Categories
Reaching Out

Memorial Day Salute to Our Fallen Veterans

As you know, this is the day for us to pause from our daily lives to reflect on and remember those who died for our country. And thank you to all of you who served our country in the military, and your spouses, for the service you have rendered to our country. We enjoy freedoms today because of your willingness and that of your colleagues to put your life on the life to protect our nation.

“Mansions of the Lord” is a majestic and compelling hymn that honors those who lost their lives in service to our country. It was sung with trumpet accompaniment at First Lutheran this past Sunday (May 26), and it was magnificent. You can also see it performed by the West Point Band and West Point Glee Club here (https://tinyurl.com/MansionsoftheLord) You can follow along with the lyrics:

Mansions of the Lord

To fallen soldiers let us sing
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord

No more bleeding, no more fight
No prayers pleading through the night
Just divine embrace, Eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord

Where no mothers cry and no children weep
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep
All through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord

Our nation faces many grave challenges, so let us pray that our leaders will make wise decisions, to keep us safe and from harm.

Categories
Reaching Out

What Do YOU Bring to the Table?

Several years ago, when a non-profit organization board in the Arkansas Delta met to discuss prospective board members, they always asked: “What do they bring to the table?” They were asking “what could they contribute to our organization?”

What Different Age Groups Bring to the Table

We could ask the same question about people of different ages – what can they contribute to our society:

• BABIES inspire awe, wonder, and love; created in the image of God, they are BRAND-NEW PERSONS, more incredible than a solar eclipse, Niagara Falls, or Grand Canyon.

• CHILDREN contribute curiosity and excitement at encountering the world and learning how to get along with other people.

• YOUNG PEOPLE contribute energy and promise for the future, unencumbered by life’s burdens, unfulfilled dreams, and skepticism.

• MIDDLE AGE PEOPLE contribute their knowledge and skills in work, dedication, and commitment to family – raising the younger generation and caring for the older generation.

• SENIOR ADULTS contribute experience, wisdom, and a knowledge of history that enables them to view current events with deep understanding.

Healthy, Godly societies, communities, families, and churches recognize the critical contributions that each group can make, and act to support, protect, and nurture them. In these settings, individuals in each of the above groups are respected and loved for who they are, and “heard”.

What Does Satan Bring to the Table

In contrast, Satan and his minions seek to steal our identities – who we are as image-bearers of God, kill our bodies in a multitude of ways, and destroy our souls. He not only brings destruction and death to the table (our society, communities, families, and churches), but HE WANTS TO DESTROY THEM.

What Does Jesus Bring to the Table

Not only does our Lord prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5), but He:
• invited His disciples to join Him for a breakfast of fish and bread (John 21:12),
• invites us to dine with Him (Revelation 3:20), and
• offered bread and wine to His disciples at the last supper (Mark 14), an expression of and a precursor to Him giving Himself – His body and blood – on the cross to wipe away our sins and the fear of death forever (Mark 15).

What Do YOU Bring to the Table?

Jesus said we are to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, the first and great commandment.” Then He said we are to “love our neighbor as ourself.”

He is saying – if we don’t spend any time with Him – in repentance, in His Word, in worship, and in prayer, we will have nothing special – NOTHING SUPERNATURAL to share with others. We will be unable to fulfill His calling upon our lives – the grand purpose for which we were created – to impart to others His truth and love.

So let us go forth with boldness and courage to reach others, for time is short, eternity is a very long time, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory
Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

Ten Reasons Why Repentance Is A Really Big Deal

“Repent, repent, repent – I am tired of hearing it. Why do they keep harping on repentance? Don’t they realize we just need to love each other instead of making us feel guilty? WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM?”

Have you heard that, or something like it? There is false guilt that comes from our culture, but anyone who resists repenting of true sin is resisting the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of our sin. Instead, Christians should welcome conviction and repent – as quickly and as often as necessary, for the following reasons:

1) God is a holy, righteous, and jealous God, and He will not tolerate sin in His presence. If we approach Him with unconfessed sin on our hearts, we are idolators, worshipping another god.

2) Unrepentance refuses Christ’s gift of salvation, because He died for all our sins. We are saying – thanks anyway, I am doing fine and will just keep my sins. And if we refuse His free gift of grace, we will be judged under the Law and found guilty.

3) Unrepentance drowns out the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. The sin in our soul also sends messages to our spirit, and we lose our ability to discern what is from the Lord and what is from the evil one.

4) Repentance frees us from the bondage of sin and death. When we retain sin in our hearts, we remain in bondage, enslaving our souls to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Receiving Christ as our Savior frees us from the slavery of sin and the fear of death.

5) Conviction from the Holy Spirit is our friend, as it is a warning sign that we are straying off the narrow path. But we have to repent of our sins to get back on that path.

