Sunday, November 20, 2022

ARE YOU INCOMPREHENSIBLE?

 


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

Hello Friends:

     What is meant by the word “incomprehensible”? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines incomprehensible as the following: “impossible to understand”. Why would a Bible verse then declare that people of God would be able to understand—something impossible to understand? Here is the verse in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things which you do not know.”
     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. The title of my post today is, “Are You Incomprehensible?” What a word incomprehensible is! Sometimes there’s a Bible word or verse, that seems almost too good to be true.
     Intellectuals over the years have shared their belief that people who believe in God need a “crutch” because of their weakness. Quora, an online website, about two years ago asked the question, “Is Religion a Crutch for Weak-Minded People?” Responders shared varying opinions, but most of them declared that religion is indeed a crutch for weak-minded people. On the campaign trail in 2008 former President Obama famously said about Bible-believing Midwesterners, “They get bitter", and "they cling to guns or religion.” He later tried to backtrack, saying his statement was misconstrued.
     This isn’t, however, a political commentary on former President Obama, or for that matter, a commentary against intellectuals. It’s just to share a contradiction against what has been ingrained in us for so long.
     Christians do sometimes get a bad rap. And sometimes, justifiably so. But that bad rap has absolutely nothing to do with God or God’s promises to us. When God tells us that He will show us incomprehensible things, things impossible to understand, where else do we get that affirmation? Nowhere!
     When is the last time you had a close relative compliment you for your insight and wisdom? They usually do the opposite—right? They usually let you know in uncertain terms how far they think you’ve fallen off the deep end—into religiosity. After the high you feel because of God’s wonderful promises, they usually try their hardest to bring you back down to earth. But do we have to come back down to earth? The answer is—no!
     The thing about this life is that we face adversity almost every day, some people more than others. We get sidetracked and because we're approaching Christmas, I’ll quote Burgermeister Meisterburger in the cartoon “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”. He said, “I’ve been bamboozled”. We sometimes feel—“bamboozled”, or as the old saying goes, we sometimes “feel lower than a snake’s belly.” But that doesn’t change the promise that God gave to us. It doesn’t change the verse that says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things which you do not know.”
     Whenever we feel insecure and lower than a snake’s belly, or bamboozled—we can read that verse with confidence that He will indeed show us things—when we call out to Him, that seem impossible to understand.
     And many people in turn will look at us—as impossible to understand. And many will look at us as—incomprehensible!

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

Friday, November 11, 2022

ARE YOU AN ELECTION DENIER?



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

Hello Friends:

     In the last couple of weeks, I heard a certain phrase, likely between 50 to 100 times. I saw big graphics posted with the phrase and pictures and names of many men and women associated with the phrase. I chuckled each time I heard it. It was like someone put out a nationwide memo for all their friends to parrot the same phrase over and over again—trying I think to cause a snowball effect. They thought that if enough people stated the phrase enough times, then more people that heard the phrase would think negatively about the people in question.
     With a grin, I went back to Dee a couple of times in her office and asked her the phrase. Here it is—I said, “Honey, are you an election denier?” Both times she smiled, but shooed me away.
     I’ll bet you think this post is going to be about the elections two days ago. I’m as guilty as anyone of clinging to hope that our country will turn in a more conservative direction—one where the limbs of babies aren’t torn apart piece by piece. Abortion, in my opinion, is a barbaric practice, but that’s a topic for another day, likely not associated with my Soulwinnersr.us website.
     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. The title of my post today is “Are You An Election Denier?”, and it’s not at all about the elections two days ago. It’s about an election that is exponentially more important!
     There are seventeen New Testament Bible passages where the words “elect” or “election” are used. Why in the world does the Bible talk about election so many times? The writers were surely not talking about political elections or elected officials. Seven of those first references to election came from Jesus himself. The other ten were from the apostles Paul, Peter, and John.
     Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines election as the following:
  1. “The act of being carefully selected, or chosen for an office or position."
  2. “Chosen for salvation through divine mercy.”
     In a political election, people casting votes choose representatives for offices or positions. The election in the Bible, however, is where people are chosen by God to be His representatives. To say that God does the choosing doesn’t mean that people can’t influence God to choose them for salvation. God isn’t up in heaven pulling strings so that certain people are chosen, and others aren’t chosen. He does, however, know the end from the beginning.
     Jesus knew that Judas was the one going to betray Him. I don’t think that means that Jesus wouldn’t have relented and chosen, or elected, Judas if he had repented and had some inclination toward sincerely following Jesus. Jesus knew that Judas was, and was going to continue to be—an election denier. Judas wasn’t willing to cry out to God to be elected by Him.
     In the Old Testament Cain was despondent and very angry after Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable than his own. In Genesis 4:6-7 God told Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” God was telling Cain, in essence, that He was ready and waiting for Cain to repent and turn toward Him. God was clearly saying to Cain, “Don’t be an election denier.”
     God also doesn’t want any of us to be election deniers, but acceptors of His election. The most impactful verse to me about the wonder of being an election acceptor and not an election denier is what Jesus said in the following verses of Matthew 24:31:
Jesus said,
“He (God) will send out his angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
     I so want to be part of the elect of Jesus who continues to follow Him, and not be a denier of him. The reason is that I want very much want to be among the many called up to the sky to meet Jesus in the air!

