evangelism

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Shows that Americans Like the Idea of the Bible, but Don't Actually Read it: Lifeway reports, " About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories."

2.      More Than a Quarter of the Deaths in Holland are Induced: This sobering report by John Burger finds that, "Fifteen years after the Netherlands decriminalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, more than 25 percent of all deaths in the nation are induced, rather than by illness or other natural causes."

3.      My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience: Dr. Wang Yi, Chinese pastor who was imprisoned in December, wrote this manifesto. Please read it. Among the many jewels in the letter, Yi writes, " As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world."

4.      The Importance of Clarity in Leadership: My friend and pastor Glen Elliott with a great post: " There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that."

5.      Hearing His Voice: Please watch this marvelous story of an unreached people group who are introduced to the Word of God. It's 25 minutes of encouragement.

How to Invite Someone to Church

How to Invite Someone to Church

An encouraging study by Lifeway Research found that two-thirds of churchgoers invited someone to church in the last six months.[i] When was the last time you invited someone to church? What would it look like for you to increase those efforts?

Inviting someone to church isn’t, of course, a substitute for evangelism, but it sure is a great partner in our evangelistic efforts. Similar to our homes, our churches ought to be a place that, while they are primarily for the gathered body of Christ, are also always welcoming to the outsider.

Diana Davis had an excellent post at Lifeway that spurred me to consider ways that I can better engage those God has put in my life with the gospel and be more active in inviting them to church.[ii] I’ve tweaked and whittled her list of 52 down to 17. They are a good challenge for me, and I hope they will be for you as well.  

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What's the Most Costly City in the World to Live in? An international report says that five of the top ten cities are in Europe. There are no US cities in the top ten, but two in the top twenty. What's the most expensive city you've ever lived in? For us, it was Princeton, NJ.

2.      When Obsessing About Theology Prevents Obedience: Andree Seu Peterson reflects, "Carolyn did Greek boot camp with me at seminary. She was a Carolinian, a people person, and outspoken in her love for Jesus, everything that I was not. I chalked it up to Southern culture. I explained that I was reserved by natural endowment, and more prone to wait for the right moment. She wasn’t impressed: 'I’ve got plenty of faults, but shutting up ain’t one of them.' I did not like Carolyn. Forty years later I’m still waiting for the right moment, and Carolyn’s probably blabbed the gospel all over Dixie. She has offended many people, I’m sure, and won a few to faith. After all, the law of averages."

3.      Two-Thirds of Americans Believe They're Sinful: LifeWay Research reports that while 2/3rds of Americans agree that they're sinful, only 33% of women and 22% of men depend on Jesus to overcome sin. And 52% of Americans believe that you can help earn your way into heaven with good deeds. 

4.      7 Ways Grief Becomes SinfulThe Bible does not tell us to stifle or suppress our grief, but there are ways that grief can become sinful. Paul Tautges draws wisdom from John Owen: "It moves us to take strange pleasure in sadness. 'Strange it is that we should find some kind of pleasure in rousing our sorrows.'"

5.      Online TrapsHow so called 'dark patterns' online trick you.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are Christian Men More Abusive: An eye-opening recent study concludes that committed evangelical men are the least abusive while uncommitted evangelical men are the most abusive, 'Sociologist Christopher Ellison and his colleagues found that women who were married or cohabiting were significantly less likely to report abuse if they regularly attended religious services. According to their study, 'compared with a woman who never attends religious services, a woman who shares similar demographic characteristics but attends several times a week is roughly 40% less likely to be a victim of domestic violence.' Not surprisingly, they also found that 'men who attend religious services several times a week are 72% less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services.'"

2.       How do we Motivate others Toward God? Kerilee Van Schooten shares a variety of ways we can spur others on toward God. Four of her eight motivations are: rapport; curiosity; relevance; and challenge.

3.       The Sanctification Gap: Ed Stetzer on the disturbing reality that a number of Christians don't take growing in holiness seriously: "'A Christian must learn to deny himself/herself in order to serve Christ.' 64% of churchgoers agree with the statement 19% disagree with the statement... The 19% is what should concern us as pastors and leaders (and the rest who did not know or answer). The essential, biblical mandate to follow Jesus and deny ourselves to serve Christ is not affirmed by almost 1 out of every 3 participants. We say we want the life of Christ and believe in Him for salvation, but we can’t seem to get past the denial hurdle."

4.       Hard Truths About Retirement: Christian Financial planner Chris Cagle says of the first of seven truths, "You can lose meaning and purpose without work.  This is a real and present danger in retirement. God created us all with an intrinsic need for work – to provide for our families and also to productively contribute to the world around us."

5.       No Progress for African Americans: The Economic Policy Institute just released a devastating report that after 50 years, ‘there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration…”

6.       Symphony of Light: Take in this incredible Kauai timelapse

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.    Almost No One in the US Believes in a Consistent Ethic of Life:This requires a much longer conversation and I respect those who disagree, but I find the Catholic ethic of life to be compelling:"one of the distinctive features of Catholic theology is what’s been described as a “consistent ethic of life.” In other words, protection and preservation at all stages of life. That’s why the Catholic church’s “seamless garment” condemns abortion, the death penalty, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research."

