Friday, July 8, 2016

Why I Don't Vote

 2012 was a watershed year for me. It was the last time that I stood in front of a voting machine and cast a ballot. It was also the first time in my life that I had voted FOR a presidential candidate instead of simply AGAINST his  adversary.  Since then I have been completely free and unfettered from the political process, and view it as a tragic sort of entertainment best viewed from as far away as possible. Since I know so many people who are once again convinced that this is The Most Important Election ever I considered it my civic duty to explain just a bit as to why I will not be participating this time, or the next time, or the time after that.

1) I wrote a book.  This is not so much a shameless plug as an explanation of one rather large step on my journey. I wrote a book called Swindled where I documented how the GOP on local, state and national levels tweaked , bent and in some cases broke federal election law to in order to secure the nomination for Mitt Romney.  Considering how that worked out for them, it's even more remarkable that they would go through so much trouble. The greatest candidate of my lifetime was  in that race, and with a complicit media ('conservative' and 'liberal'), they literally cheated him out of his shot. Writing that book, I became finally convinced that the GOP  cares nothing about liberty; they care about power. 
2) I helped a guy get elected.  I write this knowing that the individual I'm talking about will probably read this.  My family got heavily involved a few years back with getting a dear friend of ours get elected to a state-level office.  I was in his living room the night the campaign started. He was a man as committed to liberty and as opposed to the status quo as any of us. I remember disagreements with his campaign manager about how 'extreme' his views were. He was the underdog,  the libertarian who was going to take the system by storm, make everybody mad, and then come home after a single term. In fact, now that I think about it, this is the man who introduced me to Tom Woods book on Nullification.  Amazingly, we won. My friend replaced a useless , statist, GOP do-nothing who had all the money and we won.
  And then I watched my friend change.  He began to  refer to himself as a 'conservative'.  He championed some dubious legislation and broke at least one of his campaign promises. He ran again, and was re-elected. And again.  Now he's the insider who gets invited to the important fund-raising dinners with all his buddies at the Capitol.
  We love him. We love his family. He's still better than  what he replaced.  But we appear to have a whole lot less in common with him philosophically than we did before he got elected. 
3)The system is evil.  Now think about this for a minute.  Cast your mind back to, oh, lets say the last 3 presidential elections, although one could certainly  go back further than that.  The GOP nominated John McCain, a self-proclaimed 'maverick' who believed  pretty much everything depending on what time of day you asked him. He literally prided himself on his unpredictability on voting. Sometimes he was  for freedom, sometimes he was for statism.  You couldn't pin him down because he was a 'maverick.'.
  John McCain was touted to small-government types as 'the lesser of two evils' and even though he was obviously an unstable old man, we were supposed to vote for him because Barack Obama would be President if we didn't. This was the Most Important Election Ever. Hold your nose and vote! It's your duty! The world will end if Obama gets the White House!
  Now consider 4 years later, when the GOP snubbed Ron Paul to nominate Mitt Romney, a man who believed nothing.  His views, at least on things that the President can actually affect, were identical to his opponent, but he would gladly change them if it would get him 10 more votes. He was horrible and dull,and nobody was excited about him. But  the American people were told that this was The Most Important Election ever and that 4 more years of Obama would destroy the Republic. Sure he's a borderline statist, but he's the lesser of two evils. Hold your nose and vote! It's your duty! The world will end if Obama keeps the White house!
  Now it's 2016 and the GOP has nominated a man who wasn't even a Republican a few years ago. He believes, apparently whatever pops into his head. He's an unregenerate blowhard who openly admitted he'd like to have martial relations with his own daughter.  But hey, none of that matters because he's the lesser of two evils! This is The Most Important Election ever! Hold your nose! Do your duty! The world will end if Hilary gets the White House!
  How many times must you be sold the same stupid idea?  Every time the 'lesser' of the two evils is greater than the evil before it. It's a game for suckers.
4)The system is worldly. Now I want to  conclude this by talking to 'my crowd', the Christians. The GOP uses us, and has for pretty much my entire life.  They meet with evangelical leaders like Falwell and Dobson, and these  leaders slobber all over these politicians for a seat at the table. This is done because the politicians believe theses leaders can deliver them blocks of people who will support them, and apparently that works for them. But I challenge you to think for yourselves. Think about Donald Trump ( just as an easy example), and then consider these verses.
  The Bible says "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
  The Bible says "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
  The Bible says "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning."
The Bible says  "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

