Saturday, November 30, 2013

We Must Be Divisive

By Chris Hohnholz
Edited by Tony Miano

“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1: 9-11, ESV).

Perhaps the most terrible sin a Christian can commit today is that of being divisive. Just ask any person attending an American evangelical church what they think of someone who points out false teachers. Many may respond with the belief that the false teachers are Christians, so we should not judge them. Others may say that, while the teachers may be wrong, it is mean to call them out publicly. Therefore, we should either speak to them privately about our differences or, if we feel we must say something to the church, then we should only ever speak of them in generalities, never actually referring to them directly. However, such a stance is unbiblical. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that false teachers should be marked and avoided.

While there are some within the Christian community who certainly do take this matter to extremes – in fact, one of the more dreaded categories of internet bloggers are those who call themselves “discernment ministries” – not all who call out false teachers are sinning. In fact, based upon the scripture cited above, Paul makes it abundantly clear that preachers and pastors are to do exactly that. Paul begins his letter to Titus by stating he had left the preacher in Crete to establish soundly biblical elders to oversee the church. He establishes for Titus the criteria for those who would be elders: above reproach, husband of one wife, believing children, not open debauchery or insubordination, not arrogant, but hospitable, upright and holy. He then states they must hold firmly to the Word of God.

Paul makes it clear that elders must be informed by God’s revealed Word and give sound doctrinal instruction to the church based on the Word alone. This is in stark contrast from most false teachers. Quite often, these so-called preachers will either teach from their personal beliefs and experiences, or they will speak of having direct revelation from God. The former are dangerous for they speak from the same wicked, unregenerate heart as many of those in their congregations. However, the latter are even more dangerous, for how can anyone ever actually question them? They represent themselves as direct links to the divine, thus they speak with the voice of “god” and cannot be questioned. Yet, Paul established that the elder who preaches to the Bride of Christ must be held to God’s Word as revealed in Scripture alone. Such preaching is confined to the words God revealed to his prophets and apostles through the Holy Spirit. It can be tested and verified by any who would take the time to search the scriptures and see if these things be true.

When Paul established this standard, he was declaring that the Christian was to be taught through the doctrines God revealed in Scripture. Only through God’s Word does a person learn the truth of his sinful nature. Only in Scripture is it revealed that God sent His only begotten Son to take on human flesh, to be tempted in all ways human, to resist all temptation perfectly and yet to become sin on behalf of man. Only in Scripture do we learn that Christ became the perfect sacrifice for sin and, through repentance and faith, man can receive His righteousness and be forgiven. Paul calls Titus to establish elders who would teach sound doctrine so that souls might be saved and Christians may go out to fight in spiritual warfare.

Why should this passage of Scripture be important to the Christian layperson ? Most of us will never be called to step up into a pulpit to preach a sermon, so why is the standard for elders necessary for us to know? Understand this, the elder is called to shepherd the flock of Christ. In teaching sound doctrine, he is equipping the Christian layperson to obey God. Therefore, not only must the elder be grounded in the Word of God; so must the flock. When Paul commands elders to teach according to God’s Word, the expectation is that the Christian will learn what is being taught. Paul, by extension, is commanding Christians to be built up in sound doctrine and to identify those who teach contrary to the Word.

As followers of Christ, it is incumbent upon us to devote time and energy to understanding God’s Word. It is not only for the Sunday morning service when many Christians crack open their dusty bibles so they can follow along with the pastor. If his job is to equip us, it is our job to study, meditate and apply what has been taught. Additionally, if the standard for the elder is to teach only what God has revealed, how can he be held accountable if the congregation never seeks to see if what he says is true? How can we know if the pastor is a true or false teacher if we do not compare what he says with what is in the Word?

Do not misunderstand me, I am not calling for Christians to question every single thing the pastor says and does. This is not a command to suddenly doubt your pastor who has faithfully shepherded the flock for years, or to start wondering if he is a wolf ready to pounce. Yet, as a Christian, you are expected to know and understand the Word of God, rightly applying its teachings, even with your pastor.

This passage of Scripture is extremely important, especially in our modern day, post-modern, pluralistic culture. At the beginning of this article, I noted that one of the worst sins in American evangelicalism is to publicly call out a false teacher . That is an extension of the post-modern teaching that says all truth is valid truth, therefore, no one truth is more right than another. In that belief system is the command that we should never, ever tell someone they are wrong. It is lie straight from the pit of Hell. In the Garden of Eden, what did the serpent do? He questioned what God said and then redefined what it meant. And yet, in churches today, a great many professing Christians are simply unwilling to believe it is biblical to directly call out false teachers and teachings by name.

We as Christians, as light bearers and heralds of our King, Jesus Christ our Savior, must be obedient to the command of God. We must diligently study the word of God, learning its precious truths and proclaiming them to a lost and dying world.

All around us, everyday, thousands of people step off into eternity to be judged by God. All of them follow some sort of false religion: Hinduism, Islam, Atheism, Humanism, etc. All of them are worshipping the “god” of self, the false god who promises reward for human achievement. We are often willing to point out these beliefs as wrong and being part of the broad road that leads to Hell.

However, when it comes discerning the true faith of Christianity from the almost true teachings of those who call themselves Christian, we buckle at the knee. We swallow the lie that they sound Christian, so they must be Christian. We don’t want to look bad in front of others, so we abdicate our responsibility to apply God’s Word in discerning the true from false. We allow our friends and family to live comfortably in false churches that kinda, sorta, look Christian because we do not want to be seen as judgmental. This ought not to be so.

Christian, the elders appointed to shepherd you are called to a high standard – called to be obedient to God’s Word, alone. Your elders have been called to rebuke those who teach falsely and those who are willing to follow them. They have been called to equip you for spiritual warfare, not just in the battle of truth against teaching that is obviously false, but also in the battles between the true and the almost true. Therefore, take up the Sword of God, learn what He has revealed and go into battle, because many of those who sit under false teachers are souls on their way to Hell. Those “little things” you feel uncomfortable pointing out may be issues that are as far apart as truth and error . This article is not meant to be a guilt trip to obligate you to hunt for heretics , but a dire warning bell calling you to rescue those who are perishing. Yes, you will be called divisive by others, but it is this kind of division that God commands—to divide true from false and rescue those who are lost. Will you obey the call?

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Honoring Christ as Holy in My Heart and My Preaching: It's Time for 'The Lawman' to Retire

During my prayer walk this morning, I asked the Lord to help me communicate something important on my heart and mind. Prior to this post, I've tried a couple of times to write what follows, only to delete the posts during the writing process. Even coming up with a title for the article was difficult. As I prayed, the phrase that almost immediately came to mind, which I believe best communicates what I'm about to share, was "Preaching to the Fatherless."

My Lil' Sister

A couple weekends ago, my sister, Cheryl, and my brother-in-law, Ian, joined me at the Mission Hills FPAMG abortuary. My lil' sister is, second to Mahria, probably my closest confidant. She's also one of my toughest critics, but it's a "tough love."

The Tuesday following our time together at the abortuary, Cheryl texted me the following message:
Consider this as the key passage for your (our) abortion clinic mission:

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For
'Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:8-17).

For 25 years, I have read the Bible. I have read the above passage in 1 Peter more times than I can remember. I have preached, taught, and referenced 1 Peter 3:15 countless times.

Like many Christians, I often recite the verse without the first phrase--the most important phrase--"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy." Most Bible commentators agree that Peter has in mind with this phrase Isaiah 8:13. "But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."

