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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Who Is Ray Rice?

Written by Michael Coughlin
Edited by Tony Miano

Who is Ray Rice?

Early in 2014 Ray Rice was videotaped striking his fiancée, Janay, in an elevator. After the doors opened, he dragged her off the elevator. The police saw it, arrested him and charged him. Apparently he spit on her as well.

Shortly thereafter, she married him. They also share a child together. Recently, the video was released publicly and everyone in the world was able to watch the events. A new public outrage ensued as the result of the video evidence. Ray Rice’s already criticized two-game suspension became more of a travesty than most people already felt it was. Ultimately, the NFL suspended him indefinitely and the Ravens released him from the team.

Underlying assumption #1: Allow me make it clear that what Ray Rice did was wrong. There is no excusing his behavior. This is important to remember.

First, allow me to point out a glaring inconsistency in the worldview of most people. The evidence is clear: Ray Rice struck a woman. For my entire life, there has been an unwritten rule that men do not hit women. For good reason, even secular people abhor when a man abuses a woman. In our culture, it is not a dishonor for two men to fight; but no matter what a woman does to a man our culture generally accepts that it is intolerable to hit a woman.

Yet, ours is the culture that wants to redefine gender roles and make general claims about equality which are irreconcilable with the idea of judging a man for hitting a woman. (If you think I am arguing for tolerance of striking a woman, refer back to underlying assumption #1). What I am saying is that you cannot simultaneously hold the position that men and women are completely equal, that is, not different in a fundamental way based on gender, and hold the position that it is inherently wrong for a man to punch a woman because of gender. You must have another basis for your judgment of Ray Rice.
Again: men hitting women is wrong. Basing your judgment on standards you deny is irrational.

So what is your standard? Should NFL players not be allowed to hit girls? What about if Michael Sam punched his boyfriend? The storm of irrationality which would follow would at least be more entertaining than most reality TV. It would be interesting to see if Michael Sam could ever publicly be considered to do anything wrong; that’s another topic. But the obvious and unacceptable inconsistency in the general logic of our population isn’t the point of this article.

Secondly, why does the video all of a sudden make it worse? I saw a tweet which summed up my sense of the issue. It went something like this. “We now know exactly the same thing that we knew about Ray Rice before seeing the video.”

For some reason, seeing the evil act made it worse in people’s judgment. No one got any new information, but now his behavior is outrageous--even to his former team. Is there any rational explanation for how the video honestly changed someone’s opinion of the events?

This is a serious problem in our visual culture and the Church. There has never been a time in history where people have had more access to movies about the Bible and, at the same time, more illiteracy concerning the Bible. This is yet another symptom of the modern day downgrade, where the Word of God has become insufficient in the minds of men, so it is replaced by visual stimulation. The fact that the same problem is exhibited in the Ray Rice situation is simply more evidence that many professing Christians are really just acting like nonbelievers. Intelligent, discerning people are able to believe truth and make adequate judgments with or without visual aids.

Again: men hitting women is wrong. Judging the action differently based on a textual description or a video is irrational.

Nevertheless, although it is pathetic that we are a culture where reading about hitting a woman is not taken as seriously as seeing the video, that isn’t the point of this article.

Thirdly, I also want to point out an obvious fact which does not excuse Ray Rice’s behavior, but might help explain it. Ray Rice does a job in which he and hundreds of other men are heftily paid and rewarded for brutality. There is a saying that if you did most of what goes on in a football game on the street, you’d be arrested. We are becoming a more violent culture where things like ultimate fighting challenges and, yes, even the holy grail of football are becoming more popular than skill sports like baseball or basketball. I understand that it is a controlled violence to an extent, but let’s face the fact that there isn’t a week that goes by where a young man isn’t seriously injured. Men are committing suicide and battling mental illness as the result of the alteration of their brains from years in this game. Could this be an indication we are approaching a time more like the time before God sent the flood when every thought in the heart of man was violence?

Be honest. Have you ever felt a tinge of excitement or happiness when a player on an opposing team was injured? Admit it to God if you have! I saw it at a high school game once while sitting amidst a group of moms. I observed a sickening lack of care for the fact that a 16 or 17-year-old boy was in pain and injured on a field--all because he played for the opposing team in a pretty fierce rivalry. They were actually happy he was on the ground, hurt!

Again: Men hitting women is wrong. Being utterly shocked men who are paid to be violent end up violent even when off-duty--away from the field of play--is irrational.

There are a host of other contributing factors to incidents like Ray Rice’s. Alcohol and drug use, a culture which exalts the exploitation of women as sex objects, and the creation of more deviant and available pornography all contribute to the eventual acceptance of Ray’s type of behavior. Thank God for the apparent irrationality of so many people who have no basis by which to judge Ray Rice, yet still do. But the fact that we are a nation which is incrementally and increasingly encouraging all sorts of violence is not the point of this article.