  Christian, you are never commanded in scripture to vote. You are commanded to  preach the gospel.  You aren't commanded to 'save America', you are commanded to be part of the salvation of men's souls.  God not only isn't a Republican, He isn't even an American.
  In 2012 a friend of mine was positively abused on social media by people we both went to church with over his support of Ron Paul. He was called names and insulted by his brothers and sisters in Christ. His failure to  fall into line and back the empty suit of Romney caused division and  bad feelings.  This time around, another friend of mine has offered to 'defriend' anyone on Facebook who doesn't support Trump. What sort of wicked system turns brothers and sisters against each other like that? And why do you keep participating, Christian?
  It's ok, really. Let them ruin the place, they are going to anyway. it's theirs to ruin.  We seek a heavenly country wherein dwells righteousness.  Our citizenship is in heaven, and if the place falls apart, and it becomes (more) repressive, take heart; the church of Jesus Christ has lived and thrived under those conditions from the beginning. This literally isn't our fight.
  Don't get distracted. Don't believe their lies. Don't waste your time voting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Christians, Stop Arguing with Idiots

 I subscribe to a couple of Christian forums , and if you sit back dispassionately and watch the going on, there are definitely some observable trends. One of the trends is that people hostile to the gospel  or hostile to the Bible in general will post things  intended to insult or belittle Christians.  Sometimes the scoffers will  originate a post, or sometimes they will simply weigh in on someone else's post. The end result is that Christians ill-equipped for the battle will charge on ahead, and the discussion quickly gets out of hand and off-topic. I've even seen Christians get 'in the flesh' and  speak unadvisedly in these matters. I've seen professing Christians resort to obscenities.  Meanwhile, the skeptics and gainsayers are high-fiving each other as they use you for their entertainment.
  I was told years ago by a much wiser man "Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  I don't know if I have ever received better advice.
  With that in mind, and as part of a small service to the body of Christ, let me present with you some points to keep in mind as you scoot about the internet or talk to people in person.

1. Arguing with idiots is not contending for the faith.
  Jude 1:3 reads "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." but the counterbalance for that commandment is found in places like "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." ( Prov 26:4) and "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes." (2 Tim 2:23). You are not required to entertain the incessant questioning and scorning of fools.  In fact, the Bible tells us in Titus 3 "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."  According to Romans 1:29, debate is a work of the flesh anyway, and you certainly aren't required to hold endless discussion with  insincere people.

2. There is a difference between a seeker and a scorner 
  Prov 1:22 says "..scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.." and Prov 14:6 adds  "A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.".  A scorner isn't asking because they want an answer; they are asking because they love the act of scorning. According to the Bible, if they wanted the truth, they would find it. The Bible says in John 3 "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil".
  Compare the scorner to men like Nicodemus in John 3 or Cornelius in Acts 10. These men weren't believers, but they weren't scorners, and because they came to God on His terms, and not armed with  endless array of smart-aleck 'objections' founded out of the darkness of their own heart, God granted them repentance.
  In dealing with people, we should use wisdom to discern after two or three interactions whether this is a person that is sincerely seeking the truth or a God-hating scorner who will trip over the truth all day long no matter how well it is presented.

3. They hate God, but they can't get to God, so they take it out on you
 Hebrews 11: 6 says "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."  If a man comes to God with an imperfect heart, God refuses to deal with him.  You see in the gospels where Jesus Christ had time for people full of devils and lepers, but no time for the self-righteous or the foolish. Prov 1 tells us  "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
  If you pay careful attention to the rantings of most 'skeptics' it is obvious that at some point they got mad at God.  Most will even tell you of their early church-going background, but somewhere along the way something happened.  Either God didn't do something they thought He should have or He didn't stop something from happening that they think He should have stopped. They decide that they are right, and God is wrong. Bitterness and anger harden their heart towards God and since they can't get to God, they will try to spew their vitriol on God's people.  The Bible tells us "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul." (Prov 22:24-25).  Their issue is with God, not with you.  Don't get caught up in their issue.