In his commentary on 1 Peter 3:15, Matthew Henry wrote:
"We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him."
In order to honor Jesus Christ as holy in my heart, my heart must first be right with him. After all, Jesus said, "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Jesus also made it clear that what comes out of my mouth reveals the true condition of my heart, at any given moment.
"Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:17-19).
I read 1 Peter 3:8-17 as I stood alone, last Tuesday morning, outside the Mission Hills FPAMG abortuary, waiting or my friend, Don, to arrive. Even though I had read the passage many times, I was seeing it anew. Maybe a better way to put it is that I was seeing it honestly, as it applied to me and my preaching. I had to ask myself and the Lord, although I was painfully confident about the answer, "When I preach, do I always truly honor Christ the Lord as holy?" In other words, when I preach, do I conduct myself in such a way as to invite and encourage others to glorify and honor Jesus Christ?

The answer is no.

My sister has cautioned me for quite some time about sounding and looking angry when I preach. At times, I've simply blown her off. Other times, I simply could not ignore what the videos or audios revealed and I had to admit the wrong. Yet other times, too many times, I've led myself to believe that I've successfully curbed my anger, without changing my preaching. I've convinced myself that I've turned the corner, without ever really turning from the sin.

"The Lawman"

In 2006, when I began serving as a "street fisherman" on The Way of the Master Radio, Todd Friel gave me the nickname "The Lawman." None of this is his fault, by the way. Having spent 20 years as a "lawman" (pictured left, holding the ballistic shield) the open-air preaching persona of a "lawman" came naturally. I still believe the Lord uses my law enforcement experience in my preaching. Command presence, reading a crowd, directing a crowd (often times without them realizing it), interpersonal communications, threat assessment--these and other law enforcement-related skills have served me well during the last eight years of ministry. But experience in one aspect of life is not always a benefit in another. Allow me to give you an example.

While, as a deputy, I talked my way out of far more fights than the number of fights in which I was actually engaged, no one ever won an argument with me on the streets. Never. Street debates were not tolerated. I was right until a court of law determined otherwise. Such command and control of situations and people was necessary not only for the proper handling of calls for service, but also for the preservation of life--the lives of citizens, my partners, as well as my own life. Yet in an open-air setting, applying the same skill set can sometimes make my bark as painful as an actual bite. I never set out to sound like a deputy sheriff when I preach, but there's no denying this is how I sound at times.

In the end, how I intend to sound while preaching in the open-air is not as important as how I might actually sound to my listeners--whether outside an abortion clinic, on a college campus, or on a street corner in a major city. Do I conduct myself in such a way as to invite and encourage others to glorify and honor Jesus Christ? The time has come for me to stop leaning on my law enforcement persona and catchy, typecast nickname. It's time I stop using it as an excuse for unbiblical behavior, too.

I can already hear some of my brothers in the open-air preaching subculture. "We're not man-pleasers. It doesn't matter how we sound to them. The gospel offends!"

"The Gospel Offends!"

The gospel offends. For far too long, open-air preachers like me have been using that precious, biblical truth--"the gospel offends" (1 Corinthians 1:18)--as a scapegoat, as a cover for what we know is sinful behavior. Well, if no one else will admit to it, I will. I must. It's time. It's long overdue.

If my tone of voice and/or my rhetoric is not seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6), if sympathy, love, tenderness, and humility (1 Peter 3:8) cannot be heard in my voice, then I am the offense. Oh, the gospel I preach is offensive right along with my behavior--side-by-side. But the offense the gospel brings is a convicting offense, not a justifying offense. When a lost person is offended by the gospel, he knows full well why he is offended. The truth of the gospel interferes with his natural desire to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). It adds a bitter, unpleasant taste to the iniquity, injustice, and sin he wants to drink like a cool glass of water (Job 15:16). It is a stumbling block on his preferred, destructive path of life (Matthew 7:13). It undermines his false perception of his own goodness (Ecclesiastes 7:20), while remaining defiant to the life of goodness God requires of every man (Micah 6:8).

On the other hand, when my sinful behavior is seen and heard over and above the offense of the gospel, I, in effect, give the unbeliever an opportunity for self-applied, impotent, ineffectual justification of his unbelief. I cannot push anyone away from Jesus (John 6:37; John 6:44; Romans 9:14-18), no matter how sinful my behavior. The unbeliever, by his very nature, wantonly runs toward hell (Proverbs 21:10; Matthew 7:13; John 8:44; Romans 1:32) and has no desire for God (Romans 3:10-18). But that does not give me license to take the sovereignty of God for granted like an unsaved hyper-Calvinist. From my heart, to my mouth, to the words I speak, I must honor Christ Jesus the Lord as holy. In my one-to-one conversations, in my open-air preaching, in my pulpit sermons, in my blog articles, in my communications with Mahria and my girls, I must honor Christ Jesus the Lord as holy. In the end, if I am to be reviled, let it be for my good behavior (1 Peter 3:16), not for my self-justified bad behavior (1 Peter 4:15).

Preaching to the Fatherless

Those who know me know I love being a dad. I love being an uncle. I long to be a grandfather. Pray for my three adult daughters. The fact that my biological grandfather clock is ticking makes this season of life a challenge for them. I also love being a spiritual grandfather, father, and uncle to those who are not biologically a part of my family, but are, like me, adopted into the family of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. I have several spiritual sons and daughters around the world. Yes, I'm boasting a little. I'm a proud papa.

When I served as a gang and juvenile crime investigator for the sheriff's department, there were times when parents at the end of their ropes would bring their wayward teenager into the station for some counseling. Sometimes these heart-to-heart talks were prearranged. Every once in a while (well, rarely), the "scared straight" approach worked with a kid. More often than not, however, parents would come into the station with their teen and say, "Fix him!" I would have to gently but firmly explain to the parents that I could not fix in one conversation what it took them 17 years to break.

Sadly, more often than not, the troubled youths with whom I dealt were the products of broken families. And more often than not, it was the fathers who were not in the picture. While the lack of a father in a young person's life is never an excuse for anti-social or criminal behavior (each person is accountable for his or her own sin), it is no doubt a contributing factor.

It's important, here, to note that a father can be absent while still being present in the home. Workaholics, dads who would rather be their kids' friend than their kids' father, or Neanderthals who may never come to understand that it takes more than procreation to be a dad--these kinds of dysfunctional, sinful men and others live at home with their families. Yet leave their children fatherless. And I meet the byproducts, the tragic collateral damage of men like these on the streets, at abortion clinics, and on university campuses all the time. The children of fatherless homes: they are in their teens, their twenties, and older. This is the generation to which I am preaching the gospel, today. Whether it's in Southern California, somewhere else in the United States, or Canada, England, Norway, and beyond; I am preaching to a fatherless generation, a lost and fatherless world.

So, what does this have to do with honoring Christ Jesus as holy in my heart when I'm open-air preaching? Everything.

I can present four expert eyewitnesses who can truthfully testify that I am an imperfect father: Mahria, Michelle, Marissa, and Amanda. However, for the purposes of this article, you will just have to trust me when I say they will each nod their heads in agreement as I make the following assertions.

I have never successfully disciplined my children while angry. I have never successfully discipled my children while angry. I have never successfully led my children while angry. I have never successfully comforted my children while angry. I have never truly helped my children navigate the stormy seas of life while angry. As a matter of fact, I've never done anything right by, to, or for my children while angry. In such times, I only taught them to be...well...angry.

Now, considering how unsuccessful I have been as a father in those times when I have been angry, and considering how many unsaved people in the world today have grown up with either angry or absent fathers, is there any real chance of me biblically communicating the gospel and in my heart honoring Jesus Christ as holy, if I'm angry while I'm preaching? That was a long rhetorical question. So let me give you the short and obvious answer: no.

Add to the above description of a flawed man the persona and skill set of a law enforcement professional and, to the unsaved eyes and ears standing in front of me as I stand atop a two-step ladder, I might, at times, look and sound this.

If you've made it this far in the article, I hope you can see that I've given these things much thought. I don't believe I am over-thinking these issues. I don't believe I've wandered down the road of pragmatism. Nor do I think I'm being melodramatic or hyperbolic when I say it's time for the "lawman" to retire. It's time to allow the persona that has served me well for many years and has likely saved my life more than once to quietly drift from the foreground to the background of my preaching.

