If You Don’t Live It, You Don’t Believe It

I was struck by something in the sermon today.

Basically, the gist of what I heard is that people are hungry and yearning for God. What they’re wanting to see is an authentic witness by a Christian whose walk matches his or her talk.

Often, when people reject Christianity, what they’re put off by isn’t so much God as those who give Him a bad name by talking a good game of faith but living in a way that denies what they profess to believe.

Brennan Manning said that what the world can’t stand is people who profess Jesus but who deny Him with their lifestyle. That’s what an unbelieving world finds so unbelievable.

The key isn’t perfection. It’s authenticity.

I still say the best way to gain someone’s trust in order to share the gospel is to listen. Not listen to respond or to pass judgment. Simply listen to hear their stories and find out who they are.

I still remember the words that Pastor Mike said about having your testimony validated by your lifestyle– if you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.

That’s the simplest (and best) way to put it. If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.


Sharing Your Faith

I met a friend of mine at the Well for coffee this afternoon. In the midst of our conversation, he mentioned that his PC virus scan picked up some spyware that was slowing down his computer.

Without even meaning to, I went into full-on proselytizing mode for Macs. I talked about how my MacBook Pro didn’t have all those annoying popups that most PCs seem to have after time, how I never got viruses, how much faster it was, etc.

On my way home, a question dawned on me– why couldn’t I be as passionate and articulate about my faith? Why am I so often silent when it comes to sharing my faith and what I believe?

I honestly believe that people automatically talk about what excites and motivates them. It could be sports, politics, music, philosophy, or any number of other topics and interests.

Maybe the reason I haven’t been passionate about sharing my own faith is that its become more of a checklist than a Love Affair. It’s become more of a religion (in the sense of man-made traditions and rules) than a relationship with my Creator and Redeemer.

I’m not trying to beat myself up or throw the ultimate self-pity party. I’m just being honest in hope that someone else out there recognizes what I’m feeling and knows they aren’t alone in this.

You really don’t have to be taught evangelism because you will share what you’re excited about. You will talk about what you obsess and dream about the most. So what does that say about how I prioritize my faith? What does that say about how much I really believe how much the God of the Universe loves me and cares for me?

Again the key isn’t beating yourself up but recognizing when you get off track, repenting, and giving yourself grace for not being perfect. It’s about realizing that you’re not who you were yesterday or who you will become tomorrow.


My Plan for 2016– The Saga Continues

I managed to make it to another of Brentwood Baptist’s campuses today. Originally, I had planned to go to The Church at West Franklin today and then hit up The Church at Woodbine in May. Plans change.

I found out last night that a friend of mine was playing in the worship band for Woodbine, so I went there. The newly revised and updated plan is to visit West Franklin on May 8, God willing.

That was the main focus on the verses that Doug Jones preached from. The gist of the passage from James 4 is this: don’t make your plans and assume that God will automatically bless them. Instead, you and I need to make plans with the added tag of “God willing.”

You aren’t promised next year or next month or even next week. In fact, no one is promised a tomorrow. Every day you and I wake up is a gift from God. Every day we survive is only due to the grace and mercy of God.

Still, I’m thankful I chose this day to visit Woodbine. I got to see the beautiful old church building that has been revitalized and re-energized with new lifeblood. I got to see a visiting middle school choir from Atlanta that plans to stay the week and help out The Church at Woodbine and the surrounding community.

Afterward, I hit up a few thrift stores that I hadn’t been to in a while. I came up with a few finds, including one that may or may not be worthy of Antiques Roadshow. More on that later.

I’m grateful for The Church at Woodbine and for Doug Jones for a community that reaches out to their neighborhood with both love and truth. You need both to see lives change. Too often (especially in this current culture) the church has shied away from convictions under the guise of acceptance and ended up offering cheap grace that comes without repentance or transformation and with little impact on the community. But that’s another topic for another blog.

I’ll give you a full report on The Church at West Franklin two weeks from now.



