Category: Evangelism (Page 1 of 19)

Gospel Adventure Expanded

Weather disasters and wildfires. Economic uncertainties. Divorce. Gay rights and abortion. Immigration and race. Division and war. Rumors of wars. These are not settled times in this country. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

Women’s roles. Leadership structures. Instrumental music. Shrinking attendance and nominal commitment. Ecumenical movements¬† and interdenominational partnerships. “Accepting” versus “Affirming.” These are not settled times in the Churches of Christ. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

I’ve decided I’m going to use that Hauerwas quote I posted yesterday in this Sunday’s sermon.

“God has not promised us safety, but participation in an adventure called the Kingdom. That seems to me to be great news in a world that is literally dying of boredom.”

And I’m thinking about saying something like this:

It’s all out there in front of us. Adventure. Thrills. Daring missions. Risky change. Challenging discussions. Exciting encounters. What are we waiting for? To get all our ducks in a row? To find and settle on all the answers first? To make sure everybody in our boat is on board with the exact same theology and uniform practices? No! What’s exciting about that?!?

What’s going to save more people? What’s going to redeem my part of the world for Christ? What’s going to make you and me more like Jesus?

Not worrying or complaining about national politics or this world’s culture. No, ma’am. And not arguing or debating church structures or faith culture.

Getting out there in the middle of it, with other Christians, sacrificing and serving, saving and learning, throwing our entire selves into the mission of God with full knowledge and trust that he is going to do something incredibly wonderful with it if we’ll just submit to him and his calling. That’s going to save people! That’s going to reconcile God’s world! That’s going to make us more like our Risen Lord!

But what about this post-modern, post-Christian society? Nobody wants to listen to anything about Jesus. No, stop it. Everybody you know at work and in your neighborhood and at the grocery store is desperately looking to belong to something that’s hugely significant and bigger than themselves.

But what about our Church of Christ identity? How is the world going to know we’re different from other churches? No, stop it. Jesus died on the cross so we would all be one in him, so I’m sure he’d be thrilled if we worked according to his plan for a change.

These are exciting and adventurous times in the Kingdom of God. Of course, as long as your faith is in yourself and your particular church brand or congregation instead of in the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, you won’t see them as anything but unsettling and dangerous. The Gospel tells us we’re surrounded by divine potential. Holy mystery. Heavenly adventure. Eternal excitement. It’s high time we abandon ourselves and jump in with everything we’ve got.

Peace,

Allan

Proclaiming with Power

The Church’s Kingdom of God proclamation can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is so important for us to grasp. The mission is urgent, yes. The Good News must be proclaimed, of course. But Jesus would not let his apostles start until after they had all received the Spirit. They were prepared, they had been taught, they were witnesses to the whole thing, they were ready to go – but not without the Spirit. They had to wait for the Holy Spirit.

It won’t work without the Spirit.

And when they do receive the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, they can’t be stopped.

You find the account in Acts 2. One hundred and twenty disciples of Jesus, both men and women, the Bible says, sons and daughters, all receive God’s Holy Spirit and they boldly proclaim the Gospel of the lordship of Jesus Christ. They declare the Good News that Jesus is the new King and 3,000 people are baptized that day.

In Acts 4, Peter and John are filled with the Holy Spirit when they proclaim the Good News to the Sanhedrin. When they were released from jail – when you declare publicly that there’s a new king, it usually lands you in jail – the church prayed.

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.” ~Acts 4:31

Stephen is facing opposition to the Gospel in Acts 6. Members of the synagogue begin to argue with him – when Jesus says you can only serve one king and you repeat him out loud in church, it gets you in trouble.

“But they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” ~Acts 6:10

Through the rest of the whole New Testament, the Holy Spirit fills the followers of Jesus with power to meet the proclamation challenges. He gives boldness and courage. He provides the right words to say and he provides the power. You can’t proclaim the Good News without Holy Spirit power.

Peace,

Allan

Do Everything

Immediately following the beautiful Christ Hymn in Philippians 2:6-11, the ancient Gospel song that describes the coming of Jesus and his death and resurrection for the salvation of the world, the apostle Paul commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work in us according to his good purpose. So how do we do that? Any suggestions, Paul?

