Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween: Oppression or Opportunity?

From Hank Hanegraaf

A myriad of questions have been raised about Halloween. Should Christians participate in Halloween? What should our attitude be towards Halloween? Should we simply ignore it? Should we vigorously attack it? Or should we, as Christians, find ways in which to accommodate it?

Before offering some suggestions on how we as Christians might best relate to Halloween, I think it would be appropriate to first consider the pagan origin of Halloween.

The celebration of Halloween, also known as the witches’ new year, is rooted in the ancient pagan calendar which divided the year into Summer and Winter by two fire festivals. Before the birth of Christ, the day we know as Halloween was part of the Celtic Feast of Samhain (sah–ween). This feast was a celebration of Druid priests from Britain and France and commemorated the beginning of Winter. It was a night on which the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced. The festivals were marked by animal sacrifices, offerings to the dead, and bonfires in recognition of departed souls. It was believed that on this night demons, witches, hobgoblins, and elves were released en masse to harass and to oppress the living. For self-preservation many Druids would dress up as witches, devils, and ghouls, and would even involve themselves in demonic activities and thus make themselves immune from attack.

In direct response to this pagan tradition, the early Christian church moved a festive celebration called All Saints’ Day from May to November 1 and renamed it All Hallows’ Eve, from which we get the word Halloween. This was an overt attempt on the part of believers to infiltrate pagan tradition with the truth of the gospel.

It was a bold evangelistic move designed to demonstrate that only the power of the resurrected Christ could protect men and women from the destructive ploys of Satan and his minions. This was a time in which they boldly proclaimed the marvelous fact of the resurrection and the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Believers in post-Christian America today should do no less. Halloween can be for us, like the early Christian church, an open door for evangelism. The deception of Halloween, with its witches, demons, skeletons, and allusions to death, can become a powerful springboard to demonstrate the dramatic power of Christ to redeem us from death, to fill us with His Spirit, and to give our lives meaning, purpose, and direction.

There are three specific things which I would suggest that you and your family plan for next Halloween: First of all, I would use Halloween as an opportunity to communicate to your children, your family members, and your friends that although death and the grave are very real, we are more than conquerors over the powers of darkness through Jesus Christ.

Second, this is an appropriate time to consider the saints who have gone on before us — those loved ones who make the thought of heaven sweet. Even now my mind goes back to precious moments of days spent with Walter Martin. When I think of heaven, I think not only of what it will be like to meet Jesus Christ, but I think of what it will be like to be reunited with this marvelous saint who has had such a significant impact not only on my life but the lives of countless others as well. This is also a great opportunity to share with my children the life of a saintly grandmother who prayed earnestly for me night after night while I was engulfed in a life of sin. Although she is no longer with us, the answers to her prayers live on.

Christians, this is not a time to look the other way as we do so often when passing by a graveyard. Halloween is not a time for avoidance; this is an opportunity, so seize the moment! Death, demons, pain, and suffering are real in a cursed creation. All of us have to struggle with it, and so will our children. This is not a time for glib and superficial answers — this is a time to build intimate and lasting relationships with those whom God has entrusted to our care. This is the time to reach them and to nurture them in the rich traditions of the Christian faith. Let your children know that Satan is not a character dressed in a red union suit with horns and a pitchfork; instead, he is a very real and powerful adversary whose goal is to steal, kill, and destroy.

Finally, let me suggest that this would be a time to share some of the great classics of the Christian faith with your children. Perhaps you could curl up on the floor with them before a roaring fire and read to them from Pilgrim’s Progress, or from C. S. Lewis’s masterful work The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Yes, this is not a time to curse the darkness, but a time to light a candle. If we are indeed serious about making an impact on a lost and dying world, Halloween represents not just satanic oppression but a strategic opportunity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blog Winsomely

From Stand To Reason

1. KWC - Develop knowledge, wisdom, and character. They are all necessary to be a winsome blogger. Here's how we define these traits at STR. Knowledge - an accurately-informed mind. Wisdom - an artful method. Character - an attractive manner.

2. I'm always an ambassador and my blogging always reflects on another. Our blog is a bit different than the many Christians who blog for themselves. It is always quite present in my mind that what I write will reflect on STR's reputation and I want to be very careful about that. All Christians represent Christ and hopefully that is a very immediate concern for every God-blogger as they post.

3. Have a mission statement that defines what your blog is about. STR has a mission statement and it guides me in the topics I choose and how I write on our blog. It's very helpful in constraining me at times when otherwise my contribution might not be very constructive. It's very helpful to have a defined purpose to guide you.

4. Define the values that you commit to follow in writing your blog. Again, STR has a values statement and I'm obliged to live up to these and I try to. Again, it's an external control that reminds me what I need to be about on the blog.

5. Deal with ideas and not personalities. Be charitable in interpreting other's comments. Be fair. Don't ascribe motives to someone you have no knowledge of.

6. When dealing with politics, tread carefully. Christian values have political implications, but they are not articles of faith. Some issues are more closely entailed from the Bible, like the pro-life issue, others are less so, like taxes. Allow some liberty in how other Christians work out their politics. Having said that, Christians have a lot to add to the public discourse. When you do enter the public square, make generally accessible arguments that can appeal to other citizens regardless of religion.

7. Pursue excellence. Attend to your spelling, grammar, and style. Credit sources and quotations. Follow blogging etiquette as it evolves. Develop your style. Find a good role model in writing and read them often to get a sense for their voice and rhythm. Good writing can rub off on you.