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

Saturday, October 29, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 7: AN EXCITING BUT SOMETIMES DANGEROUS JOURNEY!

 


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

Hello Friends:

     This week I watched the 2022 Dove Awards. For those who don’t know, Dove Awards are awarded for the top Christian songs, albums, and artists in the past year. It’s a big event, attended by a large number of people.
     I told my wife that in a way I’m jealous of the people in the Christian music industry that get together frequently to collaborate on writing and performing songs—a place where there’s some action and excitement related to Christianity.
     Dee, my wife quickly brought me back down to earth saying that she dabbled in the music world in college, and most times it’s not as glamorous and exciting as it seems. She said that musicians are on the road many weeks a year, and if the musician is married with a family, the many weeks away from home are a hindrance to maintaining a healthy family. Not to mention the dog-eat-dog music world of trying to compete with others to come up with the latest and greatest sound and song.
     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last time we talked about the Cosmic Battle in which we are engaged. Most of us think of Christianity as being fairly humdrum. But the battles in the cosmos that Christians face make the Lord of the Rings movies pale in comparison.
     I titled my post this time “Discipleship Point 7: An Exciting But Sometimes Dangerous Journey!” It’s about the fact that the enemies of Christianity sometimes attack Christians, and portray them as needy, pitiful creatures. They think that we're weaklings that depend on a book filled with fantasies to help us to cope with the difficulties of life.
     Jesus told us in John 15 and 16 that people would hate us for our faith in Him. He said that people hated Him first, so we should expect nothing less than for them also to hate us, and even go so far as trying, and succeeding in some cases, to kill us.
     You may ask me, "Arlen, where is the excitement in people hating us and even going so far as to plot to kill some of us?" All of us long to be liked by others, right? There's no harm in wanting to be liked. But what's better than being liked? I would venture to say it is to be respected for not backing down from our faith in the face of persecution.
     People might be frenzied to spew hatred and disgust toward Christians, as in the case of Stephen in Acts. But you know at least one person that was changed dramatically after Stephen was stoned. We might think that Paul, whose name was then Saul, would have hesitated when called by Jesus to follow Him as one of Jesus' staunchest ambassadors. Paul, after all, saw firsthand what people did to Stephen, a lover of Jesus.
     Paul, however, jumped in headfirst to follow Jesus after his encounter with Him on the road to Damascus. Nothing would dissuade Paul from the exciting—but sometimes dangerous journeys he was about to embark on. Yes, I said exciting! Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.
     Last time we talked about a cosmic battle going on. I’m often amazed by people, sometimes famous, who jumped at the chance to go to war against Nazi Germany in the 1940s. Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart were two established actors, and Ted Williams and Bob Feller were two baseball greats. All four interrupted lucrative acting and sports careers to face possible death in wartime. Why did they do it? I can only speculate, but I think they were willing to go to battle for the good of others.
     So, the bottom line is that I may never be involved in something as popular as a song awards show like the Dove Awards, But I CAN BE involved in the exciting—but sometimes dangerous journey of following Jesus' instructions in the Bible—of winning souls for Jesus.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 6: ENGAGING IN A COSMIC BATTLE!



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

Hello Friends:

     Did you realize that we as Christians are engaged in a cosmic battle? We'll talk about it in a little bit.
     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last time we talked about fruit production, based on Jesus’ discourse in John 15. In that chapter, he likened himself to a vine, and we as Christians are the branches that bear much fruit if we abide in Him. I think the topic of fruitfulness is needed and interesting, but perhaps rather boring.
     I just finished watching the “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” TV movie series. I’m not suggesting it as a must-watch series. Some of you might question the fact that I watched it at all. The redeeming quality for me is the struggle of good against evil. I would suggest to you, however, that the intensity and importance of the Lord of the Rings TV movies pales in comparison to reality.
     I think it’s amusing that movie lovers and gamers live vicariously through movies and games such as Lord of the Rings. They watch and follow movie and gaming heroes, and don’t realize there is a bigger drama—or game in play. They resort to a shallow make-believe world, instead of the hard-hitting reality that is facing them squarely in the face, but they don’t realize it.
     Satan has done a very good job of making us not think of the cosmic importance of our lives. We think that life on this earth is all that we have—and we don’t realize that our very lives and the lives of our loved ones are teetering on the brink of disaster.
     I entitled this post “Discipleship Point 6: Engagement In A Cosmic Battle!” It’s not a physical war with guns and weapons, but the implications of this war are not just earthly. The Bible says the implications are cosmic, which is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “relating to the cosmos, the extraterrestrial vastness, or the universe in contrast to the earth alone.” In other words, if something is cosmic, it’s much greater than anything we experience here on earth, or in the case of Lord of the Rings, “middle earth”.
     We as Christians aren’t engaged in just some namby-pamby exercise. We can’t just be nice and sweet, and the world will come to us for answers to the tough questions they face. Jesus and His disciples had an edge to them. They weren’t going to back down when the lives of people were at stake. They realized they were in a war of cosmic proportions.
Paul described it in Ephesians 6:10-18. Here it is:
“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints."
     There you have it! Do you believe that today’s battle for the souls of people is more intense than the one staged on Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings? This is because Lord of the Rings is just fantasy fiction, albeit very intense and dramatic. It was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a friend of C.S. Lewis, who also wrote the very famous Chronicles of Narnia Christian fantasy fiction.
     It's time to get mad at the enemy of our souls. Galadriel in Lord of the Rings got mad at Lord Sauron, the evil enemy out to destroy the elves, dwarves, Harfoots, and Southlander and Numenorian humans who tried to get in his way. Sauron wanted to establish the dark kingdom of Mordor, inhabited by savage Orcs and other evil followers.
     Satan is, however, much eviler than Lord Sauron. He wants to lull people into a stupor—then destroy them and send them to an eternity in hell.
     In Lord of the Rings, the prevailing thought of many was to not resist the inevitable. Many people today joke about hell, saying, “At least I’ll be in good company.” They don’t have a clue what they’re dealing with—and with whom they’re dealing!
     All seems rosy and good now, but are we aware of the evil forces at work in the world? We are in a world where leaders propose war, destruction, and killing of innocent human lives to get what they want. How would it be if a tank went rolling down your road ready to annihilate you if you resist—and even annihilate you if you don’t resist?
     What about the unease in the Middle East? What about the hatred of Israel, a country about the size of New Jersey? You may say, “Arlen, those things are far away from us.” Well, then let's get closer to home.
     What about the killing of innocent people in our cities, and even in our own towns? I knew a young woman that was killed by a serial killer in Ashland, Ohio where I worked. I was very angry at the man who took the life of this vulnerable woman with mental illness—who was even paranoid on a good day.
     Also, my brother one year older than I got shot and blinded in 2001. It was the same year evil men used planes to kill people in the trade towers and the Pentagon. Their goal was to bring terror to the people of the United States by killing many, many people in one day.
     I know that when my brother was shot I was devastated. Then about two months later I found out that he had become 100% blind. That was almost too much for me to bear. All because one evil man decided to kill and destroy the lives of people that got in his way.
     I also had cancer in 2001. Cancer is another evil destroyer, and thankfully God spared me. My first cousin, however, had the same type of cancer and died.
     Evil forces are all around us, whether we want to believe it—or not. Whether we have experienced it—or not. The reality is that we are all going to experience evil forces at some point in our lives, whether we want to admit it—or not.
     This is not a time for “the power of positive thinking” that many people promote and believe in. We are in a battle of cosmic proportion. Are we going to rise and meet the challenge as Paul encouraged in Ephesians 6? Or, are we going to stand passively by and let Satan continue to kill and destroy us and those around us?
     I want to—and pray that many others of you--choose the Ephesians 6 option to do as Paul said. I want to join forces with you and many others, to engage in a cosmic battle to combat, as Paul said, "the cosmic powers of this darkness."

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

Arlen

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 5: PRODUCE FRUIT--PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT--PRODUCE FRUIT THAT WILL LAST



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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Let’s recap the last discipleship post done several weeks ago entitled, “Discipleship Point 4: Heading Toward the Celestial City!” That post talked about the second why, the “good why”, if you will, of discipleship. Before that, we talked about the “bad why” of discipleship, although it’s a necessary “why”. And that was encouraging and teaching disciples to avoid riding on the “Long Black Train” toward an eternity in hell.
     But the “good why” of discipleship is to stand alongside and encourage disciples to take the wonderful, but sometimes fraught with danger journey to The Celestial City. The Celestial City is the term John Bunyan used in the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” for what Revelation 21 calls the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is a city where disciples of Jesus will go when they either die or are caught up in the air with Jesus when He returns.
     The walls of the city are made of jasper stone and gold. The main street is paved with pure gold clear as glass. The twelve gates that surround the city are twelve solid pearls. The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The New Jerusalem will be amazing beyond belief!
     Today we’re going to talk about a very key component of discipleship. I entitled the post “Discipleship Point 5: Produce Fruit—Produce Much Fruit—Produce Fruit That Will Last.” It’s about Jesus’ discourse in John 15:4-16 where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” He said in verse 4 that if we as Christians stay connected to Him, the vine, we will “produce fruit”. Not only will we produce just a few pieces of fruit, but He said in verse 5 that we will “produce much fruit”. Lastly, not only will we produce much fruit, He said in verse 16 that when we stay connected to Him, the vine, we will produce “fruit that will remain" (or “last” as it says in other versions).
     What in the world did Jesus mean about producing fruit—producing much fruit—and producing fruit that will last? I don’t think He’s talking about fruit from a tree or a plant, or even what Paul referenced about “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. There Paul was giving a contrast between living evil lives and godly lives. The fruits of the Spirit Paul talked about were “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” They were contrasted with the evil acts of people described earlier in the chapter. These evil acts were, and the list is long, “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar." So, the fruits of the Spirit are ways to live holy and godly lives. They are internal acts that occur within a person. The fruit production that Jesus was talking about in John 15, on the other hand, are external acts that the person accomplishes, with the help of being connected with Jesus and His Holy Spirit.
     In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about knowing people “by their fruit.” I think what He said might have something to do with the “fruit of the Holy Spirit”. But I’m more convinced than ever, after studying the topic of fruit production, that it has more to do with leading people to Christ, and discipling them along the way.
     Jesus wasn’t verbally specific about what He meant in John 15 and Matthew 7. But I’m firmly convinced that producing fruit—producing much fruit—and producing fruit that will last, was clearly about you and me as Christians making and teaching disciples to follow Him, and stay connected to Him for all of eternity.


