Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Picket Signs #2

By: Rachel Martin

I have seen all those people we talked about in the last blog and never really got it.  I never really understood until I saw my husband in action on the street doing evangelism I never understood how it’s supposed to be done.  What I see my husband doing is a far cry from what we think of when we think street evangelists.  It is about Holy Spirit lead conversations.  He plays a little music to get
people’s attention, inevitably someone will come up and sit and start talking, and then puts down his guitar and just talks.  He walks around and looks people in the eye and asks how they are and means it.  He randomly tells people Jesus loves them or keep up the good work, or we will pray for your hard day.  He asks them if they know Jesus. He hands them a tract and waits to see if they come back or have questions.  He prays for people who are hostile.  He gives what he has or our necessity bags to the needy in order to get the right to talk to them.  Walks the walk and talks the talk.

Now having said all of that, do I believe that there is a place for picketing?  Absolutely.  I just think it should be done in a manner that shows the love and desire for real change of heart that Christ taught. Do I think there is a place for signs and gimmicks?  Yes we use them all the time.  I once knew a man who would sit out in front of our local grocery store with a huge cross for hours on end.  He said he just wanted to remind people that Christ died for their sins. I have another friend that leaves rocks with scripture written on them in public places and was considering sitting on the street corner and giving people cupcakes and telling them Jesus loves them. If you are a brave person that wants to draw attention and make a splash absolutely stand on the corner with a sign.
I even think that there is even is a place for hot button topics to steer people to the Bible and what it says.  Sure go ahead and stand out on a street corner.   How about instead of a sign that reads “Muslims get out of our country” how about one that reads “come sit with me and let’s talk about our faiths”.  Of course then you have to be ready to let the Holy Spirit guide you and also give an account for your faith. The ultimate goal must always be to bring people to a knowing saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf.  If that is not our end goal then we are just sinful people trying to show the world that we are somehow better when the truth is, we are no better.  The only difference is that we have accepted the Bible to be true.
Maybe you are not a stand on the street corner kind of person.  I know I am not.  I wanted to be married to a street evangelist not one myself.  I do it on occasion as I do believe it is something we should all try.  However if that is not for you then start small.  I know it is hard to let your fellow office workers know who you are and what you believe in.  But if you give them treats when you do
can anybody be mad.  I mean seriously.  If someone that was a hardcore atheist gave me some gluten free cupcakes with a note that said “I don’t believe in Jesus or God” I would think it odd but I would at the very least respect that.  Maybe ask them about it.  Have a conversation.  Tell them I don’t agree but that I appreciate that they are bold enough to share that.  Starting small is OK.  Talking with co-workers about going to church or praying with your son at night before bed is OK.  It is a start and if that is all it is right now that is really OK because you have to start somewhere combating the idiocy of others that have given us a bad name. Now here comes the hard part.  These people give Christians a bad name.  What is the way for Christians to start to win back their reputation? 


 Perhaps you have been reading this blog thinking in generalities.  Maybe you have been remembering people you have seen with signs or people you have told about Christ when put in that situation.  However I am talking about you.  Yes you specifically.  If the only people that are willing to speak out and stand up for Christ are the rude people with no understanding about what to do, it gives us all a bad name.  I was recently at my nephews little league game.  It was sweet and those kids played hard, badly.  There were a handful of dads out there helping them out, showing them how it is done.   Right now that is what the majority of us are doing, is sitting on the sidelines with all the info doing nothing.  Letting the little leaguers just swing away and keep people running for fear of getting in the cross fire.
We have to start fighting back here people.  There is no doubt about it.  Hate is winning and we are on the losing end of this battle thus far.  I for one hate to be lumped in with some schmuck who has no idea what he is doing.  Letting people think we are all small minded bigots with nothing but hatred in our hearts.  We must start globally, as a church, as individuals, and followers of Christ to quit allowing others to do our work for us. We must stop just shaking our heads at the idiocy of people who call us brothers or saying there is nothing to be done about it.  We must start making ourselves known and vocal about our faith, or not only will the world win but they will think us jerks who have nothing to offer.  The truth is we have everything to offer! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Picket Signs

