Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011: From Charles Spurgeon

A Christmas Question, By Charles Spurgeon. Preached on December 25, 1859.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."—Isaiah 9:6.

ON OTHER OCCASIONS I have explained the main part of this verse—"the government shall be upon his shoulders, his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God." If God shall spare me, on some future occasion I hope to take the other titles, "The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." But now this morning the portion which will engage our attention is this, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." The sentence is a double one, but it has in it no tautology. The careful reader will soon discover a distinction; and it is not a distinction without a difference. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." As Jesus Christ is a child in his human nature, he is born, begotten of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is as truly-born, as certainly a child, as any other man that ever lived upon the face of the earth. He is thus in his humanity a child born. But as Jesus Christ is God's Son, he is not born; but given, begotten of his Father from before all worlds, begotten—not made, being of the same substance with the Father. The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remaineth among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look, nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite: if we could understand him, then were he not divine. Jesus Christ then, I say, as a Son, is not born to us, but given. He is a boon bestowed on us, "For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world." He was not born in this world as God's Son, but he was sent, or was given, so that you clearly perceive that the distinction is a suggestive one, and conveys much good truth to us. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given."
This morning, however, the principal object of my discourse, and, indeed, the sole one, is to bring out the force of those two little words, "unto us." For you will perceive that here the full force of the passage lies. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." The divisions of my discourse are very simple ones. First, is it so? Secondly, if it is so, what then? Thirdly, if it is not so, what then?

I. In the first place, IS IT SO? Is it true that unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given? It is a fact that a child is born. Upon that I use no argument. We receive it as a fact, more fully established than any other fact in history, that the Son of God became man, was born at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. It is a fact, too, that a Son is given. About that we have no question. The infidel may dispute, but we, professing to be believers in Scripture, receive it as an undeniable truth, that God has given his only begotten Son to be the Savior of men. But the matter of question is this: Is this child born to us? Is he given to us? This is the matter of anxious enquiry. Have we a personal interest in the child that was born at Bethlehem? Do we know that he is our Savior?—that he has brought glad tidings to us?—that to us he belongs? and that we belong to him? I say this is matter of very grave and solemn investigation. It is a very observable fact, that the very best of men are sometimes troubled with questions with regard to their own interest in Christ, while men who never are troubled at all about the matter are very frequently presumptuous deceivers, who have no part in this matter. I have often observed that some of the people about whom I felt most sure, were the very persons who were the least sure of themselves. It reminds me of the history of a godly man named Simon Brown, a minister in the olden times in the City of London. He became so extremely sad in heart, so depressed in spirit, that at last he conceived the idea that his soul was annihilated. It was all in vain to talk to the good man, you could not persuade him that he had a soul; but all the time he was preaching, and praying, and working, more like a man that had two souls than none. When he preached, his eyes poured forth plenteous floods of tears, and when he prayed, there was a divine fervor and heavenly prevalence in every petition. Now so it is with many Christians. They seem to be the very picture of godliness; their life is admirable, and their conversation heavenly, but yet they are always crying,—

"'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his or am I not?

So does it happen, that the best of men will question while the worst of men will presume. Ay, I have seen the men about whose eternal destiny I had serious questioning, whose inconsistencies in life were palpable and glaring, who have prated concerning their sure portion in Israel, and their infallible hope, as though they believed others to be as easily duped as themselves. Now, what reason shall we give for this foolhardiness? Learn it from this illustration: You see a number of men riding along a narrow road upon the edge of the sea. It is a very perilous path, for the way is rugged and a tremendous precipice bounds the pathway on the left. Let but the horse's foot slip once, and they dash downwards to destruction. See how cautiously the riders journey, how carefully the horses place their feet. But do you observe yon rider, at what a rate he dashes along, as if he were riding a steeple-chase with Satan? You hold up your hands in an agony of fear, trembling lest every moment his horse's foot should slip, and he should be dashed down; and you say, why so careless a rider? The man is a blind rider on a blind horse. They cannot see where they are. He thinks he is on a sure road, and therefore it is that he rides so fast. Or to vary the picture; sometimes when persons are asleep, they take to walking and they will climb where others will not think of venturing. Giddy heights that would turn our brain seem safe enough to them. So there be many spiritual sleep-walkers in our midst, who think that they are awake. But they are not. Their very presumption in venturing to the high places of self-confidence, proves that they are somnambulists; not awake, but men who walk and talk in their sleep. It is, then, I say, really a matter of serious questioning with all men who would be right at last, as to whether this child is born to us, and this Son given to us?
I shall now help you to answer the question.

1. If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem's manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child. All who have an interest in Christ are, in the fullness of time, by grace converted, quickened, and renewed. All the redeemed are not yet converted, but they will be. Before the hour of death arrives their nature shall be changed, their sins shall be washed away, they shall pass from death unto life. If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion. Only men who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs. "But" saith one, "how am I to know whether I am born again or not?" Answer this question also by another: Has there been a change effected by divine grace within you? Are your loves the very opposite of what they were? Do you now hate the vain things you once admired, and do you seek after that precious pearl which you at one time despised? Is your heart thoroughly renewed in its object? Can you say that the bent of your desire is changed? that your face is Zionward, and your feet set upon the path of grace? that whereas your heart once longed for deep draughts of sin, it now longs to be holy? and whereas you once loved the pleasures of the world, they have now become as draff and dross to you, for you only love the pleasures of heavenly things, and are longing to enjoy more of them on earth, that you may be prepared to enjoy a fullness of them hereafter? Are you renewed within? For mark, my hearer, the new birth does not consist in washing the outside of the cup and platter, but in cleansing the inner man. It is all in vain to put up the stone upon the sepulcher, wash it extremely white, and garnish it with the flowers of the season; the sepulcher itself must be cleansed. The dead man's bones that lie in that charnel-house of the human heart must be cleansed away. Nay, they must be made to live. The heart must no longer be a tomb of death, but a temple of life. Is it so with you, my hearer? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you.

