Monday, June 20, 2022

LET'S ROLL!

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week we talked about where along the way did Christians stop openly sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . and went to what I call “the learning by osmosis” theory. I discussed that I don’t blame the Christian body, as they were never taught and encouraged to openly share the gospel. I want to do a follow up this week to that post.
     On 9/11 in the year of 2001 many of you remember what Todd Beamer said who was a passenger on a jet over Pennsylvania that had been commandeered by terrorists. The westbound plane unexpectedly veered back eastward, and by that time the passengers learned by cell phone calls with family members about the three jets already crashed in New York City and Washington D.C. They knew that all the lives of the people in the plane were in danger, not to mention many other people that were in the targeted building back east, whom many thought later to be the White House. Mr. Beamer famously encouraged nine other passengers and two flight attendants to thwart the attack in his final statement heard over a phone call he made to an airline phone worker. Mr. Beamer said to the group, “Let’s roll!” The action of those brave people likely prevented an even greater disaster.

     Do you see the parallel to the world today? Do you understand there is a diabolical scheme conjured up by someone exponentially eviler than the terrorists of 9/11? You do realize, don’t you, that this evil schemer’s end is inevitable, and he, like the terrorists in those jets, want to take you, and as many people as possible out with him?
     Considering that, I want to be like Todd Beamer to attempt to thwart the enemy. I want to be one of many to say, “Let’s roll” in openly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost to save them from disaster.

Until I see you next time, keep sharing the love of Jesus,
Arlen

Sunday, June 12, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 4: IS IT TIME TO OPEN UP?

 


"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week we discussed what were the influences in our lives that directed us toward coming to Jesus. I gave examples in my own life of the people and things that influenced me. The sad thing to me is the fact that not one of those nine influences openly and directly shared the gospel with me. And for sure I didn’t have one person available to follow along to disciple me, as was encouraged by Jesus in Matthew 28:19. The people and things I mentioned last time as influencers made me think about there being something more to life, but none shared with me exactly how to find the something more. So that’s why my post today is entitled, “Evangelism Question 4: Is It Time to Open Up?”
     Hindsight is always 20/20 . . . but what if the influencers in my life had openly shared the gospel with me, or you, rather than to allow us to come to Christ by a type of learning by osmosis process? And what if they had followed along with us to disciple us?


     I don’t fault the influencers in my life. They were never taught and encouraged to openly share the gospel. And they were never taught and encouraged to disciple ones like me after accepting Christ. But I do fault the church, and church leaders. I don’t, however, want to be dogmatic in advocating punishment for the church and church leaders for their failures. On the other hand, I want to be a change agent, one of many, who turns the church around in this area.
     Let’s start by asking WHY did we stop openly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and teaching and encouraging others to do so? I have a few of my own thoughts, but I also welcome your thoughts about why:
  1. Feeling inadequate to share. The gospel message and the Bible are things you and I will never understand 100%. I think God made it that way. The mystery and intrigue of the gospel message is what makes it so wonderful. We never know it completely, and we can constantly learn more and more about it.
  2. Feeling ill at ease sharing the gospel with others. I took a Dallas Theological Seminary online course, and the instructor made it clear that we will likely never feel totally comfortable sharing the gospel with other people. But he made it clear that is no reason to stop doing it, and God can work in us despite our feeling of unease.
  3. Somewhere along the way, church leaders stopped teaching us HOW to share the gospel, and they stopped encouraging us TO share the gospel.
     WHEN then, did we, individually and collectively, stop openly sharing the gospel message with others?
  1. I don’t think anyone really knows. We do know the apostles and the early church DID openly share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ wherever they went, and whoever they spoke to, even if it meant people would go so far to put them to death for doing so.
  2. I also think the “familiarity breeds contempt” type of phrase applies. Or perhaps an applicable phrase for non-sharing of the gospel might be “familiarity breeds passivity”. Remember how excited you and I were when we first started a new job, a new hobby, and even a new relationship. Then sometime later our excitement turned almost to disdain. Below are some examples of the familiarity breeds contempt or passivity concept:
  • First Example: My North Central Technical College graduation in 1990 as an older adult: Up to that point I had blue collar jobs, mostly as a factory or construction worker. But after I got my degree in Social Services, I got a professional job working in community mental health, had my own office cubicle, and wore slacks and a dress shirt instead of blue jeans and a t-shirt. I loved sitting in meetings with other professionals and helping mental health clients in the community . . . instead of running a machine. After almost 29 years in that job, however, I was more than ready to retire. The increased mental health “red tape”, productivity and political correctness requirements, and incompetent co-workers led me to feel almost contempt, or passivity about my job. I went from a starry-eyed dreamer to a weary worker. Don’t get me wrong. I developed many wonderful relationships during those years, but I don’t regret retiring, especially since open evangelism on the job in community mental health was not allowed.
  • Second Example: Remember when you and I first came to Christ: Remember how excited we were when we accepted Jesus as our Savior? We wanted to tell everyone we knew about what happened to us. Then over time the excitement wore off. Perhaps family and friends started giving us the cold shoulder, maybe even calling us religious fanatics. Our sharing of Christ somewhere along the line may have ground to, almost a virtual halt.
  • Third Example: Over time since the Acts of the Apostles our fervor for sharing the gospel has waxed and waned. Currently it is my strong opinion that it is in a waning cycle. Many pastors and church leaders share with gusto their opinions on their beliefs about the Bible. But few share with gusto encouragement to their flock to fulfil The Great Commission.
     What then, are the steps to change from passivity to an open sharing of the gospel?
  1. Admit there’s a problem. The Great Commission in the Bible is very clear. When we don’t “go, therefore, and make disciples”, as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:19, I think strongly we have a problem.
  2. Prayer: In a May 16 post, I talked about the many instances where Jesus and His disciples encouraged us repeatedly to ask Him to meet our needs, and He would grant them. I quoted ten scripture passages then, and there are many more, so I’m not going to repeat them here. Would you and I agree that to openly share the gospel with a dying world is a dire need? If so, according to Jesus and his disciples, we should pray for that dire need to openly share the gospel, and He will respond and give us our request. He promised to do so.
  3. Start a movement. My whole purpose of the Soulwinnersr.us website in the first place over a year ago, was to start a movement, beginning with myself, to encourage myself, and others, to begin to openly share the gospel with a dying world.
     So, there you have it. I feel very strongly that the time has come, “To Open Up” in sharing the Gospel.

So, until I see you next time, keep sharing the love of Jesus,
Arlen

Saturday, June 4, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 3: WHAT TIPPED OUR SCALES TOWARD JESUS?