By: Rachel Martin

While I was home in my little sleepy town in Costal Oregon this summer there was some great debates about something that received nationwide news coverage.    There was a man standing on the street corner of our local town with a sign stating his beliefs in a hateful manner and then attributing those things to Jesus.  Now I am not trying to weigh in on his motives or faith or weather what he did was right or wrong.  It just got everyone talking in our town about it and it got me thinking.
What is appropriate when it comes to sharing our faith and why are we not as bold as those who would spout their beliefs in hurtful ways.
What I will give to the people who picket for their faith, is at least they have the guts to do it.  My
guess is the way these people, (with the signs and loud argumentative behavior) were brought to Christ was not though yelling and anger.  I imagine it was with love and acceptance and someone sitting down with them and talking about the truth.  Their motives may even be sound but no one has taught them how to do it appropriately.  I could go on about the fact that there is a HUGE need for real discipleship in the American church at large which, I think, is a major part of the issue but that is a blog for another time. That fact that there is no mentorship leaves people with passion about their faith and reaching people to do some real odd stuff. 
I recently saw a video of a group of young Christians standing on a street corner.  One would stand on a “soap box” and loudly read the Bible.  I kind of appreciate that.  Not my bag but far be it from me to tell them not to read scripture loudly in public.  The problem came when his cohorts would get into yelling matches with passersby who stopped to talk.  Has anyone ever been won over by anything from being yelled at or getting into arguments?  An argument in and of its self makes a person more stubborn and less inclined to listen to what is being said.  I am a level headed forgiving person and when someone starts to argue with me I just shut down or get mad and tune them out.  We are talking about people who do not know the love and peace found in Christ.  Is it really the best tool to yell at them?
Take the topic of abortion for example.  Again not making judgments just using a hot button topic.  I see people with signs standing on street corners and the side of the road and at family planning
clinics.  Signs that post hateful thing and then throw Christ in there like “abortion is evil and you are going to hell”.  What about a sign that says “I will adopt your unborn child just as Christ can adopt you into his family”.  Now what would that say to those people going into an abortion clinic.  People love to talk and talk about how bad it is but unless we are willing to do something about it as Christians, give free counseling, adopt potential aborted children, share our stories, put our money where our mouth is and show these people the love and forgiveness in Christ nothing we do matters. 
Whenever I see people with picket signs I think of a million better ways to put it.    Another hot button topic is gay marriage.  Hey guy with all that anger in your heart, how about a sign that says “Jesus died for your sins” instead of “homos are going to hell”.  I know if I saw a sign that said “Christians have it wrong, your all going to hell, Buddhism in the only way to Heaven”.  I would roll my eyes and probably steer clear of them.  My husband would try to go give them the gospel but then again I am married to a street evangelist.  How about a sign that makes you venerable instead of hated.  How about something like “I struggle with anger and it’s a sin God has forgiven me of”.   Something simple like scripture.  For God so loved the world.   At the fair I told the guy in the “Are You Going to Heaven” booth that I loved what he was doing and to keep up the good work.  He told me that they have brought something like 5,000 people to Christ.  All they do is sit there and wait for people to come to them!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Lost Sheep in the Street

By: Daniel Martin

Close to Thanksgiving I was on a trip up to the United States to pick up some friends of ours at the airport. I was in a rush.  It is always a chore to get across the border in a timely fashion.  I didn’t want to show up too late at the air-port and have our guests wondering what happened to me.

As I was driving through Rosarito (a largeish town near our home in Baja Mexico) I saw a woman in tight brown pants and an almost non-existent shirt talking at the air and yelling at people passing by.  She was hauling around a large beg of laundry.  At first I thought she was in distress but as I kept driving I realized she probably just high, or crazy, aslo I was pretty sure she was a prostitute. I love to be a help to people like that because I know that not many are helping people outcast by society.  Do you remember the words of Jesus, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Most people who live on the street, understand their own desperation. They are almost always an open ear because so many have given up on them. I think they are easier people to talk to about Jesus, because you don’t generally have to spend your time trying to convince them that they aren’t great people that God would be stupid not to have on their team.   As I was driving, thinking about heading to the airport, and getting to the boarder sooner rather than later; God once again drove my heart towards compassion, and I turned the car around.

I didn’t see her where she was, because she had gained more ground on me heading toward the south of town.  Right after I spotted her I saw a guy selling burritos. I put the two together and decided to get her some burritos. It’s a wise practice to give people with drug addictions necessities instead of money. I watched a documentary on prostitutes in the states this last year. One of the things that one of them said is that she would seldom use money on food in her few hours of free time, because the drugs would drive out the pain and give her the strength to keep going. I know that this is a typical mentality for those taken captive to this life style. Keep in mind that there are very, few people who would chose prostitution as a profession. Most prostitution worldwide is a result of coercion or literal slavery.

When I came up to her she was still chatting at the air and stumbling around barefoot carrying her big bag of laundry. She was a beautiful woman with lovely long black hair that was matted with sand. She was actually covered from head to toe with it from spending the evening on the beach. I handed her the burritos and said “Es por tu” in my terrible Spanish. She said thank you, and “I need money” in her terrible English. I said I don’t have money for you. She said she had no place to stay. I felt bad because, at the moment I had no place to point her to. I still have to find a women’s rehab close to us, yet  I can name a couple of men’s off hand. I tried to understand what she was saying as she was talking pretty quickly in Spanish and I had to keep saying, “Sorry my Spanish is very bad.” Between phrases she would smack her lips nervously and talk to the person behind me that wasn’t there. I am pretty sure she was taking meth, as being rational and coherent at moments and still having hallucinations seems to be part of the drug form my experience with others on it. 

I asked if she knew Jesus and said that Jesus was my savior, and gave her a tract in Spanish. Then I asked if I could pray with her and she said yes. I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed for her, that she would find a place to stay, that God would show Himself to her. I also prayed that if she was possessed or if the person behind me wasn’t just something she was seeing but some entity, that it would leave her alone. When we were done praying she walked away briskly and I followed her to try and tell her I could pay for her getting her laundry done if I was there with her. I think at that point she felt threatened thinking that maybe I was there to trying to get on her good side. She tried to hand back the burritos and the tract and I kept telling her they were a gift and insisted she kept them. She did and walked away quickly across traffic. I yelled out “I’ll be praying for you” in Spanish, while she was getting away.   

One of the things that has been a concern for me in the current years is human trafficking. It also seems to be on the public conscience because it has been on an all-time rise as a moral issue as our world slides farther away from God, and entire industries are built upon the exploitation of other people. I’m not na├»ve, I know I can’t dismantle the sinful injustice of the “world’s oldest profession”, or put a significant dent in the problem alone. One thing that I know for certain in my years of preaching the Gospel is that there is no demographic that God cannot reach.  I know it’s not true because I hear stories. They aren’t my stories. However they are the stories of other individuals who talk about how one person taking the time out of there day or life to spend, give, converse or just listen to the other person makes a difference.  It’s us just yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit and his ability to take our insufficient offerings and make them more than enough.

