Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today's Youth: Will They be the First Generation of Christians to Experience Real Persecution in America?

My good friend and brother in Christ, David Caldwell, is the Dean of Men at Santa Clarita Christian School (Santa Clarita, CA). A few weeks ago David invited me to preach during one of the school's weekly chapel services. Today was the day.

250 7th-12th grade students, along with some of the school's administration, faculty, and support staff were in attendance. The small gymnasium was packed.

My sermon titled "Are You Counting the Cost?" was drawn from Luke 14:25-33, with Psalm 49:7-9 and Colossians 2:8-15 in support.

As I prayed this morning before walking onto the school grounds, even more so while preaching to the students, and more still as I drove away from the campus, I was burdened with the sense that the kids to whom I preached today, at least those who are saved or will be saved, may be some of the first Christians in America to experience authentic and costly persecution. That is, if the onslaught I believe is coming doesn't happen sooner. I think there is good reason to believe I will see such persecution reach and infect the United States, during my lifetime.

Because the religious system commonly referred to as American Evangelicalism is now built upon the sandy foundation of the traditions and philosophies of men, a low view of God and Scripture and a high view of man, with multiple evangelistic methodologies designed to protect the Christian from persecution instead of reaching the lost with the gospel, the typical, professing, American Christian is not ready for what is coming. He is not ready because he has been raised on sermonettes based on popular movies, personal license plates, and "how to" messages that burden professing believers with a works-righteousness system for a better life. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that God loves him just the way he is and to pursue holiness and a deeper understanding of Scripture is to mire himself in the bogs of Pharisaism and legalism. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that God's "wonderful plan" is a life void of paying any cost to follow Christ. He is not ready because he has been wrongly taught that the goal is to get the world to like him--a world that hates the Jesus he professes to know and love.

The typical, professing American Evangelical is not ready for the persecution that is sure to come (probably sooner than later) because no one ever told him being a disciple of Jesus Christ might one day cost him his career, his financial security, his home, his family, or his life. He was wrongly promised by used car salesmen standing in pulpits that if he prays a prayer and asks Jesus into his heart, his depression will go away, his wife will love him again, his kids will get off drugs, his bills will be paid, and he will get that promotion he worked so hard to attain.

And again, while he was told salvation is a free gift, he will work like a dog to attain things Jesus and His Word never promised--things like a purpose-driven life and his best life now. When things don't work out as planned, his pastor might tell him to just look back to that day he bowed his head, closed his eyes, and prayed that prayer. His pastor will tell him not to let Satan discourage him. And then he will hear a new sermon series on "Five Keys to a Happy Marriage," or "Seven Ways to a Better Career," or "475 Steps Toward the Best Possible You." He won't have the biblical acumen to realize that the Christian church he attends is closer to Rome than Christ because his pastor holds his Bible at the start of every sermon, but never bothers to open it as he tells his story.

The typical, professing American Evangelical is not ready for the persecution that is sure to come because, sadly, he may not be saved.

I told the young people to whom I spoke this morning (ages 12-18) that in a gathering that size there were likely three types of people present: genuine, born-again, followers of Christ; those who think they're Christians but aren't; and those who are not saved and know it. I told them that those present who are genuine Christians will likely be the first generation of Christians to experience real persecution in America. And then, for the next 40 minutes, I asked them if they were ready. I asked them to examine themselves and test themselves to see if they are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). And I called them to repent and believe the gospel, if they did not already know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

As you listen to this sermon I preached to 250 12-18 year old students, I hope and pray you will ask yourself the same questions. Are you ready? Are you ready to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Gospel, Not How It's Delivered, Is the Power of God for Salvation

Gordon received a gospel tract. He came back later spewing vile hate for God and man. We talked for about ten minutes. He walked away angry and fully aware his absurd worldview is built upon the foundation of hatred for the God he knows exists. It was a successful evangelistic encounter.

I distributed about 1,000 gospel tracts without engaging any students in conversation. Each gospel tract distributed was a successful evangelistic encounter.

