Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Many Police Officers Won't Enter the Doors of Your Church, Pastor

Deputy Sheriff Raul V. Gama
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Cause of Death: Automobile accident

Deputy Sheriff David Stan Piquette
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Friday, July 7, 2006
Cause of Death: Vehicular assault

Deputy Sheriff Maria Cecilia Rosa
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff Pierre Walter Bain
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Thursday, March 23, 2006
Cause of Death: Motorcycle accident

Deputy Sheriff Jerry Ortiz
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Friday, June 24, 2005
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff James Phillip Tutino
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Cause of Death: Vehicular assault

Deputy Sheriff Michael Richard Arruda
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Cause of Death: Gunfire (Accidental)

Deputy Stephen Douglas Sorensen
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Saturday, August 2, 2003
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff David Alan Powell
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Saturday, November 30, 2002
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff David William March
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Monday, April 29, 2002
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff Hagop Jake Kuredjian
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, CA
EOW: Friday, August 31, 2001
Cause of Death: Gunfire

All fallen heroes: men and women who gave their lives in the line-of-duty. There are, of course, many others. Too many.

Why have I listed these 11 fallen deputy sheriffs? Yes, they were all members of my department. Yes, they were all killed in the line-of-duty while I served as a deputy sheriff. But during my 20 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department there were several others killed in the line-of-duty. The fact that I have not listed all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during my tenure as a law enforcement professional in no way whatsoever should be seen as slight. In no way should the fact that their names are not listed above be seen as a failure on my part to love and respect them or to give proper tribute to their heroism.

What is unique about the above list, at least in my life, is that I was an on-scene chaplain for all 11 of the above line-of-duty deaths. I ministered to their families. I ministered to their brothers and sisters behind the badge, whether they wore the tan and green of the LASD, blue, or black uniforms. I attended their funerals. I wept alongside my law enforcement brethren. And I was given the honor and privilege to preach the gospel to some 5,000 uniformed officers as I officiated the memorial service of one of the above-listed heroes.

I remember all of their names, all of their faces, how they died. I remember every thought, every feeling, as I tried to serve and comfort my law enforcement family. Some of those memories still fill me with pain and sorrow.

I remember men, real men of strength and courage collapse in my arms, stricken by grief unbearable.

I remember holding one of my law enforcement brethren in my arms, the front of his uniform covered in the blood of a fallen brother with whom we had both served.

I remember having to tell the younger brother of a fallen hero that his brother was dead.

I remember taking family members of fallen heroes to the place where their loved one gave the last full measure.

I remember watching these family members ask me to show them the "exact spot" their fallen hero fell, and then have them drop to the ground as they caressed the spot with their hands, as if to touch their fallen hero one more time.

I remember every memorial park and memorial statue dedication for which I was asked to provide an invocation and the reopening of wounds they caused. I remember well-intended, respectful, honorable, and caring city, county, and state officials, as well as citizen groups doing their very best to pay proper homage to a fallen hero, while never knowing, never understanding that the uniformed personnel in attendance, while grateful, just wished the ceremonies would stop so their healing could begin.

Writing this brings me to tears.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Officer Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old, six-year veteran of the Ferguson Police Department, with a discipline-free service record, was working a one-man patrol unit, on Saturday, August 9, 2014. While assisting paramedics on a “sick call,” a call came out of a “strong-armed robbery” at a convenience store, at 11:51 AM. The handling officer puts out a description of the suspects. Officer Wilson leaves the “sick call” to assist on the “strong-arm robbery” call.

At approximately 12:01 PM, Officer Wilson encounters Michael Brown (18-years-old, 6’4”, 300 lbs) and his friend, Dorian Johnson, on the street. Officer Wilson orders the two to stop walking in the middle of the street, because they were obstructing traffic. Brown and Johnson ignore Officer Wilson’s lawful order. Officer Wilson starts to get out of his car to contact the two men.

Michael Brown allegedly attacks Officer Wilson, shoving him back into his patrol car. Brown beats Officer Wilson about the head and face, seriously injuring Officer Wilson. It has been reported that Officer Wilson sustained an orbital blowout fracture to one of his eye sockets.

During the fight inside the patrol car, Officer Wilson’s weapon discharges as the two men struggle for control of Officer Wilson's gun. It is unknown at this time if Officer Wilson or Michael Brown fired the first shot from Officer Wilson’s gun.

Michael Brown stops his attack on Officer Wilson and begins to walk away. Officer Wilson, with his gun drawn, orders Brown to stop. Brown turns around, reportedly raises his hands in the air, and says words to the affect, “What? Are you going to shoot me?”

Brown then allegedly charges back toward Officer Wilson. Officer Wilson fires several rounds, striking Brown several times in the right arm and in the head. Brown falls to the ground and dies at the scene.

Everything I just shared with you—from the time Officer Wilson contacts Brown and Johnson in the middle of the street, until the first unit arrives on scene—three minutes elapsed.

THREE MINUTES.


The Aftermath and Perspective

USA Today provides a fairly objective timeline of not only the confrontation between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown, but of the unrest and rioting that ensued in the days following the incident.

I watched via online news outlets as the situation quickly deteriorated in Ferguson, MO. The sights and sounds took me back to three days in the Spring of 1992 when I was called to South Central Los Angeles with other deputy sheriffs to assist the Los Angeles Police Department in the protection of life and property and in the restoration of law and order, during what came to be known as the "Rodney King Riots."

I remember driving in a caravan of patrol cars from Santa Clarita Valley Station to South Central Los Angeles. I remember being struck by the fact that we were the only cars driving into the city. I remember seeing black smoke rising from what seemed like a hundred different places. I remember getting off the freeway, entering the city streets, and saying under my breath, "This is a war zone."

I remember seeing men, women, and children--mostly people of color--running in and out of vandalized businesses carrying property not their own. I will never forget, as long as I live, the sight of a little girl--maybe seven-years-old--running out of an electronics store carrying a boxed piece of equipment. I remember sardonically asking myself, "What is she angry about?"

I realized at that moment that the riots were less about what many perceived to be a miscarriage of justice in a case of alleged police brutality, and more about criminal opportunism. I realized at that moment that people of color were preying upon and victimizing other people of color. And why? They saw an opportunity to commit crime and use perceived racism on the part of the police to justify their criminal behavior.

Rodney King, now deceased, was black. The officers who detained and tried to subdue him, and subsequently used a considerable amount of force against him were white. And now black people of all ages were venting their rage against..........other black people, black business owners, their neighbors. They weren't traveling to predominantly white communities to loot and destroy white businesses. They were committing crimes of opportunity and convenience, disguised as rage against the machine--the white machine.

It is very important to note, here, that no reasonable person can deny that there have been instances of police brutality against people of color. Anyone who denies this is either woefully ignorant or blatantly dishonest. Yes, racism is real. And yes, there are police officers who are racists. I can say that because I believe I worked with a few. But the fact that an incident takes place between an officer of one race and a person of another race (regardless of what races are involved) does not, by default, make the incident racially motivated on the part of either person.

For the record: I believe there is only one race--the human race. I believe there is one race comprised of many different people groups. But we are all part of the same race.


Profiling: Racial and Otherwise

Racism is color blind. There is racism against whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc. Racism in all its forms, against anyone, is wrong.

Are there officers on the streets who profile people solely on the basis of race? Yes. And that is wrong. No one should be presumed guilty for no other reason than the color of their skin, whether white or any other shade. But there are legitimate forms of profiling.

Yes, the law enforcement community engages in profiling. Based on years of training and experience, law enforcement professionals are able to distinguish, with a level of accuracy foreign to the civilian populace, the good guys from the bad guys--regardless of the race of the individual being profiled. While hesitant to bring on visions of Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," you want officers to profile. You need officers to profile.

When an officer sees a man late at night, riding a bicycle with no lights or reflectors, with a pair of bolt cutters in his hand, you want the officer to assume he is coming to burglarize your home and not give him the benefit of the doubt and think the man locked himself out of his own house.

When an officer sees four teenage boys walking into your high-dollar jewelry store, you want the officer to think they may be coming into your store to rob you. You don't want the officer to think that they are all looking for engagement rings they won't need for about ten years.

When an officer sees a middle-aged man sitting alone in a car, near an elementary school, but away from where parents usually park, you want the officer to think he may be a predator who is waiting to prey upon a child. You don't want the officer to assume the man is just a dad waiting for his child to get out of school.

I could go on for hours.

