Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Some days I just need a reality check! A million things happen in life (and in the work of the Lord) and sometimes I find my heart sitting a bit off kilter. Oftentimes a Sunday afternoon can be that for me. Having just preached two services and prayed/encouraged/spoke to people before, in-between and after the services, eight hours later, sometimes on a Sunday afternoon I can feel like I am dragging my head and heart around. Many folks who devote their Sundays to serving can feel this way. On top of that, there is the inevitable (for some of us) Sunday afternoon feelings of uselessness, fear, apprehension and “what did I just say?” moments.

Last Sunday was one of those days for me. But God…

I received an email from someone in the fellowship. They were in the hospital with their newborn daughter (who was born 5 weeks early by emergency C-section). But they weren’t emailing for themselves. Instead they were emailing for their closest friends, who were actually in the next room. This couple and I had prayed for their friends almost 7 months ago. Right away, this couple’s pregnancy was at risk as the baby had a chromosomal abnormality. The child was not growing at the normal rate and pregnancy went to full term. I was emailed to see if I can come and visit the couple. They were in the hospital and the doctors had given the couple a 99% chance that the baby would be stillborn.

When I got to the hospital, I met the brother who emailed me. We spoke for a bit about his wife and new daughter who was in the Neo-natal intensive care. He shared the entire story about his daughter and wife. And about their friends who we were about to see. He was without sleep and had yet to hold his daughter. His wife was recovering from surgery and there were concerns about his own family. Yet his wanted to serve and bless his friends.

I entered the hospital room and began to talk with this couple. They shared about their journey and what was ahead of them. The reality of the possibility of giving birth to a stillborn child. The unknown. The fears. Yet, in all of the discussion, the tears and sadness, there was that precious hope in the God who can do anything. As we spoke about the reality of Jesus, the reality that God knew all of this and was there for them, the strength that is available by the Spirit, I thought to myself, “This is where the rubber meets the road.” This couple was heart-broken and scared yet so rooted in the unwavering love of God. We prayed. We cried. We laughed. We spoke of life, death, heaven, eternity and homesickness. We read Psalms and spoke of Jesus preparing mansions. We spoke of anger, faith and loss. Yet in all of it, there was a simple faith and an awareness of God’s grace at work in all of this.

I think that sometimes, in all of the rumblings and ruminations of a million voices, controversies, ideas and internet arguments, it is so easy to lose focus on the simplicity and awesomeness of the reality of God in Jesus. I was blessed with a return look at why I wanted to follow Jesus in the first place. Simply because He is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Not a reward of getting everything we want, but the reward of Himself in whatever transpires. That is where the rubber meets the road. This is what was sustaining a young couple in the face of the most horrific of circumstances. This is where I want to spend much more time than I do. In that simple place of the reality of God. A place where there is no arguments, no bickering, no frustration, no question marks. It is the place where there is only grace, love and peace. Resting in the arms of God in the midst of a beautiful mess.

To close out the story, little Jonathan was born at 6 am on Monday morning and his parents got to take him home today. A total miracle. Although there are many complications and the prognosis is still dire (the doctors said some children can fight death of a few weeks), this precious family has been able to spend time with their son until he is goes home to be with the Lord. The couple who first contacted me’s daughter (Mackenzie) is completely off of all her tubes and Lord willing will be heading home in the next day or so. The testimony of these two families has touched the hearts of the hospital staff in profound ways. We are hoping and praying (if the Lord wills) to do a joint baby dedication at church on Sunday! Where the rubber meets the road, God is God. He finished the work on Calvary’s cross and will be faithful to complete the work He began in us.

Hope for the Guilty

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He brings forth justice to victory.” Matthew 12:20 ESV


Something that I’ve been deeply struck with afresh lately is compassion for the broken. Lately I’ve had the privilege of walking with some people who’ve seen the dark side of sin from the side of the victim. Sexual abuse, rape, verbal abuse, and the like are, unfortunately, far too common occurrences in the lives of people I know and serve.

Interestingly, the state of Utah is always in the top two or three percent in the nation of states with the most amount of cases of clinical depression and suicide. The county in which I live is the county with the highest depression and suicide rates in our state. People around here know they are guilty. And I believe one reason this is true is because we live under the overarching shadow of a religious system that is heavily performance oriented- the LDS church.

