Category: Evangelism

Witness Well

A Christian’s reflection on touring the LDS temple in Boise

Recently the Boise Mormon Temple finished its renovations and opened itself up to the public for a month of tours.  Last week, my husband and I took one of their tours.  Everyone was greeted with a welcome brochure which explained the LDS temple and temple worship.  It began, “For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the house of the Lord – the most sacred place on earth….. Because the temple is unique place, only the finest materials and craftsmanship are used in its construction.”  With that build up, I was expecting a “Wow!” factor, but instead was met with something like the facades of buildings in the old west – a trying to make something look bigger and nicer than it really was. I have seen cathedrals, churches, state buildings, and even some people’s homes that were more remarkable.  What did impress me, however, were all the obvious ceremonial rituals and traditions that took place within its walls.  That was a little eerie.

Buildings are man-made, however, and upon reflection, what touched my heart the most throughout the tour, even from our arrival, was the amount of LDS volunteers and hosts there were at the temple that day, all dressed in black and smiling.  Before even parking our car, we must have passed about 8 LDS smiling gentlemen acting as parking lot attendants.  There were LDS people stationed all over directing you where to go to start your tour.  Inside the stake house, there was an LDS person about every 10-15 feet or so directing or just standing – always with a smile.  An elderly couple was assigned to give about 8 of us a tour.  There were about 10 people seated directly outside the Temple waiting to put paper shoe covers on our shoes so as not to dirty the floors inside.  Inside the Temple, again, there were numerous smiling LDS gentlemen and ladies standing around making sure the tours went smoothly.  Everyone was very friendly but seemed a bit nervous if asked questions.  As we left the temple, there were others waiting to take off our shoe coverings.  What touched my heart was, oh my, all these LDS people – how can we ever reach them all – and this is just a small sampling!  With the facades of their smiles, they are heading down the wide road towards damnation.  How overwhelming it seems to reach them with the truth of the Bible, the truth about works’ righteousness, the truth about sin, the truth about God’s complete and total forgiveness!  So many lost – so many deceived!

The Boise LDS temple recently finished renovations and was open to the public to take a tour.

I asked God to show me a verse of encouragement and my amazing Savior did just that!  My Bible readings and devotions recently have been on God’s sovereignty and while reading a little book on God’s promises, Galations 6:9 just popped out at me.  Then turning on my computer today, I received my “Daily Bread” from Pastor Gabb – something I just subscribed to yesterday.  Guess what the Bible verse was for today?  That is right, Galations 6:9!!!  So in closing here is that verse and a prayer from me.

“Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don’t give up.”

Dear awesome LORD, thank you so very much for your encouraging Word!  Help us not grow tired of praying, of witnessing, of doing good.  Do not let the devil discourage us in any way, shape, or form.  May we live our lives in service to You, trusting in Your sovereign timing and sovereign ways.  May we also trust that, at the right time, a crop will be gathered into Your kingdom. I believe, LORD; help me with my unbelief!

Witnessing Christ needs a leap of faith

Witnessing Christ means standing on the edge with feelings of fear and inadequacy, and by faith, jump into the assurances that God’s Word alone creates faith; that God desires all men and women to be saved; and God loves everyone just as much as he loves us. When those golden opportunities arrive to witness Christ, usually unexpectedly, we take a deep breath, say a short prayer, and dive into the message of what Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross.

This is why I like to think of witnessing as an adventure. You never quite know what to expect. The following story is a great example.

This past month, I received an e-mail from a gentleman whose church is going through a Bible study I wrote on witnessing to Mormons entitled, “Preparing for the Adventure.” The class quickly became “standing room only.” The adventure began when a church member showed the student worksheets to her next door neighbor who happened to be a Mormon. The following Sunday, the Mormon lady decided to accompany her neighbor to the worship service and the Bible study.

Shortly into the Bible study and without warning, the lady stood up to identify herself as a member of the LDS church and was there solely for the purpose of making sure the study was “accurate” in its presentation of Mormon teachings. She repeatedly attempted to defend her church throughout the class and pointed to the Bible to back up the teachings. Because the members of the class didn’t anticipate the woman’s presence and in addition were unfamiliar with the language and theology of the LDS Church, the Mormon woman became the focal point of the class and not the material. Since the woman was planning on coming back the following week, they asked me what the church ought to do.