Then I handed a tract to a young man of Asian descent. As he walked toward me, he seemed to be in a hurry. Based on the high volume of pedestrian traffic, I knew the students were making their way from one class to another. However, when I handed this young man a tract, his gait significantly slowed. Now taking only a step every several seconds, he turned the tract over to read the back. He slowed to a stop. I could tell, from distributing hundreds of thousands of gospel tracts, he was reading every word. When he finished reading, he stood looking off in the distance. Holding the tract in one hand, he tapped it against his empty hand. He was thinking. He tucked the tract in his pocket and continued to class.

Oh, how I prayed as the student read the gospel tract. I prayed for his salvation, praying that every word of law and gospel on that tract would be used by God to draw him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And I thanked God for another successful evangelistic encounter.

Every gospel tract I distribute; every time I share the gospel in a one-to-one conversation; every time I preach the gospel in the open-air or from behind a pulpit; every time I share the gospel with a person via Twitter or another social media platform it is a successful evangelistic encounter.

The success or failure of an evangelistic encounter with a lost person is not contingent upon the lost person's response. Scripture gives us a clear indication of the ratio of positive to negative responses to the gospel message. Jesus said:
"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).
Furthermore, the success or failure of an evangelistic encounter with a lost person is not dependent upon the way the gospel is delivered. This includes both the method of delivery and the behavior of the one presenting the gospel. Good methods and good behavior on the part of the communicator add nothing to the gospel's power, just as bad methods and bad behavior on the part of the communicator detract nothing from the gospel's power. The reason: the gospel, not how it's delivered, is the power of God for salvation.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Of course, this reality does not give license to any Christian to act like a jerk, as Scripture and not man's opinion defines the term. The point is that whether the Christian behaves like Prince Charming or Homer Simpson, his behavior doesn't add power to or strip power from the gospel.

Where American Evangelicalism, in its many forms and dialects, has gone wrong in the area of evangelism is here. While affirming Romans 1:16 on paper and websites, the truth the verse contains and communicates is brushed aside by evangelical orthopraxy that insists the simple communication of the gospel is not enough. American Evangelicalism, as a religious system, does not truly believe the simple, straightforward communication of the gospel is sufficient to save lost souls. According to American Evangelicalism, the gospel needs man's help. This, of course, is not true. I've addressed this issue at length, here, here, here, and here.

What makes my heart heavy these days is how easy it is for some Christians to not only deny the power of the gospel by placing such great emphasis on methodology (namely, relationship building), to the point of suggesting the gospel is somehow empowered or strengthened by methodology, but with what ease and, frankly, arrogance, some Christians discourage and even mock Christians who hold to the sufficiency of the gospel's power alone to save, regardless of the methodology employed. "Wait just a minute, Tony. You hammer 'Friendship Evangelism' on a regular basis. Aren't you being a little hypocritical, here?"

No. I don't believe I am being hypocritical. And here's why.

I believe, as I've publicly held and articulated for many years, that "Friendship Evangelism," as it seems to be most commonly taught and practiced, is spiritual bankrupt, void of scriptural support, and rarely leads to the actual verbal presentation of the law and the gospel to unsaved people. I've never been critical of "Friendship Evangelism" when it is engaged in a Christ-centered, gospel-driven manner. I've never been critical of establishing relationships with lost people for the purpose of sharing the gospel with them.

When it comes to "Friendship Evangelism," I'm critical of establishing relationships with lost people and never sharing the gospel with them. I'm critical of the types of so-called "Friendship Evangelism" that are neither friendship nor evangelism. I'm critical of any evangelistic strategy that puts greater emphasis on the Christian's popularity and safety among lost people than on reaching the lost with the gospel. I'm critical of building relationships with lost people upon the sandy foundation of the Christian's personality instead of building relationships with lost people upon the rock-solid foundation of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel.

It is Christians who are engaged in unbiblical forms of friendship evangelism, who have been misled to believe they are the gospel and that the gospel needs the help of their dynamic personality and ability to woo lost people into relationship, who are quick to mock the distribution of gospel tracts, engaging strangers in conversation, and (heaven forbid!) open-air preaching. They not only mock these legitimate forms of gospel communication, but they also mock the Christians who engage in these forms of evangelism. I believe they do this because American Evangelicalism has taught them that the gospel alone can't really save anyone. The gospel needs the Christian's help.

