Is the Supreme Court ruling an answer to prayer?

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Several years ago a movie was made named Evan Almighty.  It was actually a pretty decent movie with a powerful message of obedience to God regardless of how the world reacts.  There is one exchange in this movie in particular that I think speaks fairly strongly to our current cultural environment.  In the exchange we find the wife of our modern day Noah, speaking to God (though she thinks he is simply a waiter) about how she should handle the situation.  His response to the situation;

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

In one of the rare cases where Hollywood gets something right a truth is revealed that we all know deep down to be true.  God rarely zaps our prayers into existence, but uses the environment around us to grow and shape us.  When we pray, God directs, but it is rarely as we expect it to be.

Over the course of the past decade I have prayed alongside thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ across this nation for revival.  It has become clear to all that the American church is in deep need of a fresh fire that can only be brought about by a movement of God.

Attendance is down, professions of faith are down, baptisms are down, and many churches are closing their doors for good.  Of those who remain open there are large numbers of churches who clearly have lost their first love.  I have even begun to call some ecclesiastical gatherings, because the resemblance to what the church of Christ should look like is almost nonexistent.  To say the American church appears to be in trouble could be looked on by many as a vast understatement.

Many of us have been grieved, and we have cried out to God to move in the hearts of the church.

This past week many in religious circles cried out in fresh anguish following the ruling from the Supreme Court in regards to same-sex marriage.  With the legalization of same-sex marriages now in all 50 states many see the very real possibility that the attack on the church in America will become much greater, and life as Christians may no longer be as easy as it once was.

Churches are going to have a harder time keeping their building doors open.  Following Christ in America is going to begin to cost a great deal more than it once did.  It appears life as a Christian is about to get harder in the United States.

Perhaps this, though, is an answer to a prayer that we have had for a long time.  Perhaps instead of seeing this as another nail in the coffin of the church we should instead see that God is working around us for revival in the church.

Sounds crazy?

Think back to our Hollywood God with the great words of wisdom.  How does God answer prayer, by zapping things into existence, or by opening up situations where the answer can be developed?

Tertullian once said that ‘The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church’.  While looking into the environment he lived in he realized that the church is never healthier than it is when it is being squeezed by the culture in which it lives in.  As we look across the global landscape of Christianity today we see the truth in that statement.  In the places on Earth where persecution is the greatest, and the cost to be a disciple of Christ is the highest, the church is the healthiest.  In fact, in some of the places where following Christ could cost you your life the church is thriving.

In America, where the church has been looked upon with favor for hundreds of years, the situation is much different.  Where Christianity comes with no cost, and favor has even been granted for those who hold to our world views the church appears to be dying.

In America all 4 soils exist as described in Matthew 13, but we have few sources of heat to scorch and few thorns to choke out.  The church appears to have experienced great growth over the years, but how much of it was from the good soil, yielding crops?

Many times our churches have been filled with unfruitful, bad soil, “Christians”.

Imagine a farm where most of the field yields no crop.  That is our current environment, and the reason for our years of prayer for revival.

Perhaps God is answering our prayer for revival.

Perhaps God is allowing the church to enter into a season where the trappings of acceptance will no longer hinder the movement of the Gospel message.  Perhaps God is allowing the church of America to begin to experience for the first time what it means to count the costs.

Many have argued over the years that our church rolls include a large number of unregenerate souls.  The events over the past couple of years, and the events that most of us can see coming in the future will work to change that.  No longer will the church be a place of social gathering, or an entertainment on Sunday morning.  The church will be gathering together in the midst of the storm crying out in worship to the only One that can take them safely to the other side.

The church will be filled with people who have counted the costs and have determined that Christ is worth losing everything for.

It will be filled with people on mission for God knowing that everything they do is for His glory, because the rewards will be fewer on this side.

Imagine a church like that.

As I see those around me weep because of the state of the land in which we live in, I have to admit that I am quietly celebrating.  I am quietly counting it a joy to live in the time in which I live.