There is a persecution-complex among many Mormons. They will react vigorously to any statement or materials perceived as anti-Mormon. They are routinely cautioned that such materials are from the devil. In a public setting like a Bible class, Mormons will staunchly defend their church as one would defend a family member against false accusations.

It has been my experience that most Mormons are respectful at seminars or presentations I conduct. However, if caught with an unexpected LDS visitor who attempts to dominate a class or a seminar, we can be respectful, yet firm in providing guidelines for discussion while offering the invitation to speak privately.

And that’s what happened with the Mormon visitor.

She must have been surprised to find out that the Bible study offers a respectful and unique perspective on the culture and the language of the LDS church, especially the amount of stress placed on its members to be worthy. Noting the respectful tone and the attention to accuracy presented in the study, the LDS lady confided in a private conversation that there are many people like her who would like to leave the Mormon Church because of the stress. What could have been a disaster turned out to be a golden opportunity.

On the outside, Mormons do appear impenetrable. When the LDS lady at the Bible class trumpeted her church’s teachings, she came across as a valiant and faithful Mormon. But inside, she was hurting.

The adventure of witnessing Christ most often includes sowing a seed of God’s saving message for all people, including Mormons. We shouldn’t be fooled by outer appearances. So, take that leap of faith when God presents you with golden opportunities to witness and trust that God’s Word can penetrate any heart. It was no accident that the LDS lady came to a Christian church and it will not be an accident when the Lord places a Mormon in your midst.

Mormonism: An Idol of our Time

The forgiveness of sins is the hallmark of the Christian believer.  Resting on Christ’s completed work on the cross, a righteous soul grasps hold of free and full forgiveness of sins by faith in God’s promises that it is so.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” is the cry that rings in the jailer’s ears after he desperately asks, “What must I do to be saved?”  The answer of faith still remains true today.  A forgiven saint perfected in Christ is declared not guilty.  The comfort and assurance associated with this new status of being a child of God is what distinguishes a believer from a non-believer.

Standing at the doorframe of this truth is a dangerous false answer where the focus is on the “do” rather than the “done” of salvation.  Cloaked brilliantly under the guise of Christianity, the gospel of Mormonism proclaims a restored truth, a literal third testament that denies the truth found in God’s Word.  With an attempt to satisfy the inner human longings of cooperating with God — that somehow we can attain salvation on our own and be declared worthy based on our own merits – the LDS church is gaining a foothold in our modern world.   This is really nothing new.  The innate desire to find purpose and meaning through human effort — to cast idols apart from the one true God — has been a part of our world from the very beginning.  In essence, Mormonism is an idol of our time.  The triumph of human effort supersedes the victory achieved by Christ, thereby robbing people of the joy of forgiveness found only in the promises of God’s Word.  The danger of a false gospel not only robs souls of comfort and assurance associated with faith, but leads down a path toward eternal destruction.  The greatest example of this can be found in the LDS teaching of repentance.

In the “restored truth” proclaimed by the prophet Joseph Smith a central tenet of the LDS church is that full forgiveness is possible and attainable.  Through a process known as repentance, a Latter Day Saint can be declared righteous.  To understand this concept fully, we need to comprehend how Mormons understand forgiveness.  Sin is not a matter of being separated from God, but separating ourselves from receiving blessings from the Lord.  Forgiveness then becomes a by-product of a sincere and noble attempt to carry out God’s command in order to receive eternal and earthly blessings associated with forgiveness.  A Mormon version of forgiveness is not something we receive from God by faith, but something we strive to attain through the process of repentance.