Of course, there's a need for balance in my decision, just as there is a need for balance in all areas of my Christian life. The "lawman" in me will never completely go away. It is part of my personality. It is part of who I am. The Lord allowed me to experience 20 years as a law enforcement professional for reasons that He has made known to me, through new experiences, during the last eight years of street ministry. When my heart has been such that I have honored Christ as holy in my heart (ultimately, only the Lord knows when those times have occurred), my law enforcement skill set has been a positive and useful tool in my evangelism war bag. I'm still going to be me, but I must endeavor to be me in such a way and to such an extent that I am living in conformity to the image of Christ while honoring Him as holy in my heart. And in order to do that "the lawman" in me must decrease, so that the father/grandfather in me can increase.

It's time for the "lawman" in me to stand down so that the father and grandfather in me can stand up. It's time for me (and I'm only talking about me) to be seen as more of a father figure than a law enforcement figure when I preach. It's time to replace the "cop eyes" with eyes of fatherly love and compassion. It's time to replace the voice of thunder that rages in the midst of the storm with the voice of a father who cries out to his children loud enough so they can hear him over the storm to take shelter in the house. It's not time for me to become more pragmatic. It's time for me to become more biblical. It's time for me to truly honor the Lord Jesus Christ as holy in my heart and in my preaching.

No more was this truth solidified in my heart and mind than when I saw Telda's tears.

Telda's Tears

From time to time, for more than a year now, I have been joined at the North Hollywood Metro Station by Richard and Telda Peskett. Richard and Telda are from England. They are here in Southern California while Richard attends The Master's Seminary. The Pesketts love to engage people in gospel conversations, and Richard is a fine open-air preacher. They are two of the nicest, gentlest, and most gracious people I know. They are my friends.

Prior to this last Saturday, it had been a few months since I last preached at the North Hollywood Metro Station. I was blessed to be met there by Richard and Telda, on my first Saturday morning back. It was a relatively quiet day at the Metro Station. A steady flow of people, in groups as large as 100, made their way back and forth between the Orange Line bus station across the street and the Red Line subway station. A few sat under the limited shade of few skinny palm trees in concrete planters, waiting for buses for other transit lines to arrive. Others waited for friends or family members to pick them up to take them to their next destination.

I was the first to preach. The crowd was small to non-existent. Although I was using a new amplification system, one that is rated for 2,000 yards, the only person I knew for sure was listening was Telda. I did have one "drive-by heckler" mock and blaspheme God as he rode past me on his bicycle. But other than that, it was a rather uneventful open-air. There was nothing extraordinary about my sermon. The biblical text from which I preached and its law-gospel application were not particularly incendiary.

Yet when I finished preaching and stepped down from my stepladder something very special happened--something that, to a large extent and in addition to what I've already written, would lead me down the road to come to some important conclusions and to writing this article. As I stepped down, I noticed Telda walking toward me. The closer she got the clearer view I had of her face. She was crying.

Oh how I wish I could remember Telda's exact words. I fear I will not do them justice in a paraphrase.

Telda told me that she could hear such love for the people in my voice. She told me that she had been praying to hear that kind of love in my preaching. Telda was very quick to affirm my preaching as a whole. It was as if she worried her encouraging, loving, and gentle words might be taken the wrong way--might be heard as criticism. I did not take her words as a criticism. How could I? Seeing the tears run down her cheeks and hearing the quiver in her voice, how could I take her words as anything but what they truly were? They were an expression of love from a sister to a brother. They were an expression of the joy of prayers answered.

Sadly, I'm sure there was a time, maybe a time not very long ago, when I would have heard only criticism. But, by God's grace and mercy, he had prepared and led me to this moment. He had prepared my heart and mind to hear and receive Telda's words as not only how they were intended by her, but also as a clear and eye-widening indication that people who truly care about me and my preaching--people like my sisters, Cheryl and Telda--have had real concerns to the point of heartache about the tone and rhetoric of my preaching. It was as if, at that moment, it finally clicked in my head. "Wow, Lord. I really haven't been honoring you in my heart and in my preaching the way I should!"

Final Thoughts

For the last five days I have pondered and prayed, reflected and prayed, questioned and prayed, repented and prayed. And then I sat down to write this article.

This has been quite a journey (much longer than the last five days)--one filled with denial and discovery, self-righteousness and soul searching, remonstrating and repenting. I'm not going to bother asking God why it's taken so long--years, really. The answer to that question might be too painful to receive. I will simply continue to thank Him for getting me here, for bringing me to this point in my life and ministry. I will continue to thank Him for helping me to finally see that it's time for "the lawman" to retire. It's time for me to settle (with contentment and a rejuvenated, better placed zeal) into the role of father and grandfather in my open-air preaching. It's time for "the lawman" to turn in his gun and badge and turn to imitating the meekness of the Lamb of God.

Let me be clear. I do not see this as a weakening of my mettle. Rather, I see it as a maturing of my mettle. There will be no compromise in my messages. There will be, however, to the extent the Holy Spirit enables and helps me, more compassion and love in my proclamations of the gospel.

God does not need my help. His gospel does not need my assistance in any way, shape, or form. A change in my behavior will not sweeten the aroma of "death to death" the preaching will leave in the nostrils of some--most (2 Corinthians 2:15-17). The word of the cross will remain foolishness to those who are perishing. And a failure on my part to change will not result in a single person missing heaven. God is sovereign and salvation is of the Lord! But if the people revile (and they most certainly will continue to revile), let them revile to their own shame, knowing that what they are reviling is the truth of the gospel and not the sinful behavior of the one communicating it to them.

Oh Lord, please help me to honor You as holy, in my heart and in my preaching, forevermore.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Twin Killing at the Mission Hills FPAMG Abortion Clinic

The car slowly approached the entrance to the abortuary parking lot. I raised my hand, signaling to the driver that I would like him to stop. To my surprise, he stopped and rolled down his window. His wife sat in the passenger seat. I asked her if she had come for an abortion. She said, "Yes."

The mother initial told the story that one of her twins did not have a heartbeat. By the end of the conversation, the woman admitted that she simply didn't want anymore children. With four at home, two more children would simply be too much of an inconvenience. So, with malice aforethought, the couple entered the abortion clinic to commit a twin killing.

The only victims in this case are the two babies who were summarily executed.....for convenience sake.

The Bait & Switch of Friendship Evangelism


I have written extensively over the years about the evangelistic darling of American Evangelicalism: "friendship evangelism." I have very little positive to say about friendship evangelism, as it is most commonly practiced. I am not opposed to establishing friendships with unbelievers. If I repeated the last sentence a dozen times in this article, there would still be Christians who would accuse me of the contrary. That's easier than dealing with the reality that friendship evangelism, as it is most commonly practiced, is neither friendship nor evangelism. The result of most friendship evangelism efforts is an unintended bait and switch. And I want to emphasize that word "unintended." I do not believe Christians who have been convinced that friendship evangelism is biblical and effective (when it is neither), and who are committed to its application, intentionally seek to deceive anyone. I believe Christians who engage in friendship evangelism, who have accepted the tradition as canonical, want to see lost people saved. Christians who engage in friendship evangelism, as it is most commonly practiced, are not my enemies. But friendship evangelism, again, as it is most commonly practiced, is an enemy of the gospel.

C.S. Lewis, if he were alive today, would see the above paragraph as a literary train wreck. He despised the overuse of italicization as a means of providing greater emphasis to an author's written arguments. In fact, in the preface of his classic work, Mere Christianity, Lewis had this to say:
"The contents of this book were first given on the air, and then published in three separate parts as The Case for Christianity (1943), Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1945). In the printed versions I made a few additions to what I had said at the microphone, but otherwise left the text much as it had been. A "talk" on the radio should, I think, be as like real talk as possible, and should not sound like an essay being read aloud. In my talks I had therefore used all the contractions and colloquialisms I ordinarily use in conversation. In the printed version I reproduced this, putting don't and we've for do not and we have. And wherever, in the talks, I had made the importance of a word clear by the emphasis of my voice, I printed it in italics.