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Today I want to explore the variety of means that God used to get yours and my attention resulting in our accepting Him as our Savior and Lord. I entitled the post “Evangelism Question 3: What Tipped Our Scales Toward Jesus?” I want to explore, the influences in our lives that helped direct us toward coming to Jesus.
     The first obvious answer is that the God by His Holy Spirit drew us to Jesus, according to John 6:44. Who else, or what else did God by His Holy Spirit use to exert influence on you and me to help us decide to follow Jesus?
     I came to Christ by myself, and the Holy Spirit of course, inside my car, driving around Holmes County on the day of my Amish Grandpa’s funeral. But there were other influences in my life before that time which I believe strongly were sent by God's Holy Spirit that tipped the scales for me toward Jesus. Here they are:
  1. Myron Weaver, my sixth grade Martins Creek Mennonite Church boys club leader: Myron didn’t come right out and share Christ with us boys, but he had a quiet, gentle spirit about him. I still remember the sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of a campout on a farm hillside. Myron showed great patience teaching us crafts, and I especially remember weaving keychain fobs from plastic strands, although I wasn’t very good at figuring out the various weaving configurations. Boy, I wish I still had my woven key fob!
  2. The “Angels We Have Heard on High” song: Mom had a Christmas album sung by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. The song “Angels We Have Heard on High" had a profound influence on me with its story of the angels coming to the shepherds in the field to proclaim the birth of Jesus. I listened to that song, and still do, repeatedly.
  3. A set of Bible encyclopedias: I remember scrolling through the pages of the books of that set and being fascinated at the many pictures. I was never much of a reader like my brother Merv, but the pictures of Jesus, the apostles, the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and again the wonderful pictures of angels captured my imagination. 
  4. The Brunk Revival tent meetings: Almost every year two fields away from us in the flat valley near Berlin, Ohio the Brunk Revival meeting drew my ear as my brother and I played ball in our big front yard, and as Mom sat contentedly on the front porch listening to the music and the sermon, which boomed from the loudspeakers across the fields.
  5. A church revival meeting: In my early twenties I attended a revival meeting at Martins Creek Mennonite Church during the time I was running from God. I remember being so convicted of my sins that I kicked up stones as I sped out of the parking lot in my brand-new Camaro before the service was completed. I had a good job, plenty of money, but still felt extremely empty.
  6. Grandma Miller with her kind smile and acceptance: I could never understand, however, when she repeatedly said that she was ready to die and go to heaven to meet with her husband, my Grandpa Lee who died before I was one year old.
  7. My Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mary: My uncle and aunt didn’t share with me directly about the love of Jesus, but the fact that they followed Him was evident. And whatever you think of it, right or wrong, the fact they were very involved in the PTL Club in North Carolina. Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mary repeatedly invited me into their home when I was single after their children left to start their own families. I can still hear them saying whenever they saw me, “Stop by anytime!”
  8. Uncle Bob and Aunt Ellene in Indiana: I knew that Uncle Bob and Aunt Ellene shared a faith that I didn’t have, or just had a semblance of. I went to visit them a couple times during my searching years. I wanted to explore why they and their children, Steve, Bruce, and Beth carved out paths of faith so different than what I experienced in my sheltered Amish/Mennonite community.
  9. My Amish Grandpa, uncles, aunt, and all their families: My Amish relatives were not open, as is the case with most of the people listed previously, to share about their relationships each had with God, His Son Jesus, and the Blessed Holy Spirit. But I have very fond memories of each and their love for their families and God, and I look forward to meeting them again someday in heaven.
     These are a few of the influential people and experiences I had that tipped my scales toward Jesus. How about you? 
     The next time I want to explore how to change from being reluctant sharers of Jesus with others, which I experienced much of growing up . . . to open sharers of His great love . . . with the goal of expediting instances of family members, friends, and others following Christ!

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, May 28, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 2: ESTABLISHING AND ADOPTING EVANGELISM BEST PRACTICE?

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I’m going back to the Evangelism Question series to address some evangelism questions we might have. I want to qualify that I’m not an evangelism expert, and you and I may fluctuate and differ in our opinions related to evangelism methods.
     I want to propose, however, developing a plan, or plans of action for evangelism that are the most effective. The title of my second Evangelism Question post is “Evangelism Question 2: Establishing and Adopting Evangelism Best Practice?”. "Best Practice” is a term we used in my seemingly long ago 29-year career in mental health. Merriam Webster defines it as the following:
“‘Best Practice’ is a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.”
     In other words, for me working in mental health Supported Employment, my higher ups, which was the Ohio Department of Mental Health, established and adopted Supported Employment Best Practice procedures, which were tested and approved throughout Ohio and the United States as the best way to help people with mental health problems get and keep jobs. I had to trust that they knew best, and I tried my best to follow the outlined Supported Employment Best Practice procedures.
     More recently in sports we hear of analytics being used in making a vast variety of decisions. Analytic specialists are hired to analyze every aspect and procedure used in every corner of building the sports team, including hiring staff, and acquiring and training athletes. It’s thought that to put the best product on the field, it’s beneficial to go about it in a very systematic way. Sports teams usually have millions of dollars at stake, and most have concluded that analytics is a way to get the most bang for their buck.
     You might tell me, “Arlen, evangelism can’t be treated the same way as a sports team, a mental health center,
or a business."
"Where, Arlen, is the Holy Spirit in all this?” I’m not advocating throwing out the Holy Spirit in establishing Evangelism Best Practice. And I’m not advocating using analytics as churches did in the recent past to make them more seeker sensitive. Jesus, after all, didn’t instruct the church to be seeker sensitive to make them as comfortable and non-offensive as possible. He in fact said that many people WOULD be offended and uncomfortable when presented with the Gospel message. But in Matthew 28:19 Jesus DID instruct the church to “make disciples of all nations”! And I think we should use every tool at our disposal to make disciples.
     Is it only me, or do some of the rest of you feel the church does things haphazardly under the guise of following the Holy Spirit? Or perhaps because it’s steeped in traditions that are not easily replaced?
     I’ll give you one example. Why is it that when we get past school and college, and away from our jobs, that being a part of a team in a church to “make disciples” is mostly ignored? We go to church, listen to an encouraging sermon about the wonderful blessings we have in Christ . . . which is true . . . but we’re usually never encouraged and trained to take the gospel into the world in which we live? For the most part we leave our church buildings or gatherings uninspired to go out and make a difference in the lives of people!
     I don’t have enough influence in church institutions to personally make them change their approach. But I want to be part of a movement, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to start the church to thinking about Establishing and Adopting Evangelism Best Practice.

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, May 22, 2022

OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER!

 



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. People from all over the United States and the world, about 4 million per year, visit the Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. They come to see the hot water geyser erupt well over 100 feet in the air at least 17 times per day. What is it about the geyser, and the 500 other geysers in the park that make them so interesting?
     People enjoy the spectacular beauty and phenomena of nature. Old Faithful is a natural phenomenon that is visited more than the other geysers simply because of its power and predictability. The other geysers are interesting to look at with the steam pouring out of them . . . but Old Faithful is by far the main attraction.
     Old Faithful Geyser didn’t ask to become a famous natural wonder. For many centuries it erupted in obscurity, except for the Native Indian tribes. It was discovered by American explorers in the late 1800’s, and in 1872 President Grant designated the area as a national park. If you can believe it, the first explorers and visitors used the steamy hot water of Old Faithful for the practical purpose of laundering their clothes.
     You may ask, "Arlen, why are you bringing up Old Faithful Geyser in relation to your Soulwinnersr.us website?" I’m doing it because of what I believe are three of the most beautiful and meaningful Bible passages. You’ll readily recognize them.
  1. In John 4:10 Jesus asked a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water. She questioned why Jesus, a Jew, even talked with her: 
    Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”
  2. In John 4:13-14, after the woman didn’t understand what Jesus meant, He further explained:
    “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life."
  3. Then in John 7:37-39, while addressing a large crowd, came the climax of Jesus’ discourses about living water. Here it is:
    “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified."
     Do you get it? Literally a geyser of living water, if we believe in Jesus, can erupt from deep within us. The living water gets to the point, just like Old Faithful, where it can’t be held any longer. It will be very evident to all outsiders. In fact, it will be so evident that people will be drawn to us, just like Old Faithful. They will want to experience the living water geyser firsthand, and they will marvel at its power and predictability. They will naturally want to tell their friends about it.
     We will go from obscurity, just like Old Faithful, to becoming a destination for people to visit. We readily realize however, that just like Old Faithful’s power and predictability was provided by an outside source, our power and predictability also come from an outside source. They come from God’s living water given to us by His Holy Spirit that wells up within us.

