The Door

27 11 2012

 

John 10:9
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.

During our annual Thanksgiving Blessing at our church (Grand Avenue Baptist Church) where we present the gospel message and give away 1200 full turkey dinners, our Lead Pastor, Jeff Crawford, presented a message entitled “The Door.” Because of God’s Spirit moving, we saw hundreds of people respond to this message, and that very day we baptized almost 70 people. The one thing that struck me about this message was its simplicity. I think that too often we forget that God does not make it complicated. The good news of Jesus Christ redeeming a lost and dying world is a very simple message that can be explained with an everyday example of a door. It does not take an expert in theology to explain it, and even a young child can understand it.

When my family and I served as missionaries in Tanzania, the one thing that we dealt with more than anything was confusion. The tribal people there knew of the Bible. They knew of Jesus. They heard sermons and worship songs on the radio. The reason that these people were confused was not because God’s message is complicated, but because humans and their sin twisted the gospel into something unrecognizable through their own prejudices, denominations, and pride. I believe that the same thing is happening here in the United States and probably most other places around the globe. The people who responded to Jeff’s message at Thanksgiving Blessing had probably been in church before. They undoubtedly knew who Jesus was, but most of them came in, unknowingly, with a distorted, twisted, and confused view of Jesus and the gospel. When presented in all its beautiful simplicity, the gospel “spoke” truth in their hearts for the first time, and they responded with enthusiasm.

As followers of Jesus, we must be faithful in presenting the pure gospel message – nothing more and nothing less – and allow it to do its own work in and on the heart of the hearers. This brings me to a question… if the gospel is so simple and the Holy Spirit does all the work, why do we not share it more often? We know that people are confused and yearning for and needing this vital message, yet we remain silent. If we can fully explain the gospel using a basic example of a door, or a gate, or a narrow path, etc., this leaves us with no excuse to share it except disobedience. Jeff presented the gospel clearly and concisely, and certainly he is a gifted speaker, but Jesus has called all of us to share the Good News – not just seminary-educated preachers. Pray about who God would have you share the gospel with this Christmas season and be obedient to do it even if you feel unqualified or ill-prepared. Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will give you the words to say at the right time. I promise, you will not regret it.





Indigenous Tribes

30 09 2012

 

I am on my way to Colombia again, and I am extremely excited! I love our families that serve there, and I love the people that they are serving. It is extremely difficult work, though. I have had many people question my sanity because of the places that we are traveling, but there is a good reason. The people groups that are left unreached are either a hard-hearted people or very difficult to get to. When Jesus called us to go reach the nations, he did not add an “only if it is safe” clause. The Indigenous Tribes of the Amazon River Basin happen to be both difficult to reach and extremely hard find. Many of them speak Spanish, but their heart language is a little-known tribal language that few outsiders know. The only way to reach them is to travel up the rivers and streams which is expensive and can be dangerous. The environment is hot and humid. There are mosquitoes everywhere. There is disease, hunger, water problems, flooding, etc. On top of all of this, they are very resistant to the gospel. In many cases, they know just enough to know how to refuse you. In every village along the river there is an abandoned Catholic Church. I have heard that the priests show up at the churches a couple of times a year. The rest of the time, the buildings sit empty, rotting in the humid air. In addition to all of this, there is pressure from governments, who have been encouraged by popular anthropologists, to leave these tribes alone, because their culture is being destroyed. Of course, we believe that their culture is already destroyed by sin, and that by sharing with them the love of Jesus, we are allowing them to move toward the perfect culture in which God created them to be.

Please be in prayer for these tribes. Jeff and I will be traveling to visit a couple of villages. One of the strategies that the missionaries have found to be effective is to share Bible stories with the tribes, and we will be doing this during our visit.





Do Something

10 09 2012

 

We had three great lessons yesterday at church that all went together perfectly! In Bible Study we started the fantastic Lifeway curriculum, The Gospel Project. In that first lesson we learned that God speaks through general and special revelation with power and authority. We are then blessed to even be able to hear his voice through God’s grace and mercy. And lastly his voice always calls us to a task that we a supposed to do out of faithful obedience. Our Lead Pastor, Jeff Crawford, then gave a message about the faith of Elijah, and he told the story of how God called the Israelites to cross the Jordan River by first stepping into it in faith. Our church was hugely blessed to have the Lead Pastor of Harvest Time, Marty Sloan, preach our Sunday evening message. He talked about how God works to use us in His work. Sometimes we over-spiritualize things when we just need to do something.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is God and came to earth as a human both fully God and fully man. He was nailed to a cross in our place, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. He then, with all power and authority, gave all of us the general revelation to tell everyone on the planet this very message. We are blessed to be able to hear the message for ourselves and doubly blessed to be asked of Jesus to be apart of His plan to redeem the world. Now it is simply up to us to do something about it. Far too often, we hear this message, and we stop at feeling a warm fuzzy over the blessing of God. Most church members will never do anything about it. I have heard many teachers and pastors say that the reason for this is that people enjoy their comfort zones and by default fall back into them. This is exactly true, but I believe that it goes deeper than that. At the heart of every comfort zone is pride. The reason that more people are not following the Great Commission is because they are the center of the universe in their own minds. They really don’t see Jesus’ command as a blessing but a burden. They have a token gratitude for what Jesus did for them on the cross but not enough to feel like they owe him anything. It is as if all our churches are full a people eating an incredible feast with the best service, leaving a small tip in the offering plate, but skipping out on the bill. We do this for years on end and expect not to be judged by a holy and righteous God.