The process of repentance becomes the focal point of a faithful Mormon.  It is their key to removing guilt and receiving happiness in this life and throughout eternity.  Jesus Christ is acknowledged as the one who has suffered the penalty of sin on our behalf that makes forgiveness possible.  But only if you sincerely repent.  This process of repentance that leads to forgiveness includes the following: 1) A faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us heal and triumph over sin; 2) a sorrow over sin that leads to a sincere desire to change and willingness to submit to every requirement for forgiveness; 3) a full confession of sin before God and publicly before officials of the church if necessary; 4) a permanent resolve to never repeat the sin again; 5) restitution if needed; and 6) engage in righteous living that brings spiritual power such as attending meetings, paying tithes, serving the church and forgiving others.*  Forgiveness was bought by Jesus at a price, but it’s certainly not free for us.  And that price for us is obedience to the commandments of the LDS church.

The key to heaven is a man-made one for a Mormon forged by years, decades, even centuries of unyielding obedience.  Mormonism is idol worship in its severest form, for it looks to exalt ourselves instead of God Almighty.

Mormons are lost and they need the true Jesus as their Savior or else they will suffer the consequences of an eternal hell.

I regularly receive opportunities to share the real message of Jesus Christ with Mormons through the internet.  Recently, I recently received an e-mail from a woman who has been corresponding with a Mormon man.  She has been revealing to him the truth of God’s Word by focusing on the hope and assurance Christians receive by trusting in the completed and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  Our forgiveness is guaranteed through trust in Jesus’ work and none on ourselves.   Allow me to share some of his responses that are typical of many e-mails received from Mormons.

“I feel no despair in the doctrine of repentance… The problem is that in your way I see no true cleansing for myself.  All I see is a shadow of a cleansing.  You talk of Christ having paid for sins and cleansed us.  But all I have ever heard from anybody in the Christian world is that we don’t need to be personally cleansed because God is only going to look at Christ and see his cleanliness and based on this let us in.  This gives me no hope.  It is a hallow offer.” (Michael^)

Like a dark veil covering the hearts and minds of loyal Mormons, the mystery of God’s true love and grace is hidden away in the seduction of a man-made gospel.  When the idol of pursuing eternal progression is the focal point of worship, how can one fathom the eternal significance of Christ’s redemptive death on the cross?  To further show how lost people are in Mormonism here is another recent response from Michael:

“The doctrine of Repentance gives me hope that when I stand at that judgment bar God will not have to look at Christ to see cleanliness.  I will be able to stand tall as he looks directly at me and proclaims, ‘Well done,’ for I will be clean.  I still need Christ and I will always need him.  For I cannot be cleansed by myself.  But my hope is not simply that I will enter heaven, but that I will be clean when I do so.”

All Mormons believe they are going to heaven.  There is no sense of urgency or consequences of eternal damnation for those who at least try to live righteously.  The effort involved in obeying God’s commandments is the key to eternal and earthly happiness for which God will say “Well done!”.   The popular verse from the Book of Mormon states “it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.”  The hope is that they will eventually be worthy enough to reach the highest level of heaven which is the celestial kingdom or exaltation (becoming a god).  In the meantime, it is not whether or not you achieve perfection in this life, but on how valiant you are in the attempt.  Here is another response from Michael that reflects this common thought:

“You do not know when you have done all you can, and so must keep doing more.  You must keep progressing.  …I am talking about the people who hold in their hearts that if they keep pushing forward, regardless of how difficult it is, they will make it eventually.  When I say an honest effort, I mean those who are honest with themselves, admitting that they don’t know how far they can go, and so they will continue to move until they die.  These are they who have repented.  These are the people who have done all they can to stand against sin.  They are saved by the grace of God, for they have done all they can do.”

With a greater understanding of how Mormons view forgiveness, the role of Christ, sin and salvation, we can see how vast the differences are between the teachings of the LDS church and biblical Christianity.  There is no doubt that those who adhere to the teachings of Mormonism will spend eternity in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is my desire to bring as many Mormons as possible to heaven, but there is more.  I am growing increasingly alarmed about how the LDS Church is attempting to present itself in the media as being a Christian church.  There are over 50,000 Mormon missionaries around the world who are actively presenting a “new and improved” brand of Christianity that seduces the human mind to think we can exalt ourselves through sincere obedience.  If there is a time to speak the truth of God’s Word and defend it as the only truth that sets one free… that time is now.

