The Law, the Conscience, and the Gospel

A few years ago, I was driving to Spring Green from Madison after watching a movie at the theater late one night.  It’s an hour drive from Madison to Spring Green, and most of the ride is through small towns where gas stations aren’t open very late.  Knowing it might be difficult to find a bathroom so late in the night (and believing public urination probably wouldn’t be the best thing to have on my record), I remember thinking maybe I should go to the bathroom in Madison before I left.  But then my Y-chromosome called me a sissy and convinced me I could make it all the way home.

I realized pretty quickly that I had made a wrong decision, and so at every little town I came to, I looked left and right for any sign of some place where I could pull over and use the bathroom.  After passing through a few unpromising towns, I remember finally seeing ahead of me a gas station brightly lit up.  I could even see the attendant inside working at the counter.

I was so happy that, without turning on my signal or looking behind me, I immediately turned left from the right-hand lane and aimed towards the gas station.

Bright blue and red flashing lights behind me quickly revealed I had cut off a police officer in my pursuit of a toilet.

The law had found me.  And there was no escape.  I was caught red-handed, guilty.

When I came to a stop, I rolled down my window, held out my driver’s license, and shouted, “I really have to use the bathroom!  Can I give you my license and go run to the toilet?”

The officer nodded his ascent, so I ran as fast as a guy can run whose bladder is about to explode and took care of business.  When I returned to the car, the officer explained that under the circumstances, he’d let me off with a warning rather than a ticket. Boy, was I relieved! (In more ways than one.)

I share this to illustrate a truth:  To share the gospel effectively, my job is to help a person to see that he has broken God’s eternal law, that there are red and blue flashing lights behind him, and he’s been found guilty. Only then will he find the peace and the relief his soul needs, and only then will he gladly surrender all to Jesus.

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Jonah by Ben

[I gave an optional assignment last week in the Communion with God class to take a story from the Bible and re-write it.  It's an awesome exercise that will help to draw out details from the actual events.  You'll have to figure out what was really going on, why it happened the way the Bible reports it, what people were thinking and feeling...  I highly recommend it as a way to interact with the Bible!  Just don't go around thinking you might as well write your own, more interesting version of the Bible and throw out that boring one you bought in the book store.]

Within minutes, the pale blue sky had disappeared entirely, replaced by a rolling mass of thick black and gray storm clouds.  The sun, once shining boldly, struggled now to reach even her fingers around the enveloping clouds.  Beneath the lead casket, the small ship appeared helpless on the blue-green back of a heaving, waking sea monster.  The sea was a giant stirring.

Aboard, every man took notice of the quick change in temperament, from the ancient Philistine captain borne in the womb of the sea to the newly-wed Egyptian couple on their first venture from solid land, and what a venture it will prove to be.

A cold wind brought with it the scent of rain, heavy and hell-bent.

“By Dagon, get ready, men!” the captain shouted and clenched his jaw tightly shut, his eyes challenging the sea and the wind and the rain.

A strike of lightning split the sky, and a blast of thunder shook the timbers of the small ship, the trumpet blast of some great sea god declaring war, announcing the coming of the rain.  The wind blew hard and stiff, and the ropes creaked, screaming under the pressure.  The sailors scrambled about the bridge, from starboard to port, loosening this, tightening that, attempting to anticipate the moves of the storm, most capricious of enemies; while, below decks the remaining sailors urged the vessel forward with herculean effort at the oars.  But for all their pushing and pulling, striving and straining, their most trusted ally had now by all appearances joined herself to the wind and the rain and, as a traitor, refused to obey their orders.

Another crack of lightning ripped the sky in two, and from the gaping hole the rain began to pour.

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It’s been a while, so… What have we been up to?

final 0 scoalabiblica-logo-image

Well, it’s been almost a month since my last update, so I figured It’s about time to let you know how things have been going here in Romania.  Since my last update, we started teaching classes at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie.  It’s our very first semester teaching these courses in Romania, and many books are not available in Romanian, so it’s been far less organized than I like, but God is working in and through us.

We have a total of 12 students taking 3 different classes.  They represent three different continents (Africa, Europe, and North America) and speak four different mother tongues (English, French, Romanian, and Swahili).  Yes, we’re pretty diverse!  Culturally (Romanians, Africans, and Americans), intellectually (from graduate school students to high school dropouts), and spiritually (a one-month-old believer from a Muslim background, Baptists who were taught to believe the charismatic gifts ended in the first century, Pentecostals who never learned to study the Bible, and even a few who don’t know what to call themselves)–we have a wide variety of students!

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I’m not dead, just not posting…

And… that’s all I have to say about that.

Okay, a bit more.

We’re busily working to build the church here, and lately we’ve seen less exciting testimonies, so I really haven’t felt like posting.  I like posting when we have exciting stories.

Plus, with things getting super busy at the school where I teach English, and with starting our first semester of Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie… I’ve been on the busy side…

But I’m not dead… in case you were wondering.

I’m just boring.

The Cost of Discipleship

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
- Jesus (Luke 9:23-26)

Here in Europe (and in America), we tend to spiritualize things like “taking up your cross” and “losing your life” to follow Jesus.  We very rarely think about the cost of discipleship in the same way the early disciples would have thought about it and in the same way Christians in many Muslim lands now think about it.

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“The Prayer of a Minor Prophet” by A. W. Tozer

aw-tozerThis is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him.

And he said: O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou has called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou art about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, my Lord, Thou has stooped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man taketh this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine, but Thine. Thou has said, “I knew thee – I ordained thee – I sanctified thee,” and Thou hast also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou will honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should be come a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

A Couple Tract Testimonies

It’s been a while since I’ve given any updates on the blog. Partly, God has simply been bringing us less exciting ministry lately; things like counseling, encouraging church members, and learning to speak Romanian just don’t make for interesting blog updates. And partly, we’ve been taking less risks in evangelism; we’ve been doing a lot of safe stuff like passing out tracts or talking one-on-one, which is good but tends not to attract those crazy cool testimonies we all like to read and I like to write about.

Anyhow, while I don’t have any wild, supernaturally-awesome testimonies, I do want to share three stories from the last week and a half.

Mircea
It was 9:30 pm after the Easter Sunday service, and I was on my way home. It was a beautiful night, and as I passed by the park, I felt a pull to just go sit there for a while. I wouldn’t have called it God’s voice at the time, but I know enough about how He speaks to listen to the feelings in my heart. So I quickly dropped my things off at home and then returned to the park. As I was walking towards a bench, I saw a man walking through the park, and something in my spirit went, “Something’s not right with that guy,” and then something in my flesh went, “Ewww, I really hope he doesn’t come sit by me.”

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