But the gospel doesn't need my help or your help. The gospel simply needs to be communicated in either verbal or written forms (John 20:31; Romans 10:14-17). The reason is simple. The gospel, not how it's delivered, is the power of God for salvation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gordon: Absurdity and Hatred for God

I love sharing the gospel on college campuses. Most of the students with whom I interact are polite, respectful, and reasonable. The campus of California State University Northridge is a place near and dear to my heart. Two of my daughters graduated from CSUN with degrees. I have been engaging in evangelism of various kinds on the CSUN campus, for more than six years.

As nice as most of the students are, every once in a while I run into someone like Gordon.

The first words out of his mouth were these. "How many dead babies does it take to paint a wall?"

It takes quite a bit to render me speechless. Gordon succeeded in rendering me speechless for a couple of seconds. Every day I hear the abundance of people's wicked and depraved hearts, rom which they speak. There's little that surprises me anymore--especially when it comes from atheists. They are living illustrations of the biblical adage "There's nothing new under the sun." But Gordon's level of verbalized depravity surprised me.

Gordon didn't stop there. He had a few more hate-filled, disgusting "dead baby" jokes to tell me. I wondered if Gordon was like his parents or if his parents were terribly and desperately worried about their son. I wondered if they even knew their son's heart was so dark and vile.

When Gordon took a breath after his last "joke," I asked him what he thought would happen to him after he died. While he attempted to be matter-of-fact and flippant, trying to exert a self-ordained intellectually superiority, he revealed he knew there was more to life than living and dying.

I quickly turned the conversation toward Gordon's worldview. Gordon approached me expecting one thing, but receiving another. Gordon expected to put God on trial. Instead, Gordon's wicked heart and his absurd worldview was put on trial.

Gordon immediately gave up knowledge by asserting he could be wrong about everything he thought he knew. He insisted there are no moral absolutes, yet shortly thereafter insisted my gospel tract's comparison between slavery and abortion was ridiculous and disgusting--making a truth claim and applying a moral standard he previously denied existed.

Sadly, Gordon is representative of many people who are comfortable living in absurdity, with hatred for God.

I pressed Gordon to justify his worldview. He couldn't. His worldview crumbled as fast as his "dead baby" jokes would have crumbled if he was a comedian and they were part of his act at the Improv.

I explained to Gordon what he already knew (Romans 1:18-23). He wasn't an atheist. His worldview was indefensible and absurd. In order to make any moral judgments that were binding upon anyone else but himself, Gordon would have to step in to my worldview to establish a moral standard. Gordon knows God exists the same way I do. The difference: Gordon lives in denial and I don't. Gordon is comfortable in absurdity and I'm not. Gordon hates the God who has given him life and breath whereas I love God. Gordon is lost and bound for hell. I have been redeemed and saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

My conversation with Gordon wasn't about who had the better scientific or philosophic argument. It wasn't about who was more intelligent or who was the better debater. It wasn't about who had the best evidence and who could provide the best defense. My conversation with Gordon was about worldviews--the Christian worldview founded upon the reality of the God of the Bible and the truth of His Word, and Gordon's worldview. There are only two worldviews: the Christian worldview and every other worldview (whether religious or secular) heaped into one godless, steamy mass of absurdity and blasphemy.

Gordon realized he was in trouble and he had no way of climbing out of the mind-numbing hole he dug for himself. He looked at his cell phone and said he needed to get to class.

I wish Gordon had given me more time so I could have shared the gospel with him. As Christians, we should never settle or find contentment in crushing godless worldviews. The reason: those absurd and blasphemous worldviews are held by people--lost people bound for hell if they don't repent and believe the gospel.

As Christians, we should always rejoice with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). But we should never rejoice over winning an argument or crushing someone's worldview. While my conversation with Gordon served a purpose (hopefully an important one), he still walked away dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), just as I would have walked away 30 years ago when I was his age. That's nothing to laugh at. That's tragic. That's heartbreaking.

