Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sharing the Gospel - The Nigel Story

If you would like to view a copy of the "Nigel Story" called:

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday –

A Narrative Exemplar


Then click this link. You will also notice at the end of the story there are comments by the authors sharing there reflections on this kind of Group Project.

Sharing the Gospel

Grace and Peace,
Chris
Coram Deo!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jesus Response to the Pharisees Accusation

I was talking to a friend this past weekend about Satan and eschatology. I received a strange look when I mentioned that I believe that Satan is already "bound". I think we are assuming that when Satan is Bound that it means that he is no longer active in his devious attempts to deceive and lead sheep astray.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (English Standard Version)

8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.


I just found these sermon notes by Ligon Duncan where he describes how Jesus "bound" Satan while he was incarnte on Earth, casting out demons, defeating Satan in the wilderness. I hope this is enlightening to you.
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!

III. Jesus response to the Pharisees accusation.
There's a third thing we learn in this passage as we study, and you will see it in verses 25 through 29. Jesus gives a devastating rejoinder to the Pharisees. As the Pharisees accuse Him of being of the evil one and doing His works according to the power of Satan. The Lord Jesus replies in a detailed reply. We are told, by the way, in verse 25 that Jesus knew their thoughts. Now that could mean that Jesus knew the method of operation. He knew the general attitude of the Pharisees. But Matthew and Luke seem to be saying more than that. They seem to be saying that Jesus knew the inner heart attitude which lay behind their outward attacks on Him. He knew their hearts. John tells us that he knew all men. And this is what Matthew is reminding us here. He is aware of their thoughts and their heart attitudes. He knows the state of their heart as they oppose Him. And the state of their heart is simply reflected in the words that they have spoken out loud.

And His response to them has five parts. We won't study all of them today, but I would like to walk you through them because they are very important. The first part of His response you will see in verses 25 and 6. The first thing that He says is that their claim about Him is absurd. He says it is absurd to claim that I am casting out demons by the power of Satan. And He opposes, and He shows the absurdity by quoting a proverb, and then by asking a question. The proverb that He quotes is one that applies to all sorts of relationships - family relationships, national relationships - and it is, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

And then having quoted that proverb which simply means, of course, that when there is internal dissension a family, a relationship, a kingdom cannot be built up, it can only disintegrate, He asks a question. Now, if that is true, then how could it be that Satan would be deliberately fighting against himself when His goal is to build up His kingdom? And so He shows the patent absurdity of their particular charge. You're saying that I'm casting out Satan's minions by the power of Satan. And He said, That just doesn't make sense. But the second thing he says is in verse 27. He shows that their criticism is unfair, it is inconsistent. You see, the Pharisees had followers who claimed to cast out demons. Now the Lord Jesus doesn't get into a long argument about whether they actually did or didn't. The Lord Jesus knows that the Pharisees had followers in Israel who claimed to cast out demons. And He basically says this, Why is it that when I cast out demons, you accuse Me of doing it by the power of Satan, but when your followers, the ones that you have taught in Hebrew school and seminary, why is it that when they do it, you say, Oh, this is a mighty work of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. It's bad when I do it, but when they do it, it's acceptable. That's inconsistent. It's unfair criticism. And so He suggests this to them. He says, If I by beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out. For this reason they will be your judges. In other words He says, If your followers, your sons, if they judge that you are right about me, that I am casting out demons by the power of Satan, then that calls into question what they are doing. And if they judge that you are wrong about me, that I am not casting out demons by the power of Satan, then it calls in question your judgment about Me. And so He shows that the sons, the followers of the Pharisees, whichever way they answer that question will undercut the criticism which the Pharisees have brought against him.

The third thing that He says in response you will see in verse 28. There in Matthew 12:28 He says, If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. He shows that their criticism deliberately obscures the greatest work of the Holy Spirit in history. I want you to see what the Lord Jesus is saying loud and clear. The Holy Spirit had been at work under the old covenant. He had been there in the promises and prophets and types and forms. He had been there working in that era inspiring the prophets as they spoke the word of God to the people. He had done mighty works in the old covenant, but never before had there been a greater work of the Holy Spirit than the recreation of God's people and the expansion of God's kingdom. And the Lord Jesus is saying, The spirit is at work in My ministry. And yet you ascribe that work of the spirit of God to demons.

