The Miraculous Clothed In The Ordinary

th-1

Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and yet…

  • He was born in a stable.
  • His first guests were not dignitaries but shepherds.
  • He grew up in an obscure town which many people did not expect anything good to emerge.
  • His family, at one point, thought he was insane and did not believe in him.
  • His closest friends did not understand the heart of his mission.
  • One of his friends stole from their common purse and betrayed him.
  • One of his friends denied even knowing him.
  • Shortly after Jesus had washed his disciples feet, some of them argued about who was going to be the greatest.
  • He grew tired.
  • He went without food and became hungry.
  • He had no place to lay his head.
  • He suffered humiliation, rejection, and severe physical pain on the cross.

The miraculous was clothed in the ordinary!

Around The Web

Unknown-1

“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament – Sanctify one another, humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, sacrifice one another, shame one another, judge one another, run one another’s lives, confess one another’s sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . .

Fasting From Technology – Fasting is, of course, an ancient practice, but in the past fifty years or so it has been applied more and more to electronic devices, from the radio to the smart phone.

Making Friends, But Not Disciples – The term “evangelism” gives many Christians the willies. We immediately think of canned presentations that seem stiff and unnatural. We are paralyzed by the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door and talking about Jesus.

The Worst Places in The World to Be Religious – Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has tracked the world’s worst abusers of religious rights. As the most recent report notes, it has never lacked for material. Persecutions of people of faith are rising across the globe.

The 10 Least Popular Books of the Bible – How familiar are you with these books of the Bible?

Why Do Asian-American Students Outperform Their White Peers? – At least academically, it’s an incontrovertible fact that Asian-Americans outperform their white peers (and every other ethnic group). But why such dominance?

A Great Commencement Speech by a Former Navy Seal

Just $3 Worth of Gospel?

th-1

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much–just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.

I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races–especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers, p. 13

So what do we do to get more than just $3 of gospel? First of all, I don’t think it means trying harder or doing more. Tullian Tchividjian writes that the “hub of Christianity is not ‘do something for Jesus.’ The hub of Christianity is ‘Jesus has done everything for you.'”

Second, I don’t believe getting more than $3 of gospel is just a one time fix. I think it is something we do daily by reflecting upon the truth of what God has done for us in Christ. Paul writes that he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Getting more than $3 worth of gospel therefore, is daily realizing the extravagance of the grace of God and allowing such grace to transform all of who we are.

Grace is far more powerful than law. The law only gives us a checklist of do’s and don’t’s. If we do them all, we are accepted. And many times, as our lists get longer and longer, our motivation to keep up gets weaker and weaker.

This is not so with grace. Grace is not about us living up to a set of expectations but about us trusting in one who met all the requirements for us. Grace is about being loved due to the goodness of the one who loves.

We must embrace the reality that we do not deserve salvation from God. Nor can we do anything to earn it. It is a gift. It is by grace.

Tchividjian writes that such grace “has the unique power to inspire generosity, kindness, loyalty, and more love, precisely because it removes any and all requirement to change or produce.” It is “the most dangerous, expectation-wrecking, smile-creating, counterintuitive reality there is.”

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  

Ephesians 2:1-5

Knowing The Culture Around Us

th

Do we know the culture around us? Do we know our neighborhood, it’s people, and their stories, values, and worldview?

Tim Chester believes we should be asking ourselves the kind of questions missionaries ask when they enter a new culture. In doing so, we are better able to understand those around us and thus meet their needs with the gospel.

Here are the questions he poses…

Where?
  • Where are the places and activities we can meet people?
  • Where do people experience community?
  • Are there existing social networks with which we engage, or do we need to find ways of creating community within a neighborhood?
  • Where should we be to have missional opportunities?
When?
  • What are the patterns and timescales of our neighborhood
  • When are the times we can connect with people?
  • How do people organize their time?
  • What cultural experiences and celebrations do people value? How might these be used as bridges to the gospel?
  • When should we be available to have missional opportunities?
What?
  • What are people’s fears, hopes, and hurts?
  • What gospel stories are told in the neighborhood? What gives people identity (creation)? How do they account for wrong in the world (fall)? What is their solution (redemption)? What are their hopes (consummation)?
  • What are the barrier beliefs or assumptions that cause people to dismiss the gospel?
  • What sins will the gospel first confront and heal?
  • In what ways are people self-righteous?
  • What is the good news for people in this neighborhood?
  • What will the church look like for people in this neighborhood?

(from Everyday Church by Tim Chester, 42-43)

Be Careful Of Succeeding at The Wrong Things

th-3

Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.

How scary it would be to finally arrive at the pinnacle of your life dreams and goals only to realize that they amount to nothing.

It would be like thinking you are going on vacation to visit the Grand Canyon only to realize, as your GPS declares “arriving destination,” that you entered in the wrong coordinates.

So what really matters? Paul writes…

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

-Philippians 1:12-18

What Paul most rejoiced in was the fact that the gospel was proclaimed. And for him, that was all that mattered. Why? Because for Paul, the gospel was truly a matter of life and death. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

Consider the words of D.A. Carson concerning this passage…

Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations. Our own comfort, our bruised feelings, our reputations, our misunderstood motives–all of these are insignificant in comparison with the advance and splendor of the gospel. As a Christian, we are called upon to put the advance of the gospel at the very center of our aspirations.

What are your aspirations? To make money? To get married? To travel? To see your grandchildren grow up? To find a new job? To retire early? None of these is inadmissible; none is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian’s central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely. 

What really matters? Is it not the spread of the gospel?

You must be careful not to succeed at the wrong thing. You must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Around The Web

Unknown-1

100 Bible Knowledge Questions – How much literate are you of the Bible? This test may help you decide.

Are Youth Groups Bad? A Rant on Bad Research – Research shows that youth groups are bad for our students, right? Not so fast.

