Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Unless You Believe

WOW! What a weekend. I have had a great and exciting past few days. And they could not have been timed any better. With state tests coming the next few days at work, I really needed the pep up. My daughter turned 1 and we had two birthday parties for her. One on Friday, and the other on Saturday. On Monday, we celebrated the holiday with friends with a cookout and fireworks. All of these were great in themselves, but I have to say that Sunday afternoon was the best pick-me-up of the whole weekend.

Sunday afternoon at church, we had a guest speaker come to our church to do an evangelism/apologetics workshop. His name is Marty Minto, and he has a Christian talk show on 100.9 out of Fairmont, NC. He by far is one of my favorite speakers. But in a way that may be different from some. It is not how he presents the Word to us, but how he dissects the Word to give accurate teaching. The name of the workshop is Unless You Believe. And it stems from this verse.

John 8:24

"...for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Now, I know that I have my issues with witnessing to those around me. But, I was eager to learn his point of view. I thought that I could get a few things to add to my "toolbox" so to speak. I was blown away by what I learned. Almost every time that I try to witness to someone, I spent most of my time defending all the scriptures. The main focus of witnessing should be sharing the gospel. The ins and outs of how a church should be run, and what makes my church different has nothing to do with the gospel. I had taken a man-centered approach to witnessing, instead of a Christ-centered approach. It's not about church, or how we stand on certain issues. It is solely about Christ. Once the gospel of Christ is heard, and salvation occurs, then the rest will come. You see, man cannot understand the ways of God without salvation. And even then, we will never be able to comprehend it all.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

So, how do I go about now with witnessing to others?

1. I need to understand that the world is lost.
At one time I was in the same shape. I did not have the understanding that has been given to me since I have been saved. Jesus died for their sins, just like He did mine. The things people do are a result of the sin in their life, just as I had.

2. I need to understand that those in the world will not understand. There are many people on this earth who have never heard about Jesus. They have never had anyone tell them about them. I cannot expect them to become truly saved after spending two or three minutes with them. And I have to accept the fact that they may not respond the way I think they should.

3. I need to stick just to the gospel. My entire focus needs to be on the life of Christ. I need to share with them about His birth, life, death, and resurrection. That in itself is the gospel message. I do not need to get caught up in other debates, because they will not understand where I am coming from. I just need to focus on telling them who Jesus is. I just need to plant that seed and trust in God with the rest.

4. I need to pray for the lost daily.
I need to pray for those that I come into contact with that I know are lost. I need to pray that God will open their eyes to the gospel. I need to pray that I will have the right words to say to them when their path is laid before me.

I have learned so much from this study about how to witness to people. I have also learned once again that I still have a lot to learn. It is my prayer, that I become more effective in my witnessing to others.

Thanks for reading, and God bless you all this week!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Band Aid to a Broken Heart

I am blessed beyond what I shall ever deserve. I have a beautiful family, a wonderful church, a job doing something that I love, and the list could go on forever. However, today I want to focus on just one of the many blessings I have in my life, my daughter Lauren. I am devoting this week's post to her and her 1st birthday Friday. She is a band aid on a broken heart.

Back in 2008 when our oldest daughter, Morgan, was born, we were not sure if we wanted to be done having children. Along with our son, Keith, two children were a blessing in and of themselves. Our family was growing, but was it time to stop? My wife and I pondered and prayed about this for a long time. Finally we decided that one more might be a good finish if the Lord was willing to grant us that. I remember the day that my wife found out that she was expecting our third child. We were so happy and excited about the newest member of our family. We even went as far as to pick out names that very night.

Then, a few days later, a tragedy occurred. My wife was in the process of a miscarriage. It was the first time she had lost a child. There are no words to describe the pain that my wife and I felt. We were so happy about another child, that we had not entertained the thought of losing one. We were devastated. My wife and I prayed for comfort and peace. Was this a test of our faith? A couple of verses came to mind.

Romans 8:28
" And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:37-39
"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

So we made it up in our minds that we would glorify God no matter the circumstances. We gave our sorrows over to Him, and trusted in Him that He would see us through.

