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“[John] said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:23-27).

Sal Mattson appropriately died on Good Friday. His legacy is partly captured in the University of Tennessee campus newspaper:

Campus evangelist passes away | The Daily Beacon

If you have not watched (I know the video drags quite a bit but it really is worth watching)  and read the links above, what I say next won’t have near the impact that it should. At least not the impact it had on me.

My brother attended Sal’s funeral. He described it as a joy-filled celebration despite Sal living only 53 years and leaving behind a wife and 5 children. There was much rejoicing over Sal’s homegoing and His Savior. The stories told there magnified what we learn from the links above. He gave his life to preach the Gospel from a sidewalk on the rabidly secular campus of a state institution of higher education. What we might not know is how he was treated by those he ministered to. His eulogists’ shared how Sal was often reviled – cursed, mocked, and even spat on. But he never uttered a harsh word, instead, we are told, he looked lovingly at his nemeses and kept pleading that they hear and believe.

One such account symbolized his self-denying, cross-bearing pursuit of rejecting everything that might hinder knowing and following his Savior. I paraphrase:

“One day a group of students was particularly cruel to Sal, saying and doing terrible things. Profanity laced names were thrown his way and objects were hurled in his direction. One of the group was convicted enough about this injustice that he returned to apologize for the group. And he did. Sal’s response? ‘Thanks, but it’s OK. Let’s talk about your salvation.’ The young man soon professed Christ and returned often to visit Sal as he continued to stand and preach to an unwlecoming audience. The boy sometimes stood by his side in an attempt to deflect the insults and harassment.”

Sal was so committed to evangelism that the weekend before his transition, weighing only about 70 pounds and moving in and out of consciousness, he telephoned his father-in-law to share the Good News. I’m sure that the man’s profession of faith was a very powerful and meaningful going away present for the dying evangelist. Think about it – the last task Sal Mattson accomplished was to share the Gospel and hear a loved family member say “yes” to Jesus.

And when was the last time we told someone about our Savior? Would that be the most important thing on our mind as we were wasting away with cancer and our death imminent?

I wish I were more like Sal Mattson than I am. Really, I desire to be more like Jesus – for He truly is the ultimate example for Sal, for me, and for you. So often we sit in our comfortable pews, we serve on our committees, we attend our Bible studies and “Christian concerts,” we blog, we give back a portion of God’s provision, we pray, we read our Bible…we do most of “the right things.” But do we give ourselves? All of ourselves…like Sal did. To Jesus and others, that is. More importantly and clearly, do we give like Jesus did? 

So I think it only fitting we conclude this tribute to Sal and his Savior with Christ’s own words. I think they are quite appropriate:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Please know we can only live like Sal did, and like Jesus wants us to, when empowered by Him and His Word and not through self-effort alone. We must be compelled by loving Christ because we know He first loved us, and how much that cost. So, in the end, it is not Sal or us who gets the glory…it’s the Savior. And I’m convinced Sal would have it no other way.

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City banishes Bibles during ‘gay’ fest

Have you ever heard of a “biblical homicide?” You know, where someone who was bludgeoned to death by a literal, physical Bible. Although it calls itself “a sword” (Hebrews 4:12) the canon of Scripture, unless it is so convicting that one’s conscience can’t handle its truth, is not a WMD!

Is this not stereotypical intolerance? Is this not an infringement of both freedom of speech and religion? Of course it is! But that is what America is coming to. But fear not – this is exactly what God’s Word has predicted. Are we shocked? We shouldn’t be. The message of the prophets rings loud and clear and has current relevance. I’ll leave the research to you – Scripture, even Jesus’ own teachings, clearly warns us of the apostasy and twisted logic of the last days.

So why is the Bible so dangerous? Because it is “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Yes, it caresses and comforts but it also cuts. It does spiritual surgery and exposes the cancer of our rebellion and sin. It tells us the truth about who we are and the way we live. It makes us embarrassingly naked before a holy God.

