Sunday, May 30, 2010

300 million years from now...

"300 million years from now, what will be the only thing that will matter? Will it matter how much money you made? What kind of car you drove? Who won the NCAA football or basketball titles this year? Who you took to the homecoming dance? 300 million years from now, the only thing that will matter is who is in Heaven and who is in Hell."

I am currently starting to read Mark Cahill's "One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven." The book is a collection of stories and strategies to get Christians off the couch and into conversations with people about Jesus Christ. I read it a long time ago. Since I made the decision to ignore my calling and my God for a while, I've forgotten much of what Cahill has taught me through example and through this book. I am coming back to learn my craft once again, and increase my hunger for conversations with people who need to hear about what Jesus Christ has done for them.

Cahill challenges his readers. If that's all that will matter then, what should we be concerned about right now?

Cahill asks a question that I want to burn into my subconscious and ask myself every day:

"What are you doing of significance today that will matter 300 million years from now?"

Cahill reminds us that every day, 150,000 people step into eternity. If we truly believe that many of those people are going to Hell, our love for them should swallow our fears and cause us to seek spiritual conversations with people. In this introduction, Cahill says that he wants to challenge and encourage Christians to share their faith and equip them with the knowledge he's gained through thousands of conversations with lost people.

I'll summarize as I read, and I look forward to using what I'm reading (thanks to pressure from this blog) :).

Like Nothing I've Ever Experienced Before

It's been a truly amazing 24 hours. Most around me think it's just an ordinary day in my life. But today is no ordinary day. This is going to be a little hard to explain.

You know, there are some people that can tell you the exact day they became Christians. They remember the exact moment, where they were, what they were doing, and they can tell you every detail. I can't.

If you don't have a conversion story, you don't have a conversion. If you can't look back to a time in your life when you've turned from your sin and embraced by faith Jesus Christ's death on the cross as your only basis for forgiveness before God, then the wrath of God abides on you until you do. I have a conversion story. I just don't remember that date. A know that there was a time in my life when I headed in a different direction. I know why, and I know how. Just not sure when.

But after that day, I was on fire for God. He showed me in so many ways how He had gifted me for ministry and how He wanted to use me to impact this world as an ambassador for Jesus Christ. If you're a Christian, He has gifted you with talents, abilities and motivation to serve and edify the body. Pray and find out what that gift is, and how God will use you to edify His body.

My spiritual gift (motivation for ministry) is clearly exhortation. I was created to encourage others to know Christ and to make Him known. God has, I believe, clearly called me to evangelism. It's amazing that God would call a foolish, tongue-tied guy who hates making conversations with strangers to evangelism, but that's why He gets the glory.

For almost 2 years, I've done nothing for the Lord. When's the first post of this blog? When's the 2nd? The 3rd? My point exactly. This blog is an exact record of my spiritual journey over that time. An exact record of my prayer time, bible study, conversations with nonbelievers about Jesus...everything. For the past two years, I've been spiritually dead of my own choosing.

It's amazing how life, and the cares of this world, can choke out the Word of God. Just like Jesus said. And you know what? There is zero fulfillment in living life for yourself. Especially when you are born again.

Many Saturdays and Sunday mornings in my home are frustrating. It's a spiritual battle because church is Sunday, and it's a temporal battle because Ethan's "2" and Gabriel's little. And daddy's selfish. Very selfish.

This Saturday was no different. As Ethan, tired from the crawfish boil, began to act up, daddy again lost his cool. I can't imagine how scary it is for a two year old boy when his dad tries to intimidate him into submission, because his dad can't display more maturity than that little boy can. But that's what happened. It was a familiar scene in my home. Too familiar.

For the past few weeks, every time I lose my temper or react like a bonehead that has no self-conrol, I felt like, "Do you look ANYTHING like Jesus?" No, dad, the truth is that you DON'T look anything like Jesus.

So Saturday night's frustrations led to the following Tweet:

"Welcome to Saturday freaking night. So sick of these spiritual battles it makes me want to vomit. Not sure how much more I can take."

Then came Sunday. Actually, everything was okay this morning. Even left for church on time. Ethan was even in a sort of good mood!

Worship practice went fine. Everything was normal.

As we went through the worship service, everything seemed normal.

Until the final song. It was "Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone" (the Chris Tomlin song). You need to understand that while I'm passionate about worship, I have never been moved to tears in worship. Until today. As I stood up on stage, I felt as though God lifted me away from that place for a couple brief moments, took me aside, put me on His knee like a loving Heavenly Father, and told me that He loved me. That He missed me. That His grace was sufficient for me, if only I would quit running and trying to do things my way. I have never had an emotional experience that powerful with God.