Up, In and Out

We had a guest speaker at Kairos tonight named Chris. Apparently, my ADD kicked in at some point because his last name escapes me. I remember that he is a pastor in a church at Tuscaloosa and a self-proclaimed introvert, but I can’t for the life of me recall any part of his last name.

He said that the Christian life basically needs three parts– up, in, and out.

Up is worship, in is community, and out is evangelism. Any two without the other third is an incomplete faith. You need all three.

Without worship, you cut yourself off from the power source. Without community, you become easy prey for temptation (like the gazelle that gets separated from the pack when chased by lions). Without evangelism, what you learn and accomplish dies with you.

You need all three. We all do. Yet every one of us is weak in one of these areas. Chris admitted that his area of weakness was evangelism. I can relate. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to go up to a  complete stranger and share your faith.

Still, all is not lost. You can always pray for those in your circle of influence who don’t know Jesus. That’s a place to start. That’s where I am.

By the way, his name is Chris Brooks. I cheated and looked up @kairosnashville and saw where he was tagged in one of their posts. Thanks again, social media, for helping me appear smarter than I really am. That and google are my friends.

My takeaway is that you will never outgrow your need of spending time with God (worship), spending time with other believers (community), and sharing your faith with non-believers (evangelism). The best news of all is that God has already given you everything you need to succeed in all three areas. He’s given you Himself.

So basically, as long as you realize you will never outgrow your complete and total dependence on Jesus, you will be fine.


As You Go

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG).

I remembered something about this verse that somebody told me a long time ago.

The idea of this verse is this: as you’re going, make disciples of all the nations.

That means that wherever you go, whatever you do, wherever you are, make disciples.

To make a disciple you have to first be a disciple then live like one. It does no good to try to preach something that you’re not living (or worse living diametrically in opposition to).

Pastor Mike Glenn has said more than once that the reason the world hates Christians is not because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough. They’re too much like the people they’re trying to convert.

That’s where discipleship comes in. If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then I should start to look and act like Him. Then when I make disciples, they won’t look like me at all. They’ll look like the same Jesus that I look like.

That means you.

Too many of us expect people who make their living in the ministry, yet the Bible says that we are all ministers. Some of us will be able to reach people that paid ministers could never touch.

I do believe that making disciples involves speaking your witness (something I’ve never been very good at), yet the most important way to make disciples is to live what you preach as much as you speak it. I think it was D. L. Moody who said that for every person who reads the Bible, ten will read the Christian and his lifestyle.

That’s something to think about.


What Is Your Second Mile?

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41, NIV)

The gist of the passage is that back in ye olden Bible times, a Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry his gear for up to one mile. Many Jewish people would put a marker exactly one mile from their houses so they would know precisely how much they were required to do.

Remember Simon of Cyrene? The Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross, probably based on this idea.

But pay attention to Jesus’ own words.

If anyone asks you to go one mile, go two. In other words, do above and beyond what is expected of you.

So the question that I heard today is the one I now pose to you: what is your second mile?

How can you serve where you’re planted in a way that goes beyond the minimum requirement?

It’s not necessarily about doing more, but about how you do what you’re doing. It’s all about your attitude.

Where you are, what you are doing, is your ministry, whether it’s in a church building or a seminary or a classroom or in a grocery store or in your own home.

I think the Apostle Paul nailed it when he said this: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (Colossians 3:22-25, The Message).

That goes for any sphere of life for wherever you live,work, play, and serve.

Do it all as if you were doing it directly for Jesus Himself.

See everyone you meet as possibly Jesus in disguise and treat them like you would treat Him if you knew He was standing right in front of you.

Long Journey Home

“We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God- which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in His grace” (Os Guinness, Long Journey Home).

That’s it.

It’s not that I found Jesus. As one pastor I know always puts it, it’s not Jesus who was lost. I was. Jesus found me.

It may sound like semantics to you, but I think it’s important to know the difference.

Salvation is all God. It’s not like I was smart enough to figure it out or brave enough to seek it out. If God hadn’t sought me out first, I never would have sought Him in the first place.

That’s humbling. I can take no credit whatsoever for my being saved. It is all of grace.