But I put another question. Although the main matter of regeneration lies within, yet it manifests itself without. Say, then, has there been a change in you in the exterior? Do you think that others who look at you would be compelled to say, this man is not what he used to be? Do not your companions observe a change? Have they not laughed at you for what they think to be your hypocrisy, your puritanism, your sternness? Do you think now that if an angel should follow you into your secret life, should track you to your closet and see you on your knees, that he would detect something in you which he could never have seen before? For, mark, my dear hearer, there must be a change in the outward life, or else there is no change within. In vain you bring me to the tree, and say that the tree's nature is changed. If I still see it bringing forth wild grapes, it is a wild vine still. And if I mark upon you the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah you are still a tree accursed and doomed, notwithstanding all your fancied experience. The proof of the Christian is in the living. To other men, the proof of our conversion is not what you feel, but what you do. To yourself your feelings may be good enough evidence, but to the minister and others who judge of you, the outward walk is the main guide. At the same time, let me observe that a man's outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. Have you ever seen two jugglers in the street with swords, pretending to fight with one another? See how they cut, and slash, and hack at one another, till you are half afraid there will soon be murder done. They seem to be so very much in earnest that you are half in the mind to call in the police to part them. See with what violence that one has aimed a terrific blow at the other one's head, which his comrade dexterously warded off by keeping a well-timed guard. Just watch them a minute, and you will see that all these cuts and thrusts come in a prearranged order. There is no heart in the fighting after all. They do not fight so roughly as they would if they were real enemies. So, sometimes I have seen a man pretending to be very angry against sin. But watch him a little while, and you will see it is only a fencer's trick. He does not give his cuts out of order, there is no earnestness in his blows, it is all pretense, it is only mimic stage-play. The fencers, after they have ended their performance, shake hands with one another, and divide the coppers which the gaping throng have given them; and so does this man do, he shakes hands with the devil in private, and the two deceivers share the spoil. The hypocrite and the devil are very good friends after all, and they mutually rejoice over their profits: the devil leering because he has won the soul of the professor, and the hypocrite laughing because he has won his pelf. Take care, then, that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven.
I will just put another question. If thou hast been born again, there is another matter by which to try thee. Not only is thy inward self altered, and thy outward self too, but the very root and principle of thy life must become totally new. When we are in sin we live to self, but when we are renewed we live to God. While we are unregenerate, our principle is to seek our own pleasure, our own advancement; but that man is not truly born again who does not live with a far different aim from this. Change a man's principles, and you change his feelings, you change his actions. Now, grace changes the principles of man. It lays the axe at the root of the tree. It does not saw away at some big limb it does not try to alter the sap; but it gives a new root, and plants us in fresh sold. The man's inmost self, the deep rocks of his principles upon which the topsoil of his actions rest, the soul of his manhood is thoroughly changed, and he is a new creature in Christ. "But," says one, "I see no reason why I should be born again." Ah, poor creature, it is because thou hast never seen thyself. Didst thou ever see a man in the looking-glass of the Word of God—what a strange monster he is. Do you know, a man by nature has his heart where his feet ought to be:—that is to say, his heart is set upon the earth, whereas he ought to be treading it beneath his feet; and stranger mystery still, his heels are where his heart should be:—that is to say, he is kicking against the God of heaven when he ought to be setting his affections on things above. Man by nature when he sees clearest, only looks down, can only see that which is beneath him, he cannot see the things which are above; and strange to say the sunlight of heaven blinds him; light from heaven he looks not for. He asks for his light in darkness. The earth is to him his heaven, and he sees suns in its muddy pools and stars in its filth. He is, in fact, a man turned upside down. The fall has so ruined our nature, that the most monstrous thing on the face of the earth is a fallen man. The ancients used to paint griffins, gryphons, dragons, chimeras, and all kinds of hideous things; but if a skillful hand could paint man accurately none of us would look at the picture, for it is a sight that none ever saw except the lost in hell; and that is one part of their intolerable pain, that they are compelled always to look upon themselves Now, then, see you not that ye must be born again, and unless ye are so this child is not born to you.

2. But I go forward. If this child is born to you, you are a child, and the question arises, are you so? Man grows from childhood up to manhood naturally; in grace men grow from manhood down to childhood; and the nearer we come to true childhood, the nearer welcome to the image of Christ. For was not Christ called "a child," even after he had ascended up to heaven? "Thy holy child Jesus." Brethren and sisters, can you say that you have been made into children? Do you take God's Word just as it stands, simply because your heavenly Father says so? Are you content to believe mysteries without demanding to have them explained? Are you ready to sit in the infant class, and be a little one? Are you willing to hang upon the breast of the church, and suck in the unadulterated milk of the Word—never questioning for a moment what your divine Lord reveals, but believing it on his own authority, whether it seemed to be above reason, or beneath reason, or even contrary to reason? Now, "except ye be converted and become as little children," this child is not born to you; except like a child you are humble, teachable, obedient, pleased with your Father's will and willing to assign all to him, there is grave matter of question whether this child is born to you. But what a pleasing sight it is to see a man converted and made into a little child. Many times has my heart leaped for joy, when I have seen a giant infidel who used to reason against Christ, who had not a word in his dictionary bad enough for Christ's people come by divine grace to believe the gospel. That man sits down and weeps, feels the full power of salvation and from that time drops all his questionings becomes the very reverse of what he was. He thinks himself meaner than the meanest believer. He is content to do the meanest work for the church of Christ, and takes his station—not with Locke or Newton, as a mighty Christian philosopher—but with Mary as a simple learner, sitting at Jesus' feet, to hear and learn of him. If ye are not children, then this child is not born to you.

3. And now let us take the second sentence and put a question or two upon that. Is this son given to us? I pause a minute to beg your personal attention. I am trying, if I may, so to preach that I may make you all question yourselves. I pray you let not one of you exempt himself from the ordeal but let each one ask himself, if it true that unto me a Son is given? Now, if this Son is given to you, you are a son yourself. "For unto as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God." "Christ became a Son that in all things he might be made like unto his brethren." The Son of God is not mine to enjoy, to love, to delight in, unless I am a son of God too. Now, my hearer, have you a fear of God before your eyes—a filial fear, a fear which a child has lest it should grieve its parent? Say have you a child's love to God? Do you trust to him as your father, your provider, and your friend? Have you in your breast "The spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father?" Are there times with you when on your knees you can say, "My Father and my God." Does the Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are born of God? and while this witness is born, does your heart fly up to your Father and to your God, in ecstacy of delight to clasp him who long ago hath clasped you in the covenant of his love, in the arms of his effectual grace? Now, mark my hearer, if thou dost not sometimes enjoy the spirit of adoption, if thou art not a son or daughter of Zion, then deceive not thyself, this Son is not given to thee.

4. And, then, to put it in another shape. If unto us a Son is given, then we are given to the Son. Now, what say you to this question also? Are you given up to Christ? Do you feel that you have nothing on earth to live for but to glorify him? Can you say in your heart, "Great God, if I be not deceived I am wholly thine?" Are you ready to-day to write over again your consecration vow? Canst thou say, "Take me! All that I am and all I have, shall be for ever thine. I would give up all my goods, all my powers, all my time, and all my hours, and thine I would be—wholly thine." "Ye are not your own: ye are bought with a price." And if this Son of God be given to you, you will have consecrated yourself wholly to him; and you will feel that his honor is your life's object, that his glory is the one great desire of your panting spirit. Now is it so, my hearer? Ask thyself the question. I pray thee, and do not deceive thyself in the answer.