But it is also called the Good News. Because it is. It offers hope and freedom and salvation from ourselves and our sin. And this is all the more reason the “love letter from God” shouldn’t be banned from any place – no matter how dark, no matter how much it pierces our conscience or conflicts with our self-absorbed tendencies.

I’m not afraid of the Koran or the Satanic bible, nor do I think they should be barred from the marketplace of free speech and the public domain. So what is the big deal? They are only a threat if they are right and what you believe is wrong. Then they become “dangerous” and worthy of expulsion.

Think about it!


This Is the Image of Jesus Christ Gracing the Cover of Newsweek | TheBlaze.com

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25).

The article above blatantly begs for some comments and questions. It is obviously a very postmodern take on Christianity. The message? If you are going to be a follower of Christ, do as He did and live as He lived…but keep it to yourself. Christianity must be confined to religious gatherings and private residences and is not to interfere with the public domain of politics, education, government, and society at large. Although it’s silly to think that following Jesus wouldn’t impact the way we engage all of life, culture, and creation, this gives us pause. Is God primarily interested in redeeming His creatures (people), our culture, or His creation?

First, let me say, I believe He is in the process of redeeming all of them. This is what Paul is saying in the passage above. God’s creation is in bondage in the same way unredeemed sinners are. This passage tells us that God’s chosen and His creation will ultimately be freed from the futility and slavery of their corruption. We live in a fallen world filled with fallen people but a day of final reconciliation and redemption is coming. God created all things. When humanity disobeyed, all things He created fell and were marred by sin. Therefore, eventually, He will redeem and restore all of His creation to its original beauty and perfection. And, according to Paul, this is a critical part of our hope and we are urged to wait patiently for it in unseeing faith.

The Apostle further elaborates in Colossians 1:15-20:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

So in both passages we see God’s purpose to redeem, restore, and reconcile “all things” to Himself is larger in scope than just personal salvation for human beings. In a broader sense, the mission of God in Christ is to reconcile everything back to Himself for His own glory. But how does this happen? By the cross and the shed blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:20). This is the means for God’s ultimate plan of restoration and reconciliation – the redemption of His children and the redemption of His creation. This is how He is doing His work. We don’t always see it but its progress is unthwarted by all the forces of evil and rebellion – all that we see that is so very wrong.
 
So what is our part in this mission? Clearly Christ’s followers are to engage every nook and cranny of our culture. But how? Some would argue that it is primarily through political and social activism – we should dedicate most of our efforts in cultural redemption by trying to change our world from the outside in. I would say otherwise. Although we are to be involved in all of His creation (and that includes social and political activism), I’m of the persuasion that most of our resources and energy should be committed to changing our culture from the inside out. Again, how? By the heralding of the cross and the power of His blood. By being conformed to Jesus’ image and communicating His Good News. I believe our primary calling is the living and proclaiming of the Gospel.

To state it in overly simple terms, we should be more concerned with seeing His creatures (people) transformed by the shed blood of Christ and the power of the cross than we are who is running for Congress. For in focusing on the advance of the Gospel and the building of His true spiritual kingdom (which Jesus said is “not of this world”) we will be most effective in doing our part in His redemption and reconciliation of “all things.”

So let’s be ambassadors for Jesus by engaging those outside of Christ, no matter their domain. If God is willing and enough receive His salvation and embrace the truths of His Word, Congress and culture will soon fall in line. In other words, let’s not keep it to ourselves but actively connect with our culture and watch to see how God works in redeeming and reconciling all things to Himself…for His own glory!


“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

Christian Teens Tell Churches: Challenge Us, Don’t Water Down Gospel, Christian News

For years I’ve been saying that our watering down, liberalizing, and softening of the claims and demands of the kingdom of God (and the Gospel) is the problem with reaching our culture with the truth of Jesus. The false logic goes like this: “If we make receiving and following Jesus easy and palatable then more will choose to do so.” Not only is that awful theology and an inexcusable compromise but it doesn’t work either. People (youth in particular) are looking for something so extreme they are willing to “sell out” to it. Look at much of what our young people have become attracted to (such as Goth or gangs – there are a lot of ugly subcultures into which our youth are willing to submerge themselves) and see their passion once they commit to a lifestyle or “cause.”