Please join me in praying the Lord will use my conversation with Gordon to soften his heart. Pray he will read again and again the gospel tract he received with me--every time further convicted by the truth it contains. Pray Gordon will repent and believe the gospel and not perish holding onto his blasphemously absurd worldview.

Here's my conversation with Gordon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Abortive Parents and Some Professing Christians Hate Adoption

Saturday, I met Julian outside the Riverside Planned Parenthood. You can watch our conversation, here. During our conversation, he made some statements in response to my suggestion of placing his baby in the arms of adoptive parents. What Julian said was so honest and so telling that it revealed what I believe is a primary reason why so many abortive parents reject the idea of adoption for their unborn children. And I believe what Julian said also serves as a metaphor why some professing Christians hate the idea of adoption--not the adoption of children, but the idea of being adopted by God (See Romans 8:15-17; 23-25; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:3-6).

When I made the suggestion of putting his baby up for adoption, Julian said no. He said that if he and his girlfriend allowed the baby to be born, then they would be unable to give the baby up for adoption. Julian seemed stunned into silence when I told him that his pride was behind the murder of his baby. I told him that he was so proud that he would murder his baby before he would allow anyone else to raise him or her.

Julian hated the idea of adoption because it would expose what he couldn't admit to himself. He loved himself too much to allow his baby to live, which drove him to commit murder for convenience's sake. At the same time, he was too proud to admit his moral failures and his inability to raise a second child, so he murdered his child instead of allowing someone else to adopt his child. Such is the wicked, depraved, self-loving heart of human beings.

Some professing Christians loathe the idea of God adopting His children--a doctrine that shines from the pages of the Word of God like the noonday sun. They loathe this beautiful, grace-filled doctrine because it shines light on the darkness of their prideful hearts. The Doctrine of Adoption makes clear that salvation is the monergistic work of God and not a synergistic, cooperative effort between God and man. Because of the Doctrine of Adoption, the professing Christian cannot take any credit for his salvation. Neither his perceived goodness or an act of his will, had anything to do with his salvation.

Like Julian who was unable to raise his second child, and too much in love with himself and proud to even try or to fathom the idea of someone else accomplishing what he couldn't, the Christian is unable to save himself and is too much in love with himself to give God all the glory for his salvation. Similarly, the professing Christian who despises the Doctrine of Adoption simply cannot fathom God working alone to do what he cannot either do for himself or help God do for him--namely, arrange, cause, and secure his salvation.

This is why the oft-used, unbiblical "life preserver" analogy should never be used when describing, to believer and unbeliever alike, the way of salvation. The analogy goes like this. An unbeliever has fallen off a ship and is treading water in the ocean. Someone sees him struggling and on the verge of drowning (God) and throws him a life preserver (Jesus). The man who wants to be saved grabs the life preserver and is hauled to safety, back on the boat. The man who rejects Jesus is like the man drowning in the ocean who never reaches for the life preserver.

The problem with the analogy: the man in the water is already dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). A dead man is utterly incapable of reaching for the life preserver. In order for the man to be saved, Jesus must jump from the boat into the ocean (Ephesians 2:5-11), drag the dead man to safety (Romans 3:21-26; Colossians 2:8:15), and then bring him back to life (1 Peter 1:3). The dead man cannot cooperate in Jesus' effort to save him. He can neither reject nor thwart Jesus' effort to save him, just as a clinically dead person cannot do anything to assist or reject someone performing CPR.

Julian hated the thought of giving his unborn son up for adoption because of his pride and his love of self. Some professing Christians hate the Doctrine of Adoption for the same reason. Until he humbles himself (James 4:6), repents and believes the gospel (Mark 1:15), Julian will remain lost in his sin and bound for hell (Luke 13:1-5). The professing Christians who hates the monergistic Doctrine of Adoption may be in the same boat, or rather a lifeless body bobbing face down on the surface of the ocean. At the very least, the professing Christian who despises such a beautiful and glorious doctrine should examine himself to see if he is really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

He Murdered His Child for Convenience's Sake

Julian, driving a new BMW, brought his girlfriend to the Planned Parenthood in Riverside, CA. The couple stopped as they pulled into the driveway, allowing Kelly Leturgey to engage them in conversation. It was obvious that the young lady was reluctant to have the abortion. Sadly, the couple went into the clinic and murdered their child.

