Posts Tagged With: evangelism

Election 2020 Thoughts: Part I of II

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise indicated).
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Photo by Gage Skidmore (Peoria, AZ) under a Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

The Associated Press projected on Saturday, November 7, that Joe Biden has won the 2020 election and will be the next President of the United States. Many of his supporters are rejoicing. Many of Donald Trump’s supporters are mourning. I am using mild terminology here since, for some people, more extreme descriptions are in order. “Gloating” and “furious” are more accurate words in some cases.

I want to avoid the nastiness that prevails throughout social media and some other corners of our culture, but at the same time, I would like to share a few thoughts and comments.

President Donald J. Trump. Photo by Michael Vadon, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

1. The election is not officially over yet. According to the Constitution of the United States, the election occurs when the Electoral College meets. They send their votes to Congress, who certifies the Electoral College vote (Article II, Section 1, paragraph 3; Amendment 12). Until that occurs, nobody has officially won the Presidential election. At this time, Joe Biden is the projected winner, not the President-elect. Congress declares the winner of the Presidential election—not the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, New York Times, etc. The mass media are generally negligent about reporting this important detail.

Donald Trump plans to continue his legal challenges regarding possible vote-counting irregularities and suspected fraud in several states. If any of those challenges work in his favor, the results can change. Those who have been praying for a Trump victory may continue to do so until his legal options run out and/or the Electoral College vote is certified.

2. Christians must remain committed to their primary loyalty—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Far too many Christians have spent too much time extolling the glories of their lord Donald Trump and not enough time proclaiming Jesus Christ, our true Lord and Savior. We have a Great Commission from Jesus, and we have cast it aside in recent years:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Great Commission stained glass window at the Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick, El Paso. Photo by Lyricmac at English Wikipedia, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is Jesus’ command to us. That ministry has not ended and will continue until He returns in glory. Too many of us have spent our time glorifying President Trump—sometimes in a most ungodly tone—so much that we are incapable of drawing people to Jesus. If we rant against those with whom we disagree or insult politicians we do not support, we may have no standing to share the Gospel. What does it profit anybody if we gain a political victory and lose the souls of our neighbors (or our own souls)? Ephesians 6:12 should remind us that the Democrats, Joe Biden, and the liberals are not our primary enemy: our fleshly sinful nature, Satan, and the godless worldview that permeates our culture and even infects the church are our real enemies. We fight them with the spiritual weapons of our warfare like prayer, Scripture, worship, and evangelism: not with insults, ridicule, and hatred.

I will share a few more thoughts about this election and lessons we can learn from it in my next post.

Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below. Keep it cordial.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is With Us Always: II. Presence, Power, Purpose

“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16–20; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Version).

Stained glass window of the Great Commission, at the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick in El Paso, via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

The Great Commission seems to be a timely passage for several reasons. First, this article is appearing online on Trinity Sunday, the day that many churches celebrate God’s eternal existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, it fits well with a series about how “God Is With Us Always.” Third, it guides us during a time of chaos and conflict.

The disciples had endured extreme ups and downs in the weeks before the ascension. Less than seven weeks earlier, they entered Jerusalem with Jesus while crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Some probably thought Jesus would cast out the Romans, sit on an earthly throne, and assign them prominent offices in His new kingdom. Four days later, those hopes were shattered as Jesus was arrested. The next day, He was crucified; of all the disciples, only John dared to stay nearby until the painful end. Their grief soon gave way to joy, and perhaps a lot of confusion, when Jesus rose from the grave. Over the next 40 days, He paid them periodic unexpected visits. While they were thrilled that He was alive, were they confused that He just showed up for a quick visit and then left? Life was not the same for them. It was obvious that they could not go back to their old life, but it was not yet obvious what their “new normal” would be.

Shortly before His ascension, the last time His disciples would see Him on earth, Jesus described the new normal for them: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

For three years, they had spent a lot of time with Jesus. His presence was real: they could feel it; they could expect it; they probably always knew where He was. But, during those three years, His presence was limited to a particular location. He could not be in Nazareth and Jerusalem at the same time. To be with Jesus, they had to stay in one place.

However, Jesus is no longer limited by place. “I am with you always.” No matter where we are, Jesus is with us. He can be in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Long Island, or any place on earth at the same time. Wherever God’s people dwell, Jesus is with them.

Jesus is not limited by time. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” His death, resurrection, and ascension occurred nearly 2000 years ago, but He is still present among His people. We can still teach people to obey all that He commanded His disciples because He is still with us. Times have changed, technologies have developed, and societies have risen and fallen, but Jesus is still with us.

The Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is with us wherever we go. We may not see Him now, but we can be certain that He is with us because He has sent us His Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:16–20).