People are looking for a radical calling to devote themselves. And there is nothing more outrageous than the claims of Christ and the demands of discipleship. Die to self, hate your life, take up your cross, sell all, lose your life that you might gain something far greater (Jesus) – these are the drastic messages of true, undiluted Christianity. And this is not only the truth but also what people or hungry for. They don’t long for some passionless, stoic, simplistic, easy, lazy, disengaged belief system. They don’t desire to just go through the motions of shallow religion. They want to live for something worth dying for!!! This article is just another reminder that our weak, fearful, faithless approach to reaching people is actually turning them off. They want the real deal, the real Jesus (the Lamb and the Lion), and His extreme calling. And the real Jesus is the real deal!

I think a personal story is in order. Several years ago at a Christian youth rally the leader of the band that was the focal point of the meeting concluded the service this way: “Please remain seated and don’t bow your heads. We are going to stop the music now. If you are interested in surrendering to Christ and following Him please stand. While everyone watches, please come forward. We would like to spend some time with you and more fully explain what receiving Jesus means.”

Out of an audience of over 2000, 3 young people stood.

The worship leader continued: “Now come to the front so that a counselor can spend some time with you. We want you to know why we are doing this. If you choose to follow Jesus tomorrow there will be no background music and all eyes will be on you to see if you meant what you said when you made this decision to give all of yourself to serve all of who He is – and rely upon Him to live the way He calls you to live.”

The 3 young people walked to the front and were greeted by counselors.

Can you imagine the uproar from pastors and youth leaders? They were livid! “The world makes it hard enough to become a Christian, we don’t need to make it any harder,” they screeched. “Last year,” one said, “we had dozens come forward.” The band leader softly and graciously replied, “I’m sure you did. And I’m also sure these 3 are more likely to continue in the faith.”

The thing that made such an impression on me, and I’ll never forget it, was what I learned when I spoke to all 3 of those kids. All had come to the front the year before. And they all said essentially the same thing: “It wasn’t real last year. It was pure emotion. It seemed like the popular thing to do. Now I have a better idea of what I’m signing up for, what it means to follow my Savior.”

And, I believe, follow they will.


On Tuesday, March 27th Ed Bergdorff passed from this life to the next one. He was 65 years old. The last time we saw him was less than a month ago and we had our usual Bible study. The last devotional was about the throne room of Heaven (Revelation 4). Rebekah and I went to visit him as often as possible, even though he spent his last days in a nursing home nearly an hour away. Ed meant so much to us. He became a friend, someone we cried over and cried with.

It is our sincere prayer that Ed has entered glory, He is in the majestic and radiant presence of Jesus, and is waiting on us to come and stay with him for all of eternity, and not just an hour or 2. Although unsure who might feel this same way, we love and miss Ed, and we long to see him again. Over the last 2 years, since the post below was written, we have seen a real change in Ed. He loved to hear the Bible read and explained, he longed for our visits and prayers, he confessed his sin when he did wrong, he was kinder to those who waited on him, he seemed to have a sense of peace despite his very troubled life. We believe this was evidence that Ed had met Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification was under way.

This post is over 2 years old. Suffice it to say, the Ted in this story is Ed Bergdorff. This is in memory of him:

It’s Not Too Late for Ted (3/20/10)

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

Ted is a drug addict. Due to multiple back surgeries and other debilitating illnesses he is hooked on numerous prescription drugs. I watched Ted groan and writhe in pain and nausea as he suffered from unintended morphine withdrawal. After a trip to the ER and the healing power of an IV bag dripping the necessary medications back into his desperate body, he was back to “normal” within 24 hours. The hospital visit precluded what I thought was the perfect day to share the Gospel with Ted. But God, in His divine orchestration, had determined that this Saturday was not His perfect time for an explanation of His unfathomable free offer of grace and forgiveness. That was ordained to take place 72 hours later.

