Do Even Harder Things

shovelThere’s a book called Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. I’ve heard it cited by a number of hopelessly inspired teenagers who have been drawn out of their comfort zones, I’m intrigued. But I haven’t gotten a chance to read it.

So perhaps it is redundantly that I ask –

Are we really doing hard things?

A young man from our youth group preached a sermon from Acts 10 last night. I hope I’m not simply regurgitating what he said (is that illegal?), for something fell together for me in my own words as I listened, and I’ve got to get it out.

It was not ten chapters into the era of the church, the era of salvation through Christ, that the gospel went from being “just for Jews” to open to all nations. You’d think this turn of events would have been obvious from “and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth” (1:8). But to get his message across, God orchestrated an encounter between Peter and a Gentile – a centurion of the hated Italian Regiment, natch – and brought the Spirit upon him in full view of Jewish believers. After that, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for Jew and Gentile alike – anyone who would hear the Word and respond.

What’s crazy is that God had to send Peter three visions to get him into position.

Would Peter have gone with Cornelius’ messengers without the visions coming immediately beforehand?

That the visions were needed first – and evidence from his own life – implies that Peter was ready to take the Gospel to his own Jewish countrymen before the Gentiles.

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Escaping Prosperity Gospel

I’ve often wanted to hear from someone who grew up in the grip of the Prosperity Gospel and found their way out. Here’s an article from someone who reached escape velocity from one of its central families. Great read. May God deliver more.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/october/benny-hinn-costi-uncle-prosperity-preaching-testimony.html

Single and Feeling Like God Doesn’t Care?

thinkingOne of the analytics tools WordPress gives us bloggers is labeled “Search Terms”. It shows us the search words that have brought up one of our posts to someone (though it doesn’t specify which post).

Most of the time, for (I think) privacy reasons, Google hides the actual search words the person used and just says “Unknown Search Terms”, but occasionally the actual words show. I’ve seen “losing friends” (which presumably led someone to this post), “being godly and sexy” (I’m guessing this), a surprising number containing the phrase “last minute” (which probably all led to this), and some hilarious non sequiturs that aren’t all appropriate to share.

On Monday, this one popped up: “single and feel like god doesn’t care”

My heart broke.

I will never know who it was, out of 7.5 billion people, that was led to my site by that search phrase. I don’t even have a way of knowing which post they viewed. I can only hit my knees and pray that God got their needs to them.

Because I know what that feeling is like.

Sometimes we must sweep aside the thick knot of church-foyer theology, rationalizations, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just shine a light upon what our hearts are really believing. And I know what that feeling is like.

No matter how many married people tell you that marriage won’t fix everything (it won’t) or sweep aside your feelings with a big hearty “You shouldn’t be lonely, you have JESUS!!!”*, loneliness is real. There are those who’d give anything to have someone to share a dinner with, someone to entrust with a few uncomfortable secrets, someone to help with the calendar or budget or even just touch them on the shoulder. It’s amazing how many people go without these small comforts. Only the lonely really understand. And that only makes them lonelier.

It’s another level of suck entirely to bear the clenching idea that God doesn’t care. That he’s too concerned with The Plan** to notice how our hearts react to it.

To feel cut off and dismissed by the greatest hope we have? Awful.

I have wonderful news.

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Do You Trust God to Reward You for Your Sacrifices?

If you’re faced with a steep choice today.

Brandon J. Adams

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The Jesus you love will cost you, millennials.

That message has largely been lost in this age of emotional Christianity. But Jesus himself said it so insistently, so repeatedly, that we can conclude this: if sharing the Gospel is not costing you, you might want to ensure that it’s really the gospel you’re sharing.

The Jesus who did so many wonderful things – ate with outcasts, railed against Pharisees, whispered “neither do I condemn you” to the adulterous woman – also said some other things, difficult things, which many Christians my age hesitate to accept. He compassionately asks us to release cherished sins. He urges us to put his Word before our deepest feelings and most precious relationships. He commands us to look to him, not the world, for our definition of love. He speaks of hell. Often. He calls us to tell decent, law-abiding citizens that their efforts are not enough, and that only turning to…

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4 Ways to Glorify God in a Dead End Job

fryerAs long as the lost are working in dead-end jobs, God will be sending his people there.

That should be encouragement – and an alarm bell – for those of us who think that God’s “callings” end in cushy white-collar jobs, or even in sweltering, malnourished foreign nations. You want to get out of your comfort zone? Some of us are far more bugged working the Taco Bell drive-thru than building houses in Mexico. At least Mexico feels like a mission. Service-sector jobs feel like a waiting room at best. Leftovers. And for those who somehow keep circling back around to the same jobs, they can start to feel ominously like destiny. Like the best it’ll ever get.

The glorious reality is that they’re an opportunity. Fertile ground for the gospel of Jesus.

Dead-end jobs are stacked with struggling souls. Some of God’s most inspired evangelists are needed in dead-end jobs. The debt-wracked, the terminally ill, the criminally marred, the addicted, the newly divorced, the ostracized…there are booming, famous preachers who couldn’t begin to understand this stuff. They make their money at a safe distance from the streets. But you’re a different story. You could reach where they couldn’t dream of reaching – and don’t really want to.

Here are four things that a Christian can do to bring the light, and please, don’t let me overstate my own success in these areas. I’m still learning.

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The Sin of Deflection

deflectionAnother year, another incorrect prediction of the world’s end.

I often wondered how these predictors interpret their constant misses, until I went on the internet and saw for myself.

They deflect.

Instead of acknowledging their error and apologizing to those they mislead, a lot of these people simply hide behind the sins (or perceived sins) of others. They accuse you of unbelief. They speak of the “mockers” and “scoffers” outside the kingdom who will get their “just reward” when Christ returns. As if any of this somehow ameliorates their own false prophecies. Deflecting.

A coworker responds to correction by pointing out how awful X and Y are at their jobs, and thus how unfair the criticism is. Deflecting.

Teachers spreading poor doctrine complain of being attacked. Deflecting.

Political candidates play down their own flaws and talk about those of their opponent. Deflecting.

And I?

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Bloggers As a Church; Are We A Welcoming One?

church3As you know, some Christian blogs contain a “Community” section where other bloggers who follow them can be seen in their “face-tile” form. This human kaleidoscope provides a wonderful portal for surfing WordPress and discovering new blogs.

But it can also throw you for a loop. Some of the blogs you visit are distinctly un-Christian in their content. Sometimes it’s flat-out erotica (flee, men! Not even a hint!). Other times it’s coarse language and brazenly worldly talk. Other blogs are very gracious and gentle in tone, so much so that you feel guilty criticizing, but they do promote pantheistic “many ways to God” and “positive energy” ideas, or simple “inspiration” that’s ultimately empty and powerless to save.

Whatever the case, not all of WordPress clings to the stark, dirty beauty of the cross of Christ – or the glory of his empty tomb. Yet these unbelieving bloggers follow, and consistently like posts from, Christian bloggers whose Bible-derived beliefs leave virtually no room for theirs.

I’ve often wondered what’s going through their minds. Some of them are just hoping for a follow back. But not all of them.

For the past season, I’ve had an unwritten post draft directed towards those unbelieving bloggers. It was a challenge. “Why do you stick around? Do you understand how directly and entirely these Christian precepts contradict your own?” it was going to say, basically. “What are you going to do about these ideas? Why do you keep following and liking when you don’t seem interested in believing?”

And then – and I can only credit the Holy Spirit for breaching my foolishness so eloquently – a question surfaced in my mind in response.

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