The point should be obvious. You want officers to do things that make you uncomfortable, within the confines of the law; you just don't want to know about it. You want officers to profile, to err on the side of caution, protection, and service--to be proactive instead of reactive in their enforcement efforts. You want officers to profile, so long as it never touches you. You want officers to stop speeders on your street. After all, you've complained to the station enough about teenagers racing up and down the street. You want officers to pull people over. Yet you cry, "Foul!" You cry, "Profiling!" if your son or daughter gets stopped for speeding on your own street.

And lest it go unconsidered and unchallenged if it is not mentioned here: you, the reader, profile every day of your life. You walk on one side of the street or the other based on who is on the other side of the street--a person, regardless of race, who makes you feel uncomfortable. You profile certain parts of your city--areas you deem safe or unsafe to venture into after dark. You profile people you believe live on the "other side of the tracks," regardless of what side of the tracks you find yourself.

You say you don't want police to profile people, yet you humph with disgust when a 90-year-old black, Mexican, Asian, or white woman is searched by TSA--maybe your grandmother, while wishing (although too afraid to say it aloud out of fear of being labeled a "racist") the officers would search the group of Middle-Eastern-looking men boarding your plane in front of you.

And you profile people who come into your church, visitors, regardless of their race. You look at how they dress. You watch to see if they will raise or clap their hands during worship. You watch to see if they put something in the plate or let it pass by. You decide if they are "right" for your church, without every walking up to them to say, "Hello."

Please don't decry the race-free profiling officers do based on years of training and experience, as they work not only in your community, but in the parts of your community about which you would rather not think. Please don't snort a self-righteous snort, turning your nose up at officers, when you profile every day of your life.

Don't be a hypocrite.


Police Brutality Is Always Wrong

Police brutality, the use of force at a level that can be deemed, beyond a reasonable doubt, above and beyond that level of force necessary to overcome the resistance of an assailant, is never appropriate. I say this, not as an armchair quarterback, but as a retired law enforcement professional who seeks to be consistent and just in my position. Officers who use what is defined by law (not by the emotional opinions of the populace) as excessive force should be held accountable for their actions--without exception. No officer is above the law. No officer who thinks he is above the law is fit for duty. He is a disgrace to his uniform and profession.

As of yet, no evidence has been submitted to or weighed by a jury of Officer Wilson's peers that indicates the deadly force Officer Wilson used was either unreasonable or excessive. Why? The investigation is ongoing.

As of yet, there is not a shred of evidence--NONE--that the tragic incident that occurred between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown was racially motivated, on the part of either man. Officer Wilson and Michael Brown have not made this tragedy about race. The armchair quarterbacks, pundits, race-baiters, media, and rioters have made this about race.

Sadly, some well-known and respected Christian pastors and theologians (men I respect and admire) have fanned the racial flames by joining (albeit in all likelihood unintentionally) the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, discredited men of ill-repute, by offering inflammatory rhetoric on social media platforms. Some have drawn negative conclusions not only about Officer Darren Wilson, but of the law enforcement profession as a whole. They have drawn these conclusions with pens and keystrokes, with nothing more than hearsay, innuendo, and regurgitated incomplete and sometimes erroneous information upon which to draw their conclusions. The evidence has not yet been presented, let alone weighed, yet some pastors have tried and convicted Officer Wilson while furthering the errant characterization of Michael Brown as an innocent teen and the law enforcement community as an out-of-control mob of thugs.

And that's why police officers won't be coming to your church this Sunday, pastor.


Why Police Officers Won't Come to Your Church, Pastor

Members of the law enforcement community are on Facebook and Twitter. They have searched the same hashtags you have: #MichaelBrown, #DarrenWilson, #Ferguson, #riots, #racism, #NoJusticeNoPeace, etc. They have searched the hashtags you have used, pastor.

Members of the law enforcement community read the news, both print and online. They watch the news on TV. They see "Right Reverend So-and-So" asking for Officer Wilson's head on a platter.

Members of the law enforcement community see you, pastor, yell, "No Justice! No peace!" They were told once that Christian pastors are supposed to be ministers of reconciliation. They were told once that Christian pastors were men who, because they believe the Bible, also believe in law, order, justice, truth, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and hope. And then they read your blog, or see your tweet, or see your Facebook post, or see you in front of the camera and microphone. And they profile you.

Members of the law enforcement community determine, based on years of training and experience, that you don't really care about them or their families. You're one of "them." In their mind, you're just another "man of God" looking for your 15 minutes. In their mind, you're just another clergyman jumping on the anti-law enforcement bandwagon. In their mind, you'll shake hands with the Chief of Police; you'll join in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new police station or the new tactical piece of equipment to help in the war on drugs and gang violence in your community; you'll claim to be a bridge-builder between the police and the community. But at the first sign of trouble, you who represent the crucified and risen Savior will crucify an officer. You'll give the strong-arm robbery suspect the benefit of the doubt, not the police officer.

Pastor, you will yell, "Peace! Peace!" where there is no peace. And there is no peace, at least not which can be attributed to you, because you choose to set aside your God-given ministry of reconciliation and pursue a ministry of vilification. Pastor, can you see through the haze of what you call "righteous indignation" long enough to see why police officers won't come to your church for help, for comfort, for solace, for healing.....for Christ?

Pastor, I implore you to seek God for more wisdom, more discernment, more discretion, more Christ-likeness before you ever again insert yourself as a voice in the aftermath of a critical incident involving law enforcement. Instead of inciting rioters to rebel against authority, preach the gospel to those who loot businesses, steal from their neighbors, hurt other people with murder in their heart, and are bound for hell unless they repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Instead of fanning the flames of unrest and rebellion with your 140-character attacks against law enforcement, use those 140 characters to call all people, on both sides of the divide, to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Instead of marginalizing and jeopardizing members of the law enforcement family and their families 140 characters at a time, tell the world there can be no peace without believing the gospel of peace and submission to Christ as Lord.

And pastor, don't worry. No matter what you think of the law enforcement community, they will come when you call.


We Will Always Come When Called

One of the things I love most about my law enforcement brethren is that no matter how much they are despised by Christians and non-Christians alike, they will still come when called. They will still risk their lives to handle the situations you either can't or won't, pastor. They won't ask your political or religious persuasion before they help you. They won't ask the color of your skin before they respond to your house ablaze and pull you out, or crawl into your overturned car to render aid, or rush to your store or home while a robbery is in progress, or rush to your church when a madman enters waving a gun. They are willing to die for you, knowing you will likely stand by, watch, and do nothing while they are assaulted in the middle of your street.

Yes, they all knew the job was dangerous when they took it. My law enforcement brethren don't want your pity. They've learned not to expect your praise or thanks. Sad, isn't it?

Yes, there are "bad cops." The law enforcement community draws from the same fallible human race as every other profession--the same human race to which you belong, pastor. Officers who violate the law or department policies should be disciplined accordingly. No good officer will disagree. That being said: the vast majority of law enforcement professionals do the job because they genuinely want to protect and serve. They want to do that which most human beings lack the requisite selflessness and courage to do--protect and serve.

And pastor, with integrity of heart, I hope you can keep this in mind. If, God forbid I pray, anyone ever tries to break into your home in the middle of the night, you will not call community leaders. You will not call activists. You will not call the young men hanging out in the neighborhood. You will call the police.

Pastor, if I was still serving as a deputy sheriff, I would come if you called, in spite of how you have behaved in the aftermath of the Ferguson situation.

Deputy Sheriff Raul V. Gama, Deputy Sheriff David Stan Piquette, Deputy Sheriff Maria Cecilia Rosa, Deputy Sheriff Pierre Walter Bain, Deputy Sheriff Jerry Ortiz, Deputy Sheriff James Phillip Tutino, Deputy Sheriff Michael Richard Arruda, Deputy Stephen Douglas Sorensen, Deputy Sheriff David Alan Powell, Deputy Sheriff David William March, and Deputy Sheriff Hagop Jake Kuredjian: if they were still alive, if they had not already given the last full measure and made the ultimate sacrifice, they too would come if you called, pastor.

Please, pastor, please; try to remember this the next time you rest your hands on your keyboard and get ready to type.


To My Brothers and Sisters Behind the Badge

I would be remiss if I did not make something as clear as possible.

The pastors I have addressed in this article represent a vocal, ill-informed, and mistaken few. They do not represent the wider Body of Christ. They do not represent the many, many pastors and churches who love you for who you are and what you do. The majority of Christians, including pastors, greatly appreciate your sacrificial service on behalf of the communities you protect and serve. They pray for you because you are the front line of defense, law, and order in every government instituted by God (Romans 13:1-5). They pray for your families because in their congregations are your brothers and sisters behind the badge who have shared with their church families a glimpse of what life is like behind the badge.

