The Company of the Beheaded

Last night as I was applying the teachings of Rev 6:9-11 at our prayer meeting, I did not consider a third point of application that came to me in the middle of the night.

This passage in Revelation describes when Christ, the Lamb of God, opened the fifth seal. When He did so, the Apostle John was apparently ushered into the Holy of Holies, and he saw under the altar the souls of the martyrs for the word of God and the testimony of Christ:

Rev 6:9-11, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”

Consider that the same verb was used for their death as was used for the death of Jesus in Rev 5:6, 9, and 12. These “slain” Christians were gathered under the altar of God, there, close to the most precious things in the Temple—the golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, and tablets of the covenant. These three items were contained in the Ark of the Covenant (Heb 9:4).

But here under the altar were the souls of the slain, who, while affirming that God was holy and true, were waiting for their blood to be avenged. Even in the presence of God they were still mindful of their unjust treatment on earth, and they cried out “How long?” Their plea echoed the cry of the brokenhearted from the days of Cain and Abel even to the Songs of Asaph. This cry “How long” is sprinkled throughout the Book of Psalms, most notably found four times in Psa 13:1-2.

So God quieted these souls with the gift of white robes. He reminded them of the cleansing work of Christ on the cross, by which their sins that were once red as crimson were made white as snow:

Isa 1:18, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.’”

My first application to those listening was that they should be sure that they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They need to be washed in and by His blood and clothed in the whited garments that only He can and does freely give.

But as for the “How long?” my second point of application related to holding in anger, frustration, or bitterness toward others for having been wronged. These emotions amount to exasperation with God for forbearing His judgment on wrongdoers. Even in the Holy of Holies, these souls, who affirmed that God was faithful and true, were still waiting for their blood to be avenged!

So also, we must remember that the “How long?” is not answered on earth. God comforted them with a white garment, and an admonition to refresh themselves and rest a little while longer. Even while the “How long?” was resonating in their souls, God reminded them to find rest in the “streams of living water” that give health both to the body and the soul. Yes, God gives His followers “green pastures” and “still waters” even in the midst of strife.

I ended with this last admonition.

Then in the middle of the night the question came to me, “Are you among the company of the beheaded?” It dawned on me that I had left out perhaps the strongest point of application from this text: living in such a way so as to be able to join the company of the slain under the altar.

Not living in an arbitrarily way, by purposefully putting oneself in harms way. For the Bible says, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.” (Prov 22:3)

But being committed to the proclamation of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ unto death—if predestined to be the case: first of all, to be dead to self and sin; secondly, to be dead to the opinion of others; and thirdly, to be dead to their threats and persecution.

These are the company of the beheaded!

John wrote of this company in Revelation 12:

Rev 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

Are you willing to be among the company of the beheaded?

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Ideas for Effective Church Evangelism

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It is one thing to know how to share your faith and it is another thing to lead an entire church evangelism program. Let me recommend several ideas for church evangelism as we enter a new Fall of church ministry:

Never Badger Your People

Pastor, as a husband to a wife, you should never badger your church family to lead them into evangelism. You need to encourage them and build them up. Focus on the good that they are already doing, and lead them forward.

Set the Example

Be the evangelist that you want others to be. Or in the words of Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Don’t expect them to do what you yourself are not doing already.

Provide Many Levels of Opportunities

Not everyone is ready or able to be involved in door-knocking or in other ways of meeting new people. So you will need to have a wide variety of opportunities available for your church family to be involved in evangelism.

Some Examples of Opportunities at Different Levels

Here are some examples of types of involvement that people can have in outreach on the local church level:

  • Baking pies or cookies to be delivered to first time guests
  • Forming a prayer group to pray specifically during outreach events for those being reached
  • Visiting those who have just visited the church for the first time
  • Visiting those who are M.I.A. (Missing In Action)—those who have missed church meetings from 3-5 weeks
  • Visiting those in the community through door-to-door.

These are just a few examples to prime the pump.

Always Be Open to New Opportunities

As your church members begin to be involved in outreach, other ideas and opportunities will develop that are church-specific and community-specific. Make sure that your leadership style is open to new ideas, so that people will feel valued and encouraged in their gifts and abilities.

Make Use of Week-by-Week Schedules

I have found that church families can become burned out on some evangelism programs that are rigid and leave them feeling guilty if they do not participate weekly. For this reason it is important as a shepherd to the flock to give them seasons of feeding and rest.