 God only knows where people like this woman go. I have talked to many people about the Lord and the results are up to Him. I know very few that have made a decision and kept following Jesus. In a way it keeps me grounded, realizing that they are Gods reward, because He purchased them at the cost of his son.  I hope that my burritos, broken Spanish, and gospel track will help her find a way out of the life she is a prisoner to. I pray and in the end know that God can do anything.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Gospel in the 21st Century - Part 3 - Celebrities

By: Daniel Martin

          At the end of the 20th century we ended up with a culture that is enamored with celebrities.  Something that once started with presidents and people that accomplished great feats has ended up with viral video stars and reality T.V. characters. But have you ever taken the time to question why? Or, rather, why are these people celebrities? Why does our culture need so many people to look at and spotlight?  I believe that it has to do with our insecurities. We believe that there is some model of happiness or perfection just on the horizon and a superficial standard keeps getting raised up so that people can hold closely there futile false hopes (or in the reverse say that at least I am not like them.
I play guitar, and love it. In the guitar world I find that there is an ever pressing search for the next Hendrix. He is constantly being bolstered as the greatest guitarist the world has ever known. No doubt Jimi was an amazing guitarist. He was completely unique and a virtuoso and as left brained as he was left handed.  But while we keep searching for the next Hendrix, we are missing a host of others innovators that could be just as influential at guitar. Jimi just died before he could get old. 
I remember the day Whitney Huston died. Davey Jones of the monkeys also died the same day. No one seems to remember Davey Jones, but to me he was really something because he sang “Day Dream Believer.” A cheesy love song that I will probably always love because my mom used to sing it when I was young. I know Whitney is on a different level as far as raw talent but I personally can’t recall any of her music besides “I Will Always Love You.”  Yet everyone will think of Whitney forever. She died before she could get stale. Some people will remember the Monkeys and Davey Jones. Most though will remember the band getting old, stale past retirement, being dated to the 60’s and doing a television special in the 90s for nostalgia. Celebrity is a world of one or the other. It’s always fleeting. You burn out or fade away. It hasn’t given us an answer on our quest for personal worth, no matter how great it looks in a dress; or how cleaver the catch phrase, or how attractive the spokesman.
The same problem can be found in the worldly minded church. The Devil can use the name of even good Christian people, as a superficial standard. How many times have you found yourself flying the flag of a certain pastor, or teacher? Have you been talking about the saints of old and the founders of the faith as if those days can never happen again? Have you been telling other people that they were “IT”, and if God only had them around? Have you found yourself saying, “If there were only more of them what would the world look like?” If so, you are missing what the Bible is saying about all the great people that have ever served the Lord. They were used by God because they decided to let God use them. They were men of faith because they responded in faith to God. Those people are amazing and unique. You are amazing and unique too. You can be as amazing, because you are perusing God by faith. God is not looking for the next Hendrix. He is looking for you.
Let’s stop being so worldly. The Devil wants you to think that those were the glory days of Christ. Why can’t today be? Use your gifts to be great for the LORD. John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Francis Chan are all Godly men that have influenced me. But their popularity will be forgotten in the years to come. The truth though, never gets old.  You are no less in Gods eyes. Are you less faithful? Maybe you have made an idol out of them and you have decided to make them like a team you root for. Maybe you have made an idol out of me? “Well that is Dan, he has the gift of evangelism, he is outgoing by nature, and he is just really good at it”.  That really is what the Devil wants. It’s another one of his hidden cards. He wants to make you think that making a difference is for the “giants” of the faith. That somehow they have a different source then the scriptures. That reaching the lost is up to a “somebody”, and you are a “nobody.”
                Worldliness in this regard has reached a foolish level in the church. I remember in high school wishing that people like Britney Spears and bands like Limp Bizkit would turn to Christ for the sake of all the people that idolized them. I thought if those celebrities knew Jesus they would have the same effect for Christ that they had in making much of themselves. I think around the same time there were other Christian artists that thought the same thing. There were four or five Britney Spears clones and at least a Dozen Bands that sounded like Limp Bizkit. They all suddenly appeared in the Christian music scene. I even remember one band had a sticker on the front that said for fans of Limp Bizkit. Now it’s almost comical to think about since those artists have waned in popularity. What was once edgy, envelope pushing, and suggestive, in the world is now just yesterday.
The Church seems to be currently the kings of cheap popular imitation. Preaching styles, how we look, our art, the way we view politics, our values; are mostly poor imitations of the culture we live in. It’s there to create a safe version of the world for Christians, and a palatable version of the church for non-Christians.
                Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that suits and ties, or black buggies should be our standard. The Church that does not engage the culture will not be salt and light to it either. What I am talking about is the lie of celebrity. The truth is that we have more to say to the world than the world has to say to us. However, as long as we are not starting with scripture, we will be calling the kettle black forever. We will continue to be a terrible and annoying imitation of the world that claims to be better than the world. We will be a private club that denounces worldly private clubs. We will talk about the new electronic device at the pulpit and denounce materialism. We will not personally give our kids the answers but make sure they aren’t hanging around with the wrong crowd, and use the church assembly as a kind of safe party. We will have Christian versions of every worldly value, with different names. It shouldn’t be this way, and the shame is, we can only think of ties, ankle long skirts, and formalities as the alternative.
                What we are lacking is authenticity. The Devil loves looking like he has all the good ideas. We have bought into the lie. In doing so we are giving the Devil our words. Words like peace, marriage, unity, and faith. If there is no authenticity with the people of God, then we are giving the Devil a house to live in and people who will worship him. He wants to keep the Church powerless to affect the world until the church becomes his church. While we are so busy being like the world our things have been hijacked. His things look sacred and ours look run of the mill. The Devil, a shrewd businessman ready to sell us the pyramids, while we are busy trying to turn something eternal into our next topic: business.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mother of a Missionary

By: Debbie Coon

    Rachel and I had just finished canning several pints of elk meat. Feeling quite pleased with our work, we headed outside and picked the last of the vegetables from our garden, corn, beans, red potatoes and carrots.  It was a good feeling know that all this healthy food would soon be on it’s way to Mexico where it would feed my kids for the next year.
 After 3 year old Archer finished using the garden hose to wash the vegetables and thoroughly hosed down his mother with a hearty “I gotcha,” we canned the vegetables as well. 

