Category: Encouragement

Witness Well

“My child has become a Mormon”

The father looks up wistfully from his porch swing.  Another argument.  Another angry outburst of frustration.  It had been eleven years yesterday when his youngest son announced that he had joined the LDS church.  And when he came to visit with his young family, he told himself that he would not bring up the subject.  He would not confront his son.  No, not this time.  But the discussion swayed a direction in which he could not help but share his latest thoughts and concerns about Mormonism.  His son had responded back in anger.  “Why do you hate Mormons?”  “Why can’t we just agree to disagree?”  Not when eternity is at stake.  Not when the eternal consequences are so grim.

A day planned of joyful family time turned grim and tense.  The passing brake lights of his son’s minivan had already vanquished into the coming night.  His wife was in the back with familiar tears falling upon clasped hands, begging God to please allow her boy to come home.  “I wonder,” thought the father, “what he felt like.”  The father in Jesus’ parable also waited for his prodigal son to come home.  “Lord, I must place this into your hands.  I have done all I can.  Now, all I can do is wait and pray.  Bring my son back to you, Lord.  Bring him home.”

There is probably no greater passion, no greater concern than the e-mails and phone calls we receive than from concerned Christian parents who either have a child in the LDS Church or are considering being baptized as a Mormon.  Guilt.  Anger.  Frustration.  A myriad of emotions greet parents and family members as they wrestle with this issue.  There are many reasons why a child raised in a Christian home would consider joining the LDS church.  The theology and focus on family can be attractive.  Maybe they were invited to attend an LDS stake house while a teenager.  But a common reason occurs when a Christian begins dating a Mormon man or woman.  The couple is torn because leaving Mormonism is very difficult.  There is intense family pressure to stay in the LDS church.  So, the couple is forces to choosing love over church membership which usually ends up with dramatic consequences.

There is no magic formula we provide for parents or family members of Mormons, except hope and a listening ear.  There are certainly points and hints we can bring out, but in far too many cases, there comes a point in time when family members stop listening no matter what is said.  But there is hope.

We have talked to many ex-Mormons about their long and arduous journey to the Christian faith.  A common thread about each of their journey is that a seemingly insignificant event is what starts the ball rolling.  Invited by a neighbor, who didn’t know they were Mormon, to a neighborhood Bible study.  A little girl inviting to see her sing at her Sunday School Christmas concert.  An act of genuine love and kindness with no strings attached.  A random comment about our faith in Christ and what he has already done for our salvation.  Coming out of Mormonism and into the freedom found only in Christ is a process that includes many sowing of seeds.

Many times we think of outreach or evangelism as a reaping ministry.  We think of the trained evangelist blessed with the spiritual gift of evangelism as the only person who can carry out successful outreach ministry.  But it goes much more than that.  Cross-cultural outreach ministry is predominantly a sowing ministry.  God’s Word bring people to faith, but the real heroes are not the ones performing the baptism, but the faithful few whom God used along the way.

My encouragement for you to day is to exercise your faith by prayerfully asking for discernment and to take advantage of opportunities the Lord may be giving you to sow seeds of faith with Mormons.  In many ways, our seed plantings are not deliberate and prepared responses, but fruit-filled reactions prompted by the Spirit.

In all that we do and say as professing Christians, you can count on the fact that somebody will be listening and observing.  But more importantly, God and his angels will know first the fruit produced by love that prompted many saints in Christ to assist a searching Mormon in their journey to the Christian faith.  And when we come heaven, we will know our part when that converted LDS saint will say thank you.

But they will not be the only one.

Perhaps it is that loving father sitting on the porch swing watching his lost son drive away.  Maybe that mother with the tear-strewn face who had been praying for years.  With outstretched arms, they will welcome you with a heart-felt thanks in the role that God allowed you play in bringing their child to heaven.  What a reunion that will be!