As worship ended, I left the building, because I needed to hide. It was almost like I couldn't take what had just happened. I cried out to God like I never have before. No words could possibly describe what the Lord did in my Spirit today. It wasn't a vision. It wasn't an audible voice. It wasn't wierd or cooky. It was just God reaching down and letting me know that He is real, and He loves me, and He's gifted me, and He wants to use me in a mighty way to impact this world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

After church, I had a conversation with my buddy Charlie. We both know that God has put us together to reach the lost in Lafayette, and to encourage our church and other Christians to share their faith. But today, he encouraged my heart with his determination to seek the lost. I need a guy like Charlie in my life so much. We need each other, and we feed off of each other. Campus Crusade for Christ says that only 5% of Christians share their faith regularly. I need to be around people who do, because that's what I've been created for. God is laying on both of our hearts the same things. He's creating in us a zeal for bigger, bolder steps in sharing our faith and encouraging our church to do the same. I'm very excited to see what the Lord's going to do. How exciting to know why you were created and to be fulfilling that purpose. Why did I let myself get so distracted?

There's much more to it than this. Much of it is private within myself, that no one will ever know. Much of it is simply not here because I don't have the words today. But I know that I've been given a gift today.

Today is a new day. Finally, I feel back at home. God says that we are blessed if we believe in what we cannot see. While I didn't see with my physical eyes today, I see with my spiritual eyes in a way that I haven't ever seen before. The small glimpse of the glory of God that I saw today was almost more than I could take. I almost wanted to beg for it to stop.

So was today an emotional experience that will fade? Or a life-altering outpouring of God's Holy Spirit on my life? This is the record of that journey. It's time to return to my first love, and do the things I did at first.

Most of all, I'm thankful today for an incredibly patient and faithful wife who stands by me no matter what, and for a loving Heavenly Father who wants to use this foolish man to confound the wise.

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
- Romans 10:13-15

Edited to add:
The Lord tried recently to reach out to me. He used, of all things, a song on the radio. But as usual, I wasn't listening. When I know I have Ethan's best intersts at heart, and He ignores me, I get very frustrated. How I must've frustrated the heart of my Heavenly Father, who loves me and has nothing but my best and highest purposes in mind. If only He could get me to listen! Today, I'm listening, Father. Here I am, Lord. Send me. I will go for you.

Here are the words to the song. They pretty much describe the exact place I find myself tonight. Except tonight, I'm listening. I've seen His glory.

Here are the words to the song.

Sanctus Real - “Lead Me”

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Listen to it here.

If you've read this far, please pray for me. That my heart would be good soil, not choking out God's Word. Pray for boldness to preach the Gospel, open hearts, and a love for the lost that swallows up my fears. Pray that I would lead my family instead of leaving them hungry for love. Thank you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stepping Into Eternity

Sometimes, it comes with advance warning. But it can happen in a moment's notice. At any age. Tonight, when your head hits the pillow, please give this some thought: if you were to die tonight - if your time is up - what would happen to you? Where would you go?

At the time I write this, few people actually read this blog. But who knows who'll stumble across this little chunk of cyberspace. I don't know what you believe. Maybe you believe in a Creator who created all things, or maybe you don't.

I want to talk for a minute to those who don't. Consider this: if you're right, then when you step into eternity, there is nothing. You're buried in the ground and that is it. So am I. No matter what I believe, right?

But what if you're wrong and I'm right, and there is a God who created the Heaven and the Earth and you and me. And He will judge us one day by His perfect standard. We all get the same test. It's open book, too. Hitler took the test. So did Mother Theresa. So are you, and so am I.

Maybe Hitler gets a zero. Maybe Mother Theresa gets a 95 (I doubt it, but maybe) on the test. Maybe you get, let's say, a 75. And I get a 5. F. Guess I'm grounded.

But this isn't High School. The score to pass the test? 100. Even Mother Theresa fell short. Ever lied? Stolen? Lusted? Hated someone? Used God's name instead of a four letter filth word to express disgust? You wouldn't use the name of your worst enemy as a curse word, but you've used the name of the One who gave you life, breath, loved ones, chocolate, beautiful sunsets, and so much more?

If you don't get 100, you fail the test. God is perfect, and you must be perfect. But God is rich in mercy, too. He must punish the wrong things you have done, but He offers a way out. He paid the fine Himself 2000 years ago by coming to this Earth and dying on a wooden cross to take the punishment for your sin upon Himself.

After doing that for you - offering Himself as a free gift - why should He forgive you if you call Him a liar and say that never happened? Worse yet, if you deny His existence despite the evidence that is cearly seen throughout the order of creation all around you?