   The mother of a missionary wants to mother her children into a place of comfort, decent food, warm clothes and a nice place to live. 
   I am the mother of a missionary and this is a peek into what it’s like for me to walk the fine line between being the mother of a missionary and being her sister in Christ.  

    When your daughter tells you she has a heart for missions, you accept it. When she tells you she is marrying a man who is a missionary, you accept that too. When they tell you they are taking your 18 month old grandson and moving to Mexico, you help them pack and then…then comes the day you stand in the driveway and wave them on to their journey, into the Will of God, into another country, into a place where the rules, the food, the culture and the government are nothing familiar to us.

   Six years ago, Rachel told us that God was preparing her heart for something big. Five years ago she said God was preparing her heart for the mission field. Four years ago she married Daniel, a missionary. Yes, we saw it coming. We watched as they sold off their possessions, applied for passports and packed up their belongings. With mixed emotions of sadness and excitement, we stood in the driveway and waved goodbye. 
    As Christians, we are commanded to support missionaries and Richard and I have done that most of our married life. As God has seen fit to bless us, we have gladly passed on to others. Now we include our own children in that list.
    According to scripture, we are all commanded to preach the gospel, but it is a hardy few who give up everything, pick up their cross and follow the call as a way of life. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than receive and when we partner with a missionary through prayer or financial support, God calls us “fellow workers with the truth.” It’s as if we are walking on foreign soil, right beside them.
    So what’s the fine line?
    The life of a missionary is not easy, even when that life is just across the border in Mexico. I am after all, the mom. I get the inside scoop. Mom wants to kiss it and make it all better with a check or box of goodies, but that’s not my job and it hasn’t been for a long time.
    It is also not up to me, the mother, to motivate, argue and cajole someone into giving, much as I would like to. It is God who puts the call on the heart of the believer.  When  God calls us to any action, destination or realization, you can get up or not. You can sit there or move. You can answer the call or not. Your choice.  Mom definitely wants to motivate you, cause moms are good at that but, this sister in Christ is not your conscience, your Holy Spirit or your task master. Your relationship with God is personal and private and it does not involve answering to me.
 In walking the fine line between giving to our kids verses giving to our missionaries, this mom sometimes struggle with guilt. When Richard and I were in Mexico last year, we were both profoundly affected by the things we saw and as a result, we give extra each month and ask the kids to provide food for this group and financial support to that. The parent in me feels guilty giving them money and telling them to give it to someone else, but isn’t that what our heavenly Father does with us?   He gives an abundance and asks that we share. 
    So, as I work at walking that fine line, I will continue to do the little extras like canning meat and vegetables, buying their vitamins and  tucking in a little play money for a date night, or a toy for Archer. I fight the urge to finance their mission single handedly.  She is after all, still my kid.  
    It is my prayer that you will partner with those who God has placed on your heart and that you realize that while financial support is necessary, more so is the daily presence of prayer.
    This Grandma  is asking you to pray for Archer’s safety,  that he won’t pick up a poisonous bug, get bit by a scorpion, or get sick from the water. This mom is asking that you pray for my kid’s health, that they won’t grow weary. Pray for effectiveness on the mission field, that hearts will open to the gospel and as their mission outreach grows, that they will have the means to facilitate, whatever that might entail. Pray for others to see the need and that many prayers will go up on their behalf. And not just for my kids, but others who are devoting their lives to the same cause.
    Be a fellow worker. Spend some time in prayer for the ones who picked up their cross and waved goodbye.
    Thank you. 
This mom appreciates it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

How a Short Term Mission Trip Changed Me

By: Angie Bell
If you have ever considered going on a mission trip but couldn't help asking yourself what exactly is the point, you're not alone. Wondering how and if you can cause a lasting difference by visiting another country for a short while is only natural. Also weighing the cost of your trip to just donating the money is another valid reason to question whether it's really worth going at all. 

My husband and I had been talking about going on a short mission trip for the last 4 years, but were having a hard time deciding where to take our family with young kids. When my cousin and her husband decided to become full time missionaries in Mexico, we finally committed. Several times previously though, we asked all the questions above, but this time we were just gonna do it! We were going to find out what mission trips are really like and see if the experience is worth the trouble and the money.

February 8th, 2015 at 3 am, we loaded our 6 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old into our van and headed to the airport to fly to San Diego and then drive into Mexico. People told us we were crazy for taking our little ones, but we wanted to give God the opportunity to use us and our children. It turned out to be a good decision. Without giving many of the details and experiences of our trip, I will describe to you the lasting affects of our two week mission. 

1. Perspective: My perspective has changed dramatically. It can't be helped. You go to any third world country and that will happen. Warning: plug for Mexico coming. It was a good experience seeing America from the other side and I don't mean from Canada. It's just healthy. Perspective is something extremely valuable, but less and less common. A true understanding of the relative importance of things is it’s definition. Sounds a lot like wisdom and I wish for large quantities of it!