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


Saturday, September 24, 2022

ROYAL HEIRS

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. If you’ve been like me you’re almost obsessed with everything royal in the last couple of weeks since the death of Queen Elizabeth of England. Monday morning I woke up at 3 AM and didn’t realize that Queen Elizabeth’s two funeral services and three elaborate processions were starting before 6 AM EST due to the five-hour time difference.
     I watched the first procession from Westminster Hall where the queen lay in state, to Westminster Abbey for the main big funeral. Then there was the procession through the streets of London.
     I then went to visit a friend, and together we watched the hearse procession to Windsor Castle about twenty-four miles away. As they approached the castle they slowed down to an elaborate walking parade march about two and one/half miles up the hill to the castle. A second funeral service was held there at St. Georges Chapel.
     The regal nature of the Queen and her heirs was on full display up to and during the funeral services and walking processions. Leaders from all over the world came to pay their respects.
     Many stories are told and videos are made of the Queen and her royal family, and how in awe most people are of them. I just watched a video of Prince William and Kate with an unannounced visit to a British radio station. One disc jockey knew about the visit, but others did not. Their jaws dropped when the royals entered the room.
     Dee laughs at my almost obsession the last couple of weeks reading about and watching royal family events. I knew about the royal family—everyone does. But I never knew the royal family as I do after the last couple of weeks. I’ve learned some of the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings of their lives.
     I go back and forth from thinking that the whole nature of British royalty is lavish “pomp and circumstance”—to wondering what it would be like to live as they do.
     Well, as Christians, we don’t need to envy the royal heirs, as we don’t need to envy heads of state, and other well-known rich celebrities and sports stars. God’s word clearly states why in Galatians 4:4-7:
“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.”
     Can you take it in? We are, as Christians, royal heirs to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We will one day live in a mansion and a city that makes Buckingham Palace and London look puny. You can read all about them in John 14 and Revelation 21.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2022

AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST!

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. I’m variating away from the Discipleship Point posts this week because of a scripture passage that I felt was a very important one at this time. I entitled it simply, “Ambassadors for Christ!”.
     Many people these days are advocating for believers to be verbally silent about our faith, and just let our lives do the talking. Their favorite quote is from St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Do all you can to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words." I won’t go against St. Francis of Assisi as a Christian believer, and I certainly don’t know exactly the context of his quote. But I think 2 Corinthians 5:20 refutes the notion of never using words to share the gospel. It states, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”
     Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “ambassador” as the following: "An authorized representative or messenger." Synonyms for ambassador are the following: agent, delegate, emissary, envoy, legate, minister.
     Many of you remember Shirley Temple as a child movie star in the 1930s. She was the biggest box office attraction during that time. Ms. Temple retired from acting in 1950 at the age of 22. She then did a variety of other jobs, but after sharing an interest in politics she was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations in 1969. Then after several other political appointments, she was appointed as an American ambassador to Ghana, and later to Czechoslovakia.
     Shirley Temple’s three main duties as an ambassador living in Ghana and Czechoslovakia were the following:
  1. Protect American citizens living in or visiting Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
  2. Support trade and prosperity between America and Ghana or Czechoslovakia.
  3. Work for goodwill and peace between America and Ghana or Czechoslovakia.
     To perform these three main duties, it’s impossible to entertain the idea that Shirley Temple never verbally talked on behalf of America about American beliefs, ideals, and political positions.
     Likewise, as “ambassadors for Christ” in Christ’s kingdom, we should be always verbally advocating or “pleading on Christ’s behalf” for others. Our main plea to them is, “Be reconciled to God.” After they are reconciled to God they can expect His protection, His provision, and His goodwill and peace.

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

Monday, September 5, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 4: HEADING TOWARD THE CELESTIAL CITY!


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last time was my third Discipleship series post entitled “Discipleship Point 3: Don’t Go Ridin’ on That Long Black Train!” We went from the “who” of discipleship two posts ago, to the first “why” of discipleship the last time. I didn’t want to end the “why” of discipleship on a negative note. I want it to end on a resoundingly positive note. So, I entitled this week’s post “Discipleship Point 4: Heading Toward the Celestial City!” It’s about sharing the wonderful happiness with those we disciple that we can have on earth now, and especially the almost beyond explanation, wonderful happiness in what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” labels “The Celestial City”. The celestial city is a term Bunyan used for the New Jerusalem found in Revelation 21.
     I’m very interested in evangelism and discipleship because I believe very strongly in what the Bible says about the stakes involved. Last year a missionary-minded man on Facebook came against my Facebook posts on a very regular basis. He opposed my assertion of the importance of Christians sharing their faith verbally. He claimed that living a godly life was much more important than verbal sharing.
     I questioned him on his assertions based on what Jesus said in the Great Commission about going and making disciples, not just setting a good example. And the fact that according to Jesus, the final destination of either heaven or hell is on the line.
     The man said, and I’m paraphrasing, “What you see on earth is what you get.” In other words, he was saying I was too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. I admit that I am very heavenly-minded, and I don’t apologize for being so.
     You see, I want to see the Celestial City or New Jerusalem if you will, with its streets and walls of gold clear as glass. I want to walk down the main street with the River of Life flowing down the middle of it. I want to partake of the Tree of Life on each side of the river that brings healing to the nations. I want to live in a place where there is no more death, fighting, or wars. And I desperately want to share the gospel openly, and disciple others so that they can experience the Celestial City with me in the next life.
     A verse I read this morning firmed my conviction about the open verbal sharing of the gospel, and discipleship of others that will guide them toward heaven. In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul wrote, “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” In other words, Paul was saying living for Christ in this life is important, but the end goal is heading toward, and leading others to . . . The Celestial City!