6) Unrepentance pollutes our witness to others. Each of us influences others by what we say and do. Unconfessed sin sends mixed messages about Christ and those who follow Him. Laodiceans pollute their passion for Christ with their love of comfort and the pleasures of the world.

7) Unforgiveness is a powerful example of unrepentance. When we are wronged by someone, we feel they do not deserve to be forgiven. True, but neither do we deserve to be forgiven of our sins. And if we don’t forgive someone of their wrongs against us, our Lord will not forgive us of our sins.

8) Unconfessed sin is a cancer to our souls, and we need to get rid of it before it spreads and takes over completely. Repentance kills this cancer to the soul.

9) Unrepentance opens the doors to demonic influence in our lives.

Unconfessed sins attract demons like fresh meat attracts flies, but repentance closes those portals to our soul.

10) There is no sin in heaven. If we arrive at the pearly gates with sin

on our souls, we are idolators and rebels. We are defying the sovereign, living God of the universe by refusing to die to self and live for Christ, which is the entrance fee to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Lord is sending us into the front lines of the great spiritual battle for the souls of men and women – the ultimate prize. But we can only do this if we are spiritually clean, have our spiritual armor on, and are in touch with the Holy Spirit.

If hold on to any sin and refuse to die to self, we are saying no to life in the Spirit – a great spiritual adventure filled with blessings, sorrows, and the joy of the Lord that only comes from His presence in our lives. We will then take this banner of defiance and rebellion against God with us as we march down the broad path that leads the Lake of Fire.

So let us repent, forgive, and go forth with the love and truth of God, for time is short, eternity is a very long time, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory

Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

The Most Important Thing

The most important thing we can do in our lives and to spread the Gospel is to spend time with the Lord. If we don’t spend time with the Lord in His Word and prayer, where our minds become transformed, we will have nothing special to share with others. We will be like a dry well that has no living water to share with others.

Five Keys:

1) Have a special place and time, preferably in the morning, where we spend time with the Lord in His Word each day – our secret place of the Most High (Psalm 91:1).

2) Start with prayer, casting all our burdens upon Him and asking Him to join us in this special time. He is already knocking on our door; we just need to invite Him in (Revelation 3:20).

He knows us better than we know ourselves, He loves us more than we can imagine, and He invites us to join Him.

3) Be expectant – this is a divine appointment with the sovereign, living God of the universe, and we are entering into HIS PRESENCE. Don’t you think the sovereign, living God of the universe might have something special to impart to us, to give us comfort, guidance, peace, strength, and courage?

4) Take notes in a journal, writing out the flow of thoughts that come to us. Just write, and you can reflect on your notes later.

5) Share with others. The Lord will reveal insights to us that apply in our lives and the lives of those around us. When we share these with others, we bless them and become rivers of living water (John 7:38).

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.” Jeremiah 3:3

Board of Evangelism

First Lutheran Church of Little Rock

Categories
Reaching Out

Everyone Dies Twice – Which Do You Choose

This may sound strange, but everyone dies twice:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [trials and tribulations] shall not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:11

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Revelation 20:6

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

Christians: respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, repent of our sins, surrender to the Lord, and die to self when we receive Christ as our Savior. Then at some point in time our bodies die physically, and our soul goes to heaven to be with the Lord for eternity. Dying to self is a continual process and leads to a life of joy with no fear of death, looking forward to stepping into eternity to be with the Lord and loved ones who went before us.

Non-believers in Christ: when their bodies die physically, their soul goes to heaven to be judged, and then die a second time as they are sent to the Lake of Fire. It is their spirit that dies in the second death – their ability to commune with the Lord. They fear death, go to heaven to be judged, and it goes downhill from there.

So which will it be:

• Are you so involved in and enjoying the enticements and pleasures of the world that you cannot imagine – are just unwilling to – die to self for something that appears to be a long way off? You can always receive Christ LATER, right? (This is one of Satan’s most favorite lies.) OR

• Do you acknowledge the reality of the sovereign, living God of the universe and respond to His call upon your life, knowing that the choice you make now will have eternal consequences?

“Choose you this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

To God be the glory

Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

A Season and a Reason

Recently our Anatolian Shepherd dog Annie died. She had been a good dog, although sometimes a lot of trouble. Anatolians (originally from Turkey, formerly called Anatolia) are bred to be guard dogs to attack and take out any predators who are after the sheep they are guarding. So Annie saw every other dog of any size as a predator – big trouble! But she was our dog, and we loved her and she loved us.

When we lose someone close to us, even a dog, there is a sense of loss, as a part of us is gone forever. Her death helped me realize that our loved ones are with us only for a season. It might be for a year, or it might be for 80 years, but it is only for a season. Realizing this helps us treasure the times we have with loved ones, as we (and they) are never guaranteed tomorrow.