2. Prayer Life: I have always struggled with my prayer life. I've wanted to be more kingdom minded when talking to my Father. To have deeper and more meaningful conversations with Him. To pray about things that are really important to me. Things I can't forget because they bring out the passionate side of me.

As a mom, after our trip, I now find myself praying often for the moms of the orphanages (aka super moms) that we visited. When I'm up at night with a sick kid, I find my mind wandering to Mexico. I can't help but wonder if one of the super moms is up also with one of the 18 children in her care. I assume that it's probable and I pray for them. 

When I'm bathing my children in a full tub of water, I think about the super moms who have to decide between drinking water or bathing water. Not mention the other million things we need water for everyday and I pray for them.

When I'm stressed about making our grocery list magically fit our budget, I remember those super moms who go without, more often than I can possibly imagine, to make sure they provide for those God has entrusted to her. And I pray for them.

We all have or heard of others having strong, brave people in their life that powerfully influenced them for the better. It's not that you're always comparing yourself to that person as much as you were encouraged and emboldened by them. I spent really very little time with the super moms, but it has forever changed my life. I feel braver and stronger since meeting them and for that I am extremely grateful! I know that whether they are aware of my prayers, they are invaluable to them. I know the Holy Spirit lives in me and moves me to pray for them when they need it most. God has laid it on my heart to continue to look for other ways besides prayer to help them also. 

So not only has there been several lasting changes in my life, the super moms and other missionaries I met while in Mexico, have someone who will continue to pray and try to cause awareness of their great need for support. 

So… was it worth the plane ticket price, passport hassle, and traveling out of country with kids? Absolutely! What could be a better use of your resources actually? Giving God the opportunity to stretch you, give you perspective, and have you meet and connect with other believers around the world might be more worthwhile that you originally thought. Your story could be completely different, but just as life changing!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Gospel for the 21 century pt.2 (The Deceit).

The Deceit.

The deceit of the modern day is that the Bible has nothing to say in the 21 century. It is a premise that is entirely wrong. The Bible has more to say about the 21 century than it has had to say about any other century. It also is more credible. Yes you heard me right, more credible than at any other time, in the United States at the start of the 21 century. I believe atheism was designed by the Devil to leave a spiritual vacuum. One that he can fill with some form of religion that replicates Christianity but is not Biblical. Isn’t that the Spirit of this current age? Isn’t that where we are seeing the snowball going? How does a world view that denies that the universe has form and meaning sustain itself? It is beyond rationality to accept. Man can only accept evolutionary theory as a mechanism. How can He find a meaning for existence there? That is why it will not be the hallmark of thought in the 21 century. There is an overly apparent spiritual vacuum, in the United States, waiting to be filled by the Biblical church. It is currently being filled by eastern philosophy and the occult. Is this news for you? If it is, you have fallen for the first card trick up the Devils sleeve. He wants you to think that there are happy atheists. There are none. You cannot hold it as a rational structure because it can’t answer any of the deep questions of life. On the basis of atheism there is only an illusion of progress, and one that is void of meaning. There is a vacuum in the hearts of lost in the 21 century that cannot be rivaled because one has not existed in such size before. What will fill it?

 The second card trick is a clever one. It was one that I fell for over and over until I noticed the sleight of hand. I was told all along that the hand that I held was a bad draw; I thought cards given me were of poor value. I was convinced that I should keep drawing. I thought that what I held between my hands was of peasantry and not royalty. I kept trying to get rid of this hand but some divine providence kept telling me, keep the hand you have been dealt, keep it, that’s the one, that’s the ticket. And sure enough that is also the illusion that so many in our age have fallen for. They think that they have lost the fight, they think that they must fold when all along they have the winning hand. The Devil is bluffing with the most cleaver of lies. For it is he that sneaks in and tells the players that there are new rules and that this is a different game, he is only waiting for his turn to play your cards.

For around the last two decades we have sought the lost thinking that we must change the value of the truth for it to be relevant for the listener, when it is a fixed value. We think we have nothing to say to the culture because it is progressive. What we have failed to notice with any real understanding is that current culture is running itself into the ground. The church has missed what the lost have known for the past two decades. That it’s culture is the culture of death. That a train of progress with no destination is a train that will run out of track. It can only decompose as the culture replicates itself into oblivion. It is a pool of water with no outlet that can only trace back, reuse and confuse its where it’s been.  We have thought that we had to be just like this culture to win converts. But what we have given them is a gospel emptied of its power. One that tells its audience that we are just as irrational and hopeless as they are. We are not winning the card game but giving the Devil our good cards.

No society can sustain itself on meaningless absolutes. Do not murder, do not covet, do not commit adultery are laws that are in no way going to change over time, because they are not created by man. Like God, they are completely and utterly immutable. The Biblical standards exist because the God of the Bible exists. They have no more become irrelevant than air or water have become irrelevant. Peoples and societies that abandon the standards of God, come in conflict with the universe that God created. History will prove that to you. Western society is proving itself to blindly repeat the same histories that have preceded itself for generations. But at the peak of its foolishness, the church in the west has been hopping aboard a sinking ship, because they don’t want to be left out of the world’s communion. All the while the Devil has been taking the things of God and changing their inherent value to empty them of their power. He is giving the lost a formidable pain killer for their guilty conscience while they quickly approach the day of judgement. This pain killer has nothing to do with real Christianity but is such a close copy that it takes a trained eye to spot the counterfeit.  In the next blog I will give you some examples.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Gospel for the 21st Century - Intro

When I was in middle school I got a surprise gift from my aunt. It was a magic set. It came with a wand a bunch of trinkets, and a poorly made VHS instructional video. Within a week I was preforming all kinds of tricks. I could make a quarter disappear, I could tell you the role of the dice before they landed, and I could pull a scarf right out of the air. Every once in a while I would get caught mid trick, and that would be that with the person I was doing the trick for. If I tried to show them anymore, everything I did would lose its magical feel, I was no longer credible. Then there were people that also had magic sets like the one I had. They instantly knew every trick that I could do, or at least the principal behind them. There was no point in trying to find a new way to trick them because everything I did would lose its power.

