Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm Not a Big Believer in Personal Soul Winning

There's a man I met a few months ago who we'll call Ricardo. (Not his real name, but, you knew that.) We first met in a home with about 20 other people that had showed up for a home bible study.  This wasn't your typical Sunday or mid-week crowd, that may be why I was so excited to be there.  Ricardo & his girl friend, "Cindy", showed up late.  We had already ate some food and L.R. was teaching the study already.  People sat around the small, dimly lit living room on couches and wooden folding chairs from the 50's.  A few stood in the small kitchen looking through the doorway to see and to listen.  Since Ricardo was late he and his girl friend sat in the narrow, dark hallway off to the side of the kitchen in front of the bathroom.  Both he and she are in their late 30's, early 40's, which made them part of us older people that were there.  Three or four of the late teen, early 20-something guys that were there were obligatorily attending so that they could receive MMA training after the study.  This was a MIXED group to say the least.

The BEST part: Sinners outnumbered Saints.  Ideally, our churches should be representative of the cultures, peoples, & ethnicity of the cities we are in.  In the cities we work in, sinners outnumber saints.  It was reflected in this night's crowd, but, I digress.  Back to Ricardo and Cindy.

They sat through the study.  He interrupted with a question from time to time.  He was definitely not shy.  He may have been slightly intoxicated.  Not real sure.  There's some things I know that he and Cindy both were.  They were hungry, broken, empty and searching.  It was undeniable.

L.R. finished the bible study.  At his request, I made a few comments from the couch and then L.R. asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for.  Ricardo got up, walked from the hallway into the living room area, stepped between legs and stood in front of L.R. and S.G.  He talked about not getting it right but needing to.  He was as open and honest about his condition as anyone could be.  We began to pray, he began to weep.  Many in the room bowed their heads respectfully, unsure of this process they had never witnessed before.  Jesus Christ was ministering.

Ricardo & Cindy showed from time to time but never really stuck.  She was desperate for him to change for fear of death.  He was known to get involved in altercations and gang violence is rampant in the communities he walks in.  Cindy's desperation turned to frustration at times. He would get prayed for when he made periodic appearances. She was seeing more and more in the word.  Four weeks ago, we baptized Cindy, along with three others, in Jesus name in the front yard of that same house.  Ricardo wasn't there to witness it.

Friday night, while in a church service, I received a text from S.G.  It read "Pray for 'Ricardo' shot himself."  My mind raced.  I wanted to race out of the service.  (Don't judge me now.  You've checked your phone in service before.)  What did the message mean?  How was he?  What happened?  Where is he?  Questions of concern flooded my mind for fear of a soul that could slip through the grasp of grace.

It turns out that Ricardo had shot himself in the leg and foot with a sawed off shotgun.  I'll spare you the details, but he did just finish his 4th surgery yesterday with more to come.  I stood in the hospital with Cindy on Saturday.  Ricardo was in and out of it.  I talked to him, prayed to God for his healing, pleaded for his soul.

My phone rang last night on the way home from a bible study.  It was Ricardo on the line from his hospital room.  He wasn't even aware I had been there a few days before.  He spoke.  I wept.  He wept.  I spoke.  Above all, God ministered.  It's a turning point.  I believe that, by faith, with all that is in me by the power of Jesus Christ.

I've realized something through this road with Ricardo.  I'm not a big believer in PERSONAL soul winning.  I believe in it - sure, BUT, I'm a HUGE believer in CORPORATE SOUL WINNING.

Paul said, "Apollos planted, I watered, but God gives the increase."  In Acts 8, Philip preached, healed, baptized.  Peter & John came and prayed and people received the Holy Ghost.  People that came to Priscilla and Aquilla's house were touched by more than just those two people in the church.  I believe in GROUP soul winning.

You see, I didn't teach Ricardo his first bible study.  S.G. did.  I'm not the only one who visited Ricardo in the hospital.  More than five others have.  His life has been specifically touched with the word and prayer by at least eight or nine people with the same compassion and cause.  Why?  Because we all believe IT TAKES A CHURCH TO WIN A LIFE to Christ.  Not a building, but a group of people with a clear focus on reaching people and leading them to Christ.  No one is concerned with who gets the credit.  Ricardo's not my recruit or his recruit or her recruit.  Let's just get people to Jesus.

In S.G.'s home where I first met Ricardo, we've baptized nine people in the last month.  This past Tuesday night, after my wife and I left S.G.'s home, I received a text from him.  It read "Travis & John received the Holy Ghost."  I'll update you when Ricardo receives the Holy Ghost.  You know it's just a matter of time when a whole group of people are reaching, teaching, giving and praying for him.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Love Math

With school starting back, my thoughts have been on the three R's lately.  You know, Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic.  (Who ever thought of calling them the three R's wasn't a spelling major, that's for sure!)  I've especially been thinking about Math.  It was always my favorite subject in school.  I can hear some of you through cyberspace saying "Ugh!" and "You're crazy!"  Think about this for just a moment and you'll understand some key reasons why I loved math. 

First and foremost - MATH DIDN'T HAVE GRAY AREAS!
  • In 1st grade - 2 + 2 = 4
  • In 5th grade - 2 + 2 = 4
  • Believe it or not, even when new math after I graduated  - 2 + 2 = 4
You can probably figure out that I hated English. ('I' before 'E' except after.... Drove me crazy!) Math was not given to any private interpretation. In math, we all understood and agreed (sometimes after a little debate) there was only one answer.

The 2nd reason I loved math is because there were formulas.  There was always a pattern, a process or a principle that helped you determine the answer.  Once you understood, believed and followed the formula you could solve more complex questions.  Remember adding double, triple and quadruple digits?  Once you grasped the concept of addition and carrying it didn't matter how long the numbers were.  You just stuck to the principle you learned.  Ahhh, math.  Now that's a subject that's easy to love.