"I am now inclined to think that this was a mistake—an undesirable hybrid between the art of speaking and the art of writing. A talker ought to use variations of voice for emphasis because his medium naturally lends itself to that method: but a writer ought not to use italics for the same purpose. He has his own, different, means of bringing out the key words and ought to use them. In this edition I have expanded the contractions and replaced most of the italics by recasting the sentences in which they occurred: but without altering, I hope, the 'popular' or 'familiar' tone which I had all along intended. I have also added and deleted where I thought I understood any part of my subject better now than ten years ago or where I knew that the original version had been misunderstood by others."
The reason I thought it necessary to put so much emphasis on words and phrases in my opening paragraph is because people read not only with their eyes and their minds, but also with their emotions, and emotions can sometimes blur one's vision. I graffitied my opening paragraph with bold and italicized type in an attempt to say, I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who engage in friendship evangelism. I do not think you are evil. I do not think you are maniacal. I do not think you are treacherous. I do not think you have sinful, ulterior motives. I do not think you want to deceive anyone. I simply think your preferred and chosen method of evangelism is wrong and without biblical support. I think you are unintentionally and unwittingly engaged in a bait and switch when you engage in friendship evangelism, as it is most commonly practiced.

Before I explain the bait and switch components of friendship evangelism, I need to spend some time removing the bell from around the neck of a sacred cow. Jesus's relationship to The Twelve is not an example of friendship evangelism. It is an example of God's sovereignty in election and salvation.

Jesus Chose the Twelve; He Didn't Befriend Them

Many Christians, both pastors/elders and laypeople, will point to Jesus's relationship to His twelve disciples as a textbook example of friendship or relationship evangelism. It was nothing of the kind.

Many of the pastors and laypeople who ascribe to friendship evangelism are men and women who would also firmly assert that God is sovereign in salvation. They would be the first to say that salvation is a monergistic work of God and not a synergistic cooperative effort between God and man. They would rightly assert that God chooses whom He will save. Man in his fallen, sinful state cannot choose to be saved and to follow Jesus because to do so would be to act outside of his fallen, sinful nature. Yet these same Christians who hold to a biblical soteriology apply synergism to Jesus's relationship with His disciples, by eisegetically asserting that it was through friendship, through relationship, that His evangelism of them took place. Not so! It was through friendship and relationship that The Twelve's discipleship took place. Friendship discipleship is biblical; friendship evangelism is not.
"Jesus did not befriend the disciples with the hope of winning them to Himself. He chose The Twelve. They didn't choose Him. He sought them out. They didn't seek Him. He called them. They didn't call Him. He called them, and they followed Him. Prior to His calling of them, the disciples did not know Him. They had no relationship with Him. The Word of God makes this abundantly clear.

"While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-22).

"As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he rose and followed him" (Matthew 9:9).

"The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.' Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.' Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.' Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!' Nathanael said to him, 'How do you know me?' Jesus answered him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.' Nathanael answered him, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!' Jesus answered him, 'Because I said to you, "I saw you under the fig tree," do you believe? You will see greater things than these.' And he said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man'" (John 1:43-51).
Jesus called, and the disciples followed. For the next 3+ years, Jesus discipled them in the context of close, intimate, 24/7 relationship. He didn't spend 3+ years getting to know them before proclaiming gospel truth to them. Today, American Evangelicalism has it backwards. Christians take forever to get around to sharing the gospel (if they ever get around to the gospel), but spend nowhere near the time and energy then discipling new converts. By and large, at the point of conversion, the Christian turns the disciple over to the church, to the elders and pastors, to disciple them. "My work here is done." Sadly, most American Evangelicals, if surveyed, would likely say, "I don't feel I'm equipped (mature enough) to disciple someone." That's a whole different article.

The Bait and Switch

The term "Bait and Switch" is defined as follows:
"A sales tactic in which a bargain-priced item is used to attract customers who are then encouraged to purchase a more expensive similar item."
My Christian friend, in the friendship evangelism bait and switch you are the bait. You are the bargain-priced item used to attract customers. You have been told over the years that you have to earn the right to share the gospel. You have been told over the years that you must establish a relationship with a person to show that person you care before you can share the gospel with them. You have been told over the years that people won't care what you have to say until they see that you care. You have been told over the years that people must first see Jesus in you (after all, you might be the only Jesus some people will ever see) before you can tell them about Jesus. But here's the problem.

None of these traditional American Evangelical mantras can be supported with Scripture. Modern evangelical tradition holds that the Christian has to do a great deal to make the gospel more palatable, to cushion the blow of the truth, before the truth can and should be shared with lost people. The Bible says otherwise. But, American evangelicals are convinced that the gospel needs their help. The gospel can't be simply, honestly, and lovingly shared up front. The gospel has to be eased into a conversation, after the Christian has eased into the unbeliever's life.

So, how does this make the Christian friendship evangelist bait? The customer, the lost person, is offered the bargain-priced, no strings attached, no contract or commitment required relationship with the well-intentioned Christian friendship evangelist. So alluring is the bait and so scant is the information given by the salesman, the customer has no idea that while the Christian friendship evangelist offers his friendship, what he really wants is for the lost person to receive Christ. It might be years before the customer discovers the salesman's real intent.

Then comes the "switch." While this doesn't always happen (because most Christians will admit, if they're honest, that they don't share the gospel with their friends), eventually the Christian friendship evangelist gets around to either trying to share the gospel with his lost friend or inviting him to church, with the hope that the pastor, on that particular Sunday morning, will do the Christian's work for him and preach the gospel. If the lost person (the customer) is smart, he will realize that this is what the Christian friendship evangelist was hoping for all along. While the Christian friendship evangelist advertised friendship, what he really wanted the lost person to buy was Christianity. And when/if the ulterior motive is discovered, the lost person is left wondering if the friendship was little more to the Christian than a deceptive means to a religious end. Ultimately, the all-too-often and unwanted result of friendship evangelism is that it causes the unbeliever to be even more wary of Christianity due to the deceptive devices used in the process. In other words, this type of evangelism seems to actually produce an effect which is opposite of the goal--winning the person to Christ!

And why would the unbeliever think such a thing? Why? Well, for one, he might draw such unflattering conclusions about the Christian because the unbeliever is not looking for Jesus in the first place (Romans 3:11). He wants friendship with the world, not with God (James 4:4). He couldn't see Jesus in the Christian friendship evangelist if he tried (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unbeliever is spiritually dead in his sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and, consistent with his nature and preferences, he suppresses the truth by his unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

Has the Christian friendship evangelist ever stopped to think how dishonest he might appear to his unbelieving friend? That is, of course, if the Christian friendship evangelist ever actually gets around to.....evangelism.

Friendship Built on an Honest and Biblical Foundation

There is one very biblical, very honest way to avoid the unintended bait and switch of friendship evangelism. There is a biblical way to engage in friendship evangelism. There is a way for the Christian to build every friendship with lost people in a manner that shows true love and concern for lost people. But it's not popular. It might not be easy. And it might end the friendship before it starts.

Begin the friendship with the gospel.

Yes, you read that correctly. I will give you a moment to go grab a brown paper bag so you can control the sudden onset of hyperventilation......

Better, now? Are you okay?

Do you really believe the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16)? Do you really believe God is sovereign (John 6:44; Romans 9:14-18; 1 Peter 1:3)? Are you really willing to deny yourself and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24-26)? Or is your friendship with the unbeliever more important to you than the soul of your friend (John 15:13; James 4:4)? Or, tragically, do you believe the gospel is somehow less effective, less powerful, less relevant, less palatable, less meaningful, or less loving without the assistance of your personality, kindness, generosity, and charity?

