Category Archives: devotional

So I want everyone to check us out. Centrality church Asheville

Here is a sermon that I did about a month ago. Give us a listen .

http://www.centralitychurchasheville.org/sermons/sermon/jesus-and-jacob

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Never give up .

If there is one thing I have learned in my life with Jesus it is this . Never , never , never give up . Don’t panic , keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times , and don’t you dare close your eyes . W I have walked through loneliness , times of plenty , and experienced times of need . Through it all I have become convinced of this one truth . He will never leave us or forsake us . Christians are the only people on the earth who have the true ability to face whatever the world or the devil throws at them with absolute fearlessness . I say we dishonor the one we say we trust when we shrink back in fear or give in to despair over the sufferings of our lives . We need only look to the cross and find strength in our risen Lord . He set His face like flint towards Jerusalem for one reason . To die as a sacrifice in our place . He went into the garden that night sweating blood sorrowful unto death . He went to the garden for one last interlude with His Father , one last moment of communion , and instead of finding Heaven open before Him it was Hell that appeared . He staggered and fell to the ground as the foretaste of our burden and the great price He was to pay became palatable to His soul . The wages of sin is death and He is about to drink it’s cup to the very bottom . “Oh Father if there is any other way… Not my will but yours . ” He stands and again sets His face like flint to do the will of His Father . He stood alone , His disciples were asleep all hell bearing in on Him as He prepares to bear the wrath of God in our place Ah what a Savior ! How mighty in battle when they come for Him He lays down His life . No one took it from Him He laid it down . Look , look , look He bears the rejection of Men and God in our place . Do you see it . This is how the Almighty goes forth to battle , This is how my Jesus rolls . He hangs naked and mocked utterly alone and forsaken in excruciating pain , but the pain is nothing compared to the anguish of His soul as the curse of separation from God falls . My God , My God , why have you forsaken me ! The answer is quite simple really . He was forsaken so that you and I would never have to be . Now here is the real kicker as far as I am concerned . This was his plan all along . He came to do the will of His Father . He was sent by the Father to Die for our rebellion . To under take the greatest rescue mission of all time . The eternal Son of God clothed in weakness wrapped in frail humanity came to earth at the command of His Father . He bore Death and Wrath in our place at the command of the Father . What could God possibly ask of us that would be too much to offer to Him ? What situation could He possibly put us in that would be too much to bear in light of all He bore for us . Oh please church don’t forget that He is making us into the image of His Son. We will be like Him . If we are desirous to be like Him in joy , then we must be prepared to be like Him in suffering . we must expect to be growing in likeness to Him in His absolute trust in His Father . We must anticipate to be made more and more like Him in His Fearless loyalty to do the will of the One He loves .

Do you ever feel forsaken ?
Do you ever feel like your circumstance proves God doesn’t care ?
Do you ever fear that He will leave you holding the bag in the end ?

Then to the CROSS you must flee , He was forsaken , you never will be. His circumstance proves that God so loves the world with a passionate sacrificial love that is unfathomable . He was the one who was left to hold the bag or foot the bill if you like . He did it willingly for the joy set before Him , The Joy of bringing us home to the praise of His glory in grace forever and ever .

He will never relent , never give up , never throw you away , He will complete what He started and none can stay His hand .

Never , Never , Never give up . He sure as Heaven won’t.

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Let’s take a walk. How a nice-guy-stoner became a Christian. A tell all about God’s grace.

Starting out:

I smoked a lot of weed. I didn’t really drink much, but I did sometimes. The whole time I was active in some sort of church thing. I hid it very well. My really close friends in that time knew how I really got down, but didn’t know all the church/faith stuff. I wasn’t exactly raised in a Christian home, but my Mom always showed Christ to me in her tender care for me.

God really hit me hard a couple of times in those days. The first real party I went to as a Junior, I was lighting up in a friend’s back yard, and this dude I didn’t even know walked up to me and said “Hey aren’t you that preacher guy?”.. Talk about awkward, embarrassing and shameful. I played it off, said “Yeah, kind of.” He asked me (and he was hammered, very hammered) “What are you doing getting stoned?” I replied with complete irreverence of God saying “God wants His kids to have fun!” I didn’t even believe that at the time, I just said it to save face, a weakness I’ve always had. Anyways, there was that time, after that I sort of stayed out of that particular public scene but kept on doing my dirt. Still did church stuff, leading up to a time where I was allowed to speak during a contemporary church service, there was maybe 40 people there. I spoke on “In the beginning”. That’s all I remember, but people told me they liked it. Shortly after that service I went to a friend’s house where myself and 6 other people each rolled up a blunt to smoke to the head (for those who don’t know what that means, it’s weed rolled up in a cigar wrap, and “smoke to the head” means we each had one for ourselves, no sharing). That night I had a very scary experience. It was only after about 5 minutes of smoking, we were standing in a drive-way, I was leaning against a friend’s car, a bright white light flashed. I woke up about 30 minutes later (so they told me) sitting in the driver’s seat of my “friends” car at the time, they didn’t care to take me to a hospital or call 911. Anyways, the picture was clear to me. I just taught God’s people the Bible, then I just mocked God by denying him with my actions shortly after. Boom, knocked out. Weed never did that to me, not even the strongest I’d had. No doubt, it could have been the weed itself, but I can certainly see that as a means that God nudged me with. I still didn’t stop living the lie. I kept on with it, tried to be a cool kid, learned a lot of scripture at the time too. I was so deluded to believe that smoking weed and reading the Bible would actually enhance my spiritual understanding. It didn’t. Anyways, life went on, I graduated from High School by the skin of my teeth and the fake charm I showed to the teachers and counselors. At the time I just lived by every moment, I didn’t think deeply about the big picture of life. That today may be the last day I live, and it may not be. When you put life in that perspective, you see (I hope) that no matter how spiritual you are, you aren’t doing life right. Maybe we never feel that assurance, but I have something close to it.