 Like my magic tricks the Devil appears to have allot of power, most of it however lies and deception. We are also very foolish to think that this deception would be present only outside of the church. In my years of evangelism I have seen many things but none of them are more apparent than Satan’s ability to blind the eyes of people to what life is about and his activity in it.  In this blog series  "The Gospel for the 21st Century" I might say some things that may seem to you offensive or rub you the wrong way. If we are to reach people for the gospel in the 21st century then we can no longer be politically correct or say only things people want to hear.  I think if you follow this series you will agree with me.  

 I believe in a literal God and a literal Devil. If you chose to be bold about your faith and vocally share the gospel you also must believe in an actual God and an actual Satan. You can’t be bold without seeing the Devils influence to those you share with.  God and Satan will move from the realm of the principle and the ethereal to the actual.  However if you walk by faith with the God of the universe rather than intellectual ascent, you will also find Him showing up on a regular basis.  You will be in communion with Him and see Him working in more than an ethereal experience, or an intellectual framework meant to console your need for life’s answers. You will see that He was there all along but waiting for your obedience in faith to see Him in the realm of the miraculous. You will also be sure of the Devil in the same way. He will no longer be seen as a figurative reference for all the evil in the universe, but the actual Lord of it. You will also find that his primary trait is deception.
If you make a plan in your day some time to just vocally preach the gospel in an effort to reach the lost, you will find your mind clouded by fearful excuses. You will have a period of time when you will be swamped with obligations that you somehow inherited within the hour. You will be distracted in ways you didn’t think were possible by that show you can’t record on television or that Facebook conversion from a friend that is all of the sudden distressed. If you remain steadfast and get out of the house you might start second guessing whether or not God was leading you in the first place, and maybe you are just being crazy. You think, “Since God is responsible for who is in heaven and who isn’t, you should just call it a day and head back home.”

If you get past all of that, you might get in a conversation with someone about the gospel. At that point, you will start seeing the Devil in a real way. You are now showing the people, that they are the ones being deceived.  However in the Devils goal is to continue to hold the unrighteous under God’s wrath. You can expect a few things like, a spectator to a private conversation stepping in to shut you down.  Even though you are speaking logically and calmly to the person in front of you. Maybe you are talking with someone who has an addiction, someone else will ask them where they can get some drugs, and they will lose focus on what you are talking about. If you are talking with a young lady, some hunk is going to walk in the room and make eyes with her, even though she has never gotten that kind of attention before. If you are talking with someone who is already searching for meaning someone else will join your conversation to sway them toward new age belief or some other form of religious broad road.  And in all cases cell phones will ring, messages will alert, even your own which you have forgotten to silence will chime in. If all of that is not enough, sometimes out of nowhere you will be painted a villain. The person talking with you was all well and good right in front of you, and something triggers in there head. All of the sudden it’s like an eraser goes through their head and removes all the forty minutes of calm talk about the same things you were talking about until then. They look at you as if they suddenly found out that you have ulterior motives even though you have none. Things that they do to you, phrases they pin on you, history that does not belong to you, becomes your fault in their eyes.  Even though you emphasize God’s grace, hell is the focus in their mind. They will see you is bigoted even though you have truly considered everything they say to you and might actually look in to it. Others will come and support them, and will help them decide you are out of date, a relic of some archaic religious past.  This is not to mention death threats, the actual demonically possessed or being visited by evil spirits to help “scare” you out of continuing in Gods pursuit of the lost. All of which will help confirm to you the existence of a literal Devil rather than some horror movie boogie man, or a intellectual framework to help explain why people are generally sinful.

Press on further still and you will see the miracles that inexplicably shuts the mouth of lions so to speak. You will see people who have been hardened by years of bitterness inexplicably soften. You will be just rambling and mention specific things from there life that you weren’t intending to say. The Holy Spirit giving you credibility you didn’t know you had. You will have somehow just read the verses they used to talk about the Bibles contradictions in your morning devotions. You will follow an unexplained lead of the spirit to walk to the far side of the town and see someone who needs physical help, and make the gospel speak all the louder to them because you came to their rescue. You will offer prayers for the lost persons family members and see them healed. At times you will see your life miraculously preserved from harm, confirming that God has a purpose for you still in life.

All of this is beyond humbling, because it has so little to do with you. You just said yes. That’s it, that’s all you get, the decision. You get to your benefit simply saying, OK God, I’ll except what your word says and I will go tell others. God I don’t have much energy today, but I’ll walk over there. God OK, I trust you, X Box will still be here later, I’ll give you my Saturday. God is alive, and is near, but He reveals himself in our obedience through faith in what He has said in the scripture “go unto all the world” and “surly I am with you always.” You get to really meet with Him when you go help “the least of these brothers of mine.” That is where God is. Why would God show up and talk to you when you were too busy for Him burying yourself in the things of life that won’t last for an eternity. I promise you your time away from them will give them new meaning. You will not be a slave to the Sabbath but will truly need and enjoy that time.

