Thursday, April 28, 2016

In Christ: The Introduction

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Cor 5:17

   I believe the phrase "in Christ" is one of the most remarkable phrases in the Bible. Contained within those two words is your birthright as a blood-washed son of God.  The Bible says in 1 Cor 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." If you are "in Christ" you have passed from "death unto life" and now have an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled". When a man exercises "repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ" God takes him out of whatever tribe or kindred or tongue he was born into and places him "in Christ.", which is why Ephesians 2 says "..being in time past Gentiles in the flesh..". Whatever you were before you were saved, you aren't that any more, you are a "new creature" joined with every other Christian past and present into this new thing God has made. Romans 12 says that, after salvation, "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
  As 2 Cor says "all things are become new" and for a good portion of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit takes the time to explain the things that are now yours if you  are "in Christ." It is described at least a dozen different ways from at least a dozen different angles, and yet most Christians remain ignorant of it.  Some Christians wander around completely clueless about what is theirs by  the new birth,  and some go so far as to spend a great deal of time trying to acquire things  that are already theirs.  Others misunderstand the nature of these promises and instead claim things that don't belong to them while walking past the "unsearchable riches" already promised to them.
  It is my intention to spend some time exploring these things that God has not only promised us, but has already given us. So many of these possessions overlap and complement each other that some of them seems to run together and some cannot be properly understood without the others.  Know this from the beginning; all of these are already yours if you are saved. They aren't things you have to strive for or earn. You don't get these just because you're a pastor or just because you've been in the ministry for decades; you get these on Day One. There is no seniority in the body of Christ. There is no ladder of success you have to climb to achieve these things. Everybody has these.These are all things God  has already provided.  You can live in this things, and walk in these things today.
Of course it would probably help if you knew what they were.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"No, I'm Going to take YOUR picture"

It is a fact of life in this modern age that if you are involved in public ministry, you will be photographed. People that don't even a have job have cell phones somehow, and  whenever we go out we are videoed and photographed scores of times it seems.
  Oddly enough, and I may be admitting to a certain bit of vanity here, I have never seen all these pictures people take.  I mean I assume these people post these things somewhere. I have googled everything from 'street preachers' to 'religious nut with sign' and have yet to see myself.  What are the odds?
  Now one step beyond the casual videographer is the person who insists not on simply taking a picture of me, but in taking a  picture with  me. Generally speaking they are scorners, and young. They rarely ask permission; they just simply throw an arm over my shoulder in the midst of the  preaching while their buddy snaps a picture and giggles.. I've had them crouch in front of the sign with an alcoholic beverage upraised. I've had women expose themselves for the picture. I've had them throw 'devil signs' with their hands. I had one guy try to stick his tongue in my ear.   It is all in  a days work in public ministry.
  Recently we were in Savannah preaching in a park, and due to a series of unfortunate events, the park was virtually empty. We had just a trickle of cross traffic and  we had already saturated the area with tracts, so I simply stood there with  my banner.
  A man came along,  more than a bit inebriated and asked me if he could take my picture.  Before I could answer he threw an arm around me and grinned towards his equally inebriated buddy with the cell phone. Actually for some reason he had two buddies with two cameras taking two pictures.  I stopped him. I said "No, you are not going to take a picture with me, I am going to take a picture with you."  This seemed to throw him off his game a bit, but he agreed and so my teenage son  pulled out his camera and joined the others. Three people photographing two people.
So here, submitted for your approval (finally)  a picture of somebody taking a picture with me.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Please sir,. I am listening"

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be relating various ministry-related stories that happened on our recent trip to the Philippines. This is one of them.

Photo by Belle Alford

 Riding in a Jeepney is a unique experience, especially as an American.  I highly recommend it as a enriching experiential event indicative of the local culture. In other words; skip the opera, ride a Jeepney.
  A Jeepney is the public transportation of choice in Cagayn de Oro.  Picture a school bus with every possible safety feature removed (windows, doors, seatbelts) and painted with whatever paint was laying around. Weld purely decorative features to the  hood or to the sides (chrome horns that don't work seem to be a crowd favorite). Stick some English words on there that don't go together and whatever graphic strikes your fancy ( my personal favorite was the picture of the Lamborghini with the words 'Proud to Farm' underneath). Then take that garish bus and cram it with a constant flow of people. Fill every seat, stack people on the roof, hang people off the back and have the driver make change while in motion and yammering away with the riders about the local gossip and you might have some idea of what it's like to ride in a Jeepney.
  The strategy for preaching on Jeepney is simple. Wait till the Jeepney fills up, and preach. You will be thigh-to-thigh with the people you are preaching to, and your face will be inches away from theirs. The most amazing part is that they listen, and sometimes interact with you.
  My daughter and I had  deciphered the Jeepney system and we were more than a little proud of ourselves for being able to maneuver independently through the city.So I positioned myself behind the driver and once we had a decent load of people, I began to preach slowly and in English.
  Preaching slowly was not a problem. Preaching in English is not a problem. The problem is that, thought the riders are attentive, the commerce of the Jeepney continues and you will be handed money to give to the driver. The driver will make change without even looking and hand the change back to you for you to pass on down the line. People will be yelling at the driver to make sure he stops, and he will be yelling back.The trick is to maintain a thought while all this swirl of activity is going on inches away from you and demanding your involvement. I mean, as much as you may want to tune it all out, you need to make sure the lady at the end of the Jeepney gets her change back. Passing strangers money is part of the experience.
 So there I was, preaching by myself on the Jeepney for the first time, and participating in all that went on.  Somehow in all those transactions, I lost my train of thought. It happens. I also started to wonder if, in my  focus on the gospel, I had missed our stop. So I  stuttered and stammered and looked around a bit. Like I said, it happens. From the far end of the Jeepney, a woman said "Please sir, I am listening."
  I can handle a lot of things. I can handle apathy, and I can handle hostility. It's  a by-product of my ministry. Apparently what I can't handle, at least not that day, was somebody paying attention. I stared at this woman and my mind was blank. I stared at her for what was probably only a few seconds but felt much longer. She repeated herself.
 "Please sir, I am listening. But my building is very close. Tell me."
  I marshaled my brains and rallied to the cause. I explained to her one more time how Christ had died for her sins and how God commands all men to repent, believe the gospel, and be saved.  I probably did a lousy job; I usually do.  But soon her building was in view. Her last words to me were "Thank you for the information."
  I believe that most gospel witnesses are cumulative; most people don't receive Christ the first time they are told about Him, or even the second time.  I believe that only at the judgment seat of Christ will we really understand how His word will not return void. But that day, for about 14 cents American (7 pesos one way) , I got one more chance to look a fellow human being in the eyeball and tell them the only thing worth telling. To God be the glory.