Philippians 4:13
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

We cast our cares upon the Lord about our suffering and the question as to was our family complete. And several months later, we had what we believed to be an answer to prayer. Jenny was expecting again. We were so elated at the thought, however, more cautious after what happened with the last pregnancy. Still, it was hard to suppress the excitement. Was this to be our reward for being faithful to God through a great tragedy? Then the news came. We lost this child too. Our hearts were broken. Our spirit was greatly weakened by this next loss. Was it meant for us to even have another child? Why was this happening again? The depression was so much greater this time. Two miscarriages within one year. My wife blamed herself, and I prayed for forgiveness thinking this may be some form of discipline from the Lord. But we still prayed. We gave this to the Lord as well. Every time that we faced this loss again, we prayed for comfort from our Lord.

Psalm 73:28
"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works."

I was amazed at the chance that these situations gave us to witness to others. Many that I come into contact with were amazed at how at peace we were. They were amazed that we were not angry at God and turn away from our faith. Did we want to try again? Were we afraid of what would happen if we lost another one? What would we do? Around Christmas of 2010, my wife began to be sick. Not sure of what was going on I took her to the doctor. She was pregnant. This one was unplanned. We were not trying to get pregnant again. But, here it was. Fear struck us when some of the tests performed were not so good. We were at the point of extreme despair. We cried all night that night while we waited for the last test results to come in. I remember the chills I felt when the phone rang.

In May, my beautiful daughter Lauren was born. Words cannot describe what this blessing has been to us. Our hearts were broken at the loss of two babies that we will never see on this earth. But, God provided us with a band aid for our broken hearts in the angel that was born almost a year ago today. Not a day goes by that I do not praise God for blessing me beyond what I deserve. Was this a reward for our faithfulness through our time of suffering? I don't know. It sure feels like it though. Watching her grow has been a heart warming experience. Her first tooth, watching her crawl, her first steps on her own, and the first time she called me Da Da, burn in my mind.

I will do everything in my power to be the best Dad I can be to Lauren. I will never forget what she is to my wife and I. And I will never forget to give God the glory, honor and praise for sending her to us.

Lauren, for all that you are now at this age, for all that I hope you to become, know that your Daddy will love and cherish you always.

Happy Birthday.

Thanks for reading, and God bless you all this week!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Showing God's Love in Bad Situations

This week, so far, has probably been the hardest for me as a believer. I have always been one to look for God in all things good and bad. I have counseled many people on dealing with trials. And I finally felt that I was at the point of full reliance on God in every situation. I felt that I had obtained an understanding of true love for people of this earth. Whether they were a brother or sister in Christ, or a lost person, I have tried to deal with them in understanding of the big picture of things. But, in this, God showed me that I still have a lot of work to do.

Two days ago my wife, Jennifer, was involved in a bad automobile accident. She had spent the day with a good friend from the church. She had our three year old daughter, and our 11 month old daughter with her. On the way home, someone had crossed the yellow line in a curve. My wife swerved to miss the car, and ended up up-side down in a ditch full of water. My two little girls hung up-side down in their car-seats in the back of the vehicle. The man that ran them off the road fled the scene. My wife was in an area with barely any cell reception, and is not sure how long it was before someone saw the car in the ditch, and stopped to help. Thank God, they were okay. My two little ones did not have a scratch on them, and my wife has no cuts, scratches, or broken bones, but is pretty banged up. I am just so thankful that I was able to put them in my van and drive them all home from the hospital in relative good shape that evening.

The problem in this was my feelings toward the man that ran them off the road and did not stop. I felt feelings of anger and disdain for him. Why did he flee? Why did he leave my wife and daughters in that situation without even checking on them. I had a lot of bad things to say about that individual while I was at the scene trying to console my wife and take care of my girls. Thoughts come to my mind as to what I would do if I found out who he was. This is where I fell. I let my anger for this person to cause me to fall into sin.

Here are a few verses that come to mind when I came to the realization of my sin.

Matthew 7:12
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Luke 6:27-33
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same."