Why would God validate someone who cares so much about their own skin? Why should God care about your reputation when His is on the line? Why should God care about your financial obligation and deadlines, when He has a store room that can’t be exhausted for His obligations and deadlines?  If you want to see the God of miracles and the Bible, you have to go to where He is. In salvation, we don’t get God, He gets us. We are moving towards the cross, we are not putting the cross inside of our pocket, or to add to the list of other worldly clubs, names and trinkets.  I promise you that when you give up the praise of men, the pressure of men will also fall away. Someday in the end God will say well done. His is the opinion that matters. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Don't be Ashamed of the Gospel Part 2

By: Daniel Martin

Now I look back and see this with a bit more clarity. I understand the problem. I didn’t know enough, about people. I thought I could just go in with a formula and it would work.  I had heard that everyone knew they were sinners, and if they heard the gospel it would all make sense. I couldn’t see anything wrong with this girl, and she couldn’t see anything wrong with herself either. I didn’t really understand that the gospel meets individuals where they are at.

I feel bad about how it all went, but at least she has had the chance to hear the gospel. She had worked at that business for two years before I met her, working with a Christian manager. I don’t know if she would have ever heard it from him. That is really very strange to me. This was a poor attempt, but I don’t understand people who carry the name of Christ and make no attempt. Why are we so ashamed? Is it because we don’t actually believe the scriptures? I have asked this before and I will ask it again.  Do you care more about what others think about you than you do about people’s souls?
If you were aboard a cruise ship and you crashed a party by saying there is an iceberg ahead, then showed people to the life boats.  Those people will be upset that you interrupted their party, they may even hate you at the time. That is until they find out they are actually heading for an iceberg. At first you are an unnecessary villain, and then you’re a hero. But it’s not you that’s the hero, it’s the life boat. You are just telling them where the lifeboat is and making them aware there is a problem.  I think there will be allot of people who might give me a big hug in heaven, which gave me harsh words and an angry look on earth. I don’t know what they will say to the person that never said a word.
God loved us enough to die for us. You may say you are brave enough to die for another person but are you brave enough to lose your social standing?  To be seen as crazy? I tell you the truth, before the ship hits the ice burg.  For many it will be too late, like the story of the sleeping virgins on their wedding night in the gospels.
What about the other guy?  When in agony for eternity in hell are they going to be thankful for the Christian that didn’t have the guts to share? What will they think of the man who said nothing?  The man who cared more about what they thought about him? What about God?  Do we dare live our life here on earth sitting on our rear-ends knowing we have a home in heaven waiting for us and not letting anyone else know. What is God going to say, to that person? A hard question to ask is does such a person really know the love of Jesus, if they think it is only for them? Can we know the love and mercy of God and actually not know the love and mercy of God for others too?
I will leave you with those haunting questions because you already know the answers to them. They are all in scripture, and your heart knows them as well. I don’t want you to be ashamed. I don’t want you to be afraid. I want you to see how much God wants us to see life through His eyes. That he would have none parish, and that you might share that kind of heart. I have to borrow Gods view because it is something I don’t fully understand. There are people at times in my life that I actually wouldn’t mind God pouring his wrath out on. That isn’t the heart of God. God asks us to bend ours to His compassion and reach out to people with the gospel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Don't be Ashamed of the Gospel Part 1

By: Daniel Martin

When you start doing evangelism, you might jump in with both feet like I did. I think that is a very wise decision, however Jesus also called us to count the cost. When you start taking chances for Christ you might think ahead to the kind of work you are about to embark on. It is easy to avoid the hard work but we will never be fruitful without that hard work.  Our minds tend to cultivate the ideal only and not anything long term. When I started doing evangelism I never thought that I would see the people I met on the street again. Finding out I was really good at telling people about Jesus was a real ego boost. I didn’t really plan on hearing questions I didn’t have the answers to.
Once while doing evangelism with the team, I went into a candy store with one of my evangelism partners. There was a Japanese American girl working there. I remember it as being the first time I had shared the gospel with someone who was near my age. I stood there awkwardly waiting for an opening to talk. She asked me if I wanted any candy.  I awkwardly gave her the gospel, and then asked her, what she believed? She was confused and really flustered. I got into a semi long conversation with her and gave her my bible with my phone number in it.  I am sure it just seemed to her like a very, very, awkward way to ask someone out.
I told her to call me later so that I could get it back. She did.  Two days later she called me and I asked her more questions about what she believed. She said that she really hadn’t given it much thought she said probably Shintoism because her grandmother was a Shinto. I remember telling her that if Christianity was true she could die at any moment and end up in hell. I remember her crying on the phone and saying “I don’t know” before she hung up. The truth was, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what Shintoism was, I didn’t know if I was saying the right things.  I went back and got my Bible.
I lost some of my courage that day. I didn’t want to ever see her again because I knew that I had made a fool of myself. I felt like I was trying for God and utterly failing. The Bible told me to go make disciples. I knew I needed to go back. What I said was actually true. All non-believers could spend eternity in hell whenever God decides their time on earth is up. That doesn’t make God bad it makes Him just. And Jesus’ death is because of His great love. God doesn’t lose anything by losing any of us. He does not need us, He loves us.
I knew I had to go back and try harder or try something different. I came in again and met her manager. He said that jade wasn’t at work that day. I probed a bit and found out he was a Christian. I felt relieved, but he was very cross with me because I had told Jade about Jesus the way I did. I already knew I had done it the wrong way, even if it was out of a good heart. I really want her to be in heaven. I really wanted to know her sins would be forgiven. She seemed so sweet and like a nice person. I hope that he shared more of the gospel with her. I think I encouraged him to.
Now I look back and see this with a bit more clarity. I understand the problem. I will share that in the next blog.  Look for it in two days or so.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sightings in Mexico

By: Rachel Martin

I know this is a departure from our normal blog ideas but it struck me as funny the other day.  There are things I have seen in this country that people in the US will never see or only saw many years ago.  Someone told me once that Mexico is like the U.S. 50 years ago and I would really agree with that statement.  In some ways I would say for the better and in some ways for the worse.  I am not making a judgment here just listing off some funny or interesting things I have seen living here.

