Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are You an April Fool? …an Everyday Fool?

~ The Elliot Family: A Comet and Distant Stars ~  

The story of Jim Elliot, the missionary who was one of five martyred in the jungles of Ecuador, has been well documented. The entire Elliot family—Jim’s father, mother, two older brothers, and sister—were all committed to serving the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives. It was my privilege to know the family well. In this posting, I will focus on Jim’s brother Herbert Ironside Elliot (he was named after the great preacher Harry Ironside who was instrumental in his father’s salvation). 

Bert and his wife Colleen left to their mission field in Peru in 1949—some years prior to Jim’s departure for Ecuador. They have been serving as God’s ambassadors in that country continuously since then.

For many years Bert and Colleen served about half the year among the native people of the Amazon jungle. At first they traveled by canoe; later they had a motor launch named “Maranatha” (literally “our Lord cometh”—see 1 Corinthians 16:22).

The other half of the year they served native people in high areas of the Andes Mountains. Traveling by foot, by animal, and later by 4x4 vehicles, they brought the message of God’s love to the people of Peru. Somehow they also had time to work among the people of Peru’s coastal areas! 

For whatever reason, God has chosen that they should be childless—but they are the spiritual parents of thousands and have impacted many thousands more. In their labors for their Lord and Savior, they have established well over 150 churches throughout Peru. What a sense of joy there will be when someday they move from their humble dwelling on earth and are welcomed to their mansion in heaven!

Bert and Colleen chose to forego the luxuries of this life in order to bring individuals to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They have endured many hardships. At one point they were targeted for assassination by the guerrilla terrorist drug lords misnamed the “Shining Path.” In order to help the people they love even more, they acquired additional medical and dental skills—going beyond offering  a cup of water in Christ’s name (Mark 9:41).   

Bert and Colleen Elliot are now in their eighties and still serving those around them in Peru as servants of Christ. Many years ago they ceased considering themselves as missionaries and rightly viewed themselves as Peruvians. The verse that reappears in my thinking is, “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).  

Bert has commented that while his brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose him to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint—stars which are countless in the vast universe. There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time. 
But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!   

Bert and Colleen fully understand the meaning of “laying up treasures in heaven” (Luke 18:22; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Bert’s brother Jim who is well known for a written comment in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose," must be smiling as he looks down and observes the work of one of his older brothers!

Luke tells us what God says to those who are wealthy on earth but have neglected their spiritual life, "But God said, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20-21). Are you an April Fool? Far more importantly, are you an everyday fool?

COMMENT:  There is more information about the Elliot family in the background section of the book “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You” edited by myself. For more information about this book see the right column of this blog. 

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UPDATE:   Bert Elliot went home to be with his Lord on February 17, 2012.  He had served 62 of his 87 years in Peru.  Colleen joined him a short time later.  The memorial service planned for Bert in his home town of Portland, Oregon was changed to a joint service for these two dear saints who labored for our Lord side-by-side throughout their adult lives. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Defend Your Faith

~ The Ten Commandments of Apologetics ~   

The following is from an unknown original source. 

Apologetics is giving a reasoned defense of Christian truth-claims, in particular of the authenticity of the Bible and the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Critical thinking and persuasive reasoning are tools of the trade of apologetics. Christians have religious truth and the evidence to prove it.

“Sanctify Christ as lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [Greek: apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

(1)  Gospel first, apologetics second. ~ Always try to start a witnessing encounter with the Gospel. The job of apologetics is to pave the way for a presentation of the Gospel. It is pre-evangelism. It is wrong to assume that every unbeliever harbors intellectual objections to Christianity. Hence not every evangelistic situation will require an apologetics defense.

(2)  Stay with the essentials. ~ Most non-Christians know little about the Bible or what Christians believe—and what they think they know is often in error. When sharing the Gospel, avoid theological subjects that will be confusing to unbelievers, like eschatology or predestination. Confirm the message of the Gospel by sharing your personal testimony demonstrating the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your own life.

(3)  Remember your goal. ~ The goal of apologetics is to overcome intellectual obstacles to Christianity so that unbelievers are willing to consider the Gospel. Apologetics is not theology. You don’t have to give the definitive theological answer to any issue, only an appropriate answer that can be defended scripturally.

(4)  Never give people a problem. ~ Never force apologetics on someone or create illegitimate reasons to use it. The impulse is to go out and confront everyone you know and challenge their misbeliefs. Apologetics is not an excuse to argue. Often Christian love and understanding may be all that is needed.