The final reason I loved math is really just a combination of the first two reasons.  The lack of gray areas and the principle of formulas remained whether it was addition, subtraction, multiplication, division... As a matter of fact, the same principle of formulas remained in Algebra (stop all the groaning), Geometry, Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus (that's as far as I got in High School).  You see, the principle of success didn't change because the problems became more complex.  You simply had to be willing to stay with the teacher long enough to learn the process.

Can you see the math in God's Word?  Think about it with me for a few minutes.
  • God's Word doesn't have gray areas.  It's not given to any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20)
  • No matter how difficult or complex life's challenges and problems, once you learn the principles you can always come through with the answer. (Note: Important to stay tuned in to the teacher to learn the process!)
  • The word of God is full of formulas.  Simple, direct, applicable formulas.  When learned and followed you always arrive at the Answer. Let me finish out with a few formulas I've found for you to think on.
  • Jesus + you = Majority
  • Jesus + you + belief = All things are possible  (Mark 9:23)
  • Jesus + you + me = 10,000 of the enemy to flight (Deuteronomy 32:30)
  • 1 Cross + 3 Nails = 4 Given (John 3:16, Luke 23:34)
  • Death + Burial + Resurrection = Saving Message (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
  • Repentace + Baptism in Jesus Name = You will receive gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38)
  • One of my personal favorites -  JESUS in me > he that's in the world (1 John 4:4)
You may have noticed, every "math" problem presented above has a common denominator.  JESUS.  He is the Answer.

I'd welcome your comments and ADDitional formulas you've gleaned from the Bible in the comments section below.  Have a blessed Back to School season.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Let the Wind Blow

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." - Jesus Christ in John 3:8

"The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where its going.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." - AMP

The wind.  There is no identifying precisely where it will come from and its destination can't be determined.  Its effects are evident.  The activity of it is undeniable.  It can be heard, but not seen.  It can be harnessed, but not controlled.  It can be gentle and strong; and accomplish much in either form.

Is it any wonder that Jesus likened His Spirit to the wind?  But wait, He didn't stop there.  He was so direct and bold to say that every one that is born of the Spirit is like the wind.  EVERY ONE that is born of the Spirit.  What's He suggesting?  Is He saying that the Spirit-filled, His body - the church, is just all over the place?  Of course not.  He is giving us a clear understanding of how He designed the Spirit-filled church to function.

In central WA near Thorpe there is a hillside covered with 100+ foot tall windmills.  They stand firm like soldiers in a company waiting for the blowing of the wind.  Their blades outstretched like arms begging the wind to come their direction.

These turbines have been strategically placed to capture the wind when it blows. As their symmetrical blades are rotated by the wind they are generating power to places unseen.  Ironically, there are times when the blades simply stand still.  No movement.  No wind.  It's an interesting design to say the least.  These turbines are created to start moving when the wind hits a certain velocity, but they are also designed to shut down when the wind exceeds a certain velocity.

Why is that?

Great question!

The answer is quite simple.  While the blades are made to capture the wind, the windmills have a huge problem.  They can not move across the landscape with the wind.  Try as they might, they are fixed in their position.

Yes, they are strategically positioned to capture the wind, but they are not capable of flowing and going with the wind.  Because of their fixed position, when the velocity of the wind increases they must shut down.  Failure to shut down in a strong wind can cause damage to all around.  As beautiful as the clean energy they generate is, their fixed position is designed to draw power from the wind by resisting the wind.

It's absolutely true that they are fulfilling a purpose, but they are going nowhere.  They are meeting a need, but their fixed position limits their ability to be consistently effective. They are set in their position and must now simply wait for the wind to pass from time to time.

Is it possible that Christ's church, His body of Spirit-filled believers, has become like this mass of windmills?  Is it fixed in it's position and only interested in the wind to generate power? 
Does it have no interest to flow and move with His Spirit beyond pre-determined parameters?
Has it been designed (not by Him) to shut down when the wind blows too strong because the fixed position is actually a resistant to the moving of His Spirit?

Consider an alternative wind capturer.  A ship with many sails.  It's design is not meant to merely gain power from the wind, but to be taken by and with the wind.  It's creation is not for the purpose of staying put.  One writer expressed it like this:
"A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what a ship is designed for."

The ship gets direction from light, maps, reference points and the like.  But, never forget, the ship is dependent on the wind. All of the movement is dependent on the wind.  It's speed is determined by the wind.  Proper positioning is critical to allow the wind to take it to it's destination.

Yes, the seas can be rough.  Ships can be turned and tossed.  Rest assured that the one who controls the wind also controls the waves.  Doesn't it make sense to set sail and allow the wind of His Spirit to direct His body where He wills?

Throughout the book of Acts it's evident that His church moved with His Spirit.  That didn't always mean physical relocation, but rather a constant moving where His Spirit led to be in front of people.  The church wasn't and shouldn't be "tossed about with every wind of doctrine", but it must be mobile and willing to move with and when and where His Spirit leads.

Consider Acts 2:2-4.
"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

Some modern day methods would say "put up a sign and start services in the upper room."  Is it any wonder the church went almost three hundred years from house-to-house and grew by thousands? 

Consider Philip in Acts 8:26-27 & 37-40.
Consider Paul & Timothy in Acts 16:6-10

There are over six billion souls in the earth today.  The Spirit of God will blow where it wills.  Will the church be fixed in it's locale or move with His Spirit? 

Which will the church of 2011 be? 

If it's a Spirit-filled church it's already determined by Jesus Christ.

"The wind blows where it wills.  You hear its sound, but you can't tell where it's coming from or where it's going.  So is EVERY ONE that is born of the Spirit."