Here are some ideas for monthly scheduling of evangelism events that I learned from doing evangelism with inner-city churches:

  • First Saturday of the month: visit a nursing home
  • Second Saturday of the month: visit a local prison
  • Third Saturday of the month: door-to-door visitation
  • Fourth Saturday of the month: visit a homeless shelter
  • Fifth Saturday of the month: enjoy a breakfast together, fellowship and a prayer time 🙂

Consider a Month-by-Month Outreach Schedule

Some inner-city churches have very effective evangelism programs that do not burn out their members, and also take into account the patterns of life in the annual calendar:

  • June-July-Aug: Designated as evangelism months
  • Sept-Oct-Nov: Designated for new member assimilation
  • Nov-Dec: Christmas and holiday activities
  • Jan: Designated for the annual Bible Conference
  • Feb-Mar: Evangelism training with planned outreach
  • Apr-May: Revival preparation and implementation

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

As important as is being personally intentional in evangelism, it is also important to be intentional in administering evangelism. Make a workable plan. Do not burn out your people. Rearrange the plan if it does not work. But remember if you plan nothing, then you will reach that plan. So using these and other ideas, consider planning for evangelism.

Acts 18:9-10, “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’”

God has many people in your city that need to hear about Jesus. So let’s pray for one another that we will be intentional and gentle as we plan our evangelism schedules for the Bride of Christ.

 

For more information on this topic see: “Toward a Local Church Evangelism Strategy” at: http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-29.pdf

13 Top Verses Using “Evangelize” in 7 Languages

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The following lists the top New Testament verses where the translators have determined to use the word “evangelize.” The totals are derived from the following 28 versions in five modern and two ancient languages that use “evangelize” at least once (for a combined total of 312/1540 fifty-five NT uses, or about 20%).

  • 10 French Versions: LeFebvre, Olivétan, Louvain, Genève, Martin, Ostervald, Darby, Segond, Nouvelle Segond Revisée, and La Colombe;
  • 7 English Versions: Wycliffe 1st and 2nd editions, Etheridge, Darby, Douai-Rheims, Holman Christian Standard, and MacDonald Idiomatic;
  • 5 Portuguese Versions: J Ferreira (1969 and 1993), Sagrada, Corrigida Fiel, Modern;
  • 3 Italian Versions: Buona Novella, Geneva Nuova Riveduta, San Paolo;
  • 1 Spanish Version: Castelian;
  • + 2 Ancient Versions: Latin Vulgate and Occitan (13th Century).

[I have used an existing English translation below when available]

15 total combined uses:

Acts 8:40 (Holman), “Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and evangelizing all the towns until he came to Caesarea.”

14 total combined uses:

1 Cor 1:17 (Holman), “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.”

13 combined total uses:

Luke 4:18 (Etheridge), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he hath anointed me to evangelize to the poor, And hath sent me to heal the contrite in heart, To proclaim to the captives release, And to the blind, vision, And to assure the contrite by remission.”

12 combined total uses:

Acts 8:25 (Holman), “Then, after they had testified and spoken the message of the Lord, they traveled back to Jerusalem, evangelizing many villages of the Samaritans.”

11 combined total uses:

Acts 14:21 (Holman), “After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch.”

Acts 16:10 (Holman), “After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.”

2 Cor 10:16 (Etheridge), “and be progressive also beyond you to evangelize. Not as within the measure of others in the things that are prepared will we glory.”

10 combined uses:

Luke 9:6 (Wycliffe 1st), “Sothli thei gon out, cumpassiden bi castels, euangelisinge and heelinge euerewhere.”

Luke 20:1 (Etheridge), “And it was on one of the days, while he taught the people in the temple and evangelized, the chief priests and scribes with the elders rose up against him.”

1 Cor 9:16 (Wycliffe 1st, second use), “Forwhi if I schal preche the gospel, glorie is not to me, forsoth nede lith to me; forsoth wo to me, if I schal not euangelise.”

Gal 4:13 (McDonald), “You know that in the beginning of our relationship when I evangelized you, I did so while being physically debilitated.”

Eph 2:17 (Johnston), “And He came and evangelized peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near”

1 Pet 4:6 (Etheridge), “For on this account the dead also have been evangelized; that they might be judged as men in the flesh, and live with Aloha in the Spirit.”

The reader will note the impact of the Geneva presses of Estienne and Crespin during the Protestant Reformation. Geneva published and still publishes Bibles in a variety of Southern European languages impacting Bible translation in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as in French.

This author was not able to find any German Bibles that used the verb evangelize.

