Saturday, September 1, 2018

It will not return to Me empty

Have you ever had one of those encounters in evangelism where you just felt like you missed a
HUGE opportunity?  That happened to us 5 weeks ago on July 28...and it's something I will never forget.

We were at the Farmer's Market in downtown Tracy, CA to share the Gospel as we have been for about a year now.  While we have setup our Prayer Stand and had countless opportunities to share the Gospel 1-2-1, I haven't open-air preached since we moved here in June of 2017.  I wanted to gauge the waters and feel of our community to figure out what type of opposition (from locals or law enforcement) we might encounter.

I determined that July 28th would be the day we started preaching.  With the Prayer Stand setup and several of my other kids handing out tracts I setup the speaker and then put the wireless mic on my 3rd oldest son, Solomon.  He had been asking to read Scripture aloud for some time and I thought I would let him do so and I would preach from the passage he read.  He read through a portion of John 1 and several people stopped to listen.  Some of the locals took video and pictures as I watched like a hawk for any potential problems.  Once he was done reading I took the mic and preached through the passage briefly while presenting the Gospel and the call to repentance.  

We had a few good conversations that followed.  About an hour or so later Solomon wanted to read again.  He decided to pick up where he left off and read the rest of John 1.  Within a few seconds of him reading I saw a gentleman wearing a "Ya'll need Jesus" shirt coming towards us with several others.  He asked me if he could record Solomon reading and I agreed.

This man held up his phone and started live streaming to Facebook.  "You're about to be famous little man", was something he said that caught my attention.  Was this someone trying to shame open-air preaching?  Was he an atheist in disguise?  Neither!

He showed me his phone and there were over 300 people watching the video live.  People were commenting and praising God in the comments feed.  I stood astonished as the numbers continued to climb.  Another brother, Ryan, who I had recently connected with and was out there with us started watching on his phone and kept telling me how many people were viewing the livestream.  

"Who is this guy", I thought to myself.  Why were so many people suddenly viewing a livestream of my son reading Scripture?  We had streamed before and the number of watchers wasn't even a tenth of the ones who started watching his within the first few seconds.

As Solomon read the others who had accompanied this man were saying "Amen", "Praise God", etc.  There was no opposition from them or those viewing the livestream.  I didn't know what was happening but silently prayed.

When Solomon finished reading the man asked if he could interview him for a few moments.  "Uh oh", I thought.  "This is where the other shoes drops and we find out his real motives".

I agreed and Solomon proceeded to give him some great answers as to why we were out there and what we were doing.  Then this man asked if he could pray for Solomon.  After praying he told us that he also preached on the streets and was from Chicago.  He was invited by a local church to come out and speak.  They were walking around the farmer's market handing out flyers for their service that evening.  I was handed one and thanked them while placing it in my pocket.

Both he and his friends were very encouraging to Solomon telling him of how much his boldness was a blessing to them.  "If you want to look at that video", he said, "my name is Marcus Rogers.  Just type it into Facebook and you'll see it come up, man."

Wait?  That name sounded familiar.  Why does his name sounds familiar?

He thanked us for being out there and they walked away.  He continued the livestream on his page talking about how encouraging it was to see a young man doing what Solomon had done.

I immediately turned to Ryan and asked "Why do I know that name?"  He said he it was oddly familiar to him as well.  We both opened Google on our phones and started searching.  The very first thing that popped on my search was link to YouTube.  I opened it and scrolled to see a video on Alpha Omega's YouTube page Dr. James White was responding to this man was challenging him on the Trinity!!!!

Oh no!!!! Now I knew why I recognized his name.  He was a professing modalist who denies the Trinity and has challenged the teachings of James White and many other brethren for holding to this biblical doctrine.  Marcus was called out on Apologia Studios podcast and videos.  He was called out by James White himself and many others.  Dr. White and Jeff Durbin both asked him to come on their shows to discuss and debate the topic and he refused.

