Monday, April 30, 2007

Spiritual CPR


I preached the following sermon at Morningstar Christian Chapel, on Sunday, April 29. You can download an extended version of this sermon, if you prefer to listen to the audio.

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Passage: Mark 1:16-18

“And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”

Introduction

Christians around the world are looking for ways to re-ignite a spiritual life that has grown stagnant. Many professing Christians have lost the zeal they once had. Their desire to spend time daily in the Word of God has waned. They don’t pray, as they should. They don’t give, as they should. They don’t serve, as they should. And they don’t share, as they should. They find no joy in their relationship with Christ. To tell someone that they are Christian is no different than telling someone that they are Italian, or German, or French, or Scandinavian.

Granted, for many professing Christians around the world the problem is that they are unregenerate. They are not saved. They are false converts. They are rocky ground hearers who, at some point in their lives, gave an intellectual assent to the truths of Jesus Christ, but they fell away the moment any kind of affliction came their way. They continue to call themselves Christians, as if occasional church attendance or a prayer uttered at a low point in their life has somehow made them right with God.

But why is it that those who are genuinely saved lack joy and zeal, particularly when it comes to evangelism? Why, particularly here in America, is the church so spiritually lazy, and seemingly unconcerned with the death and eternal destination of the myriad of lost people around the world? I think one of the reasons the Christian walk leaves so many men and women appearing as no more than a dead person is this. They are in need of spiritual CPR.

During my twenty years in law enforcement, I have been called upon to perform CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) a few times. The first time was about sixteen years ago. I was new to patrol. My training officer and I received a “shots fired, assault with a deadly weapon call.” When we arrived, the suspects were gone and a young man lay barely clinging to life in the driveway. He had been shot in the chest—an apparent victim of a drug-deal-gone-bad.

I dropped to my knees to check for signs of life. He was not breathing and he had no pulse. I ordered a bystander who was a friend of the victim to begin breathing for the man, while I administered compressions to his chest. I frantically pumped on the man’s chest. I will never forget the sound of his ribs cracking under the pressure I was applying to his body. With each compressive thrust to his chest, I watched the man’s life’s blood slowly flow from his body.

Paramedics soon arrived and took over the life-saving effort. It was to no avail. The man died there in the driveway.

In a career filled with intense moments, that winter evening so many years ago is forever etched in my memory. I will never forget performing CPR on that young man who died before my eyes. And as I look out at you, and as I talk to Christians in other churches and on the streets, I see many people in need of spiritual CPR. Why is that? Why do I see some of you here this morning, and far too many Christians around the world this way?

The reason is this. When it comes to evangelism, when it comes to reaching lost and dying people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, too many Christians lack a heartbeat. When it comes to having a love for people bound for hell, too many Christians have no pulse. When it comes to having a love for people bound for hell, too many Christians have stopped breathing. This is evidenced by the fact that they are not pushing any air across their vocal cords to speak to people about the only One who can save them from the wrath of God to come.

The primary function of God’s church, and therefore the primary reason of existence on earth, for each and every true follower of Christ is not fellowship. It is not personal or corporate Bible study. It certainly is not self-preservation. The reason the Lord has not returned to take His Church home is because there is still work to do. And that work is evangelism. There are two things Christians will not be able to do in heaven—sin and evangelize the lost. For in heaven, there will be no sin, and there will be no lost people.

So, this morning we are going to perform a little spiritual CPR. Returning to our passage in Mark, we are going to use the acronym CPR this way. In this passage we find a command to obey, a promise to believe, and a response to give. Look again at Mark 1:16-18.

“And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”

A Command to Obey

The “C” in our CPR acrostic is a “Command to Obey.” And the command in our passage in Mark should be quite obvious. Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

In considering what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me,” many thoughts probably come to mind. While Jesus attaches this command to several different activities throughout Scripture, there is but one purpose for the command. Jesus’ command to follow Him is a command to do what He came to do.

Jesus said this about His purpose for being in the world. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). While Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, and taught the people, all of these activities were merely aspects or fruits of His primary purpose. His primary purpose was to save lost people.

Listen to the words of Jesus’ first sermon, which we find immediately preceding this morning’s passage. “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Herein lies His purpose for humbling Himself to take the form of human flesh. That purpose was to call lost people to repentance and faith in Him, and then to die on the cross and rise again in order to make their salvation possible.

John Piper wrote this: “Therefore, when [Jesus] demands that we follow him, he means that we join him in the task of gathering: ‘Whoever does not gather with me scatters’ (Luke 11:23). There are no neutral followers; we either scatter or gather. Following Jesus means continuing the work he came to do—gathering a people in allegiance to him for the glory of his Father.”[i]

What a powerful statement Piper makes. “There are no neutral followers; we either scatter or gather.” Are you gathering today? If not, then you are doing more than just simply sitting on the sidelines. You are actually helping to scatter. You are actually helping to perpetuate the unbelief of lost souls by your indifference and complacency.

Jesus’ command to follow Him is not only a command to follow His evangelistic example. It is a command to follow in His footsteps—to follow Him where He went. And the last steps taken with His human feet upon the dirt of this sin-stained world were taken upon a place called Golgotha—the place where they would nail Him to a cross and crucify Him.

If you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must be willing to give up your profession. Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John away from their nets. He called Matthew away from his tax collecting business. He called the rest of His disciples away from whatever their vocation may have been.

If you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must be willing to give up your most treasured, earthly possessions. Consider the rich, young ruler. “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (Mark 10:21).

If you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must be willing to give up your relationships with other people—even your family and friends. “Another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61-62).

Now, listen carefully. I am not saying that you have to quit your job, or sell your house and your car, or leave your family behind to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And doing any of those things certainly will not save you, for it is by grace we are saved through faith. I am saying that you must be willing to do these things and more, if through your God-given conscience, you are called upon by our Lord to do so. If you are not willing to give up everything to follow the Lord Jesus Christ you cannot be His disciple.

Hoping that I’ve made myself clear, I need to go a step further. Not only should we be willing to give up the creature comforts and pleasing relationships of this life, we must be willing to give up our very lives to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We must be willing to suffer and die for Him in order to be counted among His true followers.

Again, listen to the words of John Piper. He wrote, “Continuing the work [Jesus] came to do even includes the suffering he came to do. Following Jesus means that we share in his suffering. When Jesus calls us to follow him, this is where he puts the emphasis. He knows he is heading to the cross, and he demands that we do the same.”[ii]

The book from which I have quoted John Piper is What Jesus Demands from the World. In the margin of the page from which I drew the last quote, I wrote this question. “Can American Christians handle this?”

I believe true converts, genuine followers of Jesus Christ can handle it. Why? Because we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. But no false convert will truly follow Christ to the point of sharing in Christ’s suffering.

This may come as a shock to you, but I actually pray for the persecution of the American Church. Why? Because it will be through persecution, through testing by fire, through living in a place where it actually costs something to be a Christian that the true Church will be revealed.

When I worked patrol on a regular basis, I loved to work the graveyard shift. The reason I liked working those early morning hours is because it was much easier to spot a bad guy driving down the street. When I worked day shift it was much more difficult, because there were so many cars on the road, so many people on the street. Everyone seemed to blend in with everyone else.

