Friday, December 14, 2012

School Shootings and Old Wineskins

This morning, another tragic school shooting - this time in Newtown, Connecticut - took the lives of 27 people. At an elementary school, a man with two guns opened fire. 18 children are among the victims.

Recently, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself. A man opened fire inside a movie theater in Colorado.

The outcry is as painful as it is predictable.

"More gun control."

"More mental health."

One Tweet said: "There can be no debate now."

But there is a solution to all of this. It's not gun control. It's not more mental health. It's the solution nobody wants to hear about. It's the solution nobody's talking about - even among "Christian" circles.

The solution? New hearts.

Jesus put it this way:

“No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  
But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 
And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” 
Luke 5:36-39

All the gun control and mental health in the world won't change what's inside a man's heart. Unless we become a nation of changed hearts, we will continue to see school shootings.

You must be born again.

When you are, God gives you a new heart, with new desires. The evil you once loved, you now despise. The righteousness you once ran from, you now run toward. Because that's what you crave.

When that happens, you influence the people around you with the good news, that this new heart is available to anyone who humbles himself, quits pretending he can find the answers on his own, and calls upon the name of the Lord.

When you do, they get new hearts, too.

Until then, we will continue to drink up iniquity like water.

And we'll continue to see school shootings.

Please share this post on Facebook and Tweet it

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Kind of Trophy are You?

Every person who is born again recognizes that we are saved by grace, through faith. It's the gift of God - not of works - so that none of us can boast that we got what we "deserved."

But why? Why did God save you and me?

Because you're His trophy.

Don't believe me? Take a look at what the bible says on the matter.

Have you ever stopped to think about the magnitude of the verses before the famous "grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone" verses?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 
Eph 2:4-6, NKJV

Why did God do all of this for us?

that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 
Eph 2:7

God is going to display His grace for all of eternity in what He has done to save you and me.

Think about that.

In Job's day, Satan had a conversation with God. God said, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

The whole book displays how Job became God's demonstration of grace. Job was God's display upon the mantle for all the world to see.

Through Job's circumstances, God revealed His character: His holiness, His power, His grace, His generosity...

Job was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was a trophy of God's grace? Samson. God used Samson in mighty ways. Samson was a "hero," but he was hardly heroic.

Despite himself, Samson was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was God's trophy?


Judas was a trophy of God's justice and righteousness. Judas got what he deserved. Frankly, he got what we all deserve. Because we're all guilty of "selling out" - setting Jesus aside for money, or career, our our own selfish desires.

You're going to be God's trophy for all of eternity. The most devout Christian, the most hard-hearted atheist, and every other human being that has ever lived will be God's trophy.

The question is: what kind of trophy will you be? Will you be a trophy of God's justice and righteous judgment?

Or, in the coming ages, will God use you to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward you?

Better yet, will you allow God to use you to show the world today the exceeding riches of His grace - through the kindness He shows you today?

But how do you do that?

"In Christ."

Every spiritual blessing is "in Christ." Everything you need is "in Christ." Think you understand what that means?

I challenge you today, while it's fresh in your mind, to set aside some time. Pray about and think through what it truly means to be "in Christ."

Not sure? Need help? Read through Ephesians 1-3. Slowly. Camp out there for a while. Let God show you what it truly means to be "in Christ."
You'll know you've hit the sweet spot when all you can say is, "WOW."

Like this post? Please Tweet It and Share It on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reading the Bible in a Year? Count Me Out

(In case you're wondering, I have not forgotten the promise I made in the previous post. I'm preparing my case. Besides, I'd like to get some more answers from you first.)

After the lights come off the tree and the last gift is unwrapped, most of you will turn to thinking about what you want to accomplish in the New Year. Like many, I use this time to look back at how the year has gone, what went right, and what I wish I had done differently. I resolve to make the upcoming year better by thinking about what's most important.

In fact, this blog was born from one of those heavy thinking sessions. (No, I didn't keep those resolutions.)

People often decide that January presents a perfect time to "get serious" about reading the bible. "This is the year I'm going to do it," Christians say as they gleefully start in Genesis 1. By the end of February, the genealogies have taken their toll and the laws have done what only law can do. They've brought death to your mighty ambition to read the bible in a year.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm told to put on the full armor of God, right? That includes the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I imagine myself picking up my sword and charging into battle. But the only sword I have is a tiny plastic knife.

How mighty will I be in battle? When the storms come, will I be prepared? When trials come, will I be able to stand my ground and not compromise?

Not with that kind of "sword."

So I can follow the crowd, get all excited, and gloss my eyes over the pages. What's today? Genesis 1-3. Great! Let's do it. Check off the boxes. I'm all set. See you tomorrow, Jesus!

I was thinking today about how I wish my life had more fruit to show for it. I wish I was stronger in my faith. I wish I could stand my ground, serve with compassion, and lead my family with conviction.

So I decided I'd get serious about reading the bible.

I came to this:

1 Blessed is the man
   Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
   Nor stands in the path of sinners,
   Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night. 
3 He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
    And whatever he does shall prosper. 
4 The ungodly are not so,
   But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
   Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
   But the way of the ungodly shall perish. 
Psalm 1, NKJV

How do I become the person God wants me to be? Meditation. Really thinking about what God has to say. Taking time to slowly, carefully consider the words instead of stuffing my face full of "bible."

What if, In 2013, I became the man in this Psalm? What if, by God's grace and with His help, I began to truly delight in His Word? To think carefully and deeply about what God has to say, "day and night?"  When I'm writing to you at this time next year, how much richer would these posts be? How much deeper would I know Christ? What would that fruit look like in my life? How refreshing would that be?

What if these 6 short verses are the only Scripture that I applied next year? Some of you will read the bible through next year. Some of you more than once. I applaud you. If I only get through one book, or five, and truly become one who delights and meditates on God's Word, I'll take that "plan" over any one-year plan in a heartbeat.

If you're ready to get serious about God's Word, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind, you've got the right idea. Whatever "plan" you choose, though, keep the goal in mind. Why do you come to the Word? To get your to-do list? To learn some cool prophecy? To find verses that support your side of the argument?

My heart says of you, "Seek His face!"
Your face, Lord, I will seek
Psalm 27:8, NIV

Make that your goal. Come to Scripture to seek His face. Everything else will fall into place. Lord, show me your glory. That's all I want and all I need.

Need some help? There are a million ways you can meditate on Scripture. One way I've found extremely helpful is the one Janet Pope presents in "His Word in My Heart." If you've been struggling in your Christian walk, I invite you to check it out and give it a try.