Fourthly, we are all Ray Rice.

That’s right. Ray Rice is not the problem. Humanity is the problem. Ray Rice is simply an example of someone who lived out man’s depravity in a more extreme way that most people are ready to accept. Again, there is some apparent irony in a society that almost totally embraces and celebrates homosexual lifestyles and abortion yet condemns Rice’s actions.

Do you really believe Rice is the first wife/fiancée/girlfriend-beater in the NFL? How many NFL players would be suspended for life now if they were in the seemingly unfortunate circumstance in which Rice found himself--probably the worst moment of his life (he is not the victim)--was recorded on video?
How many men beat and abuse women regularly or even once and are never caught or reported? What if every moment of your life was recorded? Would you be so quick to point out Rice’s wrongs?

We need to face the facts, Matthew 10:26 says “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” Ray Rice is paying a penalty in this life for his sin. Maybe, at this moment, you feel you are getting away and are going to get away with yours. Perish the thought! Cast yourself on the mercies of Christ this moment, if you have not. I seriously hope Ray will.

Would your employer want you around if he saw the way you spoke to (yelled at) your spouse or children? How about your spouse, would she be excited to be intimate with you if she looked through your eyes as you browse the Internet or saw how your eyes wander where they shouldn’t as you walk down the street? What about your kids? Would they look up to you if they knew how little effort you put in at work or toward your Bible reading and daily prayer? Dear Christian, aren’t you glad Sunday service isn’t a video review of your week?

Again: Men hitting women is wrong. Being shocked and lashing out at Ray Rice, while practicing sin in your own life, is not only irrational; it is ungodly.

This is not an admonition to those who judge righteously. There is nothing wrong with evaluating Ray’s actions in light of God’s revealed will and revelation (the Bible). There is nothing wrong with determining his behavior was evil and punishable. You are right to want a man removed from society who would act that way.

But there is something wrong with believing Ray Rice’s sin is unforgiveable. Do not make that mistake. Jesus Christ is more able to forgive sins than Ray Rice is able to committing them. Thank God that is true, dear reader.

But the fact that you are a sinner who, apart from Jesus Christ, is really no different from Ray Rice isn’t the point of the article.
The point of the article is this: I am Ray Rice.

That’s right. I am Ray Rice. There is a singular night in my past where I acted as Rice acted that night. But there were neither cameras nor police present, only a forgiving female and a fraternity that didn’t care enough to judge me. All the factors I cited above contributed: a fantasy rape culture fueled by porn, alcohol, marijuana, and a party lifestyle that created opportunity for the conflict. What were missing from my incident were a video camera and, sadly, any remorse on my part. It was almost a decade before I even cared about what I’d done. How despicable is that?

By the providence of God alone no one was hurt. A simple nail sticking out of a wall where a picture frame should have been could have changed my life forever. But that wasn’t how God planned it. It is one of the hundreds of times in my life in which I was fortunate that I did not end up killing someone or myself. I’m not exaggerating. It isn’t an “I was a worse sinner than you” contest. I offer that number to give you an idea of the exceeding greatness of a God-Man, Jesus Christ, who could satisfy the wrath a sinner such as I deserved, through His sacrificial death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.
Is Ray Rice redeemable? He’s as redeemable as you and I. His redemptive worth is not based on himself, but on the worthiness of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Are you saved by grace, through faith, because of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ? Repent and turn to Jesus today for He is always ready to forgive sinners, and he will not cast out any who come to Him!

Christian: how much time have you put into prayer for Ray Rice’s soul? Do you truly want to see him and his wife restored and raising their daughter to know Jesus?

I am Ray Rice. The Ray Rices of the world are our mission field. I thank God He never ran out of patience with me. I thank Him for the people who brought the gospel to me. I’m thankful I could not out-sin God’s grace, no matter how vile and wretched I was.

Again: men hitting women is wrong. Telling people who hit girls about forgiveness and salvation available only through Jesus is what Christians are called by God to do.

This is the point of the article: I am Ray Rice. You are Ray Rice. We are all Ray Rice. May God have mercy on our souls.

The Blessing of Brothers

"Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
1 John 3:13-18

To my left stands Michael Coughlin. To my right stands Dave Caldwell. They are my brothers.

Michael lives 2,239 miles away, in Columbus, OH. Dave lives 15 miles away in North Hills, CA. Michael is an Oracle Systems administrator and developer. Dave is the Dean of Men at an outstanding, private Christian school. The three of us couldn't be more different: a techie, a teacher, and a retired street cop. Our testimonies as to how each of us came to faith in Jesus Christ are very different, although we all share the common bond of being beneficiaries of God's amazing and sovereign grace, having all been saved by the monergistic grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. We've known each other for only three-four short years. They are my brothers.