It was much easier late at night to discern between a couple coming home from dinner and a movie, and a couple who was planning on breaking into cars and houses. The same will be true when persecution comes to the American Church. It will be much easier to discern between true and false converts, because the only people left in the church, when persecution comes, will be people who truly obeyed Jesus’ command to follow Him.

If we are genuine followers of Jesus Christ then we must willingly take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Jesus also said, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38).

No one is worthy to be counted among Jesus’ disciples. We cannot earn or deserve the free gift of everlasting life He extends to those who, by faith, repent of their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. That being said, only those who take up their cross daily and deny themselves—who are willing to face and experience physical death for the cause of Christ (which is to see lost sinners saved), are counted among His disciples. And only His true disciples will see heaven.

The apostle Paul knew this when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The first step in spiritual CPR, the first step in reviving an otherwise lifeless walk with Christ, is to obey Jesus’ command to follow Him. Are you doing that this morning?

A Promise to Believe

Having given His disciples a command to obey, Jesus then gives them a promise to believe (the “P” in our C.P.R. acrostic). Jesus said, “I will make you become fishers of men.”

Have you ever wondered why Jesus employed a fishing analogy to describe evangelism, to describe fulfilling the Great Commission? Well, one reason could certainly be that He was talking to fishermen, so he employed word pictures to which they could relate. I love the way our Lord painted with words—His Word!

While the reason just mentioned is valid, I think there is more to it than that. Listen to what the Prophet Isaiah wrote. Isaiah 57:20-21 says this:

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’

When Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men, He may have been simply continuing the word picture He painted through one of His prophets. The implication is this. In order to be actively engaged in evangelism, in fishing for men, you must go to where the fish (lost people) are. You must take to the sea.

Fishermen head out to sea because they have no chance of catching fish from the couch in their living room. They can’t catch fish by standing on the dock waving to other fishermen who have taken to the sea.

Likewise, Christians have little chance of reaching lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ from the comfort and relative safety of their homes. And we will not catch any fish if we remain huddled within the comfort of our church, or Sunday school classes, or fellowship groups—waiting for the fish to jump into a boat that is tied to the dock, so to speak.

The ocean fishing industry, such as sword and crab fishing, is traditionally one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. But every season, fishermen take to the sea. For many it is an occupation. For many it is a source of income. However, there are other ways to earn a living—safer ways to earn a living. Most fishermen, however, take to the sea because they love fishing. They are passionate about fishing. They weep at the thought of not being able to fish.

And so it should be with the Christian when it comes to evangelism. Instead of trembling in fear because of what you perceive to be the inherent dangers and risks associated with evangelism, you should weep bitter tears at the thought of not following Christ Jesus by reaching the lost with the gospel.

Many of you are hearing what I am saying and, right now, you are thinking: Tony. I can’t. I don’t know how. I have a hard time memorizing Scripture. What if I’m asked a question I can’t answer? I’m not good at talking to people. I have a hard time starting conversations with people I know, let alone with people I don’t know. I want to learn. I wish it was as easy for me as it seems to be for you. I’ve tried in the past—really I have. It’s just too hard for me.

If you are thinking this way, or close to it, I want to say something to you. And I say this because I care about you. Yours is not an issue of fear. Yours is an issue of faith. When will you set aside your fear and begin to live by faith?

Don’t you believe the Word of God? The Bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline [or sound judgment]” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Don’t you believe the Word of God? The Bible says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Don’t you believe the Word of God? The Bible says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Don’t you believe the Word of God? The Bible says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3).

Don’t you believe what Jesus says in the passage we are studying this morning? Or have you just missed it. Jesus does not say that you will become fishers of men, if you follow Him. No! He says, “I will make you become fishers of men!”

Maybe you are afraid of evangelism because you realize your own inadequacies. Good! The moment following Jesus becomes more about what you can do for the Lord instead of what He has already done for you and, by His great power, what He can and will do through you, you become useless to Him. The moment you think it is about you instead of Christ, He might as well take you home, because any service you give to Him will be sullied by your sinful pride and arrogance.

Maybe you are thinking that you cannot do enough to make yourself an effective ambassador of Christ, an effective witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Good! Very good! There is nothing you can do to make yourself an evangelist. Yes, you can and should do the work of learning how to do evangelism; but it is the Lord who will give you the heart of an evangelist—a heart that is desperate to see lost sinners saved. Listen again to what Jesus said. “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

The inevitable and glorious result of true submission to Jesus Christ is seen in what he will make you. He will make you a person who desires seeing unsaved people drawn to repentance and faith. And it will be more than a warm feeling of praise and thanksgiving in your heart when you hear stories about how other people are reaching the lost.

If you will submit to Jesus Christ and follow Him as He commands, He will make you like the fishermen past and present who long for the sea, even with its dangers and mystery—who long to go fishing and catch fish because of their love for fishing and the sea. He will make you a person who wants to share the good news of Jesus Christ with lost people, whether they are friends, family, co-workers, or total strangers. You will love to fish for men so much that it will not matter to you what kind of fish you catch, or where you are fishing.

A Response to Give

Jesus gives each of us the command to follow Him. He then promises to make us what He wants us to be—namely, fishers of men. To complete our efforts in performing spiritual CPR, let’s now take a look at the response we are required to give.

To learn how we should respond to Jesus’ command to follow Him, and to learn how we should apply to our own lives the promise Jesus made to those who follow Him, all we have to do is look at the response the disciples gave and do the same. Mark 1:18 says, “And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”

The word “immediately” is correctly translated from the Greek text. It can also be translated as the phrase “at once.” Peter and Andrew did not hesitate to obey Jesus’ command and believe the promise. They followed Him at once.

What I love about this verse is its simplicity. There is no room for gray-area thinking. So, don’t waste any of your time or brain cells trying to figure out if your particular situation somehow exempts you from following Peter and Andrew’s lead in responding to Christ’s command to follow Him.

We really don’t need to spend much time on this. When should you follow Jesus Christ? When should you take up your cross and follow Him? When should you take up your cross and follow Christ, and do what He came to do, which was to call people to repentance and faith? Immediately. Right now. At once. To do otherwise, to even hesitate in your obedience, is to sin against God. James makes this clear to us. It’s one of my favorite verses. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

The Scripture says that the disciples immediately left their nets. Probably the most important word in this verse is the word “left.” It is translated from the Greek word aphiemi (af-ee-ay-mee). It is used many times throughout the New Testament.

For instance, the word is used in Luke 4:39 to describe stopping something in its tracks.

"And standing over her, He [Jesus] rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them."

It is used in a similar way in Revelation 2:4.

"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

So have you left your nets to follow Jesus Christ? What in your life is more important to you than obeying the command of your Savior to drop whatever you’re doing to follow Him?

What is more important to you than to obey Christ’s command to follow Him in what He came to earth to do, which was to call people to repentance and faith, through the proclamation of His gospel—the good news that He would suffer and die on the cross taking upon Himself the punishment for the sins of man, and then three days later He would rise again forever defeating death?

Hear what Jesus said! We find it in Matthew 11:37-39. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”

What nets in your life are you unwilling to immediately drop in order to obey the One who has given you the gift of eternal life? Your job? Your family? Your friends? Your time? Your personal comfort? Your reputation? Your safety?