God will not allow His Word to fall to the ground

After years of preparation and anticipation an event that will capture the imagination and the attention of billions around the world will be riveted on the country of South Africa beginning this week.  I’m not talking about a summit of world leaders to talk world peace, global warming or the latest natural disaster, but an event of such enormous magnitude that businesses, banks, even traffic will slow to a standstill for those few precious hours each day.  World Cup soccer has finally awakened from its four year hiatus.

Americans don’t really grasp the significance of this event.  For a nation whose team is participating in such an event, it’s the Super Bowl times seven.  The whole nation shuts down and become absorbed in the sweeping emotions of a soccer match.  And like thunder rumbling through the plains, a goal is greeted from every town and village.  Glory is brought to any tiny nation that rises to the occasion and gain victory over a formidable foe.

They didn’t have World Cup soccer during the time of King David, but Israel knew victory under his command.  Like thunder rumbling through the valleys, the reputation of David’s might was heard throughout the land.  All for a purpose.  All for the glory of the one true God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  What brought victory to David’s reign as king?  What allowed David to succeed?  When reading through First and Second Samuel, you come across the following phrases, “So David inquired of the LORD”;  “So David did as the LORD commanded him”; “{The Lord said through Nathan} Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it for the LORD is with you”;  “I have been with you wherever you have gone”; “The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.”  The victories granted to David set the stage for the greatest victory every recorded – the victory over death and Satan accomplished through the completed work of the promised Messiah.

Even though victory has been assured, the match isn’t over yet.

The Lord anointed David, son of Jesse, to achieve victory.  Perhaps in the same way, God has chosen each of us in this unique point in history to advance his kingdom.  From what we have learned in the life of King David, it will be the Lord who will provide the opportunities, the message, and the strength.  And perhaps at this time, we are on the cusp of a great victory that goes beyond any World Cup soccer match.  The victory is bring lost souls to faith in Christ – a trust in his completed work on the cross and victory over death and Satan.

Like David, we recognize that any victory will come from the Lord and the only means of achieving victory will be through God’s Word.  “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.”  (1 Samuel 3:19)  The words of the prophet Samuel’s were always reliable.  As a result, he was widely recognized as a prophet who spoke the word of the Lord.  As we share God’s Word with others, we can have confidence that they are being used.  Our Lord will not let any of His words fall to the ground.  With renewed confidence, we can pursue opportunities to witness Christ and pray that the glory of the Lord will rumble throughout the valleys to reach many more people.

A Remedy for Ailing Families is Committed Fathers

Our society is facing many concerns right now. To me, the cause and the cure begin and end with the family. A generation has witnessed the destruction of families and now a new generation is needed to reconstruct the family.

Parents today must recognize the amount of impact they have on teaching morals and values to the next generation and don’t give in to the influence of the media, music and video games. Children who daily witness positive male and female role models at home are given a far greater chance to overcome life’s challenges and enjoy the freedom of living as God’s faithful servants. Hope is kept alive through our children.

The Ten Commandments tell us to, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” God’s promise of rewarding family commitment is the hope I cling to when all else seems hopeless. Our hope and trust rests with God, yet He has chosen to intercede by placing the burden of raising the next generation on parents.

When God blessed my wife and I with our first child, the burden of parenthood caused great fear within me since I really didn’t have a clue on how to be a good father. I sense that many young fathers feel the same way. Since young men have fragile egos, we sometimes have difficulty admitting to a lack of knowledge in anything. The problem intensifies when panic accompanies our dry reservoir of fatherly wisdom. Instead of thirsting for counsel, we tend to keep family concerns at an arm’s length and draw closer to familiar passions for comfort and assurance. Unfortunately, the current climate of our culture aggressively promotes a man’s passion for work, recreation and freedom while families remain in the backset or left forgotten in the closet of our mind.

I am thankful to see a resurgence of committed fathers. Men are beginning to realize the consequences of neglecting their families and are taking action to correct those errors. A “successful” man is in the process of being re-defined which includes being a good father. He is wisely investing his personal resources into the quantity of time he spends with his children instead of the quality. Momentum is building to overturn the trend of having less fathers and more daddies.