We don't see much of each other--very little, in fact. Michael lives across the country. Dave is a full-time educator and part-time seminarian. As for me, well, I travel quite a bit and I'm almost always occupied doing something ministry-related. We are brothers.

Yesterday was a special day. By God's grace, I was allowed to spend time with not one, but both of my brothers in Christ. Michael came to town for the day, on his way to an evangelism conference in San Jose, CA. Having stayed the previous night with the Caldwell Family, Michael came with Dave to the school where Dave serves as an administrator, and I met them there. When the three of us came together, it was a celebration complete with pats on the back, laughs, and big hugs. The three of us spent time catching up before Dave had to get back to work.

Michael and I spent the next few hours enjoying a long lunch, full of conversation. We went back to the school so Michael could pick up his luggage and say goodbye to Dave, before I drove him to the bus station. While in Dave's office, he showed us two very old family bibles he had discovered in his grandfather's belongings, as well as a pocket New Testament carried by one of his relatives during World War II. More conversation. More jokes and laughter. More fellowship.

Michael and I stopped by Starbucks on our way to the bus stop. We had a little extra time, so we spent it talking about ministry. We made the best use of the 30-minute drive to the bus station, filling it with prayer. Since I was driving, Michael said he wouldn't be legalistic about me praying with my eyes open.

Humanly speaking, Michael, Dave, and I come from different families. We come from distinctly different backgrounds. We have very different life stories. I'm short. Michael is big. Dave is tall. Neither of them can grow a real mustache. Both of them, however, are far more intelligent than I am. We have different interests and we're separated by distance (long and short) and the busyness of life. But what we have in common overshadows every difference. What we have in common closes the gap of every mile. What we have in common has forged between us an eternal bond that cannot be broken.

What we have in common is Jesus Christ. What we have in common is salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. What we have in common is the every-day, sanctifying work of loving God and loving people (the Two Greatest Commandments), and reaching the lost with the gospel (the Great Commission).

I am fortunate to enjoy other relationships like the ones I enjoy with Michael and Dave, with other brothers in Christ, literally around the world. I'm closer to men I have met but a few times than I am to family members I have known all my life. The Lord blesses me every day of my life, in so many ways--in good times and in bad. None of these blessings are earned or deserved. They are tangible testaments of a Father's love for an adopted son who deserves nothing but his Father's wrath, but who has instead received unmerited grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

Yesterday, I enjoyed an entire afternoon of blessing--the blessing of brothers. Thank You, Lord.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Public Response to a Request by MTV's Show 'Ridiculousness'

Dear Ryan Budds,

I want to take an opportunity, publicly, to respond to your several requests (email, Twitter, and a call to my home) to use the below video on an episode of your MTV program, "Ridiculousness."

First, while I know nothing at all about producing television programs, I suspect you are good at what you do--if for no other reason, the tenacity with which you pursue material for the program. I'm sure your program, which I have never seen, is very popular among the demographic you are trying to reach. And while I have not watched your program, I have been able to glean a general idea of the show's premise from online articles.

The Atlanta Black Star had this to say about Season Five of "Ridiculousness":
"Hosted by Rob Dyrdek, Ridiculousness takes the funniest amateur Internet videos and builds them into an episode of edgy, funny and, most importantly, timeless television. Driven by Dyrdek, the core content of Ridiculousness are the videos framed by Rob’s unique style, pacing and infectious energy. Rob breaks down the hottest clips, laughing along with co-hosts Sterling 'Steelo' Brim and Chanel West Coast (Fantasy Factory’s rapping receptionist). Shot on a studio set with an audience of fans and celebrity guests such as Johnny Knoxville (Wildboyz), Travis Pastrana (Nitro Circus) and Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin (Rob & Big), Ridiculousness brings the best of the Internet to MTV, taking the video clip show to the next level."
From your program's web page:
"Rob Dyrdek hosts an internet video clip show with celebrity guests and co-hosts Sterling 'Steelo' Brim and Chanel West Coast (Fantasy Factory's rapping receptionist).

