August 7, 2015

An Unexpected Evening of Evangelism Training

This afternoon I received a message that some "Christian people" (as I heard someone once refer to them) were going to meet in the city square for an evening of evangelism. I quickly made plans to go, since I was also hoping to do so this weekend. With all the people out tonight, it was amazing to also see so many Christians of various church affiliations out tonight passing out tracts, preaching, and just sharing the gospel with anyone willing to listen.

I met a young brother in Christ, A., who had come out for the first time to learn about street evangelism. I spoke with him about the gospel and some ways that I like to meet people and asked if he would like to accompany me. I later learned that he is a religious studies major who wants to specialize in evangelism. He asked me how long I had been doing this. It is amazing, but this blog was started seven years ago, so I have been going to the streets to share the gospel for more than ten years now.

Very quickly we met a young passerby, I., who was willing to stop and talk for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into something like a half an hour as this young man expressed his struggle with faith as the child of a Christian home who, now, after beginning a science major, finds himself helplessly agnostic. We connected right away and spoke for a long time. He seemed to grasp everything I said and everything I shared with him from the Bible, especially on the topic of faith. I recommended three churches nearby his campus where he could go to learn more. My prayer is that I will see him again in one of them and follow up with him.

My young partner and I had a very healthy discussion afterward about the gospel, languages and Biblical evangelism and apologetics. I also pray for his future in this kind of ministry as he learns and grows.

Then I met T. from Haiti. We spoke in Spanish, because he said his English is not so good yet. He would like to meet me again, so he asked if I will be there tomorrow. I told him I plan to be in the morning. In either case, I said, "Que Dios le cuide" (May God take care of you). My prayer for him is that God would lead him to know the Scriptures and read them more as God leads him in faith through Jesus Christ.

So much more I could say about tonight, but I am tired and I have some studying to do. I must say, I am grateful that God has been merciful and gracious to me, one so undeserving. I pray for the glory and praise of the Lord as He works a new creation in us, His people. Amen. 

July 18, 2015

Morning Good News at the Square

The good news. It was an ironic morning. I met up with a man who, in a certain aspect, resembles the governor of Pennsylvania. He is a dear Christian brother who wants others to know the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ. We grabbed some coffee and had an edifying conversation. Afterwards, we hit the street to talk to people and pass out tracks.

People are full of stories. While Tom spoke with a man who appeared to be in his seventies about his new experience in joining a church, I spoke with Luis, a quiet Puertoriqueño (Puerto Rican — Latin Americans don't refer to themselves as "Spanish" unless they are from Spain, in which case they are not Latin American, so it's best to just ask their heritage). We talked about everything from the gospel of God's grace (la buena nueva de la gracia de Dios) to family and children and church (familia, hijos, iglesia). He told me he reads la Biblia at home, so I took the opportunity to recommend a good church in the area for him to look into. God bless Luis!

There was a gentleman on the wall from SW Philadelphia. I can't remember his name, but he was a real nice guy and we talked. I should do better at remembering everyone's name.

Caleb came walking over pointing to his shirt. It said, "Play Hard and Pray Hard." He told us his basketball team, members of which were fired up for the gospel, was travelling for a tournament. He agreed to pray for us. The Biblical figure Caleb was a man of rock-solid faith. He wouldn't back down at the sight of Israel's tall enemies, but quieted the people's fears with words of encouragement (Numbers 13:30).

Tom had a sign on that wall with the question: "Are you going to heaven? Free test." So as people passed by, I asked them if they new the answer to that question. There was a young couple passing by who stopped, willing to hear the question. The young man answered, "I know I am going." He responded to my "why" question with, "Because I believe in Jesus." So I asked why he should be accepted by God as a believer in Jesus and not millions of other people who don't believe in Jesus; like Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others. He said that was too deep a question. Of course, I pointed out that it's no deeper than the thoughts we all have concerning these things. They both seemed very eager to hear me explain the answer. My response was along the lines that the good news in Romans 1–5 shows how sinners need to receive a perfect sacrifice of blood and righteousness from Christ, who provided it on the cross and empty tomb, to make us perfect and acceptable before God. We're all in the same boat. We're unworthy due to real guilt. God's holiness requires perfection and God's Son provides it. I pray they both dig deeper into such world-tilting matters.

Lastly, I talked to Angel. He came up in gold chains, covered in tats and a cigarette between his lips. If I could judge hearts, I'd say he is as great a man of faith as I  have met in a long time. His answer to the heaven question was totally Christ-centered. His testimony was that of a former gang-banging, multi-million dollar drug lord turned to Christ. He spent 15 years in prison and after reading the gospel in the Bible and meeting Christ, he became a testimony of God's power to save, speaking to youth all around. He asked me a question to test my knowledge of Scripture, and after that, we just encouraged one another with Bible stories and testimonies of God's grace. Angel in Greek is ἄγγελος meaning 'messenger.' May the Lord use Angel to continue spreading the message of Christ-exalting transformation!

