Current mood:hopefulA lot’s been goin on lately... a lot of shifting, a lot of fighting with myself more or less. Nicholas has been on vacation for the past week, and though I LOVE him being around, it’s forced us to have to deal with each other’s quirks more, and it’s been rather challenging. Marriage is hard work. It’s infinitely rewarding for those who stick it out, and infinitely distructive for those who don’t ride it out, but it’s worth it.
A friend of mine asked me recently what God has taught me through all that’s happened with Nicholas and I. I have been trying to stay in constant prayer lately, and before I knew it, I had a really long list of things that God has taught me through being married. I realized immediately that no matter what happens, we canNOT allow the outside world to corrupt us and our most cherished relationships. If we stay so focused on what’s wrong, how will we EVER reach for a resolution? No marriage can stay healthy if we each do not humble ourselves on a regular basis, EVEN if we think the other person is incorrect. For Nicholas and I, it’s been a season of constant trials, and most of them, sadly, have been with other professing Christians. We began to build walls up around our emotions and started allowing other people to dictate how we would speak (or listen) to one another. And the walls, as we found out, were very obviously, the result of not putting God first. We are two strong people when it comes to the Word and wanting it to be manifest as true and spirit-filled with love, moving in every aspect of our lives, and so when we butt heads, it’s hard, unless we just shut up and pray first, to really get anywhere. We are quick to forgive one another. We naturally, are not so quick to forgive the rest of the world. I suppose that’s part of the sinful nature of humanity: If someone hurts you, hurt them back. Don’t give them the satisfaction of you being hurt. Be the bigger man. (Old Testament eye for an eye doctrine). Christ did not come to abolish the laws of the Old Testament, but to fulfill them, and thus He said "Do not repay evil for evil, but repay evil with good, for if you repay evil with evil, are you not the very same as the sinners of the world? Even fools hate who hate them and even fools are kind to those who are generous to them." But we are called to a different standard: one of humility, and repentance, one of the breaking down of pride and of a peace that God provides, not for selfish use, but for prosperity through generosity to those who are UNDESERVING. We are all, unworthy. But God is gracious. They say "They will know we are Christians by our love" but to understand that and really explain that to people, is a rather highly offensive and controverial topic to embark on. The conclusion I have come to is this:
You can live your life the way you choose, and maybe it will be great. But, there is something better, and though it’s hard to walk it out, the man we are to embrace in our thoughts, spoken word and deed, is a man of perfect selfnessness. No, we will never be that, but if we are content with saying "Well you did this" and not doing what God has called us to in our OWN individual walks, what purpose do we serve? Do not burn yourselves out with ministering to the world before you ask God ferverently to search within your own heart, to shine a lazer beam with black light on any waste products in your soul, ask for Jesus to cleanse you, and walk out your days in faith, in truth, in love, in spirit, and..... be humble with one another, embracing all in the love of the Father we wish to be like.
Nicholas and I talked and prayed through this extensively, and we both fell into each other’s arms, wanting to be the best friend either of us could have ever asked for. Marriage is unity. If we are to be part of the body of Christ, who is the Bride of Christ, we shall be unified as well. Do your part before you try to change the world.
Current mood:adoredLord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Show me where my attitude and thoughts are not what You would have them to be, especially toward my wife. Convict me when I am being unforgiving. Help me to let go of my anger, so that confusion will not have a place in my mind. If there is behavior in me that needs to change, enable me to make changes that last. Whatever You reveal to me, I will confess to You as sin. Make me a man after Your own heart. Enable me to be the head of my home and family that You created me to be. Lord, show me how to really cover Nicole in prayer. Enable me to dwell with her, understanding, and give honor to her so that my prayers will not be hindered. Renew our love for one another. Heal any wounds that have caused a rift between us. Give me patience, understanding, and compassion. Help me to be loving, tender-hearted, and courteous to her just as You ask me in Your Word. Enable me to love her the way You do. Lord, I pray that You would bring Nicole and I to a new plae of unity with one another. Make us be of the same mind. Show me what I need to do in order to make that come about. Give me words taht heal, not wound. Fill my heart with Your love so that what overflows through my speech will be words that build up, not tear down. Convict my heart when I don’t live Your way. Help me to be the man and husband that You want me to be. (In Jesus’ name.)
(A few keys for those who don't want people saved in their altar calls)
- Present an unbalanced message. Only let them see the heart-warming part of God's character. Preach God's love but leave out His holiness and justice. That way they'll think He'll let them into heaven no matter what.
- Don't mention repentance until they're repeating a "sinner's prayer." Just get them to say, "I repent of all my sins" while they're echoing you. They won't know what they're saying and they won't count the cost.
- Above all else, be dignified. Don't get heart to heart with the people. They would get something out of what you said.
- Skim over the gospel and push the prayer. Pretend the lost naturally understand what Christ has done for them.
