You Shall Be My Witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and…What, There?

browningThere’s a saying you often hear in my part of the world: “Don’t stop in Browning.”

Browning is the county seat of the closest Indian reservation, on which I taught for three years. There’s always the stories circulating around, stories of bad things that happen to white people when they stay too long. Thus the old canard, “don’t stop in Browning”.

It’s also a saying that my pastor likes to repudiate fiercely whenever the chance arises.

I love it. Thump that pulpit.

It’s a crap catchphrase, for two reasons. One, because it isn’t true. I’d know. I frequented that town for three years, stepped inside its gas stations, supermarkets, fast-food places. Nothing happened. Didn’t get ripped off, didn’t get pushed around. It’s just normal folk looking to live a normal life (without a lot of success). Maybe more people would know that if they stopped.

The second reason is, it’s not a very Great Commission saying.

Jesus didn’t place limits on our destinations for that “ends of the earth” thing. He told us to make disciples of all nations, which usually involves making friends first. And if there were safety concerns…

…well, you weren’t likely to argue with a guy who’d just had his hands and feet pierced bringing light to places that didn’t want it. Especially once he’d risen from the dead.

I’d run into my share of panhandlers and homeless in a town like that (even on the forty-second parallel). If you offered to buy them food, there was about a fifty-fifty chance. Some would accept, grinning happily through a sub sandwich and telling you their life story. The other half would quickly decline and shuffle off. They were obviously after something else.

The point is, by offering, you helped half. All it took was a little resourcefulness, a little brain-pushing, which we often don’t even do. We complain about systems and institutions and government. Is it just a cover for not wanting to lose five bucks? Who knows what eternal doors could be opened through those five bucks?

We’ve got so many poisonous attitudes clouding our evangelistic vision. The only way to vent them is often simply by walking right into them, and doing what we’re supposed to do.

How can you do so today?

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

 

 

What If Jesus Announced That He Would Return On…

The following scenario will not happen. “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son — except the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

I don’t anticipate the Lord going back on such long-laid plans. After all, the prior verse says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (v. 35).

But humor me for a moment, and consider this hypothetical exchange:

Church: “Lord, we faint. We long for your presence. Please, please tell us when you’re coming back.”

Jesus: “Oh, very well. The Father has relented and authorized me to tell you. I will be returning on…”

Global bated breath. People in every village, city, region, and nation await the next words. One of the most significant, weighty questions ever pondered on earth is about to be answered.

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No More Apologizing for the Faith

miracleSomething stunning has happened at our church.

The story has been rising towards climax for months as our congregation wearied itself in prayer. This month, it was finally confirmed.

Until I’m given blessing to share more, I’ll limit the facts to two: it is unquestionably miraculous, and many have come to a powerful, swiftly mature faith in Jesus Christ through it – such that our firmly grounded Baptist pastor has compared it to “something out of the book of Acts”.

Sorry to be a tease.

But one thing on which I can confidently speak is what this miracle has done in my life: thrown into a sharp relief a wall in my heart. One built of a composite of materials, one that I let block me every time I consider sharing my faith in Christ. A wall of apologizing.

Apologizing for bad churches.

Apologizing for cosmically tough questions.

Apologizing for the idea of sin.

Apologizing for the ugliness of certain corners of my political party.

Apologizing for the cliches we throw around.

Apologizing for difficult doctrines that require great objectivity and surrender to consider.

Apologizing for others’ suffering and unanswered prayer.

Apologizing for the way God hasn’t made himself as evident as he could.

Apologizing for my flaws, which I fear disqualify me.

Apologizing, apologizing.

And so rarely sharing.

I do believe God is patient and has answers for these things – or comfort when answers cannot come.

But if I allow these considerations to suppress my witness of the very Jesus who claims victory over these things, to leave me walking on others’ eggshells, then something is off.

I’m afraid of what others will think.

It’s no more complicated than that. I fear reprisal. The loss of friends. The assault of a world that won’t abide the Gospel’s aroma. That unspoken instinct is really what’s at the bottom.

So I tiptoe. I trade in a mincing, eggshell-treading testimony that’s trying to placate rather than confidently proclaim.

There’s nothing like a miracle to jolt your faith. Jesus has taken a running start, lowered his head, and smashed through my hesitation like the Hulk through a twenty-foot clay bulkhead. Where is your boldness? he’s asking. In light of this incredible happening, why do you hesitate?

To those who do not yet know Jesus, bring your doubts and questions and worst mistakes if you must, but Jesus is real. He moves. He delivers. There is no difficulty to which he cannot respond with power, wisdom, and comfort. There is no sin you can mention that he is not willing to forgive.

So…you will be hearing from me. I’m now further than ever in my life from being able to keep silent. Even if I never get to share more about this particular miracle, I have others to tell of. He is real.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Don’t Lose Your Expectation

fieldA young man I admire was expressing, shall we say, a little bit of an evangelistic comedown recently.

He’s been sharing his faith with a number of people at work and school, including some longer-term contacts whom he’s met frequently with. An enthusiastic person by nature (he approaches little in life without his signature fervency), he loved telling us about how God was moving.

Lately, those contacts seem to have run into dead ends. Though seemingly open at first, they have clammed up, stopped meeting, stopped returning calls. And it left him wondering whether he’d gotten a little…too excited?

I thought about it for a while.

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“Jesus, Give Me Your Heart For People”

pexels-photo-207896I’m not exactly a people person by default. I’m one of those souls who wants friendship and likes some humanity close by, but prefers “his people”. Small inner circle, then acquaintances and colleagues, then everyone else (allowing for some shades of gray). Strangers? Yikes.

BUT…I’ve also asked myself more than once, “How is a personality like this supposed to spread the Gospel with any serious effectiveness?”

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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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Maybe This Year?

14264163_10154519656294695_4557267216967126051_n (1).jpgThe time has come.

My Seattle Seahawks are again marching forward to war.

Every year, we go through this. We microanalyze the meaningless preseason games, discuss the September cutdowns to death, scrutinize every bit of offseason literature coming out of the city media, all in pursuit of one haunting question…do the Seahawks have a chance this year?

And every year, we Christians think about “that thing”. That breakthrough or victory or miracle or answer to prayer that we’re hoping for.

Maybe this will be the year that chronic illness finally goes into remission. The year you get out of debt. The year you get engaged. The year that gripping sin on your spouse finally gives way. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to see; you’re just hoping things will “get better” somehow.

Steven Furtick has a sermon called “Don’t Stop on Six”. It’s one of my favorites. The reference is to how the Israelites were commanded to march around Jericho seven times before releasing a shout, and how they would have missed the miracle had they stopped on the sixth lap. I love an inspirational sermon every once in a while, and “Don’t Stop on Six” is one of my favorites.

And yet…it makes me uneasy.

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