Broadening the Gospel Platform at the Olympics

When you watch the Olypmics, how do you feel? I have to admit, I love that rush of empowerment when my favorite athlete crosses the finish line first, or stands tear-streaked to the strains the National Anthem. It’s a good feeling.

I completely “get” the fist pumping, water-smacking, “can’t believe I made it this far,” maddening-need-to-do-it-again–amass more medals than Michael Phelps–emotional high. I think I can understand the powerful feeling of fame, matched only by the soul-crushing shame of loss on the worldwide stage.

And, along with the rest of America, I love a feel-good story: everything from baby Boomer to Kathleen Baker’s refusal to be cowed by Chrone’s Disease to the courageous German gymnast who finished for his team despite a torn ACL. In fact, it’s a nice distraction from the incessant pavement-pounding of this political season. In a way, it makes it easier to pretend (for 2 weeks) that all’s right with the world, that all these nations simply enjoy a friendly rivalry contained in the sporting arena.

I will be parked (as often as possible) in front of the television for these all-too-short days of friendly, inspiring competition. But, there’s something the majority of media leaves out, even out of the feel-good stories. And that’s the multiple stories of faith.

It’s easy enough to hide our faith under a basket when our greatest exposure is the guy at the supermarket, the daycare provider or our co-workers, but can you imagine the pressure these athletes face to hide this most important and inflammatory topic from a world filled with people who have no problem killing based on faith?

But some have chosen not to hide it. Some have chosen to use their platform, however brief it may be, to declare the love, grace and power of Jesus Christ in their personal lives and His desire to be Lord of every life–before the day when every knee will bow without exception.

” … so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth … ” Philippians 2:10

You won’t hear these stories on TV, so I feel compelled to do my tiny part to broaden the platform for one of these bold athletes. Meet David Boudia:

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Deflating the Misery Index

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy … “ Romans 15:13

Statistics show that you are miserable—albeit less miserable than you were last year.

Did you know that there’s such a thing as the Misery Index? In the 1970s, Arthur Okun, created a simple formula to measure the happiness of the average American. The equation is the unemployment rate plus the inflation rate, and as of February of 2015, the number is the lowest it’s been since the mid-1950s.

But, Americans still express a dismal outlook about the next six months. A recent article on NPR suggests that the formula is just too simple for today’s economy. They factor wage growth and consumer debt into the equation and surmise that the economy is still the culprit for our misery.

But what if there’s more to it? St. Augustine said, “”You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” And God’s own Word tells us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

Even those who deny the deity of Christ or shun His saving sacrifice, understand the need for hope, joy and peace. It is the lack of those things that inflates our misery index—not simply empty pockets. As Christians, we possess the antibody to the world’s misery. In the grip of Christ, misery is indeed foreign to us; the love of Christ has dispelled it.

As we brave the world today, let’s flavor our witness with joy. The world is ripe for it.

 

The Long-term Effects of Evangelism

My husband grew up in Guatemala. He’s not verbose, but I love to hear my mother-in-law tell stories about his younger years.

When he was less than ten years old, he got see monkeys swinging from tree branches. He climbed barefoot up coconut trees and tossed the plump, hairy fruits to the ground. Then squeezing one between his feet, he learned to crack it open and suck out the refreshing milk.

It’s funny how our minds work. Quickly, my thoughts travel from her story to find similarities between it and Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of man.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus body was broken for us (Luke 22:19), just like that coconut. His death, the breaking of His body purchased new life for those who believe in Him. Believers take communion, eat the bread representing His body and drink the wine depicting His blood, and remember His death and resurrection. We receive life and nourishment through Him.

My husband’s family lived in Guatemala for the purpose of evangelism. His dad, a doctor, spent long hours caring for the physically sick. He delivered babies, treated parasites, closed wounds, cleaned infections, pulled teeth and more. My mother-in-law taught the children and ministered to village women through compassion and companionship.

These stories and their related truths came flooding back to me when I read this story from a distributor of The Pocket Testament League’s gospels.

“We recently returned from Guatemala where we used the Spanish version of the Gospel of John to spread the Gospel there. I believe our team distributed nearly 200. We were able to witness to many people using these as well as secure some eternities. It was awesome!”

Sharing the Gospel, evangelism, is so much more than categorical mission work. It’s more than visiting a strange land or learning a new language. It’s more than preaching. It’s even more than providing medical care and basic necessities. Sharing Jesus creates sisters and brothers; it demolishes cultural lines and physical differences.