God is going to do great things in this land.    I believe with every fiber of my being that the revival that we have so desperately been praying for is about ready to begin.  I believe that we will have the privilege to see acts of God in this land unlike anything that we would have ever have been able to see just 100 years ago.

It may look much different than anything we thought we were praying for, though.  The American church may no longer look as it does today, and the rolls may reflect the pilgrimage away from the church of many who are finally forced to count the cost of following Christ, but the church will be heathier for it.

Revival may not mean greater numbers, but a greater depth from those who are in fellowship.  It may not mean more churches, but more effective churches.  It may not mean bigger budgets, but more souls coming to Christ.

I am reminded of the old adage, be careful what you pray for.  God just might answer.

So what are we to do?  The same thing the church has always done in times of trouble, lean on God for everything we have, buckle down, and get to work reaching the World with the Gospel message.

Awesome

The term “awesome” gets thrown around often in my life.  I have been known to tell people of an awesome new show I am watching, or brag about something that my kid has done that was just awesome, or in regards to a spectacular play made in the sporting arena.  I have even eaten some awesome food.  Over the years I have gotten in the habit of using the word so often, and in reference to so many things, that it has become essentially meaningless.

About a week ago my son let me know that the word awesome was not allowed in one of the classes of the school he attends.  I have to admit, I was shocked to find this out.  Why would such a word be banned in class?  I can understand curse words.  I can understand words that could have racist meanings or origins.  I can even understand words with a toilet humor attached to them.  The word “awesome”, though, seems to be a strange word to ban.

In an attempt to wrap my brain around why such a word would be on a banned list I asked my son if he had been told why the word shouldn’t be used, and he said something that I have to admit rocked me.

‘Dad, we should only stand in awe of God and who He is.  Awesome is a word that should be reserved for God.’

I have to admit that I had never thought of things in this way, but the more I think about it, the more I understand it to be true.  God is awesome.

In Scripture we find the word awesome used 33 times in the Old Testament, and One time in the New Testament.  Each usage is pointing to God in some way or another. I have no desire to seem legalistic, or to assign sin to the use of this word to anything other than God, but talking to my son has opened my eyes to how I should be using this word.  As an act of worship, I will only use this word in response to God.  There is nothing on Earth that compares to Him.

God alone is awesome

Be Careful Little Eyes

Unless you live under a rock, you know that there is a movie coming out this weekend that is a pretty big deal.

It is a movie which sensationalizes sex outside of marriage.

This movie (and the book it is based on) has been given the term “Mommy Porn” and it is a title that seems to fit.  It is not the first movie of its kind, nor will it be the last.  the difference in this movie is the outpouring of support and the massive audiences that are already hyperventilating at the chance to watch it.  There is no question that this movie will be a massive box office success, and will rake in millions of dollars.

Although this movie will push nearly every boundary possible in terms of popular, mass marketed, theater films, it is simply a natural outflowing of where the movie industry has been heading for years.  Sadly, this will be only a single stop in the long road which will lead to the removal of all big screen taboos, and I expect a world in a few short years where anything goes on the big screen.

That this movie is targeted to woman (along with an upcoming sequel to a movie about a male stripper) is a huge sign that things are going to take a drastic turn quickly in terms of what is allowed in film.  Until recently, in terms of on screen sex, woman have been the voice of reason and restraint.  A world dominated by unsaved men would have had on screen porn years ago, but the female sensitivity in this area has restrained that.  In a world where woman and men are both beginning to share the same unrestrained sexual dysfunction, the voice of reason no longer exists.  I, for one, am not excited to see where this train takes us…

As the temptation to see this upcoming movie (or any movie of its kind) increases, please remember the simple advice of a popular children’s Sunday School song.  Although this song* is written for small children, the advice is no less valid for adults.  Don’t allow it’s simplicity to cause you to miss its message.

Note:  I have no idea who Cedarmont is, or what their theological stance is on any position, if they have one.  This is simply a link to a song sung by children.