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.” ~Philippians 2:14-16

This is not really what I would expect out of Paul. Maybe Peter or James, but not Paul. With Paul, I’m looking for some deep theology, some complicated insight. Where’s the rich and layered rhetoric? Where’s the complex argument? Instead, he gives us this very simple, very practical, very specific command: “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

God’s purpose for you, what God is working in you, what transforms you into a blameless and pure child of God, what allows you to shine like a star, which is God’s will for you – it all begins with “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

Everything. All things. The Greek word here is”panta.” It means total and complete. Every kind of. All of it. No matter how you translate it, there’s not a part of your life not covered here. Now, most of us are pretty good at doing most things without complaining or arguing. We’re pretty good most of the time. Some of us – let’s face it – don’t hardly do anything without complaining or arguing. Some of us aren’t happy unless we’re complaining or arguing.

At the restaurant, the customer service counter, the bank, or the post office – what happens if the people you’re complaining about or arguing with show up at your church the next Sunday? What will you say to them? You’ll have nothing to say to them! And it won’t matter because they won’t be listening anyway! Not anymore! Your Christian witness is hindered, if not completely destroyed. You don’t have any credibility.

You claim to be a child of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. You claim to belong to the eternal Lord who defeated sin and death and Satan and reigns forever at God’s right hand. You claim to be a citizen of of heaven, to belong to the everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken. You claim to belong to a Father who always provides and protects. But when you’re complaining and arguing, you’re telling the people around you that you don’t believe a word of it! Your behavior contradicts your beliefs. You live like your beliefs don’t really matter, they have no impact on your life.

How does your belief system and your faith, how does your allegiance to Christ and to his Kingdom, work for all the really big questions in life and solve all the planet-wide sin and suffering and death if it won’t even work at Whataburger? Or the grocery store?

We’ve got to take complaining and arguing as seriously as Paul does. Holding out the very Word of life is at stake. Shining as pure and uncontaminated light-givers in a dark world. Becoming children of God without fault, especially as the world sees us. Living free from anything blame-worthy. Beyond reproach, credible lights in a world that so desperately needs our Savior.

Peace,

Allan

Lining Up

Jesus invited people to follow him, to walk with him along the way. He ate with people he wasn’t supposed to eat with. He hugged people he wasn’t supposed to touch. He forgave people who were unforgivable. And they saw God.

People would experience God in us if our priorities and God’s priorities were the same.

Peace,

Allan

Show People God

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” ~Luke 11:52

The teachers of the law were guilty of prioritizing the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. They knew God’s law front and back, they had it memorized – book, chapter, verse. They could tell you exactly what you could and couldn’t do and what you could wear, what you could say, what you could eat, and who you could be with as you were doing it. Or not doing it. They were strictly enforcing the rules on others and felt no obligation to obey those same rules themselves. They would require certain things of others, but exempt themselves. They acted this way to improve their own position and increase their own power. There’s no love of God, no justice for neighbor.

Jesus says you are keeping people from knowing God. You’re blocking people from knowing who God is and what God is doing in the world. You yourselves don’t know God and the way you keep your thumb on people in the name of religion keeps anybody around you from ever experiencing God.

Jesus came here to reveal to the world who God is and what God is doing. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. He said it himself: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And we join him in that work. We, too, are called to reveal God to others. But these teachers of the law are doing just the opposite. They’re so concerned about keeping the letter of the law, they’re so consumed with following every tiny detail and making sure others are following it exactly the way they interpret it, they miss God. They turn the commands into their God, they make the Bible their God, and they beat everybody over the head with it.

This could also be a problem for us if we’re not careful. Sometimes we are capable of fostering an environment in our churches, our Bible classes, and our small groups – sometimes you can create this culture just around yourself – so that everybody has to believe everything and practice everything the same way we do. Or the same way you do. We can demand uniform compliance with the way we do things. Or the way I do things. People can walk into our settings and just feel like they’re being watched.