Here was a known heretic (and yes, modalism is HERESY) that others had tried to debate face-to-face but could not get him to do so and I didn't even know it.

Ryan and I both looked up from our phones but his group had already disappeared.  I couldn't believe the opportunity that was just placed before me and I completely missed it?  Or did I?

Since the live stream and up to the writing of this blog, the video has been shared 456 times and viewed over 30,000 times with 1,238 comments (not counting the replies to comments).  The video went viral on his page.  

If that were not enough, my wife even told me today that she was approached by a teenager in the store this past week when she was with my oldest son Elijah.  This teen apparently recognized Elijah from our outreaches at the Farmer's Market.  He attended a local church and said their Pastor showed the congregation the video one morning as part of his sermon on evangelism encouraging them to share the Gospel themselves.  "That video has gone viral", he told her.

Viral?  A heretic's video of my son reading Scripture went viral?  That's when it dawned on me...we didn't miss a chance at all.  I may not have refuted Marcus' heresy and called him to repentance individually but God was using the acts of a heretic to get the reading of His Word out to others.  Some of the people who were watching the video from where others had shared it may not have known Marcus from any other stranger on the street, just as we didn't.  The teen who spoke to my wife didn't even mention Marcus, only that Solomon was reading Scripture aloud in the open-air.

Did we miss an opportunity?  Maybe.  But one section of Scripture kept ringing in my ears:

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My Word that goes out from my mouth;
It will not return to Me empty, 
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11

That day God used someone who denies His triune nature and preaches false doctrine to bring His Word to the ears of tens of thousands of people.  I trust in God's sovereignty, as described in this verse, that His Word went forth that day and continues to even now to accomplish that for which it was ordained.

May God receive the glory,

Below is the video in its entirety.  Because I do not want to contribute internet traffic to Marcus' Facebook feed, I found a way to download it directly so I could share it with you here.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The real reason Geoffry lost his lob, part 2

In part 1, I noted the direct quotes from Toys R Us executives correlating their decline in sales to the decreased number of children in areas where their retail stores exist.  As stated, we often quickly jump to abortion as the source.  And while it is certainly a factor it in itself is not the source but rather a symptom.

It should come as no surprise that the attitude towards children in the U.S. is about as consistent Joel Olsteen's actual use of the Bible.  You know, he waives it around but could really just care less.  People give lip-service to the cuteness of babies and the adorable nature of children when they perform precious acts.  But when it comes to the general approach to children, at least in the western world, the attitude is found to be one of selfishness.

For those of us in America, we live in a culture of self.  Life revolves around what you can get out of it for the best of your benefit.  Helping others is usually only beneficial if it makes you feel good or you can pat yourself on the back.  I am reminded of how Christ addressed this in Luke 6:32-34.

"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount."

So how does this relate to children?  Most couples decide to have children based on how it will affect their personal goals.  Reasoning such as "We want to travel and see lots of different places and having kids right now just wouldn't fit in the plan" or "I really need to work on my career because I've already dedicated so much time and education toward it" are prime examples.  But let's not forget the psuedo-humble reasons that are just selfishness cloaked as humility:  "We need to get to know each other better first before we bring children into the world" or "We need to establish a strong marriage so we can be strong parents".

But how does this measure up to Scripture?  In Psalm 127:3-5 we see a glimpse of how children are to be viewed:

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

Children are a "reward" from God.  Imagine if God wanted to "reward" you with money, land, or health.  Would you still have the same response by replying to God that now is just not a good time?  Probably not!

Christian documentaries like "Birth Control" have helped to show the trend of apathy towards children and the incline of selfish living over the past century, particularly among Christians.  Should we then be so surprised because "as goes the church, so goes the culture"?  Looking even more practically at this on the local church level is more revealing.

How many churches have you visited where children are ushered off into nurseries and "children's church" shortly after the worship service begins (and in some cases, before it even starts)?  Sure, there are some who say that kids need to be taught on their own level of understanding and I definitely appreciate that sentiment.  But this simply doesn't pan out in Scripture.  Children are expected and assumed to be in the assembly of God's people (Ezra 8:1, 2; Ephesians 6:1).  But we are now more informed on the role of children in family and church by the world than we are Scripture.

