A Startling Statement

28 03 2017

“God, when He pleases, can make the worst of places to serve the best of purposes.” What a startling statement by Matthew Henry!

All of us are quick to recognize the worst of places. Sometimes it is an actual place like a waiting room, DMV, funeral parlor, or a broken-down car. Other times it is not a place but rather a season: a season of sickness, transition, moving, or death.

When we are in these places, it is easy to simply think about getting out of them! We sit in them poised to jump out of that place at the first opportunity God affords. If we are not careful, the intense desire to get out of that place can cloud our ability to see the best of purposes.

I’m thankful for the way that Deuteronomy 8:2-3 enables us to break through the fog and see a glimpse of God’s good purposes. It says, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”

Notice the three good purposes that God served Israel in their difficult place:

  1. Her eradicated their pride: “to humble thee…”
  2. He revealed their motives: “to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart…”
  3. He showed them the sufficiency of Scripture: “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word…”

Please don’t forget that God can make the worst of YOUR places to serve the best of purposes.

Building Relationships with Gospel Purpose

1 12 2016


Our lives often resemble the congestion of a busy highway—people passing by us at lightning speed, while we tightly grip the steering wheel of life trying to make sure we stay in our lane and don’t crash into anyone on our way to our intended destination. Life is busy; but God put us on this earth for the purpose of touching people and sharing with them the good news of the Gospel, on our way to Heaven, our final destination. So how do we do that gracefully, without it feeling like we are just crashing into people as we fly through life? By merging into their lane of life with the use of some good on-ramps. Each of us needs to be building relationships, or on-ramps, into the lives of others. The following tips may equip you in this process.

1. Know your destination and build on-ramps that enable you to reach that destination.

Did you know that the famous London Bridge is actually in Arizona and goes absolutely nowhere? In 1968, Robert McCulloch purchased the bridge for $2.5 million. Each brick was individually coded, and then the bridge was transported to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where it was meticulously reconstructed brick by brick at a further cost of $7 million. Next, a channel was constructed underneath the bridge in order for water to actually flow under it. The irony is that the London Bridge is right next to the Colorado River, which at this particular spot has no bridge going over it, even though there is a legitimate need for one: the nearest crossing points for the residents of Lake Havasu City are either thirty miles to the north or twenty five miles to the south. Great effort and expense were put into building a bridge that really goes nowhere.

Many of the relationships we have built are just like the London Bridge: they don’t go anywhere, because we have not determined our final destination. Our initial destination for any relationship is a clear presentation of the Gospel. But our final destination is leading that person to Christ, discipling him, and then having him join us in helping others come to know Christ.

To build good on-ramps, know where your relationships are designed to end, and build with that destination in mind.

2. On-ramps do not build themselves.

On-ramps, or relationships, are not built through a particular program of the church. They are built by people. Building on-ramps will require initiative and hard word on YOUR part.

That initiative takes the form of a one-on-one, which means much more than just talking to people. I like to define a one-on-one as the process by which we stop our world to connect to someone else’s—and that’s where the hard work comes in.

3. Investment and time are the concrete that makes strong, healthy on-ramps.

On-ramps are strengthened and made healthy through investment, which typically requires both your time and your dime. That means that initially, in order to strengthen that relationship, you may have to drive farther than the one you’re investing in, pay more than he does, and sacrifice more than he does.

But the relationship will begin to grow even stronger and healthier when there is a two-way investment. A practical way you can encourage this is to allow your new friend to begin to invest in you. Ask him to teach you things that he does really well. If he is a grill master, let him teach you how to grill better. If he is good at a particular hobby, allow him to show you his skill. The things that people are good at are often the things they love. When we like what they love, relationships deepen.

In addition to investment, good relationships are strengthened through time. Although the Exchange Bible Study is designed for just four weeks, it may take you a number of weeks, even months, to build a relationship to the place that enables you to start that four-week study. We must abandon the idea that gospel Bible studies will only require four weeks of my life. It will require a significant investment of time to build the relationship for the sake of the gospel and to continue the relationship for discipleship after the person has accepted Christ.