Christians are taught by good pastors to respect authority and to live according to the laws of the land so long as those laws do not contradict what God commands of His people. And some of the pastors making the most noise against law enforcement, right now, as hard as it may be to believe, are actually good pastors. They simply have a sinful blind spot in some areas when it comes to law enforcement. That's not an excuse for their behavior; they are without excuse.

Yes, we in the law enforcement community profile people. We're good at it. And it is a tactic we must employ to safely and professionally work the streets. But, sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes we profile everyone in a group as acting and thinking the same way, when it is only a few in a the group that taints the reputation of the rest of the group. We know that within a gang-infested neighborhood there are law-abiding citizens--the kind of people we want to help, protect, and serve. We know that it only takes a few criminals in a neighborhood to taint the reputation of the entire community. We savor like a breath of fresh air the person in the community who says "thank you," who points us to problem areas, who advocates for us with their neighbors. And it makes us want to fight harder for that community and try a little harder to give the good folks in the neighborhood the benefit of the doubt.

I know it's easy to lump all pastors and professing Christians in with those pastors and professing Christians who are quick to play the race card, who are quick to scream for justice with no concern as to whether or not an officer involved in a shooting or other critical incident receives justice. I know because I have struggled with this at times and I am a Christian who has served as a deputy sheriff, a pastor, and a law enforcement chaplain.

I also know it's easy to lump God in with those in the Christian community who mistreat you, who don't appreciate you, who vilify you, who disdain you.

Please know, my brothers and sisters behind the badge, what I'm about to say to you I say because I love you as if you were my own flesh and blood.

You, as well as anyone, know how fragile life is. You know that tomorrow isn't promised to anyone, including you. But you must also know this. When you die and stand before God, you will not be able to use as a defense for your own sins against God the way you were mistreated by those who say, "In Jesus' name." You will not give an account for the sins committed against you by professing Christians. You will give an account before God for the sins you have committed against Him. He will judge each person according to the perfect moral standard He has written on every human heart.

You know it is a sin to lie because they know God is Truth. You know it is wrong to harbor bitterness, resentment, and hatred in their heart toward another person because they know God is love. You know it is wrong to fornicate (to engage sexually with a man or a woman outside the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman). You know it is wrong to look and think with lust. You know it is wrong to commit adultery. You know it is wrong to engage in homosexuality, lesbianism, or any other form of sexual depravity because you know God is Faithful. You know it is wrong to take the name of the Lord your God in vain, to bring his name down low and use it as an adjectival term of excitement, anger, sorrow, or fear, because you know God is Holy.

For the above reasons, and others, everyone who stands before God to give an account will do so without excuse. No one will be able to claim innocence or ignorance of violating God’s law--whether in thought, word, or deed. Because God is good, because He is holy, righteous and just, He must punish sin. The punishment God has determined for sin, all sin, is eternity in Hell. It matters not whether you believe this. What matters is that it is true. Truth is not determined by what one believes. God is truth, though every person is found to be a liar. Truth is that which comports to reality, and any attempt to live life apart from the reality of God is to live a life of chaos, absurdity, arrogant denial, and sin.

This same God--again, for there is only one God--who is angry with the wicked every day, whose wrath abides upon the ungodly, who will judge the world in righteousness, is the same God who is loving, merciful, gracious, and kind. And He showed His great love for mankind when He sent His Son to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ--fully God and fully Man, yet without sin.

Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin just as the prophet Isaiah declared more than 700 years before Jesus’s literal, physical birth, lived the perfect, sinless life you cannot live. For some 33 years, Jesus lived a life in perfect obedience to the law of God--in thought, word, and deed--a life you and I could not hope to live for a mere 33 seconds. And then He voluntarily went to the cross.

Yes, it was the Jewish people who hatefully and viciously demanded Jesus’s execution. Yes, it was the Roman government that carried out the despicable act. But they were all merely instruments in the hands of another. For it pleased God the Father to crush God the Son under the full weight and fury of His wrath against sin. God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to become sin on behalf of those who repent and believe the gospel so that through the sacrifice of His Son many would be made righteous in the eyes of Almighty God. In other words, on that great and terrible day God the Father looked upon God the Son as if He had lived the depraved life of a sinner and in exchange--a great exchange--God the Father looks upon those whom He has caused to be born again, to repent and believe the gospel, as if they had lived His Son’s perfect, precious, and priceless life.

Jesus shed His innocent blood on the cross. He died a literal, physical death on the cross. And He was buried in a tomb not His own. Three days later, Jesus forever defeated sin and death when He physically, bodily rose from the grave. And unlike every false god created in the imaginations of men--whether the false gods of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oprah-ism, or Atheism (a religion like every other spiritual “ism.”)--Jesus
Christ is alive today and He will return at a time of the Father’s choosing.

What God commands of you, my brother or sister behind the badge, is the same thing He commands of me and all people everywhere, and that’s that you repent--turn from your sin and turn toward God--and by faith alone receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

You must come to God on His terms. God does not negotiate with sinners. God will not be bribed by your religious practices or what you may perceive as “good works” acceptable to God, including your profession. God will not weigh your “good” against your “bad,” for God does not see you or anyone else as good--good in keeping with His standard of moral perfection. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If you do not read the gospel of Jesus Christ and see it for what it is, good news, it is because you love your sin more than you love God. It is because you love yourself more than you love God. It is because the love of God and the truth of His Word is not in you. But if God causes you to be born-again and extends to you the gifts of repentance and faith, which only He can give, then He will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. You will begin to love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. You will stop presuming upon God’s forgiveness as if it is something you have earned or deserved. Instead, you will have the confident assurance He has forgiven you--not on the basis of any deeds you have done in righteousness, but based entirely upon God’s mercy, grace, and love.

And why would God allow His one and only Son to die a sinner’s death He did not deserve in order to take upon Himself the punishment sinners rightly deserve for their sins against God, so that sinners could be forgiven and saved? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

May all who read this who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, regardless of what side of the badge they find themselves, repent and believe the gospel while God has given them time. May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward for His suffering!

And may every Christian pastor or layperson who has made it this far through the article understand that this is what my law enforcement brethren need to hear from you--gospel truth spoken in love--the gospel of real and everlasting peace.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Car Tracting": I Used to Hate It

A Trip to the Store

You realize you have everything you need for dinner--everything but that one critical ingredient. You look at the clock. You look at your counter with an open space where that missing ingredient should be. You look at the clock again. You snort, grab your keys, walk out the door, and head to the car. You're sure you can get to the store and back in time to prepare and have dinner on the table by the time the last family member walks in the door.

You decide to set aside your beliefs in absolutes and see the Vehicle Code as a document of relativity. Stops and speed limit signs are not emphatic, but merely suggestions for preferred driving patterns. You pull into the parking stall at the grocery store not unlike Jimmy Johnson driving down pit road and hitting his mark for a pit stop. You jump out of the car, rush in the store, and head directly to the aisle and shelf where the ingredient awaits you. After all, you are a professional.

You're firing on all domestic cylinders, dodging single men wandering like zombies through the store--men who have spent so much time in mommy and daddy's basement playing video games they will likely starve before determining what to buy for dinner. You make your way to the "six items or less" express line and, much to your amazement, the few people in front of you actually know how to count.

You head to your car, confident dinner will not only be on time, but that none of the family will even be able to sense there was a disturbance in the culinary force during the preparation of dinner. You hop in your car, toss the grocery bag on the passenger seat, buckle up, put the key in the ignition, and start the car in one seamless motion. Oh, yes. You are good--very good.

But then, as you put the car in reverse, looking around with your head on the swivel so as not to run into any carts, cars, or pedestrians, you see it. You see that thing! It's a card, an advertisement, a flyer, a brochure--a paper hindrance to your perfect trip to the store. You stop the car and throw it in park as if what was happening was your transmission's fault.

You roll down the window and reach out the window and onto the windshield. You stretch to the point of almost dislocating your shoulder, but you can't reach the piece of paper strategically placed just out of arm's reach, under your windshield wiper. "Grrr. I hate it when they do that!"

Now, with smoke coming out of your ears, you open the car door, but you forget to disengage the seat belt. You almost "clothes line" yourself. You unbuckle the belt, climb out of the car, and grab the piece of paper from underneath your windshield wiper. Without giving it so much as a glance, you rip it in pieces, toss it to the ground, get back in your car, and drive home.

While the above might be a bit of a hyperbolic dramatization, we've all been there. Haven't we?

Don't Give Up the Ground!

As Christians, it really bugs us when inappropriate material of various kinds or material from false religions is left on our cars. So, we respond by committing never to put something on someone's car. We convince ourselves that an invitation to church or a gospel tract left on someone's car won't be read. It will simply be discarded in a huff. And, in doing so, we effectively eliminate a legitimate and easy form of evangelism. We concede fertile evangelistic ground to worldly companies and unholy religions.

