have a direct connection to the first century church that began on Pentecost. Let’s go to the scriptures and look at God succession plan.

God’s 3 step succession Plan

FIRST, Teach our children. God expects His ways to be passed along through our children. In Genesis, we read about a man named Abraham. He was a righteous man and obeyed the Lord faithfully, from the command to leave Ur through the command to sacrifice his son. God said this about Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” [Ge 18:19]. Abraham was spoken well of because God knew that he would pass along the “ways of the Lord” to his children and his household.

Others in scripture seem to have failed in this. Eli had children that did horrible things against the ways of the Lord [1Sam 2:12, 22] and God rebuked Eli for failing to stop it. “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” [1Sam 3:13].

The Lord has been very clear on this point;

De 6:7 And thou shalt teach them (commands, statutes & judgments of the Lord) diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. [De 4:9; 6:20; 11:19; Ps 78:4]

Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. [Pr 19:18; 29:17;]

In the New Testament, Paul taught this same principle, teach it to our children. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4]. Parents play a vital role in God’s succession plan.

SECOND, Teach others. God commands Christians to pass along what they learn to others. This command is contained in the “great commission”; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” [Matthew 28:19-20]. Paul demonstrated his obedience to this command when he instructed Timothy and so many others. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2Timothy 2:2]. This was also a qualification of an Elder, “able to teach” [1Timothy 3:2]. What are they to teach, what else than the “whatsoever I have commanded you.”

THIRDLY, Sow the seed of the kingdom. What all these verses have in common is The word of God. God’s succession plan has ALWAYS been through the teaching of His word to mankind. Look at the parable of the sower; “Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 14 The sower soweth the word… And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” [Mr 4:3-20].

Let’s illustrate this point; If a person desired to grow Florida oranges he would go down to the place where he could buy some orange seeds. Taking that orange seed home, if he were to plant it, nurture it, and provide all that is needed for that seed to grow, in a short time he would be enjoying Oranges. The church today can be planted in any place by sowing the seeds of the kingdom of God, which is His word. We do this by reading, studying and obeying His divine word.

In human institutions we see succession by elections or by birth, as in the case of a monarchy. In God’s kingdom there is also a birth. Christians are “born again” when we obey His word. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” [James 1:18].

Let no one deceive you. We become Christians through His word. His word tells us to Hear the word [Rom 10:14], Believe His word [John 11:24], Repent of our sins [Luke 13:3], Confess Jesus as both Lord and Christ [Matthew 10:32-33], be baptized for the remission of our sins [Mark 16:15-16] and to live faithfully [2Peter 2:20-22]. Plant the seed of God in your heart and become just a Christian.   

– Spencer

I Love Facebook. I Hate Facebook.

THE AVERAGE FACEBOOK user now has about 338 friends, though the median number, 200, is quite a bit lower. This means that while half of all Facebook users have 200 or fewer friends, many of the billion-plus Facebookers have quite a few more. In fact, 15 percent of users have friend lists topping 500.

These numbers are consistent with other statistics on the number of people that the average person knows well enough to come to their wedding or funeral, about 150 – 200 friends. In essence, Facebook allows a person to communicate with every single person they know, every day.

In the past, if folks wanted to speak to every one of their friends they needed to have a TV program. Before that, their own radio program. Before that, 1895, they would have to send a personal communication to each and every person. Before that, it became much more complicated.

WHY I LOVE FACEBOOK

Facebook is a really big hill, a really, really big hill. It is for this reason alone that I love Facebook. As a Christian, I have a duty from God. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14, 16

Facebook gives us Christians an opportunity to demonstrate our good works, our Christian attitudes, our Christian love and our Christian values to every one of our family & friends that we’re connected with through social media. Another thing, when you add in the other forms of public social media, we have a platform that is so large that it would make the first century Christians cry with joy, recognizing the ability to Proclaim the word of the Lord to all the world. They did it the old fashioned way, through word of mouth [Romans 1:8; 10:18; 1Th 1:8].

For most of human history, conveying a message required huge amounts of effort, person to person, and from mouth to ear. Technology has aided in declaring God’s word. A written language, the development of paper. The Roman roads of the first century. The printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 with the invention of the printing press. In our modern times, mass electronic communication methods such as radio, TV and now the internet has increased our reach.