It is a common story to hear people who experiencing grief at the loss of a loved one say how much they regret saying something to that person when they saw them last, or how much they would like to tell them how special they are and how much they love them. So DON’T WAIT – speak love and truth into the lives of your loved ones while you still have the opportunity.

I believe that people also come into our lives for a reason. Perhaps they are family members who have fulfilled your need to belong to a family, or a child whom the Lord has entrusted you with. Perhaps they help you with some important work, or perhaps you minister to them in some vital way.

When Jesus came from the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Man, He came only for a season – 33 years. And He came for a reason – to bring hope, joy, and salvation to all who would respond through His teaching, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection. He and His followers changed the world, overcoming the fear of death, offering a life of joy and peace regardless of circumstances, and life eternal in heaven.

What about you? Obviously your season is not up yet, but SOME DAY will be your last day on earth. And your reason – do you know why you are here? For Christians, our reason is pretty clear – to share the love, compassion, and truth of Christ to all who come across our path, to the glory of God.

Not realizing we are here for just a season leads to taking life and relationships for granted, while not knowing our reason leads to a life wasted on worldly concerns or a life of purposelessness and despair.

This is the day which our Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

To God be the glory

Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

Carrying a Precious Gift – Four Stories

Story #1
There was once a great king who wished to send an invaluable and precious gift to a distant kingdom. So he chose a young man who was swift of foot, with a sound mind and loyal heart to carry this precious parcel to its final destination. The king chose his carrier carefully, because he knew the gift was very valuable, and a person of unsound mind or questionable character could not be trusted with such an important task. Such a person could easily be sidetracked or even sell the precious gift for money or other worldly considerations.

Story #2:
When the angel came and spoke to Mary, he told her that God trusted her to carry the Christ child from conception to full maturity and birth, then to raise Him as her son. She was to carry the Christ from the Kingdom of God into the Kingdom of Man, a sacred journey. She knew that the child within her body has not hers, but it was her responsibility to carry it to full term to delivery into life on earth.

Story #3:
When a woman conceives a child, she is not merely carrying a parcel or mass of tissue, but another human being, created in the image of God. The child within her may not only be a male, but have a different blood type from her own. So although it is within her, it is also distinct from her. Psalm 139 describes how precious and special each of us is, and God’s involvement in our creation, growth, and development:

“You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…’” Jeremiah 1:4

So God forms us through human means. He even knew us and our names long before we were conceived, and designated the days of our lives. Like Mary, women are the noble carriers of the most precious gift – a gift of human life – on a nine-month journey, to deliver it into life on earth. This precious cargo started in the Kingdom of God, where it was conceived in the mind of God, then entrusted to a woman to carry this precious life to full term and deliver it to the Kingdom of Man on earth. Like Mary, her responsibility continues in the nurture and admonition of the baby through childhood and into adulthood.

Story #4:
When we receive Christ as our Savior, our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell within us. So our bodies (and souls) are to be holy, set apart as the very throne room of God:

“Be ye holy; for I am holy.” I Peter 1:16

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…” Hebrews 12:14
It also means we should take care of our bodies, and not become obese, use drugs, or embrace any other sin that would pollute our bodies, the very tabernacles of God. For we are carrying within us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God. And although this does not culminate in physical birth as does a woman carrying a child, it can result in spiritual birth in others as the love and truth of Christ flows through us to reach those who don’t know the Lord and are on the broad path that leads to perdition.

For a woman to carry a child and give birth to a new human being is INCREDIBLE. And for a person to host the Holy Spirit – the very presence of God is SUPERNATURAL. So let us go forth and share the love, the truth, and the joy of the Lord, for time is short and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory
Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

Three Questions to Start a Conversation About God

Many of us struggle with how to start a conversation about God with family, friends, or acquaintances. Here are three questions that can introduce the topic:

1) Have you ever thought about what happens when you die?

2) What caused you to consider that question?

3) What conclusion did you come up with to answer that question?

And this can be followed up by asking what is the basis of their conclusion, sharing your own belief and testimony, and a deeper conversation.

To God be the glory

Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

Knock Knock. Who’s There? FOUR SCENARIOS

Growing up as kids, we all enjoyed playing the “knock, knock, who’s there?” game. Here are a few examples:

· Knock knock. Who’s there? Dishes. Dishes who? Dishes the police, open up!
· Knock knock. Who’s there? Adore. Adore who? Adore is between us. Open up!
· Knock knock. Who’s there? Police. Police who? Police stop telling these awful knock-knock jokes!
There are even some examples in the Bible:
SCENARIO #1: Knock knock – the people were knocking (really POUNDING) on the closed door of the ark, but it was too late and the waters began to rise.
And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; AND THE LORD SHUT HIM IN. Genesis 7:15-16
Key Point: Noah obeyed the Lord so he and his family were saved. Once the Lord shuts the door, it is too late.

