Monday, August 24, 2009


the gospel

children's ministries

extended family
church cohorts
long distance friends
internet buddies
Birthright acquaintances

grocery checker
homeless man
overstressed mom
wayward sister


me + Jesus

There are things I want to do with my life. The gospel kindles a fire in my bosom and it makes me want to leave my nets behind and follow Him on some wild and amazing adventure. Why doesn't everyone desire to find their purpose in the gospel as much as I? They slow me down like a child who has wrapped his body around my leg while I try to walk. Sometimes I feel like looking down at the metaphorical child to declare, "Go away!" Don't they recognize that I am set on ascending?

Jesus was someone who was known for getting "underneath." He lifted others up so that they were hoisted toward God's light and love. Luke 22:25-28 -
And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."
I might do as Jesus has. The good news is living and demonstrating its worth because I permit a carry-on. These are someone(s) who just do not understand God's wonderful grace. They come in between me and another measure of closeness I might gain to fulfill my dreams in Christ. As long as I keep a keen eye on the light of the gospel, all the re-positioning and pushing is not as burdensome as it looks. The gospel fuels passion in the heaving, sufficiently. Ha! God's goodness is powerful enough not only to lift me but many people at once!

I know I'm going to get there just the same because His light does not lie. In fact it is probably God's will that I would be made fit for service to the gospel later on by learning this lesson now. "Hold on tight; you're coming with me."

I'll get there one day... but not without my brother.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Twin gospel concerns

There are two thoughts I have had stemming from watching children respond to the gospel last June.

This year's CEF five-day kid's club had twenty-six children. A few of them were ones I felt had never heard the gospel before, and two little girls who believed in Jesus that week were ones whose mom was reluctant to let them go when I met her. Praise God!

CEF later sent the attendance record sheet for my club with all the names of the kids along with a general newsletter. At the bottom there was a tally:

Decisions, First Time: 6

Assurance: 1

I know most of these kids pretty well. One of the "first times" is my niece. She is five so perhaps she did not understand previous presentations of the gospel. She doesn't have a church-going family but she has me and AWANA. I wonder - was this really her first moment of faith in Jesus?

Another one is a boy belonging to a Spanish pentecostal church, but the mom seems to have a very good understanding of scripture and an active faith life. I wonder... was this really his first profession of faith?

Another eight year old girl is one I am pleased with. She came to the backyard club last year and I am sure, she was a "first time professor" of faith at that time. Then she came to club this year and is again a "first time professor" of the faith. Then I directly took her the following Monday with me to church to a VBS program, and Bonnie and the bible story teacher pulled me aside and said, "She accepted Christ today, but, she seemed to know a lot about the gospel. Was this really her first time?" I said, actually no. They said, "Hmm. Well, you might read her john 10 or other assurance passages."

I am concerned. A 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 gospel message is a/the gospel that saves the lost. Those who are receiving the Word of God are often not expressing faith that they are saved. What if the gospel has become just a list of beliefs to profess? What if the children do not understand that they have been invited by Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life? This is one point of reflection I have gained through this experience.

But I have a second point of concern.

There were some older boys and their little gang who I had longed to share the gospel with last summer but they do not live in this area and disappeared for the '08-'09 school year. I was thrilled to see them wandering around again this summer. I invited them but they didn't show up till the following week. Monday at two o' clock there was a knock on the door. "We're here for the club!" they declared. I laughed and said, "You missed it, I'm so sorry guys!" They asked what they missed, and I said, "come here and I'll show you!" They all sat patiently through the CEF Wordless Book gospel. I had them bow their heads and hopefully pray with me according to their own sense of believing what they had heard from scripture about becoming a child of God. Those two boys said, "We want to learn how to read the bible." I said, come and see me and I will teach you, okay?

I was pretty excited about that but somehow they did not come around very often. Then two weeks ago they showed up saying, "We want to take Grace [my daughter] with us to church on Sunday. Can she come??"

Hmm. "What church?"

"Oh, it's just down that way, you know that one? They are giving out ten dollars to the one who brings the most friends with on Sunday. We just get on the bus in the morning when it comes by." I've seen that bus. I know the church "down there." It's the Oneness Pentecostals, who will tell them, eventually after they've begun to build relationships with the people there, that they aren't truly saved till they've spoken in tongues after being immersed in water.

The eight-year-old girl I spoke of above, the one who now three times has professed faith in Jesus "for the first time" is one of those kids getting on the bus. This makes me very upset. I have been praying about what to do.

They've come back over and hung out. I told all of them them in a serious manner that I want them to know for sure that Jesus accepts them unconditionally because of their believing in the cross and I've read them john 6:47. I've done this two times when they've been with me. But now, all they're thinking about is ten dollars. Some church will pay them money, to attend. And they want money, because they're kids. What can I offer them? What can Christ offer them that will over-ride what this church has decomposed the gospel to be about?