You know, it seems pointless to let anger and hate come into your life for someone that you do not even know. Will I ever know who was responsible? Probably not. Have I forgiven him? Yes, although I have to remind myself to do so every time I see my wife in pain, or look at the wrecked vehicle. But what other alternative do I have but to forgive him. Doesn't Christ forgive me daily for my sins? He died because of mine. So what right do I have not to forgive when, as bad as it was, the outcome was minor compared to what Christ suffered? I do not know what was/is going on with that person right now, but I pray for him too when I pray for my wife.

So what have I learned from this awful account? I have learned to cherish the time I have with my loved ones. Because the fact that they can be taken away at a moments notice has become very real to me. I have learned a hard lesson about forgiving and praying for those who hurt me, whether I feel that they deserve it or not. I have learned also, that there is far more for me to learn about God's grace, love and mercy.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this week!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tapan Kumar Roy: Bangladesh

Keeping with something that I started last year, I am posting the story of a martyr for Christ today. When we read these stories, we get a real since of how the world truly hates what we believe. And, it also gives us true, present day heros to look up to. It has always been my prayer that if something like what happens in these stories were to happen to me, that I would be bold enough to defend the Gospel no matter the cost. Today's story is of a man named Tapan who lived in the Southeast Asian country of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is dominated by the Muslim religion. The story of his witness comes from a journal kept by his sister in which she uses to talk to God. This story may not be suitable for young children, so I caution you as you read. I found this story at

January 12, 2005—Dear God, my friends tell me that older brothers are demanding and arrogant. That may be true, but I have never seen that in my brother, Tapan. Today for my birthday, he completely surprised me by giving me a brand-new necklace! If he made it himself, it must have taken him hours, because he’s terrible with small beads.

March 9—Dear God, I’m scared! Yesterday, a pastor from a church we know was beheaded. He was murder by 10 Muslims, seven of whom are still out on the streets. Because of this, Mother and I decided not to go to church this week, but Tapan still went. I tried to tell him to stay, but he wouldn’t listen to me! He said worshiping God was more important than his safety. I suppose this is true, but I was still too scared to go. But, I did pray for him the whole time that he was gone, and he has come back home safely!

June 18—Dear God, guess what Tapan got a job with a Christian organization. He is so excited. They are called Christian Life Bangladesh, and they do medical work to help prevent AIDS, and also share the “Jesus Film” with others and tell them about Christ. I am very excited for him, but also very scared. People say that the Muslim extremists in our village have a “hit list” and that if you work for a church or Christian group, that you are put on that list. I hope that does not happen to Tapan!

July 23—Oh God, please keep Tapan safe! Today, when I was walking by the madrassa (Islamic school), one of the boys told me that if my brother keeps showing the “Jesus Film” that they’re going to do something to him! I told Tapan this, but he just calmly replied, “God is protecting me. Every day that I am alive, it is because of His mercy, and if I am hurt or killed, it will be for His glory.” God, I wish that I could just hold onto my brother and tell him that he must stay at home, or hide somewhere. But I know that is not what you want him to be doing. Please help me to be able to let him go.

July 29—God, no! No, no, no, NO!! How could they Less than three hours ago, men broke into Tapan’s room. While Tapan and his friend Liplal were sleeping, they began to stab them over and over until they were practically hacked to death. As soon as we heard their cries, we tried to get into the room, but they had chained all of our doors and the neighbor’s doors closed. We could do nothing but bang on our doors and listen to Tapan and Liplal’s screams. One of the neighbors finally broke through their door and the murderers ran off. Someone got a car and we all piled in to drive them to the hospital, but—but it was too late. Tapan was dead by the time we arrived. And so now, I’m sitting in Tapan’s room, only…he’s gone.

October 26—Dear God, I have doubted You so much over these last few months. It has been so hard having Tapan gone. I want to blame You for his death. Sometimes I think to myself, “If only Tapan had not been a Christian, than he would not have been killed!” But then I think, “If Tapan had not been a Christian then he would have been dead in his sins. How much better is it that he was free from guilt and sin and now is alive in heaven.” Yes, I know that is true. But often times a message is harder to cling to than the real, fleshly body of Tapan.