Taking the Gospel to Gay Friends

When I wrote my blog at the beginning of December regarding my previous sin of homosexuality, and my many year’s long cover-up, I did so in order to begin a process of healing and honesty between myself, and those I am close to.  For years I had been less than truthful, and I wanted that to change.  I knew that this would be an emotional rollercoaster for me, so by putting it in writing I could work though the emotions and tell my story, while still getting it out to the people who I had not told the truth to.  I had stood before several churches in order to give my testimony (including as I was being voted for as a deacon of my church) and had not told the full truth.  I had also been through an interview process at a church where I held back on my story.  I believed (and still do) that a public lie, required a public truth.

I could never have imagined what would happen with my story.  The day before my post, my total readership was just a handful, and by sharing it on Facebook I could share my story with everyone I knew, and move on.  I thought some people might talk about it, but outside of my very small bubble, nobody would really care.  If anything I might be able to minister more effectively in my local church context, but nothing beyond that.  God had other plans.

My story has spread far wider than I could have possibly imagined.  People all around the world have read my story and many have contacted me to offer prayer and encouragement.  Others though have come from a different position.  One of pain.

They have contacted me because they are hurting due to a previous sin in their lives, and are looking for direction, or simply someone to finally talk to about their hidden sin.  Others have a family member, or friend, who has come out as gay and are wanting advice on how to reach that person, and a few others have contacted me just to let me know they hate me for one reason or another.

I have been touched by people’s trust of me, and their willingness to show their deepest secrets to me.  It is an honor to pray with someone who is desperately seeking the Face of God.  I never could have imagined being used by God in this way, but it is an honor for God to use me in order to help others hurting from a pain I know all too well.  I am always willing to talk, or listen, or weep alongside those who need it.

Most of these questions are deeply personal, and require a one to one response.  There is one, though, that has shown up many times, which I have found many in the church struggle with.  It is the question of how to share the Gospel with their homosexual friend/son/daughter/cousin/parent etc.

Although I understand why this question is asked, I believe it is a fundamentally flawed question.  The people searching for the answer do so out of love for a loved one (or even for those whom they do not know, yet love), but they are missing a proper understanding on what is going on.

What if we instead asked, “How should I reach a liar with the Gospel?”  Or “My friend is a Gossip and I want to get the Gospel to her.  How would I do that?”

These scenarios are silly, but they are the same as the question of the homosexual.  It comes down to a fundamental understanding that all sin is sin.  That all sinners stand equal before the Throne of God, and that the only way to have a restored relationship with God is through the Gospel message.

The way you reach the homosexual does not change simply because the manifestation of sin in their life looks different.

With all of that being said, here are a few tips I have picked up over the years that may be helpful in these situations.

First, see past the self-labeled identity of ‘homosexual’.  See this person as a friend, family member, coworker, or whatever relationship they are to you.  See them for their hopes and dreams.  Seem them for their kindness and pain.  See them for all that they are, and do not let what they do in the bedroom become the box in which you place them.

Second, be open to listening to them as a friend.  Be the ear that they can talk to.  So many people in the community have been deeply hurt in their encounters with “Christians”.  For them, they have no idea if you really are like Fred Phelps or not.  Show them through your willingness to talk, and listen, that you are not like those who are setting out to harm.  Letting them see through your love for them that there should be no fear that you carry a “God hates fags” poster board in your trunk.

Although you may not be able to relate to the one facet of their life, you might be surprised to find out that you can relate deeply on many other issues and struggles.

Next, remember that few have been argued out of homosexuality.  Even if they could, that is not your goal.  You are to point them to Christ.  You are to share the Gospel with them.  As they saying goes, introduce them to Christ, not heterosexuality.  Healing only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Once the discussion turns to homosexuality (which it usually will) there is no need to try to become the expert on the subject.  If you know the answer, and can say it with love and grace, give the answer.  If you do not know the answer, tell them so and offer to get the answer (then actually get it).  Perhaps offer to do a Bible study together where the two of you study and see what God has to say.  Don’t just focus on studying one sin, though, study John (or another book) together.  Dig in and let the Word of God lead the conversation.