Most of all, pray. Delight in God's Word is a gift from God - not something you conjure up through effort. Pray that God will help you delight in His Word, and He'll answer that prayer. I guarantee it.

Let's be like trees planted by rivers of water this year, that bring forth fruit in its season. When the trials come, we won't wither. Whatever we do shall prosper. We have God's Word on it.

You with me?

If you like this post, please Tweet it and Share it on Facebook.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A One Word Summary of the Bible

If you had to summarize the bible, in a single word, could you do it? What's the one word that encompasses virtually everything the bible has to tell us about who God is, about who we are, and what He expects from us?

From creation until the final, triumphant end, what's the point of all this? What's the one word that makes everything you see in the bible make sense? The one word that will make you love God more, understand truth in a powerful, practical way, and take your Christian walk to the next level?

I believe I've found the perfect summary of the bible, in a single word. The one word that encompasses as many doctrines, characteristics of God's nature, and directives for our lives as possible.

Want to know what that word is?

You'll have to wait to find out.

What do you think that word is? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is Prophecy Your Idol?

Today, the warning sirens of impending attack blare through Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War of the 1990's. The Israeli Defense Force warns:

Right on cue, the prophecy buffs come out to proclaim how every news story fits into the pages of obscure, hard to understand prophetic books. "Is this setting the stage for Ezekiel 38? This is clearly the attack that Amos was talking about..."

I love finding people who have passion for the Word of God. When I'm around folks that study the depths of the bible to find the gems God has provided for His children, I get hungry for more.

But every time war breaks out in the Middle East, I fear prophecy "experts" drag the bible through the mud with their "guesses" about what it all means.

Why did God give us prophecy? Because He wants us to watch the news and play "name that verse?"

Prophecy Authenticates God's Message

Only the God who is outside of time, in control of all things, can write the future with 100% accuracy. God has never made a prediction that hasn't come true.

When you show people the details of the life of Jesus, or the nation of Israel - written sometimes hundreds of years before they actually occurred - you show that God's Word can be trusted.

Then, when you present the Gospel, your message can't be easily dismissed. The scoffer can no longer say - with intellectual honesty, at least - that the book you claim as your authority cannot be trusted.

So, what's wrong with seeking to frame current events into particular verses of the bible?

As present events unfold, prophecy "experts" are making predictions about how it will all play out. When those predictions don't come true exactly as the "experts" predicted, it gives someone a reason to doubt the credibility of God's Word.

Yes, things will occur exactly as God says they will. Does that mean you understand how it all plays out, and how current events fit into that puzzle? What if you're wrong?

How do you use prophecy, then? Evangelist Tony Miano provides a great example in the clip below:

In this clip, Tony asks, "Do you believe the Word of God is true?" After discussing their skepticism, Tony asks them some basic questions about the bible (to show these guys how little they know). He asks questions like:

What's the first book of the bible?
There's a story of a global flood in the bible. A man allegedly built an ark. Who was that?
What are the 2 main divisions (sections) in the bible?
Who's the main character in the 4 Gospels?

The point was not to embarrass these men, but to prepare their hearts by showing them they really didn't know what was in the bible.

Then, Tony opens the bible, and says, "I want you to tell me who this is about."

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted. 
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. 
Isaiah 53:3-5 (NKJV) 

Who's that? Of course, it's Jesus. Tony goes on to explain why God gave us prophecy:

"We all have fingerprints. Each of us has fingerprints that are unique. The Word of God has a fingerprint that makes it distinct from every other religious text on the Earth, and it's prophecy. 
"What I just read to you, which you both identified as talking about Jesus, was written more than 700 years before He was born. What do you think about that?"

In a matter of less than 2 minutes, prophecy had done its job. These guys thought differently about the credibility of the bible.

Now, Tony could say, "Let me show you some other cool prophecies. Have you seen what's going on in the news about Israel? Well, that's talked about in these verses, which say this is going to happen next."

Imagine what would happen if those guys go home and watch the news unfold differently. Would they take the bible seriously?

Instead, recognizing that prophecy had completed its job, Tony used prophecy rightly - to springboard to preaching the Gospel.

Prophecy is the car that drives you to your destination - the Gospel. If you spend your life admiring the car, learning everything about every piston and engine spec and spark plug, you'll never truly experience the abundant life God has waiting for you.

Is it wrong to spend countless hours studying prophecy? It depends. Does prophecy lead you to the news, to work on fitting every current event into your "prophecy puzzle?" Or does prophecy strengthen your faith in God's Word and drive you at warp speed toward Jesus?

More importantly, biblical prophecy warns that dark days are ahead. Where do you find your comfort - in prophecy, or in the God who holds all things together?

Your turn: what verses or parts of the bible strengthen your faith the most? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

If You're Trying To "Die to Self," You're Doing It Wrong

Feeling worn out, spiritually? The past few days, I've been worn out. The storms of life have beaten at my door, and I've almost crumbled in a heap of ruins. I'm no spiritual expert. I'm just a guy who's got struggles - just like you.

The more I study and meditate on the Gospel, the more I realize how little I understand it. It's no wonder that my life is so hard sometimes.

The Christian life isn't supposed to be "hard." Sure, we have our rough times that make us rely on God more, grow our perseverance, and equip us to minister to others. God is making us more like Jesus, which isn't always a comfortable, smooth ride.

Despite what prosperity preachers in huge stadiums tell us, life isn't always rosy.

But hard? Didn't Jesus say something about His yoke being easy, and His burden being light? He offered the weary what they needed most - rest. But rest from what?


Did you know that the bible never says you should die to yourself?

What happened on the cross? Jesus died for you there, in your place. Right?

Something else happened on that cross. If you miss this, your walk will be a wearisome struggle until the day you leave this world.

What else happened? You died on that cross, too.  All of your sin, religion, pride, and self-effort died on that cross. That's God's perspective, at least.

Is it yours?

Are you constantly trying to "kill the old man," or "die to self," or some other Christian-ese that keeps wearing you out spiritually?

I challenge you to go through the bible and circle all the times Jesus asks you to try harder. You won't find one. If you do, put it in the comments box below. I'd love to see it.

Anything that requires self-effort is against the grain of the Gospel message. You know the Gospel. Every religion in the world says, "do." Follow these rules, take these steps, and you're all set. The Gospel says "done." On the cross, Jesus put it this way: "It is finished."

That's the good news: God has left only one thing for you to do. Believe in what He has already done for you. That's it. That's the entire Christian life.

You do need to "reckon" or "count" yourself dead. That's not the same as "dying to self." That's recognizing what has already taken place. You died already.