"Ridiculousness is back with an all new third season, and Rob Dyrdek returns with his hilarious take on the greatest viral videos on the Internet. Along for the ride once again are co-hosts Sterling 'Steelo-O' Brim and Chanel West Coast, breaking down all new video categories like 'Nut Snipers', 'Russian Good Times, and 'Probably Florida'. With guests like Jersey Shore's Pauly D, Jackass's Steve-O and Bam Margera, and Hip Hop phenom Mac Miller, the third season of "Ridiculousness may just be the funniest one yet."
And from Wikipedia:
Ridiculousness shows various viral videos from the Internet, usually involving failed do-it-yourself attempts at stunts, to which Rob and his panelists add mock commentary. Although the format bears some similarity to viewer-submission driven shows such as America's Funniest Home Videos, Ridiculousness producers, as well as the show's network, MTV, do not accept viewer submissions and air a disclaimer before and after each episode warning that, because of the dangerous nature of the stunts being shown, any attempts to submit a video to the show will be discarded sight unseen."
So, my understanding, Ryan, is that your program is a comedy, using viral Internet videos as the either the setup or punchline for jokes. For that reason, Ryan, I must decline your request to use my video on your program.

I would like to say I am flattered by your request (I'm sure many people, maybe even some Christians, would jump at the opportunity), I cannot say that I am. Please don't misunderstand. I am not angry, upset, or offended by your request. I understand you are simply doing your job and trying to put together what you hope would be, consistent with your worldview, the most entertaining and successful program you can.

You see, Ryan; while some find funny what happened in the video, it wasn't funny to me. The video wasn't posted to draw laughter, although we knew it would. The video was posted because we wanted to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible. We know that most people who surf YouTube for entertainment are voyeuristic and love to see conflict. We also know that most people who surf YouTube hate Jesus. I'm not saying they hate Jesus because they surf YouTube. I'm saying that most people in the world hate Jesus, and some of them also surf YouTube. I hope you can understand the distinction. So, we knew that a preacher (me) getting hit in the face with a burrito or anything else would draw people to watch the video.

Ryan, your interest in the video has proven this hypothesis.

I was at the 2012 Super Bowl, in Indianapolis, along with more than 100 other Christians. We were there to preach the Law of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ to any of the hundreds-of-thousands of people there who would listen. What you saw in the video was not comedy (although you think it is). What you saw in the video was tragedy, as people in various stages of intoxication, engaged in various forms of depravity, showing their hatred for the God who created them. What you saw was the tragedy of a normal response toward Christians who try, in love, to share the reality of one-day facing God's wrath and judgment and the hope of receiving forgiveness of sin, through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Ryan, considering the premise and goal of your program, if I were to allow you to air my video on your program I would actually be harming you, the show hosts and guests, and your viewing audience. For if I were to allow you to air my video so you can spend time on your show mocking what happened to me, then I would be helping you to facilitate the mocking of Jesus Christ and His gospel. I would be helping you, the show hosts and guests, and your viewers to heap God's wrath upon themselves for the Day of Wrath. For me to allow you to use my video, Ryan, would be an act of hatred toward you, not an act of love.

Ryan, you need to understand, when the anonymous person hit me in the back of the head with a dirt clod, and then moments later another person hit me in the face with a burrito, they weren't simply saying, "I hate you, preacher!" They were saying, "I hate what you are saying! I hate who you represent! I hate God!" To allow the opportunity for that kind of hatred to be extended to your staff, hosts, guests, and viewers would be to help them blaspheme God. I love you and them too much to allow that to happen.

I hope you've made it this far in my letter, Ryan. I hope you didn't close the page when you read I do not give consent to use my video.

Ryan, you and I will likely never meet, and we may never again communicate with each other. I want you to know that I truly care about you, as a fellow human being. You were created in the image of God. The Bible teaches me to obey two great commandments--to love God and to love people. And it is because of my love for God and my love for people, including you, that I must decline your request.

I hope and pray, Ryan, you will take the time to keep reading.

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.

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

For the above reasons, and others, everyone who stands before God to give an account will do so without excuse. No one will be able to claim innocence or ignorance of violating God’s law--whether in thought, word, or deed. Because God is good, because He is holy, righteous and just, He must punish sin. The punishment God has determined for sin, all sin, is eternity in Hell. It matters not whether you believe this, Ryan. What matters is that it is true. Truth is not determined by what you or I believe. 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.

Hang in there, Ryan. Don't stop reading. It won't kill you to keep reading, but it could cost you your soul to stop. I'm not being melodramatic; I'm simply giving you a reality check.

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, Ryan, 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, Ryan. God does not negotiate with sinners. God will not be bribed by your religious practices (if you are engaged in any) 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, including you and me.

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, Ryan, 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).

Ryan, I urge you, with love in my heart, to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, while God has given you time. And I do hope to hear from you again. You are in my prayers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Perfect Storm: Eschatology, Social Media, and a Sinful Heart

Just a Man

Regarding soteriology, I am a Calvinist, but I've never read The Institutes of Christian Religion.

Regarding apologetics, I am a Presuppositionalist, but I've never read Bahnsen or Van Til.

Regarding gender roles, I am a Complementarian, but I've never read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Piper and Grudem; although I've read portions of the work while studying for a book I was writing.

