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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gospel Opportunity - Please Pray

We have had the privilege of meeting a young man that worked at one of the local businesses.  He's no longer in town, but I send out daily encouragements from Scripture.  Yesterday he responded to one of the Scriptures with a question.  This prompted a great discussion over What's App.  Please be in prayer for this young man as he evaluates his faith and his relationship with God!

J: But how sure can I be that Jesus really exist?

Louis: Great question!
L: The fact that there was a historical Jesus is almost completely without dispute, except by the most unreasoning critics of Christianity. The fact that His life and death are without reasonable disagreement. That settled, what is then called into question is His resurrection. In a court of law, 100% proof is never required. What is required is proof beyond "a reasonable doubt." I believe his resurrection can be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. A good book on this subject is by J. Warner Wallace, a former Cold Case detective. The book is titled "Cold Case Christianity."
2014/10/18 1:13:13 PM: Louis O'Tool: Hopefully this is helpful. I'd love to discuss this further sometime! How's Navy training?

J: I grew up in a church tho, I'm supposed to know this,  guess that makes me that small boy always playing and never pays attention..  Its goin fine, I actually believed that it would be much harder than it is.. I'm enjoying it

L: Glad to hear you're well. What you described about your church experience is really not all that surprising, unfortunately. This is a shared experience by people young and old the world over. Regrettably, our churches are doing a very poor job preparing Jesus-followers to live in our "post-modern" society. That's why your question about Jesus' authenticity is such a good one. Many people drop Jesus and run at the first obstacle to their faith. So here are some questions to ask yourself (and research from credible sources, if necessary):
1. Was Jesus a true historical figure?
2. If yes, who was He? He claimed to be God, so that leaves us with 3 options: Either He was a complete liar, or He was a deranged lunatic, or He was (is) in fact Lord.
3. Did He really rise from the dead? People don't do that. With every advance in medicine and technology we'be been able to enhance and prolong life, but never create it. Death is the one thing that every man, woman and child faces. Our mortality is an unescapable fact. But according to Christian teachings, Jesus overcame death. If you read 1 Corinthians 15 you'll see that Paul teaches He not only overcame it, but has power over it and will one day eliminate it for all. If Jesus resurrection is true, everything changes. So any well-reasoning adult must, I repeat MUST, decide what they believe to be the truth about His resurrection.
That's where I'd encourage you to do some research and thinking. Consider these points:
-If Jesus' resurrection was a sham perpetrated by His followers, why did they all give their lives, and in fact DIE for what they would have known to be a lie?
-How has Christianity survived and grown as it has if Jesus was not, in fact, Lord of All, as He claimed to be? One of His earliest opponents, Gamaliel, spoke on this very topic, recorded in Acts 5:33-39
-Ancient law required at least 2 witnesses to demonstrate the veracity of an eyewitnesses event. Jesus, in His resurrected body, was seen by over 500. This would provide ample evidence in any court of law.
A good article online is found at www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection
Hope God strengthens your faith and that you come to know Him in the most intimate way possible! Remember John 17:3 "This is eternal life - that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."
1 John 5:12 "Whoever has the Son has life. But whoever does not have the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

J: Are you guys Jehova's?

L: I assume you mean Jehovah's Witnesses. No way!!! JW's believe Jesus is an angel, not God. No doubt in Scripture that Jesus is God!

J: Good. I want to have a braai some day with you louis, I want to know all about the bible,  want to start all over,  or is it to late to start over?

L: Id love that! Let me know next time youre in town. Or maybe we'll make it to Cape Town;-) Never too late to start over! Read Luke 18:9-14. The reason the whole Bible was written is not to give us a list of Do's & Don't that will make God happy. The Bible was written to show us what God's character is...perfection. And since God is perfect, He also requires perfection from us. But we can't do it, can we? I mean, look at just the 10 Commandments. How many have you broken? I know I've shattered all 10...let alone just one! And so I stand guilty before God and deserve His judgement. So do you. So does everyone. But here's the beauty of God's Word. Not only does He show us He requires perfection, He sent His own Son to live the perfect life on our behalf. But we killed Him, right? That was part of God's divine plan. See, Romans 6:23 tells us that death is the penalty for sin. And when Jesus died, He took the penalty I deserved on Himself. God poured out His anger against my sin on His own Son. Jesus took my place. But He didn't stay dead because Death had no power over Him. The power of death is sin, and since He hasn't sinned the grave couldn't hold Him. He rose the third day with power over sin and death. And since the price had been paid He offers His infinite righteousness to me. To you. To all mankind. Since we have sinned we have no righteousness of our own. But when we recognize our sinfulness, our rightful destiny to suffer the wrath of God for eternity, and we beg God for mercy a divine transaction takes place. God accepts the full payment of His Son and transfers Jesus righteousness to our account. That's what the word "justified" means. That's what Luke 18 is referring to.
Do you recognize that you are a sinner?
Do you see that God would be entirely just sending you to Hell for eternity?
Do you see that you can't earn His favor through your own good works?
Then call out to Jesus. Ask God for mercy. He'll give it every time. Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. He'll make you new, give you that new start!!! Your sins will be gone. You'll never have to face God as Judge, only as Father (Romans 8:1)!!!