8. Model clear-thinking Christianity. Find ways to embody Christianity in everyday topics to post on.

Conclusion: Godblogging offers a unique opportunity to have an impact in the world. Be a player, but play by the rules. In ten year's time the world can be a different place because of your influence. The web gives each of us a reach without physical barriers. Be a good steward of that opportunity.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Children of Abraham

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

33 They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father."

39 "Abraham is our father," they answered.

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does."
"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

Two things stick out here to me. First, the Jews, just like everyone I speak with, have no idea that they are slaves. They are walking around without the slightest idea of the consequence of their sin. People think they are in control and are making objective choices to live a life of sin. The truth is that their depraved heart and desires give them no other choice but to sin. They couldn't stop if they wanted to. And this sin is inching them ever closer to death where they will be punished eternally. The truth is that they need to follow Jesus and repent. Then the Holy Spirit will change their heart and give them new desires. Only then can they live a life pleasing to God. This is the Truth that will set them free.

Second, people think that by being Jewish (or Catholic, or insert your religion here) that they are Children of Abraham, a metaphor for God's chosen people. The truth is that those who follow Jesus are the children of God. Being born in a religion does no more to save you than being born in Taco Bell makes you a taco. The Good News is that anyone, Jew, or Greek, who repents and puts their faith in Jesus is born again, passing from death to life and is grafted onto the Vine, Christ Himself.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Look and Listen

Click on this thumbnail to see the latest pictures from our Friday night witnessing.
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Big night in Burbank - everyone getting some great one on one witnessing in. The audio this week is Dru witnessing to Laura, who was raised a Mormon. She never really had any concern for her eternal destiny, as she figured she was good enough to get to the "middle" heaven reserved for people who didn't kill a lot of people. I don't think I ever got through to her, but I tried to plant the seed. Please pray for Laura, and for all Mormons, who don't understand the true nature of God's justice, bringing them to repentence and faith in Jesus, who shows them the true nature of God's mercy.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Validity of Jesus' Testimony

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

13 The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid."

14 Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me."

Jesus clearly makes right judgments, as they are based on the will of the Father, who is the perfect judge.

19 Then they asked him, "Where is your father?"

"You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.

Jesus continually makes it clear that it is not religion that will get you to the father, but Jesus himself. Even the priests in the temple who had all the trappings of piety have no idea who God is because they do not accept Jesus.

21 Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."

22 This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?"

23 But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."

25 "Who are you?" they asked.

"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. 26 "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world."

There is a very real judgment coming, which we, like Jesus, are to tell the world. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you will die in your sins.

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." 30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

Jesus is referring to his death on the cross here when he speaks of being lifted up. Many people realized that when it happened and had one of two reactions. These are the same reactions that you can choose from today when hearing the gospel. You can either reject Him or put your faith in Him.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

7 Questions - What is Your Life?

7. What is your life?

People have different ideas about what we need to make sense of life. Some say we need happiness. Some say self expression. Some say personal relationships. Whatever people say, the common thread is that God is irrelevant. Is this deflationary secular answer enough? Even if people live according to these desires, many people have the sense that more is required to make life anything other than a brief cosmic bleep on the radar.

James 4:13-17
13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

This is a significant question that demands our attention. What is being condemned here is not business, but boasting. Not the industrious nature of the quest, but that the quest is being engaged in entirely independent of God. People operate on the basis they will 'for sure' be here tomorrow. They also believe that they will be successful on the basis of what they do. People view time as a wheel that continually turns. The bible says don't bother putting a mark on the wheel, as there is no wheel. Time is not ultimately cyclical, but it is linear. The line goes from eternity to eternity. Any attempt to view life in a cyclical manner is an attempt to escape from the truth that life for us will one day end. The moment we are born marks the inevitability of our death.

When we think in terms of the passage of time, we receive another day, not as a matter of necessity, nor by mechanical law, nor by right, nor by the courtesy of nature. We receive another day by the covenented mercies of God. It it because of his mercy that we are not consumed and wake to another day. Each day is a gift from a merciful God.

What is absent in the minds of secular man is any notion of the providence of God. The Scottish Catechism tells us the the works of God's providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and govorning all his creatures and their actions. This means that nothing in the Universe would continue to exist for the slightest fraction of a second without God. The creation does not exist without the continuous activity of the Creator.

James answers the question. Your life is very brief. It is a mist. Most people avoid this idea, but the bible continually confronts us with it. In Psalm 90 the psalmist tells us
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."

4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-

6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.

8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.

10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;

Not a lot has changed since this was written. Most men today would consider living to eighty a long life. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." "He who dies with the most toys wins." We might as well grab what we can while we are going along.

James stands against the presumption that we even have one more day. Your life is a mist. It appears for a little while, then it vanishes away. You need to face up to your frailty. You need to face up to the fact that you are entirely dependent on God. Contemporary society resists this question. The current fascination with health is in response to the fact that they have no answer to death.

There are four things we can't avoid.
  1. Life's brevity
  2. Death's reality
  3. Judgment's certainty
  4. Faith's opportunity
You may be reading this and this question has a very personal and private touch on your life. You've been asking this question, what is your life, and getting pretty rotten answers. You might think you are pretty worthless. Well, the bible is full of good news for people who feel themselves worthless. It says we are made in God's image and we are precious in his sight. We possess a dignity unknown even by the angels. That image in marred by our sin. That is why we feel the way we do, and we treat others as we do, and we are treated as we are. But, the same God who made you has done something for you, in Jesus, so as to put the pieces of your picture back together again. This is not something we can fix on the horizontal, fixing relationships with others. The bible makes it clear that we need to deal with this problem on the vertical, with the Creator first, meeting Him. The good news is that we don't have to go and find Him. He has come and found us. He has reached down to us in Jesus. He offers to us forgiveness. He has died to bear our punishment. Died to wipe clean our stain. Offers us a whole family. Offers us a whole new future, so that we can then answer the question, What is my life?