SCENARIO #2: Knock knock – released from prison by an angel of the Lord, Peter knocked on the door of the house of Mary, where the apostles were gathered. A girl named Rhoda heard him knock and speak, but was so surprised, she didn’t open it but ran to tell the others it was Peter. They didn’t believe her and told her she was out of her mind. (Acts 12)
Key Point: Rhoda and the apostles could not grasp the fact the Lord freed Peter from prison.

SCENARIO #3: Knock knock – Jesus is knocking on your door and my door.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20
Key Point: Do you hear that knocking on your door? It is Jesus; can you grasp that fact? Will you answer the door and His call upon your life, or will you wait until it is too late because you are too busy with affairs of the world?

SCENARIO #4: Knock knock – You pass through the veil of life into eternity and are standing at the pearly gates of heaven. You knock on the gate. Saint Peter answers you from the other side of the gate and asks you: Who is there? Why should I let you in?
Key Point: We are not saved by works but by receiving Christ and believing on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior:
“The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Paul and Silas responded, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.’” Acts 16:30-31

Our Lord is knocking on the door of every person who comes across our path. So let us help them recognize and respond to His call upon their life before it is too late, for time is short, eternity is forever, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory
Board of Evangelism

Categories
Reaching Out

Welcome to Laodicea

It is the year 56 AD, and we just left our home in Antioch, headed for a weekend in Laodicea, known for its beautiful setting on the Lycus River, mild climate, and prosperous economy. As we approached the city, we saw a large sign that says: “Welcome to Laodicea – City of Comfort and Prosperity – come for a visit, stay for a lifetime.”

We love coming to Laodicea, also called “The City of Zeus”, because of its many attractions – beautiful monuments, temples to many gods, theaters, and baths. Founded in 261 BC, Laodicea is located on a strategic trade route, is the center of thriving trade in black wool, and is known for its embrace of the arts, science, and literature.

On Saturday evening, after dinner at an open-air restaurant on the main plaza, we took in a theatrical performance in the magnificent stadium. Although it was thoroughly pagan and often risqué, the performance was dramatic, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely, as did the other theater goers.

On Sunday, we went to the local Church of Laodicea for worship service. Although the building was beautiful and well adorned, we couldn’t help seeing the many beggars and homeless people nearby, who seemed to be in great distress and need. We even recognized some of the churchgoers from the theatrical performance the night before, including the pastor.

We were impressed with the beautiful historic church, how well dressed the members were, and the melodic sound of music coming from the choir. We concluded that they must have God’s favor, to have such opulence and splendor in their church and church service. The message was comforting, how God loves us all and wants us to be successful and happy, all to His glory of course.

They invited us to stay for their monthly luncheon after the service, and we thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food and fine fellowship. The luncheon was just about over, when one of the church leaders came in and announced that he had just received a letter from the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, just 140 miles to the east. We all knew that John was close to Jesus and was even called “the apostle whom Jesus loved”, so we were excited, looking forward to a message of encouragement and love.

The church leader stood up and quieted everyone down to read this message from Jesus Christ to the church of Laodicea, through the apostle John (Revelation 3:15-19). He read in a somber but loud voice:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, BECAUSE YOU ARE LUKEWARM, and neither cold nor hot, I WILL VOMIT YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’— and DO NOT KNOW THAT YOU ARE WRETCHED, MISERABLE, POOR, BLIND, AND NAKED… As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore BE ZEALOUS AND REPENT!”

There was complete silence in the room for a few minutes as the gravity of the message given from Jesus’ most beloved disciple started to sink in. Although some murmuring was heard, at the same time we could hear soft weeping as other members’ hearts were broken by this convicting word from the Lord. Soon the weeping grew louder and “Lord forgive me” was exclaimed by many in the room. We too were convicted of our fleshly desires and worldliness, and cried out to the Lord for mercy. We realized that we witnessed a spiritual breakthrough in the Church of Laodicea and that it would never be the same.

The application of this story and this Word from the Lord is obvious and direct. If Jesus Christ was to speak to your church about your spiritual condition today, what would He say? Would He commend you for our spiritual purity and good works to all in spiritual and physical need? Or would He chastise you for the ways in which you have departed from Him and His righteousness, embraced the traditions of men, and succumbed to the temptations of the world, the lure of the flesh, and the lies of the devil?

Let us examine our hearts, repent of all sins to be spiritually clean, and draw close to the Lord for comfort, guidance, and the fire of the Holy Spirit. And let us become bold witnesses to all He brings across our path, for time is short, eternity is a very long time, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

To God be the glory