Friday, September 12, 2008

Men's Retreat: An Amazing Answer To Prayer

Last weekend, I traveled with about a dozen men from my church to Marengo Ohio for the Ohio Church of God Men's Retreat and Ox Roast and I was able to witness one of the most amazing answers to prayer in my life. Let me set the stage a bit:

The original worship leader for the retreat had a death in the family and had to cancel the night before things were set to begin. This led the organizers of the retreat to scramble around to try and find a replacement at the last minute. They were able to find a very talented Christian artist from Indiana who plays with the Gaither's. No that isn't the answer to prayer, well at least not mine.

While leading worship at the Friday night service (and doing a fantastic job) this individual also mixed in a few songs that they had written themselves, one in particular which was about how Jesus called us to be the "salt and light" of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). That by itself wasn't the issue, however it gave me pause when he went on asking us if we ever noticed "that neither salt or light make a sound". His primary point in the song was that as Christians we have to live "right" and let the Lord's light shine through us. Don't get me wrong, he was right we ARE called to do that...but that is a biproduct of salvation...not our primary goal.

While he was singing his song, I just bowed my head in prayer. This is something I often do when I don't agree with the theology of a particul song in worship (even at my own church). Rather than get myself upset and lose focus on the fact that I am there to Worship my Lord, I simply continue to worship through praise and prayer. This time I prayed (hard) that the Lord would find a way to make the message clear this weekend that we are NOT called simply to live a good life, but we are called to seek others and share the Gospel with them.

Enter Joel Penton. Joel is a former Defensive Lineman for the THE Ohio State University. (This made him quite a hit in the middle of Ohio, and everyone was elated to have him be there). Joel delivered a message on Friday night that was powerful entitled "Real Men Love Jesus", but the answer to my prayers came on Saturday.

It turns out that Joel noticed the same thing I did about the artist's "Salt & Light" song on Friday. He struggled quite a bit after hearing that song (and other conversations in fellowship afterwards), and decided to work late into the night and change the message of his Saturday sermon to clear things up. He delivered an amazing message on "How Do We Respond To Jesus' Coming, Dying, Rising? We Must CLEARLY Articulate The Gospel."  The entire message was focussed on how we are all called to share the Gospel clearly, not through our ambiguous actions...but through the Word of God.  

Think about it.  What if you were wathing as a friend of yours was out for a walk one day while listening to their iPod.  Now this friend is so engrossed in their music that they don't realize they are walking right out onto a busy 8 lane freeway, and a tractor trailor is bearing down on them at 65 MPH...and you know they will surely die.  Which of these would you choose?
  1. Just sit back and walk back and forth on the shoulder, hoping that they will see your example and realize that they should stop walking on the highway?
  2. Yell, scream, and run and get their attention doing everything in your power to warn them about what is about to happen?
I bet you would choose #2.  But yet each of us know countless people that are headed to hell b/c of their sin, and we don't do a single thing to warn them. We just sit back and hope that they will notice what we are doing, and come to be saved that way.  We are called to warn them about their certain peril and tell them about the Gospel and what Christ did.  The real display of love, knowing what we know about Jesus and what he has done, is to share the Gospel and persuade them to Repent & Trust in Jesus so they don't end up in hell: 

2 Corinthians 5:11 (New American Standard Bible)

 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.  

Wow, how awesome was that? What an amazing answer to Prayer!  Here is a little bit of Joel's sermon, mixed together with some photos...all put to the special theme song that the worship leader wrote for the Ox Roast:

Thanks Joel for allowing yourself to be a vessel of Truth, all Praise and Glory to the Lord!

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