I will just repeat the four different proofs again. If unto me a child is born then I have been born again; and, moreover, I am now in consequence of that new birth, a child. If, again, a Son has been given to me, then I am a son; and again I am given to that Son who is given to me. I have tried to put these tests in the way that the text would suggest them. I pray you carry them home with you. If you do not recollect the words, yet do recollect to search yourselves, and see, my hearers, whether you can say, "Unto me this Son is given." For, indeed, if Christ is not my Christ, he is of little worth to me. If I cannot say he loved me and gave himself for me, of what avail is all the merit of his righteousness, or all the plenitude of his atonement? Bread in the shop is well enough, but if I am hungry and cannot get it, I starve although granaries be full. Water in the river is well enough but if I am in a desert and cannot reach the stream, if I can hear it in the distance and am yet lying down to die of thirst, the murmuring of the rill, or the flowing of the river, helps to tantalize me, while I die in dark despair. Better for you, my hearers to have perished as Hottentots, to have gone down to your graves as dwellers in some benighted land, than to live where the name of Christ is continually hymned and where his glory is extolled, and yet to go down to your tombs without an interest in him, unblessed by his gospel, unwashed in his blood, unclothed of his robe of righteousness. God help you, that you may be blessed in him, and may sing sweetly "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given."

II. This brings me to my second head, upon which I shall be brief. Is it so? IF IT IS SO, WHAT THEN? If it is so, why am I doubtful to-day? Why is my spirit questioning? Why do I not realize the fact? My hearer, if the Son is given to thee, how is it that thou art this day asking whether thou art Christ's, or not? Why dost thou not labor to make thy calling and election sure? Why tarriest thou in the plains of doubt? Get thee up, get thee up to the high mountains of confidence, and never rest till thou canst say without a fear that thou art mistaken, "I know that my Redeemer liveth. I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him." I may have a large number of persons here to whom it is a matter of uncertainty as to whether Christ is theirs or not. Oh, my dear hearers, rest not content unless you know assuredly that Christ is yours, and that you are Christ's. Suppose you should see in to-morrow's newspaper, (although, by the way, if you believed anything you saw there you would probably be mistaken) but suppose you should see a notification that some rich man had left you an immense estate. Suppose, as you read it, you were well aware that the person mentioned was a relative of yours, and that it was likely to be true. It may be you have prepared to-morrow for a family meeting, and you are expecting brother John and sister Mary and their little ones to dine with you. But I very much question whether you would not be away from the head of the table to go and ascertain whether the fact were really so. "Oh," you could say, "I am sure I should enjoy my Christmas dinner all the better if I were quite sure about this matter;" and all day, if you did not go, you would be on the tip-toe of expectation; you would be, as it were, sitting upon pins and needles until you knew whether it were the fact or not. Now there is a proclamation gone forth to-day, and it is a true one, too, that Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners. The question with you is whether he has saved you, and whether you have an interest in him. I beseech you, give no sleep to your eyes, and no slumber to your eyelids, till you have read your "title clear to mansions in the skies." What, man! shall your eternal destiny be a matter of uncertainty to you? What! is heaven or hell involved in this matter, and will you rest until you know which of these shall be your everlasting portion? Are you content while it is a question whether God loves you, or whether he is angry with you? Can you be easy while you remain in doubt as to whether you are condemned in sin, or justified by faith which is in Christ Jesus? Get thee up, man. I beseech thee by the living God, and by thine own soul's safety, get thee up and read the records. Search and look, and try and test thyself, to see whether it be so or not. For if it be so, why should not we know it? If the Son is given to me, why should not I be sure of it? If the child is born to me, why should I not know it for a certainty, that I may even now live in the enjoyment of my privilege—a privilege, the value of which I shall never know to the full, till I arrive in glory?

Again, if it be so, another question. Why are we sad? I am looking upon faces just now that appear the very reverse of gloomy, but mayhap the smile covers an aching heart. Brother and sister, why are we sad this morning, if unto us a child is born, if unto us a Son is given? Hark, hark to the cry! It is "Harvest home! Harvest home!" See the maidens as they dance, and the young men as they make merry. And why is this mirth? Because they are storing the precious fruits of the earth, they are gathering together unto their barns wheat which will soon be consumed. And what, brothers and sisters have we the bread which endureth to eternal life and are we unhappy? Does the worldling rejoice when his corn is increased, and do we not rejoice when, "Unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given?" Hark, yonder! What means the firing of the Tower guns? Why all this ringing of bells in the church steeples, as if all London were mad with joy? There is a prince born; therefore there is this salute, and therefore are the bells ringing. Ah, Christians, ring the bells of your hearts, tire the salute of your most joyous songs, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." Dance, O my heart, and ring out peals of gladness! Ye drops of blood within my veins dance every one of you! Oh! all my nerves become harp strings, and let gratitude touch you with angelic fingers! And thou, my tongue, shout—shout to his praise who hath said to thee—"Unto thee a child is born, unto thee a Son is given." Wipe that tear away! Come, stop that sighing! Hush yon murmuring. What matters your poverty? "Unto you a child is born." What matters your sickness? "Unto you a Son is given."

What matters your sin? For this child shall take the sin away, and this Son shall wash and make you fit for heaven. I say, if it be so,

"Lift up the heart, lift up the voice,
Rejoice aloud! ye saints rejoice!"

But, once more, if it be so, what then? Why are our hearts so cold? and why is it that we do so little for him who has done so much for us? Jesus, art thou mine? Am I saved? How is it that I love thee so little? Why is it that when I preach I am not more in earnest, and when I pray I am not more intensely fervent? How is it that we give so little to Christ who gave himself for us? How is it that we serve him so sadly who served us so perfectly? He consecrated himself wholly; how is it that our consecration is marred and partial? We are continually sacrificing to self and not to him?
O beloved brethren, yield yourselves up this morning. What have you got in the world? "Oh," saith one, "I have nothing; I am poor and penniless, and all but homeless." Give thyself to Christ. You have heard the story of the pupils to a Greek philosopher. On a certain day it was the custom to give to the philosopher a present. One came and gave him gold. Another could not bring him gold but brought him silver. One brought him a robe, and another some delicacy for food. But one of them came up, and said, "Oh, Solon, I am poor, I have nothing to give to thee, but yet I will give thee something better than all these have given; I give thee myself." Now, if you have gold and silver, if you have aught of this world's goods, give in your measure to Christ; but take care, above all, that you give yourself to him, and let your cry be from this day forth,

"Do not I love thee dearest Lord?
Oh search my heart and see,
And turn each cursed idol out
That dares to rival thee.
Do not I love thee from my soul?
Then let me nothing love:
Dead be my heart to every joy,
When Jesus cannot move."