Like all religion outside biblical christianity, Mormonism is all about doing all you can, as much as you can, so that perhaps God might save you by his grace at the end of your life, after all that you can contribute to your self-salvation project. And in our culture many people live under this system knowing they just don’t quite measure up to the expectations laid on their shoulders by “the church” the community, or by the status quo. As a result they feel guilty and self-medicate prescription drug abuse, or they end the pain by committing suicide.

The guilt-conscious culture I live in has really caused me to think hard about how we communicate the gospel in such a context. What I’ve come to believe at this point is that I don’t have to spend much time convincing people they’re sinners who don’t measure up because they know. Instead, while I use the law enough in preaching and talking with people to make sure they’re aware of their guilt, I usually spend most of my time in sermons and conversations emphasizing the hope of Christ for broken, hurting, guilty people. And that message of hope tends to be the drink of water to the soul that depressed, guilty, and broken people need to hear. In a way I think people in my context need more of the Jesus of the gospels who heals, teaches, and touches rather than the Jesus of Revelation who opens a can on His enemies, though both are appropriate and glorious images of Christ.

If you live in a culture that has no conscience such as a liberal culture, you may need to bring the law a bunch so as to help people see their sin. But if you live in a culture crippled by guilt and already aware of their sin, I’d encourage you to emphasize the hope of Jesus in light of the guilt they already feel. But what do you think?


You See Your Calling, Brethren

Anyone called into ministry has a story to tell of that calling. The Lord makes it personal, and confirms it with His Word. Such was the case with me.

I had a dream five days after I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was 20 years old at the time. The dream is as vivid to me today as the night it came. In the dream there was a clear call to “go.” In the dream was a clear vision of God’s throne. In the dream was a clear response on my part. I said to the Lord, “Here I am. Send me.”

The amazing thing is that I didn’t know the Bible at all then. I’d not yet read Isaiah 6. Only as I grew in the Word did I discover that the Lord, in His Word, was interpreting the dream for me.

There are five important principles that I have taken from this dream (for the last 39 years). I have gone back to them again and again. They have been a lifeline for me … keeping me in God’s service. All of them are taken from that great chapter in Isaiah, chapter 6 — a chapter familiar to all of us.

1. Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. {2} Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. {3} And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” {4} And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

One, my personal focus must be to see the Lord. Calling comes from vision. It’s not about vision concerning what to do in ministry, but rather vision of the One who calls one into ministry.

I need to see Him, as Isaiah saw Him. I need to spend time with Him, personally and regularly. I want to see God, and know Him. I am allowed into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, through the new and living way.

It’s no surprise to me that this part of my walk with the Lord is the most attacked and resisted.

 2. Isaiah 6:5-7 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” {6} Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. {7} And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” 

Two, the heart of ministry flows out of the cross. From the cross I find forgiveness of my sins. So I say, “Woe is me, I am undone.” This means confession … ongoing confession, daily confession, consistent confession. Rather than being a morose spiritual discipline filled with dread and drudgery, confession is one of the most liberating experiences available for the Christian. Confession of sin is walking in the light — it’s the experience of grace conquering my inner darkness. It’s the blood of Jesus applied. It’s the creation of a humble and willing heart.

Romans 3:21-31 have been huge for me. These verses helped me have a much better understanding of the meaning of Christ’s death for me.

3. Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Three, I must remember that He has called me. He is the one that said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” I didn’t call myself; my calling was an invitation from the Lord.

Like Paul, I say “I thank Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Had He not deemed or considered me faithful, I’d not be in the ministry. It’s all of grace.

Yet I must solidly accept this call, and act on the basis of it. Each situation into which He places me is an opportunity to behave like a called man. By faith I walk and obey. I do not see any reason for His calling, in and of myself.

1 Corinthians 1:1a  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. {27} But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; {28} and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, {29} that no flesh should glory in His presence.

4. Isaiah 6:9-10 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ {10} Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”

Four, the message I preach and teach is to be preached and taught in spite of the response to it. Isaiah preached to closed hearts, to people with blind eyes. My task is to be faithful to the text of scripture, to proclaim it accurately and well. If there is a great response, wonderful. If there is no or little response, I am to preach and teach it anyway. I have a stewardship (1 Corinthians 9:17), and a steward must first of all be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

In my 35 years of pastoral ministry, I have been called in a number of difficult places with sometimes obstinate people. Yet the Lord has not called me to produce results, but only to tell them what He’s told me.