If our society is to begin healing, I believe the remedy will be found in fatherhood. Together, fathers can accept the responsibility and forge a new direction for the next generation. Young fathers initially have all the same concerns of providing for their family. Then life hits and the commitment wavers.

There are the frustrations and challenges associated with chosen careers. The constant temptation of materialism, lust and glory is ongoing. It is an ongoing challenge to find the time necessary to strengthen or even maintain our spiritual life, commit ourselves to the church, and spend time with our young children. When we are about to drop in exhaustion, the little time and energy leftover must then be used to love, nurture, serve and support our wives. Life becomes a battlefield. It is the trench warfare of raising a family, a war against temptations and the ultimate victory which only can be found in Christ. For it is God’s Word that ultimately equips , teaches and inspires us to be the men whom God wants us to be.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

A Prayer for Adversity

A young nation has experienced major battles in the past and by God’s divine intervention has been able to overcome and be victorious.  With the crumbling of the family and its repercussions, our nation may be in the midst of the most threatening battle to date.  A whole generation became victim to an extraordinary cultural coup and is now reeling in its consequences.  A new voice forged, celebrated and worshipped an idol representing anti-establishment, alternative lifestyles and all other things contrary to God.  In what was trumpeted and widely proclaimed as a victory, became a stunning defeat.  Like a sweeping tidal wave, the counter-cultural movement toppled a solid foundation built by God-fearing people and flooded the plains with the promotion and eventual public acceptance of new ideas and beliefs.  The one true God was effectively replaced by the worship of self.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”  (Psalm 127:1)

Today’s popular culture has been carefully molded and shaped by a revolutionary force.  Its philosophy has permeated itself into our government, the judicial system, the media, public education, Hollywood and other places of great influence.  Time has elapsed.  The cracks of a man-made foundation are becoming more exposed and pronounced.  The Great Society has turned out to be not so great.  Orchestrated sound-bites of shallow solutions are becoming more muddled each day while social engineers behind the scenes frantically patch the cracks with more of the same ingredients.  The debate in public policy intensified between those concerned about individual choice rather than community autonomy; more government mandates versus personal responsibility; activist judging against those who just want to be left alone.  The level of confidence, trust and respect normally granted to government leaders is dangerously deteriorating to new levels.   People are asking, “How much longer can we be misled?”  “We need a strong leader!”  And in their angst of expecting way too much from our head of state in a system of checks and balances, the balance of power can swiftly change to a single voice inviting catastrophe and loss of personal freedom.

“But mark this: There will be terrible time in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, …”  (2 Timothy 3:1-2)

I am not prophesying the end is near nor ruin your day with more bad news.  My hope is to point out that our nation is following a path that has been the downfall of other great nations throughout history, plus provide a solution.  History shows that a nation can destroy itself in immorality and societies seem to never learn this cycle.  Yet, this never-ending conflict of good and evil is nothing new to individuals.  The consequences of bad decisions wreck personal lives and in the same way dismantle great nations.

God can bring hope to our nation just as He freely gives hope to us as individuals.  When our choices create an empty void prompting us to re-consider our values, our life and our purpose, a window of opportunity is presented to reveal God’s love and his purpose for us.  Forgiveness and restoration becomes available.  Repentance is a painful realization brought on by the crumbling of stubborn pride.  Only through a broken and contrite spirit can God reveal himself.  By surrendering to his will and his sovereignty, we receive our deepest longing for love, hope and peace.

God may choose to bless our nation with a quick and sweeping wave of repentance, but the signs are pointing a different direction.  The Christian church is too distracted and too busy.  Either they are too absorbed in their own lives, or choosing political reform over changing hearts, or not allowing themselves to spiritually mature in God’s Word.  My prayer is that God will do something and stop the trend, but it can’t be in the form of material prosperity.

My prayer is that God will allow a time of great adversity to come upon our land.  I know this is a risky prayer and my family could be greatly affected.  Social chaos and anarchy could easily reign in our streets threatening the great experiment we have called democracy.  However, it is in adversity that we grow as people.  It is through times of great struggle that can lead multitudes of men and women to their knees in prayer.  A sense of community is established in times of need and I believe that people today will respond positively to a crisis.  More importantly, difficult circumstances cause people to reach out to God for healing.  When the multitudes lift up their hands to God, a new foundation can be built.