III. Well, now I have all but done, but give your solemn, very solemn attention, while I come to my last head:—IF IT IS NOT SO, WHAT THEN? Dear hearer, I cannot tell where thou art—but wherever thou mayst be in this hall, the eyes of my heart are looking for thee, that when they have seen thee, they may weep over thee. Ah! miserable wretch, without a hope, without Christ, without God. Unto thee there is no Christmas mirth, for thee no child is born; to thee no Son is given. Sad is the story of the poor men and women, who during the week before last fell down dead in our streets through cruel hunger and bitter cold. But far more pitiable is thy lot, far more terrible shall be thy condition in the day when thou shalt cry for a drop of water to cool thy burning tongue, and it shall be denied thee; when thou shalt seek for death, for grim cold death—seek for him as for a friend, and yet thou shalt not find him. For the fire of hell shall not consume thee, nor its terrors devour thee. Thou shalt long to die, yet shalt thou linger in eternal death—dying every hour, yet never receiving the much coveted boon of death. What shall I say to thee this morning? Oh! Master, help me to speak a word in season, now. I beseech thee, my hearer, if Christ is not thine this morning, may God the Spirit help thee to do what I now command thee to do. First of all, confess thy sins; not into my ear, nor into the ear of any living man. Go to thy chamber and confess that thou art vile. Tell him thou art a wretch undone without his sovereign grace. But do not think there is any merit in confession. There is none. All your confession cannot merit forgiveness, though God has promised to pardon the man who confesses his sin and forsakes it. Imagine that some creditor had a debtor who owed him a thousand pounds. He calls upon him and says, "I demand my money." But, says the other, "I owe you nothing." That man will be arrested and thrown into prison. However, his creditor says, "I wish to deal mercifully with you, make a frank confession, and I will forgive you all the debt." "Well," says the man, "I do acknowledge that I owe you two hundred pounds." "No," says he, "that will not do." "Well, sir, I confess I owe you five hundred pounds," and by degrees he comes to confess that he owes the thousand. Is there any merit in that confession? No; but yet you could see that no creditor would think of forgiving a debt which was not acknowledged. It is the least that you can do, to acknowledge your sin; and though there be no merit in the confession, yet true to his promise, God will give you pardon through Christ. That is one piece of advice. I pray you take it. Do not throw it to the winds; do not leave it as soon as you get out of Exeter Hall. Take it with you, and may this day become a confession-day with many of you. But next, when you have made a confession, I beseech you renounce yourself. You have been resting perhaps in some hope that you would make yourself better, and so save yourself. Give up that delusive fancy. You have seen the silk-worm: it will spin, and spin, and spin, and then it will die where it has spun itself a shroud. And your good works are but a spinning for yourself a robe for your dead soul. You can do nothing by your best prayers, your best tears, or your best works, to merit eternal life. Why, the Christian who is converted to God, will tell you that he cannot live a holy life by himself. If the ship in the sea cannot steer itself aright, do you think the wood that lies in the carpenter's yard can put itself together, and make itself into a ship, and then go out to sea and sail to America? Yet, this is just what you imagine. The Christian who is God's workmanship can do nothing, and yet you think you can do something. Now, give up self. God help you to strike a black mark through every idea of what you can do.

Then, lastly, and I pray God help you here my dear hearers, when thou hast confessed thy sin and given up all hope of self-salvation, go to the place where Jesus died in agony. Go then in meditation to Calvary. There he hangs. It is the middle cross of these three. Methinks I see him now. I see his poor face emaciated, and his visage more marred than that of any man. I see the beady drops of blood still standing round his pierced temples—marks of that rugged thorn-crown. Ah, I see his body naked—naked to his shame. We may tell all his bones. See there his hands rent with the rough iron, and his feet torn with the nails. The nails have rent through his flesh. There is now not only the hole through which the nail was driven, but the weight of his body has sunken upon his feet, and see the iron is tearing through his flesh. And now the weight of his body hangs upon his arms, and the nails there are rending through the tender nerves. Hark! earth is startled! He cries, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" Oh, sinner, was ever shriek like that? God hath forsaken him. His God has ceased to be gracious to him. His soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. But hark, again, he cries, "I thirst!" Give him water! give him water! Ye holy women let him drink. But no, his murderers torture him. They thrust into his mouth the vinegar mingled with gall—the bitter with the sharp, the vinegar and the gall. At last, hear him, sinner, for here is your hope. I see him bow his awful head. The King of heaven dies. The God who made the earth has become a man, and the man is about to expire. Hear him! He cries, "It is finished!" and he gives up the ghost. The atonement is finished, the price is paid, the bloody ransom counted down, the sacrifice is accepted. "It is finished!" Sinner, believe in Christ. Cast thyself on him. Sink or swim, take him to be thy all in all. Throw now thy trembling arms around that bleeding body. Sit now at the feet of that cross, and feel the dropping of the precious blood. And as you go out each one of you say in your hearts,

"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Christ's kind arms I fall,
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus, and my all."

God grant you grace to do so for Jesus Christ's sake. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, for ever and ever.

Amen and Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Faith & The Hero: 2011 IACP Officer Of The Year

I had the honor to meet the 2011 IACP Officer of the Year at a recent Below 100 Training Event. I knew I was going to meet Mike before the event and honestly, I didn't know what to think.
If you aren't familiar with the West Memphis Shootout that killed two officers, you can read about that here.

Mike Neal told me that when he entered the parking lot, he knew two officers were dead and he saw two more laying down after being shot. In his mind, these suspects had killed four police officers and his statement was that he decided to "take the fight to them."

In the video below, you will see that Mike did just that.

I spoke with Mike for some time and I was impressed by this heroic deed but I was more impressed by his humble attitude and his faith in Jesus Christ. He discusses that importance below.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Centurion Radio #30: The ODMP

The Officer Down Memorial Page is one of the most popular law enforcement websites. They have compiled a web page for over 21,000 officers that have died in the line of duty. Listen to this interesting interview of the founder, Chris Cosgriff.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Courageous Movie Outreach: Gospel Presentation

I can't say enough at how important and special our relationship is with Berean Baptist Church in Ohio. They personally deliver vests to officers in their state and they helped us with an outreach of the Courageous Movie to Law Enforcement in their area. There is a reason we are thankful for this partnership and for Pastor Cuenin's weekly sermons that we post. It is because of their God Honoring approach to a Biblical Message of the Gospel.

Following the showing of Courageous, Michael Coughlin presented the Gospel to those that attended. Here is a video of that presentation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Centurion Radio #29: Courageous Movie

Join us as we discuss the Courageous Movie with a representative from Provident Films and the Director of the Centurion Law Enforcement Ministry, Chaplain M.C. Williams.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Courageous Movie Review: "They Needed Rifles"

As the Director of a Ministry to Law Enforcement, I will admit that when I found out the newest movie from Sherwood Pictures would be a law enforcement theme, I was excited. I had kept up closely with the previous movies made by Sherwood Baptist Church and they just kept getting better. Fireproof came out in 2008 and took Christian Movies to a new level and my thought with Courageous was clear. If it was anything close to Fireproof, then it would be an incredible resource for our ministry in reaching law enforcement.