Ted was forthright on that overcast Wednesday, “I’ve committed every kind of sin. I’ve even killed a man…not because I wanted to but because I had to. My life has been a mess since I turned my back on God.  I got saved and baptized as a teenager but chose other things over Him.”

He described the day that defined his life: “I was 18 and standing outside of a pool hall. The preacher was on the other side of the street. He told me to leave the joint, cross the street, and do the right thing. You know, to come over to that side. I wanted to. I knew I should. But I turned around and went back into the bar and never looked back. My life has been a mess ever since”.

Now in his mid-60’s, Ted has been homeless, sick, hurt, medicated, fighting, alone, and just surviving for most of his life. He is also illiterate. There is no family and but one friend to care for him. Ted now sits in a government furnished apartment for the indigent having nothing more than the bare necessities. He worries constantly about his Medicaid coverage and Social Security check and whether his pain and panic medicines will be available and affordable. He has a dark past, a dreary present, and, seemingly, a hopeless future. Ted is the type that most folks, including our society in general, have given up on. But, in His infinite love, Jesus (and Ted’s one friend) hadn’t.

Ted started listening to some tapes he had been given that shared “The Gospel Made Simple.” As much as I was suspicious of that tagline, I found the tapes to be an accurate representation of the true message of salvation. Not forgetting the faith of his youth, these tapes reminded Ted of the essentials of being born again; our sin, God’s holiness, the necessity of righteousness, the rightful judgment of God against our rebellion, and, most of all, how Jesus has made a way for sinners to be redeemed, forgiven, and receive eternal life (see John 3:14-18). Ted understood the Gospel and knew it was all wrapped up in Jesus and the cross of Calvary. He knew he had to know Christ as his only hope and believe and receive Him through the power of God (see John 1:12-13).

Ted said on that providential weekday,“But how can this be? I’ve been too bad for that. It’s too late for me.” Quoting Romans 10:9-10, I told him there were a few simple things necessary to experience God’s mercy and unmerited favor, receive forgiveness for all his sins, and inherit eternal life in the presence of Jesus; sincerely believe (“if you believe in your heart”), have a life so transformed that it confesses Jesus as your Savior (“and confess with your mouth”), and surrender your life to the dominion and lordship of Christ (“that Jesus is Lord”).  To ease Ted’s concern his sin was too great, I shared that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). “What you have to do,” I explained to Ted as clearly as I could, “is to cry out with genuine desire the prayer of the wretched tax collector; ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (see Luke 18:9-14).  Then I waited in deafening silence.

With his eyes fixed on mine, Ted paused. Finally, his emphysema filled lungs gasped and he carefully, tearfully, and emphatically said, “That is what I need.” An interminable, stunning silence ensued. “And that is what I want…I want to live the rest of my life for Jesus. Will you pray with me?” And we did.

Do I know with certainty the state of Ted’s soul? I do not. That is in our Lord’s hands. I do know, however, this opportunity came about because one devoted, sacrificial woman, a true follower of Jesus, took Christ’s words to heart: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). She came often to visit Ted and brought food, love, and prayer. She took her Saturdays to make sure his meds and refrigerator were stocked. She came with warm, caring words and a comforting presence. She also introduced me to Ted. And, just maybe, by God’s grace and through her demonstration of Christ-like love, reintroduced Ted to Jesus.

And, by the way, I’m so blessed to have married this woman –  Ed’s friend and my Rebekah.


Ohio School Shooting Victim’s Mom Forgives Gunman, Christian News

Grab some Kleenex and click the link above. What an incredible testimony! One which could only be born out of genuine faith and a rich understanding of God’s grace! Doesn’t this make the Gospel look glorious and Jesus look beautiful? In the midst of suffering, here is hope…here is joy…here is peace. All coming from trusting a sovereign God who is worthy of our surrender and praise, One who is always working all things together for His own glory and our eternal good!

