Speak Up!

The story is told that the eminent preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, was testing the acoustics at the expansive Agricultural Hall in London. Spurgeon was noted for his powerful voice. It was said he could preach to 20,000 and be heard clearly. This was, of course, before the days of sound systems and amplification. In that great hall Spurgeon bellowed out, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!”

Years later a man approach Spurgeon to thank him. He said that day when Spurgeon had visited the Agricultural Hall he was working in the rafters. Just hearing the preacher quote that great passage from John 1:29 brought him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Speak up for Jesus today. You never know who may be listening, or what the results will be!

 

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New Friends

Naomi and I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with our friends, Pastor Amos and Sue Dodge. They are the founding pastors of Capital Church in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. This is a wonderful, vibrant church. Warm, receptive to ministry, great worship, generous to world missions. What a privilege it was to minister the Word there yesterday.

Amos and Sue Dodge are great, new friends. I’ve known Pastor Amos for a number of years but only this year have I been able to spend time with him. He is a truly great preacher. He traveled with me to Kenya earlier this year; Kenyan pastors loved him and responded joyfully to his teaching. Sue has one of the greatest voices in Gospel music today. She is a three time Dove Award winner and has been named Female Vocalist of the Year.

Today Jonathan and I hosted evangelist Daniel King for lunch. This outstanding preacher, not yet 40, conducts great evangelistic meetings in many gospel-needy areas of the world. rge crowds of tens of thousands often attend his meetings. Vast numbers have made public professions of faith in Christ in response to Daniel’s clear gospel preaching.

 

What great colleagues we have in the gospel. Our lives are strengthened and enriched by such friends. 

 

 

 

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A Letter to Benjamin Franklin

Christians today must be both bold and winsome in our witness for Jesus Christ. Such winsome boldness was displayed in the friendship evangelist George Whitefield cultivated with Benjamin Franklin. Though Franklin had a respect for the Christian faith I am not aware that he ever made a personal profession of faith in Christ. However, this didn’t keep Whitefield from sharing the gospel with him and always keeping communication lines open. Note the courteous yet strong witness of this letter:

                                                                          London, August 17, 1752
Dear Mr. Franklin,
I find that you grow more and more famous in the learned world. As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent unprejudiced pursuit and study the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important, interesting study, and when mastered, will richly repay you for all your pains. One, at whose bar we are shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared, that, without it, ‘we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ You will excuse this freedom. I must have aliquid Christi [something of Christ] in all my letters. I am yet a willing pilgrim for His great name sake, and I trust a blessing attends my poor feeble labours. To the giver of every good gift be all the glory. My respects await your whole self, and all enquiring friends, and hoping to see you yet once more in this land of the dying, I subscribe myself, dear Sir.
Your very affectionate friend, and obliged servant,
G. W.
If Whitefield were alive today no doubt there would be “something of Christ” in each of his conversations, posts, e-mails, texts, and tweets!  This weekend may there be something of Christ in all our conversations and communications.

 

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The Gospel and Social Justice

Any genuinely redeemed person will be sensitized to human need. Our humanitarian impulses will be augmented by the compassion of Christ’s life within us. As Christians we believe in intervening to help those in need. Work for social justice that is undergirded by the gospel is a demonstration of the kingdom of God.  So of course we are to work for justice and the betterment of living conditions for all in need. We cannot obey Scripture without standing against and working against injustice and subjugation.

But we also cannot and must not supplant the gospel itself with social ministry. They should go together. Caring, loving acts done in Jesus’ name are very effective precursors to evangelism. Our compassionate deeds open doors for the gospel. And social ministry will be the result of gospel proclamation. Any understanding of church history shows that. Wherever the gospel holds sway life gets better and living conditions improve. But social justice is not the gospel. It is the outgrowth of the gospel. It cannot be allowed to replace the gospel. Church history also shows that overriding the gospel with justice issues is not only a mistake, it curtails the impact of both.