Continue to pray that hearts of those souls lost in Mormonism can be opened to the real message of Jesus.  Pray that the Lord may continue to open doors for our ministry to speak the truth of free and full forgiveness in Christ to Mormons.

Cover story for Truth in Love Ministry newsletter, Summer 2010 edition.

*True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, published by the LDS Church, 2004.

^Fictional name.

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.

The Christian and the Mormon view on the parable of the sheep and the goats

In an ongoing dialogue I have with those of the Mormon faith and how it is dramatically different that what is taught in the Christian faith, there is a sharp disagreement on what is required for salvation. Mormons will reference to the story of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25:31-46 as proof that a person will be judged by their works in order to enter into heaven. I would like to take a further look into that passage.

In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus is continuing to talk to his disciples about the end of the age. He tells them three stories or parables for the purpose of teaching central truths. The parables of the foolish virgins and unfaithful servants sets the stage for the story of the sheep and the goats. In the first two parables, we find out that 1) we need to be prepared and 2) we need to have a faithful use of our talents.

These parables tell us that not everybody is going to heaven. There will be a separation also known as the “great divorce”. Man will be separated from God forever. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus tell us that “for wide is the gate, and broad is the road that leads to destruction..” (7:13) This verse certainly suggests that there will be more who enter hell than those who go to heaven.

The Bible says that it is by faith that one enters heaven and in the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus tells us what saving faith looks like. A saving faith will feed the hungry, care for the sick and visit those in prison. These are things that are not impossible to do for most everyone has the capability to care for others in this way. Jesus is telling us that those who receive grace, become gracious. Those who have been given the gift of faith become faithful. As a healthy fruit tree can’t help but to grow fruit (John 15), a man or woman of saving faith can’t help but to carry out good works. They are distinguishing marks or evidences of a saving faith that carry these works out without any thought of receiving a reward in return.

To review, these parables tell us that an end time is coming when Jesus returns and that we need to be prepared, by not losing our faith, and at the same time, display examples of a sincere faith by fully exercising our talents and help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Without evidences of faithfulness, than true faith does not exist.

The question remains, can a person enter into heaven based on the amount of works they do? If this is true, then one has reconcile that position with several other passages that teach something quite different. There are numerous passages in the Bible that clear state that salvation is not by works in any way. By following the law and commandments, we cannot be justified before God. (See Romans 3:24, 11:6, 3:20, 3:27-28; 4:2, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:8-10 et al…) Grace, the free gift given to people who are undeserving or unworthy, really wouldn’t be grace if there was something we need to do to receive it.

So, when we combine these two teachings of the parable of the sheep and goats and by faith only are we saved, than we must come to the following conclusions: 1. By faith, we receive the full forgiveness of sins. Our works play no part in being justified before God and to receive full forgiveness. 2. Works accompany faith as evidence or signs of a saving faith. God performs the impossible (salvation) by granting us faith thereby allowing us to do the possible (works) that are well-pleasing to Him. By sharing this sharp contrast with Mormons, the discussion can continue as we take a look at key theological terms taught in Mormonism and what is taught in the Bible. As Mormons continue to claim that they are Christians, it is important to expose the truth that even thought Mormons appear Christian, they are far from the truth of the gospel message found in the New Testament.

Why does God need our prayers?

The real reason for praying has little to do with asking for things. We pray simply because God wants us to pray. Prayer is talking to God.

Does He really need our prayers? No, God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. The bigger question is, “Why does God want me to pray in the first place?”

Prayer is a means for us to build a faith-filled, loving relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with God. He is already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. But since a loving relationship with Him is His highest concern for us, God constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated.

Because of this, God ordains that some things will only be done through prayer.

If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective?

God commands us to pray for several reasons.

1. Prayer is a constant reminder that God is the only source for help and strength.
When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.

2. We need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition.
We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer, but God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. A person does not make a request, pull a lever, and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference?  What didn’t work?

There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the universe. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world.

To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?

Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayer. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see.

Thoughts from this article came from www.gregboyd.org.