Is it that you think you don’t have to obey the Lord’s command to follow Him? If that’s the case then, according to Jesus, you are not worthy of Him. If you are unwilling to follow Him and obey Him, then the likelihood is that you do not belong to Him. The likelihood is that you are not saved. If this is you, stop looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, thinking He is your God. The truth is that your god is whatever you are unwilling to sacrifice in order to obey the Lord you profess to know and worship.

Is it that you don’t believe the promise that He will completely equip and empower you to do what He wants you to do? If that’s the case, if you don’t believe Jesus will do in you what He promises to do, then how can you look in the mirror and say, “I belong to Jesus. I’m a Christian.” If you don’t believe His promise to make you a fisher of men, do you really believe in Him at all? Do you really believe that He has saved you?

I cannot answer these questions for you.

If you do believe the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ—the promise that He will make you fishers of men, then you have but one choice. You must, out of faith and obedience, respond as the disciples did. You must follow Him immediately, with a genuine love for God and a love for others that is expressed through your active participation in bringing the gospel to lost people bound for hell.

Conclusion

There are times when we can all use some spiritual CPR. CPR, rightly applied, is done with considerable force. In order for CPR to be effective, the rescuer must depress the victim’s sternum 1 ½” to 2”. As I experienced all those years ago when I performed CPR on the dying man in the driveway, CPR can sometimes result in the victim receiving a few cracked ribs. But better to have a few cracked ribs and live, than not receive CPR and die.

There might be some of you here this morning feeling like a few of your spiritual ribs have been cracked. I hope you understand that this spiritual CPR has been performed on you in order to help you, not to hurt you. Hopefully the spiritual CPR you received today has reminded you that you have a command to obey, a promise to believe, and a response to give. Hopefully, in the process, your spiritual heartbeat and breathing has been restored, especially as it pertains to evangelism.

When a victim is revived as a result of CPR, they often have a new perspective on life. They often come away from the episode with a new appreciation for life and a greater determination to live life the way they should. My hope is that we will all come away from God’s Word this morning more determined than ever to live in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command to follow Him, more confident than ever in His promise to make us fishers of men, and resolved to drop everything and anything in order to respond obediently to His command.

Gospel Presentation

For some of you here this morning, the situation is more desperate. You are the dying man in the driveway. You have been shot in the heart with a high-powered round. It is called sin. Like the young man who lay dying in the driveway all those years ago, who was shot because he was involved in a drug-deal-gone-bad, you, too, are a Law-breaker. You have broken God’s Law.

See for yourself. Answer the following questions honestly?

Have you ever failed to put God first in every aspect of your life?

Have you ever committed idolatry by creating a god of your own imagination—one who will overlook sin and will not judge those who break His Law?

Have you ever taken God’s name in vain—taking the name of the God who has given you life and used His holy name to express disgust or flippant or careless excitement?

Have you ever dishonored your parents through your disobedience and disrespect?

Have you ever committed murder in your heart by harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, and hatred in your heart toward another person—all the while justifying it by saying and believing the person has it coming to them for what they’ve done to you (real or perceived)?

Have you ever committed adultery in your heart by lusting after another person?

Have you ever stolen from others? The value matters not.

Have you ever told a lie? Coloring them white matters not. Labeling them as fibs matters not.

And have you ever coveted by wanting things that do not belong to you—by being jealous of the “haves” and by longing to disassociate yourself from the “have nots?”

Maybe hearing this you are thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not that bad. I’m only guilty of breaking a few of God’s commandments.” Before you breathe a sigh of relief and self-confidence, hear what the Word of God says. “For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

The Bible also says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). That young man in the driveway all those years ago likely had no idea that evening would be his last on earth. The same is true for each of us. No one knows the exact date and time of their last breath. That being said, the time to get right with God is not when you are standing before Him waiting to be judged. Like a criminal standing before a judge in a human court, on that day you will receive the just punishment for your sins against God. You will receive justice as He sentences you to eternity in hell. God must do so because He is holy, righteous, and just. He is a good God who will not leave the guilty unpunished.

The Bible says this. “For the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).
The Apostle Paul gave us this clear warning when he wrote to the Christians around Galatia. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forwarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

But there is hope for you. There is good news. While you sit there in your seat, bleeding to death from the mortal wound of sin, God has provided the only way of escape from His just wrath to come.

Two thousand years ago God came to earth to perform CPR of another kind. God came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect, sinless life. And He went to the cross, suffering a horendous, bloody death in order to take upon Himself the death sentence that is rightly yours. He paid the penalty you deserve for every time you have broken His Law in thought, word, or deed. And three days later He rose again, forever defeating death; and He is alive today.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

If you are here this morning and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you now realize that if you were to die today in your sins you would spend eternity in hell as the just punishment for your sins, and the thought of such a horrible, eternal existence concerns you, then hear and obey what the Lord Jesus Christ said. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). And listen to what the Apostle Paul said. “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Cor. 6:2b).

I beg you to repent. I beg you to turn away from your sins. Confess them before Almighty God and beg for His forgiveness as you never have before. By faith, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Ask Him to save you and to be the Lord and Master of your life. Do it today, while you still have time.

The promise is that when you stand before the God who gave you life, instead of receiving what you deserve, which is eternity in hell; you will receive what you don’t deserve, which is His grace and mercy and the gift of eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

And to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ: there is one more thing I want to tell you.

When I had finished giving the young man in the driveway CPR, my hands were covered in his blood. My training officer immediately grabbed me by the wrists and escorted me into the house; where he washed my hands in the sink. He was concerned that I would contract AIDS, hepititis, or some other communicable disease, because I came in contact with the man's blood.

I must admit to you that sixteen years ago I was more concerned about getting the man's blood off my hands, than I was with where he would spend eternity. The fact that He was standing before the holy and righteous God of the universe meant less to me than cleaning my hands. I thank God that He has brought me to the place where I now care more about where people will spend eternity than the thought of getting my hands dirty. My hope is that you will be willing to get your hands dirty for the cause of Christ--to see lost sinners saved. My hope is that where people will spend eternity will be more important to you than keeping your hands clean.

[i] Piper, John. What Jesus Demands from the World, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), p. 70.
[ii] Ibid. p. 70.

An Open Letter to a Christian High School

I sent the following letter to a Christian school after witnessing abhorrent behavior by some of the school's baseball players, at a local restaurant. I have removed the name of the school in this edition, in order to give the school anonymity, until they respond to my letter (if they do).

To the Leadership of ________ Christian School:

An Open Letter:

My name is Tony Miano. I serve as the director of Ten-Four Ministries, which is a missionary organization. I am a retired, 20-year law enforcement veteran. I am writing this letter to express my deep disappointment and genuine concern regarding the deplorable behavior of some of your students, which I observed on Saturday, April 28, 2007.

My 12-year-old daughter and I were enjoying dinner at In-n-Out Burger, in Santa Clarita, at approximately 5:20 pm, when the _______ Christian baseball team entered the restaurant. The players (and coaches) were wearing various elements of their baseball uniforms, which included navy blue T-shirts that had “_______ Christian Baseball” printed on the front, and Scripture verses printed on the back. According to the baseball team’s schedule, they likely stopped at the restaurant during their return drive to ________, following a day of baseball at ________ High School.