Matthew 10:27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”

1 Corinthians 11:23a For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…

 5. Isaiah 6:11-12 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered: “Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, {12} The LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.”

Five, when I am asked by the Lord to do this ministry in situations where there are no discernable results, perhaps no significant positive responses … I am to do it for as long as He wants me to. For Isaiah, his prophetic ministry would continue until all was lost. He’d asked the Lord how long he’d be doing that type of ministry to those kinds of people. The Lord’s response did not deter him. He continued on, faithfully. Most certainly, we are glad for that now. Had he not continued, we would not have the 66 chapters of his great prophecy.

Early in the ministry in Monterey, I was really struggling with the relative snail’s pace type of growth we were seeing. I was bummed that it wasn’t like Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, or Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It wasn’t Southern California, period.

But then it dawned on me from 1 Corinthians 12 that the Lord decides who gets which gifts, He decides the ministries in which those gifts are to operate, and He decides the impact (literally, energizings) they are to have. He is sovereign in all of it. In other words, I was called to be obedient and faithful. If God didn’t make me a Greg Laurie or Chuck Smith, what was that to me? I was to follow Him (John 21:22). I can’t tell you how liberating that was for me to hear from the Spirit!

So there are the principles I’ve been operating by. Hope they help.

A “goer” or a “sender”? Part 2

Are you a sender or a goer?  Or, are you in disobedience?  Those were the two questions that I ended my last post with.  For this post, I’ll begin with just one question and move forward from there.

Is it possible to have a personal, interactive relationship with the God who has revealed Himself in the bible and NOT be interested in what is generally referred to as “missions”?

Me thinks not……and here’s why:

As Matt Kottman so simply and beautifully pointed out in his reply to my last post, God Himself, in the essence of who He is, (a tri-une God), is both a sender, (the Father), a goer, (the Son), and an ongoing sender, (the Holy Spirit), who empowers those that continue to go and those who send them!  Because this is true, anyone, (especially a pastor), with the God-given gift of teaching that is empowered by the Holy Spirit will be challenging God’s people to either go or send those who He does call to go.

As I’ve pointed out before in a previous blog post, those who commandeered the great line from “Field of Dreams” and turned it into “If you teach it, they will come”, were a bit off, in my opinion.  The reality is that, “If you teach it, they will go”!  And obviously the THEY is a reference to God’s people–those who hunger to be taught His word.

And to spin that line one more way, “If you teach it, they will send!”  And they will “send” those who “go” in accordance with the principles that the Apostle John challenged Gaius with in 3 John 6-8.  He basically told Gaius that those who have gone forth for His name’s sake should be sent forward on their journey “in a manner worthy of God” and that by doing so the one who sends them in this way becomes a “fellow worker for the truth”.

The two missionary families that I visited in Mexico a few weeks were great examples of what I’m talking about.  The one family heard the call to “go” 13 years ago.  The other heard that call 26 years ago.  Both of them were sent forward on their journey by their home churches (both of which were Calvary Chapels), in a “manner worthy of God”.  And, as unusual as it is, they have continued to be maintained in various ways by their home churches over all the years they’ve been there in a way that is “worthy of God”.  Their home churches, through the leadership imparted by the senior pastor have truly been “fellow workers for the truth”.

As much as it grieves me to say it, those two missionary families and the care they’ve received from their home churches, (similar to the care I received from my home church when I served on the field), are the miniscule exception and definitely NOT the rule that is the norm within our group of churches.

In my next post I’ll unpackage a few more of the reasons that prompted me to ask the question above (in italics).  But for now, let me leave you with a question based on a different phrase that I heard for the first time at the first CC Senior Pastor’s conference I attended in 1984:

Pastor, are your sheep the “best fed and best loved” even when the Good Shepherd calls them to serve in foreign pastures?






Passing the Torch

Did you stay up till midnight to watch the torch lighting at the Olympics? I didn’t want to, but I did. Over the years I have been drawn to the Olympic torch lighting like a moth to a flame. It started back in 1984 watching Rafer Johnson scale the steps at the Coliseum and was solidified when the archer from Spain shot an arrow to light in for the 1992 Barcelona games. To be honest at first I wasn’t too impressed with the British torch ceremony. They chose six teenagers to light the caldron flame. In a moving ceremony six of Britain’s greatest athletes passed off the torch to these six promising teenagers which symbolized the passing of the torch from the legends to the next generation.