How about some hard questions: When was the last time someone came to know Christ because of you sharing your testimony? How many people from different nations will worship in heaven one day because of your work on the mission field? How many lost friends do you have, and how many of them have you invited to church or talked to them about spiritual matters?

We have to understand that God did not just throw out the Great Commission as an afterthought. It really is His plan to redeem a lost world. The question is not whether you will pray about it or attend another Bible study or come to church next Sunday, but what will you do about it! How will you be apart of reaching this world for Jesus Christ?





Grand Family Adoption Fund

14 05 2012

It was a very exciting day at church yesterday. As a part of our Mother’s Day celebration, we launched the Grand Family Adoption Fund. This fund is designed to financially help those of our church membership that would like to adopt domestically or internationally. Our Lead Pastor, Jeff Crawford, along with the testimony of his wife, Julie, preached a message on adoption in which they announced their intention to adopt internationally from the country of Colombia. Jeff just posted on his blog his list of reasons why he chose to adopt. I highly recommend jumping over there to read it.

My prayer through all of this – my wife and I deciding to adopt, our student pastor and wife announcing their decision to adopt, our pastor and his wife deciding to adopt, and the launch of the adoption fund – is that we will encourage and inspire others to adopt as well. Our pastor yesterday asked everyone to stand up that has been directly touched by adoption, and I was blown away by the amount of people. God is doing an incredible thing in our church. It is not happening because it is en vogue to adopt. It is happening because the Spirit of God is doing a gospel-centered, Great Commission work on our congregation right now.

We have also launched this fund, because we want everyone to be apart of the adoption process. Too many times, adoption is done in privacy. I acknowledge the fact that sometimes it should be done in such a manner, but I think the majority of the time it could be done with the full support of the church. When my family and I served on the mission field, the other missionary kids called me Uncle Scott and my wife was Aunt Jennifer. My boys called the other missionaries aunts and uncles, too. This is how it should be in our churches. We need to see that it does not just take a great set of parents to raise a child, but a whole church. This can be a beautiful thing when done with the process of adoption.

There are many members of our church, maybe even you as you read this, that are teetering on the edge of whether to adopt or not. My challenge to you is to quit asking the question, “Why?” and start asking the question, “Why not?” Instead of waiting for some mystical sign or audible voice from God to adopt, seek His Word which is written in black and white and available right now. Come at it from a different angle. Quit starting with, “I’m saying no until God tells me otherwise.” Start with, “I’m saying yes, until God shuts that door.”





The Idea of Missions

1 04 2012

In today’s sermon, Pastor Jeff Crawford (read his blog here), talked about how God is always trying to move us somewhere to somebody. He then concluded that the problem is that most Christians don’t move. As I was thinking about this, I thought that most believers, if not all, love the idea of missions, but really do little to nothing for the kingdom. In a gospel-centered church, congregants will hear over and over about how they should invite friends and neighbors to church, look for opportunities to share the gospel, sign up for mission trips, etc. The fact is that a very small percentage will actually ever do these things. So the next logical question then is: Why not?

I do not know of any believer that has a problem with Jesus being our Savior. I do not know of any Christian that would not agree that Jesus is the Savior for all the world. Most Christians that I know love the idea of going to the remotest portions of our planet to share the gospel, as long as it is not them. They want to see the Muslims saved. They want to see churches continue to be planted in East Asia. They want to hear about the miracles that our missionaries are experiencing. But to actually be a part of it themselves, they would have to make Jesus their Lord. This is where I see the answer to the “why not?” question. The reason that the vast majority of so-called believers will not go next door to share Jesus with their neighbor, much less go to Central Asia on a mission trip, is because Jesus is not their Lord (think, boss). If Jesus is our Lord, and He gives us a command, we do it. It really is that simple. ¬†This leaves us with two options for the answer: either we are disobedient believers or we are no believers at all.

Jesus did not design this to be rocket science Рonly for the elite Christian to figure out. It is constantly staring us in the face both Biblically and demographically. As we look to the scriptures, it is clear that Jesus has commanded us both in His words and His example to share the gospel. As we look to the world population, we see the great need for Jesus everywhere, but especially in the unreached and least-reached places. It is clear that Jesus has mandated that we are to stay here on planet Earth to fulfill the Great Commission. If we are not a part of this plan, then we are missing out on our one purpose for life.

In high school, I used to run track. I loved running the half mile race. What would you think, if you were watching a race, and one of the runners, instead of staying in their lane around the track, just began to run in a little circle around the starting line? You would think that guy is crazy. Yet so many Christians do just that. They run around in their own little circle saying how much they love Jesus, His commission, and His people, all the while they are missing the race. Don’t be a crazy person! I implore you to not just like the idea of missions, but to run the race! Truly make Jesus your Lord, step out in faithful obedience, and experience the blessing of being a part of God’s awesome story!








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