Sadly, this is par for the American Evangelical course. Evangelicals shy away from open-air preaching because there are some really bad preachers out there bringing a reproach upon Christ. Christians shy away from door-to-door evangelism because Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are most noted for the activity. And Christians shy away from distributing gospel tracts for a number of reasons, including not liking it when someone leaves something on their cars.

Be that as it may, it is never a good idea to give up evangelistic battlefields to the enemy, whether secular or religious. As one Christian apologist was fond of saying, "Are [Christians] willing to do for the truth what cults are willing to do for a lie?" In every area of evangelism, Christians need to be committed to proclaiming the truth louder and more often than others proclaim lies. Let good preachers outnumber bad preachers. Let Christians knock on more doors than Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. And let Christians use literature, like well-written gospel tracts, to distribute the gospel more than vendors, conspiracy theorists, political activists, and cultists use literature to distribute worldly, temporal, and/or false information.

"Car Tracting"

I can speak authoritatively regarding the negative feelings many Christians have regarding leaving gospel tracts on parked cars. The reason: up until a couple weeks ago, I had nothing but negative thoughts about leaving gospel tracts on cars. That is, until my good friend, Jeff Sherfey, snapped me out of it.

Jeff is passionate about living a godly life and reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, through biblical evangelism. In fact, Jeff is so passionate about evangelism that he will soon join the Cross Encounters Ministries team to lead a new outreach. More about that, soon.

Jeff and I meet most every week for fellowship, discipleship, and mutual encouragement (oh, and Starbucks coffee). One of Jeff's favorite ways to distribute gospel tracts is by leaving them on parked cars. A little over a week ago, after downing a couple iced coffees together, we quickly placed tracts on about 100 cars in the shopping center parking lot. It took just several minutes.

Instead of placing the tracts on the windshield, the least favorite place for motorists to find material on their cars, we placed the gospel tracts on the driver's door window of cars. This way, the first thing the person sees when they approach their car is the gospel tact. This is better than seeing the tract after they've sat down in their car, only to have to get out again to retrieve the tract.

While leaving a tract on the driver's door window instead of the windshield does not guarantee the person won't simply throw the tract to the ground without reading it (an unavoidable possibility when distributing gospel tracts in any context), removing the probable frustration of having to get out of their car to get the tract from the windshield, might invoke a less antagonistic attitude toward the tract. Additionally, if the person's keys are not in his hands before he arrives at his car, he will retrieve them from his pocket when he arrives. The motion of retrieving keys from one's pocket while picking up the tract off the driver's door window with one's free hand is a natural one, and a motion that is more likely to lead to the person putting the tract in his or her pocket, instead of throwing it to the ground.

It's not uncommon to meet people in the parking lot, as they return to their cars. Don't avoid handing a tract to someone sitting in their car or someone arriving at his car. Avoiding people in parking lots can be seen as suspicious behavior.

If you do approach someone who is either arriving at, entering, or sitting in his car, it is important NOT to approach the person from behind. I made that mistake twice today while distributing tracts and gave two ladies quite a start. Of course I apologized, explained what I was doing, and gave them each a gospel tract. But I felt terrible that I had startled them.

Approach people from the front, so they can see you coming from a distance.

Make sure your hands are visible.

Hold up the tracts so that they are easy to see.

Let the people know as you approach (before you get to their cars) that you are distributing gospel tracts. Give them your name. And assure them you do not want to sell them anything. These basic pieces of information should help to alleviate the understandable tension and uneasiness people often feel when begin approached at their cars by strangers.

People are quite vulnerable when entering and exiting their vehicles. Theft, robbery, assault, carjacking, and other crimes often take place in or near the victim's car. Most people are aware of this, and most people are wary of strangers approaching their cars. So again, it is critically important to let people know, if you approach them while they are near or in their car, who you are and what are your intentions.

Distributing gospel tracts is NOT soliciting!

According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in an article titled "Sharing Your Faith/Witnessing," the distribution of gospel tracts is NOT soliciting. Here's an excerpt from the article:
"'Am I soliciting when I hand out religious literature and share my faith?'

"No! Giving away free Gospel tracts and talking to people about salvation are not the same thing as soliciting. The Supreme Court has held that there is a difference between soliciting and leafleting. In United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720 (1990), the Supreme Court permitted the postal service to enforce a rule against asking (soliciting) for donations on postal property. However, the Court suggested that it would reject a rule that banned free distribution of literature on such properties, stating:
'As residents of metropolitan areas know from daily experience, confrontation by a person asking for money disrupts passage and is more intrusive and intimidating than an encounter with a person giving out information. One need not ponder the contents of a leaflet or pamphlet in order mechanically to take it out of someone's hand, but one must listen, comprehend, decide and act in order to respond to a solicitation.'
"Id. at 734 (plurality).

"In ISKCON v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672 (1992), and Lee v. ISKCON, 505 U.S. 830 (1992), the Supreme Court considered a restriction on leafleting and another restriction on solicitation of donations in airport terminals. The Court concluded that solicitation is separate from literature distribution and that, despite the fact that the airport terminals were nonpublic forums, a regulation barring the distribution of free literature in the terminals was unreasonable and unconstitutional. Accordingly, while a city official may, in some instances, not allow solicitation, such a regulation may not be broadened to include literature distribution. As long as you are giving away your literature for free, and not asking for donations, you are engaging in the most protected form of speech."
So, the next time someone like a security guard or police officer tells you that you are not allowed to solicit, politely and respectfully assert: "Yes, sir. I understand. But I am not soliciting. I am leafleting." It might also be helpful to copy and paste the above information into a document, and then print several copies to have on hand, in the event you are accused of soliciting.

Become Familiar with the Law

The parking lots associated with private businesses, stores, shopping centers, and malls--like the properties to which they are attached--are generally recognized as private property that is open for public use. Business have a legal right to establish "time, place, and manner" rules for the exercise of free speech, which includes leafleting, on their property.

If a business owner, property manager, or security guard asks you to stop distributing material on the property, politely and respectfully ask to see the business's "written policy regarding the time, place, and manner for the exercise of free speech and leafleting." Unless you live in one of the few states, like California, where many business have submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in "Pruneyard Shopping Cener v. Robins," the likelihood the person with whom you speak will have no idea what you are talking about. However, "Pruneyard" is the law of the land regarding free speech in malls, shopping centers, etc.

It's also important to note that law enforcement or other government entities cannot stop you from leafleting because some of the people receiving the literature might throw it to the ground and litter. In the case "Lovell v. City of Griffin," the court said, in part:
"Mere legislative preferences or beliefs respecting matters of public convenience may well support regulation directed at other personal activities, but be insufficient to justify such as diminishes the exercise of rights so vital to the maintenance of democratic institutions . . . We are of the opinion that the purpose to keep the streets clean and of good appearance is insufficient to justify an ordinance which prohibits a person rightfully on a public street from handing literature to one willing to receive it. Any burden imposed upon the city authorities in cleaning and caring for the streets as an indirect consequence of such distribution results from the constitutional protection of the freedom of speech and press."
For more information about what to do if you find yourself being spoken to while "car tracting" or engaging in any form of evangelism while in a public place, please read my helpful article titled: "Hello Officer."

Giving Spurgeon the Final Word

Christian friends: as I have often said, the gospel is a communicated message, either in verbal (Romans 10:14-17) or written (1 John 5:13) form. And it is the gospel ALONE that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). A well-written, biblical gospel tract is an effective way to communicate the gospel for the simple reason that it contains the gospel. No further defense ever needs to be made for the distribution of gospel tracts.

Furthermore, there is not an easier way to engage in biblical evangelism than the distribution of gospel tracts. If you need more encouragement to start distributing gospel tracts, please read my article on the Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry website.

But, I will give the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon the last word on the subject.
"When preaching and private talk are not available, you need to have a tract ready . . . Get good striking tracts, or none at all. But a touching gospel tract may be the seed of eternal life. Therefore, do not go out without your tracts."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Penciled Prayers: May They Fear God and Give Him Glory

"Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water'" (Revelation 14:6-7).

Los Angeles International Airport, Terminal 6, Alaska Airlines, Gate 69B, 1037 HRS; waiting to board Flight 571 to Portland.

