2 False Assumptions About Sharing Our Faith

Anybody who grew up in church hearing about the great commission has had to deal with two false assumptions surrounding the issue of sharing our faith:

  1. I have to achieve a certain level of competence and have my life together before God can use me.

and

  1. If I were transparent and let people see my weaknesses and struggles, it would invalidate what I had to say about Christ.

Both are reasonable thoughts. I mean think about it, it’s way too easy to compare ourselves to the champions of the faith. We can say “Paul got knocked off a horse by God and was blinded for three days. Of course his faith will be greater than mine.” Or how about “Moses spoke openly with God, He doesn’t do that with just anybody.” This one we’re all guilty of: “I don’t have a crazy testimony; just wouldn’t know what to say.”

All that’s a load of bull.

As with everyone, we all try to and funnel our circumstances into something we think we can control. But as Hebrews 11:1 points out, “Faith is being…certain of what we do not see.” In other words, it isn’t really faith until we get beyond what we can control.

And when we can’t control something everything goes out of whack. We are afraid that if we follow God where leads us, our incompetence will expose us and we’ll look like failures.

Let’s all remember that Paul had to go through years of prison, torture, name-calling, slanderous speech and even hot pursuit. In the early days of his ministry he was continuously kicked out of towns and synagogues for his fearless teaching and bold speech. He even narrowly escaped death in Damascus by being lowered over the wall in a waste basket (Acts 9:23-25).

Talk about humbling.

Years later he shared that out of all his rich years of experience, he singles out that failure in Damascus as being among the very most important of his life (2 Cor 11:32-33). It was important because it taught him that out of he cannot rely on himself. He is not in control of his life.

So what did Paul do that we must also do? “Boast of the things that show my weakness”(11:30). Paul chose to live under submission to the Holy Spirit. In doing so he could reap the rewards of God’s work and not his own.

Little-ant-caught-weight-lifting-resizecrop--

Trusting in the Holy Spirit can be unsettling. On occasion, He might even decide to let us look like failures just to get the message across. That’s why we need our inadequacies. Without them we will never understand our need for true strength.

Realizing and tapping into that true strength can only come through understanding and awakening to our weakness.

In a sense God is saying “You’re better the way you are—weak. That way you aren’t even tempted to trust in your own abilities. I get the glory and you have to fumble around the way you do, “for my power is made perfect in your weakness”(2 Cor 12:9).

It is not the hardship in itself that helps us know God better. It is when we embrace the hardship by faith, seeing it as an opportunity to experience God’s power, that we grow towards maturity.

So, to answer those two false assumptions: no, we don’t have to have it all together to share our faith. Also, that we must embrace our weaknesses and boast in them so that in our humility we can let the light of Christ shine forth into the darkness.

We reveal the reality of the transforming power of the gospel best when we are authentic, honest, and open about our weaknesses.

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“We Need More People!” Obamacare and Discipleship

I’ve got a friend who’s gearing up for med school here in the next year or so. As we drove home from a wedding last weekend he was talking about the future of medicine and what that field will look like in the next 15+ years. A point was made that even though law schools are pumping out recording numbers of applicants, those job opportunities are drying up.

When the question of was posed of whether or not it’s similar with the medical field my friend immediately jumped in saying, “no way, we need more people!”

With all the new healthcare laws and legislation being passed we’re only just beginning to see and understand the lasting effects of what all this means for the future of medicine. Apparently doctors are now having to squeeze in 5-6 patients in an hour instead of the normal 3, allowing less time for checks ups and diagnosis. Thus our doctors are getting overworked and burned out from the sudden influx in their workload due to the new healthcare reform.

Hearing my buddy say “we need more people!” with that much gusto really got me thinking about the urgent importance of discipleship and evangelism. As Obamacare ushers in a new generation of healthcare reform we can see that we are facing issues and culture changes that we have never seen before. With the rise of the internet, social media and everything else we use to “stay connected” with our world, there are even more opportunities to shine a light in dark places that have ever been available to us.

Everything is changing around us. There is nothing new about sin, however, we’ve just found new ways to do it.

As humanism continues to take root in the heart of man we turn inward to answer our questions and solve our long-trevailed problems.

And therein lies the core issue: we turn inward.

To what?

To whom?

We cannot rely upon our own inward wisdom or tendencies to lead us in the right direction. Jeremiah 17 reminds us that:

9. The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

 But praise God for His promise that:

10. “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.”

Since we cannot trust ourselves to fix our problems we continue to fall upon Christ at the foot of His cross daily in reverent prayer that He would lead us and push us on towards a pro-active, sanctified life.