I confess, I am a sinful man. Yesterday and today I spoke unkind words to family. I also confess my need for pardon and reformation through the cleansing blood of the risen Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to Jesus Christ, I'm able to talk freely (and guilt-free) about the truth of the Bible, because it is a gift meant to be shared.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV)

May 24, 2015

Some Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark (part 1: Opening verses 1:1-3)

Mark 1:1-3 ESV
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (2) As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, (3) the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" 

Expository thoughts

The Gospel According to Mark is a book of testimony that bears witness to Jesus the Messiah. Mark opened his gospel narrative with the Greek word for “beginning” (ἀρχή). The opening word ΑΡΧΗ resembles the LXX opening word in Hosea 1:2 ΑΡΧΗ. The Greek version of Hosea speaks of the beginning of the Lord’s word as it began to come to Hosea. Mark 1:1 speaks of the beginning of the gospel as it began to be made known, in fulfillment of the predictions made by the prophet Isaiah (see Isa. 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). In Hosea, the beginning was the beginning of the history of new divine revelation as it came to him. Perhaps in Mark, then, the beginning here means the history of the beginning of new divine revelation as it came in and through Jesus Christ. Mark referenced the book of Isaiah, but quoted a combination of Malachi 3:1, Exodus 23:20 and Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah chapter 40 is an announcement of anticipated good news which would be realized after the period of Israel’s exile in Babylon. The opening words are, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isa. 40:1). These gracious words anticipated the comforting good news that Jerusalem’s warfare had ended, her iniquity had been pardoned and the wrath of God had been more than satisfied by double payment for her sins (Isa. 40:2). A voice calls for the preparation of the Lord’s way in the desert wilderness (40:3). Malachi 3:1 is used in context of Isaiah 40:3 by building on the concept of a predicted messenger who would prepare the Lord’s way in the wilderness. Malachi was written at a later date than Isaiah, yet Malachi reiterates the promise of a forerunner who prepares the way for the Lord to come. Both quotations are linked to the idea as it was first presented by Moses in Exodus 23:20, where God warns the people of Israel that they must obey the voice of his angel (messenger) whom he will send before them to keep them in their way as they traversed the desert wilderness. In each of the passages just mentioned, the Lord’s way in the wilderness indicates God’s own presence to deliver His chosen people Israel. Mark seems to have traced the concept of the Lord’s forerunner/messenger from its development in the history of revelation up to the point of John. He seems to have understood these predictions to have had the ability to reach beyond the prophet’s own experience at the time of their writing, as well as beyond Israel’s experience in returning from Babylon, and to reach forward to describe the period of fulfillment when the good news would become evident. In other words, Mark understood Isaiah’s prophetic announcement of good news to have been fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah. The basic premise of Mark’s writing is this: God has fulfilled His promises of good news by sending Messiah Jesus, His Son. The beginning of this good news is the ministry work of John the Baptist, who signals its inauguration.

March 29, 2015

Koine Fun: Animals in Biblical Greek

Koine Fun: Animals in Biblical Greek is my first children's book released in the Amazon Kindle store. The concept is simple: make learning Biblical Greek fun by reading about animals named in the Koine Greek Bible!

Each page has the name of an animal and a short description of that animal in both Koine Greek and English. Reading words in context with phrases and in connection with pictures not only adds enjoyment to learning the Koine language, but also helps you internalize the language, making it stick. This book is designed for all ages, but especially with a sensitivity to young learners.

My goal is to facilitate the interest of anyone dedicated to learning the original languages of the Word of God. It is my conviction that through effectively learning the biblical languages, many in Christ's body will become better equipped to gain understanding and rightly divide Scripture in God-honoring and Christ-exalting ways. Here is a simple resource to encourage anyone on that journey. Click here to see more.

March 24, 2015

The Lord's New Commandment - John 13:34

The following is a short study on the Lord's New Commandment:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
(John 13:34 ESV) 

I. What was the context of this new commandment?
  1. Jesus issued this commandment to his disciples on the night of his betrayal at his last supper before the Feast of Passover. (John 13:1-2)
  2. Before issuing the commandment, Jesus demonstrated his own service to his disciples by washing their feet. (John 13:3-10)
  3. During the meal, Jesus shared his bread with Judas Iscariot, who then left the room under Satan’s influence in order to betray Jesus. (John 13:11-30)
  4. Jesus spoke of his immediate glorification and God’s glorification through him, and he spoke of his departure and separation from his disciples, whom he denominated as his ‘little children.’ (John 13:31-33)
  5. Jesus told them that by keeping the commandment to love one another, all people would know that they were his disciples, if they have love for one another. (John 13:34-35) 
  6. Jesus carried over into the New Covenant an old commandment that was given in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”). He also extended that commandment to follow his pattern of self-sacrificial and self-giving love.
  7. In light of all the other commands to love our neighbors, Jesus singled out this command as new, because of its uniqueness and special connection with his death for his people and Church.
II. What was the purpose of this new commandment?
  1. This commandment was given at the time when Jesus established the New Covenant in his blood (Luke 22:20), and so it is to be a ruling principle in the Kingdom of God.
  2. Jesus stated that the new commandment was to be carried out the same way in which he had demonstrated. “Just as I have loved you . . .” (John 13:34). This shows that imitating Jesus and his love is part of its purpose.
  3. Jesus said that people would know you are his disciples by keeping this commandment (John 13:35). In other words, we demonstrate that we are following Jesus by showing love to others who are following him.
  4. The Church, as the body of Christ, is to be built up into maturity through Christ-like love. (Ephesians 4:11-16) 
  5. The new commandment gives assurance of true faith and of eternal life to those who keep it. (1 John 2:1-8) 
III. How can we obey the new commandment?
  1. We can obey the new commandment by sharing with fellow Christians according to the need. (Acts 2:45)
  2. We can obey the new commandment by bearing the burdens of others. (Galatians 6:2) 
  3. What does that look like in real life?
  4. We can obey the new commandment by not doing wrong to others. (Romans 13:10)
  5. We can obey the new commandment by encouraging one another in the faith. (Acts 14:22; Hebrews 10:25)
  6. What are additional ways in which we can love as Jesus commanded? 
IV. What are challenges to obeying the new commandment?
  1. What are some challenges to fulfilling this commandment:
  • from the home
  • from the church
  • from the world
  • from the devil
  • from our own sin