All this hard work that CEF has done, that I have been desiring for their sake, is now at risk. This is when the sectarian group moves in and does what they do best.

Should I play on the same terms? I was thinking much better than anything I can do to convince them to be cautious with them is to implant the Word into their hearts and minds. I have tentatively decided to pay each child one dollar for every scripture they will work to memorize. That way it's guaranteed and based on their own accomplishment.

Then, even if they go to that church, and their members tell them, "you aren't saved" they will have to battle with scripture itself -

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47

But I am by no means sure that this is God's will for them. I keep praying, feeling unsettled and unsure. I believe Jesus is capable of doing more amazing things with these little ones than anything I might come up with.

Any suggestions...?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Nugget of Wisdom

Ps. 141:5
Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Rev. 3:19
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

I had a conversation yesterday with my dad. We were talking about other things, but he brought out some insight from his career. It was out of the context of post-9/11, when the FBI had to adjust its orientation in part. Before, they had only been concerned with investigations which is collecting information about a crime that has already taken place. Now they needed to collect intelligence, to predict and prevent terrorism before it takes place. They had no framework and no program and they hired my dad out of retirement because of his background in intelligence, and he built for them a program from scratch.

In intelligence,

  • There are things you know that you know
  • There are things you know that you do not know
  • And there are things you do not know that you do not know

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Reckon & Abide

So-and-so is "not walking with God." I forget how offensive the statement may be outside of free grace. The reply comes "Well I know so-and-so is saved, undoubtedly! So how can we even be talking about whether they are walking with God?" Then we have discussion about what walking in the flesh is supposed to look like.

I appreciate so much learning recently in conversations with Tim, Jim, Alvin and Gary that most of the "bare minimum" questions (regarding freedom in the LORD) that I ask are all answered in the same way: "The answer is that we must be abiding in Him." I'm adoring how it is bringing it back to the Word of God, because only in His mindset may I find rest and righteousness. This is so good for me. I need correction in this area. My drift far away from fundamentalism and legalism had been sending me somewhere in approach of universalism.

Yes; it's largely about abiding; choices; intention.... Though I believe there is a subdued sanctification that occurs for the Christian who "shows up."

We recently benefitted from a doctoral candidate transplanted from Texas who had never heard of free grace theology. He taught our sunday school as a guest. His six week lesson was through the Upper Room Discourse. He began and concluded with his testimony. "I used to believe for years that all I had to do was just show up, you know, for church and ministry and that's all it took for me to become pleasing in God's eyes. But now I understand it from a new perspective that we must abide in Him; it's a choice we make."

I could call this "BAM!" - sanctification, like Alvin calls it "ZAP!" - salvation. God "mercifully sometimes" sends you opportunities to increase your faith and increase your obedience or... He doesn't.

Way back in the beginning when I was 21, the first mentor I had who was a (calvinist) grad of Denver Seminary told me that the reason why God doesn't answer some prayers is because "you just have to keep asking. And your requests start to pile up. Eventually the pile of prayers becomes so large, God can't ignore it any longer, and He answers it." Calvinism has seemed to make our contriteness and God's goodness, impotent.

I have been one of those Christians who resented prayer and one who "showed up" but didn't know I should "choose to abide"! The pessimism of calvinism caused me to miss so very much. I went to my pastor to try and understand why victory was elusive. He happened to be free grace, but I didn't know that till a year later when I stumbled into a seminary class on Romans, and there he was, sitting there with his wife and his daughter and her husband. That was the class where I "heard" these verses for the first time, clearly (Romans 6:11-22):
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
I read that last paragraph and understand it again, new. We either bear fruits of unrighteousness while in the flesh, or fruits of righteousness which are obtaining for us the quality of our eternal life. As Dr. Taliaferro taught, walking in the Spirit is like a light switch. It's either on or off, and the potential may be either one at any given moment.

As the class drew near a close, my free grace pastor and I crossed paths out in the parking lot. It was a single moment but I'll never forget. It was one of those looks at him that'll never be said in words with appropriate power. He wanted to know what was up. I shook my head in wonder as if saying, "Oh -- it's on."

I don't want anything to stand in my way. God is good, and I have no doubt. As long as I keep walking, He is able and fair to meet all my needs and I take peace in that! I believe that God's heart is to share inward regeneration like the beat on the street.

This is the video I sent my FG pastor as thanks for what I thought he must have observed; the fruit of free grace in my life. You will see the man in this video start off with some first steps, one foot after another, getting started in abiding. I want to share it with whoever may read this blog. What an amazing thing to discover, as we walk with Christ, the very evolution and conclusion of this video.... Oh, we have such a special thing in free grace! Keep walking! :D

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