Regarding eschatology, I am a Futuristic Premillennialist, but I've not yet read MacArthur and Mayhew's primer on the subject. However, many years ago, as part of my Greek Exegesis classwork, I conducted a detailed study of the Parousia (Second Coming of Christ), in I and II Thessalonians.

I share these factoids to say two things: 1) I am not as well read as many of my fellow Christian bloggers and those who are seen as online scholars; 2) I read my Bible a lot. This is not to say I read my Bible more than others do. Nor is this to say all I or any other Christian needs for his or her theological education is a well-worn and read Bible. I've met those who claim that the Bible is their only teacher. In each instance I can recall, the man or woman subscribed to one or many heresies and they made the Pharisees look like altar boys. Like you, the reader, I can thank God for many godly men who have taught me well from the pulpit, sitting next to me in the pew, over a burger or a cup of coffee, through their books, or through their online audios and videos.

My point: I study, but I'm not an expert in any particular theological discipline. While my areas of expertise have served me well in my previous profession, my day-to-day life, and my evangelistic ministry, and while I believe the Lord has given me a modicum of wisdom and discernment in 50 years of life (almost half of which I was unsaved), I'm just a man of average intelligence, limited skills, and a passion for preaching the gospel.

How I Blew It

On August 27, 2014, I went off on a bit of a rant on Facebook and Twitter (I have since closed my Facebook account), sharing some thoughts off the top of my head (occasionally a dangerous proposition), about a theological construct known as "Theonomy."

This is what I said on Twitter:

The reaction was immediate and impassioned. I knew it would be. I knew it would raise the ire of my Theonomist friends. But I did it anyway. I was wrong to do it. I threw darts. They found their marks. I blew it. I hurt the feelings of friends and I offended others. Like I said, I blew it.

So, on August 28, 2014, I apologized:

For some of my friends, my apology fell short. While only one friend contacted me to let me know, it was clear he was also speaking for others.

So, the same day, I apologized again:

Some of those hurt and offended accepted the apology straight away. Others said they accepted my apology and then proceeded to call me out to answer for my "attack on Theonomy." Still others could care less that I apologized and were going to exact from me the proverbial pound of flesh, using Straw Man arguments as their butcher knives.

I'm not complaining. No whining or sniveling, here. I brought it on myself. Whether or not I had all of it coming to me, none of the negative blow-back would have happened if I had simply not tried to make an eschatological argument in 140 characters or less. None of it would have happened if I hadn't let my sinful heart rule the moment.

Cage Stages

I first heard the term "cage stage" when I read Greg Dutcher's excellent book, Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside. Dr. James White explains it this way:
"I’ve seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer’s eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the 'cage stage.' That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink’s The Sovereignty of God? Yeah."
I went through the Calvinism "cage stage" about 25 years ago. I went through the Cessationism "cage stage" about the same time. It was a double-whammy. I went through the biblical evangelism "cage stage" about ten years ago. I know "cage stages." I know how ugly they can be for the person in the cage (people like me) and for those who come in contact with the "caged" theologian.

The latest "cage stage" is an eschatological one--the Theonomy Cage Stage. Even though I've been through a few "cage stages" of my own, instead of trying to reason with my Theonomist brethren who find themselves in a "cage stage" (and I am not speaking of all Theonomists), I rubbed raw, accusatory meat on my shirt, walked up to their cages, and repeatedly poked them with a sharp, social media stick.

Bad move. Dumb move. Sinful move.

A Perfect Storm

There's a storm brewin'. It's sizing up to be a "perfect storm."
"A 'perfect storm' is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude."
The "perfect storm," the rare combination of circumstances that is drastically aggravating the situation, the confluence of phenomenon that is producing an event of unusual magnitude, is the coming together of eschatological debate, social media, and sinful hearts. Instead of hearing the blaring sirens that warned of the coming storm, and instead of taking shelter in the shadow of my Lord's wings and keeping my mouth shut unless I had something positive (edifying) to contribute, I allowed myself to become yet one more unstable hot-air mass--adding to the unfruitful confluence of uncharitable rhetoric.

Well, I've decided I no longer want to be caught up in the storm. I certainly don't want to further add to its intensity. I'm done seeding the storm clouds with pithy one-liners and radio show segments.

I'm not conversant on the subject of eschatology. Some will undoubtedly use my admission against me. So be it. I know what I believe, but I have not taken the time to study the subject to wade into the deeper waters of the discussion. I do have serious misgivings about Theonomy, which are not to be confused with my feelings for Theonomists--at least the ones I know and respect. But before I speak again about those misgivings, I need to spend time studying my own position. When and if that time comes, then I will begin to study what my Theonomist brethren believe.