This week, after 460 pre-screenings of the movie, I found myself in a room with about 30 church leaders and law enforcement officers and I watched Courageous for the first time. The movie comes out on September 30, 2011, and my verdict is in....It is not only as good as Fireproof (see our review here) but takes Christian Movies to a level we have never seen before. That value is not only in the professional look of the movie and the plot line and good acting but also in it's unwavering approach to the Bible, God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When so many movies that are labeled "Christian" tend to be just good "Family" Movies, I can tell you that Courageous does not waver and has not bent to the echoes of Hollywood on generalizing spirituality in an effort to appeal to the masses. It is for this reason, that I can whole heartedly recommend this movie and I am honored to have been able to watch the progress it has taken and I believe when it opens, it will shock the secular movie industry with it's success.

It doesn't take long to see that this movie doesn't have the look of a typical low budget movie. In fact, I hesitate to even say it is low budget but I'm certain that on opening weekend it will certainly be the lowest cost movie made and with that said, you will not get that impression. The opening scene will make that clear for you.

Just after the opening excitement, we get the theme of this movie when the Sheriff tells his men about the dangers of not being a good father and tells them that "when you clock out, go home and love your families."

We see many other sub-plots in the movie which is done by design. Simply, there will be something for everyone here. Officers speak about their absentee fathers and how it affected them and discussions on marriage occur.

"People do not fight for their marriage anymore....divorce happens because people make it an option"

And just when you thought Courageous would settle into discussions about family, parenting, etc. a tragedy occurs and the emotional roller coaster begins. Ths is when you begin to see that the men and women behind Sherwood Pictures are their own voices. It is clear that no one outside the ministry is dictating these plots and scenes. The emotion continues and quite honestly it has been a little over 24 hours since seeing the movie and it is still not over for me. I don't think it ever will be and I have no doubt as my life continues, I will experience things that will revert me back to this movie.

This is the beauty of Courageous.

The emotion and the comedy and exhalting Christ in the midst of it was so refreshing.

"We have a living hope because Jesus lives....Make sense of this for me."

It has almost become a cliche in the Christian Genre that someone in the movie becomes saved and all of a sudden great, earthly things start to happen. Of course we know that Biblically, becoming a Christian can bring great hardship (Matthew 10:22, Acts 9:29, Acts 9:15-16, Matthew 10:17-22) and I so appreciate the honesty in the Movie Courageous. You see real life with real questions and real struggles. In short, you see sinners, saved by grace, struggling to live their faith and that is real life and that makes Courageous an unbelievable resource for every Christian and Non-Christian.

In closing, I want to thank Joel & Crystal Jones. I was originally scheduled to see this movie last March but I was travelling at the time. They went in my place and gave me the information I needed to pursue this movie further. Their confidence in the movie was important to me. Michael Coughlin has also been a huge help to our ministry. He also went to the movie in April and wrote an excellent review for our ministry. Michael has also been instrumental in helping us with our outreach for this movie that aims to give free showings to law enforcement across the country. You can find out more details on that here.

And you may wonder why I've titled this as "They Needed Rifles"? For that explanation, you will need to watch the movie......and trust me, they needed rifles.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Preached In Times Square Church, New York City, the Sunday after September 11, 2001.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are You Amazed?

Our latest sermon preached by Travis Yates, Director of Ten-Four Ministries.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interview With Air 1 Radio

Air 1 Radio is a National Christian Radio Station with over 250,000 listeners each day. We were very blessed to have been interviewed by them today and we have received numerous requests and questions in the last 24 hours. You can listen to that interview below.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Centurion Radio #28: Lives Behind The Badge

I had a great time interviewing Kristi Neace today on Centurion Radio. She is a national advocate for police wives and has written several books on the subject. I highly recommend this interview to any police officer or spouse.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Centurion Radio #24: Line of Duty Deaths

Memorial Ride To Benefit Armor of God Project

The Iron Shields Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club will be holding a fundraiser for the Armor of God Project on August 27, 2011.

If you are in the area, we encourage you to attend the 3rd Annual Detective Chuck Smith Memorial Ride. You can see the flyer on the event here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Doctrine of Salvation

Here is the newest sermon from Pastor Eric Cuenin. Over the next few years, we will be providing you his sermons from the Book of Ephesians.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Below 100: Train The Trainer

I had the privilege to teach alongside Dale Stockton, Law Officer Magazine and Brian Willis, 2011 Trainer of the Year, last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the first Below 100: Train the Trainer Course and 103 trainers signed a pledge to incorporate this important training in their classes.

The training is designed to empower trainers to push the line of duty deaths in law enforcement to under 100 each year.

How does this meet up with Ten-Four Ministries? One of the tenants of the training is "Wear Your Vest" and Dale Stockton always speaks about our vest outreach during the class. This enables me to speak with many about the ministry. During this class, I was able to introduce the 100+ in attendance to two representatives from the Peace Officer For Christ International East Coast, located in Charlotte.

It was a great day and I look forward to participating well into the future. We took our videographer to film for an upcoming ministry documentary and while he was there he got some testimonials from those that attended. You can see those below.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Slain Officer Leaves Video About His Faith Behind

On July 3,2011, Memphis Police Officer Timothy Warren was fatally shot in a hotel while responding to a "shots fired" call. A devout Christian, Officer Warren had posted a video to You Tube on March 11, 2011. In the video, he describes the tension he felt between his walk with Jesus and one as a police officer. We look forward to addressing this issue soon on Centurion Radio but for now, we encourage you to watch a tribute to a true hero in uniform and more importantly in the faith.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Website Launched: "Cops For Christ"

We have recently launched our newest website, Cops For Christ. It features our videos that are mainly evangelistic in nature.

Why would we launch this site?

Several years ago I was surprised to find the domain, Cops For Christ, available for purchase. It is a common name that many are familiar with so I bought the name for about $8. I kept it for sometime and not sure what to do with it until I decided to point it to a ministry called Ten-Four Ministries, directed by Tony Miano.

I was eventually asked to take over that ministry and when I did, I noticed a lot of website hits from the name, "Cops For Christ." That little $8 investment seemed to be taking a lot of folks to the ministry and thinking some of them weren't saved, I decided to develop a new site with evangelism in mind.

We pray that Cops For Christ will help send the message of the Gospel & God will use it to save souls.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Armor of God Project: Washington D.C.

Vest For Life- Washington, D.C. from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

Mission Alabama: Hackleburg Police

A few weeks ago, we advised you of our attempts to help out first responders that were affected by the tornadoes in the south. I will admit that when we began that communication to you, I was unsure where we would end up or whether it was God's Will for us to go to the area. We were quickly told of specific locations with needs and specific officer names with needs.

When we told you of the needs, you gave and your generosity was unbelievable. You enabled us to go to several areas and you specifically helped us give an entire police department vests, leather gear, uniforms and financial assistance. When we got to Hackleburg, Alabama we knew that this was where we were called to be.