Let me share some biblical situations that remind me of this woman’s heart and witness:

  • Joseph, after being sold into slavery by his own brothers and then being wrongly incarcerated for 12-13 years, said to his siblings, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). 
  • Peter, who was to deny Jesus in cowardly fear, was told by the Master who eventually restored him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me” (John 21:18-19).
  • Paul and Silas’ compassion on the jailer who had shackled them in Philippi: “When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family” (Acts 16:27-33).
  • Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and eventually martyred for his missionary zeal and faithfulness to his Gospel calling, ministered to the very guards who would eventually lead him to his death: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).
  • And, of course, sinless Christ, bearing the awful weight and burden of our sins, scourged and crucified, looked at the henchmen who had just mocked him and pounded nails through his hands and feet, lovingly said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments” (Luke 23:34). 

All of this begs some seriously reflective questions. Would we react as this grieving mother has so graciously done? Would we image forth the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel with such a powerful and profound proclamation of our faith? Would we “turn the other cheek” and “love and pray for those who persecute us and spitefully use us?” 

I pray this is the case. For as tragic as this situation may seem, this woman’s grace-filled testimony trumpets all that is great about the Savior we follow and serve. The One who died that we might live such mercy-filled lives. The One who can utterly save the shooter and all who have been touched by this senseless act…and even those who haven’t been.


*This is an excerpt from my book “Captivated Anew: Restored to Pursue Him.” It can be found on virtually any major on-line bookstore in both digital and hardcopy formats.  

I’m always amazed when I consider what the early church did without. How, for example, was the early church able to function without ecclesiastical hierarchy? I can find no popes, bishops, presidents, vice presidents, or directors mentioned in the book of Acts; and while congregants trusted the leadership of the apostles, they didn’t seem to require a complex organizational chart to know who was responsible for what. Further, I see little proof of any committee that “organized’ the events at Pentecost (Acts 2), and I’m astonished by the absence of a “Committee on Committees” to oversee each house church’s evangelistic efforts and to keep all groups in check. When I heard of one modern church that named a Minister of Conflict Resolution, I thought, I bet Peter never considered appointing one of those! Soon after, I found myself wondering how the early church managed to win any souls for the Lord without modern “helps” in place. What I discovered changed the way I think about evangelism. 

Devoid of top heavy structure, the early church seemed to rely on an abundance of supernatural gifts and spontaneity to bring people to Christ. They didn’t need business administrators and marketing and advertizing campaigns. No one printed informational fliers and advertizing slicks to draw new people in. Congregants were unconcerned that they would run over budget or need to get the masses to pledge funds for an upcoming building program or to secure construction loans. They didn’t worry about the color of the carpet or whether or not stained glass would be most appropriate. Instead, they trusted God to provide for their needs and to draw people to Himself. 

One would think that the early church would need some type of church growth program to make sure they were on track for global evangelism. But they didn’t think to survey the crowds in the street that had gathered to celebrate Pentecost, and they weren’t particularly concerned with the advice of the latest pop-psychology guru or the throng’s “felt needs.” In fact, the early believers didn’t consider a seeker sensitive approach at all because they realized that “no one seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Given their lack of sophistication, then, one would predict only church growth futility among the first circles of believers. Instead, exponential growth quickly made Christianity a force to reckon with on the world stage. 

But what did the early church do without technology and media? There was no television, radio, God Tube, e-mail, tapes, DVD’s, or MP3’s to use to help new believers get connected and to grow in Christ. In fact, communicating the gospel used to happen primarily via personal relationships in which the Jewish Scriptures and some poorly circulated letters were shared (See Romans 10:17). The early church did without big-screen televisions. Yet even without high definition pictures and quality surround sound, people grew infatuated with the pure gospel and dedicated themselves to life-style evangelism.  

Many modern believers consider church without entertainment antiquated, yet the early church went without. Thespians, comedians, performers, and paid musicians are so commonplace now—worship and music style of a church ranking among the top three reasons that contemporary folks choose a church. No one within the original group of believers, however, had the creative vision of using a rock band called “Peter’s Call” to draw an amusement-infatuated crowd. Surprisingly, the early church cared little about crowd-pleasing; a fact highlighted by their obvious lack of Starbucks coffee and donuts to help congregants begin their day. But in spite of the early believer’s adherence to the archaic concept of drawing people to Christ through a culture of Christ-centered community, neighborly love, and the communication of transforming truth, the early church exploded with growth!  