At first I was upset at who Britain chose to light the caldron. Britain has some great athletes and it’s always great to see some legend, which is kept top secret, come out and light the torch. The teenagers lit these brass pots which then proceeded to spread over 205 pots (Each pot represented a country participating in the games) and all the pots then rose up to form the Olympic caldron which will keep the flame lit until the end of the games. My displeasure dissipated quickly because it was so cool. It did get me thinking about how people and organizations pass the torch and keep the flame lit.

Calvary Chapel is going through a passing of the torch. At first I was excited because it was needed, but right now I am bordering on hesitant. When Greg Laurie, Bob Coy, and Brian Brodersen held court at our pastor’s conference it signaled a new day in our movement and to be honest there was a lot of enthusiasm generated, but last week they released more information about the process and my heart sank. To me it looks like they went backwards ten years as opposed to going forward. Now this could just be my skepticism and honestly change drudges up the fear in everyone, but I was hoping for something fresh and new, not a retread of the past. We will see how this plays out.

Passing the Torch is a metaphor for any organization that is going through a leadership shift. It is a symbol of giving the power to the next generation. If you are going to pass the torch there are several things that you have to keep in mind

  1. You must go forward: Every organization must go forward in order to continue on. You cannot have a preservation mindset when handing the reigns to the next guy. If the intention is to memorialize how things were or how great a leader was the organization will stall and falter. When the torch is passed it must be done with a mindset of preparing for what God has in store in the years to come. This takes prayer, vision, and guts.
  2. You must go younger: Some people will argue with me on this point but the torch has to go to someone younger. If we hand it to someone who has one foot in retirement, or whose energy is on the downward side this will frustrate those under them. It is the organizations responsibility look for the up and coming leader who has his finger on the pulse of the current generation and is willing to take the organization in the necessary direction. This may go against the norm or founder but is needed to move forward.
  3. You must take a risk: Any passing of the torch involves risk. No one holds the values of the organization more closely than the founders. It is scary to hand over power to someone who thinks differently than the previous leaders. It also threatens those who have built up their networking cache and risk losing influence if new blood comes in. But for the flame of an organization to continue to burn bright into the future there must be risks taken that will get it there. If you don’t take the risks necessary then it will only fizzle.
  4. You must let it play itself out: The final key is the let it play out. Once the leaders make a decision it is important to give it time to work itself out. I was alarmed by some things that were happening but in reality I wasn’t in the conference room making those decisions and I don’t know what went into making them. It will take a minimum of six months for these decisions to be implemented and have an effect. That is why it is also important when tough decisions are made to give it time. It’s rarely as bad as we fear and often we are surprised by the benefits. That is my approach in this and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Ministry in the Minus Column

I was curious about the origin of the word minister and so I went online to dictionary.com and found the following etymology.

Origin: 1250-1300; (noun) derived from the Latin minister, servant, equivalent to minis – (variant of minus, a lesser amount…)

Did you catch that?  MINUS – a lesser amount.  I guess minister could be spelled minuster in order to retain its unique flavor.  A minister is someone who is less than another – like a servant!  He is someone who lives and labors not for himself but for those above him, those to whom he is responsible.

Paul says that we should all minuster to one another.  He exhorts the Philippians –

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…  Philippians 2:3-5

The passage then goes on to describe how Jesus put Himself in the minus column for you and me by humbling Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant made in the likeness of men.  He considered our needs above His own and put Himself below us in order to raise us.

Being in the minus column also implies being in the red – operating from lack.  This is an essential aspect of being a minuster.  Paul captures this in the following passage –

We are not adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  2 Cor. 3:5-5

Ministry in the minus column has some wonderful benefits.  If I’m in the minus column, I’m in the red – I operate out of lack.  What comes forth from me, in reality comes forth through me as I am His vessel, His servant.  I am not a cistern, I am a fountain fed by springs of living water.  I have this treasure in an earthen vessel and the surpassing greatness of the power is from God and not from me.  When I put myself in the minus column, them I am in the plus column.


Last week, pictures circulated Facebook encouraging people to support Chick-Fil-A on August 1.  Initially, I didn’t notice the cause because it doesn’t take much to convince me to eat tasty food!  With this attitude, I shared one of the pictures with this statement: “This sounds like a great excuse to eat Chick-Fil-A to me!”  I had no idea the firestorm I was about to walk into.  I was blindsided by the outrage and attacks that came from some of my friends who hold values different than my own.