See you next time,
Arlen

Monday, May 16, 2022

THE POWER OF ASKING AND RECEIVING!



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Hello Friends:

     The last three weeks I have posted about superhero power.
  1. “Does the Church Have Superhero Power? If Not, Why Not?"
  2. “Holy Spirit Power Like A Powerful Muscle Car!”
  3. “The Living, Active, Enduring Power of God’s Word!"
     Today is likely my last post about superhero power. We often talk about the power of prayer. But I want to dig a little deeper into the power of praying to an omniscient and omnipresent God.
     Omniscient means that God is all-knowing, and has infinite awareness, understanding, and insight. David, in Psalm 139:1-6 explains it more eloquently than I ever could:
“Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
you understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.
This wondrous knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.”
     Omnipresent means that God is always in all places at all times. In Psalm 139:7-14 David goes on to explain:
“Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I fly on the wings of the dawn
and settle down on the western horizon,
even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.”
     Bible passages like these two simply blow me away! But what blows me away even more is the fact that with God’s omniscience and omnipresence, that he is just waiting for us to use “The Power of Asking and Receiving!”, which is the title of my last superhero power post.
     I’m not going to elaborate long on the following ten Bible passages that explain the power of asking and receiving. The verses speak for themselves. Let them sink deep into your soul. These are not just feel-good verses. They have power to change the way we think about God.
     Also, I encourage you and I not to get hung up on the fact that our prayers haven’t been answered in the past. God’s Word is true, and we need to take them at face value. Wondrous answers to our prayers are on the way:
  1. Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
  2. Matthew 21:21-22: Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
  3. John 4:10 (Jesus and the Samaritan Woman): Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”
  4. John 14:12-14: “Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
  5. John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
  6. John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.”
  7. John 16:23-24: “In that day you will not ask me anything. Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
  8. 1 John 3:21-22: “Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight.”
  9. 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.”
  10. Lastly, Revelation 3:20: "See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me."
     This last Revelation 3:20 passage to me is by far the greatest example of the Power of Asking and Receiving in the Bible . . . for us to ask Jesus to come into the door of our lives. And for him to enter and eat with us . . . for eternity!

See you next time,
Arlen


Sunday, May 1, 2022

THE LIVING, ACTIVE, ENDURING POWER OF GOD'S WORD!


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Hello Friends:

     Last week the post “Holy Spirit Power Like a Powerful Muscle Car” was viewed almost a record number of times . . . at least for me. I didn't use Bible verses like I usually do in my posts. But I think it was a good analogy of a weak car overhauled to be a powerful muscle car . . . being like God by His Holy Spirit overhauling a weak person to make them into a powerful person, at least powerful in his or her inner spirit.
     Today I want to WOW you with the post, “The Living, Active, Enduring Power of God's Word!" I really love the Bible, and God speaking to us from the Bible. Many of you have heard the joke about a man trying to seek God's direction by randomly opening Bible passages instead of reading the Bible systematically:
  • The first passage in Matthew 27:5 reads: “Then he (Judas) went and hanged himself.”
  • The second passage in Luke 10:37 reads: “Go, and do thou likewise.”
  • The third passage in John 13:27 reads: ”What thou doest, do speedily.”
     The joke is funny
 . . . but I strongly question the premise that says a person cannot be directed by God by reading random Bible passages. In fact, I would further go on to say that the Bible is so jam-packed with powerful words, that a person can in fact read random Bible passages to be inspired!
     But I digress. Back to the post. I used the three adverbs: living, active, and enduring in the title of this post because that’s exactly what the Bible says about God’s Living Word in the following scripture passages:
  • Hebrews 12:2: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword.”
  • 1 Peter 1:23: “ . . . because you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.”
     In the post we’ll also explore the term: “God's Word”, or “Word of God", or some derivative used over 1000 times throughout the Bible. I'll say it again. OVER 1000 TIMES!
     First, if you explore the Old Testament the terms are used almost exclusively related to words spoken directly by God to the Israelite leaders and prophets. The leaders and prophets in turn repeated God’s words to the people. If the people accepted and obeyed words from the Lord spoken to the leaders and prophets, the people curried God’s favor and received His blessings. BUT, when they openly disobeyed God’s spoken words, they received God's curses that resulted in death, famine, or plagues.
     God’s leaders and prophets many times intervened with their own words of petition back to God to have mercy on the people, and most times God listened and relented. Although he didn’t eliminate the punishment entirely, in most cases he lessened it.
     Another example of the importance of God’s Word in the Old Testament is found in Psalm 119, which is the longest chapter in the Bible. It has 176 verses, and each verse talks about the importance of listening to, and obeying God’s revealed words, laws, instructions, decrees, commands, statutes, etc. Think of it. The psalmist thought God’s Word to be so important that he wrote 176 consecutive verses about it!
     To further the point that the power of God’s Word is living, active, and enduring are the following breakdowns of the term used in the New Testament:
  • The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John refers to the term God's Word, Word of God, or some derivative: over 80 times.
  • Book of Acts: 40 times.
  • Epistles, which are the writings of Paul, Peter, John, Jude: Over 60 times.
  • Revelation by John the Revelator: 17 times.
     So, the total references to the terms about God’s Word is used almost 200 times in the New Testament alone! The conclusion can be made that the almost 1000 Bible references to the terms about God’s Word should give us some indication of how important it was to God getting His message across to mankind, and how powerful it was!
     But what was God’s real plan in His written message with so many references to the term God's Word, or Word of God, etc.? It’s clear that He was making known with His written Word . . . about His “Living Word”!
     The following four scripture passages make it clear:
  1. John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  2. John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
  3. 1 John 1:1-4: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.”
  4. Revelation 19:13: “He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.”
     So, who was made flesh (a man) and dwelt among us (which means living among the disciples and the rest of the people in Israel at that time)? And who was revealed to the disciples, that they saw with their own eyes? And who was the only person who wore a robe dipped in blood? It’s evident from these four passages that the Living Word of God was and is Jesus!
     So, Jesus, God’s Living Word . . . and the over 1000 references to God’s written Word throughout the Bible give reassuring evidence of: "The Living, Active, Enduring Power of God's Word!"

See you next time,
Arlen

Thursday, April 21, 2022

HOLY SPIRIT POWER LIKE A POWERFUL MUSCLE CAR!