4. Proving God is not your job.
  I am thankful for the people who have devoted their lives to apologetics, and  I don't mean this as a slight towards them, but frankly, most apologetics is a waste of time.  God gave us a Bible, and as much as I appreciate the fact that, as the Creator, He left His fingerprints all over creation, its the Bible that is our proof, not  'creation science'.
  Nowhere in the Bible are we told to run around trying to find Noah's ark or Solomon's temple . If they find that sort of thing, I must admit its interesting, but if it never gets found, I still have a Bible written by One who cannot lie. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to use human reasoning or philosophy to make God's case for him.  Nowhere are we commanded to use our own experiences as the cornerstone for God's existence.
 We are simply told to "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel".  While doing that we will run into sincere people , and to those people we preach the gospel. We will also encounter insincere people, and to those people we preach the gospel. A man that rejects God doesn't reject God due to an insufficiency of evidence; he rejects God because he has a dirty heart.  Were you to somehow find 'proof' outside of the Bible and present it to him, according to scripture it wouldn't change anything because his heart is still dirty towards God. In Luke 16, the rich man is told "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." The issue wasn't proof or lack of proof, it was their heart.
  A man told me once "If only God would show up on the earth and appear to man, then we would believe." He did, and they didn't.  By rejecting the gospel, a man blinds himself, opposes himself, and ultimately condemns himself. No amount of 'Back to Genesis' articles will change that.

5. The word of God is our only weapon.
 In Psalm 119:130, the Bible says "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." In Ephesians 6, when listing the 'whole armour of God', the only offensive weapon listed is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:" That sword is said to be ".. quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" in Hebrews 4.  The Apostle Peter, after recounting his own eye-witness experiences in 2 Peter 1, appeals to the scriptures as being "a  more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts"

   So when a person comes to you with an objection, you tell them what the Bible says. When they try to hem you up and belittle you,  tell them what the Bible says. When they resort to name-calling, tell them what the Bible says. After two or three admonitions, they have proven themselves to be a scorner and a fool and you are no longer obligated to deal with them. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Dumpster Pizza Is the Best!"