However, as I told a friend on the phone earlier today, I cannot invest 40 hours a week to the study of eschatology--my own position or the position of others. I have a gospel to preach. As a wise and respected pastor said today on Twitter (a tweet worth reading), "Some are so caught up contending for the faith they forget to spread it." I've allowed myself to do this, more than once--to get so caught up contending with other Christians about aspects of my faith that I've taken my eye off the ball--the spreading of the faith--the proclamation of the gospel.

Abandon Sinful Behaviors without Abandoning Theological Convictions

I humbly ask my Theonomist brethren to consider if this has become or is becoming true of them. Dear brothers and sisters, have you (like I have) allowed yourself get so caught up in contending for Theonomy that you're spending less time sharing the gospel? You don't owe me an answer. But please be humble enough to at least consider the possibility. Are you stuck in an eschatological "cage stage?" If you are in a "cage stage" (of any kind), it doesn't mean you have to abandon your commitment to your eschatological position. But you do have to abandon the uncharitable way in which you interact with people who disagree with you. You do have to abandon the haughtiness with which you defend your position. You do have to abandon the way you marginalize people who disagree with you by leaving them feel spiritually and intellectually inferior. You do have to abandon the way you intimate that you question the validity of the salvation of others because they do not subscribe to an eschatological point of view you yourself embraced only a short time ago.

Look: I know I have to do the same thing. I have to abandon sinful behaviors without abandoning theological convictions (unless, of course, my theological convictions are, according to Scripture, in error).

It's inevitable that someone will try to comment on this blog or on Twitter and accuse me of accusing them of a bunch of nasty stuff. Such an accusation would be a lie. Hey, if nothing I wrote above applies to you, great! If it does, all your venomous speech toward me won't change a thing. It will only serve to bolster my case regarding the existence of a theonomic "cage stage."

So, with that, and for the time being, I have nothing further to say about Theonomy. Now, I am not suggesting that everyone else should stop talking about Theonomy. As for me (and I'm speaking only for and about myself), I've got a gospel to preach, and this subject has proven to be a stumbling block for me. Maybe the day will come when I will talk and write about it again. I don't know when that will be or what will necessitate me talking about it again. Until then, I will continue to study to show myself approved--not to win the next debate, but to be further conformed to the image of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are plenty of enemies of Christ out there--enemies who need to hear the gospel. So, I will try to keep my fights limited to fights for their souls. As for this perfect storm--the combination of eschatology, social media, and sinful hearts--it's time for me to stop being a lightning rod. It's time for me to pray the storm will end. It's time for me to serve as a calming presence for those who seek to get out of the storm. Lord, help me.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When the Encouragement Doesn't Come

A brother in Christ sent me the following email:
"There are a lot of brothers and sisters out on the streets daily and weekly reaching the lost, saving babies at the murder mills, etc., all over this country. Some of these brothers and sisters are very high profile and receive praises and encouragement with every post on Facebook or Twitter.

"But there are also brothers and sisters out on the streets in their own small towns, all over the country, going door-to-door, open airing at the local events, handing out tracts and pleading for the life of the unborn that do not get the encouragement they sometimes desperately need (even from within their own churches).

"Here is why I am thinking of this: I get encouragement from my wife, my two brothers-in-the-Lord who go out with me, other evangelists around the country, and even within my church. I praise God for this! They keep me grounded, encouraged and humbled.

"But what started me thinking about this was what happened to me this past Saturday after proclaiming the gospel at the local DMV. For the first time, in over a year of proclaiming the gospel at the DMV almost every Saturday morning, a Christian came down from the DMV line to the sidewalk I was on and shook my hand, hugged me, and praised God that I was out there proclaiming the gospel open-air. We talked for quite a bit and while he said he was encouraged by me, I was greatly encouraged by him coming down to talk to me. He told me that he had been talking to some of the brothers in his church to start doing some street evangelism, along with the retirement home evangelism they already do, and him hearing me open-airing was a confirmation to him to get out on the streets too.

"Like I said, I get encouragement. It is good to get encouragement. But how many brothers and sisters are out there that never get the encouragement they may desperately need? They pour out their hearts day in and day out in reaching the lost or pleading for the unborn and never hear words of encouragement from fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord."
Having a general idea of the demographics of the people who read my blog, I have no doubt there are readers who can truly relate to the above email.

The Blessing and Curse of a "Following"

The majority of committed, faithful, biblical, street evangelists don't have "followings." They don't have thousands of people "liking" their Facebook pages or "retweeting" their posts. The evangelists who do have "followings" are the exception and not the rule. And, while I am both content and grateful where the Lord has me, and while over time I have learned to stop running away from the reality that, for better or worse, people follow my ministry, there are times when I covet the relatively obscure life of most biblical evangelists.

