Living the Christian Life

 

One of the misconceptions about eternal life and going to heaven is the belief that somehow, when a person is judged, their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds. Many believe that one day God will open the books and look at all the things we have done. He will place all the bad deeds on one side of a balance and all our good deeds on the other side. If the good outweighs the bad, we feel as though we deserve to go to heaven.

When I have talked to people about their need to repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ, I often get the response, “I will just try to live the Christian life to make up for it.”

Dennis Rader was an active member and the president of the church council in a local church of his city, and was a Boy Scout Troop leader upon his arrest in February, 2005. Church members were shocked to discover that this man they had known for years was also known as the BTK killer. Between 1974 and 1991, Rader bound, tortured, and killed ten victims, some multiple members of a family. No one knows why he ended his murderous spree in 1991.

In the years following his crimes, he became an active church member and leader. He began to live the Christian life. For fourteen years, he became a Christian example. Surely during those fourteen years after the murders, he did many good deeds.

On June 27, 2005, he pled guilty to all the charges. During the trial he gave many horrifying details about the crimes he had committed. Today he is serving 10 life sentences in a Kansas prison. What if the judge treated his case the way many people feel that God, the most Righteous Judge, will treat their cases? What if Rader had told the judge, “Your Honor, I know that the jury has found me guilty of torturing and killing all those innocent people, but look at all the years I didn’t kill. Look at all the good work I did as a Scout leader. Look at the way I have lived a committed Christian life and served at church”? Then, what if the judge said, “You’re right. I can see how you performed more good deeds than the ten murders you committed, so I am going to pardon you”? We would think that is a miscarriage of justice. We would be outraged.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I am not that bad. I have never murdered anyone.” Haven’t you? First John 3:15 says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” Have you ever hated a brother or a sister? Then you have committed murder. What about adultery? Have you ever lusted for someone? Then you have committed adultery. The truth is that we have committed more sins than we probably even realize.

So why didn’t the judge let the BTK killer go after living the Christian life for fourteen years after the murders? Think of all the boys’ lives he had affected as a Scout leader. Think of all the people whom he didn’t murder by serving as president of the church council. Living the Christian life does not atone for the sins already committed. No matter how you live after sin, it does not make up for the sin you committed.

If a police officer catches you running a stop sign and you ask, “What if I promise never to do it again? What if I stop ten more times to make up for the time I didn’t stop?” Will that get you out of the ticket? No, you have broken the law and you must pay the penalty. When it comes to sin, we have all broken the law, and not just one or two of them. James 2:10 says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” We are guilty of breaking all of God’s laws, even murder. God is just and must punish sin. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. God doesn’t simply forgive our sins because he loves us. That would be unjust. Someone has to pay for our sin. Either we pay the penalty ourselves, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), or we accept Christ’s atoning death in our place. There is no other way to satisfy both the love and righteousness of God. Your living the Christian life won’t do it.

First, repent of your sin. The only hope is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14). After you have done that, you begin to live the Christian life because you are Christian. Living the Christian life will never save you. You can only live the Christian life once you are saved.

 

Living the Married Life

 

January first is the day that many people make New Year’s resolutions. This is the day we decide to make changes to help improve our lives. Some may decide to diet. Some may decide to begin an exercise program. Others may decide to stop smoking. Some may want to “turn over a new leaf” and may begin being more religious.

You may have considered the benefits of being religious and want to achieve them for yourself. That may mean praying more or attending church more often than just Christmas and Easter. That may also mean reading the Bible more, helping others, and doing good works. Will those efforts make a lasting difference, or will they be like others that fade within a few weeks of regular church attendance?

Consider the case of a single young man who sees how happy his married friends are. He asks them the source of their happiness. They tell him that they are happy because they are living the married life. He begins to consider the benefits of living the married life himself, so he decides to give it a try. He notices that since married people wear wedding bands, he decides to buy himself a wedding band. He also notices that they own homes, so he buys himself a nice house. Married couples often also drive two cars, so he buys another car. He also buys a queen-sized bed. He works hard, comes home after work, and saves money for a rainy day. In fact, he emulates everything his married friends do.