As goes the church, so goes the culture!

Toys R Us didn't suddenly experience a massive loss of consumers (children).  It has been trending that way for a century now and only started tanking AFTER Roe v. Wade.  Abortion isn't the problem, it's only a result of the problem.  The problem is our attitude towards children and the selfish sinfulness that pervades the world around us which has also found its way in the lives of some Christians.

The following articles are further expansions of this topic:

A unified assembly

Are children a financial burden to great to bare

For His glory,

Friday, March 16, 2018

The real reason Geoffry lost his job, part 1

Most of us grew up on the joy of watching commercials like these:

Who didn't look forward to tearing through the Toys R Us catalogue (that was our version of Google for those who just scratched their head in wonder) and seeing the new, glistening toys just waiting for us?  Geoffrey the giraffe was their mascot and your best buddy.  This warm, loving character was ready to escort you down the aisles of toy wonderland.  I remember the few times I visited the store as a kid.  The sheer elation and amazement of seeing a store solely dedicated to toys and fun was beyond my wildest dreams.

But never in any of those dreams would I have imagined Geoffrey losing his job as Toys R Us was forced to start closing their doors.

What happened?
There are many factors that play into the reasons big box stores such as these close down.  The availability of products through online retailers such as Amazon and the ever-expanding stores of Target and Wal-Mart that increase their shelf sizes are both believed to be attributing factors.  But a recent article from the Washington Post revealed something even more devastating that Toys R Us admitted was a primary factor:

"The decrease of birthrates in countries where we operate could negatively affect our business. Most of our end-customers are newborns and children and, as a result, our revenue are dependent on the birthrates in countries where we operate. In recent years, many countries’ birthrates have dropped or stagnated as their population ages, and education and income levels increase. A continued and significant decline in the number of newborns and children in these countries could have a material adverse effect on our operating results."

Stop and think about that for a moment in regards to the U.S.  Their target audience (children) is shrinking so drastically that it has directly affected their business and forced them to shut their doors.

It comes as no surprise that birth rates in the U.S. have been on the steady decline for decades.  As noted in a LA Times article:

"The total number of babies born in the U.S. last year (2016) was 3,941,109. That’s 37,388 fewer babies than were born in the U.S. in 2015, which represents a 1% decline...the total fertility rate for American women was 1,818 births per 1,000 women. That’s the lowest it has been since 1984.  In order for a generation to exactly replace itself, the total fertility rate needs to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women. The U.S. has been missing that mark since 1971 (though the country’s population has grown due to immigration)." (emphasis added)

Look at the last sentence again:  "The U.S. has been missing that mark since 1971."  The rise of feminism leading up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (which was passed by a majority Republican vote I might add) is undeniably a factor.

Some would say that Toys R Us shot themselves in the proverbial foot when they started funding Planned Parenthood.  But others touted how Life Site News noted in a 2010 article that the company was among others who ceased their funding of the mass-abortion machine.

Lest we be too quick to praise, Toys R Us does continue to support the Susan G. Komen foundation which itself funnels money to Planned Parenthood.  Whether the executives realize this or not, they do continue to contribute to the slaughter of innocent children and therefore are still partly to blame for literally killing off their customers.

Every Christian just read the above portion and may have shouted "AMEN BROTHER...PREACH!"  But hold you horses for just a moment because it is going to get a little bumpy.  There is an underlying issue that we tend to overlook:  The overall attitude in our country towards children.
I'll continue with how we as Christians are also to blame in this regard as well in part 2 of "The real reason Geoffrey lost his job".

For Christ and His glory,

Friday, October 27, 2017

The pagan celebration of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving seems like a pretty normal holiday.  But did you know its actual origins and the symbolism of many of its elements?  What you are about to read will change your understanding of this day...forever.