Father, as I wait to board my flight to Portland, where I will serve for the next eight days under the authority and leadership of my beloved brother, Pastor Chuck O'Neal, I am filled with excitement, anticipation, and a great sense of sobriety regarding the task to which You have called me. I love the Beaverton Grace Bible Church Family--my family. Thank You, Father, for giving me this wonderful gift--the gift of love, support, and friendship, which I receive every day, one way or another, from my BGBC family. Lord, please help me to love, serve, challenge, teach, and encourage my BGBC family this week. Help me, Father, to show them the love of Christ as often as possible. And if You allow this, Father, please let the result be an increase in their worship and praise of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Father, I know I will receive much love, care, and affection from my BGBC family and from those who will attend the conference. Such is the beautiful nature of fellowship among those You have elected and saved. Lord, please protect me from sinning against You as a result of the attention I will receive. Please guard my heart and mind from craving and delighting in the praises of Your people. You share Your glory with no one; help me not, even for a moment, to seek any glory for myself. Guard me from the thought or expression of false humility. Father, I want and need to be conformed to the image of Your Son in every area of my life, including the area of humility. Please help me to serve this week as He served, love as He loved, sacrificed as He sacrificed--with perfect humility.

Father, please help me to serve Pastor Chuck well this week as his aide de camp, his courier, his lieutenant, his grunt in the trenches. And Lord, if You deem it necessary, please allow me to take any fiery arrows fired by our spiritual enemies, or any shots fired by our physical enemies that are intended for him. Better for the sheepdog to be wounded in battle than the shepherd.

Father, please ordain many to come to the conference this week. Please compel those who are yet undecided to come. Lord, I ask that there would be false converts among us this week. I pray they would hear Your glorious gospel every evening and, by Your grace, be brought to genuine repentance and faith in You, Lord Jesus.

Father, in the five pulpit sermons You have allowed me to prepare, please allow me to say only what You would have me say--only the words that would bring You the most pleasure and glory--only the words that would bring the most instruction and edification to Your people. All of my sermons are very long. If I am too verbose in any of my sermons, help me to effectively edit my sermons while I am preaching. Please give me clarity of mind as I preach, Lord. In each sermon, as You know, Lord, there is fiery rhetoric. Lord, if at any point in any of my sermons the rhetoric gets too hot and a sermon begins to deteriorate into a speech, please make me aware of it. Holy Spirit, if this happens, please redirect and refocus my thoughts and my attention. Holy Spirit, please keep my eyes transfixed on my Savior and His cross, as I preach in Pastor Chuck's pulpit.

Father, I thank You for our family time in Your Word last night. Thank You for allowing us to spend this precious time with my sister and her family. Thank You, Lord, that according to Your sovereign plan, You had Ian read Revelation 14. Thank You that as we discussed the truths contained in this chapter my sister said, "Verse seven would be a good verse to preach in the open-air. You should do that!"

Lord, hoping the desire is motivated by the Holy Spirit, I will memorize, meditate upon, and preach Revelation 14:6-7 this week. I pray this passage would also encourage, motivate, and further emboldened any man of God who will preach with us this week.

O Lord, I pray many will hear and obey Your command to fear You and give You glory. While the final hour of Your great judgment is yet future, many will be sealed in and for judgment as they perish in their sins this week. O Lord, there may be those who will hear us preaching the gospel during the day who will breathe their last that very night! They will not become absent from the body and present with the Lord! They will be chained, having heaped wrath upon themselves for the day of wrath. Oh, that our hearts will break, that our voices will shake with the fear of the Lord and sorrow for the perishing. May our voices crack as we preach with a very real and present understanding of the urgency of the moment.

Lord, please help me to be filled with Your Spirit, with so much love for the spiritually dead and perishing, that I will not be allowed or able to revile those who will revile me. Guard my heart and mind and close my mouth in the face of any temptation to respond to hecklers in like manner. Please allow my speech to be wholesome, loving, whimsical yet firm, uncompromising, and gentle when I am wronged. Please, Lord, help me not to do or say anything that could bring reproach and dishonor upon Your great and marvelous name.

Lord Jesus, please save many souls this week, for Your glory. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Penciled Prayers: While Those in White Robes Rest a Little Longer

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants [slaves] and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been" (Revelation 6:9-11).

O Sovereign Lord, determiner of all things, slow to anger and full of lovingkindess; You are great. You alone are awesome. You are holy, righteous, and just. Vengeance is Yours alone; You will repay.

Father, as You know, as You are perfectly aware for You are allowing it to happen (You are good); the blood of Your martyrs is crying out to You from the dirt, the sand, the dry and parched ground of Iraq. Father, Your people, and those who are not Your people but count themselves among Your people, are being brutally butchered by Muslims--blasphemers of Your great and holy name and the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

The barbaric, systematic slaughter of Your people, Christians (who alone are Your people), is a natural byproduct of the demonic religion of Islam. True converts to Islam, those who adhere to the scriptures of Satan, the Qur'an, are the ones who are murdering Your people. They are acting according to their depraved, sinful nature. They hate You, Lord Jesus. They are utterly void of Your presence, Holy Spirit. They are of their father the devil and not adopted members of Your family, heavenly Father.

Father, the heads of Your people, young and old, are literally rolling down the streets of Iraq. How long, O Lord, before You avenge the blood of Your saints, Your martyrs? Dear Father in heaven, when will You avenge their blood on the Islamic world that dwells on earth? And how many more of Your people will be martyred before You judge the guilty and avenge those You have made righteous through the blood of Your Son, the God-Man, Jesus the Messiah?

Father, You know my heart far better than I do. I ask these questions as an inquisitive child, not as an interrogator. You owe no one, least of all me, an explanation for what You do and how You do it. You alone are sovereign. You alone are King. I come before You, Lord, brokenhearted, not angry with my Father.

Oh, I am angry with the butchers, but I am not angry with You, Father. May I never be angry with You! Father, bring the Muslims engaged in the slaughter of Your people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. If not, Father, crush them before they murder another Christian--whether truly saved or false convert.

Lord, please help me to remember who I was and from where I came. But for Your sovereign grace, I would be no better off than the murdering Muslim, or the Muslim who foolishly believes his is a religion of peace; or the atheist, or the Mormon, Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, or the follower of any other false religion. But for Your sovereign grace and mercy, Lord Jesus, I too would be lost. Thank You for saving me, in spite of who I was. Thank you for keeping me, in spite of who I am.

Father, how many more white robes will You issue to martyrs in Iraq and other parts of the world? And when will You begin to issue martyr's robes to Christians in the United States?

Father, You know Your Son's Bride in America is not ready for the persecution that is sure to come upon her. She says she will stand firm in the face of persecution. She says she will not deny You if pressed to do so. But when the vast majority of Christians lack the love for You and the lost it takes to placed a gospel tract on a car window or in someone's hand, will they really have the love for You and for the lost, and the courage to stand firm in the face of an Islamic, demon-possessed, Muhammadan, murderer holding swords to their children's neck?

Holy Spirit, please ready the Bride of Christ for what will likely come, soon. Ready the Bride of Christ for her blood to one-day soon be spilled in the streets of America. Ready her, Holy Spirit, to don the white robes of martyrdom.

Heavenly Father, please strengthen my Christian brethren in Iraq and wherever else my brethren are being persecuted, today. Help them to endure the persecution You are allowing. Help them to count it all joy to suffer for Your name. Lord, the world--this vicious God-hating world--is unworthy of Your martyrs. Unlike Satan's martyrs--Islamic murderers--Your martyrs die so that others might live. Satan's martyrs kill so they can be rewarded by their false god (the Allah of Islam) who can neither reward them, nor save them.

And again, Lord, I ask You to save the persecutors of Your people. Bring them out of the darkness of the false religion of Islam, or any other false religion (like atheism), and bring them into the marvelous light of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who is more than a prophet. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords; the One who created Muhammad and before whom Muhammad will stand to give an account for the creation of his false and blasphemous religion. Bring Muslims, every Muslim I pray, to the light of salvation and forgiveness by Your grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while those in white robes rest a little longer.

This I pray in the name that is above every name, the name of the one before whom every Muslim knee will bow and every Muslim tongue will confess as Lord; the God-Man, the Messiah, the Caller of every true prophet (among whom Muhammad finds no place) to whom He gives true words of justice, forgiveness, wrath, and grace; in the name of the only wise God who will judge every false prophet like Muhammad with eternal judgment and unquenchable fire, and who will likewise save and bring to repentance and faith in Him those who humble themselves and receive Him as Lord and Savior; yes, this I pray in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Disposing of Life's Trash

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish [dung], in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8).

Dearest heavenly Father, I come to You with love in my heart for You. Reading just a few pages of Ambrose this morning brought me to a place of conviction, great joy, and fondness for You, my Lord. While certainly not inspired holy writ, I am still grateful for Ambrose's pen.