 I was on my way the corner to preach when I saw them; a young couple dressed in tie-dyes and jean shorts holding a sign on the side of the road. Technically he was holding the sign and she was laying on her back in the roadside grass, propping herself  up against a backpack and tending to a dog of indeterminate breeding.  I walked maybe 40 yards to the  right of them on my way to the corner. By then he had retreated from his post alongside the road into the scant shade and he waved weakly. I waved back and headed to my usual Sunday afternoon preaching  spot.
  I preached my way through one red light, and then a second one, when I saw him making his way across several lanes of traffic to talk to me.  I assumed he was going to ask for money, but he didn't. He told me that he just wanted to thank me for my 'service' ( my hat gets a lot of this). He glanced at my sign and then without further ado, he wandered back across the street and resumed his own sign holding activities.  Once in a while someone would slow down and hand him money through a rolled down car window, but for the most part he just stood there in the brutal Georgia sun while his blonde girlfriend reclined in the grass.
  I told myself I would preach for  a few more lights and then I would go talk to them, but then an odd thing happened; the traffic stopped. By that I mean , for the next 3 lights, there was absolutely nobody sitting at the light when it was red.  When it turned green a herd of cars would come rumbling through, but by the time it turned red, the lanes would be empty. I don't know if I have ever seen anything like it before. I took that as a 'sign' and broke down my banner so that I could head back across the street to where they were.
  Some guys have charisma, and great conversational ice-breakers. I am not one of those guys. I walked over to them and told them that I would be remiss in my duties as a preacher of the gospel if I didn't at least give them a gospel tract. He took it and I asked him his name, which was Greg.  For the next 20 minutes or so I stood there and talked to them about Jesus.
  They were homeless, both barely in their 20's and referred to themselves as 'traveling kids', which apparently is a thing. They claimed to be part of a much larger community ("family" is the word they used) of people who wander around the country from place to place in the tradition of the old rail-riding hobos, under society's radar, outside of the system and free from the grind of the 9 to 5 life.  She took great pride in declaring herself, at least philosophically, a a modern day hippie.They sleep wherever they can, and eat whatever they can. One of their favorite things to do is to camp outside of the Little Caesars pizza chain after hours because, as she  said with absolute sincerity "Dumpster pizza is the best!" 
  Eventually came the big question; where will you go when you die? Greg said that he would be placed in a box and he would then proceed to rot. He then told me that wasn't entirely true, but he was  simplifying it for my benefit. The young lady told me she believed she had a soul, and based on her own goodness she expected to go to heaven.  That caused him to amend his own statement and tell me that he believed in positive and negative energy but he wouldn't exactly call it a 'soul'. He believed that something  of him would  carry on, but he didn't claim to have any certainty in the specifics.  Her mother was a ex-druggie who had experienced a jailhouse conversion to Islam which had helped her get clean. His dad was a scientist and he admitted he would have more confidence in science if they didn't keep changing their minds every few years. His mom had taken him to church as a kid, but he quit going when he was 16.
  He admitted he had left home a harsh skeptic, but he had seen so much inexplicable provision on their journey that he had to  conclude that 'something' was functioning in the universe and that Something was a benevolent Something, but he said it probably wasn't the God of the Bible.
  We talked about sin, righteousness and judgment. I told them what Jesus had done for them. I tried to correct some of the horrible misinformation they had picked up along the way about God, and about the Bible. They were friendly, they were genuine, they were frank. They were also horribly confused.
  I realized my family was waiting for me, so I thanked them for their time, shook his hand and left.  As I was heading out he asked me if I could throw some of their trash away for them, since he hates to  litter. I told him I would and then I gave him my home number. I told him that if he was ever in the area, give me a call and I'd buy them a cup of coffee or something and we could talk some more. I don't expect to hear from them, and I don't expect to see them again.  But I can stand before God and say that I did what I could, and that at least one man cared for their soul enough to tell them.

  Knowing that doesn't really make me feel any less ineffectual, though.  So often I stand there and look people in the eyes and wonder why I can't make them see.  So often I walk away and wonder if I could have explained things better or answered their questions more clearly.  Intellectually I understand that I did the job the way the Bible says do it, and the rest is up to God.  But it doesn't make it any easier.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Trey Pearson Is Wrong