When my daughter and I finished our meal, we made our way to the front of the restaurant. My daughter stopped to use the restroom, so I waited for her on a bench, in the lobby area. As I sat waiting for my daughter, I watched as a few of your players began to pull down the shorts (to the ankles) of other players. The players seemed to find great humor and pleasure in the activity. They did not seem to care that there were ladies present, of various ages, in the restaurant. I am glad that my little girl did not have to witness the behavior of your players.

I watched the behavior for a couple of minutes before quietly asking (not wanting to bring more embarrassment than they already had brought to themselves and your school) a few of the players if they could tell me what part of their behavior was Christ-like. I explained to them that I thought their behavior was a poor witness.

Most of the players ignored me—except for one. This player, with a touch of sarcasm and disrespect in his voice, announced that although he attended a Christian school, he was not a Christian—as if, somehow, that fact justified his deplorable behavior. He quickly changed the subject, asking if I had seen his receipt, which went missing after his shorts were pulled down around his ankles.

Seeing how the players involved had no concern for their sinful behavior, I spoke to one of the coaches. When I explained to him what I had witnessed, he showed little visible concern and simply said he would talk to the players. Wanting to give the coach the benefit of the doubt, my hope is that he did talk to the players. But frankly, considering how poorly some of your players behaved in a public restaurant, with such wanton disregard for the fact that they were walking “Christian” billboards in their uniforms, it causes me to question not only the character of the players, but also the leadership of the team.

I understand that not all who attend “Christian” schools are born again followers of Jesus Christ. I understand that there are many false converts within the Church and the “Christian” culture. However, the conduct of some of your students has, in my mind, sullied the reputation of your school. Sadly, I had not heard of your school before seeing the sinful behavior of your students. The first impression was not a good one.

Of far greater offense than the assault on my own heart and mind, was the offense against my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How offensive it must have been to my Lord to see young men wearing “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” on their shirts while acting so contrary to His Word and His character.

Some of the players on your baseball team likely served as excuses for others in the restaurant to remain in their unbelief, as they watched the hypocritical behavior of young people who professed to be Christians, through their school clothing—as they saw yet another example of professing Christians who looked no different than the unsaved world around them.

I do hope this letter, written with care and concern, finds its way into the hands of the leadership of the school. While what I saw from your baseball team that Saturday evening may have been an isolated incident (and I hope it was); I hope you see that you do have significant character issues within the ranks of your baseball program. And I hope that appropriate, God-honoring steps will be taken to correct the problem.

I am praying for your school, your baseball program, the players involved in this embarrassing situation, and the one player who proudly proclaimed his unbelief.

Respectfully, and with the care of a brother in Christ,

Chaplain Tony Miano
Director of Ten-Four Ministries

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mission Trip to Chippewa Street

Ty, Mike, Nora, Dru, Matt, Amanda (my youngest daughter), a couple of folks from Dru's WOTM Basic Training class, and I made a one-evening mission trip to Chippewa Street, in Sylmar (CA). The reason for the trip is shown in the above picture. More than 100 people gathered to worship in front of an apparition of a cross, in a bathroom window. (See The Chippewa Cross article for background information.)

I brought the Way of the Master video camera, hoping to film conversations with people--conversations regarding their feelings about the apparition. Initially, it appeared that we would strike out. No one wanted to be interviewed. I think part of the problem was some very real cultural barriers. (Most of the people present were Hispanic.) But we persevered and the Lord provided. By the end of the evening, the team had distributed Spanish tracts to most of the people present, and we had several good, spiritual conversations.

The first person in front of the camera was a young lady named Desiree. Her brother had told her about the cross in the window. She said that she got in her car without knowing the exact location of the house. She believed the light led her to the house on Chippewa Street. Desiree, with an almost euphoric tone in her voice, called the cross in the window a miracle.

I took Desiree through the Law and the Gospel. She was not humbled by the Law, a trend that would continue throughout the evening.

Next to be interviewed was a young lady named Paulette. Contrary to Desiree, Paulette was skeptical about the source of the cross in the window. When I transitioned the conversation from the cross in the window to her personal beliefs, she told me that she believed people come back, as a different person, after they die. When I labeled her beliefs as reincarnation, she said she didn't believe in reincarnation. Confused? So was I.

I asked Paulette how she came about her beliefs regarding the after-life. She said it was what she had been taught by her rabbi. It was when I explained to her that the Hebrew Scriptures do not teach reincarnation that she told me she was a follower of the Kabbalah religion.

Paulette and I then had a brief but interesting conversation about the name of Jesus, whom she referred to as "Yeshua." Click here to listen to my conversation with Paulette. Like Desiree, Paulette was not humbled by the Law.

My last conversation of the evening was with Frederick. Frederick was standing a noticeable distance from the activities at the house where the cross in the window was located. He held his beautiful 18-month-old daughter in his arms.

Early in the conversation, Frederick affirmed his belief in God's existence by pointing to the birth of his little girl. But that's where his biblical theology ended. Frederick had violated the second of the Ten Commandments by creating in his mind a god who would judge sin, but not too harshly. His god would not require faith in Christ alone for salvation, opening heaven's doors to "good people" who were practitioners of other religions. As was the case with the others, Frederick was not humbled by the law.

It was sad to talk to people so steeped in their religious traditions built upon self-righteousness. It was sad to watch more than a hundred people worship in front of an altar erected to the Virgin Mary, which was set up in front of the bathroom window. It was sad to see the people form a line from the front door of the house to the street, in order to take a tour of a small bathroom. It was sad to think of these sincere, religious people standing before the Lord only to hear Him say, "Depart from Me; I never knew you."

That being said, our mission trip to Chippewa Street was anything but a loss. Seeds were sown. Gospel tracts were distributed. People heard the truth spoken in love. And a small group of born-again Christians obeyed Christ's mandate to preach the gospel to a lost and dying world, while stepping into a religious and ethnic culture that was not their own.

Join us in praying for the lost people who are gathering everyday to worship beneath a luminous cross, in a bathroom window. Pray that the real Light will draw them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone, for their salvation.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mouths are Closed in Burbank

"Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:19-20).

Time and time again I have seen the truths of this passage come alive in conversations with unsaved people. Our time in Burbank this evening was no different. Mouths were closed tonight--not by our team's ability to win arguments, but by simply applying the Law to unregenerate souls, in a lawful way (see 1 Timothy 1:8).

In the above picture, my friend, Mike, and I are seen talking to Max and Jonathan. To his credit, Max recognized the fact that he was a false convert. He told me that at one point in his life he made a profession of faith, but later fell away. He referred to himself as agnostic, citing his belief that a good God shouldn't judge those who are trying to do good.

Listen to my conversation with Max and Jonathan to see how the Law of God quickly overcame Max's objection.

Another conversation I had tonight was with Celeste and Samantha--two 13-year-old girls who were handing out near the movie theater. Both girls go to a private, Catholic school. They both readily admitted that they were not good people. Celeste, however, came up with an interesting justification for breaking God's Law. She said that she only violates the Ten Commandments in order to help people.

Listen to how the Law, biblically applied, closes this young girls mouth and helps her to realize that she is without excuse.