Why didn’t God answer my prayer and save my wife from cancer?

 The heartbreaks of life cause us to ask the deepest of questions.

A young man is sitting across from me with pain etched deeply in his face.  Only a few weeks ago he stood by an open grave with three young children watching the casket being lowered in to the ground.  The stillness.  The pain.  The questions.

Where do I go from here?  What am I going to do with my children?  Oh God, if you are there, why me?  Why me!?!

Life has a way of throwing a pebble into the smooth surface of a still pond.  A chaotic splash and the ripples touches every part our soul.  The wrenching pain of an exposed heart can cripple us emotionally, physically, even spiritually.  The tragedies of life places on a precipice of either grasping for the reality of a Higher Being, or the cold rejection of a loving God.

Where can we find peace and solace in the depths of suffering?  Where can we turn for answers when God seems far away on some distant planet?  We need someone who understands our pain.  To share our grief, embrace our hearts, to put a hand on our shoulder and say, “I am always with you.  I will never leave you.”

We can never adequately answer why God would take a loved one in the prime of their lives.  We don’t know why God chose to not answer our prayers  — even the prayer of five-year girl kneeling at her bed.  The cold concrete answer for death – any death on this world – is sin.  If it wasn’t for sin, painful tragedies would never occur.  But what is more important than this explanation is this understanding — God was suffering with you throughout the whole affair.

Jesus Christ is not our adversary in times of suffering, he is our cure.  Jesus Christ suffers with us in our suffering.  He is a God who weeps, too.  His unconditional love is the only source for healing and peace.  Through his participation in our pain, he redeems it.  By his ultimate suffering on the cross, he heals our own suffering.  He is not off on some distant planet, but is with us each step of the way.  This truth alone reveals to us the magnitude of God’s love for us.  A loving Father sent his only Son to a dirty, sinful world.  Jesus experienced the hellish depth of all that is nightmarish in human existence on behalf of us.  He loved the unlovable.  He befriended the friendless.  Finally, he suffered for a world that is at once so beautiful and so ugly.

Questions are going to remain while we deal with the pain and suffering of life.  Jesus’ answer for us is to trust in him.  Christ wins our love and trust through the healing compassion of his Word and the warm understanding of his silent embrace.  He provides an understanding in the heart which the mind can never fully grasp.  Our trust rests on the belief that God works the best result out of all situations, whether good or bad, for the purpose of bringing us closer to him.  He wins our love in a way reasons could never do.

 

For some more good answer to tough questions, check out www.gregboyd.org.

Living out the message of the cross

How a person responds to hurt, disappointment and frustration in their lives is probably a Christian’s most powerful witness. It is truly during these times when we have the opportunity to expose or introduce Christ living in us.

So often, the need to be right dominates our life. We have an inherited the need to pursue being right and even demanding rights from others. If our pursuit is left unaltered, we inadvertently soil our opportunity to share and display the fruits of Christ living in us. 

The pursuit of being right is really placing our self above all others. For this very reason, our faith journey with Christ must require a sacrifice. It requires embracing the principle message behind the cross. Jesus Christ bore the cross for us. It was a willing sacrifice for the sake of all people. The principle message behind the cross means the sacrificial death of our self. Did not Christ die for us, though we were so undeserving? In the same way, are we willing to sacrifice ourselves for other, even if it means the risk of being hurt, disappointed or surrendering our right?

The message of the cross guides us on how to respond to people and how we conduct ourselves, especially during the difficult circumstances in life. It is the sacrifice of rights and our personal battle to defend them at all costs. For Christ did not die on the cross to defend our rights. He died so we can be right with God.

The message of the cross is based on the perfection of our Heavenly Father. The Bible says, “You shall be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” By walking by faith in Christ, by receiving Christ in us, we are perfect. We are declared as God’s dearly loved children even thought we sometimes fail. Like children, we grow and mature in our faith and confidence. The message of the cross reminds us to imitate God and live a life a love because God first loved us. And during those times when we demand to be right, or the expectation in being  treated right by others, we can offer a willing sacrifice of our self that is pleasing to God. 

For isn’t that what Christ did for us?