Believer or Disciple? Repent Now! (Limited Time Offer) These Are Our Choices? Facing our Election Fears Get More Done Online 25 Free and Useful Cyber Tools
A publication of On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.
GENUINE MOTIVATION Young Christian Man April 2012, Vol. 3 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher
in this issue... Foremost
Repent Now! by
Rob Beames, Editor Donna Lee Schillinger with Daniela Bermudez, Page Design
Always Be Prepared... For Marriage Will Dole
Kimberly M. Schluterman Editorial Support
Contributors Julie Ann, Jeffrey Bridgman, Will Dole, Randy Kosloski , Thomas Mollohan, Tullian Tchividjian, Brandon Woodard
Golden Stones, Silver Ripples
Except where noted, content is copyright 2012 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Genuine Motivation and www.OnMyOwnNow.com.
Can You Relate by
An Election Year
Facing our Election Fears: These Are Our Choices? by
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The Definition of Sin Rob Beames
Get More Done Online 25 Free and Useful Cyber Tools by
Dr. J.L. Williams
.13 .16 .18
, w o Sin N t n e p e R ! r e t La
Repent Now! I
saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Sin Now, Repent Later!” Truth is, as blasphemous as that sounds, it’s what most of us do anyway. I have friends who like to feel pure by saying that they don’t plan sin. They suggest it sort of sneaks up on them and, before they know it, they are caught. I guess they think that, if they didn’t plan it, God will understand and love them more. Frankly, if that is true, I’m in serious trouble. Sin hardly ever sneaks up on me. In fact, most of my sins are first degree. I planned the sin, I thought about it for some time, I considered the consequences... and by then, it was too late...I did the sin. Our dearly departed dog, Quincy the Wonder Dog, who is now in heaven, did that too. He decided to run when I said “come”; to chase a cat when I wanted him to heel; and, stick in mouth, to bound off in the opposite direction...away from me. Sometimes, when he was thinking about chewing up a shoe or worse, I yelled at him, “Quincy, don’t you even think about it! If you do it, I’m going to come after you!” Whenever that happened, Quincy stopped for a moment, looked at me then looked in the “wrong” direction, thought about it some more...and did it anyway. I could see it in his eyes and I know exactly what was going through his head: “I’m in trouble if I do this...big time trouble. But it’s worth the price and,
Repentance is the center and source of the Christian's power. Without it, our prayers are empty, our religion is shallow and our effectiveness is nil. besides, Steve really likes me. After I pay the price, he’ll scratch my head and give me a treat. And what I’m getting ready to do isn’t all that bad anyway.” I know Quincy did that because I do it with God. Do you know the biggest problem with the church and with individual Christians? It isn’t our lack of knowledge. It isn’t our lack of obedience either. (We were never all that obedient in the first place and God seemed to be doing okay.) The problem isn’t with our tithing or evangelism or missions. The biggest problem with Christians is that we don’t feel free to repent. We can’t repent to God because we don’t trust him and what he says about his love. We can’t repent to one another because we know that, if we repent, they will know and we will no longer be a respected part of the church, the fellowship or our circle of Christian friends. We can’t even repent to ourselves because we simply wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves. So we lie. It’s the only option we think (usually subconsciously) we have. Lying to God, to our friends and to ourselves may feel comfortable at first, but it robs us of our power. I think God winces whenever we say to him or ourselves, “I may be bad, but I’m not as bad as he/ she is” or “I think I’m getting this stuff licked and, after only a few minor adjustments, then I’ll be pleasing to God” or “I used to be really, really bad, but now I’m redeemed and walking with Christ.” Repentance is the center and source of the Christian’s power. Without it, our prayers are empty, our religion is shallow and our effectiveness is nil. Repentance is at the very core of the Christian’s life. We are called to live a life of repentance before God.