So much has been published about last week’s event that I wonder if I can actually contribute any new or pertinent ideas to this discussion.  Joe Dallas wrote “To My Angry Gay Friend” which I believe is the best Christian response to the LGBT community I have read.  I however have no intention of composing an apologetic post to last week’s event, but will attempt to express some thoughts that I think are particularly important to pastors and Christians as we navigate these interesting times.

Christ Crucified.

In this discussion, along with other hot buttons in our culture, I have seen Christian leaders opt out of the conversation for the sake keeping Christ crucified as the only message.  I agree with this position at first glance.  I certainly don’t want to minimize the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the jugular vein of Christianity.  It is the message of hope to a dead world whom God loves and has called us to reach.  The stance of preaching Christ crucified alone has been my response to a number issues in the past, but in all honesty I question my motives sometimes as I feel like I am hiding behind the Gospel for the sake of not having to take a controversial stance on a particular issue that is critical, sensitive, or divisive.

I guess the ultimate question at hand is does the Bible call Christians to be Switzerland (i.e. neutral and passive) on all issues outside of our message Christ crucified, or does Christ call the redeemed person to challenge the fallen culture in which they live as they proclaim Christ crucified?  In seeking to answer this question an article in Time Magazine (go figure) helped me square this issue as it relates to my calling as a pastor.  The article essentially asked Jerry Falwell how he dealt with Billy Graham’s criticisms of his political involvement.  His response was something along the lines of, “Billy Graham is an evangelist called to lead people to Christ.  I am a pastor called to lead people to maturity in Christ.”  I found this response to be helpful and insightful as it shows Billy Graham’s goal was to remove all barriers outside of the Cross.  Jerry Falwell’s goal was to lead people to Christ and then equip them to live out their faith in Christ.

There is a story in Acts 19 that I find particularly relevant to the debate in our land today.  If you don’t remember this story, let me refresh your memory here.  Paul had entered into Ephesus, and ministered there for about two years (Acts 19:10).  God used Paul’s ministry in a mighty way.  Many came to Christ and lives were transformed.  Their lifestyles changed and it affected the local economy radically.  One of the local businessmen was financially devastated because so many of his clients accepted Jesus as Lord.  He pulled the “silversmith union” together try to stop the Gospel because it had utterly destroyed his industry and livelihood (Acts 19:27) as the Christians essentially boycotted their services.  This is a story that clearly demonstrates the Gospel penetrates further than the soul of the individual it saved, but to everything touched by the saved individual.  The Bible seems to encourage believers to give preference of doing good to those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).  Maybe it isn’t even an intentional action by a group of believers, but rather an organic byproduct of a group of people living according to Kingdom standards as revealed in the Scriptures?  Nonetheless, it seems to me the whole August 1 event was a display of support and blessing a corporation that stands for Biblical values.  Quite frankly, I was pleased to see Christians stand united for something they were for instead of the rallying against a particular cause that Christians have deemed inappropriate.

History records that the majority of people are silent as their culture is making a shift in a bad direction or towards evil.  I love what Bonhoeffer said in his context of Nazi Germany, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  The most difficult thing for me is determining which things are worth standing for and what things are not.  But I am certain that the majority of people choose silence instead of doing the right thing in the face of opposition.  Cowardice is not a Biblical virtue.  Christ instructs His followers “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:11-12)

Our Citizenship.

In Philippians 3:20, Paul teaches that believers in Christ are citizens of heaven.  The lesson is clear that we live in a world filled with pain and sorrow and we are pilgrims passing through a foreign land.  I became a Christian while serving as a US Navy SEAL.  To say that I saw myself as a patriot would be an understatement.  During those early years God began to challenge my confusion, or syncretism, with my American citizenship and my new Christian citizenship.  God used the above passage to help me shape my new identity in Christ.  Does our new identity in Christ negate our earthly citizenship?  I don’t think so. Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome.  He was in Rome because he used the benefits of his Roman citizenship, as he did in a number of other places, to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11).  Clearly Paul was okay using his Roman citizenship for the sake of the Gospel.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he instructs believers to be in “subjection to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1)  American Christians, in large part, have had the easiest job in obeying this command in comparison to other believers throughout history.  The United States is a governing authority that is of the people, by the people, for the people, and was born out of strong Judeo-Christian values.  One of our greatest privileges as Americans is the right to vote.  It saddens me that so few people who are eligible to vote actually register to vote and very few of those who are registered to vote actually exercise that right.  I do believe that we as pastors should encourage believers to register and to prayerfully consider who to cast their vote toward.