That’s also good news. It means that if it’s not up to human efforts or human goodness, then anyone can find it (or better yet, anyone can be found). There’s no such thing as too lost, too far gone, too out of reach for God.

That helps when you’re praying for a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father who seems hopelessly unreachable. It helps when you have a friend who seems bent on self-destructing and won’t let you help.

There are countless stories of those whom the world had basically given up on that God saved. The best example is the Apostle Paul. Maybe the next one will be someone you love. Maybe the next one will be you.


Another Kairos Challenge 

Tonight, Matt Pearson laid down a challenge at Kairos. He spoke about how so many North American believers have become inward-focused, as in “What’s in it for me?” and “How will this meet my needs?” He mentioned that the most inwardly-focused believers are usually the most miserable people who are always complaining about something.

I confess that I am one of those people sometimes. I crave comfort and ease at the expense of obedience and faithfulness. I definitely try to avoid any semblance of pain and suffering at all costs.

Jonah was a lot like that. God sent him to Nineveh to warn them of what was coming if they didn’t repent. You’d think after the whole city repented that Jonah would have been pleased, but he was peeved. He thought God’s love should be for the Israelites exclusively– or in other words, people like him. Jonah didn’t like the Assyrians and didn’t think they were worthy of God’s love. Not that any of us feel that way about any particular ethnic groups today, of course.

My takeaway from tonight is that any vision other than seeing God’s love displayed and proclaimed to all the people of all the nations is too small. What matters isn’t what songs we sing in worship or even what kind of songs. What matters isn’t if the church building is traditional or modern (or even if there’s a church building at all).

What matters is that God so loved all the sinners in the world (including you and me) that He sent Jesus to die for us and make true deliverance and salvation possible for anyone who trusts in Him.

That’s what I’ll be pondering and praying over for the next few days. At least I hope so. I don’t want to go back to the comfortable me-centered faith, and God willing, I won’t.

Be Encouraged. B-E Encouraged.

“God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, The Message).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read this verse aloud at least once a day for the next five days. Unless you feel really weird reading it aloud, in which case you may read it in your “inside-your-head” voice. You have my permission.

Remember, Jesus didn’t die to give us a get out of hell free card. It isn’t about something that’s waiting in the bye and bye.

It’s here and now. It’s life– abundant and full and overflowing life– right now.

Some of us are having a hard time remembering that right now. Some feel so weighed down by grief or stress or despair that it’s hard to feel alive. It’s hard to live abundantly when you feel as if all you’ve been doing is treading water to stay afloat in the flood.

That’s why Paul tells us to encourage each other. He didn’t say think good thoughts toward each other and have the best intentions to let them know that their in your prayers. No. He said to actively encourage them through any and all means at your disposal, whether that be pen and paper, face-to-face affirmation, smoke signals, social media, or morse code.

Who needs your encouragement most? Who is God putting on your heart? Your real mission is to encourage that person in a real and tangible way in the next 24 hours. Go!


Compassion and Broken Hearts

“Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” (Matt. 9:35-38).

Jesus looked at the crowd and was moved with compassion. I heard a pastor say that the word carries the idea of being kicked in the gut. In other words, it wasn’t a shallow “I feel sorry for you” sentiment, but a real gut-wrenching pain over the people who were “confused and aimless.”

When was the last time my heart broke over something like that? When ever did my heart break like that?

Then I think that Jesus’ heart broke over me. In those times when I feel like I don’t have a clue, I think maybe it still does. I believe Jesus is moved with compassion over those of us who lose our way and feel like we or what we do don’t matter.

I truly believe that Jesus knows more than anyone what it’s like to have a broken heart. Not just figuratively, but literally. When the spear pierced His side, blood and water rushed out. That meant that Jesus’ heart had exploded. So yes, Jesus knows the pain of a broken heart.

My prayer is for a heart like His. My prayer is for a heart that really and truly breaks over those around me who are confused and aimless and without hope. I want a broken heart that leads me to my knees in prayer for the people in my immediate circle who are lost and hopeless and completely discouraged.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.