Any attempt at social justice minus the gospel would lead only to a man-made Utopia which would be short-lived and riddled with injustice itself. God’s mission is fueled by His love. That same healing fuel energizes and propels us into a broken world. If we truly want to see the social order redeemed and morality restored, we had better get back to seeing people redeemed and restored. Reborn people then become tools of grace to rebuild the world.

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The Dones

There’s a lot of fatigue among Christians. This has contributed to an emerging new category of Christians that is causing serious concern for the church’s future – the “Dones.” The Dones are the growing number of people, now recognized statistically, who are simply done with church. Although they haven’t defected from the faith, evangelism is no longer a priority. They’ve simply checked out of church involvement. Their emphasis has shifted from service to God and others to their own renewal and recreation. Regrettably, this signals that a growing percentage of potential gospel carriers are taking themselves out of the lineup.

In my opinion, although their love for God may remain strong most of the Dones have succumbed to the spirit of the times. James Emery White addresses this “me first” lifestyle: “We lose the vision God could give us of our world and our place in it. Too quickly, and often without struggle, we trade making history for making money, substitute building a life with building a career and sacrifice living for God with living for the weekend. . . . We become saved, but not seized; delivered, but not driven.”

The only hope of re-engaging this much-needed group is to reintroduce them once again to the gospel’s grandeur. We must freshly appeal to them to live large for Jesus Christ. “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

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Gospel Explosion

Last night Naomi and I joined our friends, Ron and Judy Minth, in attending the “Gospel Explosion” at First Baptist Church in Dallas. What an amazing night of music! Three of my favorite Southern Gospel groups sang their hearts out: The Hoppers, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, and The Collingsworth Family. In the second half of the program we also greatly enjoyed the orchestra and choir from First Baptist Church.

Two of the top songs of the evening have special meaning to me. I didn’t personally know the composers but they were both friends of my father. Both of these songwriters lived in Tulsa in the 1950s. For many years Tulsa was something of an epicenter for many ministries. The city still is host to many world-impacting churches, schools, and ministries.

I encourage you to listen to these songs. They’re both available for purchase and on Youtube. Both songs are a glorious fit of tune with lyrics. It also reminded me of what R. T. Kendall says in his great book The Anointing: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. When a sermon, a book, or a song is anointed by the Holy Spirit it takes on a timeless quality. It will always minister life, to its own and succeeding generations. As world markets are reeling today, these also minister great assurance and encouragement.

 

The Hoppers sang:

“The love of God is greater far

Than gold or silver, ever could afford

It reaches past the highest star

And covers all the world!

Its power is eternal . . . eternal

Its glory is supernal . . . supernal

When all this earth shall pass away

There’ll always be the love of God!”

– Vep Ellis, 1952

 

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound sang:

“O, what a Savior, O hallelujah

His heart was broken on Calvary

His hands were nail scarred

His side was riven

He gave His life-blood for even me.”

– Marvin Dalton, 1948

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Deadlines

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Do you feel that way today?

I’m there with you. There are resources you and I can tap into, no matter how pressured we may feel. They’re part of our birthright, our inheritance in Jesus Christ.

I’m in the last lap of two writing projects which have required literally hundreds of hours. As I close in on the finish I’m battling mental fatigue, deadlines, and the call of other important things that sorely need my attention. Beyond this, I know my adversary, the devil, would much prefer these two books never see the light of day. I must draw from supernatural resources and tap into divine strength.

What about you? Are you being pulled from many sides today? Here’s help –

PRAY. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 62:1).

DECLARE GOD’S ENABLEMENT. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (Zechariah 4:7).

TRUST. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

This beautiful entry from Elisabeth Elliot’s 1956 diary provides eloquent words for our heart-cry today:

“Before Thee, Father,

In righteousness and humility.

“With thee, Brother,

In faith and courage.

“In Thee, Spirit,

In stillness.

Thine, for Thy will is my destiny.

Dedicated – for my destiny is to be used and used up according to Thy will.”

(From Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot)

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The Limits of Our Authorization

We have been authorized to proclaim the gospel. We have not been authorized to amend it.

