Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marking the Romans Road

Tonight I preached a sermon called, "3 Ways 2 Share 1 Gospel."  In the course of the message we talked about a wonderful practice of marking your Bible.  A marked Bible is a wonderful evangelistic tool that many a faithful soul-winner has used to share the gospel of Christ.

I led the church to mark 6 verses of Scripture we often call "The Romans Road."  Because we moved so quickly, let me share these simple little steps again.

1.  Locate Romans 3:10-11 and circle the passage...or at least circle the verse numbers.  The point is, mark it in a way that when you turn to that page your eye naturally falls to those verses.

2.  Make note of the page number in your Bible.  (In my main preaching Bible it is on page 243 because the page numbers begin again in the New Testament).

3.  Go to the front page of your Bible (the inside flap) and write down the page number.  For example, in my Bible I would write "start on page 243."

4.  Now go back to Romans 3:10-11.  It should be easy to find by this point :)  In the margin beside Romans 3:10-11 write the words, "Go to 3:23."  This is a reminder that the next verse to use is Romans 3:23.

5.  Circle Romans 3:23.  In the margin beside that verse write, "Go to 5:8."  This is a reminder that the next verse to use is Romans 5:8.

6.  Circle Romans 5:8.  In the margin beside that verse write, "Go to 6:23." This is a reminder that the next verse to use is Romans 6:23.

7.  Circle Romans 6:23.  In the margin beside that verse write, "Go to 10:9." This is a reminder that the next verse to use is Romans 10:9.

8.  Circle Romans 10:9.  In the margin beside that verse write, "Go to 10:13." This is a reminder that the next verse to use is Romans 10:13.

9.  Beside Romans 10:13, write the word "INVITE."  This is a reminder that once the gospel has been presented, you can invite the person to repent and receive Christ.

By the way, once you commit these verses to memory, you will find that they are practically sufficient to answer the most common questions about the gospel.  By the way, evangelism is not about squashing arguments when people ask, "Why?"  It's about answering questions when people ask, "How?"

Of course this is just one method or approach to sharing the gospel.  The intention of marking your Bible is not to create some man-made system for evangelism.  But it sure is an easy method for people who are just getting serious about sharing their faith.  With time and faithful practice, these verses become "second nature" and the marked Bible becomes a glorious reminder of your early days as a soul-winner.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Honor Your Father and Your Mother...God.

In my ministry, I deal a lot with "family matters."  Marital problems, rebellious teens, abusive parents, financial woes, etc.  One of the most difficult is the teenager (or adult child) who feels he has justification to dishonor his parents.  And let's face it...some parents are not "honorable."

Because it is such a prevalent problem, I wanted to share some of an email I recently sent to a teenager I believe is struggling with this issue.  I've edited my reply in order to maintain the confidentiality, but the rest of the post stands on its own as good sound advice for us all.

Regardless of what you have been through, be it real or perceived, the Bible commands you to give honor to your parents. You have a number of Facebook friends who say they are "praying" for you. Indeed you have asked for prayer yourself in your recent Facebook post.

Since God answers prayer through His Word, let me give you a few places to study. I don't share these to "fuss" at you but to help to answer your request for prayer. My prayer is that God will guide you as you study these verses.

Leviticus 19:3 - "Every one of you shall reverence his father and mother...for I am the Lord your God."

Notice, the reverence of parents is based on who our GOD is, not who our PARENTS are. We honor father and mother because of how GOD has treated us. Not how our PARENTS have treated us. That's why this commandment could be given to "every one of you." Were there bad parents in ancient Israel? Sure. But that did not exempt the children from showing respect to their parents.

Leviticus 20:9 - "If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother he shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother and his bloodguiltiness shall be upon him."

Sounds like God takes saying ugly things TO or ABOUT your parents very seriously. In fact, in the theocratic government of Israel, FB posts like yours where you dishonor your parents would have gotten you stoned outside the city gate.

These theocratic laws about stoning sinners is not operational today...and praise God because we have ALL violated the Word of God in this matter.  But it does give us an idea of what God thinks about us using our words to dishonor our parents.

Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 - "Honor your father and your mother."

These two verses come from the Decalogue, or, the Ten Commandments. That alone should be enough. But when you consider that the OT Jews understood the first 5 commandments dealt with our relationship to GOD and commandments 6-10 focused on our relationships with OTHERS, it is quite interesting that the commandment on honoring our parents is actually listed in the section on being rightly related to GOD.

Romans 1:30 lists being "disobedient to parents" as one of several signs of having a reprobate (depraved) mind. It is the sign of someone who has been cut off from and rejected by God.

Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 continue this teaching into the New Testament. Those verses would be worth a look.

May I share one more thing...I deal with this all the time as a pastor. When church members and professing Christians slam one another publicly (like on FaceBook) and live as if their lives are a wreck, it sure is an awful witness.

I pray that for your sake, the sake of your own testimony, and the sake of some lost soul you will consider removing dishonoring comments about your parents.  You may have other family and FB friends who will condone your actions. I cannot. For God does not. And when they do, they speak in CLEAR and UNEQUIVOCAL violation of what the One you call your LORD has said.

I do not pretend to know very much about what has taken place in your home. But I do know this: such responses are not pleasing to Christ.