The entire team engaged people in conversation tonight. Many people heard the Law and the Gospel. Some were humbled, some were not. But many seeds were planted. All in service to and for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Chippewa Cross

Apparition - (ap-pa-ri-tion) n. - 1. a ghostly figure; a specter. 2. a sudden or unusual sight. 3. the act of appearing; appearance.

The above photo is being called an apparition by some. Yet by others it is being called a naturally occurring phenomenon, caused by a combination of light and an imperfection in the glass. Still others are calling it a miracle of the Lord. This is not the first instance of a cross appearing in a glass door or window. There are documented accounts of similar apparitions in Coachella, CA (2002), and Thermal, CA (2005).

I took this photo this afternoon, at the home of Manuel and Maria Mireles, of Sylmar, CA. In fact, if you look closely, you will see my reflection in the window. Hearing from a friend in church (who lives on the Mireles's street) that large crowds gathered around the window to see the cross, I thought it could be a rare and wonderful opportunity to share the Law and the gospel with people who were mesmerized by, even worshiping, an apparition. My mission today was simply to do a little recon, with the hope of bringing a team of evangelists to the street during the weekend.

When I walked onto the driveway of the modest Chippewa Street home, I was greeted by a man named Areal. Areal was atop a ladder, doing some repair work on the house's rain gutters. I asked Areal if he was the homeowner. He shyly said that he was not. He said he was a friend of the family.

I told Areal that I had heard about the cross in the window, and out of a sense of curiosity I came to see for myself. He smiled, telling me that many people come every day to see the cross. Areal came down from the ladder and excused himself, saying he was going to get the homeowner.

A few moments later, Areal came back out of the house with Maria Mireles behind him. Maria was soon joined by her husband, Manuel. I explained to the couple that I was with a Christian radio station called Way of the Master. I asked them if I could conduct a taped interview with them regarding the cross in their window. They declined to be interviewed on tape. Maria said that they were trying to be very careful not to draw too much media attention. It appeared that the Mireles's were following the counsel of the local archdiocese, of the Roman Catholic Church.

Although they did not wish to be interviewed on tape, they were friendly and eager to share with me the story of what they called "the luminous cross." According to Mr. and Mrs. Mireles, the cross first appeared on Palm Sunday, of this year. They have lived in the house for twenty-eight years, but have never seen anything like the cross in the window.

Mrs. Mireles invited me into her home. She escorted me to the bathroom where the window was located. Inside the bathroom was a small floodlight. It seemed out of place in the small bathroom. Mrs. Mireles told me that at night the cross can be seen not only in the window, but outside the window, in the driveway, whether or not the light in the bathroom is on.

I gently asked Mrs. Mireles what she thought was the source of the light. She believes it is a miracle from God. She told me stories of people who claimed to be healed emotionally and physically after seeing the cross. She told me the story of an architect who came to the house to drop off blueprints. After seeing the cross, he suddenly became aware of his sinfulness and his need to change his life. The architect also said that his wife was now willing to go to church for the first time.

Mrs. Mireles also showed me the display/altar on the dining room table. Atop the table was a statue of Mary, about 3' in height. Also on the table was a cardboard display containing a series of photos. Some of the photos were of the cross in her bathroom window. Yet others were of the appearance of a cross, in the glass door, of a Coachella home. The fact that other such apparitions have appeared in other homes only bolster Mrs. Mireles' belief that the cross in her window is a miracle from God.

According to Mrs. Mireles, as well as others I talked to who live on the street, large crowds of people gather every night, at 7:00 pm, to pray the rosary in front of the window.

I thanked Mr. and Mrs. Mireles for talking to me and for inviting me, a stranger, into their home. They seem like a very sincere, unassuming, gentle couple. As I walked out of the house, a crowd began to form. Several families stood in the circular driveway captivated by the cross in the window. I saw cars stopped in front of the house, with the gaze of the occupants transfixed on the cross in the window. I watched as an investigator gathering information--making mental notes while remaining emotionally detached. But then something happened that broke my heart.

I watched as a family of three slowly walked down the sidewalk, toward the house. I believe they were walking slowly for two reasons. The youngest member of the family, a little girl, couldn't have been more than five years old. The other reason was that the mother of the family was, I assumed very ill. She was bald and her features were gaunt. She very much had the appearance of someone in the midst of a cycle of chemotherapy.

More than the sickly appearance of the mother, it was the demeanor of the little girl as the family walked away from the cross in the window that broke my heart. She was weeping very bitter tears. She didn't want to leave the cross. Her parents had to literally pull her away from the window and physically escort her down the street. There seemed to be no consoling this little girl.

Seeing the distraught little girl, and watching all the people shuffle up to the window and gaze at it, snapped me back from taking in the sights and sounds to focusing on the mission--not that of an investigator, but that of an evangelist.

So, what is the image in the window? Is it a miracle from God? Is it something that is occurring naturally, due to the combination of the glass in the window and the lighting in the bathroom? Or is it something else? Could it be something sinister--evil? Could it be this?

"No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). While I do not believe it is a miraculous sign from God, I also do not want to look for Satan under every rock. So, I cannot say with certainty what is the origin of the light, in the window. What I do know is that hundreds of spiritually-minded, religious, and likely lost people are making short pilgrimages to see the cross on Chippewa Street. What better place to proclaim the truth! What better place to bring the Law to the proud and grace to the humble!

I will gather a team of evangelists to make not a pilgrimage, but a missionary trip, to Chippewa Street, on Saturday night. Our tactic will not be to attack the validity of the apparition. Rather, we will use the apparition as a springboard into conversations with people who are already thinking spiritually. I hope to capture many of the conversations on tape and video.

So, please pray for us. Pray that we will be bold, yet gentle witnesses, on behalf of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray that the Lord will use us to lovingly present the Law and the Gospel to lost and dying souls. Pray that the Lord will choose to glorify Himself, by drawing people to genuine repentance and faith in Christ.

I hope to post a report following our mission trip to Chippewa Street.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fishing on Hollywood Boulevard



This video was put together by Leon Brown, with The Evangelism Team. It chronicles our recent evangelism trip to Hollywood Boulevard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Way of the Master Radio (04-24-07)

It was another great day of "street fishing," with Way of the Master Radio. I know I say that often, but it is true. Even on the days that don't go so well (which are rare), it's still a great blessing to be allowed to go fishing for men. But today was an exceptional day, and I thank God for it.

Today, Marissa (my daughter) and I spent our time on the campus of College of the Canyons. Marissa and her sister, Michelle, attend the college. It was a beautiful, Southern California afternoon, with lots of young people milling about the campus.

Our guest for the first hour of the show was Chris. Chris is a 19-year old student athlete. He is on the College of the Canyons track team, specializing in the long jump and the triple jump. Chris was a very thoughtful young man. He was both polite and introspective.

When I first contacted Chris, he admitted that he really had no idea what happens to people when they die. And, as most people do, he professed to be a "good person." What made Chris's views interesting was the fact that he would later claim to be a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. One would think that if a person was sure of their salvation they would know where they were going to spend eternity. But that wasn't the case with Chris.

My follow-up conversation with Chris focused on helping him to understand that he could not work his way to heaven. Chris spoke repeatedly of the things he planned to do to get right with the Lord--all of which were laudable enterprises. But he didn't talk about repentance and faith.