Mostly, though, simply show love and grace in your conversation, and life.  Treat them like you would want to be treated.  Be a reflection of the love of God on your friend’s life, and be patient.  Christ’s love was so unconditional that it was revolutionary.  He dined with people, and spoke with people, and touched people, which no religious leaders at the time would even draw close to.    Show that kind of love.

The key lies in the question.  When asking how to reach one with the Gospel, we need to remember that it is all about the Gospel.  Whatever sin is in a person’s life, it is secondary to the Gospel message.  If a man came into the emergency following a nasty car crash, and was bleeding profusely, yelling about whose fault the crash was, would the dr. stop and argue about the crash?  Of course not.  The crash is a secondary issue to the life of the person.  Once the life has been saved, the secondary issues can be looked at.  This is in no way different.  Whatever the sin in a person’s life is, it is secondary to the eternal value of the soul of the person.  We first give attention to the soul, and if the soul is healed, only then do we begin to worry about the flesh.

Social Media: The Anti-Gospel?

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Social media is an amazing gift, and I for one take full advantage of it.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am one that can be found commenting on Facebook far more than the average person.  I enjoy the conversations, and the chance to connect with people I would not normally connect with.  Instead of making my friendships shallower, as some claim, Facebook has expanded my friendships and added a depth that may not have already existed.  I have also made friends with people from my church and neighborhood that I might not have made before, and even have friends around the country and world with people I have never met face to face.  These are people who I love, and would warmly welcome into my home if they ever passed through Kansas City.

There is one portion of social media, though, that greatly greaves my heart.  Sadly, it is also something that I see every single day.  Something that I think does a disservice to the Gospel message, and the Kingdom of God

Each day, as I log onto my account, I see multiple examples of harsh, mean spirited posts directed at others.  Most of the time these are directed at groupings of non-believers, or other Christians which hold views much different than the original poster.  Many times these posts could be filed in the realm of political ideology, but I have seen a vast array of subjects being used in this way, from parenting, to social issues, to theological issues.

As I read these posts, I do not necessarily disagree with the poster.  Many times in fact, the people I see on my friends list I agree with 100%, and if we met over lunch we would discuss the topic in detail, while giving high fives and performing chest bumps.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and am excited to see them passionate about important things.  Many times, I also believe that theologically they are on the right side of the understanding.

The portion that bothers me, though, is that Facebook is not having coffee with friends.  Facebook is not sharing information during a small group.  Facebook is open, and public, and the entire world can see.

When I see a post praying for God to come quickly and purge the Liberal scum from the earth, I know that not only conservatives are reading this.

When I read that evil queers are taking over the world, there is a good chance that homosexuals are reading it.

When I see a post that declares that anyone who agrees with Obama is an idiot, I think of what the person who voted for Obama is thinking.

These types of posts fill my news feed on a daily bases, and many times come from sweet, loving, Godly people.  People I know would never walk up to a gay couple and tell them that they hope they are purged and sent to Hell soon.  People who are great friends with members of a different political party.

These posts, and the attitude that is behind them, is doing more than just creating Facebook arguments.  It is having the opposite impact on the world, than the impact we are supposed to have.  It is harming the churches Gospel witness and building barriers in people’s lives, between them and the Gospel.

A False Gospel

This barrier is first being placed by the fact that to all observable evidence to the non-believer, the Gospel we preach is not a Gospel of love and grace, but instead we are preaching a gospel against sin.  These posts work as a vehicle to try to pile shame upon those who we feel are not living correctly.  Many times non-Christians who we feel are not living under the direction of the Holy Spirit and Biblical teaching.  Although we would never say this, we are working to Christianize non-believers, all while ignoring their eternal soul.  When the conversation does blow-up and anger is already invading the conversation we might lay out a Gospel backhand for good measure.  Maybe.

Like Pharisees of old, we are trying to make sure that the outside of others is glistening while, while the inside still contains the bones of a dead man.