However, he discovers that he is not as happy as his married friends seem to be. Finally, he decides to talk to them. One of his married friends asks, “How does your wife feel about things?” “Wife?” he responds. “I have the ring, the mortgage, the two cars, a good job with a retirement plan. What more am I missing?” he asks. “A relationship,” his friend says.

Obviously, no one would believe they could enjoy the happiness of marriage without a relationship to a spouse, yet many try to find happiness as a Christian without a relationship to Christ. People hear testimonies of successful, happy Christians. They hear preachers extolling the benefits of being a follower of Christ. Many give it a try. They want Christianity without Christ, because he might make demands of them. So, they imitate what they see their Christian friends doing. They try to attend church regularly. They try to pray, but stop after a few minutes. They try to read the Bible but find it incomprehensible, confusing, and boring. They try to give some spare change in the offering once in a while, yet they never find the happiness they see in others.

The Bible calls the Church the “Bride of Christ” (See Revelation 21:9; 22:17). A married person is not the one who simply goes through the motions of being married. A married person is one who enters a lifelong relationship with another and makes changes that go along with that commitment. A Christian is not a person who merely goes through the rituals and ceremonies of the Christian religion, but someone who enters a life-changing relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord the same as entering a relationship with a spouse. The changes come about as a result of that relationship. They do not cause the relationship.

So, this New Year, as you contemplate making changes, consider what will truly make the greatest change in your life. Paul wrote in Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (NIV). Christianity is not about simply living the Christian life, it is Christ covering you completely with his righteousness. How does that happen? It happens as people confess their sin to Christ, repent of it and trust in his work on the cross for them. (See Mark 1:15). If you want to experience the Christian life, you need a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

The Word Made Flesh

 

All religions are about people searching for God. Some do it through rituals and ceremonies, and others through sacrifices. Some use meditation and contemplation, and others seek enlightenment. Some use vision quests. Religion is about what people can do to reach out to God or gods and get the gods to perform for you.

They may be seeking a god or gods who can provide blessings, abundance, power, success or eternal life, however, Romans 3:11 says that they are not seeking the God of the Bible. The root of the word religion is the same root as in the word obligation. “Lig” means “to bind.” As in a ligament that binds bone to bone, or a ligature that binds a reed to the mouthpiece of a clarinet. Religion, for some, is a bargaining chip to obligate their god to do something for them. They say, “God, if you do this, I’ll do that.” Whatever that is. We bargain with God by saying, “I will go to church on Sunday; I will give money; I will do good deeds, if you will do…fill in the blank.”

Christianity differs, however, in that in Christ, God was seeking mankind. The account in John’s Gospel begins in verse one saying that the Word was God. Verse three states that nothing that exists came into being without the Word creating it. Verse 14 goes on to say that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

The phrase “dwelt among us” literally translates a verb that means to pitch a tent. That word signifies that the eternal Word of verse one took on a temporary dwelling place to live among mankind. At Christmas, we celebrate this event as the eternal God becoming flesh. We call that the Incarnation. This is not mankind reaching out to God. It is God reaching down to mankind.

God created Adam and Eve to live in fellowship with him. He walked with them in the garden of Eden until sin entered the relationship. God could no longer dwell with mankind, so he initiated a new plan. He spoke of the seed of the woman who would crush the tempter’s head (Genesis 3:15). That seed was Jesus Christ born of the virgin. He was the seed of the woman.

In Christ God became man. Once again, he dwelt among people in a temporary dwelling that the Bible calls a tent or tabernacle. In the flesh, Christ taught people how to live, how to die to self, and how to be born again, but he did not come just to establish a new religion or another system to obligate God to fulfill people’s desires. The final step in his mission was to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. His body was laid in the tomb, and three days later, he took up that body again. It was transformed into its eternal glory, never to die again.

At the end of the ages, God will dwell again with mankind. Revelation 21:3 says that the tabernacle or dwelling place of God will be with mankind in a new heavens and new earth. He will actually dwell with his people on that new earth. By that time, Satan will have been vanquished and evil will have been destroyed. The final enemy, death, will have been eliminated. Those who were born again will live forever in God’s presence in a newly created universe.