WHY I HATE FACEBOOK

Unfortunately, I have not always shown my good works through social media and Facebook. Many of us use it as a soapbox for our political & personal ranting, ravings and whinings. I’ve personally noticed how we have alienated friends, family and even brethren over our personal opinions. Worse yet, the posting of less that Christ like pictures, likes, links and shares.

On numerous occasions, myself and other brethren, have posted mean spirited, ungodly and downright sinful compositions, even disparaging remarks about the Church! We expect that from the world [1Peter 2:12; 3:16], but ought not be named among brethren. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” [James 3:10]

Though the thoughts may be true and the brethren sometimes falter [1Cor 6:11; 1Peter 2:18], God gave us a method for addressing sinful activities in the church. Go to him alone Mat 18:15, then only the church if he won’t hear you Mat 18:16-17. To take it to the world is absolutely condemned. “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” [1Corinthians 6:1-8]. How does publically complaining about the church of our Lord aid in our evangelism efforts?

I declare to my brethren right now, I CONFESS MY SIN AND REPENT OF THIS UNRIGHTEOUS ACTIVITY. I hope you will too. Please pray for me as I also pray for you.

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” [Matthew 15:11]

– Spencer

“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”  (KJV) [Colossians 4:6]

What if we could end sin?

SUPPOSE THAT we could convince everyone in the world to quit sinning.  What would we have accomplished?

It would appear at first glance that we would have made the world a much better place, but have we really done anything?

Let’s say we could convince all the world to quit drunkenness, yet they still don’t have Christ, we have done very little. Though repentance is a part of the gospel plan of salvation [Luke 13:3], it alone will not save you. Just as faith alone will never save you.

Pick a sin, whatever bothers you most, that you would end instantly. If folks repented of these sin on their own initiative, or through sound reasoning on your part, but they have not Christ you have done nothing.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” [1Corinthians 15:22]. We are made alive when we are “in Christ”, and according to the scriptures we get into Christ through obeying the gospel.

Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is the only way a person can get into Christ. The preposition into indicates a change of relationship. You can search from the front to the back of your Bible, and you will find no other way to get into Christ except by being baptized into Christ. Also Romans 6:3 says the same thing, “Or do you not know, that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” So the only way we can get into Christ is to be baptized into Christ. Either a person has been baptized into Christ, or he is still outside of Christ. We are either in or we are out. Have you been baptized into Christ in order to be saved and have your sins forgiven?  If you haven’t been, then no amount of good works can save you. [Ephesians 2:8-9].

SEEK YE FIRST…

Nowhere in this article am I saying that a person can continue in sin. Paul, in his letter to the Romans said such, [Romans 6:1-3]. It is sin that has separated us from God. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that he will not hear” [Isaiah 59:2]. What I am saying is that we need to approach evangelism from the top down.

All too often we find ourselves in discussions with the world about some particular sin. The discussion usually degrades into a debate, then into an argument until finally they will say, “We just have to agree to disagree.” If, on the other hand, you do convince them that a particular thing is wrong and they change, all you’ve really done is made them a better person, or a better Baptist or a better Lutheran, but you have NOT made them a Christian. If they repent of all of their sins, they still fall short of being “IN CHRIST” just as all who believe that “FAITH ONLY” is all that is necessary unto salvation.

TOP DOWN EVANGELISM

I’ve come to the realization that when a person is truly convicted in their heart that Jesus is the Christ, just as they were at Pentecost [Acts 2:37], then they will do whatever it takes to become a Christian. Until then, it’s nearly impossible to get a person to repent of anything, much less the popular sins of our culture.

It’s for this reason that I have in mind to divert every topic of conversation, with those outside of Christ, to the topic of the Authority of Christ and His plan of salvation. This is what Philip did with the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” [Acts 8:35, 36]. This is why the Eunuch asked, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me from being baptized?”

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus said to them, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” [Matthew 22:36, 37]. This is a true statement, for our Lord said it. Before we can truly obey any command of God, we must first embrace and obey this one. If we can convince the whole world about this command, THEN we have truly done something.