Again we are reminded of the urgency of our mission as believers. According to americanvision.org:

“The statistics are staggering, 80% to 85% of young people leave the Church, never to return. As evolution, humanism and atheism continue to infiltrate our schools, theaters, magazines and television, our young people are faced with hard questions. If we send our children out into the world, unequipped to answer the hard questions and lacking a solid foundation in God’s Word, we should not be surprised if they fall away.”

See more about this article here.

In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus “said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'”

Those words “we need more people” are also true about the future of the church. Though the above statement is true about much of our young people in the church I look at the church and see a new generation of believers who are pushing forward, seeking Christ and hell-bent (ironically) on making a change for the kingdom.

To fix those staggering statistics and keep our young people in the church we don’t need more programs, more youth events, more culturally relevant topical lectures. The answer is not more of what is driving them away.

We need the gospel. We need it to be lived out through our lives and to pursue and disciple those young people.

We have our work cut out for us. Whether we be doctors, lawyers, legislators, pastors, or landscapers, we are to be disciplers of Christ.

The harvest is plentiful but “we need more people!”

Will you answer the call?

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Give Me Liberty, Give Me Christ

Today’s post is inspired by the May 6th entry in Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost For His Highest”. You may have heard me talking about this book before. It still amazes me how relevant to today’s culture Chambers’ writing was even a hundred years ago. It just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun. Sin is nothing new, we’ve just found new ways to do it.

Anyways, the May 6th entry was entitled “Liberty and the Standards of Jesus” in which Chambers addresses the unbeliever’s need to follow Jesus and not just a written code:

A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—’Believe this and that’; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals.”

In John 5 Jesus is addressing the Jewish leaders of His time who were demanding to know by what authority He spoke. The issue was that they were trying to earn their salvation through the Law and living by a set of “do’s and don’ts”. Verses 39-40 say:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

If we try to plug-in those same faulty principles while sharing the gospel, how will we ever see fruit? What makes the gospel so attractive to unbelievers is not a bunch of rules to follow but the freedom that Christ gives us from our slavery to sin and it’s consequences.

We are the liberated in Christ.

“There is only one true liberty–the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.”

We must constantly remember how God dealt with us when we came to Christ—with patience and gentleness. In doing so, so we must also render that same treatment to those with whom we share the gospel. Yet we must “never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, ‘Go…and make disciples…’ (Matthew 28:19), not, ‘Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.”

The gospel is truth.

The gospel is freedom in Christ.

The gospel is liberty.

Without it we have death. To change the context but better voice Patrick Henry’s appeal from an unbeliever’s standpoint,

“Give me liberty, Give me Christ!”

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P.S. My band Harp and Lyre wrote a song addressing legalism in the church. It’s called “Believe, Divide, and Find Yourself Alone.” Watch it here

 

The Gospel Pizza Delivery Man

Last Friday I started delivering for Marco’s Pizza. I’m only doing a few nights a week but I’ve already made some gnarly cash. Anybody who’s ever thought “Delivering pizza is way below me, that would be my last resort.” has never listened to Dave Ramsey. It’s quick, super easy, a lot of fun and places are almost always hiring.

Plus I get to listen to the Rangers play on the radio. This could be their year.

Recently my church hosted a missions weekend and had a young couple speak about how to evangelize in your work place and community. One of the main points that stuck out to me is to remember to view the people around you as more than just machines or landscapes. The people who bag your groceries, shop in the same stores, order your pizza are all in need of the Gospel.

I’m still in need of it. I need it every day.

Until we recognize our need for the Gospel, even as Christians, how are we to have our eyes opened to the needs of the world around us?

Every day, every transaction, every interaction is an opportunity to let His light shine into the hearts of those machines we avoid eye contact with as we stand in line among the landscape of our temporary home.

Back to the thought of “that’s way below me.”—what some see as trifling or humbling I see as opportunity. I have dozens of literal open doors every night to speak life and drop a dose of hope into their world as well as deliver some dang good cuisine.

Oh how I wish was bold enough to speak more openly when I had a stage and a crowd of people every night. Never pass up an opportunity.

Let us not grow cold to His redemptive work on the cross and fail to remember our dead bodies and hopeless spirits prior to Christ’s sacrifice and mercy on our souls.

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“What Took You So Long?!”

Who’s in charge of the chocolate fountain?

A few weeks ago I got a letter in mail. Anything hand written that doesn’t say “bill” or “statement” on it is always welcome in my mail box. It being the wedding season of my life I wasn’t too surprised until I read a girl’s name above my address and a bridal shower invitation inside the envelope.

Chuckling to myself I texted a picture of the invite to my friend who’s helping to orchestrate the event. “Is this for me or…Sarah?”(the name above my address) I asked. She responded with laughter assuring me that I was definitely invited though I may be the only guy attending. Pleasantly I declined though I did offer to man the chocolate fountain if need be.

No hard feelings. I never know what to bring to wedding showers anyways. A towel perhaps?