A Further Offense

The second barrier that is placed by these types of posts, is that we are building up an extra offense to the Gospel message before it is ever proclaimed.  Mean spirited, attacking posts, simply put anger in the hearts of the unbeliever towards the Gospel message.  I have run across many, many homosexuals through my life who can quote Deuteronomy 21:18-21, or 22:13-21 all while never having heard the Gospel.

Buy attacking, with great maliciousness their particular sin, we have only created a group who is further removed from the Gospel because they are creating a defense for their sin, before ever hearing what the solution to sin is.  They see Christians as people who are in attack mode, with their eyes square on their target.

We have helped them close their eyes and hearts to the Gospel, before we ever got around to sharing it (assuming that we ever make it that far).  We have also decreased the odds of anyone else being able to share with them as well.

Seasoned Grace

We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we as Christians must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”, but for most non-believers, they see no hope.  In fact, the only difference they see between us and them, is a set of rules and regulations.

While being the social media, Biblical instruction manuals to the world we are in fact, inadvertently, preaching a false Gospel.  One of works.

We need to move away from mean-spirited comments and posts, and to be quite honest, maybe take a break from some of the controversial posts that cause fighting on the pages of social media.  When we do feel the need (or are lead) to post on a volatile subject such as abortion, or homosexuality, or politics we need to do so from a position of calm, not allowing our emotions to get involved.  We need to temper our comments with love, and grace, just as we would talk to someone from that camp face to face.

We need to let our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, not a huge heaping spoonful of salt with a dash of grace.

Social media is an amazing gift, and one that we ought to enjoy.  The connections that can be made through it, and the contacts that can be kept, is on a level never seen before in history.  As a tool, if used well, we can spread the love of Christ and His Gospel in a way previous generations could only dream about.

Let us stop using this tool to drive people away from the cross.  Let us not use it to create an image of the church, and Gospel message that is contrary to the truth.  Let us not use it to attack sinners of a different flavor from the safety of our computers.

Instead, let us redeem this tool for the Glory of God and His purposes.

J. W. Willard

My Sunday Failure

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Each Sunday morning we chase 6 kids through the house, praying that we can somehow get all of the kids clean, dressed and ready for church in time for service.  We of course run into many obstacles such as babies pooping at the last minute, missing shoes, no clean pants, AWAL Bibles (how do you misplace something you use daily?), and any number of other issues.  If we are lucky, we can make it out of the door without having to threaten bodily harm to at least one of the children.  If it is a normal Sunday, we simply make sure everyone has their church face firmly intact before we make it to the church.  We can’t let people see how crazy we really are.

In our wakes we leave a house that looks like an explosion went off in it, dogs wondering what the heck just happened, and a poor fish that questions why God put him in a family of 8, where not a single person has the mental ability to remember to feed it.  If we ever went missing on a Sunday morning and the police were called they would expect foul play based on the fact that there was an obvious struggle in the house, and the residents left extremely quickly.

When we arrive at church we make small talk with the greeters (almost all of whom we know and love), we run what feels like miles between rooms dropping of kids on what seems like every continent before we rush into the Sunday school with moments to spare, and collapse into our seats.  If we are lucky we say hello to a few of our many church friends, or at least wave to them as we rush down the halls.  We enjoy a service with our wonderful small group and then catch up with the families of our church on our way to the sanctuary.

As service begins we continue to greet our many friends and enjoy a nice service of worshipping our Creator and Savior among people we love so much.  We sit under the convicting teaching of a pastor deeply in love with the Word of God, and we are feed and watered from the Word.  The whirlwind morning in getting here is beyond worth it.  We love this place

As the service ends we rush back to the 4 corners of the earth to pick up our children and try to find a way to exit the building before the 3 hours of built up energy of the children is released all over the church building.  We know if we don’t get out quickly the foyer will become the playground, and nobody wins then…

Our event ends as we walk into the mess that we left behind and work to pick up the pieces of our insane morning, while digging through the cupboards to determine if we are going to have our usual Sunday sandwiches, or if a magical fairy has went to Wal-Mart for us and brought something else to eat.