My life is passing. My life is purchased. And my life is powerful. Impact of a solitary life lived for good and lived for God. This life soon will pass, and only what is done for Jesus will last.

These are my notes from a seven part podcast from Alistair Begg www.truthforlife.org

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"

46 "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.

47 "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. 48 "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"

52 They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."

I needed some help with this section, so biblegateway.com has this to say...

The Jewish leaders understand the enormity of Jesus' claims and the foundational issues he raises. Their reaction is justified if Jesus' claims are indeed false. If Jesus' claims are not true, then he is not a harmless teacher who can be tolerated or ignored. In our pluralistic society we have lost the sense of significance regarding religious views. While we need not return to stoning false prophets, believers should have a sense of urgency in opposing false teaching. Jesus and his opponents cannot both be correct, and the choosing between them has eternal consequences. If Jesus is Lord, then he cannot be wedded to any other religion or philosophy. Rather, he is the standard of truth by which we assess all other claims. There are elements of truth in all religions, but we are able to recognize those elements precisely because they cohere with Jesus, the truth incarnate. If Jesus is not the truth, then he cannot offer us life (1 Jn 5:20). Contrary to the view of many today, false teaching is a serious matter!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day of Prayer and Fasting

At Shepherd of the Hills, today, we are going to spend the day in prayer.

October 23 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm

If you are wondering how you could possibly spend a day in prayer, join us and find out!

This is an extraordinary day; along with prayer we will add the element of the fast.

We have planned a very special day,with exceptional worship, teaching by Pastor Dudley and others,and lots and lots of prayer!

At the end of the day,we will break our fast together celebrating with In-N-Out burgers, pizza and more. Juice and water will be provided throughout the day!

“They raised their voices together in prayer to God.” Acts 4:24

14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Needing the Word

All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. - Nehemiah 8:3b

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.


1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
  • teaching: Showing people what the narrow path is
  • rebuking: Telling people when they are off the path
  • correcting: Getting people back to the path
  • training in righteousness: Showing people how to stay on the path

The Narrow and Wide Gates - Matthew 7:12-14
13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Are you reading your Bible daily? 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stand Up - Speak Up - Shut Up

Well, two out of three aint bad. Tonight we had a great heckler. He got so agitated he spun himself into a fury that drew at least a hundred people over to see if he was going to blow up. It was great. A good heckler will stand up (not be scared), speak up (so the crowd can hear and be interested), and then shut up (so we can preach the gospel to everyone). Well, we need to train our heckler a little better because he really didn't want to stop speaking once he got a taste of it.

Tony was taking a young lady through the "Good Test" and in the middle of it, this guy started yelling about which Bible we were using, and how did we justify forcing our opinions on everyone. Interesting, as he was the one yelling his opinion at us. We kept an eye out for safety, as you never really know what someone is capable of. As the crowd grew, and Tony was speaking over him to make sure everyone heard the complete gospel, I started to engage this guy. I gave him the attention he wanted, and spoke softly. He came over to me so I could hear him, and I kept speaking to him moving to the side of the crowd. He followed and I ended up having a great conversation with him and his friends. One young lady whose first language was Greek said she moved over to Buddhism from Christianity, as she felt that even though she respected Jesus, she thought we all were going to have to suffer for our own mistakes. She and I saw eye to eye a little better than her heckler friend. She was able to keep him calm enough to hear me present the Gospel one more time calmly and completely. I left them shaking hands and pleading with them to consider letting Jesus pay for their sin rather than stand before a God who is angry at sin. The Bible doesn't say, "If you make mistakes, you will come back in the next life as a dishwasher so you can learn your lesson." It says that it is appointed ONCE for man to die, and then comes judgment.

As I looked up, I noticed that out of the hundred people that got to hear Tony open air preach, at least thirty or so were still around engaging those in our group in one to one conversations. I heard at the end that we passed out over five hundred gospel tracts and got bibles into the hands of many who asked.

Some other happenings of note: Spencer, who is sixteen, pictured here, got up on the box and preached to the crowd for the very first time. This is a kid who is not allowed to drive after 11pm due to California law and needed to get driven home, but was out here brave enough to preach the Gospel to a crowd of people he doesn't know. I thank God for his heart and his boldness. It is a tough skill to get up and draw a crowd and keep them standing there engaged while you present the Law and Grace.

Also, the Scientologists were next to us again. This time I engaged them very politely. They were a couple that had started into Scientology in 1974, and were very deep into it at OT3, if you know what that means. I asked them about Xenu and they feigned ignorance. I would have respected them more if they admitted knowing what I was talking about and told me it was a lie. But, they kept saying that they had no idea what I was referring to. Basically, the Xenu story explains the origins of their religion and explains that Judaism and Christianity were made up to trick people. Since they didn't admit to that story, and they contended that Scientology did not negate the possibility of Christianity being true, I explained quickly about the Law of God and His grace, and I left them with a detailed tract that they could read afterward. They were very nice and we said we would speak again if I see them in a few weeks.

Tonight, Ian and his wife got the microphone and recorded a one to one conversation with a couple who were professing Christians. They asked them how they would explain the gospel to someone who had never heard it. Listen for yourself to see how it turned out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Children's Meal Blessing

God is great!
God is good!
Let us thank Him
For our food.

Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.


Traditional Meal Blessings

Bless us, Oh Lord,
and these thy gifts which
we are about to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ, Our Lord.

Come Lord Jesus be our guest,
let this food to us be blessed.

For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where memories linger,
We give our thanks for these.