I do appreciate and personally benefit from what little popularity I have in evangelism circles. Every day, I receive words of encouragement from around the world. Where the Lord has me in life and ministry has afforded me opportunities to travel around the world, preach in many different pulpits, and make life-long friendship with brothers and sisters in Christ--opportunities I likely would never experience had not the Lord called me to preach the gospel in the open-air. I am very grateful to the Lord and to the Bride of Christ for these many blessings.

However, with these many blessings comes a higher almost hyper-level of scrutiny, with trolls both inside and outside the Body of Christ just waiting, hoping, for me to make a mistake or to do or say something they can perceive and twist and spin into a mistake. And there are others who believe that being on a social media "friends" or "followers" list entitles them to a familial level of access. I can't tell you how many times people I have never met, and will likely never meet, the moment after accepting their "friend" request, immediately private message me asking me for my cell phone number. Most often I don't respond. But when I do respond, telling the person I don't give my personal contact information to people I don't know, it's amazing how many times people get angry and say words like, "I thought we were friends."

There are other times when people have "followed" or "friended" me on social media simply to gather quotes that they can later twist in attack blog articles.

I can only begin to imagine what it is like for people who are actually well-known--people like my pastors, John MacArthur and Phil Johnson.

Recently, a young man on social media was very disappointed, even incensed, that I blocked him on Twitter and Facebook. I honestly don't remember the exact reason why I blocked him. He has all but stalked me, publicly making his disappointment known. I just shake my head and think, "Dude, get a grip. Being on my 'friends' list on Facebook or being able to see my posts on Twitter should not be this big-a-deal. I'm not that important." Being relatively well-known in evangelistic circles on social media is both a blessing and a curse.

While God is sovereign over everything, there remains a fine line between being given by God a certain level of notoriety or popularity for the purpose of edifying the Bride of Christ in the area of evangelism and sinful self-promotion. And that fine line moves differently in each person's life based on the sinfulness or godliness in his life, on any given day. There is not, at least to my knowledge, a static line of demarcation between God-given popularity and man-driven self-promotion. This is why the evangelist, like every Christian, must be engaged in the day-to-day pursuit of holiness, be wary of believing his own hype, and have close friends who are willing to say, "Tony, I think you're crossing that line."

Popularity, no matter how little it may be, can be a great blessing. But even the smallest amount of popularity can come at a substantial price. So, before you wish or even pray for more popularity or for more attention to be given to your biblical evangelism ministry, give yourself a moment of pause--a time of reflection and wisdom and discernment-seeking. You may not, in the end, really want that for which you are wishing or asking.

Let that be an encouragement to you.

When the Encouragement Doesn't Come

Embrace Obscurity

With the above in mind, I want to encourage those who find themselves serving Christ on the streets in what, to them, seems like obscurity to embrace it. That's right. Embrace it.

Do not covet another evangelist's ministry or what you might perceive as popularity (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21; 7:25; Luke 12:15; Acts 20:33; Romans 1:29; 7:7-8; 13:9; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5; James 4:2). It will only make you bitter, discontent, and it will take your eyes off "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-16). James rightly and soberly wrote:
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:13-18).
There is a level of purity (maybe better descriptive terms are "innocence" or "simplicity" or "humility") in a ministry nestled in obscurity. And it is a purity that can be easily lost when jealousy and selfish ambition is allowed to creep in. When this happens, an otherwise faithful open-air preacher might begin to determine where or when he will preach based almost exclusively on the size of the crowd before him. One-to-One conversations might be engaged only if the other person allows the conversation to be audio or video recorded. And the distribution of gospel tracts might become passe--an activity relegated to the newbie evangelist.

I can think of wonderful men and women of God engaged in faithful evangelistic ministry who are little known or virtually unknown to the evangelistic Christian masses (still, sadly, a relatively small mass), brothers and sisters in Christ who have been at it twice as long as I have, who have shared the gospel with far more people than I have--maybe more than I ever will. They've lived in an American Evangelical world and are, for all intents and purposes, ignored, even shunned, by not only their Christian friends, but their church families. They have gone long periods of time without so much as a hand on the shoulder from another Christian, saying to them, "I appreciate what you do for Christ and your love for the lost."

While these dear saints (Christians who will no doubt have more crowns to lay at the Master's feet than I will) certainly want to receive more encouragement than they do, they have a strength of character, a maturity of faith, and a humility of spirit that allows and enables them to embrace obscurity while drawing strength and encouragement from the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word.

Find Encouragement at the Source

The brother who sent me the email enjoys regular encouragement from other evangelists and his church family. I cannot praise and thank God enough for that. Would that every evangelist I know (either personally, or through social media, or through reputation) be encouraged every day by the Bride of Christ! Lord, please hear my prayer!