Shortly before Julian was to go back inside the abortuary to bring his girlfriend home, he approached Tony who had been pleading with him throughout the morning to do the right thing. Julian professed to be a Christian, citing the fact that many of his uncles and aunts were "ministers." Julian, who had already fathered a child by his girlfriend (now a 9-mos-old son), believed he would go to heaven when he died.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Derek Jeter: By What Standard a Role Model?

Last night, September 25, 2014, was a great moment in baseball history. Derek Jeter played his last game in Yankees Stadium, after an illustrious, Hall of Fame-worthy career.

To spare those of you who are not comfortable as I am in the realm of Baseball Geekdom, I will share but one amazing stat from Derek Jeter's career. In more than 2,900 games played, which included over 12,500 plate appearances, Derek Jeter was never ejected from a game. Let that sink in. Derek Jeter saw a minimum of 37,500 pitches as a batter, in his career. 3,820 times he threw runners out from his shortstop position. He was involved in 287 double plays. He was on the field for an unknown number of bench-clearing incidents. He played for the New York Yankees, the team fans around the world love to hate. Yet in all that time, amidst all those numbers and circumstances, Derek Jeter was never given the heave-ho by an umpire.


By all baseball standards, Derek Jeter was a class act. He quietly went about his business, allowing his bat and glove serve as his spokesmen, and both spokesmen did an outstanding job stumping for their candidate. And Jeter was as quiet off the field, as he was on the field.

By media standards, Derek Jeter was scandal-free. With the sports world, especially professional football, suffering from acute, self-inflicted media disasters, with player after player establishing criminal records instead of setting records on the field of play, Derek Jeter's 20 years of positive media presence is like a breath of fresh air.

By societal standards, Derek Jeter is a humble philanthropist and the consummate gentleman. His Turn 2 Foundation has been serving communities, helping kids, and awarding excellence for 18 years. Well-dressed, always well-mannered, publicly showing his love and respect for his parents--moms around the world hope their daughters bring home someone like Derek Jeter, and not for his money.

By baseball, media, and societal standards, Derek Jeter is a role model. Kids look up to him, men respect him, and women adore him. I, too, am one who respects Derek Jeter for his play, his demeanor on the field, and his philanthropy.

As I've watched Twitter activity over the last week, culminating in a rarely-before seen flurry in the wake of last night's game for the ages and Jeter's final farewell to the ballpark in the South Bronx, I read tweet after tweet from the simple fan to the prolific sports writer. Over and over again, people lauded not only the almost-magical end to Derek Jeter's career, but also his character. It made me wince a bit, for a reason, which I am about to explain. However, what truly troubled me were the number of posts by Christians, including pastors, who, like the general populace, touted Derek Jeter's character and his place as a role model.

Again, according to the world's standards, there is no argument that Derek Jeter is a positive role model. But that's not the standard by which Christians are to judge character, whether their own or someone else's. The standard by which the Christian is to judge character is the Word of God and Christ Himself. And according to that standard, Derek Jeter is not a positive role model. How can I say that?

Derek Jeter is a fornicator and an adulterer.

Did I lose you? Are you angry? Are you already whipping out the eisegetical, Matthew 7:1, "Don't Judge!" card?

Derek Jeter's history with women is the stuff of legend, in the eyes of men who don't know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I made the mistake of doing a Google search for Derek Jeter's girlfriends. The images associated with such a search are the stuff of a soft porn site. Men: if you struggle with lust of the eyes or lust of the flesh, do not make such a search on Google. You've been warned.

Derek Jeter has been romantically involved with many women, none of whom are his wife. He's a bachelor. Regardless of how well he has treated each woman, regardless of how well he has tried to keep his private life out of the spotlight, regardless of how well he has tried to protect the privacy of the women with whom he has had romantic relations, Derek Jeter is known to the world as a fornicator and an adulterer. But the world gives him a pass. Why? The world gives him a pass because he's a great baseball player, a positive media presence, and a philanthropist. The world gives him a pass because fornication and adultery are good things in the secular world.