Sunday is an insane, wonderful day of the week, and no matter how crazy it gets, I look forward to it.

Recently I have been convicted that I am missing a key part of my Sunday morning.  Each week God brings half dozen or more families into our church that have never been there before.  Many others come who have visited previously, but have no real connection to the church.  They are simply strangers passing through.

Having been a member of this church for a decade I should easily notice when a face appears that I do not know, but I never look long enough to see.  I am so focused on my agenda to greet those familiar, I look past those who may be scratching their heads wondering which way to go inside the mob of humanity.  I miss seeing those who are looking for a familiar, or friendly face in the crowd.

Today I commit myself to the task of working to restructure my Sunday morning routine.  I comit to finding a way to have a Sunday morning where crazy is not the norm.  One where we leave the house looking as it should, and we walk into the doors fresh and ready to greet each other.  A routine where I spend time, while seeing my church family, to look for those who may be new.

I also commit to finding a way to bring back the most forgotten and neglected part of the church.  Hospitality.

Having preached and visited many churches over the years, I know the power held in that one simple question, “Would you like to come over for lunch after the service?”  I know that this warm, welcoming question opens the door to a great deal of ministry and friendship.  I know that should a seeker find our church, a simple warm, home cooked crock pot meal might mean the world.

Today I commit to bring back the notion that we as a church should warmly welcome new faces into the fold, and make them feel as ‘at home’ as possible.  I will find a way, even with 6 kids, to create a Sunday morning environment where that is possible.

Will you join me?

I know how often I fail.  I know how crazy life gets, and I know that my best intentions don’t always pan out.  I also know, that the simple act of inviting guests home for lunch could have eternal ramifications.

Would you join me on this quest?

If you see a lost face in the crowd this Sunday, or if you see a family that you have never met before.  Before you shake hands, and offer a hug to those who you know, reach out to the new family.  Make sure they know where they are going.  Show them where the secret coffee pot is at.  And maybe, if your house doesn’t look like a war between GI Joe and Barbie was waged in the living room, you could invite them home for lunch.

It is amazing the impact that such a small gesture can have.

Our first visit to Antioch was on November 21, 2004.  We were searching for a church family, and a place to worship God, but we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for.  We just knew we would know when we found it.  We were greeted at the door my David Moerer, who then introduced us to his wife Karen.  They helped us make sure that we dropped our children off in the correct places, and invited us to join them in worship.  They made us feel at home.

10+ years later this is still our home, and we are forever grateful for such a warm welcome that cold November morning.  It is time I start showing others that same hospitality.

Abusing Grace

This morning on my way to work I noticed a police car sitting alongside the road.  In a moment of panic I looked down at my odometer sure that I must be speeding and was going to find myself on the receiving end of a ticket.  I was relieved to see I was only doing 43. I was safe from the long arm of the law, although I still watched out of the rearview mirror half expecting him to come get me anyways.  I was not yet 100% certain that 43 was an appropriate speed for that section of road.  A quarter mile further along I saw a sign that confirmed that all was well.  The posted speed limit was 40 mph.  I was perfectly legal.

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As I breathed my sigh of relief it hit me.  Although I would certainly not get a ticket for going 43 in a 40, I was in fact in no way driving inside the legal limits.  I was speeding, and an officer could be justified in handing me a ticket.  The speed limit, or the upper bounds of the law, allows for a speed not in excess of 40 mph.  I was traveling at a speed of 43 mph, which is 3 mph higher than the established legal ceiling.

That is 7.5% faster than I should have been traveling, for you math geeks.

I knew that I was safe, though, because I understand that even though it is not official, there is grace built into the system for traffic violations.  We are taught from our first days behind the wheel that as long as you remain within 5 miles per hour of the speed limit you are safe from receiving a ticket.  This grace allows for instrument malfunction, imperfectly calibrated odometers, margin of error in the radar gun (which is variable because of the cosine effect) and other factors.  If the posted limit is 40 mph it is a safe bet to travel at 45 mph without worry of being pulled over (At least for speed.  I worry every officer is always going to pull me over and I never know why).