Lord, make us truly thankful for
these and all other blessings.
I ask this in Jesus Christ's name,


Blessings before Meals

From Jordan Lee Wagner

When bread is included in a repast, it takes on the status of a "meal" -- use the blessings below. Without bread, use the blessings before and after snacks.

Ritually wash your hands, as follows: Fill a spoutless vessel with water. Then pour the water over the round smooth rim, onto your hands. The most common practice is to pour first over the right hand three times, then the left three times, using up all the water. Dry your hands and recite:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
a-sher kid-sha-nu b'mitz-vo-tav
al n'ti-lat ya-da-yim.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who sanctifies us through His commandments
and commanded us
concerning the elevation of the hands.

Without interruption after handwashing, begin the meal by reciting the blessing over the bread:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
ha-mo-tzi le-chem min ha-a-retz.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.

Immediately eat some of the bread to start the meal. This blessing covers everything that is consumed as part of the meal except for wine (or grape juice).

Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals

From jewfaq.org

One of the most important prayers in Judaism, one of the very few that the Bible commands us to recite, is never recited in synagogue. That prayer is birkat ha-mazon, grace after meals.

In Deuteronomy 8:10, we are commanded that when we eat and are satisfied, we must bless the L-rd, our G-d. This commandment is fulfilled by reciting the birkat ha-mazon (blessing of the food) after each meal. Reciting birkat ha-mazon is commonly referred to as bentsching, from the Yiddish word meaning "to bless." Although the word "bentsch" can refer to the recitation of any berakhah, it is almost always used to refer to reciting birkat ha-mazon.

The grace after meals is recited in addition to the various berakhot over food recited before meals.

Birkat ha-mazon actually consists of four blessings, three of which were composed around the time of Ezra and the Great Assembly and a fourth which was added after the destruction of the Temple. These blessings are:

  1. Birkat Hazan (the blessing for providing food), which thanks G-d for giving food to the world,
  2. Birkat Ha-Aretz (the blessing for the land), which thanks G-d for bringing us forth from the land of Egypt, for making His covenant with us, and for giving us the land of Israel as an inheritance,
  3. Birkat Yerushalayim (the blessing for Jerusalem), which prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the moshiach; and
  4. Birkat Ha-Tov v'Ha-Maytiv (the blessing for being good and doing good), was added after the destruction of the Temple, although it existed before that time. It emphasizes the goodness of G-d's work, that G-d is good and does good.

In addition to these four blessings, the full birkat ha-mazon incorporates some psalms and additional blessings for various special occasions (holidays, guests, etc.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ever Hear of the Ten Commandments?

by Greg Koukl

Have you read the Ten Commandments recently? Take a quick personal moral inventory by asking yourself these questions:

· Have you ever given allegiance to anything else over God in your life?

· Have you ever used anything as an object of worship or veneration?

· Have you ever used God's name in a vain or vulgar fashion?

· Have you worshipped God on a consistent basis?

· Have you disobeyed or dishonored your parents even once?

· Have you murdered anyone, or even had harsh thoughts about someone (see Matthew 5:22)?

· Have you had sex with someone other than your spouse, or even thought about it (see Matthew 5:28)?

· Have you taken something that wasn't yours?

· Have you lied?

· Have you hungered after something that didn’t belong to you?

Sound tough? It is. This is God's Law. These are God's requirements. Even in grammar school, 60% is a flunking grade, yet who among us has not violated each of these commandments many times?

Reducing the Ten Commandments to only two doesn't help, by the way. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). Even the best of us violate these “minimal” requirements daily.

Whenever you're tempted to trust in your own ability to please God, take a good look at the standard—God's Law—then look at your own score card. To use Paul's words, each of us is "shut up under sin" (Gal. 3:22). Our mouths have been closed, and we all have become accountable to God (Romans 3:19). Saved by our own goodness? The Law gives us no hope.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride ~ An Unexpected Parable of God's Law & Judgment

by Tony Miano

We celebrated Mahria’s birthday last weekend by spending the day at Disneyland. The park was packed with tens of thousands of people from all over the world. To commemorate the special day, I gave away millions of dollars to park patrons. Don’t worry. I didn’t embezzle ministry funds. I gave away million dollar bill gospel tracts.

Toward the end of a long but enjoyable day, we found ourselves in the Fantasyland area of the theme park. And I have a confession to make. I have lived in Southern California since my family moved to the area in 1974. Since that time, I have never lived more than an hour from Disneyland. I have visited the theme park many times over the years. However, prior to this last weekend, I had never ridden “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

Having started my day early by preaching at a men’s breakfast, by the time we reached Fantasyland I was pretty tired and a bit punchy. Being a family of five, I found myself the odd man (and the only man) out when we took out seats on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” Each car is designed for only two passengers. As the ride started, it took a few seconds before I realized that the steering wheel in my car was only a prop and not functional. I quickly looked around to make sure that no one saw me trying to steer the car. Did I mention that I was punchy?

Understanding that the ride was designed for children (and not for a 42-year-old evangelist street cop), I sat in the car, eyes fixed forward, wondering if I would have time for a quick nap. As my eyes began to glaze over, my car zipped by a whistle blowing British Bobbie whose hand was extended as if he were ordering me to stop. “Great.” I thought. “Not only am I on a kiddy ride, but the ride simulates breaking the law.” But as my car continued to twist and turn through the streets of London, wreaking havoc along the way, my mind shifted from being a disinterested participant to asking myself if there might be a biblical parallel in this silly old ride.