Just like the religious leaders were checking to make sure Jesus washed his hands exactly like they think he should, we can make it our goal to catch people. We catch people doing something wrong so we can wag our fingers in their faces or tell on them behind their backs. We can suffocate the people around us. If we’re not careful, we can straight up condemn people. How in the world are these people going to experience the love and grace and forgiveness of God if we’re acting like this in his name? That’s not him! But we make people think it is.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen? Is that what you call a fast? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him?” ~Isaiah 58:5-7

Our Lord and the Scriptures tell us again and again that it’s not about the fasting or the sacrifices or the details of our worship. It’s not making sure the people around you know the law, it’s making sure the people around you know the Lord.

Show them God. Bring them into the presence of God. Show them his mercy and love. Express to them his grace and forgiveness. Extend to them his joy and acceptance.

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, forgive without limits, walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies. Why? Because, he says, that’s the way of our Father in heaven. Live like this because that’s how God is. Join Jesus in his revelation. Show people God.

Peace,

Allan

What If?

Prediction: Stars lose tonight. The Dallas Stars are off to the best start in ten years, not just in the win-loss column, but in several other categories, too. The Stars’ power play and penalty kill are both on an NHL record pace. Dallas has scored nine power play goals in their first three games with a league-leading 56.3% scoring rate. And Joe Pavelski and John Klingbert are killing it at both ends of the ice.

But they lose tonight. This evening at home against Detroit, Dallas will debut their new alternate sweater and uniform and it is hideous. They’re calling it “Blackout,” but it looks like something out of Tron. Black is the primary color and the trim is called “Skyline Green” to match the neon tubes that outline the legendary 72-story Bank of America Plaza (InterFirst Plaza a long time ago) building in downtown Dallas. On a hockey player, it looks more like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green. They’re not as bad as the alternate unis and logos they suffered through for two seasons back in 2003-2005 . But they will lose tonight with these awful sweaters and they will become a jinx for this club. They’re too gimmicked up. They don’t look real. It looks like something out of an energy drink commercial.¬† They won’t be able to win in these things. Starting tonight.

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Ten months into the global pandemic and counting, the national surveys and polls show that the people around us are searching for what’s significant and lasting. They’re looking for something solid and dependable and real. Transitioning now into the post-pandemic future, they’re seeking what’s trustworthy and true. The people you’re running into every day are disappointed, disillusioned, and divided; but they’re open to something different. They want an answer to everything that’s gone wrong; they’re looking for a solution to everything that’s broken. That way, that truth, that life is our Lord Jesus Christ and you’ve got him! And the time is right now to make him known to our desperate and dying world.

Your life, your words, your attitude can be the walking, talking proof that good overcomes evil. You can show people that love is greater than hate, that unity is more fun than division, that peace is far more effective than violence, and that forgiveness always beats revenge.

What if you and I remained calm when the people around us are anxious and demanding? Everything is turned up so loud right now, what would it mean to others if you were quiet and calm? I think it would be noticed.

What if you and I spoke with humility and grace? Instead of saying things so other people will like you or approve of you, what if you only said things that were encouraging to others and built others up? That kind of language would really stick out.

What if you and I tried to love everybody? What if we were known for how kind and graciously we treated others, even when we disagree? Wouldn’t that get people’s attention?

And what if we committed to that right now? Instead of being paralyzed by what we’ve lost in the past or stuck while we wait for the conditions to be perfect later, what if we committed to seizing the opportunities all around us right now? Opportunity is not something that happens at a dim distance somewhere in the future; opportunity is what you and I have right in front of us today!

Here’s our new normal: the virus and the political and social chaos have laid us bare. We’ve been cooped up in our homes with our broken habits for months and it’s revealed to us that our lives, this country, and the world are in more trouble than we thought. The folks around us know right now, more than they’ve ever known in their lives, that the answers cannot be found in government, science, technology, or in just trying harder. They’re looking for the way, the truth, the life right now more than they ever have. And you’ve got that in Jesus Christ!

The new normal is not to be feared. It is to be embraced and engaged as God’s time and place for something beautiful and eternal and new. What if right now you committed to living in a way that points others to what and who they need the most?

Peace,

Allan

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