*Data gleaned from a revision of two available charts: “A Translation History of Translating Evangelize as Evangelize” and “A Study of the Translation of Evangelize in Other Modern Romance Lanugages”; available at: http://www.evangelismunlimited.com/documents/evangelizology/evangelizology-2014-chapter-07.pdf; pages 354-362.

Ode to a Street Preacher

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Keep Pressing On!

“For you have need of endurance,

So that when you have done the will of God,

You may receive what was promised.”

Hebrews 10:37

Standing on the sidewalk

Sharing Jesus Christ

With passers by

Tears running down his face—

Few seemed to care,

He wondered why.

Angry looks of hatred,

Eyes of steel hiding

Hearts of stone.

Anxious look of longing

Shows a searching heart,

Open to the Lord!

Samuel, my friend,

Don’t you get yourself discouraged,

He never said that there would be no pain.

Keep pressing on,

Don’t you stop your persevering,

The love of Christ is everybody’s gain.

Three Amazing Uses of the Verb “Evangelize” in the HCSB

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The editors, translators, and publisher of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) are to be congratulated for their pioneering spirit as concerns the translation of the verb “evangelize” in the HCSB.

The HCSB is the only English language translation to use the English verb “evangelize” more than twice since John Wycliffe’s first edition of 1382. It is truly a phenomenal breakthrough worthy to be celebrated.

In Wycliffe’s first edition, Wycliffe translated 36 of the 43 Latin uses of evangelizo as “evangelize” in English. In actuality, the Greek New Testament (NT) used at that time had 55 uses of the verb evangelize—an exact transliteration of evangelizo.

After Wycliffe died in 1384, another version was given his name, the “Wycliffe” second edition of 1388. In this second edition uses of the verb “evangelize” were reduced to only 3 uses. After the Protestant Reformation, when William Tyndale translated the NT from the Greek as the original (Wycliffe translated from the Latin), Tyndale used a variety of verbs to translate “evangelize” from the Greek. He primarily used “preach,” but he also used “preach the gospel”, “show”, “bring tidings”, “bring glad tidings”, and “declare”. Tyndale did not ever use the verb “evangelize.” Other Reformation era translations continued in this practice: the Bishops, the English Geneva, and then the King James Version.

Tyndale’s decision, not to use the verb evangelize, has continued to influence all English translations up until the HCSB. The HCSB includes the verb seven times in its 2009 edition. When I first held the HCSB NT in my hands at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary I was elated to see the verb “evangelize”! The following are three of my favorite uses of this verb to give a small taste of its importance in translation work.

“After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.” (Acts 16:10)

One of the classic uses of the verb “evangelize” in the NT has to be Paul’s Macedonian call. In Acts 16:6-8 Paul and his team were seeking God’s will for their mission trip—with closed doors, road blocks, and no permission to preach the word. Then came a vision in the night, a man from Macedonia asking for help. And, in a classic statement off the pen of Luke, Paul concluded from this vision that “God has called us to evangelize them!” The HCSB provides Christians a powerful statement of Paul’s view of mission by translating this verb as “evangelize.”

“My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom 15:20)

Here at the close of the Book of Romans, Paul continued to describe his sense of mission. His aim was literally to “Go where no man had ever gone before” with the gospel. He did not want only to go with the gospel, but to verbally proclaim it. His aim was “to evangelize” where the Christ’s name had never been uttered or heard. That evangelizing should be at the heart of Christian world missions is infused in this text by the excellent translation work of the HCSB.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.” (1 Cor 1:17)

A third amazing use of “evangelize” in the HCSB is found in 1 Corinthians 1:17. In this verse Paul places evangelism above the first ordinance of Christ, which is Baptism. Paul makes a statement of priority. In his mind, evangelizing was more of a priority than Baptism. This statement then begs for definition. What is evangelizing in relation to Baptism? Evangelizing is the proclamation of the gospel leading to the first hearing of faith of the person being evangelized. Or, in the order of Matthew’s Great Commission, evangelizing is found between the “going” and the “making of a disciple.” After a disciple is made, then the decision is made public through Baptism.

Three amazing uses of “evangelize” in the HCSB. This translation has pioneered a new era in English language translation by unearthing a term that was effectively buried since the 1388. 619 years of English Bible translation history were altered when the HCSB used the English verb “evangelize” seven times*—Amen!

*The seven uses are: Acts 8:25, 40; 14:21; 16:10; Rom 15:20; and 1 Cor 1:17.

An Awakening of Good Christian Music

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Yesterday I was staining our back deck and listening to the music on my iPhone. As I listened, several things happened: (1) my mind was set at ease; (2) my heart was lifted to the throne room of God; and (3) I became very grateful to the wide range of Christian music that the Lord has allowed our generation to hear and enjoy.