Repentance gives us the freedom Christ promised. A friend of mine was harshly criticized and I told him what they were saying. He said, “Steve, don’t get so upset...they’re right.” “Are you crazy?” I responded, “They aren’t right. Let’s fix it.” “No,” he said, “as long as I know they’re right, I’m free. I don’t have to pretend any longer and I don’t have to be right. God likes me a lot and that is all that matters. And I’m getting better...better than I was.” “Repentance,” by the way, comes from a Greek word meaning to change one’s mind. In the Christian sense, repentance isn’t change. It’s God’s methodology for changing us. It is knowing who you are, what you’ve done and who God is, and then turning away from whatever is occupying your mind and heart, and turning to him instead, in agreement with his assessment of the matter. Again: Repentance isn’t changing...it is God’s methodology for change. The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Jesus said that, whereas the tax collector who could do nothing but cry out for mercy was justified before God, the Pharisee who did almost everything right went away without the power and joy of being right with God (Luke 18). One of the most radical things Jesus ever said was about a prostitute: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven-for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). Now to the point of all this. John wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that
Feature you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). Don’t miss what John did here. John gave us permission -- permission to repent! He gave us the key to spiritual power and effectiveness in glorifying God. It is the very Gospel for Christians. John said, in effect, “It is my fond hope that you won’t sin...but you probably will anyway, so when you do sin, you have an advocate with the Father.” That’s so great, I can hardly stand it! As you know, I’m often accused of encouraging people to sin. (Frankly, that’s not true...people were doing fine long before I came along!) Some say that when I give “three free sins,” teach that God isn’t angry at you, or say something like “you wouldn’t be so shocked by your own sin if you didn’t have such a high opinion of yourself,” it is all only a blasphemous way of granting people permission to sin. You wouldn’t believe the number of letters I’ve received over the years on my prayer before I preach/teach, the one in which I ask God to forgive my sins “because they are many.” One pastor told me, “Steve, if you keep praying that prayer, people will think you’re a really bad sinner.” Bingo! I’m not giving people permission to sin. I’m giving them permission to repent. That’s what we are to do for one another. If we don’t give one another permission to repent then we will have no power to be anything other than little Christians good for nothing but religion. So, go ahead and repent. No, really. Do it. It’s all right. God won’t be angry and I won’t think less of you. Just do it! He asked me to give you permission. And you give me permission too. Check out Steve’s new book, Three Free Sins, published by Howard Books, copyright 2012 by Steve Brown at http://www.keylife.org/
Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, seminary professor and author. He previously served as a pastor for over twenty-five years and now devotes much of his time to the radio broadcast, Key Life. With such varied experience and unique perspective on life, Steve is an original. He refuses to be a “guru,” doesn’t want to be anyone’s mother and gives, in his teaching, the freedom to think. Overall, Steve has become known for his refreshing and practical Biblical applications. Steve serves as Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at Reformed Theological Seminary. He sits on the board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA. Traveling extensively, Steve is a much-in-demand speaker. Steve is the author of numerous books including A Scandalous Freedom, What Was I Thinking? and Approaching God. His articles appear in such magazines and journals as Leadership, Decision, Plain Truth and Today’s Christian Woman.
The End is Near! 5
Press On Will Dole
Always Be prepared... for Marriage H
usbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) I really thought I had a good understanding of this verse until I became aware of how poorly I follow it. In my opinion, this text is the most difficult and yet most wonderful text on marriage in the Bible—both for men and women in a broader context. The principles of this passage apply to Genuine Motivation’s mostly single audience, as well as to “old married people.” Let’s examine three main sub-points one at a time. First, Paul says to love our wives the even as Christ loved the church. At first, this may seem strange because those two things appear to be unrelated. Yet, as we look at the Old Testament, espe-
cially Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea, God repeatedly speaks of the relationship He has with His people in the same way a husband has with his wife. If we continue to read past this passage in Ephesians to verse 32, Paul makes the point that marriage as an institution can serve as an illustration. What does it illustrate for us? It is a picture of Christ’s love for His church. How did Christ display His love? In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells us that Jesus, “…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:7, 8). Jesus’ love set aside the majesty of God’s throne room and took on human servanthood. Although it is true that we are not Jesus or God, we are called to follow Him in this sacrifice. We have to give up some things. Those things might be hobbies, time with the guys, opinions or
dreams which the one we are committed to doesn’t share. It’s not easy. Some may object, “My wife or girlfriend rarely deserves my sacrifice!” While that may be the case, we have to ask ourselves, do we deserve the sacrifices she makes? Do we deserve the supreme sacrifice Jesus made? Absolutely, we do not. We did not earn one ounce of the blood which freely dripped from His body. Even so, this is a difficult command for us most of the time. Either way, the challenge for us remains for husbands to love their wives. This brings us to our second point which comes from the sections of the passage which says, “...and gave himself up for her to make her holy” (verses 25-26). So we see husbands should not only love their wives but also desire her holiness. Jesus is again the reason for our burden. Jesus loves His church and He showed this by giving up Himself totally for it. Why did He do this? One reason was to make her holy.
reality check for us. Our wives need God more than they need us. When they face a problem probably the least helpful thing we can do is to offer our opinion. They need a kind and understanding ear to listen. They need to be immersed in the Gospel. How often do we help direct them to Scripture? How often do we discuss with them the difficult things of God for both our sakes? We cannot force them to love and desire Jesus. We can’t make them grow in faith, but we can and should desire to pursue it with them. Ultimately, responsibility will rest on our shoulders since we are given this responsibility by God.
There is no verse that says, “Thou shall pray and read thine Bible daily,” but we should be about these disciplines daily, so that we can be prepared to make an impact on others, especially those very close to us.