The date
The date itself occurs not because of American tradition but because it aligns with many final harvest celebrations found throughout pagan religions.  The polytheistic Greeks and Romans celebrated similar feasts to their gods with their families and in their towns.  While an exact date cannot be identified it is clear that the parallel between the 4th Thursday of November and these pagan events are very closely aligned.

Modern turkeys are believe to have originated in Mexico.  Archeologists have found bones dating back as far as 2000 years.  Some were clearly from meals but others have markings believe to have been associated with ceremonial sacrifices.  Wicaans believe the turkey represents charity and self-sacrifice and hold it up as one of the more prominent creatures of this time of year.

Whether in gelatinous form or freshly picked, cranberries are just as much a staple of every Thanksgiving meal as the turkey.  But their inclusion is not as innocent as you may think.  Cranberries are used by Wicaans because they believe they provide magical advantages.  Their consumption is thought to endow protection to the consumer.  Sharing this with one's family is a way of ensuring this protection covers the entire household.  Think about that next time your open a can or empty out a frozen bag for your meal.

Other food items can be linked to use in other pagan cultures.  It is irrefutably evident that we must cease in using them not just during this false holiday but in other areas of dining as well.

Pumpkins and gourds have been shown to have their root in Druidic practices...hence the need to throw out the carved pumpkins of Halloween.  But what of the other decor?

The yellow and orange coloring is often believe to be copied from the changing leaves of the season. But what does this change represent?  The leaves, which were once a beautiful green, are now dying and falling from the trees.  Thus, the colors are symbols of death.  Using them only highlights the worship of death and dying celebrated by satanists and other pagans.

The innocent cornucopia is the most blatant offender of all.  From a reputable Christian website, the author states:

"Just like Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving has one major pagan symbol, the cornucopia.  But unlike the Christmas tree or Easter bunny, the cornucopia is linked directly to both Greek and Roman pagan gods.  Their is a plethora of evidence that supports the fact that the cornucopia was in frequent use and display during Christ's time on earth, and it's unlikely that the cornucopia would have been mistaken for anything but a pagan symbol."

I know many will read this and want to hold on to their pagan traditions of Thanksgiving while believing elements themselves are not sinful but have only been redefined by modern satanists and others for their own purposes.  They will say that Christians have allowed the lost world to define the use of these items because we are more comfortable giving ground to the world and letting them encroach on the dominion mandate.  These misguided brothers and sisters will propose that such articles rely more on the research of unregenerate people and quotes from satanists such as Anton Lavey about Halloween.  My response to such claims...they are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

The truth
Some of what you have just read was found on various websites, some Christian and some wicaan/pagan.  Most of their research is more in-line with X-File ideology and conspiracy theory propaganda than actual historical facts.  This is what happens when we let the world define the terms and stake their claims.  But even if any of these elements were used by ungodly societies, it does not make them inherently sinful.  Why?  Because it's not the item that is sinful but how it is used that can be.

Guns are a perfect modern example of this.  A gun will sit on a shelf forever without killing or even injuring a single person.  In the hands of a hunter it can righteously supply food to a family or be used to selfishly slaughter a massive buck and only remove its antlers for sport.  A gun can be used rightly by a husband and father to defend his family from people seeking to do them harm in their home or it can be used sinfully by an enraged father seeking vengeance for a sinful act against his daughter.  The gun is not sinful and neither are the elements of these holidays or celebrations.

As I've stated in my post refuting some of the myths of Halloween, the satirical approach of this article was to show how easy it is to use myths and false information to support one's position.  Conviction to do or not do something should always be fully informed by truth and Scripture.

As Christians we cannot claim to love truth and yet promote false information.  Christ didn't just say that He speaks truth but that He is truth (John 14:6).  The Ten Commandments are not just a set of "shall" and "shall not" instructions, but are also a reflection of the character and nature of God.  The 9th commandment, to not bear false witness (lying), reflects the truth quality of God.  God is truth and therefore, as those made in His image we are to reflect this character by being truthful.  Intentionally propagating lies and faulty conspiracies is something we as Christians should steer clear from.  This means we need to do better when researching these items.  It may take a little more time, but time is one thing you need when sorting through error to lift up truth.

