One Word

A lot of the time it only takes one word.

Jesus would say just one word and people would be healed. He heals the deaf and the mute by just saying, “Open.” He stills the storm by just saying, “Peace.” He just said “Come” to a guy named Peter and that guy wound up walking on water. One time Jesus was going to a soldier’s house to heal his servant when the soldier stopped him and said, “You don’t have to come to my house; all you have to do is say the word and my servant will be well.”

You just have to say a word.

Your saying a word has the potential to eternally change the lives of the people you know and love. The Holy Spirit puts the person directly in front of you, the Holy Spirit tells you what to say, and the Holy Spirit does with your conversation what’s going to be best, what he’s already planned. If we’ll only trust the Good News.

Colossians 4 says “Pray that God will open a door; pray that we proclaim Christ clearly; make the most of every opportunity.”

Peace,

Allan

It’s Already Started

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of Truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” ~ John 14:16-17

“When he comes, he will expose the guilt of the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment; in regard to sin, because people do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned… When he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth… He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” ~ John 16:7-15

Jesus says the Holy Spirit will be at work convincing men and women, exposing what’s wrong in the world and drawing all people to God. The Holy Spirit is being sent to convince people of their sin and compel men and women to seek righteousness and avoid judgment. The Holy Spirit is going to be working hard on people all around you. And this same Spirit will live inside you and he will empower you like you can’t believe. Everything I know from the Father, you’re also going to know. You’ll see. It’ll blow your doors off. Trust me.

When Christians talk in Acts — when they witness and declare and proclaim — it’s always in response to something God is already doing. Look what God is doing; we’ve got to tell somebody! Look what God has done; we need to let other people know!

One of my problems is that when I talk, I’m usually trying to start something. Whether I’m preaching on Sunday morning or talking to people at Toot N Totem or praying with people at the League House, I’m trying to use just the right words to say just the right thing to get something started. I forget that every word out of my mouth is just a response to what God’s already started long before I ever showed up. I forget that there’s not one single person I talk to about Jesus that God’s Spirit hasn’t already been working on.

God’s on this — way ahead of me. When he puts somebody in my path, the absolute fact is that he’s been convincing them and drawing them and preparing them for a while now. I don’t have to start anything; God’s in the big middle of it and he would be thrilled if I’d just jump in and share the fun.

This is God’s plan, this is how it works. We need to trust it. We need to trust the way God desires to spread the Good News and expand his Kingdom and save people.

That person you see every day? You’ve wanted to invite him to church, you’ve wanted to ask if you can pray for her, you’ve wanted to talk to him about forgiveness and salvation and peace. You haven’t asked the question or initiated the conversation because you don’t know how to start it. You don’t have to start anything. It’s already started.

Peace,

Allan

Shared in Community

“Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners?” Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'” ~Luke 5:29-32

Let’s get this straight: Jesus made followers because he made friends. And that made waves.

Why did Jesus go to Levi’s house? To make more friends!

The religious people didn’t like the people Jesus hung out with. It ate them up. So they called Jesus names to try to intimidate him to bring Jesus back to the old traditional path. They called him a drunk and a glutton, they called him a friend to sinners. They couldn’t stand it. They despised Levi and his friends because they figured God did, too. God doesn’t like those kinds of people! What are you doing with those kinds of people?

A lot of us have got God wrong. We’ve had him wrong for a long time.

God wants to be friends with everyone. Jesus did not come here to change God’s mind about us; he came here to change our minds about God. God does not exclude anybody from his invitation to salvation. Not anybody. The Gospel is for all. If you read anything in the Bible that excludes anybody from the Kingdom of God, you’re reading it wrong.

Our Father loves everybody and he wants everybody to be saved. And community leads to conversion.

The Willow Creek folks up in Chicago did a study years ago that showed a brand new Christian will invite twenty people to church in the first year he’s a disciple. In the second and third years of being a new Christian, they invite around a dozen to church per year. And that number keeps going down the longer a Christian is a Christian. By year seven or eight, the new Christian is inviting one or fewer people to church each year. If you’ve been a Christian for twenty years, the numbers say you haven’t invited anybody to church in over a decade!

Is that you? Why?

The research indicates it’s because Christians who’ve been Christians for a while have only Christian friends. They’re so engaged in church and church programs and church socials and church camp and church retreats and church basketball and church movies and church schools, they don’t have any non-church friends.

Every follower of Jesus is a missionary. And every missionary has non-church friends. We have to! Missionaries leave their comfort zones and engage a different culture so the people in those cultures can become members of the Kingdom of God. That’s exactly what Jesus did. Instead of ignoring the people at work or the people on your street, how about engaging them? Those people could use a friend who doesn’t cuss.

When Jesus calls us to be salt and light, when he tells us to condition the world we live in,  he says salt is worthless if it loses its saltiness. Well, salt is just as worthless if it’s never used. Salt that’s never shaken at the dinner table is ready to do its good work, but it may as well be locked up in a museum if it’s going to have contact with and absorb into the food it’s meant to condition.

“Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ… Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let you conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” ~Colossians 4:3-6

Pray that God will open a door. Pray that we proclaim Christ clearly. Make the most of every opportunity.

Peace,

Allan

Intended for Sinners

“Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” ~Luke 5:27-28

Jesus called Levi while he was sitting in his booth. While Levi was cheating people, while he was scheming and stealing, while he was employed by the evil occupying forces, while he’s acting as a traitor and a crook, Jesus called him. He called Levi “as is.”

When you buy a car or a sweater “as is,” you know there’s a flaw. There’s something wrong with it.

Jesus came across the worst possible version of Levi asked him to follow him “as is.” “Come as you are.” Jesus didn’t start the conversation with a guilt trip about Levi’s past sins. He didn’t lecture Levi about his sins of the present. Instead, Jesus began a conversation with Levi with an invitation to Levi’s future. “Follow me.” Jesus didn’t say, “Levi, you can be one of us if you’ll quit your job and pay back all the people you’ve wronged and starting wearing a tie on Sunday mornings and cancel your subscription to Showtime. Do all that first and then maybe you can be one of us.”

No! Follow me, Jesus says. As is.

This says something to us we need to hear. The Bible doesn’t have stories about people changing their lives and then following Jesus. But the Bible is cram-packed with stories about people following Jesus and then their lives changing radically. The Good News is for sinners, not for people who already have their act together.

Your church is a vivid illustration of that. Your church is full of sick people. So is mine. Central is a mess! We’ll try to fool you, of course. If you’re a visitor to Central or a brand new member, we’ll try to fool you.

How are you? I’m fine! Yeah? I’m great! Really? Too blessed to be stressed! I’m walking in the light!

We try to hide it, but our churches are full of sick people. We’re lying and lusting and sinning and angry and selfish and petty. And we’re all trying to follow Jesus. And we’re getting better. By God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, we’re getting better. But Jesus called us while we were still sinners.

Peace,

Allan

Dallas Drops Dez

Following three straight seasons of an increasing number of critical drops in crucial situations, the Cowboys returned the favor on Friday the 13th, unceremoniously dumping their underperforming diva wide receiver Dez Bryant. The move comes about two years too late, in my opinion. But it’s stuff like this that makes following Jerry Wayne’s Cowboys so every-day-of-the-year interesting.

Bryant’s production has dramatically dropped over the past three seasons. He’ll turn 30 this year, but he’s missed more plays and more games the past three seasons — and dropped more balls — than a 40-year-old. And he’s never been worth the headache. You can’t get away with blowing up at teammates and coaches on the sidelines or sulking in the locker room or being arrested for assaulting your mother unless you’re winning Super Bowls. And the Cowboys aren’t.

I’ve always thought the Cowboys played better when Bryant was injured or otherwise not in uniform. It seems the team would go on little winning streaks when Dez was on the sidelines and then, when he’d get healthy and return to the lineup, they’d lose. Because of both his outrageous salary and his poor attitude, the quarterbacks had to force the ball to him. He couldn’t get open and he couldn’t catch, but they’d keep forcing it to him to keep him from throwing a fit. The whole thing would get out of sync in about three drives and the Cowboys offense would falter.

Dez knew he was going to have to take a pay cut heading into this 2018 season, but the Cowboys knew he couldn’t handle a pay cut. He doesn’t have the temperament to withstand the insult of a drop in status. He can’t function as anything less than a number one guy. If he and the Cowboys agreed to keep him on the team at a lesser salary, it would have been disastrous in the locker room. Cancer. Gangrene. Toxic. Much worse than anything we’ve seen from Dez in the past — and that’s saying something significant.

So Dallas didn’t even offer him a reduced deal. Jerry just pulled him in and cut him, something he should have done at least two years ago.

Bryant responded in his typical way, with a tweet that read, in part, “If I didn’t have my edge, I got it now. It’s personal… very personal.”

He wants to stay in the NFC East so he can play against the Cowboys twice a year and exact his revenge. But the reports I’m reading say the Eagles, Giants, and Redskins have no interest. At any cost. Dez is saying all the right things today, selling himself to potential suitors. It’s just too bad it took getting cut to compel Dez to want to meet with wide receivers coaches and study film and work on his routes and read a playbook. It took getting cut for Bryant to find his edge.

The truth is, Dez can’t be less than a number one guy. No team that has a chance at winning anything big in the next couple of years is going to sign Bryant as a number two receiver because he’ll eat up the locker room and destroy the franchise. Dez will wind up as the number one guy on a really bad team. Which is where he’s been his whole career.

Peace,

Allan

The Gospel is Too Complicated to Share

This week we’ve been looking at the things we need to stop believing. There are things in our heads and our hearts that we believe to be true that really aren’t. These false ideas we believe contribute to a church culture in which we don’t talk about Jesus with others the way we used to, the way we’re called by God in Christ to. The things we hear and the things we pass on that aren’t true — we start to believe those things the more we hear them. And it has the potential to shut us down.

The last thing we’ll consider is the idea that The Gospel is Too Complicated to Share.

The Good News of salvation from God in Christ is not hard. It’s simple. But for several generations now, especially in Churches of Christ, I think, we’ve put too much emphasis on knowing all the details of our rules and regulations and on being able to explain and proof-text all our inconsistencies and loopholes that we’ve made sharing the Good News kinda scary. We’ve turned into a people who’d rather not say anything to our friends about Jesus than risk saying something and not be able to answer a tricky question. For a variety of reasons, we’ve come to believe it’s a sin to say to somebody, “I don’t know.”

The Good News is not complicated. It’s the very simple and beautiful truth that God’s eternal salvation through his crucified and risen Son is a gift. It’s a loving gift. And his loving grace continually washes us and covers the stuff we don’t know.

If we believe what the culture tells us about church, if we believe only what we see with our eyes and what we read and hear from others, then, yeah, we can start believing that we’re just hanging on to a dying brand and that our message has no power and the world has passed us by. Who wants to have me try to push that on anybody? See, if we believe these things, we’ll stop talking.

You know, it looked bad when the world crucified Jesus. But God used that to save humanity. It felt bad when the world executed Stephen and scattered the Church. But God used that to expand the borders of his eternal Kingdom. Today, we know our God is using the circumstances in our culture and the conditions in our world — right now! — to do more through his Church than we could ever possibly dare to ask or imagine.

The question is: What do you believe?

Living in the middle of this world that resists Jesus and his Church, living in a society that rejects salvation from God in Christ, we need to believe the Good News. We have to believe that God lives in us and his Son is our Lord. The government does not have control over how we live our lives. Technology does not define our existence. Postmodernism doesn’t determine how we think. News and entertainment does not account for who we are. We must break the faithless habit of letting the journalists tell us what’s really real — we should at least give the Scriptures equal time!

Just like Moses in the Midian desert, just like Isaiah in the Temple, just like John on the Island of Patmos, in chains, guarded by Roman soldiers, watching the trade ships of the Empire sail by, hearing the reports of increased persecution, we, too, have been given a vision and a task. We’ve been given a picture of the way things really are: God on his throne, Christ Jesus by his side, and the Holy Spirit inside his people, filling us with courage and working in us and through us so his eternal will is done on earth just as it is in heaven.

May we believe the Good News.
May our words be fueled by the Spirit and filled with boldness.
And may our risen and coming Lord Jesus receive all the glory forever.

Peace,
Allan

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