Finally, I asked Chris if he was born-again, if he had ever truly repented of his sin and put his trust and faith in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. He said he had, but I must say that I wasn't convinced. Of course, I could be wrong. Why don't you listen to our conversation and let me know what you think.
Kat was our guest for the second hour. And it is conversations like the one I had with this personable young lady that, in part, fuels me to go out everyday hoping and praying to share the gospel with someone--anyone.

Kat is a broadcasting major who hopes to establish a career in the radio industry. She has a Catholic background but, admittedly, does not "practice" her faith.

Kat's conversation with Ray and Todd had a significant impact on her. She told Todd that no one had ever talked to her the way they did.

As much as I would love to write about my conversation with Kat, I would much rather have you listen to the conversation. When I asked her about the impact the conversation was having on her, with a quiver in her voice she said, "I don't want to go to hell."

I thought Kat was going to repent and receive Jesus Christ right there, on the cool grass, under the shade of a tree. If you listen closely to the end of our conversation, you will, I hope, understand why I do not lead people in a "sinner's prayer." I believe the Holy Spirit was clearly at work in this young lady's heart. However, it was also clear that Kat was not quite ready to repent and submit herself to the lordship of Jesus Christ. So, instead of prematurely leading her in a prayer, I prayed for her.

Will Chris and Kat come to genuine repentance and faith. I believe they will. I certainly hope they will. I can believe with hope because my trust is in the sovereignty of God, not in my ability to convince people to believe as I do. I am simply a seed sower--a fisher of men. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest and He will fill the nets.

Today was one of those days when I looked to heaven and said, "Lord, I can't believe you allow me to serve you this way."

I am utterly unworthy, but oh so thankful.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Saturday Afternoon at Burbank Town Center

I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Burbank Town Center, with Leon, Lin, Ty, and Mike (pictured to the right). John and Justin dropped by and spent a couple of hours with us. During a 4-hour period, through open-air preaching and one-to-one and small group conversations, we shared the Law and the gospel with a couple hundred people. We also recorded quite a bit of video, some of which I hope will be acceptable and useable for the third season of the Way of the Master television show.

Our team was small yesterday, and traffic through the public square was light, but everyone on the team stayed busy, with plenty of people to engage in conversation. Leon joined my in open-air preaching. Mike began the afternoon with one of the toughest skeptics we talked to all day. Ty and Lin manned the cameras, with Lin engaging several people in conversation.

As for me, I talked to a thoughtful yet skeptical law student that said, “I want to believe.” The difficulty he had was in trusting the reliability of Scripture.

I asked him how he determined the reliability of the law books he reads for his classes. He told me that he listens to others who have read the books, comparing the books to other texts, comparing what he reads with what he hears from his professors, and testing what he reads against his experiences. So, I talked to him about the thousands of pieces of manuscript evidence, with copies as close as 100 years of the original writings; the fact that new archaeological discoveries further validate the truth of Scripture every day, but no such discoveries have invalidated Scripture; and the evidence of the tens of millions of people whose lives have been changed by following the Bible’s clear teaching of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, for salvation.

The young man walked away realizing that he could no longer hang his skeptical hat on the unreliability of Scripture, which left him even more concerned about his eternal destination. However, he was genuinely thankful for the conversation.

I talked to a professing Christian who found the use of the Law in evangelism to be offensive. When I presented her with the “Three Minutes to Live” scenario, all she could tell me was to believe in Jesus and confess him with my mouth. When I told her I didn’t believe in Jesus, she gave up. She simply said, “Well, God bless you.” Even though I was dying, she couldn’t bring herself to warn me of what I was about to face, as I stood before God. I would later learn that she believed baptism was required for salvation. Her inability (or lack of desire) to articulate the gospel, plus her belief that the work of baptism is necessary for salvation, led me to believe that I was talking to a false convert who may never come to genuine repentance and faith (Hebrews 10:26-31).

I talked to a young, married couple that, our of curiosity, approached me to take a couple of humorous intelligence tests and the “Good Person Test.” As I took the young man through the courtroom analogy, after he appeared very humbled by the Law, he put his hand on my shoulder and confessed that he and his wife were new Christians who are being baptized tomorrow! Unlike the professing Christian, these new followers of Christ found the use of the Law to be fascinating and effective, and they were hungry to learn more about this biblical evangelism principle.

I talked to a group of three teens, all from different ethnic backgrounds. One of the three expressed no concern about dying and standing before God on Judgment Day—that is, until I used the Virginian Tech massacre to show him that he really did value his life.

I looked at the young man and said, “It’s last Monday morning. You are an engineering student awaiting classes to begin in Norris Hall. You hear screams and gunshots. What would you do? Would you hide under a desk, or would you stand in front of the gunman and say, ‘shoot me?’”

The young man admitted he would hide from the gunman. I then posed the question if he would seek to protect his physical life, shouldn’t he be even more concerned about his soul, about where he will spend his eternal existence. He conceded the point. I went on to share the gospel with all three, since they all showed concern about facing God on Judgment Day.

I talked to a teen that is a regular visitor during our Friday night outings. He wanted to know how he could get out of a ticket if stopped by the police. I think I finally helped him to realize that where he will spend eternity is infinitely more important than his driving record.


I was able to put a copy of Take Up The Shield into the hands of three Burbank police officers that walk through the public square. And I had one quickly moving heckler, during a session of open-air preaching, who simply stomped by shouting over and over again, “You’re an idiot!” It was a good day. Thanks be to God for each and every opportunity each of us had to share the Law and the gospel, with lost and dying souls.