As a Christian, I cannot hold up Derek Jeter as a role model. According to a biblical standard, Derek Jeter is not a role model.

So, my brother in Christ, before you positively tweet again about the character of Derek Jeter, please consider by what standard you are making him a role model? And pastor, before you use Derek Jeter in your sermon this Sunday as an illustration of character, please do the same. Please consider by what standard you are making him a role model.

And, no, I don't hate Derek Jeter. I love him enough, as a fellow human being, to write this article with the hope that somehow, some way he might read it.

Derek, if you've read this far, I hope and pray you go the extra mile to read this article, too. My hope for you, Derek, as it is for every human being, is that you will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Penciled Prayers: People of the Book

"Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, "It shall be well with you"; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, "No disaster shall come upon you"'" (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

Father, so many of Your people are listening to prophets You have not sent and teachers You have not called. So many names come to mind. I realize, Lord, I may be wrong about some. I also realize, Father, there are many more of who I do not know. Father, is the growing number of false prophets and false teachers, and the aberrant teachings they bring an indication that Your judgment of Your household has begun? If so, what a wrathful judgment it is!

O Lord, so many who claim to know You have turned away from You, preferring to have their ears tickled by unscrupulous men. Instead of seeking Your voice and truth in Your Word, they choose the vanity of false hopes and the false promises of a trouble-free life.

Father, please stop the mouths of those who speak of visions created in their depraved minds, and then blaspheme You by attaching "thus says the Lord" to their lies. Lord, while I don't want harm to befall any person, I ask that You make them mute for a time--speechless until they repent of uttering lies--false words that deny, not affirm, a desire to live by the two greatest commandments. And please stop up the ears of the those who listen to false prophets and teachers. O Father, protect Your people from this onslaught of wickedness coming from pliers of falsehood. Help Your people to be less emotionally driven, less driven by feelings and desires, and more driven by an insatiable desire to understand Your Word because of their genuine love for Your Word.

Even the demonic book of the demonic religion of Islam refers to Your people, Lord, as "people of the Book." Father, bring those who are Your people who have drifted from a reliance on Your truth back to Your Book. Correct their eyes and ears, their ability to see and hear, their ability to discern truth from error. Help Your people to recognize the wolves in their midst. Give them the courage to fight and chase off the wolves instead of foolishly and sinfully trying to tame the wolves and coddle them as pets.

And Lord, for those who are drawn to false prophets and teachers like mindless flies drawn to dung or deadly flames, because they despise Your Word and have created a blasphemous and idolatrous Jesus in their imagination to suit themselves, please do not utterly destroy them. Please bring them to genuine repentance and faith, and an understanding and knowledge of the truth.

Do these things, I pray, for Your own glory, Father, and for the magnification of the name of Your Son. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Benefit of the Doubt: Social Media is Killing It

Social Media is killing the age-old and inherently Christian practice (see Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Philippians 2:1-5) of giving others the benefit of the doubt. As a result, Christian fellowship is hindered, relationships between Christians are damaged, and the name of Jesus Christ is maligned.

I fully expect I will not be given the benefit of the doubt by some who read this article. After all, this article is a blog post. It's posted on social media. Therefore, my motivations and intentions can be negatively scrutinized, and some who might readily assert they are my friends, can assume the worst about me.

The above statements would be rightly classified as bizarre if such things didn't happen with increasing frequency and rapidity on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And, at least from my vantage point (most of my online interaction is with Christians), Christians are leading the way down this unholy path of uncharitableness.

A new-found commitment to brevity (thank you Dan Phillips) precludes me from providing a litany of qualifying statements in a robust attempt to make everyone happy. But I will toss at least this one, qualifying bone. I'm guilty. While I've been the recipient, many times, of not being given the benefit of the doubt, I have also done it to others far more often than I'd like to admit. So, I am doing my finger-pointing while looking in the mirror. If you're still not satisfied, let me fan out this hand on the table. Let me show you my cards. As you read this article, you may be right to conclude I have you in mind. And there is just as much chance you're wrong.