Husbands, shouldn’t this also be our desire? Even those who plan to be married in the future should be preparing themselves for this role. Most of the time we want the person we are in a committed relationship with to change, not so they will be holy, but for our own comfort. Yet, Jesus laid aside all the comforts of heaven and took the wrath of God for us (Isaiah 53:4-5). Are we willing to give up something of ourselves to help those we love grow? Do we desire sanctification of our wives? Do we want them to grow in holiness? If we do, that would mean we are willing to lay aside things that we really care about in order to assist. Are we willing to gently confront sin, generously praise growth and humbly lead them in prayer and Bible study?
We should be preparing ourselves for this role whether we are already in such a relationship or we hope to be sometime down the road. All three of these points, but especially the last one, are impossible if we are not closely following Jesus. There is no verse that says, “Thou shall pray and read thine Bible daily,” but we should be about these disciplines daily, so that we can be prepared to make an impact on others, especially those very close to us. We cannot cleanse anyone in the Word, desire their holiness or love them as Jesus does without a knowledge of Scripture that only comes from diligent study. Going to church on Sunday isn’t enough. We need to quit drinking spiritual milk and pick up a fork. Now is the time to start. Trying to establish these disciplines after marriage puts us about 14 steps behind. It’s a lot harder to lead someone towards Jesus if we aren’t faithfully pursuing Him already.
This leads to us to the third point which is for men to cleanse their wives in the Word. This is a real
Can You Relate? by
G o l d e n St o ne s , Si lve r R i pp le s I
magine for a moment smooth, placid waters perfectly mirroring sapphire blue skies. Cottony white tufts of cloud emanate a faint golden glow as the sun shines down in full spring glory. Sounds like a picture fit for a calendar, doesn’t it? Yet, we don’t know that there aren’t dangerous poisons or other terrors beneath the glass-like surface of the waters which could quickly transform this serene scene into a nightmare, do we? Hollywood has a long history of making this type of eerie potential profitable by telling tales of giant alligators, schools of scientifically modified piranha or other genetically-altered wildlife which become terrifying monsters preying on hapless campers, ecologists or forest rangers. But in spite of such fanciful storytelling, our hearts seem still drawn to the peaceful setting of still waters. We are glad indeed that our God will lead us to the water’s edge so that our souls may be refreshed. How we hate it then when folks come along and throw stones into our waters! Just when we feel that we’ve
reached a peaceful spot and purpose in our hearts and begin to linger, a stone is thrown. It disturbs our lives by plunking us with ripples of confusion and upsetting our delicate sense of security. Those of us who have had our boats rocked and the waters of our lives distressed by unexpected circumstances have an obvious distaste for the experience and can be very reluctant to upset the waters of other people’s lives. Whereas we are right in dropping the proverbial stones of condemnation, malice, anger and selfishness, there are other stones—precious stones—and tossing them is actually an act of mercy. If you are a man or woman who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, then you have acknowledged that He is the Way, the Truth the Life (see John 14:6). If He is then all those things, you have a treasure house with which you may richly bless the lives of others. What stones can you
toss into the lives of others in order to bring them blessing? There are three which come readily to my mind. The first is the golden stone of love. It is the stone without which the other golden stones could not be received. It paves the way for others to hear and receive the news that God gave His Son for them. It opens minds and pierces hearts that have grown cold and calloused. As we allow love to motivate our hands and feet to the speedy aid of those who are in need, we lob a rock into the sea of complacency causing waves to break against walls of indifference so that God may more easily find a heart that receptive of His promised salvation. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). The second stone is holiness. Called to be a people who have come out from the world, we think differently, act differently and live life differently than do those who do not yet know Jesus as Lord. One of the great fundamental principles on which we build our lives as Christians is that God’s people must leave behind the selfish and sinful compulsions that once enslaved us, moving toward holy lives that may be offered up to our God through Jesus’ forgiveness without condemnation. We therefore strive to not compromise our callings by dabbling in things that we know clearly are offensive to our God and Savior. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:13-15). The third stone of gold is truth. In an age of innovation, I’ve little complaint in regard to applying such innovation to serving others in love to styles
of music or even to modes of worship—as long as there isn’t any compromise on godly principles. Where I would have a major complaint, however, is in the matter of a correct understanding of God’s truth. Innovation is all right—and and even beneficial as God steers us on to deeper understandings of Himself and His purposes— but one cannot be innovative with truth. Man’s creativity is not acceptable in any way, shape or form when it encroaches on God’s sovereignty. If, for example, introducing another way to heaven causes us to face a lurking menace stirring beneath the surface of what appears to be a pleasing scene of universality. It is good for God’s people to throw the golden stone of truth at such bottom-feeding lies. We should heed the warning, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3) People don’t like their calm waters disturbed. This is true. But when they realize the waves were made by golden nuggets of love, holiness and truth, they are set free from the bondage of sin and death. The silver ripples unleashed by these golden stones create a current that draws people to the only hope that the world can ever know: God’s Son. “…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 25). Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@ pathwaygallipolis.com.