This grace is an interesting thing, though.  Although it is built to guard against many possible mechanic imperfections, and the impossibility for any driver to maintain a perfectly level speed in light of the mechanics of the car, grade of slope of the road, and weather, the grace limit becomes the speed limit.

When I get behind the wheel of the car and see a sign telling me the limit is 70 mph, I immediately set my cruise control to 75.  When I see 35, I drive 40.  When I see 15, I hover around 20.  No matter what the speed limit is, without a thought I take the grace to the furthest possible reaches and call that the legal limit.

Today it hit me, isn’t that what I do in life in general?  Isn’t that how I live my Christian life?  I know there is grace, and so I use it without thinking.

I know that profane language should not proceed from the mouth of a Christian, and I have a clean vocabulary 99% of the time, but when I do slip, or want to quote a movie line, and the kids are not around, I will let out an utterance that I shouldn’t without worry.  There is grace so I do not have to beat myself up to hard.

The same goes for my movies.  I know I shouldn’t watch pornography, but sometimes you just want to watch a movie and there happens to be a sex scene.  It is just one small scene, grace covers that.

Telling a lie is never good, but I might be tempted to tell a small one if I thought it could lead to something better.  Grace covers that, and is it really bad if it is lying for a good cause?  Besides, we all know the commandment against lying is really about giving a false witness in a legal proceeding…

Love my neighbor as myself?  All of them?  Even that one guy?  I do my best, but I can’t be expected to love everyone.  Thank God for His grace.

The list goes on and on.

Of course, I know that I will never be perfect.  I will always struggle with many things, and I thank God daily for His grace.  Given a million years I could never achieve the perfection required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  I couldn’t live the perfect day, much less a perfect life.

Perhaps, though, it is time to stop abusing grace.  When I see even small sins in my life, instead of falling back on grace I should pray and seek ways to remove that sin.  The Lord knows I have enough areas to work on that I will never arrive, but why should I let that stop me from trying to live my life as close as I can to what he calls for.

I should seize grace with everything I have, knowing that it is by grace I have been saved, but perhaps I should not abuse that same grace by using it for a safety net for things I know beforehand I should not do.

I by no means believe in becoming legalistic, or trying to earn the favor of God by performing better, but believe that perhaps my love for God should cause me to want to be better for Him.  I will always need His grace, and am nothing without it, but through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, the Word that He has given us, and my love for Him, perhaps I should need that grace less for the little day to day things that I should be working out of my life.

Just because His grace covers a slip of the tongue does not mean that I shouldn’t try to hold my tongue a little tighter.

As for the speed limit, that is something else altogether.  If I went 70 in a 70 I would be run of the road.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to impede the flow of traffic…

J. W.  Willard

Evangelism is not my Gifting

a_waiting_harvest

Over the years I have heard countless people use some form of the line of “Evangelism is not my Gifting” when explaining why they are not involved with evangelism, or have not shared the Gospel recently (or at all).  It is used as the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card when the topic of evangelism is brought up and most of the time it works.  It gives immediate evidence that the topic is off limits, and the person making the claim has little wish to discuss their further involvement in evangelistic ministries.  The conversation can move on to other, more comfortable subjects, and evangelism falls away from the conversation entirely.

Does this claim line up with Scripture, though?  Can we honestly say that we have no evangelistic gifting while maintaining a Biblical view of things?

Looking to Scripture, being a Christian goes hand in hand with sharing the Gospel message.  Even in times when sharing the Gospel came with great risk evangelizing was standard practice.  In Acts 8:4 we see that scattered church “evangelizing” everywhere they went.  From the beginning we see that to be a follower of Christ is to be a “fisher of men” (Mark 1:17).  Sharing the Gospel and being a Christian go hand in hand like Kool-Aide and sugar.