4. Create an on-ramp that has a family environment to it.

Hosting a new friend in your home, a friend who feels like not much more than a stranger, is much different than hosting a family member you love and enjoy. It feels awkward at first, and that’s normal, but our goal is to do some things to intentionally overcome that awkwardness and make our new friend feel like family. Maybe these practical suggestions will help you.

First, use your homes and specifically your dining room table. Christ often gathered with the lost and His disciples around a meal. The act of gathering around a table in your home for a meal creates conversation, which in turn builds relationships. Perhaps your dining room table has become an unofficial storage spot, forcing your family to gather in front of the television for meals. Could I encourage you to clear off that table, prepare a simple meal, and invite your guests to be part of your family around the table?

Second, include the whole family in your pursuit of relationships with the unsaved. Your spouse and children can be part of the team that helps you reach people. The multiple personalities and interests within your home may be the tools necessary to make the people around you connect. If you are going to reach people for the gospel and then disciple them well, they are going to need to start doing life with you AND your family.

Third, invite people to join you for the normal things of life, not just the big events or the special services at church. Backyard BBQ’s, a walk around the neighborhood, watching the big sports game in your home, attending a concert or movie together—all of those normal things of life are not quite so daunting to an unbeliever; and you may find that they prove to be a good method for building on-ramps into people’s lives.

When you were learning to drive, you spent a lot of time on back country roads far from the intense traffic. At some point, you had to leave the country roads, drive down an on-ramp, and enter into the traffic on the freeway. Your knuckles were white, and fear gripped your heart (and probably your passengers’ hearts as well). Over time, though, the fear went away; and driving on and off the freeway just became part of driving. In a similar way, don’t be surprised if building on-ramps and then merging into the lives of people frightens you. Your first steps in building those on-ramps may feel awkward; but over time, it will just become part of living. When merging your life into the lives of others becomes normal for you, you will be accomplishing the purpose God has for you here on earth.

Still learning…

5 10 2016
Upon my finishing grad school, Beneth and I loaded up a moving truck and relocated to California to serve the Lord full time in ministry. I entered the ministry with a mistaken sense that God had prepared me to serve God. My heart was laced with a sense of pride that manifested itself in an unhealthy confidence in myself and what I had learned. Those first years of ministry were not a time of doing what I had learned but of learning what I didn’t know.

I would love to say that I have outgrown my prideful heart and that my unhealthy confidence has been fully replaced with a humble heart, but I am sad to say that I still struggle just as I did early on in ministry. While the struggle is still there, I am learning more and more, though, that it is not that God prepared me to serve God but that God is always preparing me to serve Him more.

My heart was recently convicted of this anew after reading the following about missionary John Paton.

John G. Paton (1824-1907) served as a missionary in the South Pacific’s New Hebrides islands. Less than twenty-five years earlier, natives clubbed to death the first two missionaries to visit the island, just fifteen minutes after they landed on the beach. The natives then cooked and ate the murdered men in sight of the ship that brought them there. No one dared return to the islands, until Paton did. His first weeks there, illness took his young wife; one week later, their infant died. He suffered intensely. But note Paton’s perspective as he looked back on this years later:

Oftentimes, while passing through the perils and defeats of my first years in the Mission field on Tanna, I wondered, and perhaps the reader hereof has wondered, why God permitted such things. But on looking back now, I already clearly perceive… that the Lord was thereby preparing me for doing… the best work of all my life:

There are times in our ministry that the aim of our ministry is to simply be “done preparing!” We want to be done with the refining work of God in our life. The light at the end of our tunnel that we are aiming for seems to be a life and ministry of ease that is free from the hardships that make us better ministers. If that is our aim, then we have established a goal that will never be reached here on earth.

The aim of our ministry should always be to hear our gracious Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful Servant.” Years ago, Dr. John Vaughn shared a simple illustration in regards to this thought that has never left my mind. He used the illustration of a piece of meat on the grill that was to be cooked to the level of “well done.” In order for that steak to reach the level of “well done” it had to remain over the heat for a prolonged length of time. He went on to say that the reason many Christians and ministers will fail to hear those precious words is due to the fact that we did not persist and remain over the fires God placed us on. We quit too soon or we spent our lives and ministries looking for the “cooler” place on the grill to serve out our days.