July 29, 2006—Dear God, I still believe in You. One year ago today, Muslim men martyred my brother because he was a Christian. Because of that I have struggled with hatred, bitterness, and depression, but, I have also seen Your love, strength, and compassion. It would be easy to say “I do not believe in the Christian God anymore,” but it would not be better. I can honestly say that I have felt Your presence this year. You are not the God of easy answers, magical fixes, or painless lives, but You are the God who meets us in the middle of our trials. Thank you for being real to me, my mother, and our whole church as we mourn the death of my brother.

Matthew 5:10-12
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

I pray that we all can have a faith in God as Tapan did.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this week!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dare to be Different

I am exceedingly troubled by the things I see going on around us in society. In North Carolina we have a constitutional amendment on our primary ballot. It is to define marriage as one man and one woman. This amendment of course is under strong attack. And is not just the homosexuals that are attacking it. There are others making claims that this amendment should not be voted for, for many other reasons. They say it will be bad for the economy, make domestic violence cases harder to prosecute, and affect child custody cases. All of these claims are to get people to look at things that have nothing to do with the amendment. They are slamming the churches that support it. But the saddest part are those that say that they are saved, and believe that God's word is inerrant that refuse to vote for it. They are allowing themselves to be swayed by opponents by either being afraid to stand on what they believe, or giving into the arguments which have nothing to do with the amendment and accept a worldly view of things.

It seems that anything with a Christian meaning or even undertone is seen as taboo today. And it seems like we are always under attack for believing the way that we do. Whether it is a malicious attempt towards us, or a subtle ignoring of what we believe, we are labeled as ignorant, or holier than thou. I know of many who claim to be believers that try to play with the world. They do not take a stand on what they believe for fear of the repercussions they would face from those around them that they believe are friends. They do not want to be seen as different. Or, they see nothing wrong with the worldly lifestyle that contradicts what we learn in the Bible. However, that is not what the scripture teaches about those that choose to follow God.

Genesis 6:5-9
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God."

Noah was different. Out of all the people on earth at this time, he was the only one who was faithful to God. He did not compromise himself over wanting to fit in with the others in the world. Later in this story we see where he built an ark for him, his family, and the animals to survive a great flood. You can probably imagine what people were saying about him as he did this. But he did not care. He wanted to please God and God alone.

Daniel 1:8-9
"But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials..."

Daniel made a stand. In the midst of imprisonment in a foreign land, he choose to honor God at whatever the cost. No matter what the consequences were, he was going to be faithful. Even the commander who liked Daniel tried to get him to do as every other person imprisoned did. But Daniel held true, and was blessed greatly by God. He faced trials again when he was later thrown in the lions den for refusing to submit to the King as a god. And once again, God rewarded his faith. Daniel chose to be different.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27
"Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."

Paul suffered for the Gospel. Paul started out as a pharisee. After his conversion, he did not let anything come between him and sharing the Gospel of Christ. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, in danger around any corner, yet he choose to follow Christ no matter the consequences. He did not care what people thought about him or did to him. He dared to be different.

Now this is just a sampling of individuals in the bible that choose to stand on their faith inspite of what people may have said, believed, or done to them. They were not ashamed of what they believed. They did not sit back and hope that no one would ask what they thought. They were courageous. They defended their faith against all odds. There was no doubt in what they believed, as is in the case of people today. They say the believe, but their actions contradict it.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

When we receive salvation we are made to be different. A change happens to us that causes us to want to do away with all that we were before. We no longer have a part in the world in a spiritual since. They do not want us. They are always against what we believe. It is not us as a person, it is the message of the One in which we stand.

John 15:18-19
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you."

We need not be ashamed of who we are. We have the honor of being claimed sons of God. It is our job to spread the teachings of Jesus regardless of the consequences. We must take a stand on our beliefs no matter what some body else thinks. Why? Because we are different.

I choose to be different. How about you?

Thanks for reading, and God bless you all this week!