The disciples had seen Jesus exercising divine power for three years because the Holy Spirit was upon Him. Whether they realized it or not, they knew the other “Helper” (some translations say “counselor,” “advocate,” or another term; the Greek word “parakletos” does not have a specific English translation). Although Jesus would no longer be with them physically, His Spirit would be in them. The Spirit who, like Jesus, is God, would abide within each of His disciples, and this promise lasts to this day. Therefore, we can know that Jesus is in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us because His Spirit dwells within us.

He dwells in us in power. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Therefore, He sends us as His delegates to minister in His name. The Holy Spirit within us gives all the power that we need to His work.

Jesus sends us with a purpose: To preach the Gospel. He sends us forth to make disciples and baptize them in His name. His message of salvation should be our core message.

We live in troubled times. Over the last few months, we have been ordered to take drastic action to slow the spread of a deadly virus. Just as local communities were beginning to reopen businesses and loosen restrictions, protests and riots in response to a case of police brutality unleashed new chaos and confusion in our lives. Many no longer wonder “When will it end?” Instead, they ask, “Will it ever end? Will life ever return to normal?”

God has not given His people a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline or a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). If the world around us is all we have, we should be afraid. If we place our faith in our political leaders, we should be really afraid. If we rely on our efforts to solve society’s problems, we will be powerless. If we hear the messages that are being shouted from 24-hour cable news channels, we will be driven to hatred. The news can drive us to despair, defeat, depression, discouragement, and so on.

The world needs to hear the Gospel now! Jesus sends us with a message. We must repent of the idolatry of exalting our political heroes and media pundits as if they have the answer. People need the power of God to do what is right. We need the love of God to love our neighbors as ourselves, including the following neighbors: those who are not like us, those who may find it hard to like us, and even those whom we may never meet face to face.

Jesus has given us a message that provides answers to society’s problems now as it did 2000 years ago. Let us go forth and change the world for His glory. He is with us always, He gives us the power to do His work, and He has sent us in His name.

How have you personally answered Jesus’ call to share His Gospel? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Majestic Attributes, Omnipresence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharing the Message: “What God Has Done for Me”

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke each tell the story of one of Jesus’ miracles, one of the first (if not the first) that He performed in a Gentile area. Jesus and His disciples had gone to the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee, to a region called the Gerasenes (or “Gadarenes,” according to Matthew 8:28). Here, they met a demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs. Filled with supernatural strength and rage, he could not be contained; if people put him in chains, the man would simply break them. However, while chains could not bind the man who was bound by demons, Jesus came to set him free. The demons left him and entered a herd of pigs, who drowned themselves in the sea.

“And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:17–20; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version).

Healing of the Gerasene demoniac. Public domain picture, artist unknown, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is hard to blame the man for wanting to follow Jesus. For years, he had lived in bondage to forces he could not see or understand. Family and neighbors must have feared him. The man was now known as “Legion” because of the many unclean spirits that controlled him. Perhaps Jesus had been the first person in years to seek him, to not be afraid of him, and to offer him liberty. Why would he not follow Jesus? What did he have back in the Gerasenes? At this point in his life, perhaps all he could find that was worth living for was this man who had cast the demons out of him.

Instead of inviting the man to follow Him, Jesus told him to return home with a simple message, entitled “What God has done for me.”

He was not called to follow Jesus like the 12 disciples, spending entire days with Him, hearing all He had to teach them. Jesus did not send Legion to seminary for more training.

Jesus did not send Legion into full-time ministry. He would have to return home, to his family and his old career.

He was sent with a simple message, “This is what God has done for me! Have you heard about what Jesus did for me!”

The Miracle of the Gadarene Swine; artist unknown. Public domain, Getty Center via Wikimedia Commons.

Let us get back to basics. We need to share our testimony. Like Legion, we need to tell others what God has done for us. We do not need a complicated message. We do not need extensive training. God has done something for each of us. What has He done in your life? That is your message.

It is tempting to come up with something more complicated. An elaborate explanation of a Biblical theme might make us feel smart, but it will not feed the souls of the lost. Arguing why my church is the correct one and everybody should worship with me and stay away from that other church will not point people to the Savior.

Jesus did not tell Legion to go home and begin arguing about politics or ranting about everybody else’s sins. He has not called us to do those things either. He sent Legion to preach “What God has done for me.” He is calling us to share that message too.

What has Jesus done for you? What was your life like before He gained control of your life? How has it changed since then? Has He healed you of a serious illness? Has He delivered you from a bad habit or a life-controlling addiction?

Think about your life. You have a testimony, and it is uniquely your own. Jesus has done something for you, and He can do it to the people you know and meet. People might be able to argue with your logic or criticize your eloquence. However, they are looking for hope, peace, joy, and comfort.