Eagle Court of Honor

This afternoon, I gave the following address during my friend, Seth Axen's, Eagle Court of Honor ceremony.

~~~~~

I was honored when Seth called and asked me to speak, today. And I was not surprised when Seth asked me to craft a message around Isaiah 40:31, which says this. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Only 5% of all Boy Scouts rise to the rank of Eagle Scout. My friend, Seth, today joins some 1.7 million scouts who have risen to this superior rank, since 1912. His achievement is worthy of recognition, and I’m, proud of you, my younger brother.

As Seth well understands, the eagle is not only a symbol of superior scouting. Nor is it simply the symbol of our nation’s strength. The eagle, one of God’s miracles of creation, epitomizes both strength and weakness in the spiritual realm.

The eagle is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is mentioned in physical terms. The eagle is used both figuratively and symbolically. For example, the eagle is used to describe an attacking army rebelling against the Law of the Lord. Hosea 8:1 says, “Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.”

The eagle is used to illustrate an important theological point found in Obadiah 3-4. Here, the prophet uses the picture of an eagle building a nest high in the cleft of the rocks to illustrate how arrogant it is for man to think that he can remain beyond the reach of God’s holy and righteous judgment. The passage says, “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’ Though you build high like the eagle, though you see your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.”

The eagle is used symbolically by the Apostle John, in Revelation 4:7-8, to describe a beautiful scene in heaven, in which those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, through repentance and faith in Him, gather around the Throne of God to worship.

The passage reads: “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’”

And, in Isaiah 40:31, the Eagle is representative of the end result of waiting upon or hoping in the Lord. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” So, what does it really mean to wait on the Lord—to put your hope in Him? This is what the apostle Paul had to say.

“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Hoping in the Lord means that you trust Him and Him alone to lift you up—to support you, as it were, with a strength that can only come from the Lord Himself, like the strength exhibited by the soaring, outstretched wings of an eagle. It means that even during the most negative circumstances in life your trust in Him is such that you find your contentment—not cause for complaining—in Him, no matter what the world or the people therein may throw at you.

If your hope is in the Lord then you will patiently wait for Him, recognizing that your own weaknesses are yet another opportunity for the Lord to renew both your physical and spiritual strength. When, by faith, you hope in the Lord you can agree with the apostle Paul and say, “Even though I am weak, I am strong—strong as an eagle soaring high above.”

But hope in the Lord is not a sentimental or superstitious belief, nor is it merely an encouraging rally cry. Hope in the Lord carries with it real and eternal consequences. One can only hope in the Lord, if one truly knows the Lord. And to know the Lord is not a superficial knowledge about Him. Rather, to know the Lord is to know Him intimately and personally, as both Lord and Savior.

The apostle Peter had this kind of personal relationship with the Jesus Christ. So, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was able to write the following about hope in the Lord:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-6).

But before any of us can live with such a hope, before any of us can wait on or hope in the Lord to renew our strength, we must turn away from being like the eagle mentioned in Hosea 8:1 who has come against the house of the Lord, through our violation of His Law. For we have all broken His Law (The Ten Commandments).

Who among us, with any sincerity of heart, can say that we have not lied, or stolen, or taken His holy name in vain, or disobeyed our parents, or committed murder in our heart through our animosity and bitterness toward people? And as Jesus’ half-brother, James teaches us, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Like the eagle mentioned in Obadiah 3-4, we have all, at one time or another, put ourselves higher than God, through our disobedience of His Word. We have all, at one time or another, arrogantly ignored or disbelieved the fact that God is a righteous Judge who owes us nothing but righteous punishment in hell, for the sins we have committed against Him.

Not only is God holy, righteous, and just, but He is so very good and kind. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

So, what is required of us? We must believe and obey what Jesus said. We must “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). For if we are to be as one with renewed strength, mounted upon eagles’ wings; if we are to run the physical and spiritual race set before us without tiring; if we are to one-day be like the eagle mentioned in Revelation 4, worshiping at the throne of Almighty God, in heaven; then we must turn away from our sin and, by faith, put our trust and hope in Jesus Christ alone to save us.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3, 7).

Seth is an Eagle Scout because of the many tasks he has completed, because of the various community services he has performed, and because of the exemplary character he possesses. But Seth can also rightly say that he is mounted up on eagles’ wings—a young man with strength-renewed everyday—not because of what he has done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for him, through His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. Seth understands and believes that it is “by grace [he has] been saved through faith; and that not of [himself], it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that [he may not] boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As an Eagle Scout who is selflessly other-minded, and as a follower of Jesus Christ who puts the Lord first in his life, I believe that while Seth will humbly receive your recognition for his accomplishments, he would prefer that everyone gathered here receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Seth, I congratulate you on your accomplishment. May the Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless you in all you do, as you seek His face and obey His Word. Serve Him well as an Eagle Scout, and continue to put your hope in Him as He renews your strength and carries you on eagles’ wings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three Minutes to Live and a New Birth


I have been so very blessed to serve as a "street fisherman," on Way of the Master Radio. Each week, I am allowed to serve Christ and share His gospel, by convincing people to get on the phone with Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, and Todd Friel. After the phone conversations, I have the opportunity to affirm that which Ray, Kirk, or Todd said to the person, during follow-up conversations.

I can say with all sincerity that today's "street fishing" opportunity was, to date, the most amazing. I was allowed to watch God work in an extraordinary way.

As so often happens, I had about a minute until I was due to go on-air, and I had yet to find someone to put on the phone. I had received a few rejections (even after offering people a free lunch at "In-n-Out Burger"), and the traffic at the mall was light. Then, I saw a young man walking toward me.

I introduced myself to Israel and assured him that I didn't want to sell him anything. I told Israel that I was with WOTM Radio and I was looking for someone to put on the radio to talk about the spiritual ramifications of the massacre, at Virginia Tech University. Israel told me that he was a Christian. When I asked him if he considered himself to be a good person, his answer took me by surprise.

When I ask the "good person" question, I usually receive one of two answers. The person will either proclaim their own goodness (usually an unsaved person), or they will say that they are not a good person, explaining that they have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (usually a saved person). Israel's answer, however, was different. He said, "Well, if God judges me based on the Ten Commandments, I think I'm going to hell."

We walked outside the mall and sat down on a bench. While I waited for my segment of the show to start, I learned that Israel is a 2-year veteran with the Los Angeles County Police Department. (The Los Angeles County Police Department has jurisdiction over all of the county parks and hospitals.) At this point, I recognized that Todd and Ray were eavesdropping on our conversation, so I gave my phone to Israel.

Ray talked to Israel for a few minutes. You can listen to their conversation, here.

Once Israel was off the phone, I still wasn't sure about his spiritual condition. So, I took him through the Law and the gospel. The turning point in the conversation was when I put Israel in a hypothetical situation. In the scenario, the two of us were patrol car partners. We stopped a vehicle and shots rang out.

In order to find out what happened next, you will just have to listen for yourself.

What God did next was, well, amazing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech


By now, many of you are aware of the massacre that took place today, on the campus of Virginia Tech University. As I write this, at least 32 people are confirmed dead, and at least 28 wounded/injured. The incident is already being called the worst shooting in United States history.

It goes with out saying that we should all be on our knees in prayer for the wounded and their families. It goes without saying that we should all be on our knees in prayer for the brave men and women of the first responder community who answered the call. But let us not miss the opportunity we have at this critical moment to serve and glorify Christ. Romans 8:28 is true, even on a day as tragic as today. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes."

Even in the wake of such horrific terror and carnage, God remains sovereign. God remains holy, righteous, and just. God remains merciful and kind. God remains good.

The good that can come from this tragedy is this. Men and woman around the world may be brought to their knees in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But let us not forget. "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things'" (Romans 10:14-15)!

Will you sit glued to the television, radio, or computer today absorbing bad news? Or will your heart break for the unsaved to the point that you will find lost people with whom to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