Once you've honestly dealt with the above paragraph, allow me to encourage you to begin your friendships with unsaved people with the gospel. Doing so should remove any thought in the unbeliever's spiritually-twisted, unconverted, unregenerate mind of a bait and switch. Be honest. Don't try to lure the unbeliever to church or to the faith (they are not one and the same) with your friendly demeanor and a track record of years of Christ-less, gospel-less conversations. Love lost people more than that!

The gift of your friendship is not the most loving thing you can give to an unbeliever. You will never do anything more loving than share the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot give your friend/coworker/acquaintance a better gift than telling them of the life, death, burial and resurrection of your Lord. Spoken in love, even your words that hurt as you confront your friend with his or her sin are the most caring words they'll ever hear. While, like a two-year-old child, the unbeliever might more enjoy the cardboard box that is your friendship, you, like a loving parent, should point the spiritual toddler to the real gift, that which the box contains, the love of Jesus Christ as articulated in the gospel.

"Okay, Tony. I hear what you're saying. But what if I take a plate of cookies over to my new neighbors' home, I try to share the gospel with them, and they tell me they're not interested and look at me as if I'm some kind of freak?"

Sadly, much of American Evangelicalism will tell you that you failed and that you likely drove the person farther away from Jesus. So deep have unbiblical traditions taken root in American Evangelicalism that many Christians believe such sentiments and conclusions can be supported by Scripture.

Don't believe the lies!

Dear Christian friend: the only time we fail in evangelism, if our evangelism is both biblical and loving, is when we fail to evangelize. And as to this ridiculous notion that there is something a Christian can do to drive an already hell-bound lost person farther away from Jesus: how can you drive someone who is not seeking Jesus away from Jesus? How can you cause a hater of God (whether the hate is passive or aggressive) to hate God more? Do you truly believe God is sovereign? Or is that little more than a Christian cliche in your heart and mind that you utter from time to time to let your Christian friends know how spiritually mature you are?

So, worst case scenario, your unsaved, prospective friend closes the door in your face, or hangs up the phone, or (the coup de grace) drops you from his Facebook friends list, His Google+ circle of life, and his Twitter follow list. Now what?

Continue to cultivate the friendship as the Lord gives opportunity to do so. Invite your neighbor over for that no-strings-attached barbecue and pool party. Invite the guy who now sits uncomfortably in the cubicle next to you at work to a Dodgers game (or an Angels game, if that's the best you can do). Invite him to your church's Christmas dinner. Offer to mow his lawn. Invite him to the annual men's retreat.

Be there for your unsaved neighbor, co-worker, fellow student, or family member. Be his friend. And share the gospel again, as the Lord gives opportunity. And the Lord will present the opportunities. Conversations will turn to issues of morality and/or spirituality. It's inevitable. Why? Because your lost friend knows where you stand; knows who you are; knows Who you worship. He knows these things because your friendship with him began with the gospel.


I am a vocal opponent of friendship evangelism, as it is most commonly practiced. But I am vocal proponent of biblical friendship evangelism. I am a proponent of being upfront and honest with people. I am a proponent of loving people with the gospel, regardless of the personal cost.

Please, initiate relationships with lost people. Please, befriend those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But do so in a way that brings glory to Jesus Christ and not to yourself. Begin your friendships with the gospel. Love people, regardless of their response. Be a true friend--one of whom the Lord can one-day say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Example of the Demonic at Bethel Church Redding

I came across this video (see below), today. In the video, Bobby Connor is speaking at Bethel Church, with Bethel leader Bill Johnson sitting in the front row. Who is Bobby Conner?

Bobby Conner heads an organization called Eagles View Ministry. Make sure you have good virus protection before you go to his website. My AVG virus protection indicated that an "SEO" virus was blocked when I clicked on the link to his site. He is a well-known figure in the false "signs and wonders" movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation.

In the video, Connors talks about his first encounter with the angel, "Emma." This is the same angel that speaks to false prophets and false apostles like Bob Jones and Todd Bentley. Lest we forget, Bill Johnson was a key figure in the "apostolic" commissioning of Todd Bentley.

Although Bentley would later deny (and lie) that he ever referred to "Emma" as a female angel, Bentley, Jones and Conner assert that "Emma" is, indeed, a female angel.

Nowhere in the 282 appearances of the word "angel(s)" in the Word of God are female angels spoken of or seen. In fact the Hebrew/Aramaic word translated "angel, mal'ak, and the Greek word translated "angel," aggelos, are masculine words.

Oh, I have no doubt that Bobby Conner, Bill and Benji Johnson, and people under the influence of Bethel Church and the New Apostolic Reformation are communicating with angels. But the angels with whom they chat are not angels of the Lord. They are among the 1/3 of the heavenly host that sided with Satan and were cast from Heaven, forever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Hello Officer!" - Interacting with Law Enforcement and Security

Police v. Security – Understanding the Difference

Police (law enforcement) officers represent the government (local, county, state, or federal). Security officers represent private businesses and individuals.

Police officers enforce laws. Security officers enforce policies.

Police officers are included in the “governing authorities” mentioned in Romans 13:1-5. Civilian security officers are not.

In most jurisdictions, security officers have no more and no less authority to detain a person than a private citizen. (Check the laws of your state.)

Police powers are limited only by law and jurisdiction. Security officer powers are limited to specific private property, which may or may not be open to the public. Security officers have no more authority than a private citizen on public property, even if that public property is immediately adjacent to the private property to which the security officer is assigned.

Do Your Homework

Ascertain if the area in which you are going to conduct evangelism activities is public or private property.

Contact local government agencies such as parks & recreation, public works, and traffic for clarification regarding public property areas.

When open-air preaching, pick an area on public property upon which a gathered crowd will not impede the free flow of pedestrian and/or vehicle traffic.

Check for local ordinances that may lawfully regulate aspects of free speech exercise (i.e. amplification, displays, etc).

Check with secular organizations who may have also used the area you are considering for open-air preaching or street evangelism. Did their activities require any permits? Were their activities ever impeded by law enforcement?

Demeanor with Private Security

Know and understand any written policy a mall, shopping center, or other private business has regarding the time, place, and manner of free speech exercise.

Be respectful.

Security officers are often young, zealous, and do not understand the First Amendment as it applies to private property accessible to the public.

Most security officers misunderstand the definition of key terms, such as “soliciting.”

If/when contacted by private security and you are asked to stop distributing material or engaging people in conversation, ask if your activities are a violation of law.

If a favorable resolution cannot be reached with the security officer, ask to speak to his or her supervisor.

If a favorable resolution cannot be reached with the security supervisor, ask to speak to a manager of the business.

If a favorable resolution cannot be reached the business manager, ask the manager to contact the police.

Be polite, but persevere!

In most jurisdictions, private security can lawfully detain an individual if he or she has probable cause to believe that the detainee has committed a crime (i.e. shoplifting, burglary, etc). On the other hand, private security cannot lawfully detain an individual for a simple violation of mall or shopping center policy.

If you elect to submit to the security officer’s or manager’s request, do not return to the mall for at least 24 hours.

Demeanor, Posture, and Speech with Police Officers

A favorable outcome when contacted by a police officer is less about being right and more about being wise and diplomatic.

Unfortunately, many people talk their way into jail, not out of jail. Attitude is everything.

You will never win an argument with an officer; but you can win an officer to your point of view through calm, reasoned, and respectful dialogue.

Police officers, by and large, want to resolve public disturbances peacefully. In situations involving simple disturbances, an officer would prefer to resolve the situation without using force or making an arrest.

Keep your hands out of your pockets.

Keep your hands in plain view.