May God give us each grace today to…

               Be steadfast…


                                             always abounding in the work of the Lord…

Your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Let God keep working on you while He works through you.

A Gospel Thought Pt.4

3 03 2016

Gospel12Some people falsely believe that only those who are called by God to be an evangelist have an obligation to evangelize the lost. But Matthew 28:29 gives a clear command to all Christians: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Each of us has an obligation to give the gospel to a lost and dying world; and when we don’t, we’re disobeying God.

Some of the most evangelistic people I know are people who came to a point in their life where they understood their need to just obey God in this area. Like all of us, they had used numerous excuses but realized that their excuses were not legitimate ones to use to disobey God.

Approximately two years ago, God really began to work on my heart regarding my responsibility to witness for Christ. I would give the gospel when the opportunity came to me, but my life was not marked by intentional attempts to make opportunities to witness. As I began to warm to the place of making a decision to be a witness for Christ, I found myself making a mental checklist of all the things I had to prepare or learn to do to be more intentional in witness. It was not long into that checklist that I realized I had completely overlooked the first thing I needed to do in regards to being an intentional witness—to first repent of my lack of obedience to the Great Commission. I have certainly not arrived to a place of perfection regarding witnessing for Christ, but there have been marked demonstrations of improvement over the last two years. The improvement began at that point of repentance.

Here is a thought for you to consider today. Have you considered your lack of fulfilling the command of the Great Commission to be an area of disobedience? If you have been disobeying God, then let’s start with repentance.

A Gospel Thought Pt.3

3 03 2016

Gospel12It is easy for us to look at our unsaved co-workers, neighbors, and family members and just assume they are all defiant towards the gospel. But not everyone is defiant. Some may carry a surface persona of disinterest and antagonism but are really just quietly searching for answers. One time I heard a preacher describe the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a seductively dressed woman who practiced the behavior of the Proverbs 7 woman, but I’m not convinced that she was truly that way. It is true that she had been married a number of times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, but those things do not mean she was a harlot living a hard-hearted defiant life toward God. Could it be that she was simply a woman who was extremely hungry for a relationship that fully satisfied and was looking for that relationship in all of the wrong places?

A lot of our evangelism efforts never begin because we have just assumed that a person will not want the gospel if we gave it to them. The Great Commission is not a command to discern who is receptive and who is not. The Great Commission is a command to go into all the world and preach to every creature. Let’s not be guilty of an unhealthy form of evangelistic discrimination.

Keep your eyes out for divine appointments this week. Take advantage of opportunities to give the gospel. Walk into your day armed with a few gospel tracts and a heart that is walking in the Spirit. God may have a “thirsty person” like the woman at the well who simply needs to know the truth that they can have a satisfying relationship with Jesus Christ through faith. You might be able to lead a soul to Christ!

A Gospel Thought Pt.2

3 03 2016

Gospel12Bad news is what makes good news so good. Presenting the bad news that we are all sinners and deserving of eternal death in hell is hard to communicate. Left to our natural inclinations, we would simply present the love, mercy, and grace of God. But the depth of God’s love, the need for mercy, and the marvel of grace is best understood with the knowledge of our sinful condition.

Gospel presentations like the Roman’s Road, Evangelism Explosion, Netcasters, or the Exchange help us give a balanced presentation of both the bad news and the good news of the gospel. Don’t be afraid of using gospel presentation systems for the sake of insuring that you don’t become guilty of just giving “gospel goulash.” A gospel presentation system helps us insure that we have included all the right elements of the gospel.

Don’t forget, though, that the power of the gospel is in the gospel, not in the presentation system. Don’t become distracted or encumbered with a preference of one particular system that you fail to just give the gospel on a regular basis.