Acts 2:40-41, 47 reports, “With many other words [Peter] warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day… And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The Lord was adding to his church by the thousands and doing so daily! Amazing! Obviously the church of Acts was prospering without all of the ministry tools to which we have become so accustomed and dependant. 

The tools that the contemporary church uses are not inherently wrong or unscriptural (and may, when rightly used, be helpful), but the early church’s approach was quite simple and had few moving parts. Listen to the description of their message:  

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38). 

The early church had the supernaturally and exponentially powerful combination of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work on their side. I believe we are also capable of thriving in our modern churches should we choose to seek an extra measure of both and relinquish a few of our trappings in the process. It may be that many of our outreach tools have become a very poor facsimile for what we must promote and pursue: Jesus Christ. We must remember that the message our churches should send is that He is all we really need.


“So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:15-17).

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16-18).

*What Happens When Someone Calls a TV Show to Accept Christ? « Phil Cooke

After reading this article, troubling is an understatement. It makes me wonder what the goal of many ministries really is. Although this should be readily apparent to true students of the Bible, this piece is clearly indicative of the commercialism and shallowness that has infected the “church.” Nonetheless, we should be alarmed and aware of just how often contemporary ministries dilute, cheapen, or use the Gospel as a cloak for mammonism. Is there any wonder why so many who profess Christ fail to continue in the faith or grow into the image of Jesus? Shame on all who treat the Gospel of God with such disrespect. I’m convinced that the great evangelist Paul, looking at his comments to the churches at Rome and Corinth above, did not handle this great stewardship in such a careless and haphazard manner.

Here is an excerpt from the article above – you can form your own opinion:

“Our latest test also proved troubling…

Over 25 percent of the calls went to voicemail, with the outgoing message mentioning that it was “after hours.” (All calls were made on a weekday before 5:30 p.m. EST.) This included three of the largest broadcast ministries of our day.

Of the calls answered by a live operator, 17 percent of them led the caller through the scriptures, another 8 percent supplied an array of Bible verses for the donor to look up later, and 39 percent—far less than half—actually led the caller in the Sinner’s Prayer.

Clearly, not all of the operators were trained for such a call. In fact, during 28 percent of the calls, the operators seemed uneasy or unprepared. One even suggested, “Call your pastor…”

Thirteen percent of the ministries that answered the phone had a free resource or book that would help the caller understand the decision they had made and what the next steps should be.

But 28 percent tried to sell the “new convert” a product and 10 percent asked for a donation.

Not many ministries were willing to invest significant time for such a call:

37% spend less than two minutes on the call
27% spent two to five minutes on the call

(Yes, over 64% spend less than 5 minutes on salvation!)

23% spent six to ten minutes on the call
5% spent eleven to twenty minutes on the call
8% spent over twenty minutes on the call
In the end, the caller found that only 13 percent of the operators were warm, knowledgeable, and friendly.

A few other comments:

One well-known preacher who regularly includes a call for salvation in his messages, had an operator who avoided the question and insisted on a general prayer.

One operator of an “older” ministry did not take the question seriously.

Another mega preacher had an operator that was impatient and put caller on hold—leaving the caller to listen to an unending loop of sales pitches.

A new, edgy ministry told the caller to, “just talk and your message will be played on air.”

And still another ministry, known for its Baptist roots, had the call go to an elderly operator who could not make sense of the question, much less answer it.”


“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:1-11).

The Bible is a narrative and must be read and studied that way. The stories of the Old Testament are not isolated but are critical components in Scripture’s redemptive drama. The account of Babel is but one example of how God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, moved these prophets and writers to share things which, on the surface, seem somewhat trivial. Only by looking forward do we begin to understand why these details are included for our edification.