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 3: DON'T GO RIDIN' ON THAT LONG BLACK TRAIN!

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week was my second Discipleship series post entitled “Discipleship Point 2: Do You Have the Heart?” It was about the fact that discipleship is a very important, needed task, but it takes a great heart for people and doesn’t come easily or naturally to us in the church as a point of emphasis. It is something that takes our great willingness and a calling from God for the task. 
     Last week was about the “who” of being called to do the discipling. This week we are going to address the “why” of discipleship. This post is going to be short and focused. The title of my post this week is “Discipleship Point 3: Don’t Go Ridin’ on That Long Black Train!” It’s based on the popular Josh Turner song.
“Long Black Train”  by Josh Turner

There's a long black train comin' down the line
Feedin' off the souls that are lost and cryin'
Rails of sin, only evil remains
Watch out, brother, for that long black train

[Verse 2]
Look to the heavens, you can look to the skies
You can find redemption starin’ back into your eyes
There is protection and there’s peace the same
Burnin’ your ticket for that long black train

[Chorus]
'Cause there's victory in the Lord, I say
Victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and His Holy name
And don't go ridin' on that long black train

[Verse 3]
There’s an engineer on that long black train
Makin’ you wonder if the ride is worth the pain
He’s just a-waitin’ on your heart to say
“Let me ride on that long black train”

[Chorus]
But you know there's victory in the Lord, I say
Victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and His Holy name
And don't go ridin' on that long black train

[Bridge]
Well, I can hear the whistle from a mile away
It sounds so good but I must stay away
That train is a beauty, makin' everybody stare
But its only destination is the middle of nowhere

[Chorus]
But you know there's victory in the Lord, I say
Victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and His Holy name
And don't go ridin' on that long black train

[Outro]
I said cling to the Father and His Holy name
And don't go ridin' on that long black train
Yeah, watch out brother for that long black train
That devil's a-drivin' that long black train

      So, in a nutshell, what’s the best way for people to avoid “Ridin’ the Long Black Train” to hell?

  1. They hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
  2. They are touched by the gospel message.
  3. They allow the gospel message and God’s Holy Spirit to change their lives.
  4. You and I help lead them, with repeated encouragement and standing beside them, away from hell, and toward Jesus and heaven.
     So, discipleship itself of people isn’t the end goal. We don’t disciple others just because we are called by God to do it, although being called is a prerequisite of discipling others.
     The goal of discipleship is to help people avoid “The Long Black Train” to hell . . . and lead them toward the light of the Son of God, Jesus, and ultimately to a wonderful eternal life with Him in heaven!

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

Monday, August 8, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 2: DO YOU HAVE THE HEART?


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week was my first Discipleship series post entitled “Discipleship Point 1: World-Class Christians, Trained by World-Class Shepherds?” I realize the impact the lack of meaningful discipleship in my own life has had, so I want this series to address the dire need for Holy Spirit-led discipleship. Meaningful discipleship takes time, effort, patience, sometimes pain, and most of all it takes heart. I’ve entitled my post this week, “Discipleship Point 2: Do You Have the Heart?” Only if we are called by God to disciple or mentor new and growing believers will He give us the heart to do so.
     Pulling from the athletic theme again, what is it that enables a coach to go from being just a good coach to becoming a great coach? Also, what enables a business leader to go from being a good leader to a great leader? What enables a church leader or pastor to go from being a good church leader or pastor to a great church leader or pastor? And lastly, what enables a mentor who disciples new and growing Christians to go from being a good mentor to a great mentor?
     I am venturing to say that the primary ingredient to go from good to great in any task is to have a great heart for the task. And to have a great heart for the task takes a special kind of motivation. People have many different motivations to succeed in the work they do. Some want to become rich, some famous, some rich and famous. Some want to become what today’s world calls “great influencers.”
     But how do we get the heart needed to disciple or mentor new and growing believers? Let’s look at a few of the many verses in the Bible about what I label “Called-By-God Motivation” to get the heart needed to become a great mentor:
  1. Matthew 2:15 says Jesus was “called” by God “out of Egypt” to become the Savior of the world.
  2. Luke 1:35 says that Jesus was “called” by God to be “the Son of God”.
  3. Matthew 4:21 says James and John were “called” by Jesus to transition from the lives of fishermen to follow Him to become His first disciples.
  4. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 that those who love God “are called according to his purpose”.
  5. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:9, “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling.”
  6. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, that God “called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
  7. Lastly, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11 the following: God “gave (or called) some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
     I think there are many pitfalls to what I will label “Self-Assumed Motivation” to become a great leader or mentor. Look around. News, politics, and social media are full of self-promoters and self-proclaimed bastions of truth. Don’t get me wrong. Many people with self-assumed motivation are very creative, funny, and charismatic. Many are very sincere in their beliefs. And I don’t fault them for trying to make a livelihood by becoming great at what they do. But what are some common pitfalls of self-assumed motivation?
  1. They may say what they think their listeners want to hear or present their material in such a way to get good ratings, gain more followers, and perhaps go viral.
  2. They may sometimes tell outright lies to sway the opinions of people.
  3. They often state they have the newest and latest breaking news. They realize many people will only look at news stories one time.
  4. Many, I’m guessing over 50%, use foul language to get their points across.
  5. People like Hitler and Mafia bosses used and use self-assumed motivation to become rich and powerful leaders. Their motivation to become rich and powerful stops at nothing, even killing those who stand in their way. (Note: I’m in no way comparing all people who try to get to the top with Hitler or Mafia bosses.)
     So, I strongly feel that if we look at the great men in history, especially great Christian leaders, they all had what I label called-by-God motivation, rather than self-assumed motivation. This is what gave them the heart to lead and mentor new and growing Christians. 
     I desperately want to be called by God to reach and mentor new and growing Christians, and I desperately want God to give me the heart needed to do so.