Try not to talk with your hands, make any sudden movements, or make movements the officer may perceive as furtive.

Never reach into a box, pouch, or backpack without the officer’s knowledge and/or permission.

Do not turn your back on an officer.

Refer to police officers as “officer,” and refer to deputy sheriffs as “deputy.” Avoid using the term “cop” when talking to law enforcement professionals. To many officers, the word “cop” is a derogatory or disrespectful term, particularly when used by those outside the law enforcement family.

Avoid, whenever possible, debating an officer in a group setting. Don’t put the officer in a position where he or she has to assert his or her authority to control a crowd or to save face in front of a crowd.

Be respectful even if you feel that the officer is not being respectful to you. You will not win a sinful, prideful war of words with an officer. Nor should you want to.

Submit to the officers reasonable orders. Anyone can get arrested. It’s not difficult. The smart evangelist (at least in present day America) is the one who remains out of jail evangelizing the lost.

If an officer orders you to stop preaching or distributing tracts, respectfully ask what law(s) you have violated. – Use an inquisitive tone of voice, not an argumentative tone.

If the officer cannot or will not cite a specific penal code or municipal code section, respectfully ask why you must stop your activities if you are not in violation of the law.

Respectfully explain to the officer that you are exercising your freedom/right to express your strongly held religious beliefs, in a public place.

If the officer persists in ordering you to stop, respectfully ask to speak to the officer’s supervisor.

Explain to the officer that the purpose of your request is clarification, not accusation or complaint.

If the officer refuses to summon his or her supervisor, then you may have to cease your activities for the time being, or you can allow the officer to arrest you without incident…Be respectful, but persevere!

If you are unable to reach a favorable resolution at the scene, and you opt not to go to jail, respectfully ask for the officer’s name and badge number before you leave the area. These days, most officers carry business cards. Ask for one.

After the Contact

When you return home, collect your thoughts and write a detailed account of the incident.

Collect the names, addresses, and phone numbers of those who were with you at the time of the incident.

Go to the police/sheriff station the following day, as close to the time of day of the incident as possible.

Ask to speak to either the Watch Sergeant or the Watch Commander. Typically, these are the people who have overall command of a particular shift.

Try to obtain a positive resolution without filing a formal complaint (Remember, your goal is to preach the gospel unmolested, not to vengefully exact a pound of flesh from the officer).

If you do not reach a positive resolution with the Watch Sergeant or Watch Commander, request a meeting with either the station commander, Chief of Police, or Sheriff.

If you are unable to reach a positive resolution with the law enforcement agency, then contact a reputable, Christian defense organization for further assistance.

Establishing Rapport with Law Enforcement

It is better to have your local law enforcement with you than against you.

Take time to talk to police officers in your community.

Get to know the officers who frequently work the area where you conduct your evangelism activities.

If officers happen by when you are open-air preaching, respectfully acknowledge them, thank them for their service, and encourage the crowd to do the same.

If you are in a coffee shop or fast food restaurant, offer to pay for the officer’s coffee or meal.

Do not be offended if the officer does not accept your offer; and don’t press the issue. In some jurisdictions, an officer can be reprimanded for accepting a gratuity of any kind.

Tactical Considerations

Carry a digital tape recorder with you whenever you are engaged in evangelism.

Most states have what is commonly referred to as a “one-party consent” law. This means that in environments where there is no expectation of privacy (i.e. most public places), the law requires that only one person need be aware that a recording of the conversation is being made. And that person can be the person making the recording (Important: Check the laws in your state).

Partners/Witnesses: There is a reason why Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs and in small groups. For reasons of personal safety, accountability, and support, it is good to have at least one partner with you (whenever possible) during evangelism activities.

Don’t look like a criminal (Many people unwittingly place themselves in situations that make them look suspicious to law enforcement).

When All Else Fails

Scripture shows that the apostles submitted to the governing authorities without compromising the proclamation of the gospel.

There may come a time when you will have to choose between proclaiming the gospel and your freedom. Will you deny yourself in that instance, take up your cross, and follow Christ?

Persevere, no matter what the consequences!

Street Evangelist Bio: Chris Sippley

Chris Sippley, who serves with JeremiahCry Ministries, is far and away one of my favorite open-air preachers, and one of my favorite people. I first met this young man in February 2010, when I was asked to speak during a leadership conference of large and long-established evangelism ministry. At the time, Chris was contemplating entering into full-time evangelistic ministry. Now, almost four years later, Chris and his family (his lovely wife, Paula, and their two amazing children, Nathaniel and Zoe) are serving the Lord, traveling throughout North America, living in a trailer, proclaiming the gospel to anyone and everyone who will hear.

Chris has also heralded the gospel in places like Scotland, Jamaica, and will soon preach the gospel in Belize.

In a day and age when so many Christians misunderstand and marginalize open-air preaching and open-air preachers, Chris Sippley serves Christ as a wonderful ambassador of not only the gospel, but also of the craft of open-air preaching--a craft as old and biblical as preaching itself.

Andy and Alex Osborne (two outstanding, young open-air preachers and budding film makers) have put together a wonderful profile video of Chris Sippley. Although I know Chris well, have gone to war with him on the streets, fighting for souls, have broken bread with him, prayed with him, and wept with him over the lost, this wonderfully produced video gives me even more appreciation for the gospel work Chris does and for the man of God into which the Lord continues to mold him.

I hope you will be as edified and blessed as I was when I watched this video -- Street Evangelist Bio: Chris Sippley.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Remembering the 1994 Northridge Earthquake

Shortly after 4 AM, on January 17, 1994, I was working a one-man traffic unit for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Santa Clarita is the city immediately north of Los Angeles, geographically one of the largest cities in the world. The area of Los Angeles known as the San Fernando Valley (population: 1.7 million) and the Santa Clarita Valley to the north (population: just under 200,000) are divided by the Santa Susana Mountains—a chain of low mountains running east to west.

I received a call to assist other units on a domestic violence call in Castaic, a community about 10 miles north of the City of Santa Clarita. The call indicated that a distraught woman was threatening her boyfriend with a shotgun. Several units arrived on scene. The call was handled to completion, without incident. The other deputies and I made our way to our patrol cars. I got into my car and turned on the ignition.

I noticed something very strange. It was not yet dawn, but flocks of birds were flying from the trees. It was as if something had frightened them. It was now 4:30 AM.

Suddenly, my car began to bounce backward and up onto the sidewalk. At first I thought I had inadvertently put the car in reverse instead of drive, blaming it on fatigue. But when I looked at my dashboard, I was stunned to see my car was still in park. I wasn’t moving my car. Something else was. Earthquake!

All of us quickly exited our patrol cars and met in the middle of the street. We could tell by the length and force of the shaking that this was a bad earthquake and that it was close. It was much closer than any of us realized.

We looked southward and saw an eerie, blue haze, which revealed the silhouette of the Santa Susana Mountains. What we were looking at was the glow from electrical transformers exploding in the San Fernando Valley, on the south side of the mountains.

Once the ground stopped shaking (it felt much longer than the 30-40 seconds the quake lasted), and once we regained our bearings, we jumped into our cars and headed back to our reporting districts in the city. Our first responsibility was to check what were known as the critical facilities in our area (i.e. chemical plants, dams, power plants, etc.). I was first to enter the southbound 5 Freeway. I quickly found myself traveling at a high rate of speed.

Moments after entering the freeway, I hit the first small break in the freeway. Fortunately for me and those following behind me, the break in the freeway was only about a foot in height, and the front side of the break was lower, not higher than the first break I hit. Had it been the other way around, I would have torn the front axle and wheels off my car. As it was, when I hit the break in the freeway, my car took to the air, landing several feet ahead. I got on my radio to warn the other deputies that the freeway is damaged and we have no idea what the conditions are in front of us.