An Election Year by
Dr. J.L. Williams
Facing our Fears These Are Our Choices?
have to confess, I’m a news junkie! Much to my wife’s chagrin, all I want to do when I am home and have any TV time is to watch news reports and political talk shows. These are only occasionally interrupted by something nonpolitical on National Geographic or Animal Planet. But these days, even nature and animals have been politicized by the right and left! More than usual, I am especially addicted to politics during election years. Perceptions of America When I am overseas, I am always fascinated by the opportunity to view America through the lenses of other countries and cultures – most of which view us very differently than we view ourselves. Depending upon what country I am in, America is variously portrayed as: a Christian nation; a city set on a
hill; the land of opportunity; the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; a military bully; a capitalist exploiter; a colonialist country; or the Great Satan. It seems every American traveling abroad is seen through different eyes than they see themselves. That’s why “political conflict” and “culture shock” are very real issues to which American tourists, military personnel, businessmen and missionaries need to be sensitive. Sadly, most are not, and thus, the concept of the “ugly American” is unnecessarily perpetrated. Obviously, presidential election years in America are watched increasingly closely – especially in this media age of cell phones, computers, iPods and TVs. While most envy our freedoms and democratic process, most only have a superficial understanding of our political process.
Faith and the Public Forum This political year is especially significant because it is supercharged by the “faith factor.” In addition to the economy, jobs, education, energy, foreign affairs – especially the potential of a “nuclear Iran” – religion’s impact on the “social agenda” has become a dominant issue. There is constant debate over how a politician’s personal faith impacts things like traditional marriage, contraceptives, abortion, divorce, gay rights, the environment, etc. In the past, our concept of separation of Church and State has built a firewall between private belief and public performance – a concept that is completely abhorred in Islam. But in this current election process, the issue of faith is being constantly brought to the forefront. How does private character impact public conduct? Republican Religion A popular maxim says: “Politics and religion make strange bed-bellows!” One thing’s for sure, they are in bed together during this election year as never before – especially in the Republican caucuses and primaries. The on-going Republican presidential debates have now surpassed the 19 mark and counting. While it is an opportunity for the candidates to be “vetted,” or thoroughly examined down to the moral, marital and monetary minutia, there is a lot of mud-slinging in the process. To date it has been a very negative campaign fueled by millions of dollars of Super Pac money. Sadly, all of these negative ads have dirtied all of the candidates involved since it is impossible to sling mud without getting morally muddy in the process! As is usually the case, these on-going campaign debates are generating a bit more heat than light. This vetting process has become something of a political demolition derby with each candidate fighting to lead the pack and cross the finish line with their party nomination in hand by winning the necessary 1,144 delegates. The Final Four Already the Republican candidates have been cut in half from an original pack of 8 major contenders. The first four political fatalities were: Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. Like the NCAA, the Final Four who are still battling it out are Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. While Romney is the presumed front-runner, he has not yet galvanized and energized the political and religious conservatives. This is seen by the fact that a majority of the voters are still in the “undecided” category.
Evangelicals, Mormons and Catholics, Oh My! Regardless of their past political records, present financial status or future campaign stumping, conservative groups like the Tea Party and Evangelical Christians will play a deciding role in who wins first place on the Republican ticket. So like it or not – and liberals don’t like it – Christians and politicians are in bed together! Republicans, in general, and evangelical Christians in particular, have to decide between: • Mitt Romney: a proud and professing Mormon elder • Newt Gingrich: a recent convert to Catholicism • Rick Santorum: a life-long Catholic of deep conviction • Ron Paul: a libertarian who plays his religious cards close to his chest Since Mormons are the 4th largest denomination in America, they represent one of the largest conservative voting blocks. They are generally very pro-family, pro-life, pro-free enterprise, pro-military, pro-America. Politically, then, a good Mormon can be a good governor or president. Certainly a potential government official should not be totally judged by his faith, or lack thereof. But, on the other hand, neither can a political candidate be totally separated from their religious beliefs. These elections remind us again that we are voting for a president, not a preacher, priest or prophet to occupy the White House. My Political Cup of Tea However, both political conservatives and evangelical Christians have to decide which candidate best deserves to claim and carry the mantles of “conservative” and “Christian.” Right now, Mitt, Newt and Rick are vying for both of those titles – with Ron claiming to be the only “true conservative.” The political wars continue. So do the cultural wars. And beneath both of them, the religious wars fuel the other battles. Questions like these continue to be catalytic in people’s thinking and voting: • Are we a Judeo-Christian nation? • Are we an Islamic-Christian nation? • Do the Bible and 10 Commandments have an historical connection with our Constitution and Bill of Rights? • What does separation of Church and State really mean? • Are we now a secular nation void of a religious foundation? • Does a politician’s faith matter in governance? • Is private morality irrelevant to public performance? • Can a Catholic, Mormon, atheist or born-again Christian make an equally good President? While most European nations have answered these