 



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I’ve decided to forego, because of lack of interest, my “Evangelism Questions” series I was going to do. I laugh with my wife at my usually “un-viral videos" . . . but the Evangelism Questions series were especially un-viral. I do look at the number of views of each of my videos, but I don’t think I’m obsessed about it . . . at least not yet! (Note: I’m only joking. I realize that videos about soulwinning isn’t on the radar of most people as “must-see TV”.)
     I’m going to aim my focus again on power for evangelism. Today’s title is “Holy Spirit Power Like a Powerful Muscle Car!” During research for my recent website posts I found out that the word “power” is mentioned 385 times in the Bible, and 121 times in the New Testament alone I am astonished that not more attention is given to the topic of Holy Spirit power for evangelism.
     There has been over my forty-four years of Christianity a lot of talk about “the power of prayer”, “the power of happiness”, and even “the power to get wealth”. There are many books about the Holy Spirit. But I have never seen a focused sermon, book, or video about Holy Spirit power for evangelism. I’m not saying they don’t exist. I’m just saying that in my over forty years of Christianity I haven’t seen any.
     I looked today and John Wimber in the mid 1980’s wrote a book entitled “Power Evangelism”. It was about the signs and wonders that accompanied the apostles in the Book of Acts, and how we can today engage the Holy Spirit to gain that same power, accompanied by signs and wonders that will lead to evangelizing others. I don’t want to minimize signs and wonders that will likely accompany the power of the Holy Spirit. But I first want to focus on some of the basics, and the first one is to understand and embrace that the power is real.
     I want to focus more on why Jesus and His apostles so many times used the term power associated with the Holy Spirit. And why they repeatedly stressed so many times in their speech and writings the power that lives inside each believer. Also, the fact that we rarely talk about that power, rarely feel that power, and rarely acknowledge that the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives even exists. Most of us, myself included, don’t feel very powerful in our Christian lives.
     A lot of preachers and teachers get up in front of their congregations and speak their message loudly and forcefully. They try to exude confidence that what they say is very powerful, and worth hearing. I can understand where they're coming from. After all, in these videos I'm trying to use confidence, and share with a degree of power words that are worth hearing. But I’m not talking about forceful and convincing messages, and even videos. I pray that God will take care of that in each of us at the appropriate times.
     I’m talking more about an inner strength that the Holy Spirit gives, that most times has a quiet power about it. It’s the kind of power that hums quietly like the powerful engine of a muscle car, that can come to life at any time when the driver pushes the accelerator pedal. It allows the driver to get to the destination with a slow steady pace, or a powerful fast pace, depending on the need at the time.
     I’m asserting that you and I as Christians are just like that powerful muscle car. Our engine was overhauled by God when we came to Christ. Before Christ we were like a 1970 Ford Mustang with a V-6 engine. I’m using that example because a 1970 candy apple red Mustang was my dream car that I desperately wanted at the age of eighteen. It was a plain Mustang with very little real power, but it was very nice looking. My Dad, however, had to sign for me to get a loan for the car, and he quickly put an end to my dream. He wanted me, at my young age, to get a bigger, safer car, which I ended up doing.


     But if I took that beautiful candy apple red Mustang and had it overhauled with a 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet engine, adjusted the suspension and some other parts of the car, it would have turned into a true muscle car, much like a 1970 Ford Mach 1.


     This is like us after we are overhauled by God. We turn from a plain 1970 candy apple red Mustang, which looks nice on the outside, but has very little real power . . . to a 1970 Ford Mach 1 muscle car. We just need to learn how to harness that raw power to reach the destinations God has for us. One of those destinations He wants us to go to is to a place of telling others about Jesus.

See you next time,
Arlen

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

DOES THE CHURCH HAVE SUPERHERO POWER? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I’m doing another brief interlude to my normal posts. This post is something I thought about with my last Evangelism Question post. It’s entitled “Does the Church Have Superhero Power? If Not, Why Not?” I’ve touched on this theme before, but I think it’s a very important topic to consider again and again.
     I think that Christianity gets a bad rap because many, many people, especially our younger generation, think of the church to a large degree, as being wimpy and boring. They don’t see Christians as having any real power, and if you get right down to it, any real joy. I will own up to my own part that I play in that.
     Young people, and even many older people, are almost addicted to action games and movies where they live vicariously through the online or movie heroes that save the world, or at least their part of the world, against an evil villain. I love westerns and am amazed how drawn into the Old West action I get, and I will even say Old West violence. After all, the heroes are justified in using violence to save innocent people. Right? But that’s a debate for another day.
     Where’s the church losing out? What can we do to instill a sense of action and adventure into our Christian faith? I don’t advocate for us to drum up false excitement and adventure, or to renew our somewhat failed seeker sensitive strategies. But just like the goal of my Soulwinnersr.us website was to instill the focus for myself, and perhaps others, toward evangelism . . . I think that we should perhaps have focus groups or if you will, think tanks, to figure out how to instill the sense of adventure and great joy back into our Christian faith. We’re failing, and it’s critical to look at why we’re failing.
     We’re not failing because of a wimpy and boring story. The Bible is packed full of adventure, intrigue, action, and power. After all, God, His son Jesus, and His Holy Spirit are the most powerful superheroes ever, right? Let’s look at the term “power” in the Bible. Through the wonder of the internet, I counted how many times the term power, powerful, powered, etc. was mentioned in the Bible.
  • 385 times
  • 264 times in the Old Testament
  • 121 times in the New Testament
     For the sake of time, I’m only going to look at just a few New Testament references to the term power:
  1. John the Baptist referred to Jesus in Matthew 3:11 as “more powerful than I.”
  2. Jesus’ hometown people of Nazareth were “astonished” at His miraculous powers in Matthew 13:54.
  3. Jesus said in Matthew 24:30 about his return to earth “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
  4. The angel Gabriel in Luke 1:35 told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
  5. Luke referenced Jesus in Luke 4:14 as going to Galilee “in the power of the spirit”, where the “news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity.” In other words, Jesus went viral. 
  6. Luke referenced one of the Bible’s many instances of Jesus’ power to heal in Luke 6:19, where it says, “The whole crowd was trying to touch him, because power was coming out from him and healing them all.” 
  7. Jesus gave out His power to others for the first time in Luke 9:1 where he summoned his disciples, and “he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.” 
  8. Jesus in Acts 1:8 told his disciples before he ascended to heaven on a cloud that they would receive Holy Spirit “power” to be witnesses everywhere they went. 
  9. Paul referred to Jesus in Romans 1:4 as “the powerful Son of God”, and in Romans 1:16 that Jesus demonstrated “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” 
  10. Paul wrote in Romans 15:13 that he wanted the Romans to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
     I could go on and on a couple hours about references to power in the New Testament alone. Ephesians 1:19 refers to ‘the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength”. Don’t you and I usually feel wimpy and insignificant. So, it’s difficult to think of the limitless power that we have in God and His Son Jesus!
     We talked earlier about the power of superheroes to save the world from evil villains. The evilest villain in the entire history of mankind is Satan. Satan’s plan is not only to kill people, but to make them suffer unbearably in the process.
     Only God’s plan can thwart Satan’s diabolical scheme. Acts 10:38 reported that Jesus healed “all who were under the tyranny of the devil.” Where have we heard of the tyranny of a dictator recently? 
     Ephesians 6:12 says that we struggle against “the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” The definition of cosmic according to Merriam Webster is the following: “Of or relating to the cosmos, the extraterrestrial vastness”. Then Merriam Webster further defines cosmic as the following: “Characterized by greatness especially in extent, intensity, or comprehensiveness.” In other words, our struggle against the devil and evil is so big the human mind can’t comprehend it. Talk about the need for superhero power!
     Many young people and older people alike are transfixed by stories of cosmic implications like the Marvel movies, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, and many others. How can we instill in them, and us, the cosmic implications and need for church superhero power . . . before it’s too late?