Several years ago John MacArthur came and spoke at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the Spurgeon Lectures. In one of his sermons he expressed that in his estimation we are in the midst of a Christian revival or Awakening and may not be aware of it. He cited the numbers of people listening to his sermon podcasts from all over the world, then referencing that he is not the only Evangelical pastor whose sermons are being downloaded and listened to all across the globe.

While the spoken Word is definitely the primary agency through which is communicated the things of God, I want to give a shout out today for the Word in song!

One of the more impactful songs that I heard yesterday was Jeremy Camp’s “Revive Me.” It sounded like a song taken right out of the Book of Psalms. I also enjoyed Blue Highway’s “Wondrous Love,” which I had newly added to my collection.

During my listening session while staining, I also heard Kings Kaleidoscope’s “One Righteous Man,” Lecrae’s “Real Talk,” several portions from Handel’s Messiah, Sebastien Demrey’s and Jimmy Lahaie’s “Cherchez D’Abord,” and John Swaim’s “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.”

Yes, we live in a blessed generation. Not only is good preaching available to us at the touch of a screen, but we also have God-glorifying music available to us as well. I agree with John MacArthur. We are living in the midst of an Awakening of Christianity, facilitated by the availability of good preaching and good singing!

Our Great Commission Freedoms!

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With Memorial Day on May 30th and Independence Day on the Fourth of July, I have heard winds of hesitancy from Millennials as to whether or not to include patriotic songs in their worship services.

The arguments go something like this: We worship Jesus in our worship services, not the U.S. flag. We are countrymen of a different country (heaven) therefore it is improper for us to show allegiance to the United States, especially within the framework of our worship services. After all, did not Adolf Hitler demand a commitment to the Third Reich from pastors in Germany?

Then comes the argument that America has never been a “Christian” nation. Moreover, it was not proper for John Winthrop to consider the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a “City on a Hill.” Or again, as my college history professor explained with glee: “The American Experiment did not work!” Rather, say these antagonists, the Puritans who settled Massachusetts possessed an inflated self-importance and a misconstrued interpretive model of Christ and culture for even trying to shape a nation from the teachings of the Bible.

Meanwhile U.S. Evangelical Christians are told to mind their own business and keep their religious views out of the political process.

As to the U.S. being a Christian nation, let us remember that the current Pope is calling for “Christian Europe” to accept the immigrant refugees, supposedly buttressed by the teachings of the Bible. Surely the Pope cannot be misinterpreting Scripture when he considers Western and Central Europe to be “Christian.” Interestingly, many Evangelical missiologists consider Western Europe to be “post-Christian.”

Further, the same liberal theologians who deride conservatives for “imposing their morality” every election cycle—simply for voting their conscience—are the same liberals who impose their political views in the name of Christianity. Is it not liberal theologians that invoke “love” and “acceptance of others” from the Bible to allow unhindered access of our public schools to the LGBTQ lobby? Is it not the same liberals who call for civil disobedience if illegal immigrants are kept from entering our country?

They cannot have it both ways: (1) Use the Bible to underpin and buttress their political views and (2) tell conservatives who want to vote and voice their conscience that they are imposing their morality on others.

It is interesting that all students at Wheaton College were required to take a first year Bible class entitled, “Christ and Culture.” The required text for this class was H. Richard Niebuhr’s book, Christ and Culture (1951). Niebuhr skillfully framed out of the question the most obvious biblical view in light of the cross of Jesus: “Culture against Christ.”

It is this same “Culture against Christ” view that is being skillfully framed out of the debate in today’s arguments. First of all, America’s unique Christian history and heritage is underreported and virtually ignored. And secondly, the constitutional right that conservative Evangelicals have to voice and vote their conscience is maligned.

Let us remember that U.S. political and judicial framework still retains a remnant of Christian conviction from the Puritans and Pilgrims, from the First Great Awakening, and from our Bill of Rights and the freedoms that we are granted by them.

Do we come to church to worship Jesus? Absolutely. He is the reason that we come together to worship. However, we also live in a country whose laws allow us to freely share the gospel and peaceably assemble. These Great Commission Rights have provided a framework for wonderful seasons of gospel harvest in our history.

It is quite unique in the history of the world that the Lord has allowed us such freedom “from sea to shining sea.” I think America is still something to celebrate. And I am grateful to live in America as an American Born Abroad. And I believe that it is perfectly appropriate in our worship services to thank the Lord for the freedoms that we have in these United States of America!