questions with a resounding “NO,” they keep being recycled in America during election years. And this year, Romney’s Mormon Faith, Santorum and Gingrich’s Catholic Faith and Paul’s Libertarian “faith” continue to be a factor at the polling booth and ballot box. And many, if not most, evangelical Christians, have a great concern about the strong Mormon faith of Mitt Romney. The question persists: Does Mormonism represent mainline Christianity? Or more pointedly: Is Mormonism a cult? However we answer these, it will be offensive to one side or the other. Pro or Protest Vote? To date, most political pundits keep saying that Romney has not really captured the minds and hearts of the political conservatives and evangelical Christians. As a result, we have seen the socalled “Santorum surge” and “Gingrich gain” in recent weeks. The nagging question is whether their persistent presence and popularity is really a “positive vote” for them – or a “protest vote” against Romney? Only time will tell. And Governor Romney’s Mormon faith will be a deciding factor in that debate. Therefore, to help you make that decision so that you can vote more intelligently, I have updated and reprinted my book on Mormonism. I wrote it back in the early 1970s. For those of you who want to dig more deeply into this subject as you decide how the doctrines of Mormonism should impact your voting, click here for a free copy of my book in PDF format. Democrat Demographics This issue of religion and politics is not just a Republican issue. Democrats face their own version of this politico-religious dynamic. There is still an uncertain religious aura hanging over President Obama. While he has tried, he still has never been able to fully distance himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his fiery spiritual-political-racial-cultural rhetoric that often had strong anti-American overtones. Couple his liberal leftist “Christian” influence with president Obama’s early up-bringing under a Muslim father and subsequent education in Koranic schools – and there is a lingering dark cloud of spiritual suspicion about the reality or sincerity of his professed Christian faith. At this year’s annual National Prayer Breakfast on February 2nd (which I have attended many times), President Obama again spoke openly of “my Christian faith…” and how it has impacted his political positions. But formal and informal polls continue to show that many Americans still fear that he is really a “closet Muslim” who has not fully come clean about his Islamic sympathies. He has made many statements and speeches negating our American and JudeoChristian heritage. President Obama has made some very positive statements about Islam. In many of his speeches, he praises Islam and enumerates its virtues and the debt civilization owes that
religion. He speaks of Islam as a “revealed religion” from God. He reveres Mohammed as an authentic prophet from God. He always refers to the “Holy Koran” when he speaks of the writings of Mohammed. He calls the morning Muslim call to prayer one of the most beautiful sounds in the world – and can recite it in perfect Arabic. But does this make him a secret Muslim? Not necessarily. Only God knows his heart. However, we do need to carefully look at the “religious fruit” of his life (a topic for a future article which can be read on my journal blog). Conclusion I began this political op-ed with the popular maxim: “Politics and Religion make strange bed-fellows.” Let me end this brief excursion through the current political minefield with another maxim: “Let your conscience be your guide.” In the final analysis, each of us as Americans and Christians must “vote our conscience.” However, if our conscience is going to be a trustworthy guide in the voting booth, it must not be driven by blind passion to any person or party. Our conscience can only be a trustworthy guide when it is historically educated and politically informed. But most of all, it needs to have been educated by the Word of God and sensitized by the Spirit of God. To that end, I trust that e-book on Mormonism will be a helpful resource in your voting. Dr. J. L. Williams is primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables through the nonprofit ministry JL, Patt & Friends (JLPF), which he co-founded with his wife, Patt. JLPF is dedicated to evangelism and edification through the love of Jesus Christ. Their mission statement is: “Leadership Through Partnership.” Williams says of the ministry, “For four decades we have partnered with strategic national leaders with whom God has sovereignly networked us. Our purpose is to do all we can to “encourage, equip and empower” them to be as influential, catalytic and effective as possible as they lead their indigenous churches and ministries. Our special passion is to help reach the unreached, under-reached and out-of-reach people groups of the world, especially in the Two-Thirds World, where there is the highest density of spiritual and physical poverty.”
Believer or Disciple?