Before long, I found myself standing before a judge who pronounced me guilty of breaking the law. As I tried to escape the courtroom, I ended up on a railroad track with the roar of a train and a very bright light heading directly toward me. After the crash, I was transported to hell—complete with demonic looking rats, a Satan figure, and a significant increase in room temperature. It took me by surprise. I was at Disneyland—a park and a company (The Disney Corp.) known for emphasizing (or at least glamorizing) humanism, mysticism, and the occult in its films and projects. I wasn’t expecting to be exposed to the biblical imagery of hell on a ride, at the “happiest place on earth.”

Just as quickly as I entered hell, I found myself at the end of the ride and walking out into the cool night air. Mahria asked me what I thought of the ride. Before she finished asking the question I was excitedly sharing with her the parallels between the ride and God’s Law and judgment. She smiled with one of her that’s my husband smiles.

Every living person is a lawbreaker. Every person has sinned and has fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Like my out-of-control car on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit no one can stop sinning. Every person has been born with a sin nature and, by nature, chooses to sin against God.

Every lawbreaker will one-day find himself or herself standing before the righteous and holy Judge—the one, true God. The Judge will render His verdict quickly. The verdict will be “guilty.” And the sentence will be “death”—eternity in the torment of hell.

Some people think they can escape the righteous judgment of God, much like the scene in “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” in which the rider flees the courtroom. But there will be no escape from the wrath of God. The convicted sinner will not able to escape, just as the rider cannot escape the oncoming train.

Once God’s judgment is made, the verdict is rendered, and the sentence is imposed, the convicted sinner will find himself or herself in hell, for all eternity. Unlike the person who climbs out of the car at the end of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” there will be no relief from the flames, the pain, the torment, and the misery ascribed to hell’s prisoners.

A sinner’s only hope of escape is to repent (forsake, turn away from sin) and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Jesus, God in the flesh, paid the full penalty for the sins of those who, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died a horrific death on the cross, shedding His own blood, and suffered the death sentence that every human being deserves. We broke God’s Law and Jesus Christ took our death sentence upon Himself.

And Jesus is alive today, seated at the right hand of God the Father. He rose from the dead three days after His murder. He defeated death and He is the only way to eternal life. If you are reading this and you know Him as Lord and Savior, with whom will you share the Law and the gospel today? If you are reading this and you do not know Christ, you must be born again (John 3:3). Please repent of your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, while you still have time.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Is Jesus the Christ?

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me."

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"

Jesus made some incredible claims, namely that He was equal with the Father. The religious Jews of the day knew exactly what he way implying as they tried to sieze Him for his apparant blasphemy.

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

33 Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."

35 The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?"

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Jesus said many things that baffle people even to this day. Usually the Bible explains the meaning of Jesus' words. Here, He is clearly speaking of spiritual things when He exhorts people to come to Him to drink.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."

41 Others said, "He is the Christ."

Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42 Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fishing in the Rain

Tonight it was raining in Burbank, so we moved into the mall. There were relatively few of us out tonight, so it was easy to blend in and speak to people one to one. Joey actually did get stopped by a security guard but after talking to the head of the security department, was told that he was not breaking any rules and was absolutely allowed to start conversations with people. They even offered to help Joey file a complaint against the one guard. Of course, he didn't do that.

I spoke with a kid who had been living on the streets of Burbank for ten years and told me he was 'born again'. He said that by having faith in God he would be saved. But, he couldn't really explain what that meant, or exactly what that faith would produce. He was doing drugs, and was hurting his body in other ways and when I offered him a bible, he said that he wasn't able to read it without falling asleep. I spent some time with him and pray that he doesn't end up one of the people crying out Lord, Lord, only to be sent away.

Back outside, it was a little slow, but I actually had a few great conversations with groups of kids. As usual, there were plenty of kids joking around and coming in and out of the conversation, but one or two in each group sat there focused till the end and I left them with something to read. One kid kept coming back trying to get $20 for memorizing the Ten Commandments. I told him that I was not going to pay him to call his friend and write them down and come read them to me. In fact, I gave him a list of them to keep for himself. He still kept coming back trying to show my that he could memorize them. At first I was trying to ignore him, but after he kept coming back, I realized that he really wanted to talk. It was not about the money. After memorizing them, we went through them and I explained the ones that he didn't understand, and I explained how Jesus maginified them and judges our hearts and not just our actions. At the end, he understood why we were out there speaking about God's law and pleading with them to get right with God while He is still patient with us. When God pours out His wrath on sin, I begged him to place his faith in Jesus to take that punishment and not be in a position to take it himself.

Please pray that each of the people that heard the gospel tonight keep those words in their heart so the Holy Spirit can go to work on them when they are not distracted by the peer pressure of being with their friends. I thank God for giving me the heart to get out of the house on a Friday night in the rain and for entrusting me with the precious gift of the gospel and the commandment to bring it to all the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jesus Teaches at the Feast

14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?"

16 Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17 If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?"

Another instance of Jesus bringing up the law. Even speaking to religious Jews, He says that not one of them has kept the law. The only way they are going to really know that Jesus is who He says He is, is to do the will of God. When you make that decision, God will give you a new heart with new desires that are pleasing to Him. Jesus doesn't argue apologeticics with them, but appeals to their conscience through the law.

20 "You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?"

21 Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

Many times when presenting the Gospel to people I am told that I should not judge. To be clear, I am only pointing out God's judgment and not judging people myself. But, Jesus is very clear many times when He talks about judgment that we ARE to judge, and especially to judge by a right standard. That standard is God's law. It is a mirror by which we are to judge ourselves. No matter how religious we are, we come up far short of perfection. God makes it clear that we are going to be judged by that standard.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Upgraded to the new Beta Blogger

I'm not sure what I would think of the new software, but I see that it is pretty usable. I got most of the elements of the old blog brought over and lost a few that I can live without. The look is different, but I don't really mind. As I use this program to host the audio for the podcast both for my site and for the church, it was nice to be able to edit out the 'about me' section on those pages.