Clarity Beats Agreement.

As a final word, I’ve been going crazy over statements made in the midst of this whole Chick-Fil-A discussion.  I am shocked by the attacks against Christians and even more shocked by the Biblical illiteracy of the average believer as the Bible is clear concerning God’s position on homosexuality.  I would like to end with a quote from Rick Warren as it helps untangle some of the false accusations and assumptions made in this discussion.  He said, “I am not allowed by Jesus to hate anyone. Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Why Preach? (Part 2)

In my last post, we began looking at preaching. We considered the 1. Purpose of Preaching and the 2. Command to Preach. In this post I want to add three more aspects of preaching: 3. Preaching under Fire, 4. God’s Word has Power and Authority, and 5. Stewardship of Preaching.

3. Preaching Under Fire

In part 1 we looked at the fact that preaching is a command in Scripture. This doesn’t mean that preaching is always received. Preaching has always been under fire. Some of Paul’s final words to Timothy were “preach the word when it’s popular and unpopular”( 2 Timothy 4:1-2, My translation). The apostles experienced this attack when they were commanded not to preach in Jesus’ name. To which Peter and John said they cannot stop preaching (Acts 4:18-20). This then drove the disciples to prayer for boldness to preach and not succumb to outside pressure to desist (Acts 4:29). The pressure to stop preaching continued, but they were resolute in their obedience to God’s command. The religious leaders arrested and beat the Apostles being strictly commanded not to preach in Jesus’ authority, to which they said they must obey God’s command to preach his word and not man’s command to cease from preaching (Acts 5:27-29).

I would argue that the devil wants the word of God to cease being preached; therefore, he will use any means to hinder its going forth. At the outset of Acts 6 as the church began to grow, so did the needs of the young flourishing church. These needs were legitimate financial needs of poor widows in the church. But according to Acts 6:2, the Apostles recognized that “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” They did not let this great need eclipse their call to preach God’s word. Rather than their preaching of the word being diminished, they quickly mobilized the church to establish ‘deacons’. Acts 6:7 records the result, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.” You can see why the devil would want to stop the preaching of the word. God’s word preached transforms lives.

4. God’s Word Has Power and Authority

Why is preaching God’s word ordained by God? Why is preaching God’s word commanded? Why is preaching God’s word attacked? God’s word is the source of our power and our authority.

4.1. Power

Before the church preached it’s first sermon, Jesus commanded the church to wait for power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). This is power to show and proclaim God’s truth. There was power in the word preached that Pentecost Sunday as 3,000 fell under conviction of sin being pierced to the heart. The word preached is the power of God. This is why Paul is so eager to preach to the Romans (Romans 1:15-16). Paul also points to this preached word powerfully changing the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:18). Our longing to see lives changed and transformed is good, but to divorce this longing from the power that accomplishes it is folly. Regardless of our desire to see lives changed, the power is in God’s word not our own.

4.2. Authority

Our preaching must be filled with God’s word because it is authoritative. In Acts 5, the Jewish council attempted to exercise authority over the Apostles when they commanded them not to preach. Yet the Apostles recognized a higher authority and were unmoved by the Jewish council (Acts 5:28-29). God was their authority. Religiously, Jerusalem was under the authority of the council opposing them, but they freely preached in good conscience against this pseudo-authority because they were preaching God’s unchained word (2 Timothy 2:9). Jesus holds all authority in heaven and earth, and he commands his church to preach in that authority everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20). Even Jesus in his earthly ministry when preaching God’s word claimed its authority saying in John 8:28, “I do nothing of my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” We do not get to plot our own course exercising our own authority. All of our authority is derived from God’s commission to steward his word. Preaching this word, we preach with God’s authority.