Follow your biblically informed convictions and do not let this or any other article cause you to sin against your conscience.  My only request is that you ensure your conscience is properly informed by truth and not dissuaded by fear-mongering or conspiracy theorists.

For His glory,

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Do you love waterslides? Me too!

Something hit me today while we were at a local waterpark with the kids.  Our four year old daughter Elly was playing in the kiddie area when my wife pointed out how quickly she found a friend.  

It was as simple as "Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!”

And I mean it was literally that simple.  My daughter didn't care that this girl was a different skin tone or that her English was accompanied by a cute little accent a little different than her own (southern girls never lose that accent).  Within a few more minutes the two of them were joined by a diverse group of other girls.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"  

They didn't care about anything but playing together in the water.  They didn't look at each other any differently because they found the one thing they immediately had in common and that was all they were concerned for.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

Hatred is a part of our sinful nature (Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:22).  But specific hatred towards others because they are of a different ethnicity, language, culture, socio-econimic group, etc. is something that is taught.  It's either taught by an immediate authority figure or by the environment into which we are raised.  At some point when we embrace that specific sinful teaching we disregard the fact that every human being has been created in the image of God.  We embrace superiority of self and elevate our supremacy above everyone else.

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

But this group of little girls had not experienced such hateful teaching.  They held hands, danced in circles, and waited for each other at the bottom of the slides.  They laughed and splashed without a second thought of how different each of them looked or spoke.  Could it really be that simple?  With the Gospel...yes...yes it can be.  

Do you love Christ?  Me too!  Let's be friends!

For His glory,


Saturday, May 27, 2017

When it's time to leave a good church

Many of us agree that it is very hard to find a "good" church.  It's even more difficult for a military family that moves every few years.  Sometimes though, you do find a good church without having to search around for months.  You settle in, participate in the ministries, sit under Christ-centered preaching, and look forward to regular worship with the saints.  But then time passes quickly, military orders are issued to move you and your family, and you find yourself having to leave a good church.

When we moved to Tennessee we initially planned to make this our home by retiring at the end of this tour of duty.  Plans change and God showed us that He providentially had a different direction for our family.  We sold our budding homestead, the chickens, goats, and finally the beehives we spent years building up.  The saddest point wasn't the letting go of that part of our plans but the realization that we would have to leave our current church family.

Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds embraced us before we even moved to Tennessee.  I came here a second time before we officially moved, without my family, to look for a home and visited the church after finding them online and communicating with the Pastor through email.  Within the first few days of moving here, the church had already setup meals for us.  Mind you, they had never met my family and only spent a few hours with me on a single Sunday.  Not long after getting settled in, they even planned a surprise baby shower for my wife.  They wholeheartedly showed us what the "one another" principles of the New Testament church really looked like. 

But their devotion to being the local church did not stop there.  Pastor Jody was wrapping up a second evangelism training in the small groups of the church and was very receptive to ideas of evangelistic outreach.  We planned the church's first outreach at the local Munford Celebrate festival and continued to do so each year following.  We also planned for a float in the local Christmas parade where we handed out hundred of tracts along the parade route.  

When I wanted to setup an abortion clinic outreach Pastor Jody reviewed the material I used and my ideas.  After carefully considering what I had planned he not only supported and participated (when possible) but he weekly promoted it during the church announcements.  I found myself joined by several church members during these outreaches.

The following year I asked for assistance in setting up a community garden as a part of another church's outreach in Memphis.  Take note, it was another church's outreach and it was over an hour away from our church.  Several members of the church came out to help and were not concerned at all about whether anyone of those we reached would ever darken the doorways of our church gathering.  Their primary concern was that the Gospel was preached and that they were blessed enough to partner with another Christ-centered church to reach out to others.