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

Sunday, July 31, 2022

DISCIPLESHIP POINT 1: WORLD-CLASS CHRISTIANS, TRAINED BY WORLD-CLASS SHEPHERDS"

 


“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 the final destination of political leaders and commentators. In today’s culture, I feel we are looking too much toward leaders and commentators, or influencers to save us. The concern is that most of the ones that we look toward are in a real sense lost themselves . . . if they haven’t given over their lives to Jesus. By that post, I was in no way saying that Christians should not involve themselves in politics. I was saying, however, that politics in all cases should take a backseat to the seeking of God’s direction for our lives.
     Today and in the coming weeks I want to explore a concern that I pray about daily, or almost daily, and that is discipleship. I entitled my first post, “Discipleship Point 1: World-Class Christians, Trained by World-Class Shepherds?” I realize the impact the lack of meaningful discipleship in my own life has had, and I want to shed some light on the topic.
     I plan to let the Holy Spirit guide me with this next series of posts about discipleship, and likely as I go in the future when I do a series. In the past when I did a series about a topic, I tried to outline and title every session ahead of time, but I often felt God changing my direction in most of them. This time I plan to pray and allow His wonderful Holy Spirit to guide me as I go.
     Are you like me? Are you always looking for that elusive guide, or coach, if you will, to speak into my life his experience and knowledge . . . a guide or coach that has been through life’s battles, and has become an expert in how to train others to become better disciples to face life’s battles.
     Last week was the Track and Field World Championships. I was drawn to watching certain world-class athletes, some that won, and some that didn’t win. I looked mainly at United States athletes, because I’m from the United States, although there were others, like Armand Duplantis from Sweden, who set an all-time world record in pole vaulting at 21 feet 4¼ inches. I was especially drawn to watching and exploring Sydney McGlaughlin, who set a world record in the 400-meter hurdles.
     Track and field championships have been around for over two thousand years, even before Christ was born. Track and field in most recent times, like the Olympics, that measure precise times and distances, has been around for over 100 years. So to be the best in that span of over 100 years is a phenomenal accomplishment. All of us have heard the term “blood, sweat, and tears”. That’s what these athletes go through most days in the year.
     I watched a video of Sydney McGlaughlin, an outspoken Christian, where she wept with the pressure of being the best in the world ever in her event, but being scrutinized every step of the way about her Christianity, her biracial heritage, and her social media presence. Last week after Sydney set the best time ever in a 400-meter hurdle race, she gave glory to God and cited Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” She said she meditated on this verse before and during the race.
     Sydney, at 22 years of age, didn’t get to where she is at by happenstance. She had coaches at every point along the way. She started with a high school coach. Then a college coach. And most recently professional coaches, currently Bob Kersee, the most prolific world-class hurdles coach in United States history. He is the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, one of the most accomplished women track and field athletes of all time.
     I’ve touched on this topic repeatedly, so many of you might get tired of it, and may not even like it. But, I firmly believe we are missing a specific mark in discipleship. Here it is: Why is it that Christianity, by far the most important race anyone can ever run, has taken a backseat to so many other endeavors?
     And I will end my post by emphatically asking: Why is it not our goal to train world-class Christians by world-class shepherds?

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

Sunday, July 24, 2022

THE FINAL DESTINATION OF POLITICAL LEADERS AND COMMENTATORS?