So, what am I not talking about? Well, I'm not talking about giving the benefit of the doubt to false teachers before commenting publicly about what they publicly do or say. I'm not suggesting giving Joel Osteen the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving Steven Furtick the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving Rick Warren the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving lesser known guys like Heath Mooneyham the benefit of the doubt for doing this.

Furthermore, I do not support the eisegetical, "Matthew 18" argument that says before a Christian should speak or write publicly about something another Christian said or wrote publicly, the former must go to the latter privately. Public debate (even criticism) is part of life in the Internet world. If you don't want your views scrutinized or challenged, then don't say it on Facebook or Twitter, and don't write it in a blog post. However, I have a modified view regarding situations when both parties have either a well-established rapport or a bona fide friendship.

If you have a friend, a brother or sister in Christ, who says or writes something online that leaves you scratching your head, or causes your pupils to dilate as a result of shock, or you develop bruxism (involuntary grinding of the teeth) because you're so angry, don't run to your computer, tablet, or phone. Pause. Take a deep breath. Consider the source of your confusion, perplexion, or consternation. Remind yourself that the other person is your friend. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

Then, do something social media has all but eradicated. Pick up the phone and call your friend. Or, go see him in person, if that's feasible.

Social Media is killing the practice of giving people the benefit of the doubt. I think Christians should revive it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


I am an unashamed and unapologetic critic of "Friendship Evangelism," as it is most commonly advocated, taught, and practiced.

I believe Christians should befriend unbelievers. I am not against that in the least. But if the goal of developing relationships with lost people bound for hell is anything less than seeking every opportunity to proclaim the gospel to them, then the development of such relationships are acts of selfishness, at best.

Today, I had a few (well, many) things to say about "Friendship Evangelism," in 140 characters or less. I have cleaned up grammar and spelling of the tweets, for the purpose of this blog post.


The American Evangelical notion that the Christian has to "earn the right" to share the gospel with the lost is both traitorous & blasphemous.

Show me the verse that says the Christian must have the permission of God's enemies to plead with them to obey God's command to repent and believe.

The primary reason more American Evangelicals do not share the gospel is because they love themselves more than they love Jesus & the lost.

Most American Evangelical evangelism strategies are designed to protect the Christian, not to reach the lost with the gospel.

If you have been taught that spiritually dead and spiritually blind lost people who hate God can see Jesus in you, then u have been deceived.

Unless you verbally (or in written form) proclaim the gospel, you look no different than a nice Mormon or Muslim or Atheist to a lost person.

Most American Evangelical evangelism strategies are arrogant examples of the sinful notion that the gospel is not enough and God needs our help.

Wanna know why more Christians weren't sharing the gospel in #Ferguson? Because in #FriendshipEvangelism you only share with people you like.

#FrienshipEvangelism is not loving your neighbor as yourself. It's loving yourself among the neighbors you like.

#FriendshipEvangelism assumes Jesus isn't coming back anytime, soon.

Don't like to shove the gospel down people's throats? #FriendshipEvangelism is shoving YOU down people's throats.

Many proponents of #FriendshipEvangelism, if they're honest, will admit they disdain street evangelism because it is done among "those" people.

Proponents of #FriendshipEvangelism hate street evangelism because there's no time to develop relationships with people they'd never bring into their homes, [anyways].

Build houses, feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, and don't share the gospel: you're just making people more comfortable on their way to hell.

You know what missionary proponents of #FriendshipEvangelism look like when I see them on the streets while I'm preaching? Tourists.

Proponents of #FriendshipEvangelism say open-air preaching turns people away from Jesus, showing how little power they believe Jesus has to save.

When a proponent of #FriendshipEvangelism confronts me on the street, the conversation goes south the moment I ask them when they last shared the gospel.

Most young, short-term missionaries committed to #FriendshipEvangelism usually come home with wonderful pictures of their trip. #Vacation

#FriendshipEvangelism is American Evangelicalism's way to justify systematic discrimination among "the least of these."