While reading Ambrose, I read Philippians 3:8. Compelled to turn to Your Word to read the verse in Your intended context, I was convicted of how much I lack by way of humility and devotion to You, when compared to the life of Your servant, Paul. There is so much, there are so many things that I have yet to relegate to the dung pile. Hobbies, interests, affections: so much that is interfering with my walk with You, Lord Jesus.

Oh Father, please help me. Holy Spirit, please assist me in counting all things as loss--including ministry--because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!

Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me! What have I lost or counted as loss that I might gain You, Lord? Does it amount to anything at all in You eyes, Jesus? Lord, I say I know what I've yet to count as excrement, which keeps me from the closeness and intimacy I desire with You. I say there are things I've yet to count as loss for the sake of knowing You more. But do I, Lord? Have I, Lord? Will I, Lord? Holy Spirit, without Your direct intervention, I will continue to love aspects of the world and the things in the world. Lord Jesus, I don't want it anymore. I truly only want to be a sojourner in this world, a pilgrim from a kingdom not of this world.

Holy Spirit, please show me today, as I travel, serve, and otherwise live through this day, where the rubbish is in my life. Purify me of any dung that I still wantonly or unwittingly cling to for my own pleasure or my own glory. Wash me, Lord, and I will be clean. Make me willing and make me able to count all earthly and spiritual contaminants to which I cling as filthy rubbish so that I may gain more of You this day. Help me, Holy Spirit, to dispose of life's trash. Order my heart, my affections, my priorities in such a way that I want all of you and all You have to give. And if I cannot have that, if I cannot have You, then may I desire nothing at all.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bethel Redding and the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Cults of all kinds are notorious for twisting Scripture to fit the deluded and demonic theology of the cult leaders. The Bethel Redding cult is no different.

Kevin Dedmon is one of the false teachers at Bethel Redding. Here is Dedmon's biography, which appears on his ministry's Facebook page and similarly on his website.
"Kevin has been in pastoral ministry for over 25 years and has a B.A. in Biblical Studies and a M.A. degree in Church Leadership from Vanguard University. Kevin conducts Supernatural Lifestyle Conferences in which people are equipped, empowered, and activated in miracles, healing, prophetic, and evangelism as a normal lifestyle of the believer. Kevin also oversees the Firestarter Class, which equips and empowers newcomers and new believers to live as revivalists – healing the sick, prophesying, and supernatural evangelism. He is also the director of Bethel Church’s Firestorm ministry, which sends teams to local churches for the purpose of demonstrating the revival culture of Bethel Church, as well as imparting, empowering, and activating the church to live naturally in the supernatural, so that the atmosphere in both the church and the community is transformed. Kevin also speaks at conferences and churches world wide, focusing on healing and supernatural evangelism.

"He also teaches revival theology in the School of Supernatural Ministry, and trains new believers and new members in a revival supernatural lifestyle in his Firestarter’s class at Bethel Church.

"Kevin is the author of The Ultimate Treasure Hunt, Unlocking Heaven: Keys to Living Naturally Supernatural, and his latest book, The Risk Factor: Crossing the Chicken Line into your Supernatural Destiny."
Like so many in the New Apostolic Reformation, Word of Faith, and Prosperity false movements, Dedmon shreds a commonly-twisted passage of Scripture and blasphemes Jesus Christ in the process. Here is what he posted on his ministry's Facebook page on July 30, 2014:


The verse Dedmon is referencing and eisegeting is Matthew 16:19. Here's the verse in its proper context. Proper context regarding Scripture is something the false teachers at Bethel Redding--men like Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, and Kevin Dedmon--do their best to avoid.
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ" (Matthew 16:13-20).
This false notion that Jesus gave the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" to contemporary Christians and is somehow "locked out" of the kingdom until such time Christians let Him back in, is not only an utter failure to understand what Jesus is saying in the passage, but is blasphemy of the first and worst order. To even suggest that Jesus' sovereignty, power, and freedom to move about His creation is contingent upon the creation's permissive will to allow him such rule and reign is to worship the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:25). Such false and blasphemous teaching, which would seem to me to only come from someone who knows neither the Christ nor His Word--teaching that suggests Jesus is in anyway subservient and/or limited by the permissive will of man--is influenced by the father of the author of such teach, the devil.

Yes. I said it. As judgmental as it may seem (and I'm okay with that; see John 7:24), I believe anyone who teaches what Redmon teaches in his pithy Facebook post is of his or her father, the devil. Redmon, as well as Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, and every other false teacher in these false non-apostolic movements, is the type of wolf about whom Paul warns the Ephesian elders, with the tears, the last time he would ever see their faces.
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears" (Acts 20:28-31).
What did Jesus actually mean in Matthew 16:19 when he talks about giving the "keys to the kingdom of heaven?"

Matthew Henry, in the "Concise" version of his Bible commentary, wrote the following about Matthew 16:13-20:
"Peter, for himself and his brethren, said that they were assured of our Lord's being the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. This showed that they believed Jesus to be more than man. Our Lord declared Peter to be blessed, as the teaching of God made him differ from his unbelieving countrymen. Christ added that he had named him Peter, in allusion to his stability or firmness in professing the truth. The word translated rock, is not the same word as Peter, but is of a similar meaning. Nothing can be more wrong than to suppose that Christ meant the person of Peter was the rock. Without doubt Christ himself is the Rock, the tried foundation of the church; and woe to him that attempts to lay any other! Peter's confession is this rock as to doctrine. If Jesus be not the Christ, those that own him are not of the church, but deceivers and deceived. Our Lord next declared the authority with which Peter would be invested. He spoke in the name of his brethren, and this related to them as well as to him. They had no certain knowledge of the characters of men, and were liable to mistakes and sins in their own conduct; but they were kept from error in stating the way of acceptance and salvation, the rule of obedience, the believer's character and experience, and the final doom of unbelievers and hypocrites. In such matters their decision was right, and it was confirmed in heaven. But all pretensions of any man, either to absolve or retain men's sins, are blasphemous and absurd. None can forgive sins but God only. And this binding and loosing, in the common language of the Jews, signified to forbid and to allow, or to teach what is lawful or unlawful."
In his unabridged version of his commentary on Matthew 16:13-20, Matthew Henry wrote a more detailed explanation of the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" (paragraph breaks have been added to facilitate easier reading of this lengthy excerpt):
"When a city or society is incorporated, officers are appointed and empowered to act for the common good. A city without government is a chaos. Now this constituting of the government of the church, is here expressed by the delivering of the keys, and, with them, a power to bind and loose. This is not to be understood of any peculiar power that Peter was invested with, as if he were sole door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven, and had that key of David which belongs only to the Son of David; no, this invests all the apostles and their successors with a ministerial power to guide and govern the church of Christ, as it exists in particular congregations or churches, according to the rules of the gospel . . .

"Only the keys were first put into Peter’s hand, because he was the first that opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, Acts. 10:28. As the king, in giving a charter to a corporation, empowers the magistrates to hold courts in his name, to try matters of fact, and determine therein according to law, confirming what is so done regularly as if done in any of the superior courts; so Christ, having incorporated his church, hath appointed the office of the ministry for the keeping up of order and government, and to see that his laws be duly served; I will give thee the keys. He doth not say, 'I have given them,' or 'I do now;' but 'I will do it,' meaning after his resurrection; when he ascended on high, he gave those gifts (Ephesians 4:8); then this power was actually given, not to Peter only, but to all the rest (Matthew 28:19-20; John 20:21). He doth not say, The keys shall be given, but, I will give them; for ministers derive their authority from Christ, and all their power is to be used in his name (1 Corinthians 5:4).

"Now, 1. The power here delegated is a spiritual power; it is a power pertaining to the kingdom of heaven, that is, to the church, that part of it which is militant here on earth, to the gospel dispensation; that is it about which the apostolical and ministerial power is wholly conversant. It is not any civil, secular power that is hereby conveyed, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; their instructions afterward were in things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts. 1:3).

"2. It is the power of the keys that is given, alluding to the custom of investing men with authority in such a place, by delivering to them the keys of the place. Or as the master of the house gives the keys to the steward, the keys of the stores where the provisions are kept, that he may give to every one in the house his portion of meat in due season (Luke 12:42), and deny it as there is occasion, according to the rules of the family. Ministers are stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1; Titus 1:7). Eliakim, who had the key of the house of David, was over the household (Isaiah 22:22).

"3. It is a power to bind and loose, that is (following the metaphor of the keys), to shut and open. Joseph, who was lord of Pharaoh’s house, and steward of the stores, had power to bind his princes, and to teach his senators wisdom (Psalm 105:21-22). When the stores and treasures of the house are shut up from any, they are bound, interdico tibi aquĆ¢ et igne--I forbid thee the use of fire and water; when they are opened to them again, they are loosed from that bond, are discharged from the censure, and restored to their liberty.4. It is a power which Christ has promised to own the due administration of; he will ratify the sentences of his stewards with his own approbation."