Many are looking for a way out of the mess they have made of their lives. Your testimony about what God has done for you may offer them the answer they really need. What has Jesus done for you? Somebody needs the same blessing you received. Let them know Who can heal, restore, forgive, and revive them.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Feast of St. Andrew: Drawing People to Jesus

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

One odd irony about the traditional church calendar is the placement of the Feast of St. Andrew, on November 30. Many years, it occurs right after the First Sunday of Advent, making it the first official feast day on the church calendar. However, when Advent begins in December, it becomes the last feast day on the calendar. This can be a little reminder that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16).

Eastern Orthodox Churches refer to Andrew as the “Protokletos,” meaning the “first-called,” because he was the first apostle to follow Jesus. (Many Bible scholars think that the other disciple in John 1:35-42 was John, but the title still goes to Andrew, who is mentioned by name.) Despite being one of the first men to follow Jesus, Andrew drifts into the background.

Usually, when Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40). First, he introduced his brother Simon to Jesus, who gave him a new name, Peter. Simon Peter, of course, would become the chief apostle after Jesus’ ascension.

Later, Andrew would introduce Jesus to the boy who had five loaves and two fish (John 6:8-9), thereby playing a key role in the feeding of the 5000. A few days before the crucifixion, in John 12:20-22, Andrew and Philip brought some Greeks to meet Jesus.

That sums up the life and ministry of Andrew. He introduced people to Jesus. He ministered quietly. Other people may have received the glory and recognition, but when you think about his life, the history of the Church would be very different if not for his presence.

May we all be a little more like St. Andrew—consistently introducing people to Jesus without regard for recognition and glory.

“Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The First Easter Sermons: The Central Theme of the Bible

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:44–47).

Jesus gives His first post-resurrection Bible study, in “The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road,” by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikipedia Commons.

After Jesus rose from the dead, His teaching to His disciples took a new focus. In each Gospel account, He told them that He was giving them a message to proclaim to the world. He told the disciples that His death and resurrection fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, the significance of these events in God’s plan for mankind, and the disciples’ new role as Jesus’ messengers.

The messages Jesus shared with the two disciples He met on the road to Emmaus (vv. 25–27) and with the other disciples in the upper room later that evening (vv. 44–47) are now our message. This is the central theme of the entire Bible. This is the Good News that He sends us to share with the world.

First, Jesus told the disciples that His death and resurrection fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. Many people in Jesus’ day believed that the Messiah would be a political or military hero who would deliver Israel from Roman oppression and bring God’s kingdom to Earth. Jesus did not fulfill that political role, but He showed that His redemptive work was the real message in God’s Word all along. People had seen what they wanted to see in the writings of Moses and the prophets. They missed the core message.

Other authors have written excellent summaries of the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. Those who are not familiar with these prophecies will benefit by reviewing the chart at http://jesusplusnothing.com/jesus66books.htm which lists messianic prophecies in every book of the Old Testament. A more scholarly discussion about Jesus in the Old Testament, by Bible scholar Walter C. Kaiser, can be found at https://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/Jesus-in-the-Old-Testament.cfm. Those prophecies revealed that the Messiah would suffer, die, and rise again.

Our response to that miracle should be repentance. While that word sounds holy and spiritual, it simply means a change of mind or life’s direction. We have been walking away from God, trying to do our own thing. Repentance means that we acknowledge that there is sin in our lives and choose to follow Jesus instead. It is the first step in new life with Christ.

Christ’s free gift is forgiveness of sins. This is what we should offer to the lost. It is the message the apostles—a group of Jewish men—were to proclaim to the entire world, beginning from Jerusalem but spreading out too all nations.

Too often, we preach politics, morality, and condemnation. We may be willing to preach forgiveness to people who are like us, but do we preach that same message to “those people?” The New Testaments book of the Acts of the Apostles shows how the early Christians broke free from their cultural biases and proclaimed the Good News to those despicable half-breed Samaritans, those Roman terrorists, and all of those other weird uncircumcised Gentile pagans. Are we ready to preach repentance and forgiveness to homosexuals, transgendered persons, illegal immigrants, Muslims, etc.? Or, do we have a different message for them in the name of “culture warfare?”

Jesus’ message must begin with us. We must remember that the most devout Christians is merely a recovering, repentant, forgiven sinner. In the core of our human nature, we are not better than others. We are merely fortunate and blessed to have found out the Good News that Jesus died for our sins.

This is the message for Easter and every day of the year: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. He suffered and died for our sins. He rose from the grave to conquer sin, hell, death, and Satan. He offers forgiveness of sins to all who will come to Him.

This is the message all Christians are called to proclaim. It is the central theme of the entire Bible. Let us go forth with this word every day, inviting the lost to the new life and forgiveness Jesus offers, so that it may be Easter throughout the year.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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