Let me try to put that for you graphically. It would be as if God spoke to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai and said, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the house of slavery, and then gave to them the Ten Commandments, and there were a group of Israelites stood at the base of the mountain who said, You know, I don't think that was the voice of the Lord God of Israel. I think that was the voice of Satan. The Lord Jesus is saying, You have called the greatest work of the Spirit, a greater work than the giving of the Ten Commandments, the work of Satan. And that reveals the stubbornness and the wickedness of your hearts. Jesus power over the demons was a manifestation of the fact that God's kingdom had come, that the Lord was coming with power.

Indeed the Lord Jesus goes on to say that you can't even cast out Satan until you've bound him. And so he is saying, Every time you see Me cast out a demon, you know that I have first attacked Satan. I have bound him. I have restrained him, or I wouldn't be able to do that because Satan's kingdom cannot be plundered until Satan is restrained. And He is saying, That's what I'm doing every time I cast out demons. And He goes on to indicate that by His incarnation, by His victory over Satan in the wilderness, by His preaching, by His ministry, He was in the act of binding Satan. And yet they deliberately attribute that work to Satan himself.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Memory and Honor of Dr. William S. H. Piper - John Piper's Father

There isn't much you can say about this. Death is a terrible thing and painful, but since we have hope beyond this mortal existance, we can rest in the Lord to strengthen us through these times.

Our heartfelt condolences, sympathy, and prayers go to the Piper family. This is a very touching moment as John says goodbye to his Daddy and reflecting on who his father was and how much love there was between them and love for the Lord. I would have loved to have met him.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!

_________________________________


Hello, My Father Just Died

March 7, 2007 | By: John Piper
Category: Written Posts by John Piper, Current Events

The following is John Piper’s journal entry narrating his father’s death on Tuesday, March 6, 2007.

The funeral is scheduled for Friday, March 9, 2007, at 2 p.m. at White Oak Baptist Church in Greenville, S. C. Visitation is 7:00-8:30 p.m. Thursday evening, March 8, 2007, at Mackey Mortuary on Century Drive in Greenville. All are welcomed to both.

John Piper will not be preaching this weekend at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007. 2 a.m.

The big hospital clock in room 4326 of Greenville Memorial Hospital said, with both hands straight up, midnight. Daddy had just taken his last breath. My watch said 12:01, March 6, 2007.

I had slept a little since his last morphine shot at ten. One ear sleeping, one on the breathing. At 11:45, I awoke. The breaths were coming more frequently and were very shallow. I will not sleep again, I thought. For ten minutes, I prayed aloud into his left ear with Bible texts and pleadings to Jesus to come and take him. I had made this case before, and this time felt an unusual sense of partnership with Daddy as I pressed on the Lord to relieve this warrior of his burden.

Read the whole story.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Monday, March 12, 2007

MacArthur's Charges Against Amillennialism

My comments (as always) are in red:

<>Here is another Ironic moment in biblical teaching. While our Pastor Rusty is beginning his preaching on the book of Revelation, John MacArthur opened up the recent "Shepherd's Conference with a focus on eschatology.
He really let us Amillennial Calvinists "have it".

Below is a part of a posting by Kim Riddlebarger on his blog. And below that are some of the points that John Mac made which are posted on another blog:

This is where I have departed company with John MacArthur (whom I have the utmost respect and trust in almost all aspects of his teaching) because of his teaching or view of eschatology. One reason that I question his view, off the top of my head, is that it seems you would never have a dispensational view of the Bible if it weren't for the Schofield and Ryrie Study Bibles that had developed the 7 part grid to be applied to the Bible. Here are some questions that John Mac asked and answered:

In his message, MacArthur addressed (and answered negatively) the following four questions:

1. Were the writers of the Old Testament amillennialists? No

2. Were the Jews of Jesus time amillennialists? No

3. Was Jesus an amillennialist? No (cf. Acts 1:3, 6-7)

4. Were the apostles amillennialists? No (cf. Acts 3:19-21, 25; 15:15-17; Rom. 3:3-4; 9:6-8, 13; 11:26-29)

One of the things that stands out to me with the "Thousand year reign on Earth" would be that it seems like there would be people with "glorified" bodies living amoungst people on Earth with "fallen" bodies on a "fallen Earth".

I don't mind John MacArthur calling attention to the seriousness of eschatology, and questioning the "Amillennial" view. It challenges us all to dig in and make sure we know what we believe and why we believe it. This is certainly an area that I need to do more digging in.

I hope you enjoy this challenging post about eschatology.

Grace and Peace,
Chris
Coram Deo!!!