#FriendshipEvangelism has one thing in common with Hinduism. It's a "sacred cow."

Biblical #FriendshipEvangelism BEGINS with the gospel. Build the relationship on the rock of Christ, not the sand of your personality.

NOT ONE passage of Scripture supports the idea that Jesus practiced #FriendshipEvangelism the way it is practiced today. NOT ONE.

#FriendshipEvangelism is neither friendship nor evangelism, because the friendship becomes more important than the soul of the friend.

#FriendshipEvangelism is an unfortunate byproduct of the false American Evangelical teaching that says, "You are the gospel."

Look what #FriendshipEvangelism has produced, in part: mega-churches filled with middle-to-upper-middle class white people where the gospel is a byword.

#FriendshipEvangelism has produced college and university ministries that are void of holiness, but have plenty of pizza and Foosball.

#FriendshipEvangelism doesn't produce evangelists. It produces "life coaches."

Sadly, the selfish joy in the hearts of Christians because of practicing #FriendshipEvangelism, can produce...THIS

Many proponents of #FriendshipEvangelism be like, "Yo! Dats da Jesus I know!" Read This.

We can thank youth ministries that focus on #FriendshipEvangelism, in part, for the high false conversion rate on university campuses.

And please take the time to listen to this sermon excerpt:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Aspect of Ministry: Encouraging Words

As many of you know, I love reading the biographies of great men of the faith, especially those men of God who were courageously and lovingly preaching the gospel in the open-air. One of the things I have so appreciated about the lives of some of the evangelists and the pastors I've studied is the way they encouraged others through written correspondences.

I know how encouraged the family and I are when we receive a note or letter of encouragement from one of you. Thank you! Keep 'em coming! :-)

My eldest daughter, Michelle, has the gift of encouragement. All her life, she has shown great compassion for others. She weeps with those who weep and mourns with those who mourn. Michelle's life has been filled to overflowing with medical challenges. Yet, since she was just a baby, she has taken hard times in stride, with amazing faith and endurance. There have been times in Michelle's life in which I was the student and she was the teacher--showing me what faith and courage really look like.

Michelle had the idea of encouraging people through written correspondences. She was going to do it on her own, but I thought it would be a wonderful way for the two of us to love God and love people, together. So, I would like to announce the formation of a new aspect of Cross Encounters Ministries called "Encouraging Words." We hope to have a new section of the website dedicated to this new aspect of ministry, sometime soon.

In the meantime, let me give you a snapshot of what "Encouraging Words" will look like.

As Michelle and I come across people on social media or in our day-to-day lives who we think could benefit from some encouragement, we will send them handwritten correspondences in an effort to lift their spirits. When the situation warrants a more significant response, we will advise folks, either through the website or through the newsletter, of the need for a concerted effort to bring someone "encouraging words." People will be directed how to get their cards and letters to us. We will then, in turn, box up the "encouraging words" and send them to the person (people) in need.

The passage of Scripture that will serve as our motivator and reminder will be 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, which reads:

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

Sadly, we will begin "Encouraging Words" on a difficult note.

For some time, a beautiful young lady (pictured at top) by the name of Cara Hansen (Harris) battled Leukemia. It saddens me to report that she has passed away. Cara was, and still is, and will always be, a follower of Jesus Christ. While we mourn her departing, we rejoice that she will never again face and feel the ravages of cancer. Cara left this world at 6:15 AM, Sunday, September 14. She is now in the presence of the Lord!

Her dad, Brian Harris, is a friend of mine. Needless to say, the Harris Family is in need of encouragement from the Body of Christ. So, please, join us in providing the Harris Family with some "encouraging words."

Mail your cards and letters ONLY (NO GIFTS OR MONEY) to:

P.O. Box 220087
Newhall, CA 91322

Since we will forward all cards and letters to the Harris Family in a single mailing, your card or letter MUST be postmarked NO LATER than Monday, September 29, 2014. Anything postmarked after that date MAY NOT be delivered to the Harris Family.

I hope you will join Cross Encounters Ministries in providing "encouraging words" to the Harris Family.