5. Stewardship of Preaching

When we preach God’s word, we are recognizing its power and authority. Isaiah 66:2 reminds us that we should tremble before such a powerful and authoritative word with humility. We should count it as no small thing, but as an immeasurable privilege. Jesus who was the word of God incarnate (John 1:14), commissions us with stewardship of this great word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). We preach the word with power and authority, giving understanding of God’s good gospel unto salvation and sanctification. We honor God living in obedience to the high imperative to preach the word. We preach it in times when it is attacked, when popular and unpopular. We preach the word of God because it is God’s power and authority. Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

Dialogue and Direction – Daniel Fusco

Barriers to a Jewish Witness Part II

Note:  Please refer to Part I

We see in the New Testament that the apostles used many of the Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.  In the book of Acts, from beginning to end, we witness the apostles again and again quoting the Old Testament scriptures to a Jewish audience to affirm Jesus was the Messiah.  (Reference Acts 2:25-34, 3:21-23, 4:25-26, 8:32-35, 13:27, 17:1-3, 18:28, 24:14, 26:6-22 and 28:23).  So here is something essential; we need to believe in the POWER of the WORD and remember how JESUS witnessed to the Jewish people.  He showed them in the WORD where the law and the prophets of the Old Testament foretold His coming and His purpose here.  Three powerful examples are in Luke 4:16-21, Luke 24:27, and Luke 24:44-45.  We should consider using the same method.  Every Jew will have an interest in the Old Testament (even secular Jews) because they regard this scripture as theirs; it shows that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

A common response from young Jewish people is “show me in the Old Testament where the Son of God is mentioned and I will believe it”.  I have in the past shown just one verse to the amazement of a young Jewish person.  Look at all these verses for more power in sharing:

  • Proverbs 30:4
  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7
  • Psalm 2:7
  • Zachariah 12:9-10

In additional let me speak about some verses which provide a clear view in the Old Testament of Jesus as the Messiah:

In Psalm 2:7, it clearly says that all the nations of the world will be subject to this Son.  This was never true of David’s son Solomon, so it cannot be referring to him.  In addition the classical interpretation of this verse is of the Messiah also.

In Daniel 9:25-26, we read the TIME OF THE MESSIAH’S COMING; verse 26 reads that the Messiah had to come before the second temple was destroyed.  Note that Titus and the Roman soldiers destroyed it in 70 A.D.   I have heard or read of several prominent Jewish men who have accepted Jesus as Messiah just through this prophecy.  Some Hebrew scholars have suggested that King Agrippa was the one referred to by the Hebrew word “Mashiach” (Messiah).  Note that King Agrippa died before 70 A.D.  Although Hebrew scholars were correct about requiring this to be fulfilled before the second temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Messiah spoken about could not be King Agrippa since Agrippa was not even from David’s seed nor was he a benevolent ruler.  It could never be considered that Agrippa would be the Messiah.

Micah 5:2 speaks about the birthplace of the Messiah.  This is weighty evidence to present to a Jewish person.  Most Jewish people, as I said in Part I, have no idea that this verse and other prophecies like it exist.

Isaiah 35:1,5-6 speaks about the messiah healing the sick. Jesus truly fulfilled this.  See Luke 4:16-21.

Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 speak about the Messiah as “a light to the gentiles”.  This is such an important fact to present to Jewish people.  What was it that made millions of gentiles come to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  This was predicted of the Messiah, that He would be “a light to the Gentiles”.

Zachariah 9:9 speaks about the Messiah coming as a lowly king, yet bringing salvation.  The ancient rabbis say, “if the people are worthy when Messiah comes, he will come riding a white horse.  If they are not worthy, he will come riding on a donkey”.

Isaiah 53 contains the wonderful prophecy of Jesus.  More Jewish people have come to faith reading this prophecy than any other in the Old Testament.  It could be called the “John 3:16 of Messianic prophesy”.  Often I ask Jewish people to read it carefully, and then I ask them who is it speaking about.  The reply most of the time is “Jesus”.  I have heard from scholars who say it was the sufferings of Israel spoken of and not the Messiah.  This is a modern day rabbinical answer.  The idea or application that this refers to the suffering of Israel is unfounded.  Israel, it is true, is called the “servant of the Lord” in places like Isaiah 49:3, but NEVER the “righteous servant” as spoken about in Isaiah 53:11.   Contrary, Isaiah speaks of the people of Israel as a people of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) and that their sins have “made a separation between you and God.”  (Isaiah 59:2).