Should we pray? Yes! We must pray. But we must also go! We must go into all the world, onto our high school and college campuses, into our malls, and maybe into the living rooms of our own homes, and preach the gospel. We must take this tragedy and use it as the impetus for conversations with fellow students, friends, co-workers, family members, and strangers. This incident will be transfixed in the hearts and minds of people all over the world, for days and weeks to come.

We must love people enough to use this tragedy to bring them the only good news that will save their lives. We must lovingly, with great compassion and care, help people to understand what kind of eternity they will face, apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Millions of people around the world are likely contemplating their own mortality, right now. Many people are likely gripped with fear as they contemplate facing a death similar to that faced by the innocent victims on the Virginia Tech campus. We must lovingly tell them what Jesus told His disciples. "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

"Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Please, go tell someone. Please, go tell someone.

(The above photo, and others, can be found at: http://abcnews.go.com/US/popup?id=3045907&content=&page=2)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hollywood Boulevard Outreach


Pictured above are members of the team that participated in an outreach, on Hollywood Boulevard, Saturday afternoon. Brothers and sisters in Christ, from nine different churches, from Frazier Park to San Diego, sharing the common bond of a love for Jesus Christ, a love for lost souls, and a commitment to the biblical proclamation of the Law and the gospel, worked together to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to hundreds of people.

Some of the highlights of the day included Anthony (a high school senior) and Chris open-air preaching. Anthony has preached open-air, on his public high school campus. Saturday marked the first time Chris had every open-air preached. Both did a great. Leon, who leads a San Diego based ministry called The Evangelism Team, closed the day with a very good open-air session. When I wasn't preaching or engaging people in conversation, it was a great blessing to watch members of the team distributing tracts and sharing the gospel with people on the boulevard.

I open-air preached three or four times, and talked to dozens of people in one-to-one and small group conversations. The Lord allowed me to share the gospel with two, young marines on liberty and people from several different walks of life.

You can listen to some of the conversations, at the following links:


And here are some photos from the day's evangelism.














Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Way of the Master Radio (04-10-07)


Our guests for today's show were Joelle and Justin. Joelle was first up. She seemed to be a very nice lady. She works for Princess Cruises. She considers herself to be a good person and she believes that people will either go to heaven or hell. Interestingly, Joelle shared with me that both her father and her boyfriend profess to be atheists.

As I do every week, I prayed for Joelle as Ray Comfort took her through the Law and the gospel. She let out the typical nervous chuckle as she admitted to breaking God's Law. But her demeanor changed a bit as Ray talked about judgment and hell. Her eyes became watery and a look of concern formed on her face. I could tell she was taking the conversation seriously. Praise God for His Word!

I only had a few brief moments with Joelle, following her conversation with Ray. She needed to rush off to get her lunch, before heading back to work. She agreed to read the copy of How To Live Forever Without Being Religious I gave her. Pray that Joelle will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Justin (our 2nd-hour guest), by contrast, did not take his conversation with Ray seriously. He didn't really believe he would come back someday as a squirrel. He just wanted to be goofy on the radio.

There were a couple of times, during his conversation with Ray, that Justin looked at me and whispered, "He's preaching to me."

"Then pay attention!" I said.

Once Justin was off the phone, I took the opportunity to take his friend, Denise, through the "Good Person Test," the Law, and the gospel.

When I asked Denise if she knew that looking at someone lustfully is the same as committing adultery with that person in her heart. She didn't believe me. So, I pulled my New Testament out of my back pocket, opened it to Matthew 5:27-28, and asked Denise to read the passage aloud. It was great to see her eyes open wide as she read the Word of God.

Prior to going on-air, I learned that Justin had been beaten up a couple of nights ago, at a party. If you look at the above picture, you will notice a long scratch on his right cheek and a bandage across the bridge of his nose. According to Justin, twenty-five guys beat him up when he tried to defend Denise's honor. Based on my training and experience handling party brawls, let's just say I think Justin was embellishing a bit.

As you will hear in the audio of my conversation with Justin and Denise, I used the fact that he might not survive the next party brawl to express the urgency of their spiritual condition. By the end of the conversation, Justin was a bit more quiet and reflective. I still don't know if he was at all humbled by the Law, but Denise appeared to be. As you pray for Joelle, please pray for Justin and Denise to come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Another good day of fishing!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Take Up The Shield Project


Take Up The Shield (Genesis Publishing Group, 2005) has been commended by Evangelists Ray Comfort and Bill Fay.

"If more Christians had a zeal for the lost and a passion for God that Tony possesses, we would have revival. I not only admire him as a man of God, but I am honored to call him a friend. His helpful book will encourage many to "take up the shield of faith." ~ Ray Comfort

"I read Take Up the Shield in one sitting. It's solid biblically, has great personal stories, and is a must-read for anyone in law enforcement or for people who want to understand that they also put on a 'uniform' every day." ~ Bill Fay

The goal of the Take Up The Shield Project is to put this book into the hands of every police officer in the United States, and beyond. The hope is that the book will be an encouragement to Christian officers and a means for putting the gospel into the hands of non-Christian officers.

The Take Up The Shield Project is led by Captain Travis Yates (Tulsa PD). Travis has put together a volunteer team of officers, chaplains, and pastors. In the last two months, the team has put the book into the hands of approximately 2,000 Oklahoma officers.

The project is going beyond Oklahoma's borders and reaching officers in California, Arkansas, Alabama--with churches and departments in other states expressing interest in bringing the book to their officers. Churches in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington, Colorado, and Ontario (CAN) have presented the book to officers as gifts, during Officer Appreciation Services. Law enforcement fellowships around the country have used the book as a Bible study.

The Chaplain Corps for the Porterville Police Department (pictured to the right) has come up with a great idea for distributing the book to new officers. During the department's academy graduation ceremony, the Chief of Police presents each graduate with their uniform badge. The Officers Association presents each graduate with their flat badge. Beginning with the next graduating class, the chaplains will present each graduate with a copy of Take Up The Shield.

Help us bring the Take Up The Shield Project to your area. Join the team as a volunteer. Or you can make a tax-deductible donation to the cause.

With your help, we will reach the mission field that is the law enforcement community, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Way of the Master Radio (04-03-07)

Today was a day of extremes. My conversation during the first hour of the Way of the Master Radio show went very well, with the two young men with whom I spoke appearing to be humbled by the Law and open to the gospel. My conversation during the second hour of the show, however, was an exercise in intellectual calisthenics, with two young ladies who were anything but humbled by the Law.

Terrance talked to Kirk Cameron during the first hour of the show. The above photo shows the back of Terrance's T-shirt. Terrance was a 16-year-old who was visiting his friend Matt, during "spring break." Terrance presently lives in Nevada. Terrance and Matt were personable young men.

Once Terrance got off the phone with Kirk, we talked about the conversation. I told Matt that Kirk took Terrance through the "Good Person Test." I asked Matt if he would like to give it a shot. This gave me the opportunity to present the Law and the gospel with Matt; and it gave Terrance an opportunity to hear it again.

Both young men understood the Law and the gospel and they seemed to appreciate the conversation. Considering Terrance's shirt, I gave both Terrance and Matt a copy of You Have The Right To Remain Silent.

As we parted company, I asked Terrance and Matt to carefully consider what they heard today.

If you would like to listen to my conversation with Terrance and Matt, click here.

Jackie took the phone during the second-hour "street fishing" segment. She was with a friend whose name I never learned. It was clear that her conversation with Todd did not go well. The first thing she said when she got off the phone was, "Christianity is false!"

What followed was a half-hour conversation with Jackie and her friend that was adversarial from start to finish. The conversation never turned hostile, but neither of the ladies would budge from their self-righteous, unbiblical positions.

This was a typical circular, quasi-intellectual conversation. Each time I answered one of the ladies' objections, they simply ignored at and moved on to their next objection. We discussed a myriad of topics: "The Big Bang," evolution, creation, other religions, the Bible, and lesbianism--just to name a few.

I tried to end the conversation more than once, but the ladies always seem to have "one more thing to say." While navigating the intellectual mine fields, I was able to present the Law and the gospel to these two confused, lost young ladies.

If you would like to listen to my conversation with Jackie and her friend, click here. (Warning: Jackie's friend uses an expletive during our conversation.)

Another good day of fishing. Please pray for Terrance, Matt, Jackie, and her friend.