In the wake of John MacArthur's recent and unfortunate comments about amillennialism, a number of you have emailed me, asking some variant of this basic question: "I have a great deal of respect for Dr. MacArthur and am troubled by what he said." Some felt he raised serious issues and wanted immediate responses, while others were just plain angered and wanted ammunition to fight back.

Let me respond to this by simply reiterating some of the basic amillennial resources currently available--resources of which Dr. MacArthur is obviously not aware, or sadly, chose not to consult. I have already mentioned some of these books in my previous post, but now want to take to time to explain why these particular volumes are important, especially if you are troubled by Dr. MacArthur's comments.

In light of MacArthur's "five questions" (Click here: Pulpit Magazine » Blog Archive » Why Calvinism Necessitates Premillennialism), these are books that all parties interested in this topic must read. Those of you who are dispensationalists and claim to be "Reformed" this especially applies to you. Don't just take MacArthur's word as the "last word." See for yourself if what he said about amillennialism is true and whether or not his dispensationalism stands up under biblical scrutiny.

The first is Mike Horton's God of Promise (Click here: Amazon.com: God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology: Books: Michael Horton). Covenant theology is the glue which holds Reformed theology together. Covenant theology is not a product of medieval-Reformation scholasticism which is then mechanically imposed on the biblical text. Horton argues that covenant theology is Scripture's own internal skeletal structure. So, start here. Read Horton, and interact with his arguments and biblical evidence.

The second is my own A Case for Amillennialism (Click here: Amazon.com: A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times: Books: Kim Riddlebarger). I make the case that as a Christian, the Christ-centered New Covenant is the hermeneutical lens through which I must read all of Scripture (even the Old Testament). I am not a Jew. Christ and the Apostles tell me what the Old Testament means (in terms of how it reveals Christ in type and shadow). The New Testament tells me how Christ and his church fulfills the Old Testament covenant promises. I also deal with important biblical passages like Daniel 9:24-27, Romans 9-11, the Olivet Discourse and Revelation 20.

For the rest of Kim Riddlebarger's comments and other comments posted on his blog click on this link:

http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2007/3/10/a-quick-list-of-amillennial-resources-in-light-of-macarthurs-charges.html


Wednesday morning sessionIn the opening session of the Shepherds’ Conference, John MacArthur challenged the men to take eschatology seriously, noting that the end of the story matters. He further asserted that, of all people, Calvinists should be the most enthusiastic about premillennialism — because they take the doctrine of election and the biblical covenants so seriously. If God’s calling and covenants are irrevocable, then Israel necessarily has a future based on the Old Testament promises. To read the details of John’s message, please see Tim Challies’ report.

In his message, MacArthur addressed (and answered negatively) the following four questions:

1. Were the writers of the Old Testament amillennialists? No

2. Were the Jews of Jesus time amillennialists? No

3. Was Jesus an amillennialist? No (cf. Acts 1:3, 6-7)

4. Were the apostles amillennialists? No (cf. Acts 3:19-21, 25; 15:15-17; Rom. 3:3-4; 9:6-8, 13; 11:26-29)

To this could be added…

5. Were the earliest church fathers amillennialists? No (see below)

Eusebius (c. 275–339) regarding Papias (c. 60–c. 135): Papias, who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions. . . . Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.

Justin Martyr (c. 100–165): But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

Lactantius (c. 240–c. 320): Therefore peace being made, and every evil suppressed, that righteous King and Conqueror will institute a great judgment on the earth respecting the living and the dead, and will deliver all the nations into subjection to the righteous who are alive, and will raise the righteous dead to eternal life, and will Himself reign with them on the earth, and will build the holy city, and this kingdom of the righteous shall be for a thousand years.

Philip Schaff (1819–1893): The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgement. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius….

For those who were not able to attend the conference, this is definitely an MP3 you will want to get (even if you don’t consider yourself a premillennialist). The MP3s should be available online at http://www.shepherdsconference.org/ in a few days.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar - Part 5