There really is no going back, so no use lamenting over spilled milk. I guess we'll see how it goes from here. I couldn't put more than five past podcasts in the side column, so I opted for the 'subscribe now' button. If you haven't already, download iTunes and subscribe to the audio podcast of mine so you can keep up with our Friday fishing expeditions.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

God wants spiritual FRUITS, not religious NUTS

Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions) , party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Gal 5:19-21)

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance) , kindness, goodness (benevolence) , faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint,
continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
(Gal 5:22-23)

Monday, October 09, 2006

7 Questions - What Will It Profit a Man?

Matthew: Chapter 16
26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

For anyone who understands balance sheets, or who knows the difference between a profit and a loss, this is a great question. It is a very straight forward a question. We need to apply ourselves to what God is asking.

Jesus frequently describes the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of treasure, essentially saying that it is a good buy, no matter what you paid for it. This is a stock that you ought to own. It would be worth it to sell all the other assets in your portfolio to own this one stock.

What is the point of gaining all the money in the world if you are not around to spend it?

This question forces us to think about eternity and the end of our short life. Does it count for anything? Jesus is addressing His disciples espousing a general principle with universal applications.
25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

He is talking about the psyche here, and not just the physical body. Losing one's life is not about just dying physically, but losing the type of life that is completely involved with just the 'self'. If we determine to give ourselves to getting the most out of life for ourselves, we exist, but we lose our life. This is not a threat against the selfish person describing a punishment, but merely pointing out what happens when someone lives their life selfishly. Pleasure is like drinking saltwater, the more you drink, the more thirsty you get. What possible advantage could their be to gaining the whole world, and losing your soul.

Pascal, the french philosopher and mathemetician, identified the fact that the reason for our existance was for a living relationship with the Living God. He came up with the idea of a "God shaped hole" in our heart. There is nothing in this world that can fill up that gap. By changing our perspective to an eternal one, we can identify the real problem. Our hearts are cold toward God, and we prefer to save our own souls by pursuing the world than to forsake what we desire most and pursue Christ.

There is an answer to the question of the value of your soul. The value of your soul is seen in a scene on a hill outside of Jerusalem. It is seen in a man hanging on a cross between two other men. He cries out as He gives himself for the souls of men and women. He was pierced, despised and scorned so that what we deserve we do not receive. Just as He gave all to pay for us, in order for us to be His disciples, it will cost us everything. We have to follow Him, and deny ourselves. We need to get off the throne of our own lives. He rightfully has that position. When we put Him in his rightful place, only then will we discover life.

These are my notes from a seven part podcast from Alistair Begg www.truthforlife.org

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Shepherd and the Sheepdog

by Darrel Rundus:
All too often I see people who come to Boot Camp or who have heard and been enlightened by Ray Comfort’s message Hell’s Best Kept Secret get frustrated with other Christians, members of their church, and even their Pastor for not “getting it” and understanding the importance of sharing their faith and doing it biblically. Time and time again, I see many people join “Club Frustration” and ultimately leave their church in search of one that is doing things biblically and that cares about evangelism. While being an active member of a solid church is vitally important, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and if you did find a perfect place to worship, you’d probably ruin it in a couple of weeks. I feel as if part of the problem we face is apathy when it comes to obeying the Great Commission, but another aspect of the equation is the relationship between the Pastor and the Evangelist. God’s Word says that He chose some to be Pastors and some to be Evangelists for the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:10-12). That means the Pastor is not the Evangelist and the Evangelist is not the Pastor.

I’ll never forget a story Ray shared with me to illustrate the symbiotic and powerful relationship between the Pastor and the Evangelist and how much fruit can come from their alliance if each person does their function and they work in tandem to fulfill their responsibility in the body of the church and the calling on their lives. If you have ever been to a Sheepdog competition this will make perfect sense to you, but even if you haven’t, I think this illustration will help you to understand what God intended the relationship between the Pastor and the Evangelist to be like.

At a sheepdog competition you have the sheep, the gate, the pen, the Sheepdog and the Shepherd. The sheep are positioned outside the gate of the pen in the open country. The Shepherd stands there and the Sheepdog patiently sits, watching the sheep and waiting for the command from the Shepard to go round up the sheep, chase them through the narrow gate and into the pen. When the time is right, the Shepherd gives the command and the Sheepdog springs into action and runs at the sheep, barking at them, nipping at their heels and chases them straight through the gate. Then the Shepherd shuts the gate and begins to tend to the sheep. If the Sheepdog takes off before getting the command from the Shepherd, or if he has too much zeal and doesn’t maintain restraint and self control, the sheep will get away and the Sheepdog and the Shepherd will lose the competition.

This illustration is powerful and the symbolism is obvious. The Shepherd is the Pastor and the Sheepdog is the Evangelist. Now, could you imagine what would happen if the Sheepdog decided to go off on his own, chasing the sheep whenever he wanted? What if the Sheepdog decided to bark at and bite the Shepherd? The Shepherd would put that dog down and find a Sheepdog that would submit to his authority and obey his commands. What if the Shepherd never praised the Sheepdog when he did what the Shepherd commanded? What if he never fed the Sheepdog or even acknowledged the dog when he did a good job?