As a family-integrated church Cornerstone welcomed children into the worship service.  No one batted an eye when a baby cried, kids shuffled in their seats, or when a parent had to take their child out for disciplining.  Some preachers have problems preaching over the sound of children, while others consider it a reminder of Psalm 127 and joyfully accept it as a blessing.

Pastor Jody dedicates himself to the Word.  Every Sunday the message he brought was evidence to to his sincere study and devotion to expository preaching.  He would spend time giving the full context of each passage and the importance of the original biblical languages.  I was blessed to have several conversations with him during afternoon small group studies over his messages.

I have personally known fellow Christians who hop around churches whenever the wind changes and for no biblical reasoning whatsoever.  Someone said something that hurt their feelings, someone didn't say hello to them one morning, the Pastor didn't preach a passage EXACTLY the way they wanted, and the nitpicking list goes on.  Excuses like these are all too common and evidence of a lack of devotion to the local church.

When it's time to leave a good church because you are being transferred out of the area by the military it is never easy.  I thank God that he brought us to Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds, TN.  We are thankful that God gave us a devoted and loving Pastor like Jody Duncan with a supporting wife like Michelle and a family that models family devotions/worship daily.

If you are ever in the area, just drive past those larger churches and find yourself on a few backroads until you come to little church building on a corner lot.  When you step into its doors you'll know what I mean when I say it's hard to leave a good church.

Thank you Pastor Jody, Michelle, and everyone at Cornerstone for making us a part of your local family.  May God continue to use you for His glory.

Serving the Savior,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Semper Gumby

Have you ever planned a long trip, one which you have never undertaken before?  You plan, research the route, and develop a strict itinerary for how you will proceed.  You load up the vehicle with every item you can think of and are ready hit the road right on time.  Everything is going great...and then you actually pull out the the driveway.

"I gotta go to the bathroom."
"She's sitting too close to me."
"When are we stopping for breakfast?"
"How much further do we have to go?"
"Tell him to put his shoes back on...his feet stink."

Soon you find that your strict itinerary has become less of a plan and more of a "let's just try to get their in one piece" prayer.  As a 21 year active duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I've lived by our service's motto "Semper Paratus" which means "Always Ready".  We also have a lesser know motto that other armed services serve under:  "Semper Gumby"..."Always Flexible".  This motto is more prevalent to parenting the older our children get.  

So let me pause right here and eliminate any misconceptions that some of you are likely already formulating:  

1) I'm am not questioning the sufficiency of Scripture.
2) I am not insisting that parenting should be a "shoot from the hip" approach.
3) I am not negating consistency in parenting.

With that PSA out of the way, let me get to the point.  You can plan, read all the books, get all the godly advice you seek for (and a lot which you do not), and even be perfectly in sync with you spouse...then when reality sets in you find out just have uniquely designed each of your children really are.

Let that sink in for a second.  Your children are individually and uniquely created by God. There is no one like them anywhere else.  They do have much in common with everyone else (their sinful nature and need for a Savior) but they are not cookie-cutter kids who can easily be shaped into the same mold as others.  This means the nature and specifics of parenting each child may look a little different depending upon the personality, strengths, and weaknesses of that child.  This also means that despite the advice your bestie may give regarding how they have raised their 18 year old to be the most proper addition to society, their exact approach will likely not work for your child.

The principles of Scripture regarding parenting NEVER change.  No style of parenting is to provoke our children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).  No approach to parenting is to ignore the centricity of Christ in the home (Hebrews 3:4).  No book on parenting can ever stand without the Bible as its foundation (Psalm 119:142). 

But perhaps the journey we had planned needs adjusting once we actually hit the road.  Maybe we need a few more stops along the way to stretch our legs and just give everyone a little room.  Maybe we need to be a little more flexible in our personal approach and more biblical in our foundational understanding of the blessing of God's creative uniqueness. 

For King and Kingdom,