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, April 10, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 1: BIBLE EXAMPLES


 

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week I did a post on “The Divine Intervention Show”, a take-off on the show “Intervention” about drug and alcohol addicts that are facing death if they don’t get help from intervention specialists to overcome their addictions. The Divine Intervention Show, on the other hand, would be about people facing spiritual death if they don’t get help from divine intervention specialists filled with God’s Holy Spirit, leading them to give their lives to Jesus.
     Now I’m back to the seven-post series about evangelism questions to try to shed a bright light on some very important specifics to introduce Jesus to unsaved family members, friends, and others. My first post is entitled, “Evangelism Question 1: Bible Examples.” I want us to look at key Bible, or scriptural examples of what evangelism is all about.

First, let’s define evangelism:
  • The Cambridge Dictionary defines evangelism as “the activity of persuading people to become Christians, often by traveling around and telling people about your beliefs”. A pertinent Bible verse explaining evangelism is found in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Therefore since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people.” This Bible verse doesn’t use the exact word evangelism, but it clearly defines it by using the phrase, “persuade people”.
Next, let’s define an evangelist:
  • The Cambridge Dictionary defines an evangelist as “a person who tries to persuade people to become Christians, often by traveling around and organizing religious meetings”. So, evangelism is “the ACTIVITY of persuading people” . . . and an evangelist is “the PERSON who tries to persuade people to become Christians.
  • Ephesians 4:11 talks about the ministries of Jesus, including using the specific term “evangelist”. Here it is: “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” Paul specifically used the term “evangelist”.
     Now, let’s look at whether only a trained and gifted “evangelist” is authorized to do evangelism, or to “persuade people to become Christians”. D.T. Niles, in his book “That They Might Have Life” declared the following well known statement:
  • “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” I know that quote isn’t directly taken from the Bible . . . but isn’t it the very essence of evangelism . . . “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread?”
     Jesus didn’t just commission trained evangelists to go out, organize evangelistic meetings, and persuade people to become Christians. Acts 1:8 is one of several Bible passages where He commissioned ordinary fishermen, tax collectors, and various other untrained people to do the work of evangelism. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
     Please, please recognize the power we have as Christians when we are filled with the Holy Spirit as were the disciples in Acts! I realize that a couple places in Acts have examples of people speaking in tongues . . . and there are groups of people that emphasize speaking in tongues as being the catalyst by which all Holy Spirit power is manifested. But the filling and power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t come exclusively to those who speak in tongues. Let’s look at tongues just a little bit to clarify:
  • Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:4: “The person who speaks in another tongue builds himself up.” So, tongues are generally to build a person up in his or her personal faith.
  • Paul then wrote in verse 39, “do not forbid speaking in other tongues.”
  • BUT, Paul wrote in verse 19 about public church gatherings, “I would rather speak five words with my understanding, in order to teach others, than ten thousand words in another tongue.”
  • So, I think it’s safe to say that tongues can serve a purpose, just like many other Bible-based practices. Tongues can never, however, be the foundation piece that we stand on to be able to do evangelism.
     The Holy Spirit’s power inside us doesn’t come exclusively from speaking in tongues. It comes from the following sources:
  1. First, the Holy Spirit’s power comes inside us immediately when we confess and turn from our sins, and do as Paul wrote in Romans10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  2. Second, the Holy Spirit’s power comes to each of us after we commit our lives to Christ, and each of us is now a “temple” of God, filled with His Holy Spirit.
    • In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul states emphatically to Christians, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in You?” God’s temple isn’t just the one in Jerusalem built by Solomon. And it’s definitely not the church structures where Christians meet. God’s temple is you and I, individually and collectively, where God’s great Holy Spirit power now resides.
  3. Third, the Holy Spirit’s power comes from having a close, intimate relationship with God and His love. James wrote in James 4:8, Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” I think the Bible is plain. Closeness to God is the greatest catalyst toward having tremendous Holy Spirit power, including great power for you and I . . . to be evangelists.
See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, April 2, 2022

THE DIVINE INTERVENTION SHOW!

 



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I was planning, and am still planning, on doing a seven-week series on “Evangelism Questions”. But something else grabbed my attention. I mentioned two days ago in a Facebook post, “The Missing X-Factor”, where I referenced the “Intervention” TV show about drug and alcohol addicts that are virtually on the last leg of life due to their addictions. Their loved ones are desperate to the point they called the show to give them help to literally save the lives of their family members.
     You will likely think I’m a little bit, in mental health speak, too “religiously preoccupied”, but when watching the Intervention TV show, it reminded me of another “death” that is far more diabolical than the earthly death feared by the families of the addicts in the show. It’s eternal death in hell.
     I think with all my heart that Satan wants to minimize in our minds and hearts the impact of this death. He wants us to put off thinking about it so long that we die before we find the answer to turn around to avoid it.
     I’m proposing another TV show. It’s called “The Divine Intervention Show!” The focus of this show will be about loved ones so concerned about the fate of their family members heading toward eternal death in hell, that they also call on a team. They call on a team of “Divine Intervention Specialists”. These specialists are filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and they have a direct line to God through the Spirit that help them with the supernatural intervention that is needed to turn the afflicted family member around.
     One thing that struck me about the current Intervention show is that God was rarely mentioned by the Intervention team, and if so, it was only in passing. Then, if the family member agreed to take up the Intervention specialist offer to go for treatment, the family member was sent by plane to the treatment center destination. At the airport they were greeted by treatment professionals, I didn’t see "God" being mentioned in treatment direction, and He wasn’t referenced at all in any of the names of the treatment centers.
     It reminded me very much of the Dr. Phil Show, who follows the same pattern. Dr. Phil offers treatment, all expenses paid to many of his guests, and may mention God in passing, but rarely does so. The show is almost exclusively about secular self-help strategies that can be good to some degree, but they don’t reach the root of the problem, which is sin.
     The Divine Intervention Show, on the other hand would address sin straight up. Sin is, after all, the driving factor in addictions, dysfunctions, violence, and a myriad of other maladies leading to eternal death.
     Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
     None of us want our family members to go on the broad road to destruction and eternal death. Let’s cry out for Divine Intervention and divine intervention specialists, if you will, to help turn them around to accompany us on the narrow road. It’s the only thing that will save their lives!