The present of Christmas is not something that we give to each other. This present is what God gave to us. He gave us his best, his only Son. To as many as receive this gift, God gives the right to become his children (John 1:12). The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life (First John 5:12).

If you have not received God’s gift, I hope that this year, you will receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. The way you show appreciation for the gift that God is given you is by living in a way that honors Christ. Your life becomes a “Thank You” note to God.

 

The Class that Social Media Built

In a desire to reach the non-English speaking people in our community, we decided to offer a basic conversational English course at our church. It was to be held on Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00. I had trained two other people to help me teach the classes. Not wanting to be overwhelmed, I limited the publicity to a few flyers prominently placed throughout the neighborhood stores and at my workplace.

When the first night rolled around, rather than being overwhelmed with students, we were totally underwhelmed. No one came. The teachers gathered early, got the classrooms ready and waited. Not to be discouraged, we reminded ourselves that sometimes people tend to show up late. We decided to use the time constructively to tidy up the church building. At 8:00 we finally decided that no one was coming.

The next day, feelings of depression flowed over me. I feared that we would be overwhelmed, but instead, we had no response. I felt that surely a few would come, so we could build from that.

At work the next day, a co-worker who had wanted to come but could not, told me that I should try posting a notice on Facebook. She told me of a page that worked like a flea market for the community. I composed an ad and gave it to her to review before posting. Then I had to request membership in the on-line flea market community.

The next class was to begin on Thursday, and my membership request still needed approval. On Wednesday morning I finally received the approval. My supervisor sent me out to the field early that morning, but before I left, I wanted to make sure that I got my ad posted to the website. Even though the class was free, I put it on the flea market page. I uploaded it and left for the field by 6:30 am.

It was not long before I started receiving “like” notices on my Facebook page. By the end of the day, I had over fifty hits. Some asked about joining and requested more information.  Some texted me at the number on the post.Others actually called me.

The next day, the day of the class, the responses continued the same. I answered questions. I encouraged them to come. Finally the time came. Just before  6:30, the first student arrived. When we got started just a  little late, we had fifteen students enrolled with two children in the day care area.

The first class was all about getting to know one another. Apart from my co-worker and her husband, I did not know any of the other people personally. Some had called me on the phone. Others had texted. Some of them were married and some knew each other. By the end of the evening, twenty of us had become new friends.

Before leaving for the evening, I asked how they had found out about the class. Only one said that he had heard an announcement on the radio. Other than that, all the rest had heard about it social media. In just two full days on Facebook, we had a perfect beginning to an English class. Now we will rely on word of mouth to carry it from there. Soon we will hopefully double in size.

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Mission Trip to Honduras

In May this year I will participate in a mission trip with Scott Nute Global Ministries (http://www.scottnute.org).

 

Greetings from New Mexico! I wanted to share with you that the Lord has opened an opportunity for me www.scottnute.orgto serve on an evangelism team in Honduras, May 26-29, 2016. Currently, I am the bi-vocational pastor of Belvue Baptist Church in Hobbs, NM, and I work full-time in the oilfield. Last fall, our church participated in an area crusade with Scott Nute Global Ministries out of Houston, Texas. My involvement was to train Spanish-speaking counselors for those who made decisions during the crusade. I also translated for two of the evenings.

Since Scott’s ministry is global, I contacted him about being involved in his ministry outside the US in a Spanish-speaking country.  His next opportunity that I can help with is in Sonaguera, Honduras, May 26-29, 2016. Over 70 churches have united together to reach their region of over 200,000 people with the GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST! I hope this will be the first of many such crusades in the future that I can be a part of.

For this mission in Honduras I will be serving in various ways, such as sharing my testimony, meeting with pastors and church leaders, and doing personal evangelism. Plus, I will be counseling those who come forward at the crusade, such as the young girl in the photo below who, along www.scottnute.orgher sister, came to Christ in Scott Nute’s recent crusade in El Salvador, Feb 12-13 (here is a 5-min video clip from the El Salvador Crusade)! She was receiving follow-up from a Christian who had been trained in advance by Scott Nute’s Latin Crusade Director to follow-up those who came to Christ, and to connect them to the involved local churches! Dozens of Christians will be trained in advance to be Counselors for the Sonaguera Crusade!