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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website.
     I’m a conservative Christian, but I frequently get letters from the Republican Party. I get them because in years past I wanted to vote in a primary, so I registered as a Republican. As you know, to vote in a primary election one must declare for one political party or the other. My conservative values mostly aligned with those of the Republican Party, so they perceived, from my party declaration, that I am indeed a Republican. Thus, the many letters.
     I admit that I get a little confused with the whole political . . . ‘thing.’ America and the world are so vast with so many people, with so many different political ideologies and opinions, that I usually steer away from trying to think too hard about them all. If I think too hard about them, my mind goes into what I will call . . . ‘political information overload.’
     With this political information overload, I’m so thankful that I have God and his Bible instruction manual to use for guidance and as a steadying influence. You see, the Bible firmly tells me what type of life I am to live, and I think God is personally telling me not to delve too deeply into debates, like political opinion debates. I realize that God calls leaders and experts to delve into these debates on my behalf. And I’m so grateful for them, and I will pray fervently for them.
     I realize some leaders and experts have political opinions very strongly against my own. But I must cling to the trust that God is 100% in control, which He states repeatedly in His Word. So, unless God calls me to state my political opinions, I plan to keep them to myself. And, again, I plan to pray fervently and have reverence for all leaders, even those with opinions strongly against my own.
     So, where does this post fit into the evangelism and soulwinning emphasis of the Soulwinnersr.us website? It fits in because God tells us to pray for our leaders, all of them, regardless of their political persuasion. But I mourn for people on both sides of the political aisle . . . IF, they haven’t personally committed their lives to Jesus.
     Also, these days we have many people, or pundits coming out of the woodwork to state their political opinions. Some are very dynamic, witty, and creative and have gained huge followings. Some, however, use what the Bible calls “foul” or “filthy” language, “obscene and foolish talking”, and “crude joking”. In these cases, I turn away from them immediately, no matter if they have what might be considered good conservative opinions.
     Many pundits or commentators I think speak out of fear, but mostly out of concern about the direction our country is taking. I agree with many of their opinions. But one thing is very certain. I have heard very few of them claim they have committed their lives to Jesus.
     So those of us with conservative Christian beliefs, I want you to think of your favorite political leader or commentator:
  • Jim Jordan
  • Greg Gutfeld
  • Matt Gaetz
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Sean Hannity
  • even, former President Trump.
     Then realize that the political leader or commentator, no matter how dynamic and popular they are, is heading toward the same final destination if they haven’t committed their lives to Jesus. It’s a sobering thought.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 7: WHAT ABOUT THE WORD 'ALWAYS'?

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week my post was entitled “Evangelism Question 6: What About Wearing God On Your Sleeve?” We weighed the pros and cons of wearing clothing with Christian messages.
     This week my post is the last in the Evangelism Question series. I entitled it “Evangelism Question 7: What About the Word, ‘Always’?" I was planning to do a post this week to refocus on a post I did a little over a year ago entitled “Witness in Our Sleep.” But then I came upon the word “always” in 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter tells his listeners, “. . . always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you . . . “
     Synonyms for the word always are the following: consistently, constantly, continually, ever, forever, incessantly, invariably, night and day, perpetually, and unfailingly.
     In other words, we don’t get to take a break from a command to do something, ‘always’. I think churches and church leaders don’t stress the word ‘always’ enough, especially as it pertains to the verse mentioned in 1 Peter.
     Let’s look at twelve of the commands, or instructions in the almost one hundred times that the Bible writers encouraged their followers to do something, ‘always’, I’m not going to cite all the verses because that might take all day. All you have to do is to go to a computer or phone Bible app and search the word, ‘always’:
  1. Always pray to, seek, and keep our eyes on God. There are many, many verses about these, too numerous to mention them all.
  2. Always rejoice, praise, and give thanks to God. Again, too numerous to mention the verses.
  3. Always be reverent and fear God. This instruction is found in Proverbs 23:17, 28:14, and Philippians 2:12.
  4. Always let God guide us with help from His Holy Spirit. Psalm 16:8.
  5. Always learn, obey and keep God’s statutes and commands. Just read Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, to get an idea of the importance of this command. There are other commands, like The Great Commission command, that are largely ignored in today’s church.
  6. Always strive to have a clear conscience before God and man. Paul wrote this in Acts 24:16.
  7. Always excel in the Lord’s work. Paul instructs us to do this in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
  8. Always do good works. Dorcas in Acts 9:36 was commended for always doing good works, and was then restored from death to life by Peter through God’s Holy Spirit power.
  9. Always be confident that while we are alive in the body, we are away (physically) from the Lord. Paul several times in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 refers to the importance of always recognizing Jesus’ death and resurrection, even saying we should “always carry the death of Jesus in our bodies.” I’m not claiming to know exactly what Paul is saying here, except that we are to realize that in this life we are heading toward physical death, as did Jesus, but that eternal life awaits us that will last forever.
  10. Always let our speech be gracious, seasoned with salt. Paul commanded this in Colossians 4:6.
  11. Always allow the peace of God to indwell us. 2 Thessalonians 3:16.
  12. And last, but not least, the verse that started my quest in the first place to explore the word ‘always’: Again, it’s found in 1 Peter 3:15. “. . .always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you . . ." Not just some of the time, but ‘always’.
     So, why doesn’t the church, and why don’t church leaders focus on these twelve, what I will call always commands? In my opinion, they should be almost obsessive about giving instruction and encouragement to always be ready, to be reverent, to excel, etc.,
     In almost every meeting. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Philip, and many other early church leaders encouraged, and I will use an always synonym, 'incessantly' to do these twelve, and more ‘always’ commands.
     You might say to me, “Arlen, with this ‘always’ business, you’re heaping on me burdens that are too difficult for anyone to accomplish.” I’ll respond to that assertion by quoting John in 1 John 5:2-3: “By this, we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
     To do God’s will and to keep His commands do not heap burdens on us. But they provide us tremendous freedom and liberty of knowing we are 'always’, in His will.

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

Arlen

Friday, July 8, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 6: WHAT ABOUT WEARING GOD ON YOUR SLEEVE?