Yes, the account of Babel is about pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion. But it is also about how God uses the scattering of languages to bring Himself glory. This isn’t some random event – Scripture unfolds how the dispersion of people groups and the introduction of different languages and dialects would point people to the Gospel and to His greatness. We have to look forward and find, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

Let’s now go to Pentecost where we first see the church taking shape by the proclamation of the Gospel. You can read about it in Acts 2. Folks from numerous geographies with various languages had assembled for this celebration. With Holy Spirit power the disciples use this platform to announce the good news to the diverse masses. But there is a barrier to communicating to this disparate gathering – they spoke in various “tongues.” That’s because of the Babel incident that seemed insignificant, but now takes on new meaning. God knew what He was doing in Genesis 11 and the same is true in Acts 2. He now “gifts” these new believers with the supernatural ability to communicate God’s truth in these foreign languages, “tongues” that were unknown to them.

This miraculous event sparked the first revival in the church as thousands embraced the truth of Jesus and His Gospel. This also initiated the first missions campaign – these new converts went back home and indigenously shared their experience in their native tongue. Now the church’s trajectory and momentum took it outside of Jerusalem and to other people groups and lands. How supernaturally God had overcome and used the language barrier He Himself had created shows His sovereignty, and gives us a glimpse into His mysterious methods for pointing all of creation to Himself.

But the amazing narrative that started in Shinar continues. If we go further we see how the idea of scattered languages and people is further connected to the Gospel and God’s glory. You see, He dispersed them so that He could unite them in one voice and as one people, worshippers whose minds and hearts (unlike the rebels of Babel) are now, by the grace of the Gospel, focused solely on Him and His glory. Now let’s go to Revelation 5:9-14:

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

And now we see the rest of the story. God scattered sinful, rebellious humanity and created the confusion of different languages at Babel. But He did so that He could, through the Gospel, unify His redeemed into one glorious place and give them one majestic language of exultation to trumpet His glory and worship in His presence forever. From Babel to Pentecost and then to the glorious vision of the Heavenly throne, God was working out His plan that He might be glorified.


“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1).

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

As disheartening and shocking as it is, this USAToday article is a must read. It paints a very tragic portrait of the secularization and “lostness” of the country in which we live. And it breaks my heart. Read for yourself:

For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t just a song: It’s life

This piece reveals a vivid and ugly picture of the practical atheism that is pandemic in America. These unbelievers are euphemistically labeled as “apatheists.” The Bible would describe them asseparated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of [God] and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). 

Some snippets and statistics from this troublesome article:

“The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

“We live in a society today where it is acceptable now to say that they have no spiritual curiosity. At almost any other time in history, that would have been unacceptable,” Budde says.

“This is a disaster for Christians, says Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, “If you’re not worried about heaven, you won’t notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You’re not thinking about any consequences,” McConnell says.  

Here are some appalling numbers, figures that should launch us into an impassioned crusade of Gospel proclamation and disciple-making that Jesus mandated in His Great Commission:

•44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19% said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

•46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

•28% told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone. 

To further accentuate the dire nature of these numbers, hidden beneath these statistics are those who believe in God (or religion) but not the God of the Bible. These include various religions and belief systems outside of and even opposed to traditional Christianity (Islam, Buddhism, etc.).

Do we see these folks? Clearly they are all around us. We can find them where we work, at the store, in our neighborhood, and maybe even at church. USAToday makes it crystal clear they can be found everywhere in our culture. But are we really looking for them? This should serve as a siren’s warning and a powerful motivator to all who claim the name of Christ and profess to follow Him. Do we care? Do we care about those who don’t care, those who give no thought to the things of God and eternal matters? Do we love Him, and them, enough to tell them the truth and share with them the hope and joy found only in Jesus? I pray we do. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). And folks, that means us!

As uncomfortable as it is, I must close with a warning from the Apostle Peter. Why? Because it is the Word of God. It is true and must be said. Take heed, God has spoken and it will come to pass. Therefore, if you aren’t trusting and resting in the assurance and hope that is found only in surrendering by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, I plead with you to look at Him and look to Him, admit your sin, and cast yourself upon His mercy.

“…by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:1-8).

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