The Lord is calling me to step out in faith and raise the funding needed to cover my personal expenses for this mission. The total I need to raise is $2,000, which will cover my airfare, hotel, meals, water, and help for the days I will be away from my secular job in the oilfield, which is slow now. Any funding that God provides above my personal needs will go toward the Crusade itself. The budget for this Crusade is $20,000, and the largest expense is for providing public transport to bring lost and hurting people to hear about Jesus Christ! On average, the cost for Scott Nute’s ministry to bring one person to and from the soccer stadium (which holds over 10,000 people) to hear about Jesus is $2.50; on average it costs $150 to rent one bus, which holds around 50-75 people.

Your gracious support will enable our team to literally reach thousands of people with the love of Jesus Christ! As the Lord moves your heart, your gifts can be made out to “SNGM” and noted to “Mike McGuire,” and mailed to: Scott Nute Global Ministries, PO Box 79016, Houston, TX 77279. Scott Nute’s ministry is a non-profit organization, so your gifts will be tax-deductible, and you will receive a receipt. Also, you can donate online through Scott’s website at www.scottnute.org (please note online gifts as well to “Mike McGuire” in the comments box).

Thank you for sending me out to the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Your support & prayers will help us make an eternal and life-changing impact in the lives of many people in Honduras!

Sincerely,
Mike McGuire
SNGM Crusade Team Volunteer

Mike McGuire Ministries Reaching the World Through Languages

Apart from my decision to follow Christ, the next most life-changing decision I ever made was to study Spanish. As I was preparing my four-year plan for high school, my father encouraged me to study a foreign language. The high school I attended offered Latin, French, and Spanish. I thought, “nobody speaks Latin. They’re all dead.” Nobody in the Texas Panhandle where I grew up spoke French either. However, there were many Hispanic people so I decided to study Spanish. I figured that I would be able to talk with them if I studied Spanish. Little did I know how much that decision would affect my life.

When I first began as a 14-year-old student of Spanish, the language was very difficult for me. Each day, the teacher gave us a pop quiz over the previous day’s vocabulary. I didn’t see a pattern to it. The terms confused me, especially the verb forms. Then one day I overheard another student say that we would be studying verb conjugations in class that day. Once the teacher explained verb conjugations, I saw a system. The rest was history.

Now I had a framework to hang my Spanish on. I learned the five verb endings for each form in present tense. Once I got that pattern down, I made straight A’s all the way through high school and college. I never made less than an A in any class. Spanish seemed to come naturally to me.

Since that time in my life, virtually every job has had something to do with Spanish or language. When I was 16, my father took me on my first mission trip. Our church had a mission on the Mexican border. After two years of high school Spanish, and making straight A’s, I thought I could speak Spanish fairly well. Turns out my language was overly simplistic. I could not form complex sentences. I had never heard of the subjunctive mood. But I came back from that trip determined to learn Spanish.

When I returned to class after my first trip, I pestered my teacher for everything I could get my hands on. I would ask questions that were way too advanced for a third-year student. She would say, “that will come up in next year’s class.” So in class, I read books that were more advanced than the class I was taking. I wanted to learn this language. I wanted to share the gospel in this language.

The next year I was disappointed to learn that the church was not taking high school students back to the Mexican border. They only allowed college students to go. Since I was a high school senior, they said I could not go unless I could interpret. So I said, “no problem!”

To help me prepare, I found out what my assignment was going to be. Construction. We were going to build a church building. My role was to interpret between our team and the Mexican workers. So I began to teach myself construction terms. I made a vocabulary list of construction tools like hammer, screwdrivers, wire, and construction materials. I planned to take a bilingual dictionary with me so I could look up any new words.

When I arrived at the border, I discovered my assignment had changed. Instead of interpreting for construction, they assigned me to the dentist. I knew nothing about dentistry. But I am a quick learner. So began my first experience as an interpreter at age 17.

In college I responded to the call to preach the gospel. After my first year of college, I took my only trip to Brazil, and returned through Columbia. I spent several weeks trying to learn Brazilian Portuguese. Since it was close to Spanish, I found it fairly easy to understand. When I arrived in Brazil, I soon discovered that my Portuguese was severely lacking. I could understand most of what people say to me and about me, however, my language came out a hodgepodge of Spanish and Portuguese. Later I learned that they call it Portuñol.