2.    Advent and Teaching Children to Wait: Scott James reflects, “If we allow ourselves to be shaped by a culture that views waiting as a vice and being made to wait an unpardonable offense, we’ll run contrary to the path Christ calls us to walk. To push back against this on-demand mindset, here are two ways you can cultivate a more measured approach this Christmas.”

3.    Children Need Close Pals, Not Popularity: A recent study proves what we would intuit: "Chasing after popularity can be stressful for children—and for their parents. A growing body of research suggests that they should give a different focus to their social energies. Having intimate friendships, it turns out, brings more long-term benefits, such as higher self-esteem and lower levels of anxiety and depression."

4.    How Do We Become More Effective At Outreach: Ed Stetzer reflects on the changing tide of what outreach means for us in America, " Using attractional elements is not bad or wrong; I believe they are quite useful, and in many contexts, contextual. However, if more and more people are skeptical about coming to a place, then we must teach and train our people to ‘be’ the church—the incarnational presence of Christ in the places they occupy. In essence, teaching and equipping our people about the implications of the gospel lived out in real life is the true attraction." 

5.    Strength in Brokenness: Frank Viola's words are so true: " It’s not hard to spot a Christian in ministry who isn’t broken. Unbroken people don’t know how to lay their lives down and lose. They only know how to try to win. If they’re criticized, they retaliate. If they’re attacked, they return fire. If misunderstood, they defend in anger. They are capable of doing all sorts of damage to others in order to save their own ministries and keep their reputations."

6.    Time Travel Dietician: A hilarious spoof on how the rules of dieting keep changing.

The Anti-Hero's Final Lesson: Love

The Anti-Hero's Final Lesson: Love

Do you know Jonah’s last words in the Bible?

“Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”[i]

Those are not words motivated by suffering or grief. Those are words that come straight out of the hateful heart of our anti-hero, a prophet who cannot bear that God would have compassion on a city he deemed worthy of destruction and upset that the God who provided a plant for shade for him would allow it to wither.

The compassion of God knows no bounds. He orchestrates the salvation of a city that every Jew would have longed to see the destruction of. A city that was not only a military threat to the Israelites, but whose pagan worship was a stench to those loyal to the one true God.

It is the Hero who has the final say in Jonah. These final words reveal God’s love and call us to this deep compassion:

Lessons from an Anti-Hero: Speak

Lessons from an Anti-Hero: Speak

Jonah doesn’t get much right. Not much at all. God called him to arise and go to Nineveh. Nope and nope. Jonah up and ran the opposite direction. But after God gets Jonah’s attention, Jonah ever-so-tentatively leans into what God calls him to.

The third call God placed on Jonah’s life was that he “call out against” Nineveh “the message that I tell you.” After being spit up by the fish and told a second time to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you,” Jonah heads to Nineveh. We aren’t told what God tells Jonah to tell the Ninevites, all we have are Jonah’s words: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”[i]

Just imagine what this must have looked like. We don’t know whether Jonah delivered this message once or multiple times as he walked through the city. The text is ambiguous about that. But it’s not ambiguous about how it must have been delivered. All we need to do is look one chapter further to see that Jonah’s heart was not at all in his message. After he delivers the message, Jonah sits perched on an overlook, anticipating the destruction of the city. In fact, if there was any pep in Jonah’s step as he delivered his message, it was that he was pouring salt into Nineveh’s terminal wound.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

This past weekend we finished a brief sermon series on neighboring. Neighboring, as we see it in Luke 10 is at the heart of God and ought to drive our hearts. 

The bad news is that it's hard to be a good neighbor today. The good news is that there are so few good neighbors, when you neighbor well it stands out. 

Here are a couple of resources to help encourage us to take simple steps toward neighboring with God's heart.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       3-2-1 Animated Gospel Presentation: A simple five and a half minute gospel presentation by Glen Scrivener. It is clear, thorough, and compelling. I encourage you to watch it and consider using it yourself. 

2.       Why the Internet will Strengthen, Not Hurt the Church: Paul Alexander reflects that "When YouVersion launched there were 12 versions of the Bible available in 2 languages. Today there are more than 1,200 versions of the Bible available in more than 900 languages! YouVersion is working to make God’s Word available to every person on Earth, no matter where they live or what language they prefer."

3.       7 Things Evil is Not: What the Death of My Son Taught Me: This weighty piece by Khaldoun Sweis is worth reading whether you are struggling with suffering or in a time of peace. He shares, "I held my son Enoch’s little hand as he died, and went through a suffering that no words could express. A perpetually wounded heart that would not mend, a broken body for which there is no antidote, or a destroyed home that can never be the same…There are more books and articles on this topic than any other in theology. But because it is so personal, we need to be reminded of the simple truths about it."

4.       Lies About Cultural Awareness: Jared Olivetti, over at Gentle Reformation, elaborates on these four lies: Lie #1 – You can understand a complex subject in a very brief time; Lie #2 – You should understand as many complex subjects as possible; Lie #3 – Your opinion on those many and complex subjects is valid; Lie #4 – You are angry at all the right things. 

5.       Does "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" really belong in the Bible? Paul Carter with an excellent reflection on one of the most difficult passages in the Bible, Psalm 137. "They say that the Book of Psalms was the songbook of the early church – but how could anyone who knows and loves Jesus read or sing – let alone pray a sentence like that? We were told to love our enemies; we were told to turn the other cheek – how in the world does this go with that?"