Today’s Christian Worldview: False Optimism or Fatalism

The new year is upon us and we can only wonder what 2010 will bring.  Last year at this time, the nation welcomed a new president.  There was optimism and hope that a new man with new ideas will finally be an answer.  It’s a year later, and people are already questioning his ideas and his leadership.  Was the general public too optimistic?  We’re they expecting too much?  More importantly, based on what we read from the Bible, how should a Christian respond?

Throughout 2009, there were many events in our nation and our world that ought to cause each person some concern and alarm.  The rising influx of terrorism, the economic downturns, and the noticeable rise of secularism within American borders causes concern for most Christians.  History records and is backed up by Old Testament records of the ancient Israelites, that when a nation turns its back on God, God in turn will allow a nation to go its own way.  And what happens?  A dissolution and scattering of a nation.  Europe has turned its back on God and there is a quite invasion of Islam that is a generation away from achieving dominance.  America is starting to turn away from God and is a generation away from being a dominant world power.  How should a Christian respond.

I like what Marvin Olasky of WORLD Magazine wrote in the latest issue.  He alludes to Jeremiah 8 as two wrong ways for a Chrisitan to respond.  False Optimism says “peace, peace” when there is no peace — it keeps us from seeking healing.  On the other hand, it is wrong to say, “We are doomed to perish as punishment from God!”  Fatalism keeps us from asking for mercy and repentance.

A Christian response is that when we turn away from fatalism or false optimism, we are in a sense, turning to God.  And He will deliver.  We don’t place our trust on things of this world.  We don’t place our trust in horses, castles and kings as the Bible states.  But, we place our trust in the Lord Almighty, who delivers and endures forever.  This is not to say that bad things will not happen.  There could be a time of suffering.  And that’s okay.  Because the Bible says that we can still rejoice in our sufferings because of the great benefits that suffering can produce — repentance, endurance, character and hope.  Those are the treasures of heaven that Jesus alludes to, not treasures that earth provides.

A proper, Biblical response for Christians this year is to not worry, and place our full trust in the Lord.  Have a willing and sincere heart to following Him and His way — not matter what.  Take each day at a time, for tomorrow has enough concerns and worries of its own.  And ask the Lord to create a new heart within us — so that the joy of our salvation is renewed.  Then, and only then, can we tackle this world, and all its challenges, with an attitude of praise.

Handel’s Messiah: magnificently written by a broken man

It’s funny how God greatest accomplishments usually come from broken men.

The story behind the composer, George Frideric Handel, in regards to the masterpiece, “Messiah” comes from the hands of a man who at the time was broken financially, physically and emotionally.  This came to the light in a recent article by Marvin Olasky entitled “God’s Hand is in it” in the recent WORLD magazine.  The article is based on an interview with Lauren Green, an accomplished pianist and religion editor for FOX news.

Since reading the article, I did a Google search on the life of Handel and found it be interesting and inspiring.  Handel was a very famous composer in his time.  He attempted to make his mark Italian opera, but struggled both with the music and with his opera company.  On the brink of disaster, Handel applied his genius and creativity in writing oratorios.  During this time of painful transition, Handel composed the “Messiah”.  Upon completion of writing the amazing “Hallelujah” chorus, the article quotes Handel as saying, “I do believe I’ve seen the gates of Heaven.”  Handel went on to find great success while living in London until his death.

Great things are done by broken man.  That seems to be a recurring theme throughout Paul’s epistles.  When we are weak, then we are strong.  It is at man’s depths, that we are exposed for what we really are — sinful, inherited flesh who amounts to nothing and anything we feel that we do accomplish is nothing but dust in the wind.  The hard realities of life leads us one of two courses — abuses and addictions for the purpose of distraction or just pure laziness.  A life given up on.  Or, there is another way.  To truly see our purpose through the words and promises of God.  We are no longer defined by what the world sees us, but renewed by the status given us — a child of God.  An heir of royalty.

