Friday, August 27, 2010

This Week's Project Ezra Reading - Mark 4

Greetings Project Ezra! This week we will be reading Mark Chapter 4, which includes the parable of the sower, along with several other shorter parables, and the story of Jesus asleep at sea while the storm raged around him. I will be focusing on those two passages in my own preaching, but reversing the order, bringing up the storm and Christ’s reaction to it first and then following with the details of the parable of the sower.

I think a very powerful message delivered in the story of the boat in the storm is that of God’s trustworthiness. The Disciples had been with Jesus, had seen his miraculous works, and likely were starting to grasp the fact that He was more than just a prophet of God. If they had considered the situation in light of those facts, they should not have experienced the fear that they did. Jesus had not only proven Himself to be powerful, but had shown Himself to be caring and trustworthy. But, like us, the Disciples let their doubts and fears get in the way. The bottom line is, the problem was not God’s ability or willingness to deal with the storm. The problem was the disciples’ doubt. In a similar way, people today know God exists, but either doubt his ability and willingness to deal with their issues, or more often are unwilling to accept his sovereignty and manner of dealing with their issues, preferring to go their own way instead.

In the parable of the sower, we see three examples of why people reject Christ. I believe these are very common responses to the gospel:

The seeds sown along the path - Satan uses people’s love of sin as a tool to keep them away from Christ.

The seeds sown in rocky soil - People appear to come to Christ, but with the wrong motives and shallow faith, and fall away when the trials and persecution the Bible promises come about. These are false converts.

The seeds sown among thorns - People may appear to or claim to be Christian or “spiritual”, but are distracted by money and pleasure so there is no fruit evident. These too are likely false converts.

I don’t think these ideas should be used merely to fit everyone who appears to be an unrepentant sinner neatly into their own category. I think many people could fit into two or even all three of these categories. But they provide an excellent opportunity to challenge people to examine themselves in the light of God’s word to see where they really stand, and why they are standing there.

So I would suggest framing your reading this way:

Read the passage.

Use the passage regarding the storm to expound on God’s faithfulness and power, and the fact that we should be dependant on him.

Challenge the hearers that in truth, they know that God exists, and if they are doubting His trustworthiness, there is likely a hidden motive.

The seed cast along the path – Are you letting sin keep you from God? You know that if you turn to God, you will need to change your attitude toward many earthly pleasures that you are enjoying now. But is there any sin you love so much you are willing to go to hell for it?

The seed on rocky soil – If you are a church-goer, why are you there? Are you there for the social aspects? Or for the boost to your self esteem? Are you looking just to solve personal problems, or maybe looking to grab your best life now? Make sure you are not there for some reason other than God. God doesn’t call people to the good life, he calls people to salvation by grace through faith, and to serve and glorify Him, and if you are there with the wrong motives, you’ll fall away when times get tough.

The seed among the thorns – Have you put up an idol to keep you from God? Success, money, power, or even religious service, can become idols. If they choke your desire for or distract you from God’s truth, you need to repent of your idolatry and put your trust wholly in Jesus Christ.

The word says if we will confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is our greatest need, and the greatest gift God can give to us. Look at yourself with a tender conscience and you will realize your on sinfulness. Then look to the cross, the greatest gift ever given, and repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

I pray that this will be helpful in your evangelistic efforts this weekend, and look forward to hearing your testimonies.

For the praise of His glory!


Friday, August 20, 2010

This Week's Suggested Reading - Acts 3

Greetings Project Ezra! This week we will be reading Acts 3, which includes what could probably be considered an open-air preaching session by the Apostle Peter. There are a number of such incidents in the book of Acts by several different Apostles, including Stephen, Peter and Paul, and I am hoping to make a study of them in the near future. What better place to draw inspiration for sharing the Gospel publically? But in this particular instance, there seem to be three major points of focus:

The Jesus they denied, God glorified.

The Jews chose sin and rebellion over God, despite the evidence

It was time for the Jews to turn from their sin and turn to the Savior

The healing of a man lame from birth is an amazing miracle, but in reality the miracle is almost a side note in this chapter. Peter immediately shifts the focus away from the miracle and uses it as an opportunity to bring glory to God and to draw people to the savior. Whenever we speak to people about what we believe, whether on a one-to-one basis or preaching in the open air, we need to make sure our focus is the same. Don’t aim for personal attention, even when you open-air. You should try to preach well, since we should always try to bring glory to God by doing our best, and you should spend time preparing through study and prayer. But don’t try to impress people with your eloquence or Biblical knowledge. The most important point of any gospel presentation is it’s faithfulness to God’s word, along with an evangelist who is compassionate, respectful and real, all of which bring glory to God.