On with the story:

I graduated High School, got an apartment at 18 years of age. Many of you remember those times. I had some parties, lots of friends crashing there and smoking a lot of weed, eating mushrooms, drinking a little. This was probably the time that I see as the darkest in my life. I was happy in a sense that I had friends, people who would take a bullet for me, all that. But what good is that really? Security provides a little bit of comfort, but the fact that we have that need for security shows that we are incapable within ourselves to achieve total independence. Anyways, after two room-mates (who are still my good friends now) came in and out of my apartment, I was left alone. I couldn’t keep a job for the life of me. I tried construction (basically the only job in my hometown) and I nearly killed my boss, seriously. I almost dropped a gigantic ladder on him. Needless to say, that didn’t work out. I started selling weed, not much, but a little here and there. This gave me some pride to think that people were dependent on something that I could provide that could in turn make them happy. Basically, I gave some weed to some guys (who were also ecstasy addicts) and they got busted with it, and ratted me out. So, this is where it all gets interesting. I had about 1/2 lb of weed with me that I had to sell. I get a call asking for that same amount, so naturally (and idiotically) I accepted the offer. Four random guys show up at my house, not the guy that I had planned the deal with. Their car backed into the parking spot, they came in weighed out the bag, broke some out of the brick, and said we could have a smoke, as I started to roll it up, they were out the door, speeding off.

They robbed me. At the time I was so furious about it. Right now I am extremely grateful to God for letting it happen. It was God’s providence that it happened. It was in God’s pursuit of me that He allowed me to see where my path was heading, in a real way.

Remember me mentioning that these guys ratted me out to the cops? Well, the whole setup was supposed to be a sting operation. They come in, make the transaction, leave, cops show up, cart me off to jail, and that’s it. In their minds, if they rob me, they’ll get the weed, and won’t have to worry about my retaliation. Which was something to worry about considering the people that I supplied, and the network of friends I had. There has been no other time in my life when I have seen exactly how pathetic I was. On top of the world, have a gang of friends, but completely pathetic, and prideful in the midst of it. To end this part of the story, ultimately nothing ever came of the sting operation, other than that the guys who robbed me went to jail for a while shortly after the whole thing happened. I can’t disclose how I know about the whole issue of me about to get arrested. I have a completely clean record, and the justice that I deserved to fall right on me did not happen.

More stuff happened in between that, in short, me hiding from people who busted in my house (guys who really wanted to hurt me). Also, me coming up with an escape plan. Escaping that town, where I had left a trail of bones. Friends, girls, Christians, I was just evil. They probably don’t think so now, I was always a pretty nice guy (I think) but in retrospect, it was all a game in order for me to get what I wanted.

So, off to Asheville I went. This was something new, going somewhere that I don’t know anybody, don’t have a job, but in a safe, and really cool place. This time was peaceful, I remember that. Although my demons followed me, I eventually found a source for some weed, and even traveled back to my home town to get some if I had to. My real friends kept in touch during this time, but we had all grown apart. We all had our own issues going on, maybe that’s just what happens after High School with people. I’ve noticed some people just stay in the same place, and do the same stuff they did in High School after High School. I admire a lot of those folks, but I’m just not one of them. I even think that some of them don’t want to be that, but they’re afraid to step out and move for various reasons. So, as a side note, if you’re one of those folks. Leave, but leave in a smart way, make plans. I was basically forced to go for a job by my loving Mom who I was living with at the time. This landed me at a grocery store, third shift stocking. What a crappy job. This too, was God’s grace flooding me. I got to working there and I met the person who is now one of my best friends, Michael Moody.

Me and Mike:

So, here I was, this little wannabe hip hop kid who just came from a world of self-deception which was fostered by his lifestyle, working 3rd shift at his first real job (that he could do, unlike construction). To describe my spirituality at the time, I really thought that I was above the religious stuff since I’d read the Bible, and knew it pretty well. I’d argued against those of other faiths. For some reason that led me to think I just had it all under control. I was 19, haha. I called myself a Christian, but there wasn’t even a bite of fruit in my life. So, this tattooed guy Mike who I worked with was a brand spanking new Christian. He may not remember this part, but I do. One of his friends from school had just died (we are the same age). He talked to me about Christ that night, but he was basically asking questions, and I found myself being able to basically answer them, or at least explore them in some fashion. This was pivotal for me, I all the sudden woke up and realized that I actually learned some things, and speaking about scripture felt natural to me. I asked myself… am I actually answering questions about Christianity? How could I do such a thing with the life I just came from?! Anyways, I had made a friend (he’s easy to become friends with, I’m going to tag him in this note, you should add him). He said I could go to church with him, and boy, talk about a journey.

We land at a very charismatic church. Some of you don’t know what I mean when I say “charismatic church”, basically it’s a church who believes in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, which is stuff like speaking in tongues, prophecy, stuff like that. When I got there, I really let loose. I raised my hands in the service, and I felt this pull in me saying “submit to Christ”. At the time, it was just another piece of security for me. I did feel free, I do think I had some spiritual experiences, but I wasn’t whole. After 3 hours of church, we went to another church in downtown Asheville, where all the hippie Christians were. It was pretty cool, intense too. The church was meeting in Pritchard Park, during the service a man practicing voodoo walked through with incense and speaking curses on the fellowship, everyone just stared at him, didn’t react. The congregation showed amazing patience. The man was gone, and it just kept on going! What security! Then, after that, Mike dragged me to ANOTHER church! Well, this wasn’t considered a church, but it was a sanctuary for about 30 hippie kids and myself for a few years. This fellowship was something very unique. They too believed in the charismatic gifts, and the group was small, so I had a little more up close and personal experiences with the use of the gifts (to this particular group). Worship was different, guitar, and bongo drums. Everybody there loved the scripture. There were people there (very hippie’d out people) who could recite long passages of scripture from memory. I was amazed, this is something I wanted. Again, to shorten this story, I met some awesome folks who told me about a ministry in California called Prodigal Project. This ministry was primarily to the New Age kids in San Francisco and at Rainbow Gatherings. If you aren’t familiar with New Age or Rainbow Gatherings, search it out on the internet to find out about it.

