Tag Archives: Sovereignty of God

Advice For That Big College Spring Break Trip

Adolescence Summer Festive Music Fans Concert Dancing ConceptSpring break trips by college students to Daytona Beach and other parts south have become infamous symbols today for full-out hedonistic pleasure. And Sunday I was talking with a young college student from our church who was home for the weekend, and told me he too was heading to the beaches when his spring break came around in the next couple of weeks.

However, this young man was going on spring break with Cru, planning to do ministry to the folks on the beaches from all over the country. I know a little bit about these excursions – in the 80’s, my sweetie went to Daytona Beach with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ back then), and the organization has been heading to Florida to minister to college students for decades. It’s the kind of spring break activity that a pastor can endorse.

Now, for those non-Cru students heading for the sand and sea, we know that there will be a lot of “good times” and laughter and such on the beaches, for surely sin brings pleasure and at least temporary happiness. But of course, for every one person who leaves feeling “fulfilled” from fun, there will likely be an equal number heading back to school quite a bit more broken than they were before, now to carry scars from the “sun and fun” for the rest of their days.

So I’m thankful for the ministry my friend will be doing in a week or two, sacrificing his spring break to reach out to the prodigals and, by the grace of God, bring them home to a loving heavenly Father.

And though I never made an evangelistic spring break trip myself, I’ve done enough cold contact evangelism to know the greatest possible pitfall for believers engaging in such work – it’s discouragement. After two or three people tell you that they’re not interested in doing your survey, or hearing your story, it’s possible to start thinking that no one will ever want to talk. And as I was reading Acts chapter 16, I saw a principle that he and the other Cru weeklong missionaries would do well to keep in mind.

The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that it is a Sabbath day, and Paul along with his friends (one of whom seems to be Luke himself – he starts using “we” in this chapter) are looking for a place to pray in the city of Philippi, where the Holy Spirit has recently led them. So they head down to the river, hoping to find a peaceful, scenic place to seek God. Now, there are some women down by the river and Paul and friends begin to engage them with the gospel. It’s a wonderful scene, and results in the baptism of Lydia and all her household.

But I was particularly drawn to the place where Luke tells us the key to the “success” of this missionary encounter by the river. We see it clearly in verse 14: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Acts 16:14 (ESV)

Apparently, it wasn’t Paul’s eloquence or theological knowledge. No – the Holy Spirit who had been guiding them all along the way continued leading them (and leading her!) to a fruitful encounter by the waterside. This is always the great key to evangelism.


Now I found out in my conversation on Sunday that my young friend is using a different tract on the beaches than Diane used 30 years ago. Cru is updating and that’s good, I’m sure. But when you get right down to it, there is an even more important consideration than the tract or particular technique a missionary uses.

It’s knowing that the “no one comes to Me except that the Father who sent Me draws Him.” (John 6:44) Keeping God’s sovereignty in mind enables us to move to the next person on the beach knowing that God may be moving in that heart even though the last one was not interested. And it encourages us to do one other thing. You, see, there is an old saying: “Before you talk to men about God, be sure you talk to God about men.” And if there were ever any advice to offer a spring break missionary, or anyone for that matter looking to reach out to a neighbor or a loved one who is far from God, by far the best piece of advice is this: God does the work. He changes lives. So more than anything, we need to ask Him to open hearts today…just like He opened Lydia’s heart some 2,000 years ago.


Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 4th: Acts 17

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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When Your Loved One Doesn’t Know Christ

At the beginning of last year I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen for some time, and when we started catching up, it didn’t take too long to find out what was on his heart: His teenage son was showing pretty clearly by his life that he had not embraced Christ. The spiritual condition of this young man was understandably impacting the life of my friend – his work had suffered, anxiety had filled his heart, and as we talked I could tell that he was quite discouraged.

My friend, of course, is not alone in longing and praying for his child to know Christ. Christian parents can relate well to John in his third letter: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 4 (ESV) Of course! For those of us who understand that there is a real heaven and a real hell, what could be more important or give greater joy than knowing those you love the most have a secure eternity?

Well, the story in Acts chapter 9 should provide hope for all those who are praying for a loved one who is far from God. It’s the story of the infamous man named Saul, and as the chapter begins, we get a very clear picture of exactly who this man is:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 (ESV)

When I preached this passage some years back, I called him “Darth Saul” and covered my mouth partially and started breathing into the microphone like Vader himself, “…breathing threats and murder against the disciples…” This was a dark lord. Wicked. Murderous. Threatening. The Christian killer. Evil incarnate. B…B…B…Bad to the bone.

And yet…by verse 22 of this chapter, Darth Saul has become Paul and is proving that Jesus is the Christ.

Go figure.

It’s funny, isn’t it? We have our ideas about who will or at least should embrace Christ, and it certainly isn’t Darth Saul. Instead, it is the already “good” person, the almost-there nice guy or gal, the one of whom we say, “Oh, she would make such a wonderful Christian – just need to tell her that salvation is by grace and she will surely drop to her knees.”

So the end result is that we often think that we can do it, you know, “insert” Jesus into a loved one’s life. Maybe in some cases we’ll need to be extra clever and make detailed plans for such an insertion, but with work, we can make it happen. However, it just doesn’t quite work that way. It was Sinclair Ferguson who said that the gospel is summarized in Jonah’s short phrase uttered from the belly of the fish and found in chapter 2 of his powerful story: “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” Jonah 2:9 (ESV)

Erwin Lutzer of Moody Church illustrates this with the story of a seminary professor who took his preaching class out to a cemetery and had each student literally stand over a grave and shout to the dead person to come up out of the ground. And after all the students had sheepishly attempted this foolishness, he said, “That’s what you are doing when you preach, and therefore you cannot by your eloquence and ‘excellent’ preaching convince spiritually dead people to come to life. It is the work of God.” Salvation belongs to the Lord.

Now of course He uses us to proclaim the message…so, compelled by His love, we strive to be faithful in sharing the truth of the gospel in the workplace and the neighborhood and of course…in the home: Christian parents should strive to be faithful in reading the Bible with their kids and talking about matters of faith when they rise up and when they go out and when they lie down (Deuteronomy 6).

But even if you’ve blown the “little one” years and look back with regret at what might have been, remember that Saul’s parents never preached the gospel to him. Remember that what must happen in the life of our loved one is for Jesus to show up on the Damascus road. And so we pray…hard…and keep praying.  And by the way, the last I heard, my friend’s son was showing signs of real faith.

One last thing: it is always good to remember that though we might not have been killing Christians, all of us were at one time, like Saul, dark lords on the road to Damascus. But salvation belongs to Him, and by His glorious grace, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13 ESV)


For Monday, February 23rd: Acts 10


Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


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