As a disclaimer, until the recent news about Mr Pearson, I had no idea who he was.  Not only am I not a fan, I was as unaware of his existence as he is of mine.  I have no axe to grind in regards to him, and I have no real desire to try to achieve some sort of  cheap victory off what must a be a very trying time for his family.  I don't see the point in kicking a man while he is down, especially if that man is a brother in Christ
  But Trey Pearson is wrong.  He's not just wrong in his behavior, but he is wrong in his theology, and that  horrible misunderstanding  has given the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme. I assume by his testimony he is a saved man, but he is still wrong.
  Mr. Pearson, in his letter to his fans, says;
 "I had never before admitted to myself that I was gay, let alone to anyone else. I never wanted to be gay. I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it never was an option for me. I have been suppressing these attractions and feelings since adolescence. I've tried my whole life to be straight."
  Repeatedly in this very candid letter, Mr. Pearson references his feelings and his emotions. He recounts his struggle to have a healthy relationship with his wife, or to be the man that he knew he was supposed to be.  I have no reason to believe he is being disingenuous and I believe his struggles, as he explains them are very real. I believe his decision to come forward with these struggles was undoubtedly agonizing.  But he is still wrong.
  Mr. Pearson isn't wrong because he's a sodomite, he's a sodomite because he's wrong. His theology is inherently flawed in that it makes his feelings or his proclivities the standard instead of the word of God.  That bad theology, resulted in bad behavior, and that bad behavior now seeks to justify itself. Make no mistake, Trey Pearson will be welcomed by the world as one of it's own. Already the  gushing testimonials from other deviants have come out, proclaiming his 'courage'.  In the middle of all this, Mr. Pearson is wrong.
  I don't know at what age Pearson  put his trust in Jesus, but at whatever age that happens for everybody that it happens to, we all have some things in common. We all bring some baggage with us.  Our flesh still longs, on occasion, for the life we left behind.  Your issue might have been lying, or drink, or women, or self-righteousness or pride.  Whatever your baggage was, there is still a haunting comforting familiarity to it, and that struggle is not unique to Mr. Pearson.  If Mr. Pearosn, before his conversion, had a proclivity towards unnatural affections, then I am hardly surprised that a shadow of those appetites lingered to some degree for the rest of his life. In other words, we all have feelings where we want things we know God has told us we aren't supposed to have.
  If your feelings  are the standard, then your flesh will wear you down to get what it wants, and you will eventually give in. Once you give in, you will seek to justify yourself, usually by referring to those same feelings that led you to betray God. It won't mater what the Bible says, you will do what you want and convince yourself that God either doesn't care or is in favor of your  personal happiness at the expense of obedience to His word.
  But the Bible says "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,...". To borrow a phrase , the struggle is real, and the Bible acknowledges this struggle, and then tells us to obey God anyway.
 Paul had this same issue, saying " For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."   There is no benefit to  pretend the struggle doesn't exist, but we should obey God anyway.  We don't sin against God by still having a desire, we sin against God be acting on that desire.  After all, according to 1 Cor 15 "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. " Jesus Christ has already won the victory and the  feelings you deal with are just echoes of the past that, through God's help you can lay aside so that you can run the race.
  Mr. Pearson, by his own words, had some struggles, and had had these struggles for years. But rather than walking in the Spirit, and resting in His Saviour, he gave in to the demands of his flesh and now lives the life of a reprobate.  He claims to feel 'free', but just like his other feelings, this freedom is an illusion, because the Bible says "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."

  The Bible is more true than your feelings.  Whatever the issue is, don't do what Mr. Pearson has done. Acknowledge the issue before God, confess it as sin, and go forward in the victory God has promised you.

Monday, May 23, 2016

In Christ: Redemption:Part 1

"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" 
 Romans 3:24

  On our list of things found only "in Christ" we come to 'redemption'.  It's an interesting word with a very clear definition in scripture. The word 'redemption' is derived from the verb 'redeem' , and those two  words are so common  in the  law of Moses that a thorough citation of every instance would be both redundant and repetitive. But it is worth noting that there are a few different categories of redemption in the scriptures, and all of them are beautifully and marvelously fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 The clearest in-context definition of redemption is probably the one in Lev 25:25;"If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." In the verse  a man loses his possessions to poverty, and his brother is able to redeem, or 'buy back' those possession.  Leviticus 25 is full of provisions and restrictions and regulations on the idea of redemption in regards to lands and houses, but in  verses 48 and 49 , the Bible says "After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.".  Redemption isn't just limited to tangible goods; people can be  redeemed, but while the need for redemption may not be limited; the ability to redeem is. Redemption can only be accomplished by a male relative but once performed , was binding upon the entire family.   The Bible refers to this as 'the right of redemption' or the 'right of inheritance' in several places, and this  figures heavily into the story of Ruth, among others.
 Generations before Ruth , however, God buys back the entire nation of Israel in Exodus 6 saying "Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments"   God lays claim  to their loyalty and their devotion and their obedience over and over again in scripture because of this single act of redemption.
  In the middle of all these proclamations regarding how and why and when things can be redeemed, God makes some things very clear.  In Psalm 49, the songwriter extols the limitations of human wealth, saying "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah."  No matter how much money you have, that brother you redeemed has a claim on him that you cannot annul, the claim of the grave. Kings and beggars alike are bound by it, but God isn't and claims the exclusive ability to redeem from the tomb and he does so while redeeming the mans  soul.
  Before we jump into the New Testament, let's look at what we know so far.  We know that to redeem is to buy something back that was lost. We know that things can be redeemed as well as people, but that only a male relative can perform this function.  We know that only God can redeem a man from the grave.