Our team met the Hackleburg Police Chief (middle) and asked him what he and his agency needed. When Chief Hallmark found out we were there for them, he got very emotional. Over 10% of his population had been killed, just a few businesses (tax base) remained and the community that he patrols and loves was literally gone. The needs were tremendous and because of your generosity we were able to help him.

Crisis: To Serve and Protect from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

The devastation I saw was like nothing I had seen in 18 years of law enforcement. I was at the Bombing Site in Oklahoma City in 1995 and I can tell you that what I saw from this EF5 Tornado was absolutely unbelieveable.

As you can see from this photo (above), any projectile would prove deadly and unfortunately on the day we were there, additional bodies were located.

On Day two, our team met with the head of Homeland Security-Alabama. There is much more work to be done in Hackleburg and we have told the Chief we will do whatever he needs in the future.

Our team gives new uniforms to the Hackleburg Assistant Chief (above).

Chief Hallmark receives a vest from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Man's Greatest Problem

This message was filmed during National Police Week in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hope For Alabama

Ten-Four Ministries Chaplain & Pastor Phillip Skipworth discusses where the only hope can be found in the midst of tragedy such as the tornado devastation that he is in.

Bringing Relief to Hackleburg (AL) Police

I just returned from Northern Alabama and through the assistance of many supporters, we were able to provide funds, equipment ad uniforms to law enforcement affected by the massive destruction left by EF5 Tornadoes a few weeks ago.

There is much more to say and show but for now here are two videos of our trip.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mission Alabama: Tornado Tragedy

The tragedy of last week's tornado outbreak in the south has been well documented in the media and our ministry feels a call to the area. We did not know in what capacity 24 hours ago when we placed an e-mail out to those signed up for our e-newsletter but it appears that we now are being led to a specific area to help specific individuals.

While in the days to come, tremendous resources will be given to those in need, there is a group that are often forgotten. In general, those in this tragedy are able to focus on clean up, rebuilding, healing and at times mourning. For the first responders that are working in the area, they too often do not have time to do the things that others can do. Despite the urgent need to tend to family, etc. they have another mission...tending to the citizens in their community.

There are three specific communities that continue to be brought to our attention by multiple sources in the last 24 hours. In each city, multiple officers have lost property, police/fire agencies have been destroyed and equipment is damaged or detroyed.

Phil Cambell & Hackleburg, Alabama and Smithville, Mississippi.

We have gathered most of the names of the officers in each agency and the needs are tremendous. In fact, we were told today that "any help" is needed. While in due time, homes will be replaced and biils reimbursed, what is needed now are immediate resources for food, clothing, etc. We will also be providing emotional support and more importantly hope in Jesus Christ.

In the short term, we will be on the ground within a week but we will be talking with officials there to be able to provide more long term assistance so that the first responders can be given time to tend to their homes and family.

The devastation is hard to fathom and I spoke to officers in the area today and they told me that what they are seeing cannot be described. Entire towns are gone and in the case of Hackleburg, approximately 15% of the population is dead.

There will be plenty of opportunities from various organizations to donate during this time and we would like you to do that very thing. We would also like you to pray & consider donating to our ministry. All of the funds given will be used to provide resources directly to first responders in need. The officers going with us to help will use their own funds to do so....Your donation will be used in whole towards helping a first responder directly.

In one week, we will be in the area providing assistance. Online donations of any amount can help.

You can send a check/money order to:

Ten-Four Ministries
C/O Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 52005
Tulsa, OK. 74152

There will be much more on this issue in the days to come. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook as we will be reporting from the area.

Friday, April 29, 2011

PNP SWAT Exhibition

During our resent Mission Trip to the Philippine National Police Department, we were given an exhibition by the SWAT Team. Here is one of those.

"Religion Kills": Preached to the Philippine National Police Department

Armor of God Project: Police One Interview

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter 2011 - Driscoll

Here are excerpts from a powerful sermon preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll.

You can watch the full length sermon here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Importance of Training

Travis Yates, Director of Ten-Four Ministries, interviews Philippine National Police Colonel Albert Ferro at a recent training event in the Philippines. The two discussed the importance of adding spiritual training to the police training, the PNP's needs and the future partnerships between American and Philippine police departments.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Courageous Movie Review

Let me start by letting you know that shortly after I became a Christian, I found myself unable to enjoy the comedy clubs, music and movies that I had once loved. It hit me one day that I had to put all those things away that were not glorifying to God…the crude humor, immoral innuendo, blasphemy and lyrics that promoted sin. Although I was dedicated to my new Lord, (I did put the stuff away), I reacted like Lot’s wife, turning back and looking…somewhat lamenting the loss of “fun” in my life. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never again enjoy jokes, movies or music.

Leave it to the Kendrick brothers to blow away that notion! One of the highlights of the movie, Courageous, is the side splitting humor sprinkled throughout, all of it clean and gentle. No one’s feelings have to be hurt by sarcasm for a joke to be funny, and gross vulgarities are not only unnecessary, but they truly ruin a good time.

In Courageous, we join a group of 4 sheriff’s deputies and a manual laborer named Javier. These men face daily dilemmas related to job and family and learn to rely on each other and God in this inspiring, but humorous flick. How will they respond when the ultimate tragedy befalls one of them?

But this review is not just about the entertainment value of Courageous, but rather the spiritual value. Let’s use three measuring sticks (you could pick several others, I’m sure), to try to judge the merit of this movie. Ultimately, the question is, should you spend the resources God has provided you with to see this flick? Or would your money be better spent elsewhere…there is certainly need all around us.

Here are the three criteria we will use to discern the worth of Courageous in order of importance.

1.Is God glorified?
2.Will the movie tempt someone to sin?
3.Is there a practical application to the lessons learned within?

I will consider them in reverse order:

Is there a practical application to the lessons learned within?
The basic setting of Courageous is the life of a few families, specifically the men of the families in a town in Georgia. These men are police officers, who are joined by a manual laborer friend as well. The meaningful dialogue creates meaningful character development as they go through day to day life, both on the job and at home. You really get a sense quickly for each character’s personality.

One side plot of the movie is the gang related activity. Although I will highly recommend this movie, I would not call it “kid-friendly.” There are scenes where drug paraphernalia is depicted, as well as a brutal gang-initiation. It is done well, in the sense that the idea is depicted without gratuitous violence or mimicked drug use, but I would not take a child under 13 to this movie due to that content. I’d say if you are ready to talk to your child about drugs and gang violence, it is up to you, but some of the scenes could be scary for more sensitive children.

But the gang activity is necessary for the story, and they do a brilliant job of tying together the characters in relationships that are believable. Ultimately, the message that comes across is the importance of a father in the life of children.

Just like the Love Dare in Fireproof, the main character in the movie ends up with a set of “Resolutions.” Resolving to be a biblical father and husband, the main character, Adam Mitchell offers examples of repentance for missed opportunities, and redemption in this life as he strives to make amends for his errant ways. These “Resolutions” will definitely be a best-seller, and with a September 30 release, expect lots of Christmases to be chock full of Courageous Resolutions.