Road to leaving for Prodigal Project:

So, remember, Mike and I worked 3rd shift at a grocery store, the job was getting a little better, I was still smoking a little weed (much less than I used to). Mike and I were entertaining the idea of going to check out Prodigal Project. We sold some of his stuff, I used my last paycheck to buy a Greyhound Bus ticket from Asheville, NC to Leggett, Ca where Prodigal Project was located. Mike couldn’t come yet, had to set some things up before he could come. Maybe he’ll write out his part of the story, that’d be cool.

Greyhound Nightmares:

There I was, boarding a bus with more bags than I could carry, I had books, clothes, a bag of oranges, some drinks. Preparing for a 2 day road trip with every kind of person you could imagine. Smelly homeless people, gang members (real ones, not wannabes), met some skinheads, you name it, it was on the Greyhound. That trip was just exhausting every moment of it, I was loaded with bags to carry, and we stopped at so many sketchy stations, I didn’t use the bathroom the whole time because I had so many bags I couldn’t lug them around with me. I couldn’t go buy any food either for the same reason. I literally remember saying “Jesus, prove that you can keep me from dying on this trip.” There was even some young girls I met on the ride who I talked to, they got off in St. Louis, they were on their way to somewhere else, they never showed up to the bus (after a 5 hour layover). I still wonder what happened to them. Well, I arrived in Leggett, CA, the bus stop was right in the middle of the Redwoods, at a little gas station. I had some change, I was supposed to call Prodigal Project and they would pick me up. The first thing I did was set all of those bags down, I felt like I was on a cloud, I laid down on a picnic table and fell asleep for about an hour. I got up and called, and called, and called, no answer! Then I remembered that the ministry was within walking distance of the gas station. That could mean anything, 10 miles, 5 miles, 100 yards, who knows, but it was getting dark. I walked left down the 101 for about 30 minutes. That was the wrong way. So I turned around, got back to the gas station (it was closed) then laid down again for a bit, grabbed my stuff, turned right out of the parking lot, then this young hippie girl (who I expect was maybe stoned out of her mind?) walked out of the woods to the road. I recognized her from the Greyhound, I didn’t know she got off at my stop. Anyways, I asked her if she knew about Prodigal Project, she said that’s where she was going, and went on to tell me about how she ran away from there and stuff. So, we arrive at the ministry after walking a while (can’t really remember how far, probably less than a mile). I met some of the staff there, and it was so funny, they were just like me personality-wise saying “yeah we heard the phone, but we didn’t want to answer it” haha. It was funny to me at the time, and plus I was delirious and sleepy too. So they set me up in a cabin with some other guys who were there, and there I was, on the other side of America, in a very different place, with mega-huge trees.

The land of big trees:

I was finally at Prodigal Project. It was dark outside. I was laying on a top bunk in a tiny cabin with 3 other guys snoring in other bunks. I laid there thinking about what was going to happen next, trying to get a grip on the reality that I was hundreds of miles away from home. No family here, no friends here, nothing that I was really familiar with, but Jesus was there. To be honest, I didn’t know if I was joining some cult, or if I was with a bunch of loony tunes who claim Jesus. I had a little cash and an escape plan just in case. After thinking for a while, I remembered that I hadn’t slept in nearly 3 days, other than on a picnic table for a little while. So I slept like I never had before.

I woke up the next day, maybe around lunch-time. I walked out of the cabin and was really amazed at how gigantic all of the trees were around me, and the beauty of the land in general. I saw some little kids running around and playing, there was a small pond with a bridge and cabins all laid around in a circle with a small gravel walkway. I didn’t really know where everybody congregated, I didn’t know anything about the place. So I walked up to the porch where I first sat and laid my bags at. I saw the door on the side and knocked on it. Somebody came and opened it, I told them “yeah, I’m new here, where is everybody?” I was let in and told that the building I was at was called “The Big House”. This is where we had classes, times of prayer and worship, and the general “kick it” place. As a newbie there, the main assignment was to read 3 chapters of the New Testament every day and write a paragraph (or more) about what I thought about it. I wasn’t asked to exegete the passages, I was just asked to write what I thought, maybe how it made me feel, very relative to each day. I liked that, even though I didn’t really do it as much as I should have. The coming months that I would be there were the most influential time in my Christian walk and life. I had huge struggles there, and experienced God more than I ever had prior to getting there.

Whoa, this is spiritual!:

One thing about the group of folks who were at this ministry, everybody was very different. Most of the folks were very charismatic. Meaning they believe that the more miraculous gifts in the Bible were still going on today. Healings, speaking in heavenly languages, prophecy, all that is what they believed, and that they were a normal part of the Christian life. At the time I believed that also, but I didn’t have as much exposure to that movement as many of them did. Many of them started their Christian walk in those sorts of churches, so I had a lot to learn. I heard countless testimonies of people receiving prophecies, falling down speaking in tongues, hearing the audible voice of God, hearing that they had seen demons cast out of people. I spent hours listening to those sorts of testimonies during my time there. I was completely gung-ho about that kind of stuff. The church we attended had a “prophecy team” who would get up in our service and prophecy over different people in the church. It became something that I longed for, for somebody to prophecy over me, basically so I could hear that God had some sort of big thing for me in my life, and in retrospect, so I could hear that I was doing well in God’s eyes. It was pretty selfish of me, but at the time I didn’t know any better. I think it’s a big danger I see in the movement, but I don’t believe every person who believes this way is like me, as many solid churches believe that these gifts are still around, but they have a central focus on the Gospel itself, not just signs and wonders. But that’s another conversation.

Traveling with the brothers and sisters:

The first weekend since I arrived they had a trip to Santa Cruz (I think it was in Santa Cruz at least…) planned. I was really excited about this as I got to see more of California and have some adventures traveling with this band of believers. The group was so eclectic, I loved it. Many were total hippies, very “green” and had seen a lot of things in their life. They were all amazing testimonies of God’s grace. Saved out of very deep spiritual oppression from the New Age spirituality that goes with most of the hippy culture. We all crammed into a large RV and made our way down Highway 101 towards Santa Cruz. Along the way we stopped to meet up with the folks from the ministry who were living on Haight Street in San Francisco. This was really cool, I remember not even knowing what to do while I was there. We parked in the McDonalds parking lot right across from Golden Gate park. We were just chilling in the parking lot, talking to people who were walking through, asking them what they thought about Jesus while we waited for folks to come and load up for the trip. This is where the first (of the many) strange things I saw happen in California happened.

The man whose followers call him Jesus:

While in the parking lot we met a guy (who seemed to be drunk, or on drugs, or both) was wearing a really dirty suit with spray paint on it, and somebody asked him “Do you know Jesus?” to which he replied “Yes, he’s right down the street.” We all kind of laughed, but soon realized he said it very seriously. He emphasized that he was serious, and he’d bring him over to meet us. We all thought that he was just messing with us, and he wouldn’t come back. Sure enough about 20 minutes later he returns with a small African-American man and about 7 or 8 other people. He said “Here he is, here is Jesus, he’s God”. At this point I just stepped back a little, and let the men who were familiar with this kind of thing talk to him. I, coming from small-town NC didn’t even know this kind of thing existed! A man from our group told the man that he was not Jesus, and he needs to fall on his knees and pray to the real Jesus for forgiveness, and receive new life. The man had very large eyes, and looked “off”? The man didn’t say a word to us, but he did see this large basket of tomatoes we had and pointed at it. So one of the guys handed the whole thing to him, and he walked away with his head down. The outspoken guy who told us about him just said “thanks guys!” and ran off with him. The other people who were with this “Jesus” were others who “followed” him. Talk about strange.

Camping with new friends:

The drive to Santa Cruz seemed long, but it was really fun. We were all crammed into this RV, some of us having to stand the whole way, but just having a good time, playing cards, talking about the Bible, just having a good time. We arrived at where we were going to camp, I believe it was a National Park, but I’m not sure. If anything, the place was beautiful. It was covered in massive trees, soft ground, and a couple out-houses. I didn’t really know where I fit in with the bunch, as my background was the complete opposite of theirs. I couldn’t play a bongo drum, didn’t really know how to strike up a conversation. I only knew who some of the leaders were, and most everybody’s names. I kept to myself most of the time, and tried to connect with folks as much as I could. When it got dark we started a fire and had a little gathering, where we all just had our Bibles, played and sang worship songs, screamed loud proclamations, danced around. This was a very cool experience, I felt freedom there, and it was really strange. To be with a group of people who lived in their certainty that Christ is the only one they want to impress. I saw a lot more of how everybody got along, witnessed some arguments and squabbles, that was helpful, I felt vulnerable, and realized that I liked being vulnerable and open.

Back to Northern California:

We had gotten back to “The Land” from our camping trip and that’s when I got to really get more into the community there and see it’s every day functions. In the morning a staff member would clang a bell and everyone would go to breakfast within the next 30 minutes (well, supposed to be 30 minutes, it usually ended up being the next hour). Our food variety was really funny. The food we got was from the San Francisco food bank, and whatever we as individuals could afford from the grocery store we went to every Sunday after church. There was practically no milk (other than powdered milk) no meat, and no butter. Myself, being from NC was used to only eating the things that we typically didn’t have. So that made things interesting, and I was nearly forced to become a vegetarian! I’d never eaten Lentils, quinua, sprouts, none of it! Thankfully, my mom put money on my debit card so I could walk down the road to the local pizza place.

After breakfast we’d all congregate in the Big House to read and go through scripture, or other sorts of topics like that. These were always cool, and even pretty different from teacher to teacher. This also brought up something that I was going through, and God really made me face it.

Tearing down the Trinity:

At the time I didn’t really know the severity that some doctrines have. My Father is a member of “The Berean Christadelphians”. Which denies that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. During this time, I was pretty convinced of this also. After one of the Bible studies, I thought more about this and realized that everybody I was with, and the ministry itself believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. If my Father’s group is right about this, then I’m living with anti-Christs. That didn’t sit well with me, and I had to face it. This would lead me to more Bible study than I’d probably done in my life leading up to this point. For a while I only talked about it with a couple people in the group, I convinced them that the Trinity was a made up doctrine, and that Christ wasn’t really God, merely a creation of God to be the Messiah. We visited another church that wasn’t the usual one we went to, and after the service I went up to the Pastor and asked him about the Trinity, and he explained a little to me, and I just laid into him the memorized verses I had that I believed demonstrated that Christ wasn’t God in the flesh, and he didn’t respond to me. I felt victorious. Every time I would hear somebody pray to Jesus I would mock them in my head and make fun of them.

Then one day our director was teaching us about the book of Hebrews, where this verse is:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. ` Hebrews 4:15

We had discussions about what we had read, and when we came to this I openly said that Jesus couldn’t have been tempted in every way like we are. I also showed that this verse shows that Jesus wasn’t God at all, because God could not be tempted to sin.

Things got really real at this point, and our director showed me my folly, but I didn’t accept it, and walked out and went to my cabin (I had a room by myself at this point). I refused to go to any more classes, go get food, or anything until I hammered this whole issue out. Over those couple of days I went all over the Old Testament, and New Testament, got out my papers that my dad had sent me about the Trinity and did what I can to see if they lined up with scripture. During this time I nearly rejected the New Testament altogether, and thought about just becoming a Jew, or anything but a Christan. I was depressed, angry, and flat out confused. This time lead to a lot of self-reflection, and in that I realized I didn’t know God at all. Everything of the Bible that I knew was just so I could spout out some verses here and there, and fit in with the crowd.

At this point the director had come to visit me and talk to me about stuff. He was so humble about the whole deal. He told me that he respected me for really trying to understand it and study the scriptures. He handed me a set of tapes by Steve Gregg (who I now disagree with on some things, but still love him). The tape series was called something like “The Authority of the Scriptures” or “Knowing God” I can’t remember, but there were some tapes on the Trinity. I listened to them, paused them to think about what he said, debated him in my head while listening. I came to accept that the Bible does teach that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. It became inescapable to me. Also that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all called God in the Bible (Philippians 1:2/John 1:1,14/Acts 5:3.4) and that God is one (2nd Samuel 22:32). It all began to come together for me and spiritually it was all different. My prayer life became one of dependence on God, not just telling God how awesome I am like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. This is the point where I felt like I had really been saved by God. I felt His mercy, and all the sudden Hebrews 4:15 (the verse I quoted earlier) became a life-line for me. A little while after this we went back to San Francisco for a prayer conference that was 10 days long, and we were going to stay there and live in the church for 10 days straight! This time was absolutely amazing, they had worship bands playing 24/7 for 10 days. On the first day that I was there, a complete stranger walked up to me and said “welcome to the fold, Christ is King, God Himself”. I just cried, the guy thought I was crazy, but who cares. He was gracious, I told him my story and he praised God for it, and really showed a ton of outward joy for me and literally sort of jumped around about me coming to Christ. He then asked me if I had been baptized.

Baptism:

I had been baptized before into a Baptist church at the age of 15. Though it was a baptism into a Christian church, I honestly became to not accept it as real. I wasn’t taught a lick of doctrine, especially on who God is! If I was, perhaps I would have never fallen into the heresy of anti-trinitarianism. So I went to my mentors in the ministry and expressed to them my case for being baptized. That summed up was “I just got saved out of heresy”. They accepted, and I was baptized in the Eel River shortly after. It was a glorious time.

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James 2;14-26 We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone.

Ah, the book of James.  Arguably one of the most difficult books in the New Testament.  So much so that Martin Luther at times wished it had never been written, simply because it is so easy to misinterpret, and largely because of this section we are about to venture through.  Luther said the position of a preacher is a precarious one… for on one hand, one must preach justification by faith alone, and yet also one must preach on the necessity of good works.  For if one only preaches faith, he gets a bunch of false converts who do nothing, but if he preaches works he gets a bunch of self righteous legalists.  So my danger is great here, as I try to walk the tightrope of works and faith.  I tell you, it makes me tremble inside, for to not keep the balance is to mislead, and perhaps greivously wound those God has given me to care for, and in my opinion, nowhere is the tension between faith and works more clearly displayed than this section of James.  James has a clear concern that his hearers are not grasping what saving faith is, and I believe it is evident from the text alone that he has written to refute the idea of a saving mental assent; an assent that acknowledges Christ as savior and God, but does not go any deeper to teh heart of the gospel.  James uses strong language to refute this error, and I think we can see a good example of how our hearts should react to what has been coined today as easy believism.  He says things like faith without works is dead.  He compares some of his heaers faith to that of the devils, and makes one of the more confounding statements in the New Testament: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Oh brethren, this is not something to pass over lightly, but it should stop us in our tracks, and make us scratch our head and ask God “What does this mean?”  How does this fit into the rest of the New Testament?  Would Paul be able to sit at the same table as James?  The tension is clear… Paul is clear… by no works of the law shall flesh be justified.  Yet, here is James.  Is he contradicting Paul and thus is the scripture contradicting itself?  Or are Paul and James in agreement?  Can I marry James to Romans?  My answer to you is yes, you can.  And for this reason Paul does not speak of a lifeless faith unaccompanied by works, but of a faith that radically changes our beings and propels us into the very things James says prove justifying faith in our hearts.

To Prove my assertion, we must ask ourselves one great and vital question.  A question if answered wrongly could spell our doom.  “What is faith?  And how does it change me?”   For years I pondered this question.  I longed to understand it, for I knew as I know now that to misunderstand this and teach my misunderstanding was a one way ticket to destruction.  So, let’s take a minute to look at the core of all motivations, good deeds and sin, and see if we can’t come to a deeper understanding. Knowing that God gives understanding, let us ask Him for it knowing as James says that He gives liberally without reproach.  It is my firm belief that all men always do what they believe will make them most contented, and ultimately happy.  From the zen buddhist to the suicide bomber.  From the hardcore criminal to the man who hangs himself.  We all chase after the things that we believe will make us most contented and ultimately happy.  I hold this truth to be self evident, but just in case it isn’t, let me ask you this:  Why do you do what you do?  When you sin, is it not because you believe there is something in it that will please you?  Something in it that will fulfill you?  Of course you do.  You wouldn’t do it otherwise.  Even all the way down to the man who kills himself.  What man would attempt suicide when he is happy and in great circumstances?  No, it is the ones who believe that in killing themselveas they will have release from their sufferings.  Death would be better than life, oblivion better than pain.  Some are even duped into believing that Hell is better than what they suffer here.  So, what of good deeds?  Is the motivation not the same?   Is it not done because one believes it will bring something of value to not only the recipient, but also the doer?  Even Kant can’t escape this truth when he speaks of dispassionate virtue.  He neglects to realize that the reason he seeks to be dispassionate in duty is because he believes deep down that this is the best, most contented way for a man to live.  Now did anyone notice how many times I used the word “believe?” (7 times) It is important, because you will chase after, worship, and fight for whatever you believe will give you satisfaction.  We are hard wired this way.  Our problem is not that we seek after fullfillment, but that we seek it in all the wrong places.  Places that we have been told by God Himself won’t pay out anything but misery and death.  The problem is, we just don’t believe Him.  See, the issue is not that man is faithless, it is that we put our faith in all the wrong places, and usually never in the one place that will truly pay off.  Yes, even in the world, faith produces works.  That’s how you know where your faith really is.  The man that believes he will have fulfillment in sex has no choice but to seek sex like water, and in that he does the work of fornication and adultery.  The man that believes being violent will fix his problems and bring him peace is a violent man.  Likewise, the man that believes that knowing Christ and God in him will follow after Him and spare no expense in doing so.  And by nature of chasing what he believes will satisfy him, will disdain and walk away from every other competing source of satisfaction.  He will cut out eyes and limbs to have what he desires.  In this, all men are alike.  We will sacrifice whatever it takes to have what we believe will be of most benefit to us, without exception.  And this belief, this faith always produces action… this is the crux of what James is saying!  If a man says he has the faith that saves him from sin and the world, but continues to find his life in sin and the world, then that man is deceived at best, and a fraud at worst.  His faith is not faith at all, it is a dead thing.  It’s not breathing.  Oh, he will still have works indeed, but his works will manifest where hs faith truly is.  This is why James says what he says in 2:18.  The devils know who God is, they know who Christ is, and I would venture that they know what He has done better than most, and yet it makes them shudder.  They hate Him and who knows where their faith lies?  But I tell you this, they would not have fallen if they had not believed it possible to ascend to the throne of the Most High.  And neither would we for that matter.  No, indeed by an act of belief man fell, and by an act of belief, man is restored.  This begs the question again.  What is saving faith?