Peter calls Jesus holy and righteous, which of course He is. But I think he also emphasized the point to remind the Jews just what they had done, and to whom, and where that left them. Those we witness to are comparable to the Jews in their behavior. They too deny the truth of who Christ is, and they too prefer sin over God’s will, despite ample proof of His existence and power. The Word says in Romans 1:20 that God’s existence is clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse. Point this fact out to people, and challenge them on the source of their disbelief or idolatry. It will generally be self serving, just a matter of making excuses for their own love of sin. You will find that most arguments are really just smokescreens.

So God’s foreordained plan had come to completion through the acts of the Jews and the Romans. The Christ had suffered, died, and been raised from the dead and glorified. Now the Jews were called to repent of their sin and put their trust in the savior, just like we all must. God wants to bless us by turning us from our wickedness and giving us times of refreshing, as He said. But it is a command, not a request, and He says that every soul that does not listen will be destroyed from the people. So show your listeners their love of sin and their rebellion against God. Challenge them, even if they won’t answer you honestly, to examine themselves. Show them the horrendous consequence of denying God. And show them the wonder and glory of a God who sent his Son to die, despite their sin and rebellion.

For the praise of His glory!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Week's Project Ezra Reading - Jeremiah 7

Greetings Project Ezra! This week’s reading is Jeremiah chapter 7, and in this chapter God is calling Jeremiah to stand in the door of His temple and confront pretenders to the faith. Several of our previous blogs have also addressed the fact that there are many false converts in the modern church, and this passage makes it clear that this is an issue that needs to be seriously considered and addressed. You and I are not Jeremiah, who had a very unique calling from God, but I do believe the principle encapsulated here is for the whole church. It is something we should take very seriously as street corner evangelists, since most of those people we talk to are in exactly the same spot as the people Jeremiah was talking to.

First, remind people that there is a God who has given us standards to live by, and we have consistently ignored those standards. In verse 9 God mentions theft, murder, adultery, bearing false witness and idolatry, five of the Ten Commandments. The nation of Israel claimed they were delivered, yet ignored God’s commands. This is not just a matter of sin, but of willful, ongoing, unrepentant sin. Many people in the church, who claim the name of Christ, and many “religious” people you will meet on the street, will fall into the same category.

Secondly, God has given us ample warning, as He did to Israel. He gave Israel His inspired word (which has been passed on to us), and commanded them to obey Him, and in return He said He would be their God. He promised to bless them for their obedience. He sent prophets to guide them in His ways, and to bring correction when they strayed. But they were stubborn, and would not listen, even though they continued to claim to be His followers.

Third, God takes His word, and the breach of it, VERY seriously. He doesn’t ignore disobedience, he punishes it. In response to Israel’s rebellion He said he would cast them out of His sight, and that he would pour out His anger and wrath on them. God is loving and gracious, but it is sinful to preach or believe in only the aspects of His character that we are comfortable with. That is idolatry, and most people believe in a god that is a weak, pale and ambivalent reflection of the mighty, glorious and holy God who reveals himself in scripture. And it is His perfection and holiness that should cause us Godly fear. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Finally, let people know that apart from God’s mercy, we are without hope. God’s law and His wrath should never be used to drive anyone toward legalism. It must be used to drive them to the foot of the blood-stained cross. The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith, and those who have repented and trusted Christ will be radically changed. They will not be able to go on sinning, because they have been born of God. They will not claim God’s name and continue in unrepentant wickedness, but, out of love for God the thankfulness for His grave, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they will be changed from the inside out, and their behavior will reflect that.

So encourage people to examine themselves, test themselves to see if they are in the faith. By God’s grace, maybe you will have the privilege to seeing someone repent and trust the Savior before your eyes.

For the praise of His glory,


A note to those of you who regularly participate in Project Ezra in front of local abortion clinics. I know there are several of you. You might want to use verse 31 as a springboard regarding the abortion industry. Thousands of children are sacrificed each week on the alters of Expediency, Autonomy, and Personal Freedom. They may not be worshiping Baal, but the sin is just as wicked, the attitude just as idolatrous, and child just as dead.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Week's Project Ezra Reading: Nehemiah 9

Greetings Project Ezra brothers and sisters. This week’s reading is Nehemiah chapter 9. This chapter, which follows the story of Ezra reading the word to the people, from which the name of our group comes, is a great example of God’s grace and long suffering, and tells us something profound about the nature of man and the nature of God.

In this passage the author recounts how the Jews, God’s chosen people, violated His law and turned their backs on Him repeatedly, receiving the punishment due them because of their actions. God lavished His love on His children, providing for them in ways that He had never provided for any other people. He brought them out of slavery, sustained them during 40 years in the desert, and then drove the resident’s out of the Promised Land, providing the Israelites not only with land itself, but with the goods and cities that had belonged to their enemies.

But the Israelites, time and time again, turned their back on God. Even though they could see His goodness, His provision, and the evidence of His power, they chose to turn from Him to follow their own selfish desires. Have you ever heard someone say they would believe in Jesus if he would just appear to them? The history of the Israelites says differently. Moses disappeared for a few weeks while receiving God’s law, and the Israelites, who had seen the Red Sea parted, had seen the plagues in Egypt, and had been lead by God’s pillars of fire and smoke, chose to create a god with their hands rather than trust in the true and living God. God has given us more than ample evidence for his existence and his goodness. Jesus said in Luke 16:31 that “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” We don’t need more proof, we need humility.