10 Characteristics Shared By Great Leaders – I’ve just finished one of the most enjoyable books on leadership I’ve ever read. It’s called View From The Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. It’s the result of a remarkable 10-year study of 550 elite American CEOs, senior government leaders, and nonprofit executives. From my reading of the book, I’d like to share with you the 10 factors I picked out that most of these leaders seem to have in common.

Nine Heartfelt Things Church Members Would Like To Say To Their Pastors Hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.

Satan’s Lies About Prayer – It’s a fair bet that most Christians would see prayer as a vital component of our relationship with God. We can bring our worries and troubles to our Father, we can ask for anything in Jesus’ name, we can be confident in our approach to God because of the blood of our saviour—these are all things we affirm and love.

8 Ways To Comfort The Suffering – “People suffer differently.” So the process of discipling them through their pain will look different depending upon the person you are walking through the shadow lands with.

Why Youth Ministers Need To Be Theologians

A Theology Of Washing The Dishes

41075thMpjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Washing the dishes is such a trivial task, but according to Tim Chester, in his short little book The Everyday Gospel: A Theology of Washing The Dishes, “it represents countless ordinary activities we do each day.”

But though such tasks are everyday and routine, they should be informed by the gospel. This is why Chester writes The Everyday Gospel. He wants to get across that the “Christian faith is for Monday as well as Sunday mornings.” And he uses the simple task of washing the dishes to illustrate how.

For starters, one way that Chester highlights how the gospel works itself out in washing dishes, and every activity we do, is that doing dishes brings joy. It does so because the gospel changes our desires. We want to do what is right and so we now ” find joy in doing the right thing because it is the right thing.”

Chester goes a bit further, however, in explaining how we find joy in washing dishes.

First, we find joy in washing dishes because we bring order out of chaos. Remember the creations story? The earth was “formless and void,” but God brought order (see Genesis 1:1-2).

Having been created in the image of God, we are given that same task of bringing order. “The divine activity of governing chaos,” writes Chester, “ordering what is formless, bringing beauty out of mess, tidying up creation–that task is given to humanity made in God’s image.”

When we tidy up the kitchen, we should feel good about it. And the goodness that we feel is a “divine feeling.”

Second, we find joy in doing the dishes because it serves others. Chester writes that “when I wash up I deny myself. I put others first. I say, in effect, that someone matters more to me than my comfort.” It is when we look outward beyond ourselves that we encounter true joy. We were not made to look inward.

This aspect of serving others in the everyday activities of our lives is a powerful point in Chester’s book. He writes:

Christian service takes place in day-to-day life; its occasion and location is everyday life. Indeed, the church is not a building, nor is it an event. The church is the community of God’s people sharing life–ordinary life, everyday life–at any moment and in any place with gospel intentionality. 

I think sometimes we forget about how the gospel permeates all of life. We know it is important for mission trips, etc…, but as Chester concludes, the gospel “does not only belong to a quiet time and opportunities to share the gospel. It affects every moment, every relationship, every activity.”

“If you do not have an everyday gospel,” writes Chester, “then the gospel will become a formula that you have to crowbar into conversations. But an everyday gospel creates opportunities everyday to talk about Jesus.”

Consider getting a copy of The Everyday Gospel. At only around 48 pages, it’s a quick read.

 

So Why Are You My Friend?

th-2

So why are you my friend? Is it only so you can share Jesus with me?

Have you ever been asked this question? How did you answer?

It’s a hard question to answer isn’t it? The reason is because I know many who have been challenged and encouraged to build friendships with others just so they could share the gospel with them?

What usually happens in these relationships is that you work on building a strong friendship and then one day, you lower the boom and ask them what they think about Jesus. What’s their response? Well, it all depends, but sometimes they may feel set up and ask, “So you’re just hanging out with me because you want me to know Jesus?”

No one likes to feel like a project. So what do we do? Is it wrong to build a friendship with someone to share the gospel?

The answer is yes and no.

No, because to really “love your neighbor as yourself” will cause you to want them to have the same joy you have found in Christ. You will want them, along with everyone else around you, to know of the grace and mercy found in God. Consider these words from Augustine

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now you love yourself suitably when you love God better than yourself. What, then, you aim at in yourself you must aim at in your neighbor, namely, that he may love God with a perfect affection. For you do not love him as yourself, unless you try to draw him to that good which you yourself are pursuing.

The answer is yes, however, for several reasons. First, because it can make others feel manipulated. This happens when we wait to bring up anything about Christianity until we are deep into a friendship. We just spring it on them. Why don’t we bring up the topic sooner?

Second, it’s wrong when our goal to share the gospel is not working and we abandon the friendship. What we need to ask ourselves is when someone rejects the gospel, do we continue to be his/her friend?

A final reason it can be wrong is that we have the tendency to pick those most like us or those whose friendships will build our egos. As a result, we tend to ignore people who may be very open to the gospel.

This doesn’t mean that people we naturally get along with don’t need to hear the gospel, but we must be aware that God might bring someone new into our path. And that someone might be very different from us. We need to be willing to befriend anyone who is open to the gospel.

As I think about what it means to share the gospel with others and to befriend them while doing so, I like what Justin Leonard writes in his book on evangelism. His words give us some great encouragement in building friendships and sharing the gospel.

Sharing your faith doesn’t impose itself on others, leaving them feeling resentful and used. It invites people to step beyond a superficial friendship where no one really cares about listening, and to head toward deep spiritual relationship. It’s an approach that makes it safe for people to confide in you and trust you with the truth of what’s going on in their lives, so that your interaction with them becomes like warm oil, bringing healing, peace, and grace, lifting the burdens off their shoulder.