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Last week my post was “Evangelism Question 5: What About Using Gospel Tracts?” We weighed the pros and cons of using gospel tracts to share the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ.
     This week my post is “Evangelism Question 6: What About Wearing God On Your Sleeve?” It’s about the question of wearing clothing that have Christian messages on them. I currently have about 15-20 t-shirts with Christian messages. I’ve also worn out a number more and threw them away . . . and some of my current ones are wearing out. I have favorite ones and usually wear those more than others.
     I grew up Mennonite and my Dad was Amish. In my world, there was very little wearing of clothing with Christian messages. Although some people might make a point that Amish people with their clothing are a prime example of wearing God on their sleeves.
     I’m not sure why I ever started wearing t-shirts with Christian messages on them. I never thought of it as being wrong or bad. I thought of it as simply being open about my faith in Christ.
     Many people including Christians, however, do believe wearing Christian message apparel is wrong. They say openly that they think the person wearing it is pretentious and shallow. I want to explore that topic further by sharing two opposing points of view from online articles I’ve read. I don’t want to get too in-depth about it, and come down too strong on one side or the other. But I would love your opinions about both points of view.
  1. Point of View 1: In The Independent: Voice for Southern Utah, an unnamed guest contributor wrote an article in July 2017 entitled “Spiritual Activism: Do You Wear Religion on Your Sleeve?” The author questioned the motivation for people wearing apparel with Christian messages on them. He wrote, “It is always tempting to wear our religion on our sleeve, but do not confuse pithy sayings, faith t-shirts, and bumper stickers with spiritual transformation.” He went on to say, “We are to be in relationship, and our religious values should find us, even in our differences, being brought together rather than pushed apart. Otherwise, our faith is about self-validation, not relationship.” In other words, to this author t-shirts and car bumper stickers with Christian messages are more about self-validation and puts a wedge of separation between us and people that are lost who we are trying to share the gospel message with.
  2. Point of View 2: The Reformation21 website shared a different perspective. In September 2014 LBrown wrote “Wearing Christianity on Your Sleeve: What Helps Evangelism?” He quoted hip-hop artist Shai Linne’s lyrics in the rap song “Taste and See”. The lyrics say, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?" LBrown wrote "that it was a good question - why?" He wrote “I believe many Christians are conditioned to retreat into the cocoon of quietness. "Don't talk about religion," many people say. Therefore, to keep peace with our neighbor in the world, we embrace that mantra." But LBrown quoted Shai Linne’s rap song again, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?"
     I haven’t firmed up entirely my point of view on the matter of wearing God on my sleeve. I’ve had experiences where a particular t-shirt I wore caused people to ask about it, or comment on it positively. On the other hand, I haven’t been personally approached by anyone who said the Christian t-shirt I wore was offensive to them and commented on it negatively. At this point in time, until it’s proven to me that wearing t-shirts with a gospel message is wrong and harmful, I will likely continue to wear them.
     What about you. Where do you come down on the question of “wearing God on your sleeve”?

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

Friday, July 1, 2022

EVANGELISM QUESTION 5: WHAT ABOUT USING GOSPEL TRACTS?

 


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

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. It’s been about two to three weeks since we discussed “Evangelism Question 4: Is It Time to Open Up?” Last week I did a “Let’s Roll!” post to encourage myself, and other Christians, to take life-saving action to prevent lost people from going to an eternity in hell. This week I want to discuss the strategy of using gospel tracts to share the gospel with other people. I entitled the post “Evangelism Question 5: What About Using Gospel Tracts?”
     Gospel tracts have been around for many, many years. Companies and individual people, like myself, develop them to make it easier to share the wonderful gospel message with lost people. Here are some examples of gospel tracts I have, some I’ve used, and some I haven’t used.
     Today we’re going to share a few pros and cons of using gospel tracts.

Pros of using gospel tracts:
  1. Gospel tracts contain God’s written Word. The Bible is clear that God’s Word will not return “void”, and it will “accomplish” what it says. Isaiah 55:11.
  2. Gospel tracts can establish a point of connection to another person and make it easier to share with that person. Especially if we’re uncomfortable sharing specifics without something written to lean on as a reference.
  3. Gospel tracts given to a lost person will allow that person to take it with them to mull over later.
Cons of using gospel tracts:
  1. Gospel tracts can be very impersonal, especially if just left lying in public places. Let’s be real! How often have you and I kept, and taken to heart, a tract that was just left lying in a public place?
  2. Piggybacking off the previous con, giving a gospel tract to someone with no interpersonal interaction doesn’t allow that person to experience up close and personal the Holy Spirit living inside of you and me as Christians.
  3. Tracts can oftentimes be long and wordy. If you’re a non-reader, like me, and have many pieces of literature and mailings to read each day, a gospel tract may seem like just one more piece of junk mail to be discarded.
     Have you ever used gospel tracts to share the gospel? What was your experience like? Were you scared? Do you feel they helped, or hindered you?
     I’d like to hear what you think. I know that many of you are watching my videos but have never responded to me about them, except perhaps a “Like”, which I appreciate. Maybe you think by responding I’m going to hold you accountable in some way to begin evangelizing. I’m pretty easy-going about things . . . and I can certainly identify with your feelings. I went many, many years with very little reaching out to others with the gospel. I’m trying to change that in myself.
     I’ll be honest. I do want evangelization of the lost to have a snowball effect . . . where more and more Christians feel an urging in their soul to do it, perhaps by using gospel tracts . . . or just by interpersonal engagement without tracts.
     What choice do Christians have when thinking about loved family members, friends, and others heading downhill toward hell? I realize that many people, including some church and ministry leaders, are these days trying to minimize the reality of a literal hell. But that’s a discussion for another day.

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

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