(Yes, there is a difference) by
hen he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5 When Jesus first found Peter, James and John, they were washing their fishing nets. From time to time it is necessary to clean our nets if we constantly use them to catch fish, but today many churches have become professional net washers. Instead of catching souls for the kingdom of God, they spend all their time talking about fishing, studying various fishing strategies and techniques, listening to the lectures of fishing experts, and singing songs about fishing. Yet they rarely, or never, actually go fishing! Many pastors fill their pulpits with fishing stories, and their congregation admires the fishing nets that are displayed on the church walls. The nets have been thoroughly cleaned. No effort has been spared to keep all dirt and impurity out of the church. Indeed, the nets have been bleached so white that nobody would ever guess they had once been used for fishing! The strings are carefully arranged so that each square has the same size and shape. After all, they say, “God is a God of order.” The pastor loves to boast about their nets and even invite Christians from other churches to come and admire their nets with them. … Week after week, year after year, Satan lulls individual believers, churches and whole denominations to sleep with his lies. The bleach that has removed all the stains and dirt from the nets also effectively disinfects the Christians until
Jesus never intended His people to become insular and just sit around edifying each other. they never consider becoming fishermen again. Christian, do you feel like Peter did after he worked all night but failed to catch a single fish? Have you convinced yourself that there are no more fish left in the sea? Have your church programs failed to net any new fish for so long that you would rather stay on the bank washing your nets, because one more failed fishing trip might be more than you can take? Many churches have given up on evangelism because they “tried it, and it didn’t work.” Many Christians hear God’s voice calling them to catch fish for the kingdom of God, but like Peter, James and John, they don’t believe there are any fish left in the water. How often have you heard Christians say, “Nobody around here is interested in the gospel anymore,” or “People’s hearts are so hard”? This is not true! Have you ever considered that the problem might be that your fishing is not under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ? Perhaps you have spent years casting your nets in the wrong place. I promise you that there are fish in the sea all around you. You need to stop fishing your way and start fishing under the direction of Jesus. Peter caught nothing while he and his friends operated in their own strength. They were convinced there were no fish left. But when they gave up and allowed God to direct their efforts, suddenly “they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (Luke 5:6). Please understand this! When we try to serve the Lord and preach the gospel in our own strength, using our own programs and initiatives, we will
fail and will soon convince ourselves the problem lies not with us, but with the “apathetic heathens” who “show no interest in the gospel.” But when we learn what it truly means to give ourselves to God unreservedly, asking Him to fill and empower us, we will start to be in a place where God can use us for His glory. As long as you are looking to bless “your” ministry, you are wasting your time. He only blesses His ministry, done His way, by His leading. When we finally reach the end of all our useless programs and give up in desperation, Jesus will be there to show us a better way – His way. He will tell us where to throw our nets, and we will be amazed to see them bulging with fish. Your church must get busy fishing, because this is what the church is meant to do. Jesus never intended His people to become insular and just sit around edifying each other. It is also not the job of the leader to spend all his time dealing with problems in the church. Of course there will always be problems until Jesus returns, but they should not bog you down. Instead, you should see them as opportunities to mend your net so that you can go fishing for souls with a stronger net. … As I have traveled around the world, I have met many wonderful brothers and sisters. They listen intently to every word that is spoken, but there is one major thing missing in their spiritual lives. They need to start obeying the Word of God. They need to step out and start being doers of the Word instead of just listeners. James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James1:22). You see, when you only listen to the Word of God, your heart gets filled up with spiritual food. This is good, but it is there to serve a purpose. That purpose is for you to go and share the food you have with the hungry, so that they too can know Jesus. If you just keep God’s blessings to yourself, you will become a bloated and sick Christian. When you share them with others, the Holy Spirit will give you more so that you can share more. It is a wonderful thing. … There are more than 2 billion professing Christians in the world today. … There are more than enough “believers” in the world today. God wants more disciples! Only disciples of Jesus can ever hope to impact the nations for God.
“Believers” try to follow God, but their prayers and commitment are clouded with indecisiveness. Their prayers go like this: “Oh Lord, I am so weak. Please send Your power. I am weighed down with sin. Please come and relieve me.” “Believers” always seek assurance that nothing will go wrong if they step out for Jesus. Only when they are convinced that the coast is clear and no harm will befall them are they willing to take their first step! If they ever hear the King’s call to go somewhere and do something for the sake of His kingdom, they feel they need extra encouragement before they can safely step out: “First let me check with my wife, my pastor, my boss and my mother-in-law to see if it’s all right with them.” “Disciples” have a different attitude. They beg God to give them just a little of His dynamite power. They pray, “Oh God, if you will lend me just a little spiritual dynamite, I promise I will take it to the darkest area I can find, place it there and pray You will send Your fire from heaven to explode it.” God always does. This is the way the gospel is spreading so quickly in China and in other parts of the world. Since coming to the West, I have found it doesn’t really matter how much you preach in most churches, because the majority of believers have become “sermon proof”. They have listened to thousands of sermons and have become experts at tuning out. Their bodies are physically in front of you, but their minds and hearts are far away. They have been conditioned to listen to speeches rather than to respond to the power of the gospel and be changed. … The Lord is roused to anger when the precious
I have found it doesn't really matter how much you preach in most churches, because the majority of believers have become "sermon proof".
bride of Christ falls into such a lamentable condition. … Whether we are a disciple or a believer depends on the choices we make. The temptation is for us to ease back into our comfortable chair and continue to live a halfhearted Christian life, giving lip service to God but being unwilling to count the cost and take up our cross and follow Him. I pray that you will determine in your heart to follow Jesus with all your heart from this moment forward. You may face great hardship and come under constant attack, but you will never regret it. Taken from Living Waters: Powerful Teachings from the international bestselling author of The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, Edited by Paul Hattaway. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan. com. 299 pp. $14.99 ISBN 9780310285540 Visit BacktoJerusalem.com for more on the ministry of Brother Yun.