Today, my husband’s family stays in touch with many of the people they served in Guatemala as well as some of the missionaries they served alongside. They made

life-time friends, and more than that, eternal friends.

Sometimes, a missionary or evangelist never gets to see the fruits of their labor. Also, many times, like my husband’s family, they have to move on and leave behind those they led to Jesus. But that’s what I love about Jesus: Everything He does is perfect and eternal.

The relationship that began with a Gospel from The Pocket Testament League, or the friendship that began over a shared, delicious coconut, or one that started when a doctor treated a broken arm – these relationships are eternal. They take the living water that Jesus gave and offer it to others, refreshing them too.

The love that Jesus showed to us is irresistible. We must, as believers, live intentionally to share that love with others, both practically and verbally. The reward is limitless. First, we receive the privilege of obedience to God.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

Second, sharing the Gospel creates deep, satisfying, lasting friendships, those who can be counted upon to pray for us, encourage us and hold us accountable. The apostle Paul said of Timothy, a young man whom he very likely led to Christ:

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” Phil. 2:19-22

Lastly, the more that we speak of Jesus, the closer we draw to Him and the more intimately we know Him and He will make our joy complete. (John 16:24)

Please visit The Pocket Testament League for resources to help you boldly share your faith.

Book Review: Dreams and Visions


Most often, modern sensibilities demand that we relegate dreams and visions to either bygone means of God communicating with people, or the loony bin. Or, harkening to Ebenezer Scrooge, “a bit of beef or a dot of mustard.”

But, haven’t we all, at one time, been a little jealous of Joseph, Daniel, Peter or Paul? The list goes on.

Haven’t you at sometime begged, “God, couldn’t you just show up right now and tell me face-to-face what I’m supposed to do?”

In the book, Dreams and Visions, Tom Doyle, tells more than one story of Jesus appearing to Muslims, face-to-face, to show them His unquenchable, unbiased love.

The book is divided into chapters based on the nationality of the person who had the dream. Jesus is showing up in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan. Jesus is appearing to men and women.

He sometimes comes with words, He always comes with the peace that passes all understanding. That gift of peace is what gives a converted Muslim the courage to suffer and die for their faith. He comes in the middle of the night, in broad daylight, in the city and in the countryside.

Modern sensibilities often cause Christians to look askance at our Muslim neighbors. But the Apostle Paul confessed to being willing to be considered out of his mind, relieved of common sense, for the sake of the Gospel. (2 Cor. 5:13-14)

Often, the love of Christ is dimmed by our fear of the different and unknown. Perhaps that is why Jesus has taken it upon Himself to expose Muslims to the reality of His love.

This exceptional book is tough to put down. Doyle has written in creative nonfiction style, threading story-telling techniques and dialogue through simple, facts. At the end, the four appendices make the book a practical resource for Christians anxious to share their faith and the love of Christ with the Muslims in their communities.

Will you join me in July for 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World?

God Blood on My Hands

Blood on my hands.

I struck the heart of God.

And He gave himself for me.

His blood on my hands.

And life pulses through me.

Life blood seeping into pores.

Heart inflating, lungs gasp.

Blood, God blood.

Infinite, perfect blood on my hands.

I cry, tears of anger, loss, gain, redemption.

I claw at passersby,

Some never see me.

Desperate, pleading – His

blood on my hands.

If I can but brush their hand

As they pass me by.

I, the irrelevant, pleading, bloody beggar.

If they might notice His stain.

The stain of His blood

As they pass me by.

Let His contagious blood

Seep through their pores

And that stain on their hand

Never fade.

Good For Explaining the Good News

Foundational, mind-boggling principles becoming clear.

Have you ever found yourself in such a conundrum: Someone you dearly love and long to share eternity with has questioned your faith?

Well, um… I believe that Jesus died for my sins. He was buried and rose again. Now he lives eternally, and as my sins have been paid for, I can spend eternity with him in heaven.

“Well, that’s just great,” they rejoin, “but what is true faith? Why do you call God ‘Father’ and why does a God who loves me let bad things happen to me?”

I distinctly recall being in that position about seven years ago. I worked with one of my best friends. I’ll call her Kelly. Kelly was never hostile to my faith, in fact she was genuinely curious. But she never lobbed easy questions at me. Whenever work was slow, we’d be organizing and checking dates on millions of supplement bottles (we worked at GNC) and she would begin asking the tough questions. Kelly wanted to know all about the Trinity. She wanted to know why Jesus had to die. She wanted to know if God really listened to and answered prayer. She wanted to know if he offered peace of mind concerning her husband who was currently deployed. Kelly wondered what made Jesus of the Bible any different from the founders of other religions.