The apostle Paul reserved his most stinging rebuke for anyone who dared to mess with the gospel. “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:1-9).

This is the most blistering denunciation found in any of Paul’s letters. He says it twice for double emphasis. And he makes no exemptions. Allow me to paraphrase but remain true to the text. “I don’t care who it is,” Paul was saying. “Even if I come at a later date with some distortion to the gospel you have received from me, let me be under God’s curse! Not only that, I don’t care if it’s an angel, not a fallen angel but an angel straight from heaven, if he carries a message that distorts the gospel you have received, let the angel be under God’s curse!” Tough words but Paul knew God Himself had his back.

I’d say that’s Exhibit A of how tenacious we need to be in protecting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Talk about a deep sense of stewardship, Paul knew he was entrusted with the gospel. Its purity and simplicity must be guarded at all costs. Now we too are entrusted with the gospel. It is our privilege and holy duty to both protect it and proclaim it. The reputation of the gospel is more important than any man’s reputation.

Don’t mess with the gospel – or Paul has a message for you.

 

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Days With David

This past weekend I was privileged to host seven outstanding men and women in ministry at what we call Days with David. Since 2001 I’ve invited younger men and women with a vocational call to Christian service to join me for two days. During this time they’re free to ask me any question and I’ll answer to the extent of my knowledge and experience. Or if their question is beyond my current understanding I’ll simply acknowledge I don’t know the answer. 

Also, I download many of the important lessons the Lord has taught me in 49 years of gospel ministry (or is still teaching me). We cover many subjects related to starting well, serving well, and finishing well. I candidly share my list of regrets and no regrets. This mentoring ministry is one of the lesser known outreaches of Global Advance. 

At the end of our time Sunday evening I leave tired mentally and physically. But I also leave very, very happy. What a privilege to sow into the next generation of gospel carriers. It’s refreshing to see and interact with such quality men and women God continues to call out for His service. Although severe times may well be just ahead, these young servants of Christ assure me that God isn’t finished with our country.

Added to the joy of this weekend, our son, Joel, and his family visited us from Tulsa. All five grandkids romped around Nanni and Papa’s house, much to our delight. So we start this week a little tired but very thankful. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

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True Grace or Disgrace?

If your brand of grace doesn’t lead to a holy life, you didn’t get the real deal. Grace isn’t disgrace. True grace produces lives that adorn the gospel. Timothy Keller notes, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone. True faith will always produce a changed life.” If there is no life change in someone who claims he is a Christian, this is cause not just for concern but alarm. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor.13:5, NIV).

The word integrity comes from the mathematics term integer. As you probably recall from school days, an integer is a whole number. It isn’t split or fractioned. In the same way, a person of integrity is a whole person. The public persona is a match with the private person. There is no duplicity. If there is any degree of difference between who we are perceived to be and who we really are, to that degree we have lost integrity, wholeness. This sets the stage for loss of trust. And when trust in the messenger is compromised the message is often compromised, as well. Those who claim allegiance to Christ “must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy. In this way they will make people want to believe in our Savior and God” (Titus 2:10, TLB).

Our salvation has nothing to do with our works. Jesus forever finished the work of redemption on the cross. There is great liberty in the gospel. But our freedom should never be construed as license for unrighteous living. That’s not what we’ve been made for. It’s not what we’ve been re-made for. Instead we’ve been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). We are new creations in Christ Jesus. “We are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10, italics added). The original Greek word is poema. God is writing something beautiful through our lives.

So can you be a Christian and still sin?  The overwhelming evidence says yes. Regrettably we still “fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23). But, as a true follower of Jesus, you cannot sin and not grieve. We grieve knowing that we have grieved the tender Holy Spirit who lives within us. The way back to full fellowship with the Lord is to come clean before Him in quick confession and full repentance. Then, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

“He saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9-10, NIV).

I blog devotional thoughts Monday through Thursday. I invite you to join me in enjoying e-free weekends and focus on cultivating your most important relationships: God, family, close friends. Let’s reconnect next Monday!

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