I am telling you this because I love you. No one has ever broken God's law and walked away unscathed or unpunished. If your parents have violated God's Word, the LORD is big enough to handle them. In the meantime, ask GOD for strength for you to do what is right in HIS eyes.

I can promise you, you will never regret it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sunday Alcohol Sales

Here it comes again. Sunday alcohol sales. The liquor lobby is out in full force and it sure looks like the issue will be headed toward a state-wide referendum. The bill currently before the state’s general assembly would not necessarily open the flood gates for booze peddlers. But it would make the issue one of local control rather than state mandate.

It has often been said that 3 parties rule in Washington:  The Republican Party, the Democrat Party, and the cocktail party.  It is increasingly clear these 3 parties are alive and well under the gold dome as well.

For the record, my conviction on Sunday alcohol sales is actually the same as my view on the other 6 days of the booze business. You would be hard-pressed to find a more fervent and vocal critic of alcohol than I am. I despise alcohol. I really do. Hardly a week goes by that I do not have to minister to an individual or family ravaged by drugs and alcohol. That’s why I have preached old-fashioned “temperance sermons” in the Emmanuel pulpit no less than 3 times in 8 ½ years. My utter hatred of alcohol is well-known by my friends and critics alike.

Nevertheless, I am amused by the apparent shock of my friends and colleagues on the Christian right. They seem flabbergasted by the notion that this bill could make its way through a Republican-controlled state assembly and be signed by a Republican governor. While I share their desire to see this legislation die a decisive death I cannot for the life of me share their dismay. In other words, I am shocked that they are shocked.

The only reason members of the religious right would be surprised by the actions of the general assembly is because they have made a fatal miscalculation. They forgot that "Conservative Christian" and "Republican" are not synonymous labels.

For the last several election cycles, the Christian right has been in bed with the Republican Party. The problem is they’ve been in bed with no marriage. No covenant. No commitment. To a large degree it’s been political fornication that would rival that infamous tryst between David and Bathsheba.

Granted, there are some wonderful Christian leaders in the GOP. But for the most part, the national and state-wide relationship between Republicans and the church has been anything but mutually-exclusive. It’s been more like the unwritten contract between a wealthy mobster and his mistress. Oh he comes by to see her alright…but only when the need arises. And like clockwork, the GOP rings the church’s doorbell every 2 years.

This dirty little aspect of our relationship explains the Grand Old Party’s deafness to the concerns of religious conservatives regarding Sunday alcohol sales. We just scratched their itch in 2010. They’ve got nearly 2 years to play the field, sow their wild oats with other lovers, knowing we will still be here in 2012.

The state GOP has nothing to lose and everything to gain by climbing in the sack with the liquor lobbyists. Where else will conservative Christians go in 2012? And let’s be honest. We have notoriously-short memories. By the time these politicians run for reelection in 2012 and 2014, we will have completely forgotten about Sunday liquor sales. Besides, they weren’t in favor of selling booze on the Lord’s Day, just local control.

They want to say "no" to Sunday liquor sales but they believe the "no" should come locally instead of from Atlanta.  That’s why they will vote for the issue to be placed on the ballot and then rush back to their home precincts to champion the defeat of the referendum.

Right.

If you believe that, perhaps you've already been drinking a bit too much.

Maybe the temperance movement in Georgia would be better served to take advantage of this delicate relationship we have with the Republican Party. Instead of spending money to lobby against liquor legislation maybe we should go to the hometowns of the state’s elected GOP leadership and recruit good strong Christians to run against them as Democrats. That, my friends, would be a game-changer.

If the top Republicans in this state thought their own seats were vulnerable, they’d start railing against alcohol sales with the fiery rhetoric of an Independent Baptist preacher. Honestly, if some influential state legislator were in a tight race that would hinge on conservative Christian turnout, that legislator would become president and founder of “Georgians Opposed to Drinking.” That’s GOD, for short.

We'd have websites, Facebook pages, and get-out-the-vote campaigns. There'd be yard signs and bumper stickers predicting that "Sunday alcohol sales will usher in the unveiling of the antichrist!"  Church bulletin inserts would show the statistical connection between Sunday alcohol sales and increases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.  This would help make the case that running to the polls to defeat Sunday alcohol sales (and voting for the GOP while you're there) is, in reality, a Sanctity of Life issue.

Following their reelection, all emphasis on the issue would disappear, the crisis having been averted. Not the crisis of Sunday liquor sales but the "crisis" that they were on the verge of losing an election.

For the record, the timing of this legislation is not as much the lack of lobbying from the Christian right as it is about having a governor who will sign this bill.  He was not a perfect man (nor am I) but I miss Sonny Perdue more and more every day.

Yes sir. The main reason there is a deafening silence on the issue is no particular politician sees any direct benefit from grandstanding. And they see a definite benefit from keeping their mouth shut. If state Republicans perceived a personal political benefit from opposing Sunday alcohol sales it would be "Katie bar the door!" And the liquor cabinet.

But do not worry Christian friends. The GOP will be back. So keep the lights turned down low, the soft music playing, and the sheets turned back. The doorbell will ring again in 2012. Only next time, he’ll be bringing the booze.