The Definition of
Sin. noun \’sin\ W
e’re all very good at sinning. We’ve been doing it since before we could walk. We sin more than we know and we almost always know immediately when we do it. Our conscience takes care of that. Most of us don’t have to think too much about sin because we’re so focused on trying to avoid it. If we ever have any doubt about something qualifying as a sin, we can ask just about anyone else we know. Most people are eager to tell us what’s sinful. It seems everyone’s an expert on sin. But what is it…really? It’s a little like trying to define electricity. No one really cares too much about what it actually is. We don’t need so much detail about it. We know how to make it work for us and we know how to avoid getting shocked. That’s all we need to know, right? We’ve become so accustomed to talking about it and seeing the result of its power, we don’t seem to be concerned about what it actually is. Our sin is much worse than anyone can fathom, but don’t worry. Jesus has it covered! Perhaps we are afraid to define sin because we may find out we’re all too familiar with it. In an effort to clarify sin, there’s a principle we can apply from a passage in the book of Romans which says, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin”
(Romans 14:23). That just about covers it...any questions? It can’t be that easy…or can it? The formula appears to be straightforward enough. If we want to know if something is sinful then all we have to do is to answer the question, “Does it come from faith?” If we answer in the negative, then we know it’s sin. Is that way too simple? It’s not really. Paul was addressing an early Christian dilemma which brought the hungry faithful toe-to-toe with those worried about offending God by eating meat which had been used in the worship ceremonies of false gods. He comes to the conclusion that it isn’t an issue of right or wrong and it certainly shouldn’t encourage looking down one’s nose at others for what they do or choose to avoid. He says what matters in these types of situations, where there is no specific direction from God, is that each person follows his own convictions. If we are convinced about a certain matter then we should act accordingly, but not because someone else says so. Love for our fellow citizens in the kingdom of God is once again the primary motivating factor in our actions. Of course, Paul is talking about relatively insignificant although potentially divisive issues here. He is not talking about the core matters of our belief.
We do not have the liberty to do what we think is right in our own mind regarding the vital aspects of the gospel. Paul is just as convinced in his letter to the Romans that nothing is forbidden, in itself, as he is in his letter to the Corinthians when he says, “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23). He is more concerned about the impact our actions might have on others because they don’t understand the freedom earned for us by Christ than he is about the actions themselves. Notice the lack of concern about righteousness? That has already been given to us by Christ. Notice the lack of warning about defending the righteousness of God? Well…that’s just irrational. God doesn’t need anyone to defend Him and certainly not weak creatures dying in their sin. It comes down to the foundation of sin: faithlessness. When we sin we place our trust in our ability to meet our own needs. We fail to trust God to provide us with what He’s promised. We fail to believe that He truly desires our happiness and we take matters into our own hands. It’s sort of like listening to a serpent talk about an apple and then taking a bite—yeah, it’s been done before. When we fail to believe that He has our best interest in mind and is withholding good things from us, we look for ways to get what we want. Unfortunately, we are in the worst possible position to know what we want because we are already affected by our sin to the point that we are almost always wrong. In any case, we stop believing in Him and His ways for us. We take charge. We lose faith. We sin. When we start believing that the sacrifices we make somehow gain favor with God, we are putting faith in ourselves and not in the work of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t come from faith—faith in the right person—it is sin. So, it appears that we are all sinners in the end. There is hope if we would “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). If we think we know right from wrong, we really don’t. Most of it turns out to be wrong, if we think it matters to God. Avoiding eating meat used in the wrong way—as if the meat put its faith in a false
god—doesn’t earn us any points. Having the freedom to eat, drink or smoke whatever we want gives us no advantage either. If we put our trust in doing the right thing, avoiding the wrong things or in our maturity to use the freedom we have in Christ, it’s still all sinful. Yes, it’s all sin if it isn’t produced by a faithful response to His love desiring to display that love in us and to communicate the power of Christ to others. If we think for one minute that we are justified by doing something—even something good—we sin. If we think we are accepted by avoiding certain actions or thoughts—even evil ones—we sin. Only by our faith in what Christ did or didn’t do are we justified. Only because of the high esteem He has for us are we accepted. Only by the death of Jesus was our relationship with God mended. Our faith in that fact alone brings us near to God. Trust placed in our own actions only gets in the way. Only by the sacrifice of Jesus are our sins and the wrath of God which accompanied them