I began traveling as often as I could to Mexico and later to Columbia again. As I traveled, my fluency began to improve. Over the years I have made so many trips to Mexico I can’t count them all. I went to Columbia two times. I went to Cuba six times. I have been to Spain twice and Portugal once. I also went to Ecuador.

Changing majors in college, I finally decided to become a high school teacher. While I was working on my teaching certificate, the state of Texas decided that all students had to be instructed in their own language. I had already signed a contract with a school system in West Texas to be their 10th grade English and Spanish teacher. Since the state of Texas decided every student must learn in his or her own language, the school district sent me back to school that summer to get my endorsement in ESL.

Now, I never wanted to become an ESL teacher. That was not my goal. That was not a desire of mine. Yet due to my contractual obligations, I had to return to school for the entire summer and spend eight weeks in intensive study. The state of Texas paid for it. Not only did they pay for books and tuition, they also paid a stipend. So upon finishing the course at the end of the summer, I moved to my new city and began teaching Spanish, physical science, and ESL.

At first I really hated teaching ESL. I am not sure why, but because I was fluent in Spanish, the students would not practice their English. Truthfully it is much better if you don’t speak their language. I discovered that about 10 years later when I began teaching ESL to students from various nations while in the same classroom.

After I completed seminary with my Masters degree in theology, almost every church that approached me wanted me to do something with Spanish. In my very first church in Lubbock Texas, we decided to begin an ESL ministry. Several of us received training in ESL as well as adult literacy.

The University across the street from my second church had an ESL language program. Several times they tried to get me to teach with them, but I turned them down due to my church obligations. Eventually the church allowed me to teach part-time at the University. That was where I really began to like ESL.

Teaching adults ESL was a far more rewarding opportunity. These were adults from around the world who were paying their own expenses to come to America to learn English from native speakers. Many of them were professionals from their own countries – Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Guatemala, and Qatar. Each was intelligent in his or her own right. Each was educated. Each paid their own expense, and they were not forced to be in class like high school students. Therefore, we had no classroom discipline problems. They knew they would be wasting their own time and money. Plus they knew if they were really a problem, we could have them deported. No problems.

Since those days I have had the opportunity to teach ESL in Cuba, Belarus, Ukraine, and Thailand. Those trips usually only lasted about two weeks. People often ask me, “What can you teach people about language in just two weeks?” The experience was more like a laboratory than a classroom. Many of the students that we ministered to had already studied English. However, they lacked practice with native speakers. Our role as teachers was to provide practical learning experiences where they could practice what they had learned with native speakers.

If you have ever studied the foreign language, you may remember the exhilaration you felt the first time you spoke to a native speaker, and he or she understood you, and you understood him or her. That’s the kind of exhilaration the students felt in their own countries when they could communicate with a native speaker.

Invariably, the students would ask who was paying us to teach them English. They were shocked to discover that we raised our own funds to make these trips. When they asked us why we would do that, we told them about the love of Christ. Many of them decided to become followers of Christ as well.

Most of those trips I took as a part of Michael Gott Ministries International. People might not come to a church to hear an “evangelist,” but they would come to learn English. The church buildings that we used were often filled to capacity several times a day as we offered English in two-hour blocks. By the end of the two weeks, hundreds of students of all ages would decide to become followers of Christ.

Through my involvement with Michael Gott, and my ESL experience, I have had a part in hundreds coming to know Christ. On several of the trips when we went to Cuba, I actually interpreted for Michael Gott. At other times I was able to preach on my own. In Belarus, Ukraine, and Thailand, I preached through an interpreter.

If you had told me when I was 14 that I would preach the gospel in the shadow of the capitol building of Havana, Cuba, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. I have done exactly that on more than one occasion. That one decision to study a foreign language has led me to teaching ESL around the world. People I would never be able to speak to any other way will come to learn English. That’s why ESL is such a valuable tool for spreading the gospel. Can you speak English? If you can, then God can use you to reach the world