See you next time,
Arlen

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTIONS: INTRODUCTION

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week I finished the seven-week “Steps to God” series. I really enjoyed making the series based largely on The Roman Road to salvation plan to discuss some basic principles of the gospel. I want to start another 7-week series I have entitled “Evangelism Questions”.
     I want to qualify the fact that I’m not a trained Bible scholar with a degree from an accredited Bible college. I am, however, a longtime Christian layman of over 44 years, and have read the Bible through many, many times. I believe that gives me some credibility in addressing evangelism and soulwinning tips.
     I pray that you find the posts meaningful, but more importantly, that they sway you to take one of two actions:
Action 1: If you don’t already know Jesus as your personal Savior, I pray that you will give Him consideration as someone that can radically change your life.
Action 2: If you are already a Christian, I pray that you will be swayed by these posts to consider reaching out more and more to introduce Jesus to the people in your family, circle of friends, and others.
So, here we go with a basic introduction outline to the seven-week series entitled “Evangelism Questions”.

Week 1. Evangelism Question 1: Bible Examples of Evangelism
  • We’ll discuss Bible characters who Introduced Jesus to other people, and the effectiveness of their actions.
Week 2. Evangelism Question 2: Mass Evangelism Effectiveness
  • Evangelism crusades led by evangelists were very prominent in the past. Many older people remember the “tent revivals” held prominently in their communities. A few ministries still hold them. They are an example of “mass evangelism”. We’ll discuss whether we think that holding mass evangelism crusades are an effective method of introducing Jesus to people . . . or are mass evangelism crusades the easy way out?
Week 3. Evangelism Question 3: One-On-One Evangelism Effectiveness
  • One-on-one evangelism is intimidating to some. It’s intimidating to me. Does one-on-one evangelism have to be intimidating?
Week 4. Evangelism Question 4: Gospel Tract Evangelism Effectiveness
  • Some believers are active in distributing gospel tracts to share their faith with others. Other believers don’t distribute gospel tracts. What do you think about gospel tract effectiveness to introduce Jesus to people?
Week 5. Evangelism Question 5: Christian Clothing and Jewelry Effectiveness in Evangelism
  • Some believers feel comfortable, and others uncomfortable wearing and sharing their faith literally, “on their sleeves”. Where do you stand with wearing clothing and jewelry with a Christian message?
Week 6. Evangelism Question 6: Gospel Sharing Plan Effectiveness
  • Some people state their fear of the fact that many leaders encourage using a specific plan for evangelism. For example: Some encourage using “The Roman Road”, which I use to some degree, to share systematically the gospel with unbelievers. What do you think about using a gospel sharing plan to introduce Jesus to people?
Week 7. Evangelism Question 7: Scripture Memorization Effectiveness in Evangelism
  • Some people state their fear of the fact that many leaders encourage scripture memorization to be able to share specific important scripture verses with unbelievers. What do you think about using memorized scriptures to introduce Jesus to people?
     So, there you have it. I’m greatly looking forward to the next seven weeks as we go through the seven “Evangelism Questions” posts.

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, March 20, 2022

STEPS TO GOD 7: TRANSFORMED!

 



"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Hello Friends: 

     We have today pictures and examples of transformation. You’ll see pictures of people and things that look normal at first. But after a life-changing alteration by an outside force, they were completely transformed into superheroes to save the world. Most of you will readily recognize Clark Kent transformed into Superman

     The second is a picture of the Transformer toy and comic book/movie character, Optimus Prime. Instead of explaining what a Transformer toy is, for those of you who don’t know, I put the link of a very humorous YouTube video about an automatic transformation of the Optimus Prime Transformer. I hope you like it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0SEYM9jHVg

     The title of my Soulwinnersr.us post is obvious. It’s "Steps to God 7: Transformed!" You will likely say to me that in no way can the transformation of a person be as dramatic as the transformation of Clark Kent into Superman, or a non-descript semi-truck into Optimus Prime. I’m here to say, however, that it’s exponentially greater than both!
     Many of us have the false notion that to become a Christian is to accede to becoming a boring person, or even a “bore”. I think that many churches have made becoming a Christian non-attractive by their rules and traditions. The church’s, I’ll call, “four-wall mentality” of being “God’s House” is archaic and quite frankly untrue. The church is God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit living inside of us individually and collectively, not inside the four walls of a church building. Another truth is that God is just waiting to unlock creativity, passion, friendship, and love within us that we never thought possible.
     I’m not talking about manufactured excitement that many of us think about when we think of a church that is “alive”. I’m talking about deep and profound mental insight that we never had before. Paul encouraged in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed by this age, but transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
     What happens when you and I are transformed by the renewing of our minds. I’ll list some examples:

1. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Imagine us being transformed to becoming a light on a hill, that can’t be hidden, that others are able to follow, and navigate by!
2. Paul said in Ephesians 2:7, “He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t subject to just a little bit of grace and love, but grace and love that is so huge that it can’t even be measured.
3. Jesus said in John 15:15, “I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” Jesus isn’t withholding any blessing or insight from us. He’s making known “everything” He heard directly from God.
4. Lastly, Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:16-21 about the great transformative power and love God gives us through Jesus, “I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

     All I can say is, “WOW!" Does that sound like a dull and limiting existence, or an exciting and limitless experience? Also, the transformative power we have as Christians is not only for our own benefit, but also to transform us into superheroes to save our world!
     This is my final Steps to God post. I pray that you found them meaningful. I keep joking with my wife that I’m going downstairs to make my “un-viral video”. That’s OK. My goal in the first place for my Soulwinnersr.us website wasn’t for my videos to become viral. I make the videos to motivate myself first, and perhaps encourage a few others along the way, to join me in the exciting adventure of soulwinning.

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, March 12, 2022

STEPS TO GOD 6: SEALING THE DEAL!

 