I’m glad you asked.  Saving faith is believing in the person of Christ.  It is believing first that He is who He says He is.  It is believing that He paid the penalty for your sins on the tree and that apart from His payment, you are damned because you cannot earn God’s pardon, you are too bent.  No amount of good deeds can make you love God.  No amount of good deeds can take away the stain of sin.  Saving faith is a belief that in dying for us, Christ has purchased out forgiveness and the way to God is clear, God is reconciled to us.  Saving faith says I will be reconciled to HIm.  Saving faith believes that true satisfaction is found in knowing who God is and in knowing Him in our lives as God.  Saving faith believes that because we are reconciled to God and He is all we need we have no need for the lies we used to chase after.  His commands are ways for us to see him and know Him more in our lives, and in that respect His commands are not a burden, for they will cause us to have more of the one we must have!  Saving faith loves Jesus, because He is ever increasingly everything we need.  It holds on to Him because it realizes without Him no satisfaction forever.  It must have Him and is miserable without Him.  This faith produces action.  Actions of good will toward men because we have no need of men or their things, or their opinions of us.  We have God’s good pleasure in Christ.  It produces compassion in our hearts because we become what we behold, and He is compassionate, and it is our joy to behold Him, and be like Him.  For saving faith also realizes that we are made and saved so that we might bear His image and that in doing so we will be satisfied.  It is after all, the best way to be.  This faith produces the fruit of the Spirit:  Love, joy, peace, ect, for we know the promises of God are yes and true in Jesus.  Does it change the way one lives?  You had better believe it.  AAs the sun of faith rises in our hearts, it ever more increasingly changes our lives.  This faith that justifies also sanctifies.  And if a man is not being sanctified, he has no reason to believe that he is justified.  Now the question is, do you have the faith of which I speak?

Amen

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Come into the light.

I was once told by a wiser man then I to “preach what I most smartingly feel,” so I would like to share with you some of my particular struggles in the faith, mainly how I handle my heart after I fall down.  See, all too often I am like Adam.  When I sin the first thing I want to do is cover up my shame.  Ahh, we live in a civilized world so no fig leaves for me.  No, I reach out to sow myself an apron out of justifications for my behavior, and I might feel pretty good about my new clothes for a New York minute, but then I hear the voice of my Father calling.  So what is my next move?  Well, I am tempted to run and hide.  For me, this is a miserable state of affairs, because I usually am tempted to hide deeper in my sin or in the trees of the garden of the world (we call these trees distractions), but inevitably, I too come out of the woods and tell my Father why I have been hiding out.  It is at this point that I am sorey tempted to pass the buck and make excuses; anything to keep me from wearing the blame.  Truth be known, I don’t like seeing my sin, anymore then then ext guy.  This is a painful process, and it’s all too common to mankind.  The problem is, we make it worse when we don’t bleed and say there is no cure for our disease.  So, I would like to share with you a better way.  Now, what I’m about to assert is scary; it ain’t no kids game.  It takes courage.  It takes fortitude.  And most importantly, it takes 2 weapons that have a tendency to elude us in crisis (faith and humility).  What am I suggesting we do?  Why, simply come out naked, and throw ourselves at his feet crying for mercy.  No hiding, no excuses, no masks, just you… bare and broken, admitting your sin without excuse.  Sound easy?  Well, it’s not.  See, it’s near impossible, heck, it IS impossible to do without faith.  See, it’s natural to hide and justify, and pass the buck.  It doesn’t take nothin’ but unbelief to do that.  I do it all because at the end of the day, I believe that God is gonna reject me, so I cover, hide, and run.  It takes faith to trust that He will not reject me.  I fear retribution… that’s natural, but it takes Faith to believe that God WANTS AND LIKES to be merciful to His children.  I feel dirty and shameful… it don’t take no faith to feel that way.  But it takes faith to believe that He has made me righteous.  It doesn’t take faith to believe that God is gonna put me out, but it does take faith to believe that He never will.  It takes faith to see how vile and guilty you are, and still know (even though your feelings say otherwise) that He has called you clean, and innocent.  How is this possible?  One word, one name, one exultant cry of relief.  Christ!  Christ has made it possible for us to be what we never could be.  On that cross, Christ paid for our sins, he took our place and bore the wrath of God in our stead.  Do you know what that means!?  That the wrath of God is satisfied concerning you.  Think on it for a moment.  All the punishment and derision you deserve was poured out on another.  Because of Christ the debt we owe to God has been paid in full!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1 NIV).

His sacrifice is so satisfying to God that we will never see hell or know rejection.  So perfect, that indeed anyone who will come out of the woods naked for forgiveness will only know mercy and grace.  Christ, through his death and Resurrection, has made it possible for all who believe to come before God with a brutal self-abasing honesty about our motives, actions, and sinful desires.  He calls to us “come you sinners, poor and needy, lost and ruined by the fall!”  But if you in pride and unbelief tarry until you become better, you will never come at all.  Unlike Adam, I do not need to hide or fear.  My God has made peace with me in Christ.  I have no need to pass the buck, I can admit like David “I have sinned” and in my heart hear the prophets reply “You shall not die.  God has taken away your sin.”  Ahh, what a Savior!  What grace, that Christ was rejected so that I would not be!  Do you know oh child of God that you are a new creation that the righteousness of Christ rests on you and all who are in the second Adam.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world.  But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.  But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:12-17)

That just as sin passed from Adam to Moses to all his descendants, that in Christ righteousness flows undeserved to all His children, and the curse of separation is lifted.  We are no longer fallen in Christ.  We have a new nature that will one day swallow up the old one.  We have no need to hide or cover.  He will dress us.  We need only admit that we are naked –  “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelations 3:17-18)  – and come for dress and healing.  In Christ, the gates of paradise are wide open and God is welcoming all who come in.  It is unbelief in his infinite mercy that makes a man wait outside for fear that God cannot be that good.  It’s unbelief in Christ’s perfect atonement that makes a man approach God with his own clothes on.  Now I have spoken on faith, yet I said we had two weapons.