Take what you have been taught and the system you know and give the gospel. Prayerfully present the bad news that makes the good news good and see what God does. I am praying that we see a rich harvest of souls saved at FBC this year.

A Gospel Thought Pt. 1

3 03 2016

Gospel12One of the most damaging notions to a real understanding of God and His relationship with man is the concept that God is simply a force or energy source. Whereas God is indeed a force with which to be reckoned and the greatest power in the universe, He is so much more than that. He is a person! When we remove the concept of His personhood from our thinking, we take away the fact that He has likes and dislikes. We damage our ability to understand the whole concept of morality. We are left to define all the great questions of life by our own experience and intellect.

I want to encourage each of us to be an evangelistic witness for Christ this year. As we witness, seek to emphasize the person of Jesus Christ. People are not saved merely by what they believe but in whom they believe.

Ephesians 1:13 states, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth…” It is our job to share the word of truth in a manner that presents the person of Jesus Christ.

Would you stop and pray that God would give you an opportunity this week to introduce a lost sinner to the person of Jesus Christ?

Five Ministry Helps

1 03 2016
Writing out thoughts is a therapeutic way for me to “talk sense” to myself. The discipline of putting thoughts on paper in a logical way is a way that God has often renewed my mind. Yesterday was a really full and wonderful day for us here at Faith Baptist. The evidences of God’s grace were numerous and slightly overwhelming. In addition to the evidences of grace, God sovereignly sprinkled a few reminders of the spiritual battle that rages in ministry. That mixture left me a little “foggy-brained” and dependent upon God for sleep and a restful heart. I’m not sure what your weekend looked like, but perhaps these five thoughts can be a help to you as they have been for me today.

1. God works through His Word. His Word works slowly, methodically, and often-undetected for long periods of time. However, the result is a work that outlasts us here on earth. Some of the greatest attacks on our schedule will be the attacks made on our time preparing to preach the Word. Satan attacks that which he believes is the most powerful opponent to his agenda. Guard your study time and keep preaching the Word. Your ministry in the Word (even yesterday) has eternal impact!

2. Ministry opportunities will always outnumber the laborers to do the ministry. The overwhelming amount of work to do in the ministry should not surprise us. A part of us wants to just do it all and try to be the super-laborer that makes up for the lack of laborers. God’s solution to lack of laborers has always remained the same: we should train and equip believers (II Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4) and pray for more laborers (Luke 10:2). Who are you intentionally training and when is the last time you spent a significant amount of time praying for laborers?

3. Clearly stated invitations to accept Christ coupled with a heart-felt plea still work! Many young men in the ministry are passionately defiant to a public invitation for people to accept Christ or make a decision because they have seen distasteful invitations used by preachers. Though many have abused the public invitation, we shouldn’t cast the concept aside completely. Christ regularly invited people to respond to His preaching and to act upon the truths He shared. Rather than laying the practice aside, let’s diligently seek to preach and conduct invitations that are absent of coercion and emotional manipulation. Preach the Word and give people an opportunity to respond. You may have people sitting in front of you who want to respond to God’s work in their heart but just don’t know how. A public invitation is not a method to generate numbers but a method in which we can help people become doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1).

4. Some of our greatest hurt in ministry will come from those closest to us. People we lead to the Lord, disciple, and invest in can often be the ones who seem to cause our deepest pain. They make decisions and say things that cut to the very quick of our heart and leave us breathless in pain. Our flesh walks away from those situations with a desire to build up walls of protection that prevent us from ever being hurt again. Those walls often take the form of isolation and distance from people. The problem with that response is that the farther we are removed from people, the less ministry we are able to have. I pray regularly that God would protect our hearts from responding the wrong way to the hurts in the ministry. Though every fiber of our being wants to curl up in our offices and lick our wounds, we must continue forward in ministry with a focus on God’s unchanging faithfulness.