All too often I see Sheepdogs (Evangelists) who are so excited or short on patience that they start barking at their Shepherd and running around aimlessly with no control or direction. I have on many occasions seen the Sheepdog running around inside the pen barking at and nipping at the heels of the sheep inside the pen. Even worse, I see Evangelists who will not take orders from their Shepherd and turn on him and bite the hand that feeds them. I also see Shepherds (Pastors) running around chasing sheep on foot without the help of the Sheepdog or trying to catch the sheep by luring them over, one at a time, with food and treats in which the smart sheep have no interest.

In order to have a fruitful relationship between the Shepherd (Pastor) and the Sheepdog (Evangelist) they both need to know their function and responsibility. It’s not the Sheepdog’s job to tend the sheep, nor could he. It’s not the Shepherd’s job to catch the sheep, nor should he, if he’s going to properly tend the sheep he has. God made some to be Shepherds and some to be Sheepdogs, and if they are to be fruitful they must work together to gather the sheep and drive them through the gate and into the pen.

Be a good Sheepdog and work with your Shepherd, submit to his authority, and when he gives you the command, go out and bring the lost sheep into the fold. Be a good Shepherd and tend your sheep while being careful not to neglect the Sheepdog who helped you get them through the gate and into the pen. Keep your Sheepdog busy lest he get bored and start to tear up the place by barking at and chasing after the sheep in the pen. By knowing your role in the body and working together, the Shepherd and the Sheepdog will glorify God and many lost sheep will be saved.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Magic Prayer

Over the years I've become increasingly disenchanted with the so-called "sinner's prayer." Found at the end of gospel tracts, it's also frequently used by pastors and evangelists as part of an altar call to usher the penitent into the Kingdom.

It goes something like this: "Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I believe that you died for my sins so I could be forgiven. I receive you as my Lord and savior. Thank you for coming into my life. Amen."

The prayer itself is fine. I prayed a version of it in 1973, initiating my own walk with Christ. I've used it often since to assist others in expressing their faith for the first time.

Subtle Superstition

On occasion, though, I've noticed an almost superstitious disposition towards the sinners prayer. Frequently when I ask if a particular person is a Christian, the response I hear is, "Well, they prayed the prayer." It's as if the words were magic, and if we can just get someone to recite them we've accomplished our goal.

I fear we've inoculated a whole generation of people who got a partial injection of Christianity and are now resistant to the real thing. They prayed the sinner's prayer, got their "fire insurance," and then disappeared, never to be seen again. When confronted with the Gospel anew they shrug, "Been there, done that. Now leave me alone. I have a life to live."

The focus of evangelism should never be praying the prayer, but following Jesus. When we emphasize deciding for Christ instead of living for Him, we often get spiritual miscarriages instead of spiritual births. Our sense of safety can't come from simply saying a magic prayer. How, then, do we know if we belong to Christ?

Three Levels of Confidence

Our confidence in the security we have as Christians comes from three sources. First, we have the objective promises of Scripture. The apostle John's guarantee is characteristic, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."

This concept is so foundational its repeated many times in the New Testament:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

John 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

John 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

Rom. 10:9 "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved."

Our second source of confidence in our salvation is entirely subjective. Christians have an ineffable awareness that they belong to God. This comes from the witness of the Holy Spirit to our inner man.

Paul's teaching on this is well known: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

John echoes the same thought when he writes, "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."

Some people put the greatest emphasis on this subjective element, but the Scripture emphasizes it the least. The reason is, I think, because it's the most unreliable. It's possible to have tremendous inner tranquillity even when in extreme danger. Conversely, even the sturdiest spiritual warrior experiences periods of dryness, emptiness, and doubt.

The third and most telling evidence of salvation is a holy life of persevering faith. John says bluntly, "The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar."

Paul tells Timothy, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." He later warns, "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us."

Peter tells us to "be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble."

The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings. "We have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (3:14), and, "You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (10:36).

This is why the teaching of James is so important. Paul's instruction on justification by faith alone is so radical it can be mistaken for license, a charge he defends against in Romans 6:1-2. There's no such confusion with James, though. To paraphrase James 2:26, "The human body without the breath of life is nothing but a corpse. The same is true for anyone who says he has faith, but doesn't back it up with a changed life."

The Beginning, Not the End

What makes a person sure his fire insurance is in force? If all he can say is "I prayed the prayer," he's in trouble. If he's not actively following Jesus, I can give little assurance. People grow at different speeds, but there must be evidence of a life being transformed at some level.

If you want to lead someone to Christ, forget the magic prayer. There's no precedence for it in the Bible, anyway. In the New Testament, baptism served the function of marking the entry of a person into the Body of Christ.

Rather, enjoin the one who is spiritually hungry to satisfy his appetite day by day by following the Savior. Give him some guidelines on how to do that. Tell him about prayer, fellowship, and Bible study. Instruct him in forgiveness, regeneration, and justification.

Don't let him forget, though, being born again is the beginning, not the end.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jesus Goes to the Feast of Tabernacles

Let's continue with our reading of the gospel of John. We are now in Chapter 7.

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

One thing of note for me. Catholics seem to think that Mary remained a virgin for life. A simple reading of the Bible shows many examples of things like this that speak of Jesus' brothers and provide clear proof of the contrary. I find that many problems or questions get easily resolved by picking up the Bible and simply reading it.

6 Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. 8 You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come." 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.

I am always intrigued when people say that they don't believe Jesus was God, but think He was merely a great teacher. I then ask them about what Jesus taught. Inevitably, it is something along the lines of, "Don't judge people as God thinks everyone is good." People didn't kill Jesus because He was telling everyone they were good. He states here that the world hates Him because He actually does judge their acts and finds them evil. Nobody wants to be called evil, and this is exactly what Jesus calls all of us. Measure yourself against the mirror of God's standard, the Ten Commandments, and who doesn't come up far short of goodness.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?"

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man."

Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.