Following the Israelite’s rebellion God was righteously angry and showed his justice by sending punishment on them for their rebellion. While they were under God’s wrath, they had two options, just as men do now. They could repent, as they did at the beginning of the chapter, with fasting, sack cloth and earth on their heads, or they could continue in their foolish and arrogant rebellion, preferring to cling to pretended autonomy than submit to the one true God. The description of the fourth and firth bowls of God’s wrath in Revelation 16 paint a frightening picture of the consequences of that choice, and of that truth. Rebellion against God is a matter of pride.

I think the contrast between the message of Nehemiah 9 and Revelation 16 is the key message. We have all rebelled against God, despite the blessings and provision he has given us. We are all worthy of just punishment, and we all have a choice. We can either cling to our pride and remain under God’s just wrath, or we can repent in sack cloth and ashes and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, trusting in his graciousness and longsuffering, and receive His salvation.

So tell people the story of Israel this week, and plead with them to hear the example of humble repentance and to follow it through trust in Jesus Christ, rather then remaining in their pride and rebellion.

For the praise of His glory,


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Project Ezra – Participation Report

It’s amazing some of the testimonies we hear and the work that God is doing through Project Ezra!

Take some time to look through these video’s, pictures and testimonies from our recent First John on July 4th. Sorry it's a bit late, but it's been a busy month. If I didn’t include something you posted, don’t feel bad. I simply couldn’t post every testimony, which is a GREAT problem to have! Keep sharing your testimonies. I guarantee there are an encouragement to someone.

Our Canadian brother Tim Rector led off a couple days early. He says:
"It is Canada Day today, July 1st. So, while working delivering pizzas
tonight, between deliveries, I decided to try to stop and read as much
of 1 John as I could on the main street in New Hamburg. There were large
crowds of people all gathering for a fireworks display just around the
corner, so there were many people walking by my normal reading spot. I
began reading around 9 p.m. and it was still light at that time. If my
phone would have rang I would have had to stop reading to answer and go deliver a pizza. But God allowed me to read all of 1 John, and as a bonus as it started to get dark, a street light right above me lit my Bible perfectly, and many people heard God's word!"

Robert S Gray from New Hampshire says:
"Read @ Hampton Beach, NH. Repeated 1 Jn 5:11,12 a number of times once I finished the book. People responded & was able to witness to a man, his son, and a teen who recently tried to commit suicide. She wanted to know if me being there was a sign from God. Let's pray for her."

Bridget Golob shared that:
"We had TONS of people out at the lake where we were. I read Chapters 1 John 1-2, Toby read 3-4, and Mark read 5 and ended with an open air sermon that included the Law! MANY people heard the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel! After that, we had many conversations with so many people, (mostly teens), and gave out a few hundred Tracts! I was beginning to get hoarse! PRAISE GOD for a day well done for His glory! I'm praying that every seed sown today grows and matures into faith and repentance in our Savior!"

Evangelist and Ambassador’s Academy team leader Jon Speed of Lost Cause Ministries joins the faithful brothers and sisters of Fresh Springs Baptist Church as they share the gospel with those waiting for the fireworks to start in Lake Jackson, TX.

Clint McCain, Marty Hocutt, and Dojo Aguilar preaching the gospel in Riverside, CA.

One of our most faithful Project Ezra participants, Adam Gray, reads and preaches in North Carolina.

And finally, I have the privilege of sharing the gospel in Morgan Hill CA, along with other members of the Norcal Seedsowers. Nancy Murphy, an Ambassador's Academy graduate and one of the founders of our team, described the holiday like this in our newsletter:
"Saturday night, July 3rd a group of us attended the Downtown Morgan Hill Street Dance. There were crowds of people and we handed out hundreds of gospel tracts and talked to many folks. Dan brought his 'Are You Ready' cross which immediately drew curious teenagers asking, "Ready for what?" This led to lots of discussion about eternity and what Jesus did so we could go to heaven. Dan also read from the bible and preached in the open air. One man stayed and listened the entire time and wanted to talk afterwards. It was clear that God was working in his heart.....The following day we gathered at the same place for the annual 4th of July Parade. It was so easy to hand out tracts to people along the parade route. We ran out of them just as the parade was ending. Another fruitful 4th of July! We pray that those who received tracts and heard the gospel will turn from their sin and trust in Jesus Christ. "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12"

If you would like a chance to introduce your Christian brothers and sisters to Project Ezra, this could be a good opportunity to show them what we do. Also, please consider posting this on your social networking pages or re-post to your own blog to get the word out. I'll be sending this week's reading out tomorrow, and I can't wait to hear how God is changing lives in your town through the public reading of his word.

For the praise of His glory!