You and I are without excuse. When you look at a building, you know that someone built it. It didn't just appear by accident. You look at a painting, and you don't say, "WOW! What a coincidence! Isn't it neat how those paints just happened to fall on the canvas in such a beautifully ordered way?" How much more rediculous is it to look around you and insist that this world, and you, are just a cosmic accident?

All I'm asking you to do is to think about it.

This week, my grandfather took his final breath and stepped into eternity. I may live another hundred years. I may not live to see tomorrow. But one thing I know is this: I am a wretched, filthy sinner who deserves Hell. But God loved me so much, that He stepped into my courtroom. There I stood, guilty as sin. And He stepped into my courtroom and paid my fine with His life's blood. I'm free to go, because my trust is in Him.

What are you trusting in? Church? Good deeds that can't eliminate the crimes you've done?

Here's a riddle:

If I attend church on Sunday, murder on Monday, help 5 old ladies across the street on Tuesday, volunteer at a homeless shelter on Wednesday, and go to trial on Thursday, what will happen to me?

If justice is served, I will be found guilty of murder and be punished. How many murders make you a murderer? One. How many lies make you a liar? If you're anything like me, you're guilty of many, many lies over your lifetime.

Please, I beg you: flee whatever you're trusting in and cling to the Savior. He died for you. Place your trust in Him. He'll forgive every sin you've ever committed, and grant you everlasting life. He'll give you a new heart with new desires to please Him and truly love others. He'll give you love, joy, peace, and so much more.

But if you won't do that tonight, at least think about this. Give it some serious thought. If you're right, we're in the same boat. If I'm right, you and I are in big trouble unless we place our trust in Jesus and surrender to Him. Won't you consider this tonight, before your head hits the pillow? Every day, thousands of people step into eternity. Young people and old people. Healthy people and sick people. And then it's Heaven or it's Hell, for all eternity. Please think about it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fishing Report: What could be more fun than fishing for men?

Some people struggle all their lives, desperately hoping to figure out who they are and what they were born to do. I know who I am and what I was born to do.

I am amazed at how God puts things together. God has given me the privilege of sharing a ministry with a Godly man who compliments me perfectly. Today, we were so blessed in so many ways.

We've adopted a neighborhood in Lafayette, and we simply knock on doors in the neighborhood and offer to pray with people about any needs they have.

Today, though, was different. First, we returned to a house we'd been to in the past. Had a great conversation with mom, dad, and son. Turns out that the dad is my 7th grade Social Studies teacher! Leaving the conversation, though, I was kind of bummed. We spent a lot of time talking to them about flowers, school, parenting....but not the Gospel. They really weren't open to it, it seemed. But we spent a lot of time there.

Charlie and I were talking on the way to the next house. The subject of Wretched Radio came up. I told Charlie how Todd Friel goes to Georgia Tech every Wednesday - "Witness Wednesday," he calls it - and witnesses to people for 2 hours on the radio.

I told Charlie about how, when he sees a conversation going nowhere fast, he says something like, "I'm gonna tip my hand. I'm a Christian. I'm gonna take 3 minutes, and I'm gonna try to convert you. Is that ok?" Sure enough, almost everyone says, "Sure, why not?"

So we get to the next house, and its a young guy. Very polite. Wants us to pray for him because he just got a big job. We asked if he could pray for him then, but he he wasn't comfortable. He clearly wanted the conversation to end as fast as possible, even though he was polite.

So Charlie dives in head first. "Got 3 more minutes for me to try to convert you?"

Surprisingly, the guy said, "Sure, why not?"

Even more surprisingly, Charlie fell silent, like, "What have I gotten myself into?" That's pretty much what I was thinking, too.

So this dude has 14 years of Catholic school education. He knows about the commandments, and Jesus. So I said, "You know about the commandments, right?"


Me: "How you doin' on those?"
Him: "i'm doin' all right. I keep 'em. I try hard."
Me: "Let's see if that's true. Ever lied?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me: "What does that make you?"
Him: "um...a person who makes mistakes."
Me: "Yeah, but more specifically...rhymes with pants on fire...4 letter word...I'm guilty too."
Him: "A...liar?"
Me: "Yes. Ever stolen anything?"
Him: "No."
Me: " your whole life...even something small?"
Him: "Nope."
Me: "Good. Ever taken the Lord's name in vain?"
Him: Shaking head: "Oh yeah."
Me: "You know that God takes blaspemy seriously."
Him: "Yeah. But God knows my thoughts and that I'm a good person."
Me: "Well here's the one that got me. Jesus said, 'you've had that it was said by them of olf, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already comitted adultery with her in his heart. Ever looked at a woman with lust?"
Him: "Oh yeah."
Me: "So, (name withheld), by your own admission, you're a liar, not a theif, but a blasphemer, and an adulterer at heart, and you have to face God on judgment Day. Will He send you to Heaven or Hell?"
Him: "Heaven."
Me: "Why?"
Him: "Because that's not all He looks at."
Me: "Let's try that in civil court. You're guilty of murder (God considers hatred murder, so you're guilty of that too, right?" (Shakes head yes.) But you tell the judge, 'I don't murder any more. I do good. I help old ladies across the street. I obey the law. And on the way in here, I washed your car! And I saw that your tire was low, so I put some air in it for you.