As we celebrate Christmas with loved ones, we can reflect on the King who was born in a manger.  A king who would suffer and die for the purpose of taking our place of sin, so we can be receive all glory from above.  That thought alone can bring the Merry back to Christmas.

Being a Spiritual Leader in Today’s World

God is looking for a few good men.

This popular phrase is used by Marine recruiters to reach out to young men who desire to grasp a hold of adventure, a dynamic purpose beyond themselves, a rewarding goal that only a few dare to attempt. Could not the same phrase be used for today’s Christian church? We need a few good men who dare to go against the tide of secular consumerism, the entanglement of competing truths, and amnesia to the great commission.

Several years ago, I came across an excellent article written by a pastor who specialized in Biblical leadership. Through careful study of leaders in the Bible, most notably Nehemiah, he offered some sound instruction and guidance.

“God is serious about the spiritual life of those who lead his people. People with superior skills but no prayer life can’t lead in Christ’s Church. Men who have a wealth of experience in administration but no experience with Scripture don’t get God’s call.”

“Spiritual leaders take the state of the church personally, agonize over it, and pray repeatedly about it. It is not the eloquence of a perfunctory prayer that opens a meeting at the church, but the passion of his private prayers that measures a leader.”

“Spiritual leaders don’t use policies or public relations to fix problems in the church; they use repentance.”

“Leaders serious about God’s work are in continuous consultation with God. Perhaps that would be more apparent if there were more prayers in the middle of meetings at church, not just at the beginning and the end. What we do when we’re stuck, how we deal with disagreement, where we turn for a decision– that is what defines spiritual difference.”

“Spiritual leaders care and dare to get angry at what opposes God, in and outside the church.”

“Spiritual leaders have a bigger agenda than building church walls. Like Nehemiah, they help people rebuild their lives with God.”

“The mark of a spiritual leader is integrity– walking the talk, modeling God’s truth and love. …It meant consistently living out what God’s Word had put into his heart.”

“Christian leaders who understand God’s Word and seek God’s will have God’s direction. It isn’t mystical, and they don’t manipulate people with it. But spiritual leaders know what God wants them to do, and they trust God to show others.”

These excellent points came from the article “Doing God’s Thing, God’s Way: Christian leaders who understand God’s Word and seek God’s will have God’s Direction” by Rev. Paul Kelm.

Reading your Bible: 5 Tips on how to cultivate this critical habit

HOW TO READ YOUR BIBLE:
Tips for cultivating this critical habit in the Christian life

Nothing can really take the place of our own quiet study of God’s Word.  We may measure our growth in grace by the growth of our love for private Bible study; and we may be sure that here is something seriously wrong when we lose our appetite for the Bread of Life.  There are a few ways to help us acquire this holy hunger for God’s Word.

1.             MAKE TIME FOR BIBLE STUDY
His Word must have our freshest and brightest thoughts.  WE must give Him our best and the firstfruits of our days.  So, there is not time for Bible study like the early morning.

2.             LOOK FOR THE TEACHING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
No one can explain the meaning of His words as He who wrote them.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us today as He did when He inspired the words of Holy Scripture written thousands of years ago.

3.             READ THE BIBLE METHODICALLY
On the whole there is probably no better way than to read the Bible through once every year.  His book can become a treasured friend and an inseparable companion.

4.             READ YOUR BIBLE WITH YOUR PEN IN HAND
Enjoy the Bible by marking it neatly; underlining and dating special verses which have cast a light upon their path on special days.

5.             TURN FROM THE PRINTED PAGE TO PRAYER
If a portion of Scripture hangs like a cluster of heavenly fruit, reach and gather it in through prayer.  Place the Bible down and allow your spirit to soar in thanksgiving.

God’s Word strengthens us, renews us and calls us to faith.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accept the call of obedience and duty through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God will keep nothing back from us and by His Word, He will open to us His deepest and sweetest thoughts.

(Thoughts taken from Rev. F.B. Meyer (1847-1929): The Best From All His Works)