You never know how someone is going to respond to the message of the Gospel. Remember the parable of the Sower/Soils. There are different responses to the Gospel, and it is up to God to change the heart. Jesus says we are called to spread the seed of the Gospel. Lets look at this final encounter with Nigel once again sowing seeds of the Gospel in Part 5 :
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Nigel drove toward church, knowing he was probably too late for the fellowship dinner that preceded the weekly bible study at his church. As he pulled into the parking lot, he sighed and his stomach rumbled. He knew that he'd definitely missed the meal when he spied Tom having his usual after-dinner cigarette at the back corner of the lot. He knew Mary and the kids would have eaten already anyway so, on impulse, he strolled over to talk to Tom instead of heading straight inside. Nigel prayed as he approached the man, “Father, I thank you for the abundant mercies you shower upon us in Christ. They truly are ‘new every morning’. Lord, I humbly ask that you would direct my conversations tonight, and that you would use me as I speak with Tom. I pray that your name would be praised, Christ would be exalted, and your Gospel would be embraced. Help me, Lord to be your ambassador”.
Nigel had a good bit in common with Tom. They usually had interesting and stimulating conversations during church gatherings and occasional friendly competition on the golf course. Tom and Nigel were both engineers and had even graduated from the same college – although some years apart. However, while he enjoyed their friendship, Nigel always felt that Tom was a bit guarded around him. Even though they had long been members of the same church, it seemed that when their conversations came around to faith, Tom would typically remain somewhat distant and abstract.
Coming up to Tom, Nigel gave the man a warm handshake. “How’s it going, buddy? Did you enjoy the meal tonight?”
Responding in a somewhat distracted manner, Tom commented, “Oh, yeah, it was fine, if you like fried chicken…”
“Oh wow, I do like fried chicken! I’m sorry that I missed it – I played in a soccer game with my brother’s team after work today, and it went a bit longer than I thought it would,” said Nigel. He noticed, as he was speaking, that Tom looked a bit distracted and distant, and he added, “By the way, Tom, how’s work going for you lately?”
Tom briefly hesitated, and then, with a shallow sigh of resignation, he responded “Well, actually, I found out today that I have been caught up in the nasty business of “corporate downsizing. I’ve been laid-off.” Nigel was stunned. Tom had an excellent reputation, and was well respected as a very good engineer.
“I’m really sorry Tom!” Nigel’s heart ached for the other man as he gently probed for more information, “Did they give you any kind of notice? Will they at least keep you on until the Whitestone project is finished?”
“Well, no. Actually, they plan to have the office in Lansford finish the design work. They say it just makes more sense from a ‘bottom-line’ point of view to thin out the office here.” Tom answered. “But I am grateful for the fact that they did, at least, offer a small severance package. It should be enough to hold us over until I can find another position.” Nigel could see Tom trying to be optimistic, without much success. His next words were more vulnerable. “It’s so frustrating, Nigel! This lay-off couldn’t have come at a worse time. Sometimes I really wonder why God would allow this! If God really loves us, like you’re always talking about, then why does this kind of thing happen?”
Nigel searched for the right words to say.
“Tom, the fact is that God truly does love us. But sometimes we get caught up in thinking that His loving us means that we shouldn’t have any pain or loss or trials or problems.” Nigel hesitated, searching for some common ground with the hurting man. The last thing Tom needed right now was someone preaching at him with a simplistic and unthoughtful answer to his problems.
“It’s an easy temptation to fall into – we’re all prone to think that we know what’s best for ourselves, and to suspect that God doesn’t love us if things don’t work out like we expect,” Nigel said. “But of course, you know there are lots of times when we simply can’t see what God is doing. Do you remember when your old company, Davis, Barnes and Dowling, went out of business? After you landed your new job, you told me that losing your old position was the best thing that could have happened! Tom, the point is that God is continually working things out for the best even when they seem the worst.”
Tom was looking off into the distance while contemplating the truth Nigel offered to him. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Nigel. I guess this is just part of living in this fallen world – like you’ve told me before. But it’s still hard to deal with.”
“Yeah,” Nigel agreed. “But we’ve gotta remember what Jesus said; ‘In this world you will surely have trouble, but do not fear for I have overcome the world…’”
Tom thought for a moment, then said, “I know, but sometimes I just wish God would make things clear, that He would give us the answers - that there wouldn’t be so many unresolved questions and conflicts.”
“Tom, I know that this might sound strange, but I wonder if there’s some good in the struggle you’re having with this. It seems that God may be working in your life, calling you to question much of what you had always accepted as truth. I know how difficult this can be – when everything you believed to be important and true suddenly becomes questioned and those things that seemed unimportant, like God and His word become the most critical. It may seem like your world is being turned upside down – and in a way, it actually is.”
Tom slowly turned to Nigel with a questioning look. “Did you go through these kinds of thoughts and questions too?”
“I believe that we all do at some point.” Nigel confessed.
Both men leaned back against Tom’s van and didn’t speak for several moments, dwelling on their discussion. Finally, Nigel said, “Hey, it’s getting late. Our wives are going to begin to wonder where in the world we are. Let’s go in and see if there’s anything left for dessert. Okay?”
“Sure Nigel – that’s fine, let’s go, said Tom. “But, I was wondering; if you have any spare time later this week, could we possibly grab some lunch? I’d like to get your thoughts on Innovative Design – that company over on Baxter Boulevard. They recently advertised for a senior engineer, and I thought I’d go over and see them. Didn’t your firm consult with them on several large projects last year?”
“We sure did Tom. I’d be glad to fill you in on their growth and planning objectives. How about lunch this Friday?”
“Sure, Friday would be great. And, if you have time, I’d also really like to continue this conversation about what in the world God might be doing, too.”
Nigel and Tom turned and walked toward the church building - they heard laughing and talking as they turned to enter. Nigel smiled as he walked silently beside the other man and prayed.
“Lord, thank you. You are abundantly loving and merciful – beyond measure and imagination. Your gospel is good news and you’ve shown me many opportunities to share bits of it today. Help me to continue to be hungry for Your Word and show me the ways I can grow in learning to communicate it clearly in whatever situations I find myself in. Help me especially to be Your ambassador as I rejoin my family tonight. I thank you in Jesus’ name, for all the ways you’ve blessed me this day. Amen.”