This whole thing got me thinking: how weird would it be if I didn’t re-mail the invite to the correct recipient and showed up in place of her? I’ll bet Sarah would feel left out when she realized that she was invited but never told.

Woe to those who know of it but never preach the gospel. Imagine hearing from the lips of a new-born Christian “What took you so long to tell me?”

I know of a middle-aged/senior adult man in my church who recently became saved after 30+ years of his family vehemently praying for his salvation.

No one is out of reach of God’s hand.

No one is “too lost” or “too far gone” from the power of Christ’s redeeming atonement.

As John 6 states in verses 37-40: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Christ goes on to say that He “is the bread of life.” He gives life, He sustains and He rescues sinners.

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16

Like a captive waiting to be set free, may we struggle and fight with all our might to free the actual captives, slaves to sin, who upon seeing their error and God’s redemptive grace may say to you: “This is good! This is truth. What took you so long?!”

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Speak Up & Speak Out

The danger of not talking to strangers.

Last week I was meeting at Braum’s with a buddy of mine from the youth group. I got there a bit early and read up on Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” before we got started. As I was leaving, after our study of Galatians, I held the door for a couple who was also headed for the parking lot. “That’s a great book!” the husband said as he passed me. His wife nodded in approval and repeated his comment.

Obviously they had seen my copy of “Crazy Love” clutched in my left hand along with my notebook and ESV Study Bible. I’m guessing they were Christians since they recognized Chan’s book and didn’t mind speaking up. They saw something in common with themselves and felt comfortable talking to a stranger about it.

It wasn’t until the following morning that I thought back on what they’d noticed. Or hadn’t noticed.

Do you think they would’ve said the same thing to me, a total stranger, if I was only holding my Bible?

Possibly. Maybe they would’ve seen it and thought, “Hey that’s great! I’m glad he’s reading God’s word and pursuing truth for his life.” Or maybe even, “A Bible. Hmmm, I wonder if he knows what to do with it.” God forbid, “I wonder his stance on pedobaptism.”

Why are we so quick to cast judgement on people? Especially as Christians, why is it so easy to make unfair assessments and jump on our legalistic bandwagons?

Everybody in America knows what a Bible is. I guarantee you every Christian would recognize a Bible if they looked at one. It makes no difference what book that stranger is holding; we are to speak out. We are the mouthpieces of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Romans 10:14

I’m sure you were told as a child not to talk to strangers. But how did Jesus gather His disciples? How did you first hear the gospel? Somebody before you chose to be obedient and speak up. So do likewise.

Speak up and Speak out

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P.S. I do endorse Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”. It’s a great tool for examining our place before a holy God and how we should respond to the life that He calls us to. Chapter 4 entitled “Profile of the lukewarm” is a huge eye opener

Does God Need Your College Degree?

Before someone jumps down my throat over the title, let me explain. 

Recently I was recommended the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. The purpose was to help identify areas I could clean up in my writing. It’s been a fantastic tool and I’m already implementing a few of the ideas it mentions. One of the early chapters is about fighting clutter—trimming the wordiness fat and making clear what you really mean.

If anyone reading this post has an english degree you’ve probably already spotted plenty of things you’d love to mark with a red pen. So there you have it! God can definitely use your english degree to help you point out and argue my point, haha.

Here’s my real question: do we give the gospel a fair chance?

I think there are two ways we christians damage the gospel:

  1. We’re either too shy or scared to share our faith openly, afraid of doing it injustice.
  2. We’re over-confident in our knowledge and abilities and turn people off by our jargon and pomp.

Doesn’t God’s word promise to comfort us? I’m no public speaker though I’ve found confidence that the LORD will give me the right words to say at the right time. When you know the truth and are passionate about something, fears and uncertainties all seem to slip away.

When sharing our faith and proclaiming the mystery of the gospel “which is Christ”(Col 1:27) we also tend to scare people away by our methods of approach. Don’t let your presentation of the gospel fend people off by how you give it.

Will someone who didn’t grow up in church understand christian-ese when you speak it to them? Of course not! Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.

Here’s a quote from Zinsser’s chapter about clutter: “By using a more pompous phrase in his professional role he not only sounds more important; he blunts the painful edge of truth.” 

Never dumb down the truth of the gospel by catering to the idea that people will always flee when you spotlight their sin. Jesus is offensive to our sinful nature. Be loving but firm. We’re all in the same boat; we all need a Savior.

What about the college degree thing? Oh yeah. We’re always trying to limit God’s abilities. Don’t let your occupation, social status or education level impede or impose on God’s use for you.

Remember: we are the plan. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convicts unbelievers of sin and compels them to repentance but we are the mouthpieces.

Be obedient and open your mouth; God will give you what to say.

Clean the clutter.

Simplify, simplify.

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