Then, read your bible. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind in the Word. Don't come looking for God's to-do list for your life. Come to know Jesus more. When you see Him, you'll be like Him, and you'll fall more in love with Him.

The Christian life is never a life of self-effort. Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Rest in what Christ has already done for you. When you do, God will work through you. Good fruit will flow from your heart and your life - automatically.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God's Weapon Against Your Depression

Ever find yourself doubting the things you know to be true?

You should just have more faith. That's what Christians tell you, right? If you're depressed, or anxious, or struggling, you just need to have faith, brother.

Sometimes, reality is far different than the happy face you wear to church on Sundays. When things are going well, it's easy to look at someone who's struggling and say that he should just have faith. I'm guilty of this attitude far more often than I care to admit.

That's spiritual pride at its core: "Hey, if you were as spiritual as I am, you wouldn't be so depressed."

Or well-meaning Christians tell you that you should just pray. How do you pray, when all seems hopeless and you don't have the words? "Just pray, brother." In other words, "If you were as spiritual as I am, you'd pray, and you'd be over it already."

Right. In the real world, life is hard sometimes. If this walk was so easy, we wouldn't need Jesus. We'd just "have faith" and "pray," and nothing could touch us.

So what do you do when you don't know what to do? Sit and wonder if you're really a Christian, because "real" Christians don't get depressed? Strain with all your might to muster up the faith "real" Christians have?

Recognize the "Real" Challenge

Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 
And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:1-3)

What was the real challenge Satan presented Jesus with here? It's the same challenge you and I face when we battle feelings of depression, anxiety, and discouragement.

Immediately before this challenge, here's what happened:

And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

So God the Father said to Jesus, "You are My beloved Son." Immediately, Satan questioned the truthfulness of God's word: "If that's really the case, prove it." Or, as he told Eve in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say" that?

Of course, Jesus would never fall for such a thing. But we do, and that's the only trick Satan has left in his bag. He can't posess you. He can't destroy you. He can't do anything to you.

Except make you doubt God's word.

What's the Antidote?

The devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:3-4)

Don't try to transform yourself. Sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him. He'll transform you by renewing your mind (Rom 12:2).

Don't try to "have faith." Sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him. Faith comes by hearing His word - not by trying to have more faith (Romans 10:17).

Don't try to be spiritual and strong. Sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him tell you, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”

Like Daniel, you'll be able to say, "When he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me” (Daniel 10:19).

Today, stop trying to be spiritual and strong. Instead, pick up the sword of the Spirit - God's weapon against your depression. Open your bible, and nourish your spirit by feasting on His Word. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Allow times of refreshing to come from the presence of the Lord.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Will Never Pray for That Man!

As I write this, it's 1:32 in the morning. The United States has just re-elected Barack Obama as its President. And I'll be honest - I'm feeling bitter. Frustrated. Despondent. Beside myself.

It hurts to think of an America whose freedoms are eroding, while citizens willingly choose that path. It's hard to watch my country - an idol in many ways - choose a wide road that leads to destruction. I know that the freedom to share the Gospel will disappear soon. The clock is ticking on our freedom to call evil what it is and tell of the ultimate gift of love and sacrifice in the open square.

America isn't the country my parents grew up in, and that's sad. I'm not optimistic about the future of our country, because we're a nation with our hands out instead of one with our heads bowed and our knees to the ground. We made that clear with our voices and our votes.

So what now?

I said this moments ago, on Facebook: "Pray for your President, pray for your nation, and preach the Gospel, while you still have time."

I received a response that probably echoes the feelings of many on a bitter night of defeat: ""I will NEVER Pray For That Man. He is evil."

We're all evil. I am. You are. Barack Obama is. Even Mitt Romney. Jesus said to pray for your enemies. Why? Because when you pray for your enemies, you think differently. You start to see things from their point of view.

No, Barack Obama and I will probably never sit on the porch, hang out, and swap stories like best friends. In fact, I hope he fails at virtually everything he's got planned. But I should pray for him - every day. Because he needs Jesus. Just like me. Just like you. He's no different than me or you. Apart from Jesus, he can do nothing.

By the way, pray for Mitt, too. Unless he repents and places his trust in Jesus, he's as lost as anyone. If you clean the outside of a cup, the inside's still filthy. That's you. That's me. That's Barack Obama. That's Mitt Romney. That's all of us. It's a disease, and the only cure is Jesus.

Jesus told the Pharisees, "He who has been forgiven much, loves much." How much have you been forgiven? When you really understand how much you've been forgiven, you'll find yourself wanting to pray for "evil" men.

Bring yourself to the foot of the cross. Remember who you are and what you deserve. Look up to the cross, and remember the mercy God has shown you. Stay there for a while, and you'll see things in a whole new light.

If you've been through the emotional ringer tonight, because you care deeply about this country, there's one thing you can do that's far more potent than any vote you've ever cast.

Pray for your President.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

But Jesus Was Sleeping

Let's be real for a second, okay? Lately, I've been going through a pretty challenging time, spiritually. Maybe you've experienced something similar recently. You know that God is good. You know He's working everything out for your good, and you know He's got everything under control. You know you can trust Him.

But the wind is howling around you. The waves are crashing and threatening to swallow you. Dark, ominous clouds fill your horizon as far as the eye can see. The noise around you is deafening. Fear grips you, and you feel like all hope is lost. Yet the Lord is sleeping in the boat. You know He's there. You know He can fix all this with a single word. Why is He sleeping? Doesn't He care about this storm that's about to crush you? "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"

Ever been there?

That's where I find myself. I know what the bible says, and I know it's true: I have every spiritual blessing in Christ. That's a fact. Right now, I have everything I need in Christ. God's got my back, and nothing's too hard for Him. Can I honestly say I believe that?

I can't. Can you?

So how can we experience all of these blessings we have in Christ, instead of just reading about them? How can we rest in what He has done, experience His peace and watch the storms become still before our eyes?

Maybe I should read my bible more. It does say that faith comes by hearing the word, right? Maybe I should pray more. When two or more are gathered in His name, we have what we asked. Right? Maybe I should fellowship more. Get some good Christian counsel. Or maybe I should just "trust" Him, whatever that means. Maybe I should just "fake it until I make it" and pretend I believe everything's going to work out.

What does the bible say I should do?

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."
Philemon 1:6, NIV


Would you please take a second, right now, and pray that prayer for me? I could certainly use it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

LGBT Studies: Exciting News for Salty Christians

The University of Louisiana created a buzz by adding a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies minor to its offerings. Many Christians are up in arms over the new LGBT minor. But I am pumped.

Now, no Christian on campus can say they don't know how to start a conversation about the Gospel. And only the Gospel changes hearts. We can sit on our religious, condemning high horse. Or, we can season our speech with grace. Salty speech makes people thirsty.

Here's how it works:

"I go to UL."

"Oh, really? What do you think of the new minor they're offering there?"

"What new minor?"

"The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies minor. Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Well, I think people should believe whatever they want to believe."

"Really? Can I go to your house and take everything you own, then? Since I believe that's right for me."


"Of course not. Because you don't really believe that statement. It's wrong to do bad things. Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"

And off you go.

Somebody else says, "Man, I drove by UL today, and the traffic was horrible."

"Yeah, Johnston Street can be pretty rough. So, have you heard of the new minor UL's offering? What do you think of it?"

Just like before, in 30 seconds, you're not talking about homosexuality at all. You're talking about relativism. 30 seconds later, you're taking him through the law and the Gospel.

"I can't wait for the big game! Geaux Cajuns!"

"Me either! I don't know how this season will live up to last season, but I can't wait to find out! Hey, so what do you think of that new minor they're offering at UL?"


"Hey, I heard in the news that UL's offering a new minor: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies. Have you heard about that? What do you think about that?"

... and it's a short trip to the Gospel from there.

Let's not be Pharisees. Let's be salty.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mickey Shunick: Does Lafayette Really Believe in Justice?

It's amazing how a community tragedy can bring out the true colors of the people in that community.

No, this isn't a heartwarming tale of Cajun country bonding together to support its own. It's not a fairy tale about all that's "good" about humanity.

People are talking. But for many, it's not because they care. Many just want to be "in the know." People are speculating, and guessing, and demanding more information. Most of the cries for "more" come from people who, until a few days ago, couldn't even spell "Shunick."

If I didn't know any better, I'd think this whole community was talking about something they saw on "The Young and the Restless." To Mickey Shunick's family and friends, this is an unimaginable, horrific tragedy.

To many strangers, it's something interesting to gossip about at the water cooler at work. That alone should make you sick to your stomach.

But that's not the worst part of it.

Acadiana wants justice. I get that. I want justice, too. As human beings, we long for the good guys and the bad guys to all get what they deserve.

Or do we?

The cry from Acadiana residents reminds me of a mob with a similar mentality about 2.000 years ago. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The circumstances were very different then - the mob crucified an innocent Man. But the mentality is the same. Can you hear it?

It's the mob that could be passing out flyers to help find Mickey Shunick, since they care about her so much. But they're on Facebook, speculating about a burnt truck, letting investigators know all that they did wrong, and providing their expert forensic analysis. Guess what? Watching "CSI" doesn't make you an expert.

It's the mob that says, "Hang that pervert!" Most of the members of that mob can't even tell you the guy's name. But the cries get louder, and nosy people with loud voices get caught up in the chorus. So the chorus gets louder and louder. More and more violent. "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"

The reason we are innocent until proven guilty in America is to protect innocent people from that mob. Yeah, he's probably guilty. But what if he's not? Yeah, he has a history. You have a history, too.

Our hearts cry out for justice. And rightfully so.

But here's an important question each of us should ask ourselves today: What if God gives me justice? What if God gives you justice?

The Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.

The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.

But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.

And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!

And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!"

2 Samuel 12

It's easy to look into another man's house and see all the "badness" in him, isn't it? Are we willing to look in the mirror, and use that same standard to judge ourselves?

I want justice, Acadiana. You want justice. It's right to be angry. It's right to want the right thing. It's right to want the "bad guys" to get what they deserve.

But, to the mob, I ask each of you: do you even know this guy's name? I don't. Before a month and a half ago, could you even spell "Shunick?"

Yet you yell at the top of your lungs, "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"

You are that man, Lafayette. No, you may not have done the horrific things this guy has done. But you've got your own wickedness, deep inside your heart.

So do I.

I can prove it, in under a minute. Ready?

Imagine that I have a camera that can see every thought inside your brain. Now imagine that I turn that camera on, recording everything that runs through your mind for a week. Then, I gather all of your loved ones and closest friends into the living room for movie night.

There, on the television screen, displays every thought in your mind, one by one. Every happy thought. Every generous thought. Every charitable thought.

But then, the music becomes louder and more dramatic. Like all those predictable horror movies you've seen, you know what's coming next when you hear that music.

Your heart thumps through your chest, as the screen flashes things you thought no one would ever see. Every vengeful thought. Every hateful thought. Every hurtful thought. Every lustful thought. Every angry thought.

Now, it's getting personal, isn't it? All of your family and friends cannot believe their eyes.

How does that popcorn taste?

You wouldn't last 5 minutes in that room. You'd run as fast as you could to get away.

Look in the mirror, Lafayette. Don't compare yourself to this guy and think you're sparkly white. You and I are dirty, filthy, and rotten to the core. That's reality. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you'll flee to the only water potent enough to wash your filth away - Jesus Christ.

When you repent and place your trust in Jesus, he washes you clean and gives you a new heart. Until then, you're exactly what's showing on that television screen.

So cry out for justice, Lafayette. But be careful what you wish for. Because what if God gives you justice?

You are that man.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Most Children's Bible Study is a Waste of Time

As we celebrate Independence Day in America, I'm once again reminded of how blessed we are. American parents live freely to teach their children the values that matter to them in peace. As a parent, I want my children to love studying the bible.

Many adults love studying the bible's laws, principles, prophecy, and stories. I want my children to grow up loving these things, too. But how do you teach the bible to very young children, in a meaningful way?

Not all bible passages are created equal. Long genealogies teach us that historical portions of Scripture really do provide real-life, historical accounts of events that actually happened. But a 4 year old and 2 year old couldn't really care less about that. Why should they?

And some accounts of events aren't rated "G." In fact, some aren't even close. The bible narrative contains violence, sex, and any number of things that would make a marvelous Harlequin novel apart from the whole "Jesus" thing.

For five years, I've wrestled with the search for some way of organizing our family's time in the bible so that it's meaningful. So that I don't leave anything important out. Do you face a similar struggle with young children?

So, what's the problem?

In America, we have access to literally thousands of "bibles" written for children. Why not just pick one? They have stunning pictures of giant whales, huge boats, and everything necessary to stir a kid's imagination. What's the big deal?

Every book, devotional, plan, and curriculum I've seen over the last 5 years has at least one of three problems:

1. It treats the Bible like a magical fairy-tale storybook.

"Oh, look! Isn't that a big boat! Let's go watch Barney now." My children have many books on the shelf. Everything from "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Hop on Pop" to "The Story of Jesus." What's the difference between these 3 children's books, in the mind of a child? "Jesus" is just another character, like "Clifford" or "Big Bird."

Most children's devotionals and bibles turn God's rescue plan into a fairy tale. They eliminate the seriousness of the endeavor of bible study. I want my children to enjoy bible study, but not at the expense of knowing the true character of God. The bible is not a book of children's stories.

Don't think that has an impact? I regularly visit with folks on a college campus that believe the bible is just a collection of fairy tales. Many of those folks grew up in Christian homes, where their parents believe the bible is the Word of God. What happened?

2. It leaves out essential parts of the Bible narrative.

Parts of the bible are very graphic for young children. I understand that. But certain parts are essential. You can't gloss over creation. You can't skip the Exodus, or the ten commandments.

Why not? Well, the bible says that the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. If bringing them to Christ is my goal, how can I skip the tutor God has given us so we can get to the next exciting bible drama?

3. It focuses on the character of the children reading it, instead of getting to know its Author.

I want my children to live Godly lives. No question about that. But what's the point of them doing "the right thing," if they never know Jesus? They'll follow all these "rules," look like perfect little Christians, and lack the essential ingredient they need from bible study. They'll grow up knowing how to act like "Christians," but they won't know Jesus at all.

Sure, they'll know about this Jesus, that lived long ago. How He was an amazing teacher that taught the Golden Rule, and to "be kind" and "love one another." But so did a lot of other religious leaders, right?

I talk to these folks all the time, too. I want to do everything in my power to keep my sons from becoming one of these. Why? Because that is a wide path that leads to destruction.

A Singular Focus

The bible study I do with my children must focus on one thing: Who Jesus is. In creation, in the law, in the accounts of "exciting" events, in the sermons, in the crucifixion, in the resurrection, and in the events that followed. Right on through who Jesus is today.

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
John 3:3

Not only can you not enter Heaven apart from being born again - you cannot even see the kingdom of God.

And my boys won't be born again by developing Godly character. They won't be born again by interesting stories about a giant fish, or lion's dens, or enormous boats filled with cute, colorful animated animals.

Only by knowing Jesus will my kids be born again. And when they see Him, they'll be like Him. That's just a bonus.

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
Jesus, in John 12:32

When Jesus is lifted up above all the things this world wants to teach my children, He will draw them to Himself.

So as I study with my kids, I ask 2 simple questions:

Who is God?
Who is Jesus?

Godly character occurs supernaturally when God gives you a new heart. Until then, I'm trying to put lipstick on a pig when I teach my kids to do good things. Does that mean I don't teach them to make wise choices? Of course not.

But our bible study is the place to provide context. Why do we make good choices? Let's get to know Jesus. The more you know Jesus, the more everything else comes into focus - supernaturally. The more you know Jesus, the more you'll develop Godly character - supernaturally.

And that's no fairy tale.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Isn't America Marveling At Him? (And What We Must Do About It)

Yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision has far-reaching ramifications for American Christians. While the nation's pundits and "experts" argue about health care and taxes, the true impact of yesterday's ruling goes largely unnoticed.

Justice John Roberts, in the majority opinion, affirmed that Congress cannot mandate behavior. However, Congress can use its taxing power to regulate behavior in any way it chooses.

Whether you follow politics or not, this should alarm every Christian.

In a society that's growing more hostile to biblical Christianity every day, the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress has the power to force U.S. citizens to do (or not do) certain things.

Why does this matter?

Your Pastor has the right to speak out against abortion, right? We have freedom of speech, and no one can take that away from you. But they can say, "You want to speak out against abortion? Go ahead. But we're going to tax your church 100%." Now what, Christian?

You need to be prepared. Real persecution of Christians in America is right around the corner. We could experience the types of horror going on all over the globe - in your lifetime.

Perhaps even before your next birthday.

Are you ready for that kind of battle?

How We Must Respond

1. Look in the mirror.

Christians must realize that much of our nation's moral decline is our fault. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."

Our Pastors give Sunday morning pep talks in front of thousands in a football stadium instead of discipling a flock with God's Word. Christians get "slain," bark like dogs, and seek after the next sign at a faith healer's conference instead of taking God at His Word. God wants us to seek Him, be continually filled by His Spirit and be satisfied in Him.

When we do, we'll preserve the morality of our nation like salt preserves meat. We'll make the world around us thirsty for Jesus like salt produces thirst. Why would anyone want what we have? Our divorce rate is higher than nonchristians. We bicker and fight worse than nonchristians. We act more prideful than nonchristians. We are bland in America. But at least we make a lot of noise.

It's time to look in the mirror, get into our bibles, and allow God's Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ to our hearts. Only God can restore the saltiness to America, and it's only going to happen when individuals truly lay their lives aside and decide Jesus is all they need.

A time is coming, very soon, where it's really going to cost something to be a Christian in America. Will the cares of this world choke you out, or will you stand?

2. Preach the Gospel.

When each one of us decides we're tired of playing church, and that Jesus is all we need, we'll want to share what we have. And only the Gospel holds the power to affect any change in America. So it's time to make our choice. How's the music at church? How's the fellowship? Getting goose bumps at the latest conference? Read any good books about how to have your best life now?

Is that what Christianity is about? Singing songs about how much we love Jesus while most of America perishes, forever? Having our best life now instead of being fully satisfied by the bread of life? If we care about the people around us, we'll seek to save them from the oncoming train that's racing toward them, before it's too late. The power of that life-giving message is America's only hope.

3. Pray for your leaders.

Most of all, pray for them to make wise decisions. That we'll live in peace to worship freely and freely tell others about Christ. Soon, you won't even recognize America. Make sure you have your faith in Jesus Christ when every institution America holds dear comes crashing down around us.

4. Respond like Jesus.

How would Jesus respond to an out of control government, seeking to limit liberty while levying unfair taxes?

Thankfully, we don't have to wonder. All we have to do is roll the tape.

"Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?'

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, 'Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.' So they brought it.

And He said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar’s.'

And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'

And they marveled at Him."

(Mark 12:13-17)

Christian, Jesus lives in you. Right? The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead empowers you right now, in this moment. Right? Then why isn't this nation marveling at Him?

When the people of this nation see Jesus, they'll marvel. They'll thirst. And they'll drink from the living water that satisfies. They'll experience the forgiveness that cleanses their soul, and the new birth that replaces a wicked heart with one that reflects the love of Jesus.

They'll be like Him, and the moral character of this nation will be restored. Only then will this nation turn around.

And they'll only see Jesus through you and me.

Or will they?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lord, Where's That "Refreshment" You Promised?

Ever struggle during prayer, not knowing what to say or even what to talk about? The bible promises that when you become a Christian, times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord (see Acts 3:19). If that's true, then why is prayer so hard sometimes?

Why does prayer feel so awkward, like I'm talking with a stranger I've never met? It's like I'm at an uncomfortable dinner party, looking for any excuse to leave. "Oh! Would you look at the time? I've got to run."

So my prayer turns into something like this: "Well, Lord, um...well, you know...I ... well....thanks for um, like the cross and stuff, and well, um.... Betty's sick so Lord, please bless her Father, and um, you know the light bill's due. Please help us with the bills Lord. And um, well, I gotta go. Because, well, the boys are fighting and all. Lord, please help them shut up. In Jesus' name Amen."

Whew. Prayer? Check. What's next on my to-do list?

It doesn't have to be that way.

You've probably heard a thousand sermons about how to pray. So have I. How's that great advice working out? For me, not so good. Too often, I struggle to put some "formula" into practice that's going to energize my conversations with the Lord.

But I was wondering: What does God want from our prayers? What does He get out of it?

Does He want us to ask for spiritual blessings? The bible says you and I already have every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). So why would I ask for something I already have? No wonder it feels awkward when I pray for spiritual blessings.

Should I ask God for what I need? Well, the bible says He already knows these things (Mat 6:8). No wonder it feels awkward to list all my needs, as if I'm informing Him of stuff He doesn't know. He's already on the case, meeting every need. Even the things I don't know I need. He's got that covered, too.

Before my wife goes grocery shopping, she always asks: "Is there anything you need from the store?" "Yes, honey. I need (fill in whatever junk foods I happen to "need" that day)."

That's what my prayer turns into sometimes. "Lord, I just want to let you know, while you're making plans for tomorrow, that I need you to do these small errands for me. If it's your will, of course. Thanks!"

Does He want us to ask? Sure. But not like someone who's bringing these things to His attention. I tell my wife things that I'm struggling with. I ask her questions. I listen to her perspective (or at least pretend to). That's how our conversations work. And - except for the pretending part - that's how God wants our conversations to work, too.

What does He want? All He wants from our prayer is to walk with Him in the cool of the day. Like Adam and Eve did before their sin and rebellion wrecked it all (Gen 3:8-9). Jesus died on the cross to restore that opportunity. Now, through Jesus, we can once again walk with God in the cool of the day. And that's all prayer is. No more, no less.

So, how can you do that?

First, when you read the Bible, seek above all else to know who God is. Don't go to the Bible to learn what rules to follow. Go to learn who Jesus is. When you see Him, you'll be like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

The stuff you think you "should" be learning how to do will come naturally to you as you fall deeper in love with Him. And you'll only fall deeper in love with Him as He reveals Himself to you in His Word.

Seek to know Him through the pages of His Word. Make that your only goal of Bible study. You'll love Him more, absorb more of what you read, and experience the times of refreshing God promised you.

Second, pause for a few seconds before you pray. Reflect on who God is (see Psalm 46:10). Think about what you're learning about who God is in relation to your situation:
Who do you need? Reflect on His character as it relates to your situation, and breathe life into your conversations with the Lord.

Finally, ask God to help you if it's hard for you. Don't be ashamed. Guess what? He knows it's hard for you. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Just get it all out on the table. If you ask anything according to His will, its a done deal. (1 John 5:14-15) You can walk away this instant, knowing God will revitalize your prayer life and your relationship with Him. You have His Word on it.

The question is: will I take my own advice?

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Have Some Good News and Some Bad News

Which do you want first?

Every time someone asks me this, I always want the bad news first. The good news takes away the bitter taste of the bad news. Well, I've got some bad news, and it might not be easy to swallow. But the good news will leave a sweet taste in your mouth. So let's get the bad news out of the way first, ok?

The Bad News

You're not the person you think you are.

Reading the bible is fun - especially the exciting adventures of God's heroes. It's exhilarating to imagine ourselves as David, mighty in faith, slaying the big bad Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and a tiny pebble. Or to place ourselves in the lion's den like Daniel, as morning comes and we emerge triumphant over impossible odds. Like Joshua, we look at the giant obstacles before us and proceed with total confidence. God has given us the victory! So what if they're tall and mighty? I believe that we will win! Who's with me? Let's do this!

The sad reality is that you're not that person at all. That's why the bible is hard to understand sometimes. You're not Peter at Pentecost. You're not unwavering Paul.

I hate to break it to you, but you're the one in the story that gets it wrong.

You're an Israelite, cowering in fear at the reports of the giant obstacles ahead. You hear, "Come on! God will give us the victory!" But you look at those giants, and know that defeat is imminent. You wander and make excuses. You clam up and waste years - maybe decades - wandering in a wilderness of defeat.

You're just like Jonah. You have your own plans. You see the world your way. You ask God to bless your plans, instead of seeking His way. When He asks you to do things you don't like, you run in the opposite direction. You're the captain of your own ship. When you finally realize that God will accomplish what He wants, you grudgingly, reluctantly "obey." But your heart continues to taint your perspective and color your world in dark shades. Ominous clouds surround your view. You do what God says, but you don't really "mean it."

You're just like Gideon. Having heard from God, you continually request "proof" because you really don't believe. You're scared to trust God. It's easier to trust "signs." You wait for God to "open a door" or seek "confirmation" of His will, even though you know He's clearly spoken to your heart.

When you read the bible, imagine that you're the goat of the story. You're not the mighty victor; you're the one who gets it wrong. You fail. You fall. You strike the rock when God says to speak to it. You ask for a fleece, and then another, instead of believing God's Word. You're not Joshua; you're the naysayer. You're not David; you're the scared, faithless onlookers.

So What's the Good News?

When you read the bible like this, the bible will come alive in a whole new way for you. Your spiritual pride will melt into humble gratitude. When Peter says something dumb, you'll no longer think, "Boy, that Peter's really an idiot!" Instead, you'll hear the Holy Spirit whispering to you, "See? That's you. Right there."

The result? You'll love Jesus more. You'll appreciate His sacrifice that much more. You'll cut the people in your life some slack, because you'll see yourself in truth instead of a prideful mirage.

Try it today. Pick up your bible, and read one of your favorite stories. But don't imagine being the hero this time. Instead, imagine that you're the bonehead. See if you don't see things in a whole new light.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To All Whose Mother's Day Is Hard

Mother's Day provides us with a tremendous opportunity to thank all the moms who mean so much to us in a special way. It's a celebration that often has a flip side that I hardly ever see mentioned, and that's sad. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I wanted to compose this post before I got too tired to make heads or tails of the thoughts running through my head.

But through all the well-wishes, thank-you's, and proud pronouncements wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day, it doesn't seem like the people who hurt most at Mother's Day get any mention or attention.

There are women all around us who struggle every day, because they can't have children. My family experienced that heartache day after day, month after month for a long time before God blessed us with our first child. Some are experiencing that frustration today. How hard it must be for those ladies to watch as everyone celebrates the very thing that keeps her so heartbroken day in and day out.

Or the moms who have difficult children. Who love their children dearly, but suffer daily through major challenges, doubts and depression at the journey they must travel.

Or the moms who have children who are older, and they see their children living contrary to everything they were taught. How helpless, alone and hopeless some of those times must be.

But everywhere, I see Happy Mother's Day cards, hugs, and thank you's. As a church, we should be reaching out and seeking those who hurt deeply because of this day. We must be sensitive to realize that for every mom who deserves this day to celebrate who she is and her contribution to our lives, there's a woman who aches deeply because it's Mother's Day, and she feels like doing anything but celebrating.

Who's going to comfort those who hurt? Thankfully, the God of all comfort will never let you down. To all ladies, whether you're a mom or not, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you in whatever situation you're in.

And remember that your worth isn't found in being a mom, or not being a mom. It's not found in being the perfect parent. It's not found in the lives your kids live now or after they're grown. Your worth is found in Jesus Christ. And please know that the "Happy Mothers" may get all the press, but you, too, are not forgotten today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Are You Awake? Are You Sure?

Sometimes, only the aroma of a strong, fresh, piping hot mug of coffee wakes me up. Sometimes, it's the sound of laughter, or screaming boys that should've stayed in bed longer.

What about you? What wakes you up? The piercing sound of an alarm clock? Or maybe you've tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep at all.

What about spiritually? What does it take to wake you up, spiritually? What does that even mean?

The center of a Christian's spiritual universe is the Gospel. Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and makes forgiveness available to all who repent and trust in Him. A clear conscience. Eternal life. What could be better than that? If you had the choice between a million dollars and forgiveness of sins, which would you choose? A lifetime of financial security, or Jesus?

Jared Wilson, in his book Gospel Wakefulness, offers you and me a spiritual wake-up call. He says that we may not be living in the center of the Gospel like we think we are. We say we're spiritual, play the part, and go through the motions of this "Christianity" stuff. But our lives may not be as Gospel-centered as they could be. Could he be right?

Wilson gives us 11 statements that help us determine for ourselves whether we're truly awakened to the Gospel or not. Could you really not be as Gospel-centered as you think you are?

How many of these statements are true of you?

1. The Gospel doesn't interest you that much, or other subjects (end times, for example) interest you more.
2. You take nearly everything personally.
3. You frequently worry about what other people think.
4. You treat inconveniences like minor or major tragedies.
5. You're impatient with people.
6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, and self-control).
7. The Word of God holds little interest.
8. You have great difficulty forgiving. You harbor a grudge.
9. You are told frequently by a spouse, family member or close friend that you are too clingy or too controlling.
10. You think someone besides yourself is the worst sinner you know.
11. The idea of Gospel Centrality makes no sense to you.

How'd you do? When I look at myself in the mirror in the morning, I realize how much damage my appearance has suffered from the night's "rest." As I look at my heart through this list tonight, I must admit that I look a lot like that man in the mirror.

How about you?

So, what can we do about this condition, then? We do this, every single day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can You Do This, Too?

I'm Just Like You

I never want to set myself up as a hero. I'm proud of my Savior, who died for me and rose from the grave. I'm thankful to Him for all He has done and continues to do daily in my life. I want to share that message that brings hope, life and peace to wilted, dying hearts. 

But the truth is, despite the fishing stories you see on this blog, I'm a big fat chicken when it comes to evangelism. I kid that I know God has gifted me to evangelize because I'm an introvert who hates starting conversations with strangers - especially controversial ones. That way, I know any fruit that comes from me sharing the Gospel gets credited to God.

But I chicken out. All the time. The reason I started this blog was to encourage weak-kneed, feeble, chicken Christians like me to share the Gospel. 

You Can Do This, Too!

I want everyone reading this blog to know that God has given you everything you need to share the Gospel. If you're scared, that's perfect. If you don't know what to say, that's perfect, too. That will drive you to your knees and to the bible. And that's when your conversations will have eternal impact - when God works through you instead of you trying to do it on your own.

It's the Spirit of God that gives you power, wisdom and courage. All you have to do is ask, and continue asking. 

Listen, I wimp out way more often than I obey the Spirit's tugging on my heart to start these conversations. But I want you to know that you can be bold for Jesus and share the Gospel - even with strangers - if you'll pray and believe that God will fill you with the wisdom and courage you need. It's not that I have to share my faith. I want to, because I have words of life that everyone needs. I want people to experience life the way I experience it. People search all their lives for meaning and purpose. I know why I was created. I don't have to waste my life searching. Neither does anyone else, if they'll believe the good news I have to share and place their trust in Christ. In an instant, everything changes. That's what I want to see. That's what you want to see, too, or you wouldn't be reading this. But how?

The Chicken Little Guide to Evangelism

Here's how I started, and how you can start, too. 

First, I studied people who actually evangelize. You can download a million sermons on evangelism, from pastors and preachers who don't regularly share the Gospel. 

But let me ask you a question: if you wanted to make a million dollars, would you ask your Uncle Buddy (who's always broke) how it's done? Of course not. Stop listening to anyone who isn't doing what you're after. 

Search Youtube for guys like Mark Cahill, Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. I learned a lot by watching conversations these guys had with unbelievers. Apologetics strengthens your faith, but you can't spend 30 minutes explaining creation to a person in a one-on-one conversation that lasts 5 minutes. You'll get sidetracked and never get to the Gospel. How do you stay on track? Watch how these guys do it, and learn from them. 

Second, start small. Grab some well-written, creative tracts. I get mine from Living Waters. I use the "World's Best Optical Illusions" one the most. Why? Because I can say, "Did you get one of these?" and get away quickly before they realize it's a Gospel tract! See? Told you I was chicken.

When you hand them a tract, say "Did you get one of these?" That stirs up curiosity in many folks. They wonder what they're missing out on. Try it!

For a week, commit to carrying tracts with you every time you leave the house. Set a goal to give one tract away per day. Before long, it will come easily to you.

Third, practice conversations in internet chat rooms. If you make a mistake and look foolish, who cares? You'll quickly learn what you don't know, in a safe training ground where the pressure's off. You'll go to your bible and find out that answers exist for all of these stupid questions fools (atheists) will throw out at you. You'll also see that some questions are genuine, and learn to navigate the conversation back to the Gospel gently and lovingly through practice.

Finally, if you can, find a friend that wants to evangelize with you. I'm so thankful for my fishing buddy. he helped me get my feet wet. He was my bodyguard when I did stupid things that got us into trouble (okay, I made that part up). But you'll be a lot more fired up when you evangelize in twos. I think the main reason Jesus sent His disciples out in twos was so they could build each other up and stir each other up. When you get discouraged, your buddy will be right there to push you forward. Try it and notice the difference.

Not everyone is called to be an evangelist, but every Christian is called to evangelize. Equip yourself through prayer and bible study, learn from the conversations of others, prepare through always carrying Gospel tracts, and find a buddy. Above all, know that you can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you. Start sharing your faith, and I promise you that your walk will never be the same again.

Oh, and one bonus tip: worried about not having all the answers? I've found that one of the most effective answers I can give in a witnessing conversation is "I don't know." People respect you more when they realize that you're just like them. You don't have to know all the answers. "I don't know. Can I find out and get back to you?" Grab their email or something. Easy peasy. They'll be more likely to listen to the rest of what you have to say when you show them you don't know it all. 

Can I ask you a favor? If this blog is an encouragement to you, would you please tell a friend to check it out?  I want to encourage as many people as I can through these words. 

What do you struggle with when sharing your faith? Please let me know in the comments. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Most Important Blog Post You'll Read This Year

Every day, I see Christians trying so hard. I hear people talking about the heavy load they carry, and how they need more faith to trust the Lord with these heavy weights. It's obviously God's will to struggle through life, it seems. But didn't Jesus say that his yoke is light?

There's a missing ingredient that I've found. hidden right under my nose. After years of trying to lift this heavy burden of "Christianity," whatever that means, I believe I've found the one secret to a successful, fulfilling, joyous Christian existence, no matter what's going on in my circumstances. Once you grab onto this secret with all of your might, and refuse to let go, I believe you may be shocked at how much simpler this whole "Christianity" thing becomes.

Can it really be that simple? One thing that makes this whole walk smooth? I've found it to be true in my own life. Lighten the load, with one simple, singular focus. Feel the peace that surpasses understanding and get on with living life the way God truly wants you to live it.

We are at war. But that doesn't mean you have to be constantly struggling, moment by moment, in a never-ending tug of war with yourself that you feel you can never win. Give yourself a break already.

And once you really embrace this one simple understanding, you'll be in a better position to lighten the load others carry. Instead of well-meaning advice that often falls on deaf ears, provide your loved ones with words that genuinely bring comfort and restoration to their souls when times are at their toughest.

Ignore this truth, and the people around you will feel it. You'll project your struggles onto everyone around you. Even with the best of intentions, you'll sabotage relationships, cause unnecessary tension and turn hopefulness into heartache.

Christianity was never supposed to be a frustrating experience of fits and starts, where you take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. Where you feel close to God one day and so far from him the next. Where you wrangle and hustle and struggle, only to find yourself falling short and feeling tired.

The bible says that if we take hold of this simple truth, then times of refreshing will come from the Lord. I don't know about you, but I could use some refreshing from the Lord.

What is the lone truth you need to guide you to the refreshing experience of Christianity that the bible promises? The Gospel.

You say, "I already know the Gospel." Are you sure?

What is the Gospel? Take a few minutes and really think about it. First, take a few moments to really meditate on your sinfulness. No, this isn't a guilt trip. I mean really think about how God sees every thought. Every cross word. Every time I've lost my temper or acted selfishly. Every time I dishonored Him. How many times have I done that today? 10? 50? It's true that I'm desperately wicked. I choose iniquity. In fact, I drink it up like water. How about you?

Now, how sweet is the cross, in light of all of that? Even though that's who you are, in truth, God demonstrated His love for you on that brutal, bloody cross. He did that for you. He created this whole world. Everything you see. He owns it. You've cursed Him with your thoughts and with your actions, but look how much He loves you anyway.

Doesn't that make you want to worship Him? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me? How amazing is God's love for us!

Take a few moments to bask in this truth, and everything seems a little different, doesn't it? But here's the thing: you've got to do this every day. You've got to put aside everything else and meditate on the Gospel every day. Otherwise, Christianity (and life, for that matter) will just become a heavy burden. There's only one way it'll be different: meditating on the Gospel every day.

Know what else? How you think of others will change when you do this, too. You'll start seeing people as God sees them. You'll stop (consciously or unconsciously) trying to "punish" others, because they've already been punished. When you want to fight, you'll take your fight to the foot of the cross, look up and suddenly break into worship.

When things are hard, you'll take that to the cross and realize that you've gotten far less than you deserve, and far more than you deserve. Your circumstances will cause you to worship God. You'll experience the times of refreshing your soul desperately longs to taste.

You say, "Don't all Christians already know the Gospel?" Paul seemed to think he needed to remind Christians of the Gospel constantly. Read through his letters. He's constantly preaching the Gospel - to born again believers. Why? Because we constantly need to meditate on the truth of the Gospel.

Because we are at war. And much of this war is fought in your mind. The only antidote is reminding ourselves that Christ died for us. That He was, and we are, resurrected to a new life because our God is rich in mercy and grace and love toward us.

Every day, we need the manna of the reminder of how much God loves us and demonstrated that love. Yes, it's good to read your bible, pray, go to church and tell others about Christ. But the most essential part of this whole journey is constantly spending time meditating on who you are, and who Jesus is, and what He has done because He is so merciful.

If you think this is too simplistic, I challenge you to pray this through. For the next week, take just 10 minutes, close your eyes and really stop to think about your sinfulness. Who you are in truth. The thoughts no one sees. Think about the brutality of the cross. The blood He shed for you. The anguish. A pain we can never even begin to understand. Yet he cried out, "Father, forgive them." He cried out, "It is finished."

After a week, I promise you that your burdens won't be so heavy and your heart will worship Him more and more. God invites you to walk with Him in the cool of the day, like Adam and Eve once did. This is how. Will you walk with Him today, meditate on the Gospel, and experience the time of refreshing He longs to have with you?