swept far, far away. If we trust in the things we give up for Him—even if it is for Lent—the wrath of God remains on us. However, we can do all these things in faith. It’s just not our natural way to do them. Whatever we chose to do in these somewhat ambiguous matters we do for God. Whether we chose to do something or chose not to do it, we give God the credit and the praise because we belong to Him. If we keep faithful in our belief that He alone justifies, none of these ambiguous acts are sinful at all. So no matter what we do or avoid, we sin either way if we don’t keep it in perspective. Only by faithfully leaving our righteousness to Him are we saved. If we trust in what He did for us and only in this then we can avoid sin. In this way, we learn what it means to live by faith, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). So, don’t worry. That action you’re stressing about was probably sinful. I’ve done it too. Those words you said were probably displeasing to God. Mine were too. If it didn’t come from faith, it’s sin. In that case, let’s put our faith in Him alone. He’s already forgiven us. If it does happen to come from faith, it’s righteous and we could all use a little more of that. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
Q.T. in the Clouds: Doing More Online
hen you think of oWith the proliferation of mobile, on-the-go devices and the relatively easy access to the Internet, we’re getting more and more done online. Here are some programs, websites, and apps the let you walk around with your head up in the clouds. Documents Who needs Microsoft Office when you can do it all online? Use Google Docs to work and save your files online. You can share you documents and even have multiple people work on the same file at once. Microsoft also has an alternative called SkyDrive which doubles as online storage for any kind of file, similar to DropBox which provides you 2GB of free storage and even more if you get friends to join. Entertainment Why pay for cable or listen to staticy radio when you can watch TV and movies for free on Hulu, or make your own custom radio station on Pandora, or listen to whatever song you like on Spotify? Screen share The ability to share what’s on your screen doesn’t seem like a big deal, but once you’ve done it there’s no going back. Use join.me or Quick Screen Share, which doesn’t require you to install or signup (you’ll need Java though). For fancier screen-casting and web conferencing, you can give Yugma a try for free. Communicate Jump forward into the future where we have video phones! Oh wait, we’re already there. You can use Skype on your computer to place phone calls, video chat with other users, and even screen share to help your grandma figure out how to use Farmville on Facebook. If you don’t want to use your computer, you could use Rebtel. I use it to call internationally to family for pennies per minute. It gives me a local number that redirects to another number when I call it. Or how about Google Voice? You can get a free phone number through them and set it up to dial any of your phones, depending on who is calling at what time. It can also send you transcriptions of voice mail, transfer calls between phones, and make long distance calls for a low price. If you need to send a Fax, you can send it with GotFreeFax.com.
Create Who needs Microsoft Paint when you could make art online! Make hand-drawn looking sketches with zwibbler, or make fancier art with iScribble. Edit your photos and add some spice at Picnik (soon to be integrated into Google+). Easily create music online with JamStudio.com or for more advanced features, Soundation. Organization Stickynotes are great, but unless you’ve got them stuck to your clothes, they don’t go with you wherever you go. Apps like Remember the Milk or EverNote can help fill that gap. Trello goes one step further, allowing you to share lists of “cards” that can contain files, pictures, links, text or lists with others. You easily shuffle the cards around, organize, color-code and delegate them to people as necessary. Making the Web Better Ever get tired of clutter while browsing the web? Maybe you have too many tabs open? Try Instapaper which allows you to save webpages to read for later, and sync it to your device to even read offline. Or maybe the problem is webpages that are cluttered? Try Readability which takes a website and magically removes all the clutter to give just the content. It’s great for reading articles or blog posts without getting distracted. There’s an app you can download as well as browser add-ons. ViewPure does the same thing for YouTube. Ever wished you could do things like send yourself a text when it’s going to rain? Or send yourself an email when what you’ve been looking for is for sale online? Or save pictures in which you’re tagged on Facebook to DropBox? With IfThisThenThat you can! You can choose triggers from all sorts of different social media services and tie them to actions. Check out their recipes sections for some awesome ideas on how to use this free service. Free Wi-Fi Of course, none of these tools are any good without Internet connection. What to do when you’re away from home? McDonald’s and Starbucks among many other food chains have free Wi-Fi, along with most libraries and many other public places. Find out what’s around you at Wi-Fi free Spot or OpenWiFiSpots.
The Christian Alternative to the Men's Magazine. In this Issue: These Are Our Choices? Facing our Election Fears; 25 Free and Useful Cyber T...
Published on Apr 4, 2012
The Christian Alternative to the Men's Magazine. In this Issue: These Are Our Choices? Facing our Election Fears; 25 Free and Useful Cyber T...