- Preach Jesus as a life enhancer not a life rescuer. Tell them how Jesus can improve their life but don't show them Jesus as the only One who can save them from Hell. People will think if they reject Him they're only losing out on a spiritual high.
- Try to please the people instead of convert them. Tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
- Compromise the message to speed up the process. The Christians who have heard it a hundred times before will be pleased with that. The quicker they get out the quicker they can get to the restaurant.
- Give them the impression that God is so good He won't send anyone to hell. Don't present the whole counsel of God or they might realize He is so good that He'll see to it that justice is served and that all unrepentant sinners will be punished in the fire that is not quenched.
- Speak to sinners as though they were saints. They'll think they're God's children instead of the enemies of God they've made themselves into because of their sin. You'll give them false assurance and mislead them.
- Don't mention sin or man's guilt. Resist the urge to explain what Christ came to deliver us from. Don't show them their need for the Savior. Otherwise it may all make sense.
- Don't look to the Bible for the substance of your altar call. Only mimic other preachers with large congregations.
- Tell the lost not to feel bad about their sins. That way you will work against the Holy Spirit who's convicting them
- Whatever you do, never mention Judgment Day. Your audience might take spiritual matters seriously.
- Tell them Jesus is the only way to heaven but don't explain why. They may think it's nothing more than fear tactics and leave offended instead of enlightened.
- Confuse the call. This is a great way to botch up an altar call. Don't let people know you're asking them to commit their life to Christ. Be vague and general in what you're saying. Neglect to mention following Christ in your evangelistic altar calls and say things like, "If you don't feel you're as close to God as possible raise your hand," "If you feel lonely come to the front for prayer," "If you want more of God this is your time," and, "If you have struggles and need the answer come down." Just get them to raise a hand. That way no one will be able to count the cost and you'll even get saints to respond to salvation altar calls, making the results look more successful.
- Only give them half the story. Tell them Jesus died to forgive everyone but overlook the fact that they must personally receive Him to partake of that forgiveness.
- Present the truth as though it isn't. Be so funny when you share Christ that you belittle the seriousness of the matter.
- Preach forgiveness without repentance. That way no one will know how to be forgiven.
- Be unbiblical. Present repentance and faith as an offer instead of how God does as a command (Acts 17:30).
- Let them think next Sunday is the day of salvation. Don't make them feel it's urgent to respond today.
- Never warn of hell. Dangle heaven in front of their nose but rarely mention hell, certainly not as much as Jesus did.
- Only do altar calls inside the church. Never take the gospel where sinners congregate. The lost might get saved.
- Use churchy terms. Use words like, "saved," "repent," and "born again," without any explanation. That way your hearers won't comprehend what you're saying. If they can't understand it, it's probable they won't be changed by it.
- Give false assurance of salvation to unsaved Christians. Assure church folk that they are saved even if they bear no fruit. So that you don't offend the unsaved pew warmers never quote 2 Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." You could lose some financial supporters and have to depend on God.
- Never mention the wrath of God. If you mention it, people might be awakened to flee to Jesus who "saves us from the wrath to come." ( 1 Thess. 1:10)
- Study how the apostles preached and witnessed and do the opposite. Don't explain Jesus' suffering death on the cross. Otherwise they may think of running to Him for forgiveness. Don't speak of His burial or resurrection or they might realize He is God. Refrain from commenting about the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. That way they can go on thinking He's a fairy tale. Overlook talk of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled or they might realize that the Bible is true. If they see it's the truth they may see that following Christ is the logical decision. And whatever you do, avoid what the apostles did when it came time to call people to obey the gospel. Don't tell them to trust Christ and live for Him. That is too accurate. If they know how to get saved your altar call will be a success.
- Put more emphasis on the "sinner's prayer" then on repentance and faith. Satan will smile over your departure from Biblical instruction. We are never taught to use a 'sinner's prayer' throughout the entire Bible. If you decide to use it and put more emphasis on the technique than on what we're commanded to preach: faith and repentance you'll certainly botch things up. A 'sinner's prayer' doesn't equal salvation, only faith in Christ and repentance toward God do.
- Let Christians think you're the only one who can do it right. Always leave the impression that they should only invite friends to church and never actually witness themselves. It will keep you in business and the lost unsaved.
- Don't let the lost know they are. Disregard subjects like Judgment Day, God's holiness, man's sinfulness and justice. That way the lost can continue to think they're "good enough" to get into heaven.
- Rely upon psychological techniques to manipulate people into responding to the altar call. Don't rely upon the Holy Spirit or they may actually get saved.
- Make sure you're the main attraction. Remember the goal in botching up an altar call is for people to leave and say, "What a wonderful preacher," instead of, "What a wonderful Savior." Draw all possible attention to how great a speaker and person you are. Otherwise people might see Christ in your preaching and get saved.
- Don't focus upon Jesus. Finally, the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.
Adapted from Becoming an Emissary for God by Allen Atzbi