(5)  Find out the real problem. ~ Sometimes unbelievers will raise issues against Christianity that do not mirror their real concerns. They may feel more comfortable discussing a popular argument rather than what’s really bothering them. Whatever the issues, you must identify them and respond accordingly.

(6)  Avoid distractions. ~ Apologetics deals with intellectual obstacles, not moral issues. For example, that a man and woman are living together out of wedlock should not prevent you from sharing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nor should it interfere with a discussion of apologetics. God will deal with the moral issues once a person sees his or her need to become a Christian.

(7)  Apply evangelistic and missionary techniques. ~ The ultimate goal of apologetics is evangelistic. The purpose is to bring people as quickly and as efficiently as possible to the point where they renounce their non-Christian worldviews and accept Jesus as Lord. It also involves seeking unbelievers on their own turf.

(8)  Know what unbelievers believe. ~ Be as a missionary who before going into a foreign culture learns as much as possible about their religious beliefs, language, social customs, ethical behavior, cultural taboos, and so on.

(9)  Don’t be intimidated. ~ Most non-Christians have little knowledge of the Bible and few have read even a portion of it. They seldom ask sophisticated questions or need in-depth answers. If you do encounter questions you can’t answer or arguments you can’t refute, admit it.

(10)  Keep the right attitude. ~ Don’t be self-righteous or pushy. Try to create an environment that encourages the work of the Holy Spirit.
“Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath” (1 Peter 3:15-16, The Message).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7 Great Truths

~ Critical Components of Christianity ~  

The Bible is the Truth Handbook. Jesus Christ was Truth in human form (John 1:14,17). Here are Seven Critical Truths as presented in the Scriptures. 

The Divine Inspiration of the Bible ~ If the Bible was written by man alone, it has no authority with regard to directing our lives. But if the Bible is what it claims to be, then its contents are critically important for every living person on earth. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added).

The Triune God; God in Three Distinct Persons ~ God is unique in that He is simultaneously One God yet three distinct persons—each with a distinct personality. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20, emphasis added). “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God [Father] will call’” (Acts 2:38-39, emphasis added).

Jesus  Christ is Fully God ~ God the Father’s only Son came to earth in human form to redeem mankind. If He were not fully God, He could not have lived a sinless life. His blameless life sacrificed on your behalf was the only sufficient substitute payment for your sins. He was and is fully God. “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (John 4:25-26). “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death’” (Revelation 1:17-18).

The Atoning Death of Christ ~ The sinless life of Jesus Christ was the only possible substitute payment for your sin. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)

Justification is by Faith Alone ~ To accept the free gift of salvation you must come to God on the basis of faith. (You exercise faith every day, such as when you drive over a highway bridge even though you do not fully understand the engineering and other aspects which cause it to hold you up. You exercise a huge amount of great faith if you believe the complex design of the world just happened by happy coincidences rather than by design.) “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). 

The Triune Aspect of Salvation: Past, Present, and Future ~ God offers you a point of salvation when you accept His Son, on-going salvation on earth, and eternal salvation with Him forever in the future glory. “Although he was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9, emphasis added).  There is more on this topic in a three-part post on this blog on March 2, 9, 16, 2010 – readily available by clicking on “March” under “2010” in the Abundant Life Now “Blog Archive” in the left column.

The Certainty of Future Eternal Punishment for Those Who Do Not Accept Christ as Their Personal Savior ~ Your future is in your hands! A righteous God demands judgment for sin including your sin. In His great grace He has offered an alternative for you: eternal judgment or the alternative of eternal glory by accepting the death of His Son on your behalf. You choose your final and eternal destiny in either the smoking or non-smoking section of eternity! “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

4 Critical Connections

~ Are You “With Christ”? ~

The book of Colossians mentions three current connections regarding effective Christian living and a fourth future connection. 

Alive with Christ ~ A Christian is a new person—not an improved makeover! A Christian is one who has been made spiritually alive or “born again” (a term used by John, James, and Peter). The Christian is to put to death the old way of life and nurture a new life with Christ.

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins” (Colossians 2:13). Do you have new life in Christ?

Risen with Christ ~ In order to rise from the dead we first must die. The Christian puts to death his old natural life with its sinful desires and actions. God has given us all we need to accomplish growth in our new spiritual life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). 

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Where are your affections? 

Hid with Christ ~ The world at large does not recognize Christians for who they are—“saints,” and “children of God,” who are also “joint heirs with Christ.” Christians make up the true church—not church buildings—and are commanded to gather together with their fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:25). The world does not understand or see the reality of Christians or the true church of Jesus Christ.

“You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Are you sure you are part of the true church of Christ? 