Another very strong point worth mentioning comes from Isaiah 52:4 and Isaiah 53:8. In Isaiah 52:4, “my people” is without a doubt referring to Israel in the phrase “my people went down at first into Egypt to reside there.”  In Isaiah 53:8, the “my people” term appears again with reference to Israel, alongside of the promised “He”.  Jewish scholars attempt to define the term “He” as Israel.  If this is the case, the question can be asked (as it has been asked of me on numerous occasions):  “If the “MY people” in verse 8 is Israel, who is the “He” in the same verse?”  Both cannot refer to Israel. It would be impossible to say  “for the sins of my people (Israel), was He (Israel) stricken” This would make “my people” (Israel) stricken for “my people” (He).  The term “He” must refer to the Messiah.

It is interesting to also note that the three main Hebrew words for sin are used in this famous chapter.  “Iniquity” (Hebrew = “Avone”) “transgression” (Hebrew – “Pesha”), and sin (Hebrew – “Het”, which means missing the mark’).  In each instance, this righteous servant takes our sins.  “He was pierced through (wounded) for our transgressions”.  (Verse 5).  “The Lord has caused the inequity of us all to fall upon Him”.  (Verse 6),  “He bore the sin on many” (Verse 12).  If we try to put the word “Israel” instead of the pronoun “He” and “Him” in each instance, we will see that it just doesn’t work.

Also notable is the fact that all ancient rabbinic authorities apply Isaiah 53 to Messiah.  You can see many of these comments in a booklet entitled “Challenge of the Ages” which is available at the AEBM office.

Psalm 22:1, 6-18 gives us a description of the Messiah’s death in our behalf.  I have heard of many secular and even atheistic Jewish people becoming believers after reading this prophecy.

Psalm 16:10: This verse clearly defines the Messiah’s Resurrection.

Zechariah 12:9-10:  Here, Messiah’s first and second comings are alluded to in one verse.  (This passage is very valuable because it does just that!)  Verse 9 sets the time for verse 10, that is, when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies and God will “seek to destroy all the nations that come up against Jerusalem”.  This is a future day.  When this occurs then “they will look upon Me whom they have pierced.”

Finally,  Hosea 3:5  shows that Israel would remain many days without a ruler, then be restored in the last days.  (“David their King” in verse 5 refers to Messiah, the seed of David.)

In closing, let me share a few words about the current Jewish mentality, which can range anywhere from the practicing Orthodox Jewish person wearing his skull cap (yarmulke) to the person who says he is an atheist.   Do not be surprised if most Jewish people you talk with do not believe the Bible.  He or she has never been taught to consider it as the inspired Word of God.  In question are all Messianic passages from the Old Testament; we must always let them know that it is in THEIR Old Testament that we find these passages.  Most Jewish people do not know that Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah are in the Old Testament or even that they are Biblical books.  When asking a Jewish person to read an Old Testament prophecy, for instance Isaiah 53, I will emphasize three things in introducing it; this is from Isaiah in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures written 750 B.C. Hence, they will know for sure that it is from their scriptures and certainly written before Jesus was born.  Our Old Testament differs from theirs only in that some of the prophets are in a little different order, a minor variation to be sure.  If you give them a tract and a book with the abbreviations for different books such as Isa. Or Jer. etc. make sure you explain what they stand for; I can assure you most would never have a clue.

It is essential that we show any Jewish person the fulfilled prophecy in Jesus the Messiah.  This of course is our goal, to show that Jesus is their Messiah and Savior.  He is the same Messiah that thousands of Jewish people embraced in the early church and through the last twenty centuries.  This goal is reached primarily through developing relationships. I have so many friends who have wonderful relationships with Jewish people but don’t have a clue how to go to the next step.   This two-part article hopefully offers a beginning, just a beginning, in taking these relationships further.   I can assure you that the most skeptical Jew has been won to the Savior through considering Jesus in Old Testament prophecy.  And I think it is so important to point out the impeccable life of Jesus and how he lived as convincing evidence for his being the Messiah and the Son of God.  We will find no other man who has lived a life comparable  to that of Jesus in recorded history.

Next month I will talk about the different Jewish translations, Jewish cults and Jewish sects.  Please feel free to call me anytime for more information and materials.


Jim Stretchberry has been the executive director of the American European Bethel Mission (AEBM) for the last 9 years.  Prior to his tenure with AEBM Jim served as a Pastor with Pastor Rickey Ryan at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.  Jim’s passion for the lost is evident in his commitment to missions for much of his Christian walk.  He regularly travels throughout Europe and the Middle East ministering both humanitarian aid and the glorious gospel of Christ.  His Jewish heritage has given him a passion to see his Jewish brothers come to recognize their long-awaited Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.