Thursday, May 30, 2013

What are you reading?

I was thinking about all of the books I currently have in progress.

I just finished God's Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola. This was an interesting look at the town of Bethany, and how much of Jesus' life and ministry revolved around it, especially in His final week before the crucifixion.

I'm also currently reading (in fits and starts) Blood Covenant by Michael Franzese. Michael came and spoke out our church several years ago, and the thought of a mobster that quit the mob and survived is just fascinating to me.

In the Christian Living realm, I'm reading Why Trust Jesus?: An Honest Look at Doubts, Plans, Hurts, Desires, Fears, Questions, and Pleasures by Dave Sterrett. I'll be perfectly honest. I wasn't very familiar with him at all, but this book popped up free for a short time in the Kindle version, so I nabbed it. It's an easy read so far (I'm not very far into it yet). It's a straightforward look at who Jesus is, and why that matters. It's a "back to the basics" type book, which I think is good to revisit every now and then.

Finally, in the Christian fiction realm, I'm currently reading Green by Ted Dekker. It's part of his Circle series. I'd previously read the other three books, but picked up the boxed set of all four when I ran across it at Half Price Books one day. It's basically a parable writ large, across four books, that ties into another series (The Paradise Trilogy) that he wrote.

So what has me thinking about what I'm reading? It's realizing what I'm NOT reading, at least not regularly or enough. I have an anthology of 66 books that I carry around frequently. I have a study version of it, multiple translations in electronic version, and accounts on several websites to try and help me study it. Yet I may read a few passages each morning with my devotionals, and a bit more here and there if I'm studying for a lesson. Yet I don't treat my Bible as a work of literature to sit down and read, and that's a shame.

I look forward to grabbing a Dekker book, or an essay by John Piper, or the latest from David Platt. Yet I find it burdensome to sit down with the Word of God and read it. The full arc of human history is spelled out in its pages, from the creation of the world to the fall of man to our final redemption through Christ's death on the cross. It's part narrative, part poetry, part mystery, part thriller, and wholly truth.

I wonder. If God's people spent as much time reading and studying His Word as we do immersing ourselves in all of the other mindless and inane forms of entertainment at our disposal, what would our world look like?

2 Timothy 3:16
Psalm 119:11
2 Timothy 2:15
Deuteronomy 11:18

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why are we so hesitant to share the Gospel?

This is something I've struggled with over the years. Christians are clearly called to share the good news and to spread the Gospel to all corners of the world. However, it is easier to write a check for the missions budget of the local church or to financially support a missionary organization than it is to talk to our next door neighbor. If I know someone is already a Christian, I can talk God all day long, but if there is any doubt about their faith, I find myself tongue-tied and reluctant to talk.

This past Sunday, my pastor was continuing his sermon series on the book of Acts. His scripture this time was Acts 17, specifically Paul's sermon in the Areopagus. He pointed out that whenever the Gospel is preached, there will be one of three responses. The hearer will either reject the message, reconsider their position, or will come to repentance.

What does this have to do with sharing the Gospel? Human nature. It finally clicked in my head that what muzzles me is that first possible response. I fear their rejection. I've struggled with this before in other areas. I care, probably too much, about what other people think about me, and I jealously guard whatever good reputation I think I have. Since I fear rejection, that stifles my witness.

I think this is unfortunately true for too many of us. We are called to live in the world but not be of it, yet we worry what the world thinks of us. First, we need to remember that when someone rejects the Gospel, they are ultimately rejecting God and His message, not us. Yes, as the messenger, that rejection frequently follows onto us, but we are not the ultimate target of the rejection. Second, Christ warned that just as He was rejected, so too would we be rejected. If the world is NOT rejecting us, then perhaps we are doing something wrong. Or, as the teacher in my small group put it, as we mature in Christ, we should feel more and more uncomfortable living in the world.

Are you sharing the Gospel every opportunity you have, or do you hold back? Do you worry more about what your neighbor or co-worker thinks about you, or more about what they know of God?

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Friday, May 24, 2013

QOTD - The Cost of Discipleship

Barry Cooper looks at the difference between free grace and cheap grace, the cost of discipleship, and asks why don't churches do a better job of discipleship.

When the gospel is preached in your local church, what do your people hear? Do they hear, “Of course you’ve sinned. But now everything is forgiven. Jesus paid the price for your sin. So everything’s taken care of.”

That’s okay as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. The problem is that this gospel contains no demand for discipleship. There’s no requirement for repentance. No holding out for holiness. Isn’t that at odds with Jesus’ insistence in Mark 8:34? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

As the old truism goes, grace may be free—but it isn’t cheap. It cost Jesus his life. And it will cost us our lives too, if we want to follow him. The invitation may be extended to all, but only those who obey Jesus’ call—deny yourself and take up your cross—have received it.

And the question is, are we teaching this gospel in our local churches? Does our gospel contain the demand for discipleship? Or do we cough loudly over Mark 8:34, and relegate it to the small print, hoping no one will notice until after they’ve signed on the dotted line? Are we lowering the cost of discipleship in the hope that more will buy? (emphasis mine)
Is the church pulling a bait-and-switch on its followers? We need to preach the entire gospel, without pulling any punches or hiding any of the hard truths. The fact is that life in this world will not automatically be made "easy" just because we choose to follow Christ. In fact, He tells us exactly the opposite. Jesus warns that just as he was persecuted so will his followers be persecuted. Our treasures are stored in Heaven, and we serve with an eternal purpose.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Goodbye Google+ comments

I was experimenting with Google+ comments, but didn't like them. I wasn't getting notifications, and it required commenters to have a G+ account.

I read numerous complaints about how it worked, especially on blogs that had customized their templates in any fashion (which I had). So, I've turned off G+ comments and reverted to standard Blogger comments.

One downside to this is it appears any G+ comments have now gone the way of the dodo bird. I don't believe it was very many, but since I never got any notifications I really don't know.

So, if you had commented on a post, and it's now gone, my apologies. I didn't delete it on purpose, and I'm not trying to stifle the signal. I just changed commenting systems.

One of these days I may have to finally take the plunge and move over to WordPress instead.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)