Finally, there is a one on one presentation of the gospel which was of such quality as could be used for training. Without compromising a shred of truth, Nathan Hayes (Michael, Kirk Cameron’s friend in Fireproof) shares the plan of redemption in Christ alone with his partner David Thomson. But while sharing the message and confronting David’s sin, Nathan doesn’t lack any of the compassion and love that we are commanded to have when giving a defense for what we believe with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)

Will the movie tempt someone to sin?
Now we all have different sin-tendencies, I know, but I can only speak of a few of the more obvious ones. I suppose it is possible that a person with a problem with a “gang history” could somehow get excited about his or her old life…but I don’t see it that way. I see the depiction of the life being authentic enough to get the idea, while not glorifying the lifestyle in any way.

None of the main characters engages in smoking, drinking or drug use. The references to drugs are never exalted, and the women in the movie are all modestly dressed throughout, except for one scene toward the end where a woman’s shirt was possibly a little too low cut. I am also one of the more conservative people I know in the area of modesty…so many people may not even notice.

Courageous does not glorify sin nor does it provide temptation for someone to sin. In contrast to the other “Christian-value” movie which is being marketed for now, (Soul Surfer), Courageous offers no feeding of the flesh. Carnal minded men and women will not find satisfaction for their lusts here. To be able to enjoy a movie without having to cover your ears and eyes is rare, and Courageous refreshes the soul in this way.

Is God glorified?
I have wondered on occasion how to truly judge a movie. I wonder if God actually likes any story, where Jesus is not the center; the protagonist; the ultimate victor. It has made me disinterested in even secular stories of success where God is not glorified.

Courageous makes an overt point of being Christ-centered, Bible-directed and God loving. The message of the movie that faith in Christ alone is the only provision for forgiveness of sins is clearly stated. And the “great contradiction” is that this movie attacks the secular view of fatherhood and family by setting the standard for fatherhood based on the Bible. I believe that men and women who are not born-again will enjoy this movie because of the universal Truth contained therein. The biblical principles laid out will resonate in the hearts of people everywhere who want to love their kids more, treat their wife better and lead and protect their family in the best way possible. The hope and prayer of course, is that while some people came just to see a good movie, they will leave with their life changed, with sufficient knowledge to start a reconciled relationship with God through Christ.

Should you go see Courageous? Yes. Please do. Be a good steward of your money and spend it on the advancement of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16) by supporting this movie, and the good people who God has gifted to produce such a masterpiece. Buy tickets for friends and relatives, both saved and unsaved, and don’t forget Dad – tickets go on sale June 19, Father’s Day.

Note: We would like to thank our good friend and ministry supporter, Michael Coughlin, for providing this excellent review for our readers. We look forward to bringing you much more information on this wonderful ministry opportunity. Check out our "Courageous Weekend" Outreach, which aims to purchase entire showings of this movie for law enforcement.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Mission Philippines 2011: Officer Nesbitt

Muscle Shoals Police Officer Lee Nesbitt speaks to Carpenter's House Baptist Church in Calamba City, Philippines March 27, 2011. He trained the PNP in firearms during the Mission Trip

Lee Nesbitt's Testimony from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

Mission Philippines 2011: Officer Bennett

Tulsa Police Officer Brandon Bennett speaks to Carpenter's House Baptist Church in Calamba City, Philippines March 27, 2011. He led the defensive tactics training during the Mission Trip. Special thanks to Relentless Training for providing excellent training.

Brandon Bennett's Testimony from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

MLB Outreach 2011

Ten-Four Ministries had the wonderful honor to be asked by Bezeugen Ministries to lead a team of evangelists to the opening weekend of the Tulsa Drillers, the AA affiliate with the Colorado Rockies. The MLB 2011 Outreach has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands for the Gospel.

Bezeugen Ministries partnered with One Million Tracts and Sports Fan Outreach International to send teams to every Major League Stadium between March 31st and April 10th. A custom Gospel Tract was made for each team which included one for the Tulsa Drillers. I have been involved in passing out tracts for some time and I have used a variety of tracts and most of them I consider very good but I must say that the custom tract used for this event was by far the easiest tract to give away. Everyone walking up to me was a fan of the Drillers so when you ask them if they want some "Driller Trivia" just about everyone gladly took one.

It was a great night and hundreds of tracts were passed out. I have some left over and I look forward to going back during the season and for years to come. I have to commend all of the ministries involved for a great idea, concept and execution. God was certainly glorified in their efforts.

You can order your own MLB Tracts here and read about the other outreaches here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Courageous: Movie Trailer

Total Depravity

Here is the latest sermon provided to us from our partner, Pastor Shane Kastler. I believe that the Doctrine of Total Depravity is one of the most ignored in all of scripture and it is a Doctrine that if we get wrong, we are in danger of getting many other things wrong.

"Heart of a Warrior" Mission Philippines 2011

On day 1 of our Mission Trip to the Philippine National Police Department, I asked Florence (AL) First Baptist Pastor Phillip Skipworth to deliver a message to the officers we were going to train and witness to that week that would "set the tone". As you will see in the below video, my friend accomplished just that.

Heart Of A Warrior: Mission Philippines 2011 from Ten-Four Ministries on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The Gospel" Mission Philippines 2011

This message was preached on Day 4 of a Mission Trip to 93 members of the Philippine National Police Department. For additional information you can visit our Missions Outreach Site.

"I Believe"

Mission Philippines 2011: Open Air Sermon

We just returned from a trip to the Philippines where we trained and preached to approximately 100 members of the Philippine National Police Department. This included 5 days of training & preaching along with two church services on Sunday where other officers were present. We are busy editing and compiling thousands of photos and many videos and we will introduce those to you shortly. The below message was not a planned event. I climbed on a water tower at our training facility (Special Action Force) to film a short segment for our videographer when I observed several SWAT Cadets that were not in our class and thus would not hear the Gospel without a message at that moment.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Go Stand Speak

Last year we had the privilege to interview Pat Necerato with Go Stand Speak Ministries. We enjoy that ministry and believe it is very important. We encourage the proclamation of the Biblical Gospel in the Open Air. It is biblical and a part of historical Christianity. Just today, I was advised of several individuals at a local skate park so I went to the public park and preached the Gospel to what turned out to be teenagers. We had a wonderful discussion and it was a great time. While the decision to preach (anywhere) should never be taken lightly, there is a huge opportunity in almost every community to take the Gospel to the lost. We are looking forward to the new project by Go Stand Speak Ministries. Here it is:

You can order this new DVD here.

Kingdom Advancement Conference

We had the honor to speak at Highland Park Baptist Church this evening at the Kingdom Advancement Conference (Muscle Shoals, AL). There were many members and missionaries present.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Evangelism & Law Enforcement

On last week's episode of Centurion Radio, I interviewed Officer Jason Bahm. If you think that God will not present evangelism opportunities on your job, then listen to this amazing story.