___________________________________________________________________

<<>>

I hope you enjoyed following along with Nigel in this encounter with people that may be similar to the people that we all know with similar attitudes towards the gospel and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you have a story of how you have been an "Ambassador for Christ" send me an email, I would be interested in hearing your story. > christopherallen@sbcglobal.net<

Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sharing the Gospel In The Everyday – A Narrative Exemplar - Part 4

Nigel found a "springboard" or opportunity in the topic of a popular movie to get the thoughts pointing to Christ, as we should for all of scripture and sometimes we can find ways to do that outside of the Bible to point people back to the "ONE". The One that the Bible is pointing to. Now, Nigel is reminded of the importance of the position of an Ambassador to the King in Part 4:

Later, as Nigel was wrapping up the last of his work, he found himself still marveling at the day's events. He thanked God for giving him these opportunities to be a vehicle of the gospel; especially with people he would have otherwise thought impossible to talk to about God. That phrase from II Corinthians had been going through his head all day: God making his appeal through us... "Incredible!" Nigel thought.

Straightening the last stack of papers on his desk, Nigel decided to give Mary a call before heading out for the day. He told her excitedly about how he'd ended up talking to Larry more about God and the Bible than he probably ever would have been able to if he'd just pushed for his "right" to hold a Bible study. He told her about the incredible lunchtime conversation with Sam and asked her to pray that both men would ask more questions, and that God would continue to open their hearts.

"Don't hurt yourself, Nigel!" his wife teased him, when he told her he had to get going to meet his brother Karl at the Sports Zone. Tonight was the first game he'd play with Karl's soccer team, and though he was happy he'd get to spend this time with his brother, he had to admit that he was a little apprehensive. It had been a long time since he'd played, and Mary's teasing warning was probably well worth taking to heart.

Driving to the soccer game, Nigel was delighted when he turned on his radio to find his favorite radio pastor preaching from the same II Corinthians passage he'd been reading that morning. He smiled and straightened his posture at the preacher's reminder that ambassadors carry the message of a king: that we carry the message of the King of Kings. "Incredible!" Nigel found himself thinking for the second time in less than an hour. Shaking his head, he said out loud, "Ambassador of the king – the King of Kings! Me! Incredible!"

He reached the Sports Zone and grabbed his soccer gear, feeling the apprehension again as he approached the sounds and smells of the other middle-aged men who were already working out on the soccer field: men drenched in sweat, heaving and gasping for air. He knew that very soon he'd be gasping himself.

"Here he is!" Nigel heard Karl's voice as he approached the other players. Karl introduced him and Nigel felt immediately more comfortable in the presence of his brother. While he was lacing up he cleats, he made small talk with Karl about their kids and families and remembered what a blessing it was to spend time with his older brother. He just wished that of all the things they shared in common, salvation were one of them. He wasn't sure about Karl's faith and it made his heart ache.

Karl's best friend Travis was starting in the game that day and came over to the bench. "Hey, Nigel! Great to see you! You can be my sub since we play a lot alike."

"Sound's great to me," said Nigel. He liked Travis and had known him for years. "But, hey, Travis, I forgot to ask: what's the name of this team?"