Appearing with Christ ~ What a glorious future awaits every Christian! 

“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). 

Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt that God will recognize you as one of His born-again children and that He will welcome you into His eternal kingdom? This is the most important question any human being can answer!    

Saturday, March 5, 2011

EXTRA: Book of the Year Award

~ “One Precious Pearl”—Literary Award ~

Reader Views Literary Awards has named One Precious Pearl the Book of the Year in the religion category. It is the first time in the history of these awards that a conservative Christian book has been a finalist, let alone the winner. 

As part of the Reader Views evaluation, Richard Blake wrote:  “One Precious Pearl guides the reader into a deeper understanding of God’s Design for His Church. … The book is divided into two parts made up of short chapters to accommodate the pace of today’s busy reader. … I found the evaluations, summaries, and commentary used throughout the format of the book to be stimulating, practical, and well thought out. …  One Precious Pearl: God’s Design for His Church is inspiration devotional reading made up of changeless truths presented from a contemporary perspective. This book is highly recommended.” The complete review and a listing of all 2011 winners may be found at the Reader Views website.  

Since its release One Precious Pearl has received many excellent reviews. Here is another example:  U.K. magazine The Voice said, “The book is ideal for devotional reading or for personal or small group study. The ideal audience for this book are Bible teachers, preachers, and students of the Scripture who are inter­ested in learning more about specific passages. Russell is an accomplished writer who has taken some difficult concepts and presented them in an informative and interesting way. Whether you are a believer or a seeker, you'll never look at a pearl the same way after reading One Precious Pearl. This is a book which should have a prominent place on the bookshelves of anyone who is serious about delving deeper into the meaning and understanding of the Bible.”

For more information about One Precious Pearl click on the OPP tab at the top of this blog or see the author’s website (link at top right of the Abundant Life Now blog). You may order directly from Amazon

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

God Given Grace Gifts

~ Natural Abilities & Spiritual Gifts ~  

Are “natural abilities” and “spiritual gifts” the same? No! In some ways they are similar, but in other ways there are significant differences. 

Same Source ~ Both natural abilities and spiritual gifts are given to us by God. 

Same Characteristic ~ Both natural abilities and spiritual gifts are inherent capacities—as opposed to learned skills. However, use of either improves your gifts. 

Different Time of Reception ~ Natural abilities are innately possessed from the time of physical birth (our human birth). Spiritual gifts are innately possessed from the time of spiritual birth (“born again”). Natural abilities are received at the time of conception—spiritual gifts are received at the time of conversion. 

Different Possession ~ Both those born naturally and those who are born again have natural abilities. Only twice-born persons have spiritual gifts. 

Different Purpose ~ Natural abilities are life-oriented. Spiritual gifts are ministry-oriented. Natural abilities are given to us by God primarily for functioning in the world. Spiritual gifts combined with natural abilities are given to us by God for functioning in the church. Natural abilities are related to our life in general. Spiritual gifts are related to our ministry. 

KEY CONCEPT ~ The word translated “gift” in Scripture possesses a root of “grace.” In reality a more accurate term for spiritual gifts would be “grace gifts.” This is true also of natural abilities—both natural abilities and spiritual gifts are literally grace gifts from God. Both are given to us—we cannot earn them or buy them. They are items of grace in that they are not earned in any way by us. Realizing this truth should remove any feelings of either superiority or inferiority. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). 

OVERVIEW ~ Does everyone have spiritual gifts? Yes, every born-again person has received spiritual gifts (plural) at the time of their second birth. Not all gifts are of the same strength. Many will have one or more very strong gifts. Like natural abilities, we all have varying degrees of spiritual gifts but in different measures.    

Since Jesus Christ is your role model and He demonstrated a proficiency in all the spiritual gifts, I believe it is appropriate to seek to grow all your spiritual gifts while you minister in areas of your strongest ones. Regarding spiritual gifts and spiritual empowerment, your Lord told you to rely on the Holy Spirit for spiritual enablement (Mark 13:11).

It is important to recognize that while natural talents and spiritual gifts are often closely related, there are other times when the two are quite divergent. As an example, a friend of mine who was a nationally-recognized theologian and great preacher told me, “I am not a good speaker (natural talent) but I am a gifted preacher (spiritual gift).”  

THE BOTTOM LINE ~ The important thing is not which spiritual gifts you possess in strength—He determines that. What matters is what you do with these grace gifts you have been given—you determine that.           

ADDITIONAL COMMENT:  There is more information about spiritual gifts and natural abilities in the book Thy Will Be Done On Earth (see the TWBDOE tab at the top of this page for more information). 

~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW