Category: Evangelism (page 1 of 16)

Working Every Day

My brilliant brother Keith Stanglin has written a provocative post for the Christian Studies blog at Austin Graduate School of Theology on “Sexual Harassment and Hollywood’s Double Standard.” He expertly exposes the hypocrisy of an industry that sells sex as nothing more than a bodily function, a pleasurable thing to do with another person — sex whenever and with whomever you will — but then “occasionally wants to maintain that sex is an intimate matter, not for public consumption, not for objectification or merely for someone else’s pleasure.” He makes the point in this post that the entertainment industry’s very public outcry against the bad sexual behavior is counter to Hollywood’s core message and actually belongs to the mindset of a Christian worldview. The message characterized by #metoo and timesup and punctuated by black dresses at the Golden Globes is hard to arrive at without a Christian understanding of God and humans and sex. So, the whole thing is confused and it’s confusing. And, in Keith’s estimation, nothing will change in Hollywood or popular culture or in American society unless there’s some kind of honest evaluation of and commitment to the Christian ethic. In other words, don’t hold your breath. But do read his post.


Our God is putting people in front of you every day. He’s bringing people right into your presence all the time.  God is always at work, constantly drawing people to himself. And we get to decide each time whether to lean in or step back. You get to decide whether to say ‘yes’ or to ignore it.

How many times did Moses balk? For some reason, he thought he had to be somebody important for God to use him. Think about Joseph: his brothers hated him, they sold him into slavery, he winds up in the governor’s house, he gets thrown in prison, then he becomes second-in-command in the Egyptian Empire. At the end of the story Joseph says twice that God put him where he was in order to save many lives. That’s the reason God chose Moses, to save many lives. The same goes for Jonah and Esther and Samuel and Deborah and Peter and Paul. And you, too.

You were chosen by God in Christ for the saving of many lives. God is always working to save lives. And he usually uses the least likely people to do it.

In John 5, Jesus says, “My Father is at work every day and I, too, am working.” Don’t you love that?

“My Father is at work every day and I, too, am working.” Oh, I want that to be my attitude. I want to be taken over by that thought. Don’t you?

“My Father is at work every day and I, too, am working.” That’s Jesus. That’s the One who came, in his own words, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life to save many lives.

And on that last night before he willingly walked to the cross, just hours before his death that would take away the sin of the world and reconcile all of creation back to the Creator, he looked his followers in the eye and said, “Remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last!”

May our eyes be open and our hearts in tune with what God has planned for us in 2018. May we embrace his vision and throw ourselves into his mission with everything we’ve got, to his eternal glory and praise!



“In the World, Not Of the World”

The man comes up to Jesus and he’s covered with leprosy. He falls with his face to the ground and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus say, “If I’m willing?!? Of course, I’m willing!!! That’s why I’m here! Be clean!!” And he healed him immediately.

A widow is wailing over the death of her only Son. Jesus says to her, “Don’t cry.” He raises the young man from the dead and gives him back to his mother. All the crowd is filled with awe and they praise God saying, “God has come to help his people!”

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness, he brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. People are blessed and the world is changed.

And then on that last night, around the table with his followers, our Lord Jesus prays. He prays for all people “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He tells the Father “they know I came from you, they believe you sent me” (John 17:8). He tells God “everybody knows you sent me” (John 17:25). And he prays for his disciples:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:15-18

Then Jesus is arrested and crucified. Out of his deep love for us and his commitment to our forgiveness and righteousness and peace, he gives his life. On the third day, God’s Holy Spirit brings our Lord out of the grave. That evening the risen and reigning Jesus eats dinner with his followers and says:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ~John 20:21

When Jesus says we’re not of this world, that’s not a final destination or a future goal — it’s a starting point. By our baptisms and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are members of the family of God, we are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, like Jesus. And, like Jesus, being not of this world is so we can be sent into this world.

I’ve heard it said all my life — you and I have probably both said this many times: “We’re in this world but we’re not of this world.” The way we say it implies that being in the world is a temporary accident we have to endure or, at worst, a really bad circumstance we must fight. We’ve paraphrased Jesus’ words into an isolationists slogan. We make it sound like we’re above everything and we need to take care of ourselves first and be separate from the world.

No, we’ve got it backwards!

Jesus says we’re not of this world precisely so we can be sent into the world. In the world is intentional, it’s the very core of God’s eternal plans. The Church is not a community of cautious isolation, we’re a group committed to courageous transformation! We don’t run from the world or rail against the world; we are racing into the world with the amazing story of God’s love that has captured our hearts and commissioned our lives! God gathers us together in his Church so we can better be on point for his mission in the world!



Baptism Fruit

We’ve got seven months to learn how to pronounce Tagovailoa.
Jalen Hurts and the Alabama kicker have six months to pick out a dorm room at Texas Tech.


John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Lord. He’s getting all the people ready to meet the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing in the desert, people are repenting, and their sins are being forgiven. John the Baptist is doing what needs to be done so people can see the Lord.

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”
~Luke 3:4-6

Our job as a church full of Christians is to make it easier for people to see God’s salvation. We are in the business of preparing the way, making it easier for people to see and experience what God is doing. And these are the questions we need to be asking: How do we level the mountains? How do we straighten out the crooked roads? What can we do to smooth out the rough places? How do we make it easier for more men and women to see and experience God’s salvation?

Well, John the Baptist tells us:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” ~Luke 3:8

You’re repenting of your sins, John says. You’re being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Now make sure your lives reflect that. Make sure you’re consistent with that.

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay.”
~Luke 3:10-14

Share your possessions with others. Pursue economic justice for others. Treat others fairly.

Being baptized means you’re all in. Your sins are forgiven, you’re cleansed; but that’s not all. You’re commissioned, you’re charged with ministry, with living your life in such a way that others can see and experience the salvation works of God. The same thing happened when Jesus was baptized. He didn’t need forgiveness; this was the commissioning point of his ministry. His ministry was launched in the waters of baptism.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased!'” ~Luke 3:21-22

God anoints his Son with his Holy Spirit. He’s consecrating Jesus, ordaining him for ministry. God makes a public declaration of his relationship to his Son and at that point, verse 23, Jesus begins his ministry. He is full of the Holy Spirit (4:1), led by the Holy Spirit (4:1), and empowered by the Holy Spirit (4:14).

Through the rest of the Gospel we watch as our Lord Jesus shines God’s salvation light into darkness. Jesus lays his hands on the crippled woman and heals her. He eats dinner at the Pharisee’s house. He interacts with and serves the Samaritan lepers. He stays with Zacchaeus and calls him a son. Jesus looks at the sinful woman at Simon’s house and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” He says “Let the little children come to me with all their sticky hands and runny noses.” He holds them, touches them, blesses them.

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness. He brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, our Lord Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. And people are blessed and the world is changed.

And on that last night, around the table with his closest followers, he looks us in the eye and says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

By our baptisms and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to go into our communities and do the same things Jesus did in order that more men and women might see God’s salvation. All of us are called to seek and save, to heal and forgive, to love and reconcile — to bear baptism fruit.



Win Them By Our Life

“Let this, I say, be our way of overpowering them, and of conducting our warfare against them; and let us, before all words, astound them by our way of life. For this is the main battle, this is the unanswerable argument, the argument from actions. For though we give ten thousand precepts of philosophy in words, if we do not exhibit a life better than theirs, the gain is nothing. For it is not what is said that draws their attention, but their enquiry is, what we do. Let us win them therefore by our life.”

John Chrysostom
388 AD


“You are the salt of the earth.” ~Matthew 5:13

SaltShakerNot pepper. Some of us act like Jesus called us to be pepper. Some Christians feel like they’re called to behave in such a way as to irritate people. Some followers of Jesus just walk into a room and people’s eyes begin to water. Some Christians cause people to make funny faces and start sneezing.

No, we’re supposed to be salt. We bring out the very best of what’s already there. We bring out what’s possible. We season life and the situations around us so there’s more flavor. More to savor. By our lives we help make everything around us as good as our God always intended it to be.

So, when the world acts to condemn, we move to forgive. When the culture says you don’t matter, we say you’re a child of God. When society says I don’t care about you, we say what can I do for you? Where the world seeks to injure, we seek to heal. When the culture declares I hate you, we say I love you.

Everywhere we go, everywhere we are, we shine the light of love and forgiveness, we bring the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, the light of Jesus shines in us and through us with love and mercy and truth.

We bring it. We live it. And people around us are blessed and the world is changed.

We are the salt of the earth. Not pepper.



Sin and Relationships

brothersheartNearly everybody defines sin as breaking a law or disobeying a set of rules. But in Jesus’ timeless story about the two lost brothers in Luke 15, our Lord shows us it’s possible to perfectly obey all the regulations and still be trapped in sin. Both the younger son and the older son had faulty hearts. One ran away from the father’s house and disobeyed all the rules while the other son stayed at home with the father and kept all the rules. But they both resented the father’s authority. They both looked for ways to get out from under his command. They each tried to tell the father what to do and how to run his business. One rebelled against the father by being very bad. And the other rebelled against the father by being really good.

Sin destroys relationships. No matter what the sin is or what motivates it or who commits it, sin destroys relationship. Neither of the sons wanted the father; they each wanted what the father could give them. They wanted the father’s blessings, they wanted his riches, but they didn’t necessarily want him.

Like the lady talking about her husband and says, “I didn’t want to marry my husband for his money, but I couldn’t see any other way to get it!”

Sin breaks fellowship with the people in your life and with God. Sin wrecks that bond. Remember Adam and Eve hid from God, God didn’t hide from them. The separation doesn’t come from God’s side. The sin and shame and guilt creates the barrier. But even with the sin, God is still reaching out, he’s still seeking that fellowship.

A lot of people think God won’t associate with sinners, that God separates himself from sinners. No, God went out looking for Adam and Eve, right? “Where are you? What’s going on?” Our God walks with Enoch, he shares meals with Abraham and Moses, he dwells inside the tabernacle in the wilderness and inside Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Sin breaks relationship with God; but that’s always on the sinner’s end, not God’s.

God restores those broken relationships. Sin breaks and destroys and separates. But God in Christ came here to the sinners to find what is lost, to heal who is sick, and to fix what is broken. God’s mission is to restore the relationships, to reconcile all sinners back to himself. And he came here in the flesh and blood of Jesus to show us what it looks like.

Notice that at the beginning of Luke 15, Jesus is hanging out with sinners. That really ticks off the religious leaders who think God’s people shouldn’t have anything to do with sinners. But hanging out with sinners — eating and drinking with sinners, talking to and sharing with sinners — seems to be God’s strategy for restoring the relationship.

And sinners love it!

All throughout the Gospels, sinners are attracted to Jesus. Sinners are gathering around Jesus, they’re following Jesus, they can’t get enough of Jesus. And Jesus welcomes them. He eats with them. Exactly like the master of the banquet in the last story Jesus told in Luke 14. God’s strategy is a table. And God is bringing all people to that table. God wants all people to have fellowship with him. Table communion. A righteous relationship with God.

All people.

Even sinners? Yes! Even tax collectors? Yes! Prostitutes? Yes! Blue Jays fans? (……)

Yes, even Blue Jays fans and politicians and bank robbers and murderers and cheats! Everybody is invited! And God himself comes to us to demonstrate in living color what it looks like.

Jesus seeking out sinners and getting to know them. Jesus hanging out with the lost. Peter saw it up close as an apostle of the Messiah and he tells Cornelius in Acts 10:

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and he went around doing good… because God was with him.”

No wonder the sinners and tax collectors loved him. Jesus went about doing good because God was with him. Jesus loved them! He accepted them! And it seems like he actually enjoyed their company. Jesus was good to sinners. Jesus showed mercy and compassion to sinners. Jesus shared his great joy and peace with sinners. And the religious people didn’t understand it. They wrinkled up their faces and called Jesus “a friend to sinners.” And Jesus said, “Thank you very much!” That’s the nicest thing you can say to our Lord.

What if we had the same reputation? What if we were known for hanging out with sinners? What if people criticized us because we showed so much mercy and compassion to sinners? What if our churches were known for sharing joy and peace with sinners?



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