“But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6)

It is pride that deceives man into thinking his clothes will do just fine before God.  It is pride that says “I will not show my shame before anyone!” as if it were beneath you.  It is pride that tells us “since we are not so forgiving, God cannot be either!”  (Since it is near impossible for us to imagine anyone thinking differently then we do.)  as if our opinions are what hold reality.  It is pride that screams “I will not take the handout of mercy, I will not own my deeds and thoughts, and I will certainly not come out naked for all creation to see.  I will not abdicate the throne of my soul for who is more worthy than I to rule it?  God opposes the proud, for by nature, he must.  Pride cuts men off from receiving mercy and life, pride goads us on towards an independent existence, and by it’s nature keeps us in the dark.

“This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  (John 3:19)

Pride must be vanquished just as unbelief must be expelled and the only weapon we have is humility.  True humility.  True humility sees that your case is hopeless if left to you, a bent and broken creature.  Humility recognizes that even if you knew what you had stolen you would never have the means to buy it back.  Humility acknowledges that you are guilty and well deserving of rejection and damnation.  It is humility that causes the heart to despair of itself.  It is humility that leads men into desperate pleas for undeserved kindness, hoping in someone outside yourself for help.  Humility can be uncomfortable because the humble are usually the proud remade and that take the work of humility against the pride.  We call it humiliation.  But, if we accept the victory of humiliation, we are in the best place!  We are ready to recieve from God (just like the rest of creation does without complaint).  God gives grace to the humble, because only the humble can truly recieve it.  And oh, how grateful is the needy beggar who is made a prince.  How happy is hte beggar who finds a benevolent giver who is delighted to meet his needs.  Only the humble can truly worship, because only the humbled can admit that God alone is worthy of praise.  Only the humbled can pray for only the humbled can admit that they are in desperate need and are powerless to meet it themselves.  Only the humbled can recieve a free undeserved pardon, because only the humbled know it is undeserved.  Pride will not allow such behavior, humility demands it.  Do you dare face the work of the Spirit of God in the humbling of your sould, or do you give pride the run of the house?  Beware, for pride’s chief work is to cut you off from Christ and bring you back to yourself, while humility is the opposite.  God does not humble us because he likes to hurt us.  It is only painful because we are so proud.  He humbles us to save us, and delights to give us HImself.  What grace that God would contend with the proud, for our own sake!

Amen.

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The Pastor and the IRS Agent

I’ve been teaching through the book of Acts with our youth group.  And, I’ve been paying special attention to instances of mercy (both God to person and person to person) to bring out Luke’s Parable of the Good Samaritan vision.  This is an ethic set within the larger context of an overwhelmingly evangelistic overall theme. So, while preparing my Sunday sermonette (high schoolers can handle about 15 minutes) I stumbled across this little parable by Alex Sims at Common Grounds. Due to my teaching focus and our recent video of the week which highlighted a bit of the pomotivational king’s theology; I decided to tweak the story a little and toss it up for greycoat perusal.

A Pastor and an IRS Agent

A Pastor and an IRS Agent both had a flight from Denver to DC. They were flying Southwest Airlines, which uses open seating: passengers board and choose their seats in the order they check in.

The Pastor was attending a conference in DC entitled Pastoral Evangelism in a Postmodern World. He was one of the first people to enter the plane. As he boarded, he passed a nursing mother and thought to himself, “I’m glad I checked in early.” (In reality, his assistant had checked him in.) The Pastor walked to the back of the plane because he knew the front was more likely to fill up. He settled on a window seat a few rows from the back, but not too close to the lavatory because that also gets crowded. He placed his briefcase across the middle seat in the hopes that it would deter anyone from sitting there. As he saw the plane start to fill up, he knew someone would be sitting on his row, so he pulled out his iPod to signal: I’m not interested in chatting. After all, he had a speech at the conference to prepare for, and it wasn’t like he was going to develop a meaningful relationship on a three hour flight. By the time a middle-aged woman sat in the aisle seat on his row, he had his earphones in. As he scrolled through the playlists on his iPod, he felt some satisfaction in how much he’d kept in touch culturally. He picked a playlist with Sufjan Stevens, U2, Bon Iver, and some other indy artists. Yes, he was hip, cutting-edge, relevant. The Preacher then leaned back his seat and polished up his speech. He never noticed the middle-aged woman order 4 vodka tonics throughout the flight or the brace on her leg and the cane she used to support her gout infested right foot. He missed the flight attendant’s black eye which she had furiously attempted to conceal with makeup. Not only that, but he missed the reality that comfort one day will have its price.

The IRS Agent was attending a conference in DC on new tax rules for the upcoming fiscal year. The Agency had closed some loopholes, and they were training their agents to crack down on audits this year. By the time he boarded the plane, it was pretty full. Between researching March Madness and filling out bureaucratic paperwork, he hadn’t remembered to check in online. He took the first open seat he saw, which was a middle seat between the nursing mother and an overweight man. The IRS Agent was a pretty big guy, so squeezing in was tough. He crammed his briefcase underneath the seat in front of him. He had planned to review some new tax rules, but with no elbow room he decided that would be too much of a pain. He was silent at first because he felt intruding and awkward striking up a conversation with strangers. But after take-off, he got bored and turned to the heavy guy next to him and asked, “What do you think about the Broncos this year?” This led to both men agreeing on the decline of NFL player character across the board. The IRS Agent asked his new friend, “Why do you think that is?” which initiated a short conversation about original sin.

After about an hour he offered to hold the mother’s baby while she went to the bathroom. He noticed the child’s ragged shirt and tucked a $100 bill and also a small New Testament into the diaper bag under the mom’s seat. You see, the IRS agent was also a Gideon. He made his neighbor swear not to say a word. But, by the time the flight descended onto DC, they’d all three determined that Jay Cutler would win the 2009 MVP. And, they had all three experienced the mercy of God’s common grace found in simple companionship.