It appears that our modern church has allowed evangelism to become consider a giftedness to be practiced by some as opposed to spiritual discipline for all as the Bible shows it to be.  Imagine if people made the same statements in regards to other spiritual disciplines.

“Praying is not my giftedness.  It is best that I leave prayer up to those who God has gifted to do so.”

“God didn’t gift me to read the Bible, but I can encourage those who He did.”

“I would love to tithe but sadly God has gifted me in other areas.”

Because we as a church have allowed evangelism to be considered a giftedness great numbers of laborers have never stepped foot on the field in obedience to the Great Commission.  By calling evangelism a giftedness we are actively working against the prayer in Luke 10:2.

If we correctly understand evangelism as a spiritual discipline though we can begin to take steps to better equip ourselves, and those we serve, to better pursue evangelism.  We can seek accountability with others in this area, just as we do in prayer and reading.  We can encourage each other to be faithful knowing that everyone has the same task before them.  We can work to make this a priority in our lives, just as we do for other important areas.

Understanding the role of evangelism as a spiritual discipline also helps us to better understand the gift of the Evangelist mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12.  We know that God has raised up men in the church who He has called and gifted in this area so that the charge can be led.  Just as God gave the pastor/teacher to the church, he gave the evangelist to reach outside of the church and equip others to do the same.

J. W. Willard

Book Review: Own Your Life

A few weeks ago I received a review copy of the book Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson.  With several projects in the works I sat it to the side with barely a glance knowing I would get to it as soon as I had time.  When I got around to looking, I realized that the book was written for a female audience.  I, for obvious reasons, am not in the target audience.  This left me with a women’s book to review, and no estrogen.  Not the best plan for success…

Enter Shelby Morris.

Shelby is a member of my small group at church, who I grow to love and respect more with each passing week.  We are blessed to be able to do life with this wonderful, godly family.  When she heard that I needed help with this review, she jumped in to help.  She is a woman, a wife, and a mother which puts her dead center in the middle of the target audience.

Below is her review of this book.  Usually I would offer a link to a guest writers blog in order to draw attention to their wonderful work, but as this is Shelby’s blogging debut, that is not possible.  Instead I will offer a link to her husband John’s amazing coffee company.


Living with deep intention, bold faith and generous love can seem so daunting, leaving us wondering where to begin and how to go about doing those very things we truly desire. In Sally Clarkson’s newest book, “Own Your Life”, she looks at many aspects of a woman’s life and challenges us to own our life according to biblical standards.  She challenges the reader, right from the start, on wasting our time on things that do not matter…. things that will fade away, to take responsibility of our actions and leave a legacy that will point others to Jesus.  There is grace in her words, as she encourages us to use the gifts He has given to us and look for opportunities to invest our lives for eternity’s sake.

 
The rest of the book is broken into five parts which include:
 
Part 1: Barriers To Owning Your Life: Don’t Settle for a Mediocre Life
Part 2: Owning Your Vision: Mapping Your Life Purpose
Part 3: Owning Your Life By Giving God Control: What Only He Can Do
Part 4: Owning Your Life By Partnering With God: Attitudes and Actions Transform
Part 5: Owning Your Life By Loving Well: Creating a Lasting Legacy
 
At the end of each chapter,  Sally provides the reader with an opportunity to “Own Your Part” by way of providing convicting, thought-provoking questions to the reader along with scriptures to encourage you as you answer the questions.  Lastly, she offers a prayer for the reader, one that opens the door to talk to God about what He is stirring in your heart.
 
As I said before, there is grace in Sally’s words. She communicates how to live with deep intention, bold faith and generous love with strangers, friends, husbands and children, leaving no area in our life uncovered.  The parts we would much rather hide, keep neatly hidden, she points to God’s redeeming grace over it all.  
 
Sally Clarkson is an example of a life well lived, someone who faithfully sought after the Lord.  God has taken her story, her life and used it to bring encouragement to women who are struggling with who they are in Christ, what we can do for His glory and how God can redeem anyone….. no matter where they have been.
Morris Family