We got off the freeway at the next exit to avoid finding larger breaks in the freeway…the hard way. As we exited the freeway, we received a call on the radio that warehouse workers in a large department store were trapped in the warehouse. Some of us made our way to the department store; while others went on to handle other calls. The dispatchers updated us continually as preliminary damage reports began to slowly roll in.

It took us a little while to dig the warehouse workers out of the fallen 10-20 foot tall, free-standing metal shelves that had been toppled like dominos. By God’s grace, no one was seriously injured. Seeing the injured made me and the other deputies think, almost simultaneously, about our own families. Were they okay? How badly damaged are our homes?

With no immediate, emergent calls pending, and with my home only a few miles from the department store, I raced home. As I pulled down my street, a very good friend and fellow deputy sheriff, Steve Cooley (Steve is now retired and serving as an associate pastor in a church in Massachusetts), came into view of my headlights. At the time of the earthquake, he was off-duty and at home. His first thought, knowing I was on-duty, was to think of my family. He rushed over to my home and discovered that Mahria, then pregnant with our third daughter, and our other two girls were trapped in our home.

The electricity was out. Debris was strewn about in the darkness. And the force of the earthquake had so moved the framing around the front door that Mahria could not get it open. She could see the shadows of people moving outside. She called for help, but no one answered. Then a flashlight shined through our sliding glass door. Mahria called out and heard Steve’s voice. Mahria was able to make her way to the front door. Together, she and Steve were able to force the front door open.

As I got out of my patrol car, Steve said (and I will never forget these words as long as I live), “Don’t worry. Mahria is hurt.” The force of the earthquake threw Mahria out of bed. Somewhere along the way, Mahria does not know how to this day, something hit her in the corner of her eye, opening a small gash. Right about then, Mahria, with blood running down the side of her face, and the girls appeared out of the shadows.

Then the call no one wanted to hear came over the radio. The call came out as an “officer down.”

An LAPD motorcycle officer by the name of Clarence Wayne Dean, a 26-year veteran of the force, was riding his police motorcycle southbound on the 14 Freeway. Tragically, unknown to Officer Dean, the 14 Freeway had collapsed in the area of the 5/14 split. Unable to see the collapsed freeway ahead of him, Officer Dean plunged more than 50’ to his death.

I kissed Mahria and told her I had to answer the call. Steve drove Mahria and the girls to the sheriff’s stations where other deputy families were beginning to gather.

I drove to the nearby southbound 5 Freeway onramp. I made my way around the hundreds of cars and trucks stopped on the freeway, and into the emergency lane. I traveled about a mile when I came up to the front of the lines of stopped vehicles; ahead of me was open-empty freeway.

Suddenly, a California Highway Patrol Sergeant jumped into the emergency lane in front of me, frantically waving his hands in the air. I heard him yell, “Stop!”

At first I was angry. There was an officer down (at the time I assumed he was dead, but did not know for sure). Whether he was alive or dead, I was going to get to him. And this sergeant was literally standing in my way. I yelled, “There’s an LAPD motor officer down!”

The sergeant yelled back, “And if you keep going, you will be down, too!”

The sergeant had information I didn’t. Not only was the 14 Freeway down, but the 5 Freeway was down, too. Had the sergeant not stopped me, I would have likely driven off the freeway, falling 50-100’ to my certain death. After I caught my breath, I thanked the sergeant for quite literally saving my life. I turned my car around and slowly drove back into the city.

Had I not turned around, I would have perished. The only difference between me and Officer Dean that fateful January morning was that there was someone to stand in front of me and warn me that danger and death lied in front of me.

Had I not turned around, I would have perished.

Here’s some information about the earthquake:
  • 6.7 magnitude earthquake; felt strongly as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada, almost 300 miles away.
  • Through December 31, 1994, 11,030 aftershocks, most of which were too small to feel, were recorded by the Southern California Seismic Network
  • More than 400 aftershocks have been large enough to feel
  • The force of the earthquake lifted the San Fernando Valley 16-20”
  • 57 people were killed; more than 8,700 were injured
  • And estimated 20 billion dollars in damage.
As the California Highway Patrol sergeant warned me 20 years ago to turn around, Jesus often warned people to turn. He used the word “repent.”
"There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish'" (Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He was with the Father in and at Creation. All things--all things—were created by Him, and through Him, and for Him. Nothing has ever been made that was not made by Jesus Christ. He is the sinless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will judge both the living and the dead. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is sovereign over all things. He owns every person, just as He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and it matters not if, at present, the person is in wanton rebellion against Jesus Christ or one of His born-again, beloved children. Jesus owns it all. Jesus owns us all. God is. God is one. God is Three in One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—One God in Three Persons—the Triune One—the Trinity—God. And this God, for there is only one God, is the God before whom every person will one-day stand to give an account for their lives. Because God alone is truly and perfectly good, He will judge each person according to the perfect moral standard He has written on every human heart.

Everyone knows it is a sin to lie because they know God is Truth. Everyone knows it is wrong to harbor bitterness, resentment, and hatred in their heart toward another person because they know God is love.

Everyone knows 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; they know it is wrong to look and think with lust; they know it is wrong to commit adultery; they know it is wrong to engage in homosexuality, lesbianism, or any other form of sexual depravity because they know God is Faithful.

Everyone knows it is wrong to take the name of the Lord their God in vain, to bring his name down low and use it as an adjectival term of excitement, anger, sorrow, or fear, because they 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 ascribed for sin, all sin, is eternity in Hell. It matters not whether you, the reader, 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, the reader, 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. 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).

Please repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, while God has given you time. Unless you repent, unless you turn, you will perish.

Questions and comments regarding this and/or any other article on this blog can be sent to:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The New Apostolic Reformation, Bethel Church, and Spiritus Sanctus

Today, I produced a 22-minute video explaining why I must speak out against the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Bethel Church (Redding, CA). The New Apostolic Reformation and Bethel Church both claim to be authentic moves of the Holy Spirit (Spiritus Sanctus). However, if one simply compares what this false spiritual movement and this false church assert are the works of the Holy Spirit to how the work of the Holy Spirit is described in the following Puritan prayer, the differences between them will prove too significant to ignore.

In the Puritan prayer book, Valley of Vision, the authentic work of the Holy Spirit is described this way:

O Holy Spirit,

As the sun if full of light,
the ocean full of water,
Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of thee.

Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption wrought by Jesus
except thou work within,
regenerating by thy power,
giving me eyes to see Jesus,
showing me the realities of the unseen world.

Give me thyself without measure,
as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.

I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness,
imperfect vision, languid service,
prayerless prayers, praiseless praises.

Suffer me not to grieve or resit thee.

Come as power,
to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme
and keep me thine;

Come as teacher,
leading me into all truth, filling me with
all understanding;

Come as love,
that I may adore the Father and love him
as my all;

Come as joy;
to dwell in me, move in me, animate me;

Come as light,
illuminating the Scripture, moulding me
in its laws;

Come as sanctifier,
body, soul and spirit wholly thine;

Come as helper,
with strength to bless and keep, direct my
every step;

Come as beautifier,
bringing order out of confusion, loveliness
out of chaos.

Magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me,
and make me redolent [strongly reminiscent or suggestive of] thy fragrance.

The Holy Spirit has been given to the born-again Christian, not as a possession, not as a genie in a bottle, not as a divine butler, not as a playmate, and not to point attention to Himself. Sadly, all of the before-mentioned descriptions are characteristic of the New Apostolic Reformation and Bethel Church. The NAR and Bethel Church, even with all of their teaching on honor, dishonor the Holy Spirit.

Rather, as so clearly and beautifully stated in the above prayer:

He has come in power to expel the rebellious lusts of the flesh and the eyes.

He has come to lead the redeemed into an understanding of God's Truth, His Word.