5. A ministry-servant’s generosity and sacrifice is not overlooked by God. The most giving people I know are on the front lines of ministry. They regularly see and hear of needs in people’s lives and give countless hours of energy and money to help. Few people will ever know what you have given and done, but God does (Hebrews 6:10). I’m often tempted to think, “Who is thinking of and trying to provide for my needs that are being created by my meeting the needs of others?” I want to know that there is a group of people who know all my needs and stand with outstretched arms ready to meet any need that I face. Though God may use people to meet our needs, He always has been and always will be the benevolent Giver who knows and cares for us. Though you may not see countless people waiting in the wings to meet your needs, there is a God in Heaven who knows all you are doing and will always provide exactly what you need when you need it. Keep giving and sacrificing, and watch God meet your needs.

You are not alone in this wonderful endeavor called ministry. Your harvest field may seem a long way from the harvest field of Folsom, but our God is with each of us. We each have the same commission and with that commission comes the same promise, “Lo, I am with you alway.”

When difficulties come… (pt.2)

6 01 2016

I want to draw your attention to the word manifold in I Peter 1:6 which says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”

The largest stained glass window in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, resides in Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, Illinois. Pickel Studio created this window using over 22,000 square feet of faceted glass. It contains 2,448 panels. Each of the 2,448 panels are individually designed and uniquely different from all the other panels. In describing the panels, we could say that the window has a manifold collection of panels.

God teaches us that the difficulties or trials we face in life are a part of a manifold collection. Each one is unique to the individual and different from the trials that others face. God looks at the unique needs of our life and chooses a trial that is specifically chosen to try our faith.

When trials come, don’t be overwhelmed with the unique trials that God places in your life. He has a special resource to you that is as uniquely designed as your trial is. The Greek word for manifold is found one other time in the book of I Peter. In chapter 4 verse 10, it is used to describe God’s grace. The combination of these two verses using these two words teaches us that God has manifold grace for your manifold trials!

The wonderful message of God’s grace is that in addition to what we pack ourselves to help us think right during trials, God has personally packed a special dose of grace in our bags that can be used when we respond to trials with humility (I Peter 5:6).



When difficulties come… (pt.1)

6 01 2016

I seem to always forget at least one thing when I travel. Sometimes it has been something that is very important like a toothbrush or a belt. Other times it has been an item that just created an inconvenience for me, like headphones or the book I wanted to read. My persistent forgetfulness of items has led me to create a small travel checklist that I keep in my briefcase to help me to remember everything I need and like to have when I travel.

All of us have begun traveling through 2016. We have destinations, expectations, and plans for this trip through the year, and it is essential that we pack correctly for it. I hope that we would all put Biblical thinking about trials, or difficulties, on our packing checklists for this year, because whether or not we’ve planned for them, we will inevitably be met with them this year, in varying degrees. To help us do that, I will be using today’s email and the next two to help us think right when difficulty comes our way.

I Peter 1:6-7 teaches us five things about trials.

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

  1. There is no trial so large that it prevents the Christian from experiencing joy. This aspect is found in the phrase “ye greatly rejoice.” As a Christian, we have a fountain of joy through the presence of the Holy Spirit that is disconnected from external stimuli. Regardless of what is happening around us and to us, we can have joy that stems from within.
  2. Trials are momentary. They will only last a season. That season may be a week, a month, or even years; but it is only a season.
  3. Trials are necessary. The text says, “if need be.” There are some lessons that seem to only be learned through hardship. God is the Master Teacher Who knows not only what we need to learn but how to teach it in a way we will remember.
  4. Trials are uncomfortable. God knows the “heaviness” of our difficulties. He is not distant from us in that regard. His knowledge of our uncomfortableness enables Him to be truly compassionate, while doing that which is necessary in our lives.
  5. Trials reveal our faith. They have a way of breaking through all the calloused layers of our heart and revealing the true object and quality of our faith.

During a trial, we often consume ourselves with the questions why is this happening and when will it be over. Instead, we should preoccupy ourselves with the questions what is this difficulty revealing about my faith and does my faith praise and honor God?”

Can you pack these five things about thinking right about tries for our trip through 2016? Can we make sure we are asking the right questions when the difficulty comes? Together, I look forward to seeing the way God reveals and develops our faith here at FBC.