"It shall be bound in heaven, and loosed in heaven: not that Christ hath hereby obliged himself to confirm all church-censures, right or wrong; but such as are duly passed according to the word, clave non errante--the key turning the right way, such are sealed in heaven; that is, the word of the gospel, in the mouth of faithful ministers, is to be looked upon, not as the word of man, but as the word of God, and to be received accordingly (1 Thessalonians 2:13; John 12:20).

"Now the keys of the kingdom of heaven are, (1.) The key of doctrine, called the key of knowledge. 'Your business shall be to explain to the world the will of God, both as to truth and duty; and for this you shall have your commissions, credentials, and full instructions to bind and loose:' these, in the common speech of the Jews, at that time, signified to prohibit and permit; to teach or declare a thing to be unlawful was to bind; to be lawful, was to loose. Now the apostles had an extraordinary power of this kind; some things forbidden by the law of Moses were now to be allowed, as the eating of such and such meats; some things allowed there were now to be forbidden, as divorce; and the apostles were empowered to declare this to the world, and men might take it upon their words. When Peter was first taught himself, and then taught others, to call nothing common or unclean, this power was exercised. There is also an ordinary power hereby conveyed to all ministers, to preach the gospel as appointed officers; to tell people, in God's name, and according to the scriptures, what is good, and what the Lord requires of them: and they who declare the whole counsel of God, use these keys well (Acts. 20:27).

"Some make the giving of the keys to allude to the custom of the Jews in creating a doctor of the law, which was to put into his hand the keys of the chest where the book of the law was kept, denoting his being authorized to take and read it; and the binding and loosing, to allude to the fashion about their books, which were in rolls; they shut them by binding them up with a string, which they untied when they opened them. Christ gives his apostles power to shut or open the book of the gospel to people, as the case required. See the exercise of this power (Acts 13:46; 18:6). When ministers preach pardon and peace to the penitent, wrath and the curse to the impenitent, in Christ’s name, they act then pursuant to this authority of binding and loosing.

"(2.) The key of discipline, which is but the application of the former to particular persons, upon a right estimate of their characters and actions. It is not legislative power that is hereby conferred, but judicial; the judge doth not make the law, but only declares what is law, and upon an impartial enquiry into the merits of the cause, gives sentence accordingly. Such is the power of the keys, wherever it is lodged, with reference to church-membership and the privileges thereof. [1.] Christ’s ministers have a power to admit into the church; 'Go, disciple all nations, baptizing them; those who profess faith in Christ, and obedience to him, admit them and their seed members of the church by baptism.' Ministers are to let in to the wedding-feast those that are bidden; and to keep out such as are apparently unfit for so holy a communion. [2.] They have a power to expel and cast out such as have forfeited their church-membership, that is binding; refusing to unbelievers the application of gospel promises and the seals of them; and declaring to such as appear to be in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, that they have no part or lot in the matter, as Peter did to Simon Magus, though he had been baptized; and this is a binding over to the judgment of God. [3.] They have a power to restore and to receive in again, upon their repentance, such as had been thrown out; to loose those whom they had bound; declaring to them, that, if their repentance be sincere, the promise of pardon belongs to them. The apostles had a miraculous gift of discerning spirits; yet even they went by the rule of outward appearances (as Acts. 8:21; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:20), which ministers may still make a judgment upon, if they be skillful and faithful."
While not inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore subject to the fallibility of man, do you notice the sweetness and the breath of fresh air of the depth and breadth of Henry's doctrinal precision? If you find yourself caught up in the false doctrines and false teachings of men like Dedmon and other Bethel Redding false teachers, you likely did not notice it. Why? One of the demonic tactics of Bethel Redding and other false churches that ascribe to the false teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation, is to to strip the Word of God of its authority, by marginalizing and even mocking the importance of biblical doctrine. They hold Bibles in their hands and even read from the Book. Then they undermine the authority of Scripture in the hearts and minds of their hearers by misinterpreting Scripture and then focusing their hearers' attention on false signs and wonders, emotionalism, and other subjective experiences--all of which they hold up as authoritative, like the Roman Catholic Church does with its slew of unbiblical traditions.

Matthew Henry is correct in his explanation regarding the "keys of the kingdom of heaven." Kevin Dedmon is wrong--deceptively and blasphemously wrong.

The "keys of the kingdom of heaven" are not keys that have been given to hyper-charismatic, professing Christians, somehow giving them the authority to allow "heaven to invade earth" (a common, unbiblical saying and belief among Bethelites). They are not keys that have been given to men, in the sense that men are in full possession of them and have thus stripped Jesus Christ, the Rock, the Head of His Church, of His authority, power, and access. Jesus does not sit in yonder heaven waiting for created beings to invite him back into the earthly realm (another common and blasphemous teaching throughout NAR, WoF, and Health-Wealth-Prosperity circles). The "keys of the kingdom of heaven" have nothing whatsoever to do with some kind of supernatural unleashing of signs and wonders--alleged miracles performed by people who go to a "supernatural school" in a small city, in Northern California, to learn how to "walk in them."

It is very important to note, here, that nowhere in the Word of God do we see any of the apostles, or anyone else for that matter, including Jesus, teaching people how to exercise miraculous gifts or to perform signs and wonders. This ridiculous philosophy of developing schools in order to train people to do things that, if they were still operative among God's people today, could only be given by the Holy Spirit, is to rob the Holy Spirit of His glory, as the Third Person of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts upon God's people. Man does not and cannot teach man to "do" that which the Holy Spirit alone "gives" as a gift.

The authority given to the apostles 2,000 years ago, which is the same authority given to the leaders (pastors/elders) of biblical churches today, is a gospel-driven, gospel-centered, Christ-glorifying, Scripture-based, and doctrinally-sound authority. Sadly, this is an authority that the leadership of Bethel Redding and the leaders of other similar false churches cannot know until they repent and believe the gospel they do not preach--until they submit to the lordship of the Jesus Christ they do not know.

Neither King Jesus nor the Holy Spirit is anyone's "genie in a bottle." King Jesus is not subservient to anyone. He is not constrained by anyone. He is not answerable to anyone. He is not relegated to the role of "key master," handing out keys to His kingdom to anyone who believes they should have them, or who has been told by false teachers the keys are theirs for the taking.

Kevin Dedmon: sir, I call you to repent. Repent of your false teaching. Repent of your blasphemy. Repent of being a blind guide to the blind--a wolf in sheep's clothing. Repent of misleading those who may, in fact, be saved (in spite of, not because of, the demonic false teachings of Bethel Redding). Repent and believe the true gospel of Jesus Christ, while God has given you time. I do not want you to perish in your sins, even though, at the moment, you are an enemy of Christ. Repent, sir, and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Until you do, you are not even a resident of the kingdom of heaven, let alone a holder of its keys.

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Gospel Tract! "Thank You"


The above image is of a new, business card size gospel tract I wrote. As is the case with all of my gospel tracts, this tract is published by Marv Plementosh at One Million Tracts.

And here's the text on the back of the tract:
You’re receiving this card because you just served me in some way: waiter/waitress, bank teller, store cashier, delivery person, or fixed my plumbing. Maybe you’re police, fire, or military and you don’t get thanked enough. Or maybe you gave me directions because I’m lost (again). Oh, and don’t worry; if I owe you a tip for your service, you WILL receive one. I’m NOT going to stiff you. Whether or not you’re having a great day at work, whether or not your service was great, average, or, well, in need of improvement, I want to say thank you for serving me. I appreciate you. Not only do I appreciate your service, but I care for you as a fellow human being. That’s why I want to tell you this. Like me, you will one day stand before God to give an account for your life. Because God is good, He will judge you according to His law. If you have broken God’s Law (lying, stealing, hate, lust, selfishness, blasphemy, etc.), He will find you guilty of breaking His law and punish your sin, with the consequence being eternity in hell. Of course, I don’t want that for you. Your only hope is to turn from your sins, turn toward God and, by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man, yet without sin, voluntarily shed his innocent blood and died on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against God. Three days later, He forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. Receive forgiveness and eternal life. Repent and believe the gospel, today. Thank you.
I believe this is one of the best gospel tracts I've written because it has so many applications, not the least of which is in restaurants when tipping waiters and waitresses. Waiters and waitresses hate working the Sunday afternoon shift because that's when all of the "church folk" come into restaurants after Sunday service. Waiters and waitresses testify that "Christians" are NOTORIOUSLY bad tippers.