Question: Is that judge going to let you go?"
Him: Silence.
Me: "If he's a good judge, he will punish you for the crimes you've comitted, DESPITE that other stuff, right?"
Him: "Is that how you see it? Is that how you think it works?"
Me: "That's EXACTLY how it works. God is just, and Holy, and perfect. And He will punish every sin. But God is also merciful and forgiving, right?"
Him: (relieved) "Yeah!"
Me: "So how can he do both - punish lawbreakers and forgive them? That's the point of the cross! Back to the courtroom: the Judge sets bail at $25,000. You don't have 2 pennies to rub together. You're going to jail for a long time. But someone you don't even know comes in, slaps a $25,000 check in front of the judge, and says, 'He is my friend. I am paying his fine.' Because of what this man has done, you're free to go. The judge didn't ignore your crimes. The punishment was paid in full. That's what Jesus declared on the cross when He said, "It is finished." If you repent (quit trying to make yourself right with God by your own effort), and trust in Jesus' death on the cross as your only basis for forgiveness before God, He'll forgive every sin you've ever comitted and give you the free gift of everlasting life. I've given you something to think about today, haven't I?"
Him: "Yeah!"

Pray for him.

Talked with another fellow who's fallen away from God. Really open to discussion. Have a feeling we're going to see him at our church tomorrow. Real nice guy.

Talked with an older, recently widowed woman who's been on our hearts. We talked to her last time and wanted to see if we could get a group of guys together from our church to help her with anything if she needed. Found out that she's plugged into a church that's helping her out. A big relief to see that God's people are taking care of her, since she's by herself.

Talked with a sweet lady who just bought a business. She goes to a local church. After talking for a while, I asked her, "OK, I'm gonna put you on the spot. Ready?"

Her: (Not too sure) "Um, OK."
Me: "I've got a knife in my back. I've got 3 minutes to live. What must I do to go to Heaven?"
Her: "Pray and um..."
Me: "Can I tell you what I would say?"
Her: (Relieved) "Sure."
Me: God is Holy, and just, and He'll punish sin wherever it's found. That means He'll punish murderers, rapists, thieves, and liars. Have you ever told a lie? Who hasn't, right? Ever stolen or used God's name in vain? Jesus said lust is adultery of the heart. We're all guilty and deserve Hell. But that's not God's will. Jesus died on the cross to take our penalty upon Himself. He said, "It is finished." The debt has been paid. If you embrace Jesus as the only basis for your forgiveness before Him, He'll forgive every sin you've ever committed and grant you the gift of everlasting life."

Talked with her for a while about resting in what Jesus was done instead of trying hard and feeling guilty for falling short. We encouraged her to read her bible and get plugged into a small group at her church, where others can encourage her to grow and rest in what Christ has done for her.

Finally, she couldn't resist asking the question that was burning her insides: "Why are y'all doing this?" We do carry around church bulletins and welcome people who may be in need of a church home. Calvary Chapel of Lafayette teaches verse by verse through the Scriptures, and I know of no church I can recommend more highly.

But we're not out there representing our church. We're not trying to take people from their church home and bring them into our church home. We're trying to share the Gospel and the love of Jesus.

We're not asking for money like many televangelists. So why we doing this? I mean, we could be with our families, enjoying the perfect spring weather...why?

Here's what I told her: "Because someone shared with me what I've talked to you about today, and because for five years as a Christian I haven't met anyone who's been willing to share that message with me. And apart from Jesus' death on the cross, each one of us is going straight to Hell forever. And if Hell is anything like Jesus says it is, I don't want you and the people of your neighborhood to go there. But that's not all. Jesus offers something else, too. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience...and on and on. When Jesus forgives you, He also comes to live inside of you. He gives you new desires, a relationship with Him, and all these things: love, joy, peace...What could be better than that? I want the people of your neighborhood to experience that, and the rest that only comes from Jesus. That's why I'm out here."

Please pray for these people. Nothing else I will do this week can top that. What could be better?

The other 2 times we went out, we never got to the Gospel one time. But we prayed with people, got to know people, and were happy with that. Today, neither one of us felt up to the task. But God working through us can do amazing things. And I have to keep reminding myself: "How will they hear without a preacher?"