He has come to help the Christian love the Father, not himself or the "gifts" presumed by some to be from Him--gifts that are more like that first free slam of heroin, from a drug dealer knowing the user will come back for more, and willing to pay anything to get another fix.

He has come to help the Christian experience true and authentic joy; the joy of the Lord is the Christian's strength.

He has come to light the way in the Christian's heart and mind to receive and obey the Word of God.

He has come to sanctify the Christian, to conform him to the image of God the Son.

He has come to help the Christian to persevere, to be immovable in Christ, and to direct his path.

He has come in an orderly fashion--never confusing, never chaotic.

God the Holy Spirit has been sinfully redefined and His character has been maligned by the NAR and Bethel Church. I fear that much by way of alleged miracles and other manifestations that are coming out of this movement and this church, which is being attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit, is not of Him, but rather the manipulations and creations of sinful people and the demonic spirits of the age.

And this is why I am compelled to speak out against and warn people about the dangers of the New Apostolic Reformation and Bethel Church.

Now, please take the time to watch this video.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

We Do What We Care About: Resolution 2:24

The average adult's day looks something like this:

Sleep: 8 hours = 33%
Work: 8 hours = 33%
Eat: 1.5 hours = 6.25%
Television: 2.8 hours = 11.7%
Other Leisure/Household Activities: 1.7 hours = 7%
Recreational Computer Use: 2.0 hours = 8%

The above number are comparable between Christians and non-Christians.

Obviously, the above times vary from person to person. Some spend their time doing other things not shown on the above list. Some work more. Some sleep less. Some spend a lot more time watching television. Some don't even own a television. Some spend a lot more time on the Internet. Some couldn't send an email if their lives depended on it. Some have texted to the point of removing their thumb prints from their opposable digits. Others long for the days of the rotary phone.

My days are decidedly different from the above list. I sleep far less than eight hours. It doesn't take me 90 minutes to finish three meals (too many years eating quickly over the hood of a patrol car). I don't have cable/satellite/dish television. Because of the nature of my ministry, I spend considerably more than two hours each day on the computer/Internet. And I can be out on the streets anywhere preaching or otherwise communicating the gospel from two to eight hours, or more, on any given day.

Each person's life differs from that of the next person.

Needless to say, the Christian's life should be markedly different than that of the non-Christian. In addition to the above activities, the Christian is also to be daily engaged in spiritual disciplines such as Scripture reading and prayer.

Statistics show the average American household has anywhere from 3.6 to 4.4 Bibles.

A poll conducted last year by LifeWay provided the following information regarding how often people read the Bible:
LifeWay Research spoke with participants over the phone, and gathered information on the habits of Bible readers – including where and when they read their Bibles. There seemed to be a wide range of responses at to how frequently Bible readers actually read the Scriptures. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they do it nearly every day, while 22 percent read it three to five times a week and another 22 percent read it once or twice a week. Up to 11 percent read the Bible two or three times a month, and eight percent read it only once a month.
Another poll reveals how little Christians pray. Over a ten-year statistical period, Barna Research determined that the average length of a person's prayer is under five minutes.

I have personally struggled, off an on, in both of these most important spiritual disciplines(Bible reading and prayer), throughout my 25 years of Christian life. One way I struggle is that I spend so much time serving the Lord that I forget to spend time with the Lord. In the end, this is nothing more than an excuse. What I've often said to others applies to me, too. "We do what we care about."

As Christians, the amount of time we spend reading the Bible is indicative of how much we care about the Word of God.

As Christians, the amount of time we spend in communion with our Creator, through prayer, is indicative of how much we care about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is indicative of the importance of worship in our lives. It's indicative of our level of trust in Christ, or the lack thereof.

We do what we care about.

I've read many books on prayer. In fact I'm reading a couple right now. I've tried many different Bible reading plans--some of the best ever designed. My good friend, Professor Grant Horner, has one such reading plan. It would be wrong for me to declare, "Nothing works!" The problem is not with the plans, whether plans for prayer or plans for Bible reading. The problem is with me. I don't work. I'm what's broken--not the myriad plans I have tried to implement over the last 25 years. Enough is enough.....again.

Jonathan Edwards, the greatest mind God has ever given to the United States and the author of the greatest sermon ever preached on American soil, Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God, was a godly man of deep conviction. So deep were his convictions that he wrote a lengthy series of personal resolutions--personal commitments to God by which, in their keeping, Edwards hoped to daily be more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

Regarding the Scriptures and prayer, Jonathan Edwards resolved to do the following:
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness.
He described the application of his time to the reading and study of God's Word as steady, constant, and frequent. His purpose for such a commitment was simply, but noble: to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God and the God of the Word.

As to prayer, Edwards' commitment was to never be double-minded in his prayer, believing by faith the Lord would answer according to His will. And this commitment of trust was built upon a foundation of faithful fervency, not mere intellectual assent. He resolved to be an active participant in his prayers, not a mindless drone simply going through the motions to complete an otherwise mundane and undesired task. The prayers to which Edwards resolved to pray would be filled with power, earnestness, venting, and tireless perseverance. It appears he had in mind a daily stewardship of time before the Lord in prayer that would lead to aching and swollen knees, white knuckles, and a floor likely stained with the salt of hot tears when the words would just not come. In such times, the Holy Spirit was there as promised, interceding on behalf of the praying, scholarly pastor. He resolved to not grow weary in prayer.

I'm certainly no Jonathan Edwards. None of us are. But any Christian, any born-again and Spirit-filled follower of Jesus Christ can read and study the Word of God as Edwards did, and seek the Lord in prayer as Edwards did. The same Father who drew Edwards to Himself, the same Savior who shed His innocent blood to redeem Edwards, the same Holy Spirit who indwelt the regenerated Edwards is the same God who has done and does the same things for every follower of Jesus Christ before and since Jonathan Edwards walked this earth.

We do what we care about.

No, I'm no Jonathan Edwards. But conviction of conscience, and what I hope is the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, has brought me to make a resolution of my own. I'm sharing this with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I hope you will prayerfully consider joining me.

I hereby resolve--with you, my readers, as my witnesses--to spend at least 10% of my day with the Lord in Bible reading, prayer, and journaling. That works out to 2 hours and 24 minutes every day--hence, Resolution 2:24. One hour will be devoted to the reading of God's Word. One hour will be devoted to communion with God in prayer. And 24 minutes will be devoted to journaling my thoughts regarding my time in the Word and in prayer for that day.

My plan is to start every day, no matter how early I have to get out of bed, with an hour in the Word and an hour of prayer. The 24 minutes of journaling will be completed toward the end of each day.

Maybe for you it will work better to start your day with an hour in the Word, spend your hour in prayer later in the day, and journal whenever you want. Others of you who choose to join me might be better off spending your 2 hours and 24 minutes with the Lord all at one time during the day--morning, afternoon, or evening.

I will begin, Lord permitting, living out this resolution on Monday, November 18, 2013. The reason for waiting to start is that I want to give as many of you as possible to get ready to join me. And here's how you can join me:

Email me at With Resolution 2:24 in the subject line of your email, simply give me your full name and a note that reads to the effect: "Tony, I want to join you in Resolution 2:24." It's that simple. Along with your email, if you have questions about Bible reading and prayer, share those, too. They may become the subject of future articles.

Don't be surprised if you get an email back from me or Richard Story making sure you are truly committed to living Resolution 2:24.

Those who join me in this initiative will receive an exclusive weekly Resolution 2:24 e-newsletter, written by me, in which I will share parts of my personal journal, occasional devotions, insights on prayer and Bible reading from well-known pastors (past and present,)and prayer and Bible reading tips--things I'm doing that seem to help me stay consistent and resolute. Only those who email me will receive the weekly Resolution 2:24 e-newsletter.

Between now and November 18, I will write a few (or more) articles about Bible reading and prayer.

I hope to hear from you soon, letting me know you will join me in this initiative: Resolution 2:24.