If you cannot see the player, you can go here to listen.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Mission Philippines

Our Ministry is preparing to lead ten police officers from across the country, a pastor and a media specialist to the Philippines on a Mission trip. We will be training 100+ officers from the Philippine National Police Department (PNP) as well as witnessing and sharing Christ with the officers.

We welcome each of your prayers as we make preparations and we want to give you an opportunity to help financially. We are selling the below t-shirts for $25 with free shipping. These are the same shirts that we will be wearing as we interact with members of the PNP.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Grace Card Movie: Review

"A Missed Opportunity."

That was the words my good friend told me as we walked out of the theater after watching the recently released movie, "The Grace Card".

Before I give you my impression of this film I am under no illusion that everyone will like what I have to say. To this day, my review of Fireproof has received more comments than any other post.

My review of this film will only focus on one aspect. I will leave all of the rest up to others but I want to focus on the spirituality of the movie.

Why do this? For several months up to the release of the movie, many ministries and churches said this was a "must see" movie. As the opening weekend approached, I received dozens of e-mails from various sources promoting the movie. I will tell you that I was excited about it. As the Director of a ministry to law enforcement, there was great hope for this film which revolves around two officers in the Memphis Police Department. I opted not to promote the movie until I saw it and I sincerely hoped that I could promote this movie as a wonderful Christian movie.

Sadly, I cannot do that.

I have become cynical through the years when it comes to movies that are promoted as "Christian." While almost all of these movies promote a moral theme and are generally considered good family movies, I almost never see one that presents the Gospel. One exception was the movie Fireproof. In fact, you can see the gospel presented in this movie on the right side of this blog.

Before I begin to speak about The Grace Card, let me first say that I do appreciate everyone that had something to do with this movie. Considered a low budget film ($500,000 to make) and using volunteers from The Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Cordova, Tennessee, this movie was very good. You never get the feeling it was low budget and the plot was interesting and unique. I do recommend that you go see this movie and if your children can handle the adult themes that revolve around police work (police pursuits, shootings, drug deals), I would recommend it for them as well. If you are debating this movie for your kids, it will help to read the review from Focus on the Family first.

With that said, this movie is not a Christian movie. It is a moralistic movie; It is a movie with a very positive theme but it is definitely not a Christian movie.

The Grace Card is touted as a Christian film and is described as intending "to illustrate the everyday opportunities that people have have to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God’s grace."

I would agree that this movie met that description but God's Grace was never explained. In fact, "Jesus" was said in a couple of prayers but you will not get an explanation of who Jesus was from this movie. You are never told that Jesus was God, that He lived a perfect life, that He was crucified on a cross or that He rose from the dead.

I was insulted at one point in the movie when a family prayer to Jesus turned into something that "Ricky Bobby" would say in Talladega Nights. I was pleased to see a more serious prayer to my Lord Jesus Christ by the wife right before she was going to bed but the first prayer was bothersome. I'm sure the "heavy" theme of the movie called for humor at that point, I just wish they wouldn't have done it at the sake of what is a very honored and humbled activity.

"Mac" is the main character and he is a 15 year veteran of the Memphis Police Department. His son was killed 17 years earlier and to say he has problems is an understatement. His wife describes him as "angry" and we get many glimpses of not only that but undertones of racism. Mac is partnered up with a full time officer and part time preacher, soon to be Sergeant Sam Wright.

As I said earlier, the plot is good and as a veteran of a large municipal agency, I enjoyed the police scenes and found much of it to be realistic including the "angry" officer's attitude and problems. The issues discussed in this movie are real and I have no doubt this movie can help others.

One person told me today that this movie will open a door for he and his son to discuss matters of salvation and I agree with that. This movie can open a door but this movie does not present the Gospel or anything about sin and judgment or who Christ is or what Christ can do for sinners. It fails miserably in this area and that is unfortunate.

This movie had scenes of preaching and of one to one discussions and there was plenty of opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. The theme was forgiveness but that theme is not solely owned by Christianity. Many religions discuss this and quite frankly you had to pay close attention to know that Christ was the God being dicussed. If it wasn't for two prayers said in Jesus' name, you simply would not have known that the made up God of any other religion wasn't being used. We simply never get to the character of God in this movie.

At Mac's lowest, his partner tells him that he has "two options.....Curse God and die or quit fighting him."

Mac asks "why would He (God) let two little boys die" as he breaks down crying and his partner said he didn't know. That answer is honest and I appreciate it because many things God does are hidden from us but this was the climax of the movie and I expected something more.

This was the opportunity for the preacher, Christian, Sergeant and partner to share the good news. After all the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is rare that God presents these moments in life. A man completely broken and lost. What an opportunity but as my friend said....An opportunity lost.

Instead, Mac says "I'm so sorry God" and his partner simply says "You are forgiven because you asked for it." Of course there is no biblical basis for this. A sinner can ask forgiveness all day long but if they do not "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15) it does no good. They are both then shown going to the alter and praying a prayer that we cannot hear.

It is assumed that Mac is now a converted Christian. His life improves. His son is healed from what was earlier thought to be a gun shot that was going to kill him and the movie ends in church with Mac and his wife on the front row. Happiness is all over their face and Sam is once again preaching but Christ and the Gospel are not proclaimed.

Now we know that while salvation does bring peace we also know that it can bring chaos and trouble. After all, Jesus said that if the world hates you know that he was hated first (John 15:18). Of course there is nothing wrong with showing a "happy" Christian but that is not always the situation.

This review will not be popular among many Christians but I do pray that we ask ourselves a few questions.

Why do we grab on to movies, etc. that serve as good moral lessons but the Gospel is left out?

Why do churches spend thousands of dollars on a movie (or many other things) that would not present the complete Gospel message? A message that God uses to save souls.

First, I do not think that the church involved in this movie meant to do harm and I have no doubt they love Christ and want the best for those seeing The Grace Card. It is difficult for me to understand why so much effort and energy would go into a project and the Gospel is left out? Is that not why we do outreach? Maybe the movie was never made to tell others the Gospel and then I can understand it but I have to only assume that it was since it is labeled a "Christian" film and many ministries are promoting it as such.

Some reading this may say that the movie did have the Gospel in it and to that I would ask you to read the Book of Acts or anywhere else in the Bible. Do you ever see the Gospel being presented as "I'm sorry God" and now you are saved? Trust me, before God saved me I was sorry to Him plenty of times but that in no way meant I was saved.

The most evangelistic part of the entire movie was the closing scene. The movie ends with a dark screen and these words placed on the screen: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

That is absolutely true and I so appreciate the film makers placing it at the end of the film. It was simply my hope that during the film that unbelievers would have been told who Jesus was, what He did, why we need Him (sin) and what our response must be to be saved (repent and believe).