Which man better understood the Gospel?

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What Drives the Gospel?

The good news both moves the church and is what the church uses to move others.  It is both petrol and Porsche…so to speak.  Now, where do we see the church test driving its power to evangelize?  The book of Acts.

What is Acts?  Its basically a book about what the apostles did—mostly Peter and Paul. But, even though these guys are doing all the stuff…Acts is more about the work of the Holy Spirit IN these men and IN a newborn baby church. These apostles saw Jesus, but no one sees the Holy Spirit. Remember what Jesus said about the Spirit in John 3:8—He’s like the wind.

Anyway, the book of Acts is a story (the scholars like to refer to that as historical narrative). But think of it like a bridge between the gospel accounts and the epistles—it provides the history behind the epistles.  Acts ties the NT together. It is the beginning of the fulfillment of Matthew 28.18-20.  Acts is a record of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly enough, this Spirit wants to work, move, live, and empower humans.  This is not a force but an intentional Person moving according to an intentional framework of activity.  Therefore, if you are looking for an outline for the book of Acts (Us bible teacher type people are big on outlines) then you can just read Jesus’ last words in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Boom…there’s your outline.

I.  Witness in Jerusalem (1.1–8.4)
II.  Witness in Judea and Samaria (8.5–12.25)
III.  Witness to the end of the earth (13-28)

Realize that Luke is also one of these witnesses that Jesus is talking to here, even though he probably wasn’t actually there when Jesus said those words. Luke was a doctor (Col 4.14 Paul refers to him as ‘the beloved physician’) and therefore had a specific interest in recording disease, healing, and acts of mercy.  So, as one of these witnesses Luke was a smart guy—he was a doctor and so he had a PhD or whatever the equivalent was….the way he wrote his (Greek) grammar, (all that “most excellent Theophilus” stuff) shows that he could hang in a very formal, scholarly style…but he chose to write the majority of Acts without a lot of literary fanciness.  Luke knew his audience was mostly made up of women, slaves, soldiers, children, beggars, and other outcasts.  So, we can see God’s hand of mercy first in just how straightforwardly this book is written. Although Luke was a doctor YOU don’t have to have a PhD to understand Luke/Acts.

One more thing about Luke, he was a Gentile. But as a Gentile who knew something (actually a lot) about Jewish history. He saw God’s mercy. Not only that, but physicians have a unique perspective about our anatomical similarities as humans (both Jew and Gentile). I think God may have used this knowledge in Luke’s writing to pay special attention to the spiritual similarities between both Jew and Gentile.  Luke notices the human condition, more importantly the neediness which characterizes such a condition.  This is what drives his writing…the Good News of Jesus Christ setting things right between a merciful God and sinful humans.

As mentioned before, Luke noticed mercy. And, as a believer in Jesus he saw God’s mercy.  As a Gentile (dog) now being included in God’s family he saw mercy, as a doctor he had the skill and desire to show mercy, and he took time to show mercy even to us as God used him to record the words of life in the Book of Acts.

So, speaking of mercy notice a parable by Jesus which…well…you’ll know….. Luke 10.25-37.

Luk 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Luk 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Luk 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Luk 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Luk 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luk 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.

Luk 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

Luk 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

Luk 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Luk 10:35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Luk 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Luk 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

And there it is.  You’d think Jesus would let the Priest or Levite be the hero.  That’s the logical rhetorical device to present an object lesson on mercy to a congregation right?  Make the protagonist someone they can identify with.  Jesus has already given the lawyer a way out earlier when he asks him about his attendance to the law…he shows his ignorance by instead of saying, “Uh, no one can do all that perfectly Jesus” saying “Yeah, I already do all that stuff.”  So, Jesus brought forth the radical ethical teaching which he always does to these guys.  This teaching characterizes the heart of the 2nd Adam.  He is the teacher.  This is his lesson.  Since I’m going to be referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan a lot I’m going to just call it the “PGS”. But by now, maybe you’re wondering (or maybe not, I don’t know) what the PGS has to do with a study of Acts?

Well, first off Luke wrote them both. Secondly, Luke’s gospel is the only one where the PGS shows up. Thirdly, Samaria is specifically mentioned by Jesus as a place for apostolic witness…… remember the outline. But honestly, the book of Acts just picks right up where Luke’s gospel ends. It’s like a package, sort of like a luncheable—what would the little mystery meat be without the cracker? Luke and Acts go together. Luke shows the big picture here…..we get to see the teachings of Jesus (like the PGS) lived out in the 1st century church. If you do read Luke/Acts you’ll see Samaritans popping up a lot, but definitely a lot of conflict between Jews and Gentiles. They were kind of like Jews and Palestinians are today.

Anyway, in the PGS Luke records Jesus explaining a New Testament lifestyle; in Acts Luke shows how the gospel spreads through a powerful mercy which is applied for neighbor, stranger, and enemy with no strings attached.

That’s right, a powerful mercy.

A powerful mercy, what is that?  While it is certain that the power that the Holy Spirit gives manifests in various ways.  A key ‘power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you’ is one that enables the believer to have PGS style mercy. A guy named Harvey Conn called this “lordship evangelism”.   “All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.”Acts 4:32-33

O.K. remember the PGS? Well, look at the way these new believers in Acts 4 are living out what the priest and the Levite failed to do in that parable.  Tim Keller notes that, “This economic sharing had to be conspicuous and amazing to outsiders.  Apparently it helped give the preaching of the apostles even more power.”  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. So, what kind of power is Jesus talking about here?

Part of the power of evangelism is showing mercy to one another. But, while mercy does drive evangelistic endeavor. Mercy is not moralism.  Its not just all about doing nice things for people. Get this, mercy is both an indicator and a vehicle for the activity of the gospel. And we can talk about what that means in this forum.  I’d like ideas.  I’d like honesty.  I want to hear what you think about the power of God to witness through a PGS mindset which truly drives down the Jericho Road of Asheville, NC; Columbia, SC; New York, NY; wherever you may be.

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