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     When I asked Dee to marry me, after she agreed we started making arrangements. But one of the most important steps was to obtain a marriage license. We had to have it approved by a judge with signatures by a court official and a minister that made it official and binding. In essence we sealed the deal of our marriage.
     I’ve been using the tenets of the Roman Road gospel as the basis for most of my seven-post series, with a few other important Bible principles sprinkled in. This sixth post about “Sealing the Deal” is the absolute most important contract we will ever encounter. I want to stress again its vital importance.
     The deal is between two parties, just like the written one here. It, however, is not with a human person, company, or government entity. It’s between you and God only. No one else is involved in the transaction, although there are those standing by our sides, perhaps not physically but in spirit, cheering on the deal. Then we can readily imagine a great roar of approval, perhaps applause, and even a great deal of angelic singing in heaven after the deal is complete.
     So, let’s move on to the precursors and specifics of the deal. We’ve talked about some of them in previous posts:
  1. Recognize our sin. We talked about this in two posts. The first post, “A Veil Over Our Hearts”, is where we determine to do right, but the path to doing right is veiled from us. We don’t even recognize that we have sin getting in our way. My second post, “Help, I Need Somebody”, is the realization that “we need somebody, not just anybody”, but the “somebody” is still not revealed to us. Paul uncovers the barrier directly to us in plain words in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The recognition of sin as a barrier to God is our first step.
  2. Understand the wages of our sin: I referenced it in the post “Unwanted Wages”. Paul in Romans 6:23 stated, “For the wages of sin is death. . .” This isn’t just a physical death, but scripture is clear that it also includes a spiritual death. This death, according to the Bible, results in an eternity in hell with eternal pain and suffering. We all want the best for our lives, right? Acknowledging that we don’t want to live in pain for eternity is the second step.
  3. Accept the gift of God: We talked about this gift, or offer if you will, in a previous post, “An Offer We Can’t Refuse”. After we acknowledge the wages of sin written about in the first part of Romans 6:23, we immediately observe the wonderful gift that God is reaching out His hand to offer us. Here’s the offer, “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God didn’t leave us long to ponder the dire consequences of our sin before He immediately made us aware of His offer of the gift of eternal life.
  4. The nature of God’s gift: The gift offered to us is eternal life “in Christ Jesus our Lord” that we just talked about, but how and why did it come about? It came about, as Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ bridged the gap that we couldn’t bridge ourselves.
  5. Sacrifice for our sins: We often talk about the sacrifice of soldiers who die defending the freedom that we have in America. They’re held up as heroes, and rightfully so. But Christ’s sacrifice was exponentially greater. His sacrifice on the cross was for everyone, not just Americans, so that we all can have the freedom Jesus mentioned in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus then said a little later in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”
     So, there we have from the Bible “Steps to God” that I outlined in my five previous posts. Now, how do we seal the deal? We’ve already concluded that the contract isn’t a physical one where our signature on a piece of paper is the binding factor. We’ll discuss two components of the deal:
  1. Proximity of the two parties entering into the agreement. Before getting married Dee and I met together often, took classes with our pastor, made the decision to get married, then sealed the deal with a signed marriage contract and wedding ceremony. In the same way God draws near to us, or wants to draw near to us, or enter close proximity with each of us: 
    • “See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
    • “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8.
    • “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble”. Psalm 46:1
    • “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  2. Taking action to enter the relationship. At one point I needed to take the step, as scared as I was, to ask Dee to marry me. I really didn’t know exactly how she was going to respond. In the same way, it’s scary to take a leap of faith to trust God, who is so foreign to most of us, and ask Him to enter a personal, intimate relationship with us. We’ve learned from the Bible, however, that God is very close, and just waiting for our invitation. Romans 10:13 states, "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 
     The above listed occurrences we talked about in “steps to God”, occur somewhat naturally. We only realize their significance after the fact. But when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we can’t draw close to God with our own power, we are invited heartily by God to take action to call on His name to save us.
     Romans 10:9 states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When I was a young Christian, I didn’t know the impact the name of Jesus really had. I now understand the great power taking the action of confessing His name has in my life and the lives of others. It makes me want to proclaim His name more and more.
     So, “sealing the deal” of beginning a relationship with God can be somewhat intimidating. Most of us already know that fact by the response we get from family members and friends when we tell them about Jesus. Some of them have said to me, “Arlen, I don’t want to hear about that.” They think I’ve gone off the deep end into religious fanaticism. If so, I’m in very good company. Paul and the apostles met with the same opposition. But the Bible verses about the “broad” and “narrow” roads spurs me on. We’ll talk more about that in my final “Steps to God” post.

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, March 5, 2022

STEPS TO GOD 5: SCROOGE NO MORE-GIFT OF A SECOND CHANCE!

 



"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," Matthew 4:19

Hello Friends: 
     Last week was the fourth installment of the seven-post series “Steps to God”. I shared the post, “An Offer We Can’t Refuse!”. It used a takeoff on a memorable Godfather quote . . . but exponentially more important than the quote, is the offer made to each of us by God that is far better than we can even conceive or think about.
     The fifth post is entitled, “Scrooge No More-Gift of a Second Chance!”. I reference the great story A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens which details the life of the fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge. Many of us probably know the basics of the story, and many of us from time to time have been called “a scrooge”, called somebody else “a scrooge”, or at the least said “bah-humbug”.
     The Christmas Carol story about Ebenezer Scrooge is a wonderful example of the gift of a second chance, or a before and after story. The television and media industries have repeatedly and successfully used the gift of a second chance, or before and after themes. Even “Extreme Home Makeover”, and “Decked Out”, the show that I’m transfixed on now about transforming backyards into backyard decked paradises, are about turning a drab, dull, and difficult existence into an exciting, meaningful existence.
     What was the state of Ebenezer Scrooge before being given his second chance?
  1. Scrooge was a very cantankerous, “bah-humbug” type of old man, especially around Christmas. He didn’t see the bright side of anything, except when it came to making and saving money. He treated his nephew Fred with disdain when Fred invited him to the family Christmas party.
  2. Scrooge was a cold-hearted miser. He hated the thought of Christmas, a time where he was expected to use his hard-earned money to give gifts, and he cringed at the thought of giving to a charity fund to feed the hungry. He treated Bob Cratchit, his overworked and underpaid banking employee, as a necessary evil. Being kind to Cratchit on account of Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s disabled son, didn’t even cross his mind.
     How did Scrooge’s gift of a second chance come about? (Note: I want to qualify, first, by saying that I typically am not into talking about ghosts. I hope and pray you see the reasoning behind me talking about the ghosts in the lives of this fictional character.)
  1. The Ghost of Christmas Past: This ghost showed Scrooge that his typical happy life as a young man turned sour with the usual unloving gestures of his father at Christmastime, the death of his favorite aunt at Christmastime, and the spurned love of Belle, who left him one Christmas many years prior, after she could not put up with his overwhelming love of money. Scrooge saw his past as one with nostalgia and deep regret.
  2. The Ghost of Christmas Present: This ghost showed Scrooge how his greed and selfishness hurt others, particularly Cratchit, who couldn’t afford on the salary provided by Scrooge to provide adequate medical care for Tiny Tim. The ghost told Scrooge that Tiny Tim would die unless something changed financially for Cratchit to pay for medical care. Scrooge realized how much his heartless words and deeds hurt others.
  3. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come: This ghost showed where Scrooge, without a radical transformation, would end up. He would end up in an overgrown grave, with unpaid servants stealing his belongings, with debtors relieved at his passing, and with Tiny Tim dying because of Cratchit’s inability to pay for medical care. Scrooge saw this and begged the ghost fervently for another chance. A few moments later he woke up in his bed on Christmas morning and was so overjoyed with the possibility of a new start, that he immediately got up and went to the store and got Christmas gifts for Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family members, went joyfully to his nephew Fred’s Christmas party, and gave generously to the charity fund.
     I used story of Ebenezer Scrooge because of the supernatural and transformational power it describes. More importantly, You and I, with God’s HOLY GHOST power, are prime examples of wonderful before and after stories. Paul in Romans 6:23 wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, you and I can be living and breathing examples of the absolute best “Gift of a Second Chance”.

See you next time,
Arlen



Thursday, February 24, 2022

STEPS TO GOD 4: AN OFFER WE CAN’T REFUSE!”