J: Doesn't God get tired of forgiving your sins everyday?

L: God is an infinite God. Jesus righteousness is infinite. When He died He paid the penalty of all sin, for all time. Once For All! When Jesus died all my sins were still in the future because I hadn't been born yet. So when I repent of my sins He forgives them all on the basis of His Son's payment.
L: That's not to say we now have a license to sin. On the contrary. When Jesus makes us new He also empowers us to live a new life. Paul describes this in Galatians 2:20. Not that I'm now sinless. But I'm forgiven. The joys that sin used to offer don't seem so attractive anymore. Because the beauty of Jesus is more beautiful than my sin.
L: "All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." Romans 8:14
Not only does He save us, He empowers us to live a new life.

J: So that means I can do anything and Jesus wil forgive me?

L: If you're sincere in repentance.

J: Yes but see what does that mean?  I'm sorry my english is poor

L: Sorry. Repentance means a complete change of mind. As in, I used to love _____ (power, money, sex, etc...), now I've found a greater love. What was once attractive is less attractive because my heart has been captured by a greater beauty. Think of it this way: kids love hot dogs, but once you taste a good steak fillet the hot dogs don't taste as good anymore. I used to love my sin because of the glory I thought it offered. Now I love Jesus because His glory is greater than what sin promises but doesn't deliver.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pot Hole


American's are not allowed to complain about potholes.  One morning before prayer we were standing by the gate watching water gush out of this water main break.  Suddenly this car comes along and decides to drive through the water, not around it.  We had to "help" push it out - I say "help" because a guy with a diesel pickup came along and used a tow rope to drag it backwards out of the hole.  We were just there to get our shoes wet and look useful.  Afterward we found a stick to put in the hole as warning to other motorists.  The hole was over a meter deep!  So no more complaining about roads in the States!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Testimony

I have to take a minute to tell you what God has did for us recently!

We first moved to South Africa in 2008.  Many who have moved know that, despite your greatest intentions to pack and move in a dignified, organized and structured manner, you reach that certain point where you're just throwing things in boxes.  When you're moving to another continent, not knowing exactly what you'll need, that tends to exacerbate the difficulty.

LDS Authorized KJV Bible
Well, here we are, over 6 years and 4 moves later, and we're still trying to recover.  It's not that we haven't gone through some of those boxes, but since our arrival in 2008 things have been so busy that when we did "reorganize" there was a greater emphasis on the "re" and less so on the "organize."  Our goal, as time has permitted over the last several weeks is to determine what, if anything that we own is really unnecessary at this stage of our life.  We've found lots of things, most notably baby, infant and toddler items.  While we've desired to have more children God hasn't chosen to increase our family in 5 years so we decided that it is past time to make sure someone else gets to use the things He so graciously blessed us with when Meredith and Drake were small.  But I digress.  The point is, we've streamlined.

Amber with some of the team.  Utah is B-E-Autiful!
But here's where it gets good.  I was going through a box of old photos and found several items of interest.  In 2003, less than a year after getting married, Amber and I took a trip to Utah (photos from that trip throughout this post).  While there we served with Chip and Jamie Thompson at a local outreach.  Part of that included training on the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In this box I found the study guide, visual aids and an LDS authorized KJV Bible.  I thought to myself "What a weird place for us to pack these things.  Good thing I haven't needed them in the last 6 years.  I should put them with my study materials."  So I did.

If it looks like we're fighting, it's because we are.  She beats me. 
That was last Friday.  On Sunday, Gladston Jonas from our church (whom you may remember from this post), told me that he had bumped into some American missionaries here.  He was excited to meet some other Americans so he arranged with them to come over to his house sometime.  He didn't know right away that they were LDS missionaries.  When he told me about it I offered to come along, if he would have me.  He agreed and so the next day we had a meeting scheduled at his place.

We had the opportunity to meet Elder Holman from Reno, NV and Elder Ngundu from Zambia.  God gave us the privilege to speak together for about 2 hours, sharing the grace of God that draws mankind to Himself.  It was really cool because Gladston was able share his testimony, which if you remember, was somewhat humorous in the way he had been challenged in regard to his own righteousness.  We were able to discuss the same passage, along with lots of others from the Bible, with both young men.  Using the visual aids that I had found or more accurate, that God had led me to, we also discussed some of the LDS requirements for salvation from the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrine and Covenants, etc...

Young Amber & Louis at The Great Salt Lake
The main point that stands out is that there is Nothing that we can do to earn God's love, favor or eternal life.  Think about it for a moment.  When I only do something for someone based on what I want to receive in return, or worse yet, because then they'll owe me something in return the word used to describe that isn't Love.  The word to describe that kind of relationship is Manipulation.  So, if I serve God hoping to earn His love, or so that He'll karmically owe me blessings like eternal life, then I'm trying to manipulate God.  And if God can be manipulated by me He's no longer God...I am.