"The Fighting Llamas," said Travis with a grin that acknowledged that it was a ridiculous name for a men's soccer team.

The team won and Nigel enthusiastically congratulated his big brother for scoring the winning goal, even as he wondered just how sore his own calves were going to be in the morning, and what on earth he'd gotten himself into....

When Travis invited the whole team to the bar for a celebratory beer, Nigel looked at his watch and said, "Yeah, I can hang out with you guys for a few minutes, but then I've gotta run to meet Mary and the kids at Bible Study." He saw the knowing look pass between his brother and Travis, and wasn't surprised at the next teasing comment from Travis.

"Heck, we gave up all that stuff when we grew up, didn't we Karl? When we graduated from high school, we figured the parents couldn't make us do all that 'churchy' stuff any more." Travis winced as his brother grinned and nodded.

"Of course, we still try to do the 'Christian thing' from time to time... you know, we try to get along with people, and everything…" Karl chimed in, and Nigel's heart sank all the more to hear his brother equate being a "nice guy" with being a Christian…

When the group got to the bar, Nigel tried to reopen the subject in a way that made some authentic connection with the men. "Hey, by the way, Travis," he said. "I noticed you handled that foul by Number 20 really well! When he apologized for knocking you down, you accepted his apology right away!"

"Shoot, I've been in his shoes in the past," said Travis. "I know what its like to receive threatening looks for something you didn't mean to do. I figure that we could all use a little forgiveness from time to time."

"That's remarkable, Travis, are you sure you aren't going to church?" Nigel said teasingly. "I admit that's a better attitude than I've seen from some Christians I know. What's keeping you from going to church, anyway?"

"Oh, you know," said Travis, "I figure there can't really be a God with all the evil junk that goes on in this world. I just gotta do my best to try to do some good where I can, but I don't need a church to tell me that." Nigel could see Karl out of the corner of his eye. He was obviously listening intently as he fidgeted with his beer mug. He'd told Nigel in the past to lay off the "religious talk," but he didn't seem particularly offended right now as far as Nigel could tell.

"You're right, Travis," Nigel said. "There is a lot of evil in this world. But that's exactly why God had to send His Son." He saw Karl role his eyes, but he continued. "You actually made a good case for the existence of God, Karl."

"How so?" asked Travis.

"Well," said Nigel, "You indicated that there is 'evil' in the world. In order to objectively declare something to be evil, you also need to be able to know when something is 'not evil' or 'good.' I believe that sense of what's good and evil can only come from a good and moral God, who's made us to recognize such things."

Travis seemed to think about this for a bit, and then said, "Well, I have to admit I've never really thought about why I think there's such thing as good and evil."

Nigel decided to go a bit further.

"You know why I actually love to do the 'churchy' thing, Travis?" he said. "It's because I believe that the only way a truly good God could keep from wiping us out, would be to do what the Bible says He did. He gave his Son to live the perfectly good life that we couldn't live and die for our sins as a sacrifice we couldn't even begin to offer. The Bible says that 'He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.' That's what Grace is. When we trust God's goodness, and count on what He's done for us in Christ, instead of counting on the 'good' things we think we can do; we get the heaven we don't deserve and mercy that keeps us from the wrath we do deserve! I actually like doing the churchy things because, well, I guess because I'm just grateful…"

Nigel let his voice trail off and looked at Travis and Karl. They were clearly thinking, and he breathed a sigh of relief that they seemed to have actually been listening and hearing.

Glancing at his watch, Nigel stood up to go, but thought maybe it was worth a try to say: "You're welcome to join me, tonight, you know."

Karl spoke up, "I think I'm going to head on home. Tomorrow’s a busy day."

Nigel wasn't really surprised that his invitation to the Bible Study wasn't accepted. He was simply grateful that, once again God had given him an opportunity to speak to others about Him. He prayed, as he got in his car, for more opportunities with both Travis and Karl.

He didn't know the opportunity might come so soon. When he was just a few miles down the road, his phone rang and, to his surprise, it was Karl on the other end.

"I've been thinking about what you and Travis were talking about back there," his brother said. "Would it be OK if I met up with you at your church after all?"

"Of course, Karl." said Nigel, trying to keep his emotions under control. He could feel the tears starting to well up as he said "I'll meet you there in just a bit. Mary and the kids will be so glad to see you, too!"

"Incredible!" he said out loud, after he'd hung up the phone. "God making his appeal through us… Incredible!! Thank you, God, for allowing me to be an ambassador – to my own brother!"



To be continued...>>>