The reality is that some of God's greatest voices--from Noah, to Moses, to the prophets, to the apostles, to the great pastors and open-air preachers throughout Church history--lived lives, even if they were not obscure lives, that saw more discouragement than encouragement. Let's not forget that Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, saw just two converts in 40-50 years of prophetic ministry. Let's not forget Elijah tried to run from his prophetic responsibility (and for his life), all-the-while thinking he was the only man of God still standing (or hiding). Encouragement received was not the motivation of these men of God. Their motivation was love for God and love for their people. If encouragement came, it came from the Lord Himself.

Hans Nielsen Hauge, Robert Annan, Robert Flockhart: these great open-air preachers, known today by just a few lovers of Church history who include open-air preaching as part of that history, understood obscurity and discouragement. They understood being alone, traveling miles and miles on foot alone, being locked up alone in prison cells and asylums. But nothing could deter them. Nothing could cause them to take their bibles, hymnals, and gospel tracts and go home. Their love for Christ, their love for His Word, their love for the lost was simply too great.

Men gone for hundreds of years have been replaced, by the Lord, throughout the world, by faithful men who aren't bloggers. They don't have YouTube channels. They are not on Facebook or Twitter (God bless them). They don't lead para-church ministries. They don't have a "following." They simply follow Christ and preach the Word to everyone who can hear and to anyone who will listen. I would mention their names, but why would I intrude upon the obscurity they've embraced? I love them too much.

The above groups of men--whether long-gone or who today regularly battle discouragement, but remain faithful to the commitment to preach the gospel in the open-air--found/find encouragement at the Source. So, in addition to embracing obscurity (if that's where the Lord has you), I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ that are engaged in evangelism to find encouragement at the Source--the Word of God. And please allow me to get you started.

Find comfort in Him, my discouraged brother or sister.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).

"You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel" (Psalm 71:20-22).

"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life" (Psalm 119:50).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
You are never alone, my discouraged brother or sister.
"'I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.' Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, 'Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?' Jesus answered him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

'These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid'" (John 14:18-27).

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:20-26).
Nothing you do for the Lord Jesus Christ, my discouraged brother or sister, is ever in vain.
"I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?'
"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
And never forget, my discouraged brother or sister, you preach, you engage people in conversation, you distribute gospel tracts for an audience of One and for the glory of One.
"Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved" (1 Chronicles 16:28-30).

Has it been a while, my evangelistic brother or sister in Christ, since anyone encouraged you. I pray today will be the end of that season of neglect. I pray what I've written here, as simple as it is, is an encouragement to you.

Be encouraged, and don't quit, my brothers and sisters! If you find yourself evangelistically serving the Lord in a place or a season of obscurity, embrace it! Thank God for allowing you to serve Him without the often negative trappings of popularity. And when the moments of encouragement are few and far between, turn to the Source, dear brethren. Turn to Christ! Turn to His Word! Find encouragement on your knees or with your nose in His Book! Find the encouragement you need, whenever you need it, at the Source of life--life temporal and eternal.

To my Christian brethren who may not be climbing down into the well of street evangelism: are you holding the rope for someone who is climbing down into the well?

I am blessed to have many "rope holders" in my life--Christian brothers and sisters who pray for me and the work to which God has called me. I have many "rope holders" in my life who are slow to criticize, but are very quick to provide a word of encouragement--an email, a Twitter or Facebook comment, and note waiting for me in the mail box (yes people still write letters).

How about you? Do you know a brother or sister in Christ who faithfully distributes gospel tracts, more often than not alone? When was the last time you prayed for him or her? When was the last time you prayed and then told your brother or sister you were doing so?

When was the last time you asked your brother or sister who stands on a corner, rain or shine, holding a cross or a Christ-honoring sign how they were doing? When was the last time you asked him in an inquisitive, caring, non-interrogative way about his ministry (it is a ministry, by the way)?

Do you know an open-air preacher in your church? When was the last time (if you ever have) asked him if you could join him and pray for him while he preaches? Are you there to tend to your brother's physical and emotional wounds when he comes off the God-hating, unloving field of battle? Or do you keep a discreet distance so as not to get the stench of the unwashed masses on you? Or is it that being in the presence of someone who truly loves Jesus and the lost makes you feel too guilty to befriend and pray for the open-air preacher?

Yep. Consider yourself spanked. You'll survive.

There's likely a brother or sister in Christ, in your church, who is faithful to proclaim the gospel in any one of many ways who could use your encouragement, right now. What will you do? There are people you likely know, Christians who are trying to obey Christ and reach the lost with the gospel who need encouragement, right now. What will you do?

How do you feel when the encouragement doesn't come?