  Now as interesting as all definition and word studies are, what does it all mean? How does it all apply? Part two is on its way.


Friday, May 13, 2016

"Maybe I'll Come Back as a Drop of Rain."

  One of our regularly scheduled church ventures  happens in downtown Brunswick Ga. The first Friday of the month, the town has a little mini-festival called, appropriately 'First Friday'. Sometimes there are  vendors, sometimes there is live music, but there is always street preaching.  In fact, we have been a part of the scenery there since the beginning and a year of consistent faithful gospel witnesses has produced some interesting results. I'd like to tell you about  one of them, and explain what I think is significant about the encounter.
  The first encounter of the night happened when, in the middle of preaching I  observed a young man standing quietly off to my right just a few feet away, smoking a cigarette and waiting to speak to me. 
He introduced himself as Josh and told me that he works at the pizza parlor across the street from where we preach. Now the people at the pizza place have very little use for our ministry but  this was the first time any of the employees had come and spoken to us.
  The first thing Josh wanted to let me know was that, for the last year or so, he has consistently heard us preach on that same corner, and as far as he could tell we had not wavered in our message one iota.  He claimed to be a church kid, and a former worship leader at some church there in Brunswick.  He claimed to be familiar with the gospel. He told me "I believe in Jesus and all that, but this isn't the way to do it."
  I gave him my standard answer about the necessity of public evangelism as a fulfillment of the scriptures, and he just sort of nodded. He reiterated his disagreement with  our methods, though he claimed to be in alignment with our message.  He could even explain our message to me, having heard it proclaimed countless times at his place of employment.  He just didn't like our preaching.
  I always find that position interesting, so I asked him if he were to die where would he spend eternity.  He avoided the question, telling me how disappointed his generation was towards church and towards God, and how people like me are making things worse. I pressed forward, asking him "I'm not talking about your entire generation. I'm talking about you.  If you die, right now, what happens to you? What happens to Josh?"
  "Maybe I'll come back as a drop of rain.  I don't know."
  I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that.  I turned my banner a bit so that he could see the picture of Christ crucified and asked him "Then why did THIS happen?"
  "Oh sure, man, I mean I believe Jesus died to save us.."
  "Save you from what? From becoming a drop of rain?"
  He nodded and stared at my sign. "Yeah I see your point, but I'm just sayin', man, that people don't want you out here, you know?"
  "That's unfortunate, but it really does change anything.  But let's get back to you. You claimed to agree with what we're doing, but then..the whole raindrop thing."
  "Ok, yeah, but, it's like this, right? The Bible was written by men." He sort of leaned back like he had just dropped the most profound statement ever in my lap.
  "But you told me you believed in Jesus."
 "Yeah, I'm all about him."
  "The only way you ever heard of Jesus was from a Bible."
 "But you don't believe the Bible that told you about him? I'm confused."
  "Well the Bible was written by God, but has been twisted by men."
  "Sure, but so what?"
  "So many people they just  believe what some guy tells them about the Bible, and they dont read it for themselves."
  "Do you read it for yourself?"
 "" An awkward silence prevailed for a bit. He cleared his throat and  took a hit off his cigarette.
  "Ok, Josh, look, for a year you've heard us , right?"
  "And we've never pointed you or anyone else towards us or towards our church."
 "I've never told you you had to work your way to heaven. I've never given you a bunch  of rules to follow."
 "We've just mentioned Jesus Christ over and over again as the only cure for sin."
  "And you agree with that?"
 "Oh yeah, man.  I told you I grew up in church."
 I must have had a puzzled look on my face. "So what exactly is the problem?"
 He gestured around "I'm just sayin', everybody out here isn't on board with all this, you know?"
"I am aware of this, yes."
 "That's all I'm sayin'."
  "But you can't speak for everybody here. You can only speak to you. So do you, Josh, know for sure that your sins are forgiven?"