People were really confused about the role of the Messiah. They thought he had a "wonderful plan for their life" and was here to quash the Roman empire and set the Jews free. Jesus' actual "wonderful plan" was to show people their position in the eyes of a just and moral God and their need for forgiveness, and ultimately to take the wrath upon Himself that was due to these people. Jesus was here to die for all of us, and people still get confused as to the meaning of all of that. Unless you understand your just reward for your sinfulness, the fact that Jesus died for you will never make sense.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Many Disciples Desert Jesus

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

A big distinction between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians is the understanding of Jesus' words here. Catholic believe He literally was saying that a wafer could be turned into His flesh for thousands of years after He walked the Earth. The Christian understanding takes into account here that Jesus explains that His words speak of His Spirit. "The flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken are spirit and they are life."

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

70 Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

I often ask Catholics which of these two options would actually bring someone closer to God. First, place a Eucharistic wafer in someone's cereal unbeknownst to them each day for a year? Or, read to that person out of the Bible each day for a year. Which one is actually consuming the Word, Jesus? Which one will actually bring someone to an understanding of the gospel, so they can choose to repent and place their faith in the Savior? It really isn't that complicated.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What is Podcasting?

Wikipedia.org tells us:

Podcasting is the method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio or video programs, over the Internet using syndication feeds, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term as originally coined by Ben Hammersley in an article in the Guardian on February 12, 2004, was meant as a portmanteau of "broadcasting" and "iPod".

The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster. Though podcasters' web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their content, a podcast is distinguished from other digital audio formats by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feeds like RSS or Atom.

In plain English, basically, a podcast is generally analogous to a recorded television or radio series. One of the main benefits of podcasting for the evangelist is that we get to listen to so many great Christian teachers around the country, and even the world, each week who publish their sermons in just such a format. And, rather than have to travel the globe each Sunday, the files show up automatically on our computer, ready to listen to right there, or are able to be transferred to a portable ipod device.

The first step is to get some free podcasting software. I recommend iTunes from Apple.

Then, after it is installed, you can search for the people and shows you want to "subscribe" to. Here is what is currently in my podcast lineup... (click on the links to add them automatically, or copy the URL into iTunes for the others)

  • First, my podcast, so you can get my audios each week. Godcasting
  • Francis Chan, Law and Grace in every bite. Cornerstone Simi http://feeds.feedburner.com/CornerstonePodcasts
  • John Piper. Desiring God http://podcast.oneplace.com/dg/9999999.xml
  • My home church. Shepherd of the Hills
  • Stand to Reason, helping Christians to think clearly about their faith. STR http://str.org/podcast/weekly/rss.xml
  • My current favorite, Alistair Begg. Truth for Life
  • Finally, Way of the Master Radio, the more you hear, the better. WOTM
Then there are a few I have on just for fun. (Check out "Ask a Ninja") But, I'm sure you can find plenty to suit your taste. Just do a keyword search right at the top of the iTunes window and you'll be able to find just about anyone you are looking for, especially if they are on the radio. You might even find your own church.

Tapes have gone the way of the eight track, and trust me, CD's are not far behind. Why carry around a big disc that can scratch when you can put hundreds of them on something the size of a pack of cards? I load up my ipod for my morning commute and can hear a couple of great sermons on the way to and from work. Then, by the time my Friday fishing expeditions come, I am chocked full of the Word, and am ready to go forth and fulfill the great commission. Let me know if you need help.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why should I go to hell if I am sincere?

Being sincere is not the way to have your sins forgiven. If it were, then Jesus didn't need to die on the cross. But He did die, so being sincere isn't good enough. Besides, if someone appeals to their own sincerity as a worthy effort before God, then they are appealing to their own character as a means to satisfy an infinite and holy God. But this is impossible, first because we can never satisfy an infinite and holy God based on our finite sin-stained efforts and second, because to make such an appeal is really an appeal to pride since it is an appeal to something good in ourselves. The problem is, that we are all touched by sin and as the Bible says, "no one does good," (Rom. 3:12).

Unfortunately, people erringly think that because they claim to have a good and sincere heart, that that is good enough for them to escape God's judgment. But this is a misplaced appeal since it is based on feelings, and not biblical revelation. Furthermore, someone can be sincere but be very wrong in what they believe. Since we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), we must believe in the true God since faith in something false is useless. It doesn't matter how sincere you are because sincere belief or faith in something false can't help you. People are sincerely wrong all the time. Does anyone expect God to overlook the necessity of the sacrifice of His Son based on someone saying on judgment day, "But God, I was sincere." No, it won't happen.

So if someone is sincere yet believes in a false God like the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses, will they get to go to heaven? No. They won't. They will go to hell. This is why it is so imperative that we preach the truth of God's word to everyone.

From Questions Skeptics Ask

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Jesus the Bread of Life

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

26 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

This is expressing salvation by faith and not works. Jesus goes into depth throughout the gospels on what exactly it means to believe in Him.

30 So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

32 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

It is not the Law, from Moses, that saves, but it merely leads us to the Savior.

34 "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

I hear many people doubt their salvation, and hope that their works are good enough to merit heaven when God judges them. Jesus makes it clear that all who believe in Him will be raised up to eternal life.

41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Just as to the woman at the well, Jesus offered Living Water, to anyone who eats regular bread, He offers Bread of Life. Jesus uses many more metaphors to try to explain to his disciples that they need to have an eternal, spiritual perspective. Many people did not understand what He was referring to till after His death on the cross. Looking back in hindsight, it is much easier to understand what He was conveying through all his parables, namely that the only way to be reconciled to a holy, just God is through the shed blood of the Son covering over our sins.