 



“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:
     Last week was the third installment of the seven-post series “Steps to God”. I shared the post, “Unwanted Wages!”. It was about a difficult realization what the Bible says about wages, in our lives and after our lives that are “unwanted”.
     The fourth post is about us accepting what I entitled, “An Offer We Can’t Refuse”. The title is a takeoff on the famous statement by Don Corleone, the Mafia boss in “The Godfather” movie in 1972. That movie still gives me nightmares with the vicious attacks made by Mafia crime families to get what they wanted. Just like I didn’t endorse the Beatles when quoting one of their songs, I’m for sure not in any way endorsing the Godfather movie. 
     Don Corleone made the statement, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”, meaning the other person would acquiesce to his request, or face consequences. In the same way God is making us an offer we can’t refuse, but it’s not just to avoid consequences. God’s “offer” is one, if we accept it, that will bring us everlasting happiness and contentment, especially in heaven after we leave the heartaches that accompany living in a fallen and sinful world.
     Below is the offer, told repeatedly in different ways by Jesus and His disciples in the Bible:
  • In John 15:15 Jesus said,
“I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends . . .”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have many real friends. Which of us can turn down the offer of having the best friend ever?

  • In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said,

“See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Which of us can turn down the greatest invitation ever to share a meal, and lifetime, with the best friend ever?
  • In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Are you weary from the burdens you carry? Do you want to find rest and have help to carry your burdens? Which of us could ever turn down a request to have the best friend ever help us carry our heavy burdens?
  • In John 10:10 Jesus said,
“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
Jesus isn’t talking here about a mundane, meaningless life. He’s talking about an abundant life that is almost beyond comprehension that lasts forever! Which of us can turn that down?
  • In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul quoted Isaiah who said,
“What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived—God has prepared these things for those who love him.”
In this verse Paul quoted Isaiah one of the most hopeful promises ever made! Which of us can turn down what God has prepared for us that is so good that we can’t even conceive it in our minds?
  • In John 14:2-3 Jesus said,
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms (Note: Most versions say “mansions”). If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.”
Which of us has ever dreamed of living in a spacious mansion designed exactly for us?
  • Last, but not least, Revelation 21 and 22 tells about the wonders that await us in heaven. 
  1. Revelation 21:1-4
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away."

2. Revelation 21:10-11

“He (an angel) then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal."

3. Revelation 21:18 

 "The building material of its wall was jasper and the city was pure gold clear as glass.”

4. Revelation 21:22-23
“I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb."
5. Revelation 22:1-3
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse."
     Wow! Imagine living in a city made of gold where there’s no sadness or suffering, and God and His Son Jesus provide the only light needed . . . forever!
     I could go on and on with many more Bible verses that tell us about the wonderful offer we have in front of us. But I hope and pray that these few have begun to open our eyes to, “An Offer We Can’t Refuse”.

See you next time,
Arlen

Thursday, February 17, 2022

STEPS TO GOD 3: UNWANTED WAGES!

 


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19.

Hello Friends:

     Last week was the second installment of the seven-post series “Steps to God”. I shared the post, “Help, I Need Somebody”. It was about the realization that we can’t come to God using our own power and will. And for the veil over our hearts to be removed we need three identified sources outside ourselves. These sources are the three persons of the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible shows that each person in the Trinity is very close to us, and just waiting for us to call out, “Help, I need somebody, not just anybody”.
     The third step to God I've identified is a rather difficult realization. Most people look forward to wages that they have coming to them at the end of a hard day, week, month, and year of work. But this third post is about “Unwanted Wages”. Wages that most of us would rather not think about.
     So, let’s look at wages a little bit. First, what I will call “wanted wages”:
  • In John 3:14 John the Baptist told a group of soldiers, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” They were earning their wages by doing their job of protecting citizens, and likely arresting bad citizens. At least that's what they were supposed to be doing.
  • Jesus said in Luke 10:7 about his disciples who he was sending into various towns, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages.” This means that a person doing his or her job of spreading the gospel should be paid accordingly.
  • Paul reiterated Jesus’ wage theme in 1 Timothy 5:18, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and the worker is worthy of his wages.”
     Now let’s look at “unwanted wages”. The examples where the term wages that are "unwanted" are much fewer in the Bible than “wanted wages”:
  • Solomon wrote in Proverbs 10:16, “The reward of the righteous is life; the wages of the wicked is punishment.”
  • Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death . . . “ We might say, “I haven’t been wicked” . . . or “I haven’t sinned.”
     Let’s look at what the Bible says:
  • “Wicked” people or “wickedness" is mentioned 353 times in the Bible.
  • The Psalms alone mentions them 99 times.
  • Proverbs mentions them 84 times.
     The writers of these books state repeatedly the dire consequences of wickedness, and the wonderful blessings of righteousness.
     Again, most of us don’t think of ourselves as wicked or sinful. The Bible disagrees. We are all born wicked and sinful, and we need help to overcome it.
     Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He's saying, that according to God’s standard, we have all sinned and need a Savior to save us from our sins.
     Still not convinced. John wrote in 1 John 1:8, “If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
     You might still say, “So, I have sinned a little bit, but I’m not as wicked as that guy over there.” Paul’s words in Romans 6:23 are clear; everyone that sins have “the wages of death” awaiting them, no matter the degree of sinfulness.
     Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 about Satan giving the antichrist authority to perform “every wicked deception”. Paul makes it clear that all people not accepting “the love of the truth” to “be saved”, are controlled by Satan and his wickedness. What then are the “wages of sin”, which Paul described as “death” in Romans 6:23.
     Some theologians, prominent Bible teachers, and even one so-called friend of mine minimized the fact that death consists of eternal torment in hell. They say, “What we have on earth is what we get.” I was repeatedly told not to focus on the importance of salvation of the lost to avoid an eternal death in hell . . . but only to focus on the wonderful life we will all have here on earth and in heaven when we come to Jesus. I agree that coming to Jesus is a wonderful life compared to the loneliness and despair I felt without Him. But the Bible's very clear about what the wages of sin are.
     The prominent teacher, Tim Mackie, of the popular “Bible Project” website emphatically states there IS no literal hell, and that every person will end up in heaven at one time or another once they finally see the error of their ways. Mr. Mackie has a very large following who are being deceived as we speak.
     After all, pain and suffering comes with physical death, doesn't it. So, it's logical to assume that pain and suffering will accompany a spiritual death.
     Not being a Bible scholar, but only a layman I researched a literal hell as mentioned in the Bible. The numbers alone will make you think twice about a literal hell.
  • The terms “hell”, “hellfire”, “hades”, and “sheol” are mentioned 54 times in the Bible.
  • 31 times in the Old Testament. 
  • 23 times in the New Testament. 
  • 11 times directly by Jesus.
     Jesus also mentions in Matthew and Luke seven times that sinful people against him will be thrown into:
  1. “Outer darkness” (3 times) . . . where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
  2. A “blazing furnace” (2 times) . . . where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. 
  3. A “place” (2 times) . . . where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
     My question is: “What other place would there be where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth except in a literal hell?”
     The term “Lake of fire” is mentioned 4 times in Revelation 19 and 20:
  1. Revelation 19:20 says of the beast and false prophet, “Both of them were thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur."
  2. Revelation 20:10 says, “The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” 
  3. Revelation 20:14 says, “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
  4. Revelation 20:15 lastly says, “And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
     So, it’s very, very sad, but true according to the Bible. The “unwanted wages” each of us will receive if we don’t invite Jesus to save us from our sins is an eternal death in hell. BUT there’s good news coming! My post next week is about God making us “An Offer We Can’t Refuse!”.

See you next time,
Arlen