People riding in the back of pick-up trucks.  Teens 10 crammed into the back of a small Toyota on their way to the beach.  Whole families, babies sitting on their laps in the back of open truck beds. One time shortly after moving here I saw (I swear I am not making this up) an old grandma in a rocking chair in the back of a truck bed.  I saw a construction worker just last week riding on the running board of a dump truck driving down the road at regular speed.  Why he was not in the back with the other guys I have no idea.  I have a picture I will include of a bunch of pre-teen boys riding all over the truck that delivers our washing and bathing water.  Honestly I thought it looked like fun.
I have seen kids here play with everything from broken pieces of glass, plastic bags, broken bits of toys, pieces of trash and even,  yes it’s gross, spit and some gravel.  And be happy about it!  Remember the time when you were young and asking your mom if you could play with something like a broken pop can and her saying no.  Maybe they just don’t ask here or maybe parents figure they will learn. Either way I have seen some crazy things go as toys. 
We went to the local fair here a few weeks ago.  It was my son’s first real attempt at a real carnival ride.  He was on one of those little car rides that go round and round in a circle.  For less than $3 we both got on and waited.  The ride started and then operator just walked away!  It appeared as though there was only one operator per section so maybe 3 ride operators for the whole place.  OK it’s a kiddy ride no big deal.  Well until I looked down and saw that most of the cars had no wheels and some were held on by bits of rope.  Well OK it’s a short drop if we fly out I am sure we will be OK.  Unlike the ride two over from us, one of those around and around at super-fast speeds type of ride, where the operator was actually using man power to get it going and stopping it.
I love living in a different country.  There are time it is just like you see on movies and travel shows.  Every time we drive through Tijuana I feel just like I am in a movie.  Cars cutting people off, horns blaring, busses loaded with people black smoke belching out of tail pipes hanging half off.   Shacks standing right next to store fronts signs all in Spanish and people talking with hand gestures and laughing and visiting.  I love that even though it is home to me it still on occasion still feels like a foreign country.   

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Personal Devotions

I grew up in a Christian home where my father was the Pastor of a small church. We spent allot of time studying scripture as a family and on most mornings with my mother. As a young child it was something I dreaded, having to sit still for 20 minutes. We would listen to scripture and sing songs and as a child it felt almost unbearable. This wasn’t anything different than any other scenario where lack of motion was required. My mind would drift around, I would start to fall asleep, really have to use the restroom, basically do anything but listen. I know I drove my mother crazy.  If you are reading this mom I am deeply sorry, and I want thank you. The establishment of me spending time studying in scripture probably had a lot to do with our times as kids in the front room Bible Lessons.

I repented of my sin and turned to Jesus for salvation at the age of six.  After that I always had an internal relationship with God. God was always there and I would pray for just about everything. Winning at a video game I was playing, praying for my sister and brother, and help sleeping when I was scared. But I didn’t read much all growing up. When we moved to Oregon I started school and developed a crush on a girl in my grade. We were at a Christian school and I noticed her one day reading her Bible at recess.  In fifth grade it encouraged me and made me think. I had always thought before that the curriculum of Christian School was enough Bible stuff. I had to do church stuff all of the time so I didn’t think that I needed really much else.  Seeing that girl reading her Bible really struck me.  She wanted to spend time with God.  It was not a chore.
When I was in Jr. High I went to Bible camp. I had a camp counselor, who put forward a challenge. It was to read your Bible every day for a month or something like that. I started, mostly because I said that I would, and then just kept going. I read my Bible near every day for many years and I grew in the Lord because of it.
I didn’t know at the time but I had obsessive compulsive disorder. After being so faithful it became a ritual. I was worried about what would happen on the days I didn’t do devotions. I thought if I missed a day I would snap and start spiraling into sin. Or that in some sort of strange way like Karma if I just read enough scripture maybe it would stop bad things from happening.
This was a long and hard period of my life that only got more complicated as a young adult at missionary school. There we had mandatory quiet time. For some this might be a great blessing, for me it just compounded a problem. God felt like a task master of whom I was too unholy to measure up too. This was a great struggle I had to work through. When I got married it was my wife that started talking about God in a manner of his compassion again.  That God wants us and not a better version of us.
That long story is to encourage you to read your Bible.  Don’t allow apathy, nervousness, thinking you are not good enough for God, or just plain laziness to keep you from your time in scripture.  I would like to encourage you to read scripture and to spend time talking to the God of the universe. He cares about you and wants to be your good shepherd and guide you through life. Don’t let it become something you have to do, but that you get to do.  Let the Holy Spirit give you new eyes on all of those little things you have been ignoring. When we step out in faith God helps us stand. God communicates most of all in those times.  In times of personal one on one with Him and His word.  Jesus had to constantly get away from the crowd to spend time with the Father.  
Even when I didn’t want to as a child or felt compulsion to do it my personal devotions always made a difference.  We are always talking about striving for Godliness.  You can’t be Godly without God.  You can’t even really enjoy life or come to understand what that means until you spend time with Him.  He left behind an amazing array of learning tools for whatever you are going through or whatever you need and it’s just a short read away.