  We covered a lot of the same ground three or four more times before Ken Seremak tried to make some sense of what he was saying.  A few minutes later I found myself engaged in a conversation with another young man (a story for another time) but what I took away from all that is this; the message we proclaim is simple and easily understood and by the testimony of people opposed to it is remarkably consistent. We don't preach the flavor of the month of the philosophy of the day, we preach Christ, and him crucified. We preach repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We preach sin, righteousness and judgment to come.  We have done that week in and week out and the testimony isn't hat we've  had a huge harvest of souls. The testimony is that everybody knows exactly what we're all about.
 Allow me to encourage you , fellow public minister. When you think nobody is listening, everybody is listening.

Monday, May 2, 2016

" I Don't Care What That Bible Says"

  This time of year, I  really have my choice of preaching venues, and usually the choice boils down to this; I can  make a 12 hour drive to Memphis Tennessee and preach with  several dozen of my dear brothers in the ministry at the Beale Street Blast ( an event I highly recommend), or I can drive 45 minutes down the road and help out a faithful man who labors alone most of the time. I chose the short drive this year.
  As a result I found myself, along with my faithful partner, and 3 of my kids at the 53rd Annual Shrimp Festival. We were there to assist  a man named Charlie who, as I said before, works these events by himself most of the time.
  As you can see from the picture, the crowd was pretty decent, and we were located maybe 30 or 40 feet away from the nearest vendor booth. We took our position and began preaching. Some people stopped and talked to us, lots of people took our picture, and some even thanked us for our presence.
  While I was preaching a man approached Charlie, and began to talk to him. I figured to myself, Charlie's got this, and I continued on. I saw the man grab Charlie's sign and begin to shake it. Charlie looked back at me and said "Brother Mike, I'll take over, can you talk to this guy?"
  The man was  probably in his  late 60's heavyset, with a Panama hat and a  button up shirt festooned with the festival logo.  Charlie took up the mantle and began preaching while I tried to talk to the man. Below is my best recollection of the conversation that followed.

 "Yes sir, what can I do for you?"
  "Listen, I'm a veteran, and I understand what you're trying to do here. I want you to know that.  I am not opposed to what you are doing here, I'm not against what you are doing here. I'm a retired minister myself.  But, you need to do it quieter."
  "If we did it quieter nobody could hear us."
  "Listen, this is a festival.  And the vendors here have spent a lot of money to be here, and you're hurting business."
 "Well, I get your point, my wife is actually manning a booth at a separate festival, and.."
 "Sir, you don't need to yell at me."
 By now he is jabbing his  finger into my chest to make his point.
 As a quick note, let me say that ,  although sometimes this might be a valid concern, I had been carefully watching vendor activity all around us, and I can honestly say that traffic didn't even slow down the entire time we were there. We were far enough back to where we were not interfering with anybody, but we could still be hard.  But I digress. The yelling continued:
 "Sir, this is public property." I pointed towards what I was pretty sure was City Hall. "That is city property."
 "Well sir, the Bible says ..."
"Yes sir, that's exactly the problem. Honestly, the best thing you could have done as a minster was retire."
  Now I probably shouldn't have said that. It wasn't necessary.  But by now he had been poking me in my chest (technically assault) for  several minutes now and screaming at me. Now the finger went from my chest to my face. A crowd was gathering, and the preaching was still going on.
"The Bible says ..."
 "Go ahead , sir.  We'll be here when they  arrive.". 
  He stomped off into the crowd. The cops never arrived. We stayed for maybe another half hour and departed.
  Now let me say this; I tend to highlight the confrontations we have, but our ministry is not a ministry of contention. We aren't rude, we don't insult people, or at least we try not to.  But when you preach in public, your most devoted opposition will not come from the dope crowd or the prostitute crowd or the devil-worshiping crowd.  Your opposition will come from professing Christians. Pastors will shun you, deacons will insult you. and  people who claim to agree with everything you say will demand that the police arrest you for saying it.
  Strange stuff indeed.