I did my best to answer her questions. I remember going home at night and calling my mom tearfully. “What if I don’t have the right answer? I know what I believe, but how do I explain it?” Praise our good and loving God. He had already marked Kelly with his name. Despite my bumbling answers, two years later, Kelly called me with explosive enthusiasm. “I’m getting baptized tomorrow! I accepted Jesus as my savior! I know I’m going to heaven.” Convictingly, since that day, I have had to humbly accept rebuke, training, teaching and affirmation from this once baby Christian. Kelly has found the Bible to be the living source of nourishment that God promises His word is. She as grown like a tree firmly planted by streams of water and has borne much fruit.

As I have slowly plowed through Kevin DeYoung’s book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot” I have unearthed a wonderful resource for sharing my faith. DeYoung is a compelling author, making even potentially dry subjects seem humorous and interesting. However, I don’t recommend simply handing the book to your questioning friends and expecting the proverbial lightbulb to blink above their head. As a historic Christian document, the catechism employees many terms specific to the Christian faith. The questions themselves are pretty heady.

Perhaps the best use of the book is personal. A Christian (speaking to myself) has no business attempting to explain the good news of the Gospel, if he has lost its wonder in his own heart and mind. Read to remember. Remember that…

True faith is not only knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in Scripture is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world.

That I am not my own, but belong –  body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

These are just snippets of answers offered in the catechism and expounded upon my DeYoung. Additionally, the catechism addresses the 10 Commandments, one at a time, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each is afforded useful answers.

The Heidelberg Catechism is not an infallible document. And DeYoung does not profess to be a new source of truth. The Catechism is based fully and unashamedly on the infallible truth of the Bible. It is a trustworthy source of instruction and useful for training in righteousness – and for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News We Almost Forgot, takes this ancient resource and repackages it in a less-intimidating paperback. Don’t miss this. 

P.S. To make sure you don’t miss it, I’m giving away a copy at the end of this week. Make sure to comment and repost the link for a chance to win your copy!

Brokenness

Tuesday’s theme is supposed to be “Tell Yourself the Truth” or “Truth be Told.”  I find it disturbing that my head feels full of lies, like little wormy-maggots.  Not all the time, but in comparison to the truths that I have allowed to take root firmly in my mind and life… well, I have some pretty nasty parasitic lies still in there.

Brokenness:

unusable, trashed, or if sentimental enough, a broken treasure can become a decoration or be tucked quietly away as a keepsake.  but for all it longs to be, was meant to be: it is useless.  an object of pity, a lesson learned, never to be repeated.  to be honest, this is why i still fight brokenness in so many ways.  Crucify, Broken

Forgive me Father, I don’t even recognize the brokenness opportunities – I am so busy avoiding them.

The truth is:

God requires Brokenness.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  Ps. 51:17

God knows that Brokenness is good for me.  Only when my stubborn will is broken, and He is allowed to step in and rebuild me in the image of Christ and like the master potter, mold me according to His  pleasure –  then will I know true joy and peace and He will be glorified.  I love what John Piper says, “God is most glorified in me, when I am most satisfied in Him.”

How do you view brokenness?  Has God broken you in some way?  Then, do you struggle to muster all your energy to heal, or allow Him to remake you differently than you were before?  Do you still need to be broken?  How do you feel about things that you have broken?

Saturday is come and gone

“But concerning that day, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

“For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24: 36, 38-39

If you’re reading this, somewhere Harold Camping is very embarrassed.  The infamous Saturday, May 21, 2011, has come and gone.

Sadly, hundreds of people have swallowed the lie one man’s tiny little mind has calculated the date of Christ’s return.  If I can’t even fully understand or explain His love for me, how can I pretend to understand what He has purposed from before time began?  What saddens me the most is the damage that these lies do to the name of Christ, the infallible word of God, the Bible, and the reputation of true believers.

Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  I remember when I was little, my parents reminding me to be on my best behavior when we were out in public.  My dad held a rather prominent position at the largest company in our small Oklahoma town.  “You represent your dad.  When people see you, they associate you with your father.  You want to be an accurate representation.”  Christian, the same is true for us.  When we claim the name of Christ, we associate ourselves publicly with our heavenly Father and our Savior.

As a child if I lied, exaggerated, or spread rumors I would have diluted the respect that my father had in the community.  Similarly, as Camping, in direct disobedience to the Bible, predicts the date-specific return of Christ, people associate his false predictions and lies with Jesus Christ.  People will take the Bible less seriously and they will assume all Christians are liars.