Yet so many religions in this world are based in a mistaken belief that we can and must earn God's favor.  The point of the Law is not that I can do well enough to satisfy God.  The point is that I can't, never will!  How can my sins be paid for, if one sin against the laws or character of an infinite God is worthy of infinite punishment?  I need an infinite payment, right?  Guess what?  Nothing about me is infinite.  Jesus is.  By living a sinless life, yet paying the penalty reserved for those who have sinned, His infinite righteousness is available to me.  God, as a righteous Judge, can accept His infinite payment for my infinite violation, transferring His righteousness to me as my sin was transferred to Him.  This divine transaction is called Justification.  Through this I now have peace with God, not because I have worked hard enough to earn His favor, but because Jesus - HIS OWN SON - is eternally worthy of God's favor.  The words we use to describe this are Freedom, Grace, Mercy, Peace, Joy, LOVE!
Young Louis finds a buried knife wrapped in a
photo at old Indian cliff drawings.  Probably
an ancient murder weapon.

During our conversation there was some back and forth, some good questions asked.  It was clear that Elder Holman and Elder Ngundu were thoughtfully engaged with us.  At the end Elder Holman bore his testimony to us.  But it was clear that he understood a vast difference between the gift of salvation that we discussed from God's Word vs. the merit-based salvation taught by the LDS church and most major religions worldwide.

The LDS Temple in Manti, UT.
We're hoping to have a couple more opportunities to meet with these guys, as it was such a privilege to sit down together and open God's Word.  Really, anytime we can open Scripture together is a blessing not to be missed!  In fact, after Elders Holman and Ngundu departed, the four of us left at Gladston's house were able to share another 45 minutes of Bible Study, looking at 2 Tim. 2:25 and John's warning in his second epistle.  Earlier in the day I had a moment of repentance as I realized that going into the meeting I was more concerned with having the right answers than for the salvation of souls.  And during this time one of the other guys prayed for forgiveness as well, recognizing that his attitude was to be proven correct rather than meekly instructing those whose beliefs are in opposition to their own eternal souls.  Again, such a privilege to be unified with true believers and share in God's work like this!

Continue to pray for Elders Ngundu and Holman!  Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life!


For good LDS resources go to: Tri-Grace Ministries website  -- Special Thanks to Chip & Jamie Thompson for their faithful work!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Atonement

This past weekend - Good Friday, Saturday and Resurrection Sunday - Welkom Baptist Church had a conference focusing on The Atonement.  I think everyone reading this post knows the holidays I referenced, but many people may not know what "Atonement" means.  Now, we just had like 6 hours of preaching and teaching on the subject, but a simple definition is "Reparation or Expiation for Sin". The dictionary gives the origin of the word as meaning "at one + ment" denoting unity from the Latin word "to unite."

Ultimately, we know that our sin separates us from God.  Sin is a violation of the character and laws of an infinite person (Rom 3:23, I John 3:4), meaning that there is an infinite punishment to pay (Rev 20:10-15).  But when Jesus, the sinless Son of God, accepted the punishment for sin, He proved to be the sacrifice that removes God's wrath...the one who brings unity with God (Is 53, John 1:29, Rom 5:1, Gal 1:4, I Pet 1:18-19).  Through His infinite righteousness He fulfilled all the requirements of God to expiate sin, making a way for us to be reunited with the source of all life.  And when we are united with God, we ourselves possess eternal life (John 17:3).

The problem is that:
1) humans don't like to admit fault for anything, let alone the fact that we're completely sinful.
2) due to our sinfulness, there is no way we can ever do anything to cleanse our souls and merit God's favor.
3) we constantly try to appease God when His standard is absolute perfection, something we can never attain.

Yet for the one who understands his sinfulness and God's righteous obligation to punish sin, the one who responds "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!", this very one receives God's approval on the basis of His approval of His Son's sacrifice.  It isn't anything I've done, am doing or can do.  It is all a work of Jesus.  My baptism, church attendance or allegiance, my acts of penitence, my acts of charity, any righteous deed - none of these things earn God's favor.  They can only be worshipful offerings of thanksgiving to my Savior.  If I think these offerings somehow pay for my sins, somehow balance out God's divine ledger, I've just nullified the death of Jesus by making the statement that my efforts will appease God's wrath.  I CAN'T DO IT!

But now, as a child of God, I now receive all the benefits described in Romans 8.  Paul's flawless logic in Rom 8:32 puts it this way "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"  You see, if God was willing to give His Son on my behalf, is there anything more precious than that?  If He gave it all, what more is there to give?

Pastor John Macdonald was our preacher for the Good Friday service.  By way of illustration he told the story of a wealthy man whose son passed away.  Admittedly this story is most likely an urban legend, but it encapsulates the point well:
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When war broke out, the son went to serve. He was very courageous, and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified, and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you and your love for art." The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no, sir," said the young man, "I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."
The father hung the portrait over his mantel. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted. "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"
Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"
But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting," he said. Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10," called out an angry voice. "Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. At last, the auctioneer pounded his gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting in the second row shouted, "Now, let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

I John 5:11-12 "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."