While the vast majority of people on Facebook said "amen" to the following statement, not every Christian who read it was happy with it.
"If you don't tip waiters or waitresses, regardless of the quality of the service or the food, your Christian testimony isn't as pristine as you may think. And if you leave a gospel tract IN LIEU of a tip, instead of leaving a gospel tract ALONG with a tip, you should be ashamed of yourself."
Here's what some folks have already said about the tract:

"Awesome!!!! Sweet and true. Truth in love. I'll buy them!!!"

"Love this.. perfect!!"

"Will be looking for this. Wonderful tract."

"Excellent!"

"I LOVE this! I'll be ordering some for sure. Brilliant!"

"You know I will order some - great tract Tony - the words you have put into/on it are so needed these days. Thank you."

"This is great!!"

"God bless you! The law and Gospel are explained in a way that seem very inviting and Biblical! This is wonderful!"

"We like it very very much.We will be ordering these!! Thank you,Tony!!"
You can order the tract, today!

If you order and use the tract, please let me know how it goes. Thanks.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Patrick: Comfortably Living in Absurdity

This is Patrick. Bart McCurdy, while "phone fishing" for yesterday's edition of Cross Encounters Radio, met Patrick and his girlfriend in the Mount Shasta Mall, in Redding, CA. Patrick is 18 and entering his senior year in high school. Patrick is an athlete and a member of his school's football team (defensive tackle) and wrestling team. Patrick plans to attend Mount Shasta Community College after he graduates high school. While he still has a full year of high school ahead of him, with time to make decisions about his future, at the moment he's a bit rudderless, not sure what he wants to do with his life. Although not a hard and fast rule, his worldview does lend itself to indecision and indifference.

Patrick insisted he did not believe in God. Patrick made truth claim after truth claim while readily admitting he did not know anything with certainty. Patrick made definitive assertions regarding morality--assertions that were utterly arbitrary and non-binding, and consistent with a godless worldview. Like so many people--men and women, young and old--Patrick has relegated himself to an intellectually absurd way of life while, at the same time, living comfortably in a wantonly inconsistent frame of mind. Again, like so many others who have adopted and have tried to justify a godless worldview, Patrick knows his worldview is absurd and untenable, but he simply doesn't care. Why? He hates the God who created him. He hates the God he knows exists (Romans 1:18-32).

Patrick's issue is not one of a lack of intelligence. It is not that Patrick cannot reason. Patrick's issue is also not one of a lack of evidence. After all, regarding God, everyone evaluates the same evidence (Romans 1:18-25). Like all others who have adopted his absurd worldview, Patrick's issue is sin--specifically the sin of idolatry. Your see; Patrick and people like him (professed atheists) are very religious. They worship the "god of self." They deny the God they know exists and try to replace Him (failing miserably) with the false god they see in the mirror every morning--themselves (Romans 1:22-23). Like others, Patrick's love of self and love of sin, his self-worship, is born out of a hatred for the God he knows exists (Romans 1:28-31). Like the Roman Catholic, the Muslim, the Mormon, the Jehovah's Witness, and the false convert to Christianity, Patrick worships a god that does not exist outside of his own sinful mind.

As you listen to my conversation with Patrick (second hour of the show), you will notice I did not make any attempt whatsoever to "prove" to Patrick that God exists. The reason: I refuse to blaspheme God in that way. What do I mean?

For me to attempt to prove to Patrick that God exists, when God's Word explicitly states that every human being knows God exists (Romans 1:18), is to call God a liar; it is to put down and set aside the authority of God's Word and, instead, accept the sinner's assertions as authoritative. To concede the ground of truth, to give up the position of authority to the unbeliever is to play God's defense attorney in the unbeliever's blasphemous courtroom. To set aside the authority of God's Word in order to acquiesce to the unbeliever's demands for "proof" is to expect God to step down from the Judge's bench and take the witness stand. To set aside the authority of God's Word to appease the unbeliever is to allow the criminal to put the Judge on trial. Christians ought not do this. Again, I believe it is blasphemous to do so.

I don't argue with anyone about the existence of God. I make no effort, ever, to prove to an unbeliever that God exists. What the lost sinner believes about the existence of God has no bearing whatsoever on the truth. It doesn't matter what any human being believes. Belief is not authoritative. What matters is whether or not what the lost sinner believes is true. Truth is authoritative. And God is truth (Romans 3:4). And God's Word is true (John 17:17). Beliefs apart from truth are arbitrary speculations, indefensible conjecture, mere opinion, non-binding assertions, and ultimately false.

My hope, as it is anytime I engage in "Phone Fishing," is to present the law and the gospel to the person with whom I speak. This was true of my conversation with Patrick. However, things didn't go as I planned. They did, however, go as God intended, for He is sovereign over everything and everyone. So, did I fail? No. The only time we fail in evangelism, so long as we are doing it biblically, is when we fail to evangelize. The vast majority of people in the world are like Patrick--lost, bound for hell, and indifferent to both realities. The vast majority of people in the world will respond negatively to the truth of God's Word. The Bible is clear:
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14).
This is not to say there is no hope for Patrick. The Lord may still save him, and that's my hope and prayer. I don't want Patrick to perish in his sins (Luke 13:1-5).

So, why didn't I share the gospel with Patrick? Did I fail to love my neighbor? No. I love Jesus and His gospel more than I love Patrick (Luke 14:26). Jesus and His gospel are treasures of infinite worth (Matthew 13:44). Jesus and His gospel is the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45-46). And Jesus commands me not to throw such treasure to dogs or cast such pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).

No; Patrick is neither a dog or a pig.

Patrick's heart, like that of Pharaoh, was hard (Exodus 7:13-14, 22). He was a proud young man (Proverbs 16:18). And God is opposed to the proud. He is against the proud. He is at war with the proud. God does not extend his saving grace to the proud and impenitent. He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Patrick's wanton rebellion against God (Hebrews 10:26), which included admitting his willful efforts to deny truth by finding comfort in absurdity, did not make Patrick a candidate for the gospel, at the time I talked to him. But as hard as Patrick fought, I hope some seeds were planted. I hope someone else will have the opportunity to water those seeds, and that God will cause growth of those seeds (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). I pray Patrick would be one God harvests from the fields already white (John 4:35), extending to Patrick the gifts of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ the Lord., and causing him to be born-again (1 Peter 1:3).

Join me in praying for Patrick's salvation. Pray the Lord removes the veil of arrogance, absurdity, foolishness, and hatred for God from his eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4-5). Pray the Lord breaths life into Patrick's soul--a soul presently dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Penciled Prayers: When Bad News Comes

"For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord" (Psalm 112:6-7).

My great God and King, my sovereign Lord and Savior: to You, O Lord, I give praise and honor and glory. You alone are sovereign. You alone are in control. You do not share Your glory or your sovereignty with anyone. Everything that happens in everyone's lives is inside Your domain and under Your control. Nothing and no one thwarts Your plans. No one undermines what You determined to do before You created the heavens and the earth. Your will is sovereign. Man's will is not.

Father, You are good. If You cause Your grace and mercy to fall upon man, You are good. If You allow evil to inflict man, You are good. Whether the news one receives is good or bad, You are good. And You are in control of all people and all circumstances.

Lord, while I have no idea who it might be (it could be me; I don't know), a brother or sister in Christ might receive bad news, today. A frightening diagnosis; a pink slip at work; divorce papers from the one he or she loves; a daughter announcing she is pregnant with her child--a baby created in the image of God, but conceived in sin; a son announcing he is apostate; whatever the bad news might be--a brother or sister in Christ might have to face it, today. Father, please help Your children, those who You have caused to be born-again and have adopted into Your beloved family of the redeemed; if they receive bad news, today, let my brother or sister not be afraid.

Lord, keep the righteous from being moved, today, by bad news. Lord, may their trust in You be great, this day. Father, may Your children who receive bad news, today, have a heart that is firm, but not hard. Let not the specter of coming difficulties harden the hearts of the ones who find faithfulness easier when life is going well--people like me, Lord. Rather, Lord, let their hearts be firm in the faith. May their hearts be firm, just as their feet are to be firm as they stand adorned with Your spiritual armor.

Father, may the bad news any of my Christian brethren receive, today, serve not as an opportunity for sinful fear, but rather as an opportunity to trust in You will all of their hearts, leaning not on their own understanding, in all their ways, including their present painful circumstances, acknowledging You. And may they acknowledge Your sovereignty and perfect control--not with a sinful sense of blame, but rather with a faithful trust in You that can thank You and praise You in the midst of the storm. Lord, please let this be true of me, too.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.