For a more concise explanation of “Why it is Wrong for Christians to Predict When Christ will Return to Earth” check out article by Dr. John Ankerburg.

I was reading an article from the Associate Press about Harold Camping and this Saturday.  A few other things that convince me I do not want to be in his “camp”:

The prediction has been publicized in almost every country, said Chris McCann, who works with eBible Fellowship, one of the groups spreading the message. “The only countries I don’t feel too good about are the `stans’ — you know, AfghanistanUzbekistan, those countries in Central Asia,” he said.

Marie Exley, who left her home in Colorado last year to join Family Radio’s effort to publicize the message, just returned from a lengthy overseas trip that included stops in the Middle East. She said billboards have gone up in Israel, JordanLebanon and Iraq.

“I decided to spend the last few days with my immediate family and fellow believers,” Exley said. “Things started getting more risky in the Middle East when Judgment Day started making the news.”

McCann plans to spend Saturday with his family, reading the Bible and praying. His fellowship met for the last time on Monday.

“We had a final lunch and everyone said goodbye,” he said. “We don’t actually know who’s saved and who isn’t, but we won’t gather as a fellowship again.”

Seriously?  You don’t even know if you are saved?  Praise the Lord that the God I worship, who sent His son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for my sins and raised Him to life on the third day, tells me that I can know FOR SURE that I am saved.

and then I read this:

Bart Centre, an atheist from New Hampshire, started Eternal Earth-bound Pets in 2009. He offers Rapture believers an insurance plan for those furry family members that won’t join them in heaven: 10-year pet care contracts, with Centre and his network of fellow non-believers taking responsibility for the animals after the Rapture. The fee — payable in advance, of course — was originally $110, but has gone to $135 since Camping’s prediction.

Centre says he has 258 clients under contract, and that business has picked up considerably this year. But he’s not worried about a sales slump if May 21 happens to disappoint believers.

“They never lose their faith. They’re never disappointed,” he said. “It reinforces their faith, strangely enough.”

How embarrassing!!

“And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3

Why are people so eager to predict the date of Christ’s return, even when He warns us not to?  Why are some people so convinced of this date that they are willing to say their goodbyes to family and loved ones?  I believe it is the same lie that Satan used on Eve in the garden.  “You will be like God!”  It is our insatiable to desire to know all that God knows and to be in control of our own lives.  If ever I need a little reminder that I am not in control of anything, I read Job 38-40.

What do you think?

I know: When Jesus Comes there will be no mistaking it.  Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Before you start preaching…

Yesterday I read 1 Samuel 25-26 in my through-the-Bible-in-a-year program.  Obviously, I’m interested in this story, my namesake is a heroine described as, ” discerning and beautiful.”  Oh to be like her!

But I lit upon something I hadn’t thought about before.  When Abigail hurried to appease David, she didn’t just go with a good argument.  She immediately prepared a gift.  Not just any gift, but exactly what David had asked for and needed most.  David had sent his men to request provision from Nabal.  They had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds as they were preoccupied shearing their sheep.  In exchange for his goodness and friendship, David simply asked Nabal for reasonable generosity.  So when Abigail went out to meet David, she took with her loaves and wine, figs, raisins and sheep and grain.  I can only speculate how David might have responded to her petition if she had not come with her hands extended.

I was wondering about how this might apply to sharing the gospel.  Many of the people I run into have been offended by “Christians.” To be fair, many who claim to be Christians are not, and their hypocritical behavior and judgmental attitudes give Christ a bad name.  Others, who are sincere in their faith, are simply rash and fail to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to speak the truth in love.  After a run in with one of these self-proclaimed preachers, many unbelievers are convinced that they want nothing to do with Jesus.

So, how to mend the bridge and begin again?  How do we defend the name of Jesus and “snatch these souls from the fire.”(Jude 22)?  What about taking a gift?  What are they needing the most – physically?

What about the homeless guy who watches a Christian “good Samaritan” walk right by him 100 times?  What if that Christian took a gift, met the guy’s needs, first?

What about the gift of a listening ear?  Maybe they only wanted to ask questions or think out loud about what they believe?  What if we offered the gift of humble, respectful attentiveness before exploding all over them with what we think?

I could try this in my marriage.  What if instead of giving Patrick a piece of my mind or my oh-so-educated opinion; instead of slathering him with advice when he is about to make a mistake, what if I met his personal needs first?

This concept is repeated in Proverbs, so I’m sure that I’m not making it up, or stretching the story.

Proverbs 18:16  “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.”

Proverbs 21:14 “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.”