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Salt Lake City 2

Posted by Pastor J.D. on July 1, 2008
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We had a great morning this morning… I spoke on what it means to really encounter the Gospel and hundreds of teenagers responded. To those of you that prayed, thanks. I am praying that these teenagers (and ours who are at Crossroads) will develop a “hunger and thirst” for righteousness… one that is so strong that it doesn’t require careful wording, great entertainment, or flawlessly executed conclusions for the kids to respond. I am praying the Spirit give them a love of God and righteousness, hatred for sin, fear of eternity, and amazement at the grace of God.

If you’re interested, they are live streaming the sessions here.

Today I biked up to the hillcrest overlooking the valley. Pretty spectacular. When I finally made it to the top, I felt like I was somwhere near death. My heart beat more in the hour it took me to get up there than it has in the last 12 years. I sprawled out on the grass in a Mormon church yard at the top of the mountain to try and return to some sense of muscular normalcy… and after about 20 minutes this kid walks up to me, identifies himself as part of the Challenge conference and wants to know if he can ask me some survey questions. It was then I realized that he didn’t recognize me… and he began to ask me the series of evangelistic questions (i.e. “Do you think a person can know for sure he’ll go to heaven,” “Who was Jesus,” etc.)

Of course I couldn’t resist. I told him that I believed God and Mary and Joseph Smith made up the Trinity and that I couldn’t wait to get to heaven to have thousands of spirit wives and babies… he seemed a little taken back but handled himself well… we argued for about 5 minutes and then I took off my sunglasses and told him who I was. He got a kick out of it… and will probably never witness to anyone ever again. Just kidding. He’s a great kid and I was proud of him for taking the initiative of walking up to a stranger to share Jesus. We prayed together and he headed out to tell someone else. Awesome.

Salt Lake City

Posted by Pastor J.D. on June 30, 2008
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I’m in Salt Lake City speaking at the challenge ’08 youth conference. There’s over 5000 kids at this thing, and it’s a pretty awesome event. I am preaching “in the round”, which means that I am on a square stage in the middle with about 1500 kids sitting on each side. Kind of cool. But weird. Always feel like somebody’s staring at my hiney.

This morning I spoke on what a disciple really looks like – contrasting those people who have a veneer of Christianity gilded on top of a heart that lives for itself. I tried to show them how radically
different people were when they encountered the real Gospel – we become
people of radical generosity and radical joy in the midst of hardship. It
seemed to go well. The students seemed very connected and I sensed an unusual
freedom and authority while I was preaching.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to talk about really
encountering Jesus. I’m going to try and show many
“Christian” students have an inoculated faith – just enough of
Christianity to make them immune to the real thing. I’ll be preaching
from John 4. I would really appreciate your prayers. Also, pray for our own
students who are down at Crossroads summer camp this week. You can keep tabs on
them here.

I spent afternoon seeing Salt Lake City. I spent most of
it in the Mormon Temple complex, so now I’m pretty depressed – so
many bright people, energetic, young, and passionate, in service to
“another” Gospel. The place is swarming with “guides”
which are really young missionaries who use the Temple complex to seek
converts. What was weird is that all the “guides” were good looking,
20-something single girls from all over the world. It was like being at a
babe-convention or a Miss America pageant. None of them compared to my wife, of
course.

I “behaved,” for the most part, at the temple. I
only got in 2 discussions which could be called “vigorous.” When asked
if I wanted a Mormon missionary to come and visit my house to answer my questions, I told them yes and that my name was Bruce Ashford. Bruce, you might
be on the lookout for a visit or call sometime in the near future.

It really did break my heart though. And, I did get the chance to
share the Gospel a few times. One of their talking points is to say, “I
prayed to God to know the truth and God showed to me through peace in my heart
that it was Mormonism.” I told them I had prayed the same type of prayer and
that God showed me it was not. I told them that since 2 people could pray and
come up with different answers, we needed to look somewhere else besides a
“feeling” for assurance. That somewhere else is, of course, the New
Testament, where Paul said, “If I, or an angel from heaven (like Moroni)
preach any other Gospel to you than that which I have already preached (like
the whole book of Galatians), let him be accursed. Interesting, both Mormonism
and Islam claim to be started in response to an “angelic”
revelation (Islam – Gabriel/Mormonism – Moroni). The reason Mormonism
and Islam are wrong is that they both preach a fundamentally different Gospel.
They teach, in different ways, that “if we obey properly, then we will be
accepted. The Christian Gospel – Paul’s and Jesus’
Gospel – is that “I am accepted because of what God did for me in
Christ, therefore I obey.”

One interesting story I learned was that when Brigham Young (the
2nd leader of Mormonism who founded Salt Lake City) came over the
Rockies and saw this plain, he thought the Salt Lake was a ‘heaven
on earth,’ a ‘land of bounty and blessing’ (his words). He
claimed God had spoken to him and told him this was the place. Later they found
out the lake was all salt. What promised so much turned out to be dead. I couldn’t
help but think of this as such a stunning parable of their faith.

I also learned that Mormons send out over 20,000 missionaries a year or 2 year stints. 20,000. Even with a defective message, it has to spread, just by the sheer numbers. As I’ve said before, I am committed to the ‘Mormonization’ of our college students: I want them all to spend 2 years working overseas.

I do wish you’d pray for me.

And, did you know Salt Lake City is, statistically, the
least reached city in the country?

Where I am and a great story…

Posted by Pastor J.D. on June 25, 2008
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I have spent the greater part of the week with a bunch of teenagers from the RDU area at a camp down here in SC. It's been great. One of the guys I met is from the Brier Creek area who came up to me and said, "You dont' know me but I want to thank you and your church for winning my boss to Christ. He started coming to your church and became a Christian there about a month ago. He was my 2nd shift manager, and he used to make us work until 10:00 at night. Now that he's a Christian he lets us all go home at 9 so he can get home in time to read his Bible." That's pretty awesome. People coming to Christ and making the work place a better environment… Thank God, Summit Church, for how He is using you. We don't deserve an ounce of it.

As to the week… we've had a lot of students believe the Gospel and surrender to Christ, which I never get tired of seeing. I spent the first 4 talks going through exactly what it means to be separated from God and what Christ has done for us and how it changes us. I used to take for granted that people in church just "knew" and "understood" that stuff. Not anymore. I spend most of time describing what the Gospel is and what it means. So many people in our churches have no real grasp on Christ's radical Gospel, the Gospel that says that we are accepted not by what we do but by what Christ has done… And even for those who already know the Gospel and are saved, there is nothing that increases their love of God, their hatred of sin, and confidence for the future like dwelling on the Gospel.

Anyway, for those of you at our church… pray for me this week, please. I agree to do these things because  God has gifted me to speak with teenagers, and I am praying that when my daughters are teenagers God will anoint and send someone to speak to them to complement what I have taught them at home. And pray for all of our own teenagers these next few weeks, who will be at a similar camp, that they will really encounter Christ. The teenage years are the time that most significant decisions of this nature are made. I am grateful Jason Gaston, our student pastor, lives and breathes winning these guys to Christ. He needs a PRAYING church behind him.

Here's a great article about our church being recognized as one of the top giving to missions churches in the nation. Praise God, Summit!