April 2007


Years ago I was leading a course at church to prepare people to be mentors with the help of The Survival Kit for New Christians. On one occasion we were discussing the need for believers to share their faith. One dear friend, a trusted brother and deacon in the church, made the statement that he felt that all we need to do as believers is to live the life of Christ before our neighbors. In so doing they would be influenced to trust Christ.

 

I agree that we must live lives that show our savior to the world, I had to disagree with the premise that determining to live righteously before men would suffice. Francis of Assisi has been credited with first developing this bumper sticker: “Preach the gospel at all times – if necessary use words.” Sometimes our lifestyle isn’t enough. Occasionally we must open our mouth to proclaim what we know and what we live.

 

It is the lazy Christ-follower who assumes that his actions will speak the totality of his testimony. It is the arrogant one who decides to tell without living. Both sides of the coin must be available for the payment to be valid. Live and tell, tell and live.

 

In Stop Dating the Church, Joshua Harris reminds readers that the Church (capital C—the universal, not local, church) is “so close to the heart of God, so central to His work in the world, that He calls us the body of Christ.” If we truly believe this scriptural claim (see Ephesians 1:22-23), then there are more reasons we must not be silent in our witness.

 

We witness to the world when we tell them of what Christ has done for us. They see the evidence of it in the life that we lead before them—even if we occasionally falter. We witness also when we tell one another of our personal needs, heartaches, and joys. Consider that you, as a believer in Christ, are part of His body. Think now of how your body communicates: when you are hungry, the whole body knows. When even the smallest, farthest extremity is hurt, a message is sent immediately to the entire body that the whole body can share in the pain. Our selfish pride keeps this kind of communication blocked in the body of Christ. We don’t allow our brothers and sisters to know of our need, and they in turn do not and cannot pray for and with us. “I don’t want to bother . . .” “It’s not that bad . . .” “I don’t want everybody to know about . . .”

 

Consequently, we don’t talk to one another out of pride, and we don’t talk to people who need Jesus out of pride and fear: “They don’t want to hear . . .” “What if they ask a question I can’t answer.” “I don’t want to seem religious.”

 

Are you witnessing without words? That’s great. Sometime you’ll want to go the next step and tell your friend, your neighbor, your family member, your co-worker, why it is that you live the way you do. Maybe you could start today.

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Years ago I was leading a course at church to prepare people to be mentors with the help of The Survival Kit for New Christians. On one occasion we were discussing the need for believers to share their faith. One dear friend, a trusted brother and deacon in the church, made the statement that he felt that all we need to do as believers is to live the life of Christ before our neighbors. In so doing they would be influenced to trust Christ.

 

I agree that we must live lives that show our savior to the world, I had to disagree with the premise that determining to live righteously before men would suffice. Francis of Assisi has been credited with first developing this bumper sticker: “Preach the gospel at all times – if necessary use words.” Sometimes our lifestyle isn’t enough. Occasionally we must open our mouth to proclaim what we know and what we live.

 

It is the lazy Christ-follower who assumes that his actions will speak the totality of his testimony. It is the arrogant one who decides to tell without living. Both sides of the coin must be available for the payment to be valid. Live and tell, tell and live.

 

In Stop Dating the Church, Joshua Harris reminds readers that the Church (capital C—the universal, not local, church) is “so close to the heart of God, so central to His work in the world, that He calls us the body of Christ.” If we truly believe this scriptural claim (see Ephesians 1:22-23), then there are more reasons we must not be silent in our witness.

 

We witness to the world when we tell them of what Christ has done for us. They see the evidence of it in the life that we lead before them—even if we occasionally falter. We witness also when we tell one another of our personal needs, heartaches, and joys. Consider that you, as a believer in Christ, are part of His body. Think now of how your body communicates: when you are hungry, the whole body knows. When even the smallest, farthest extremity is hurt, a message is sent immediately to the entire body that the whole body can share in the pain. Our selfish pride keeps this kind of communication blocked in the body of Christ. We don’t allow our brothers and sisters to know of our need, and they in turn do not and cannot pray for and with us. “I don’t want to bother . . .” “It’s not that bad . . .” “I don’t want everybody to know about . . .”

 

Consequently, we don’t talk to one another out of pride, and we don’t talk to people who need Jesus out of pride and fear: “They don’t want to hear . . .” “What if they ask a question I can’t answer.” “I don’t want to seem religious.”

 

Are you witnessing without words? That’s great. Sometime you’ll want to go the next step and tell your friend, your neighbor, your family member, your co-worker, why it is that you live the way you do. Maybe you could start today.

Who isn’t looking for the quickest, easiest way of getting rich? Not just getting by, getting rich! This is why lotteries and scratch games are so popular. This is why our welfare system is stretched beyond its means. We all want something for nothing. I must admit, if I could find the perfect job, it would be one which I was not required to do anything, but was paid handsomely anyway. I wouldn’t want just my needs met, I’d like a job in which I had nothing to do, but whatever I wanted, and didn’t have to worry about any bills, any necessities, and could enjoy the most expensive of leisure activities—all on somebody else’s bankroll.

Let’s face it, though, those kinds of positions rarely if ever exist. They always come with a price tag, and it’s usually too high. Whenever someone puts up the dough, they want something to show for it. We all are like that. We want something for nothing, but expect something in return for our own investment.

I’ve developed a neat idea along this line concerning the state lotteries: If you really like to play the lottery, just drive by my house and toss your dollar out your window onto my lawn. In this way, you will have the pleasure of throwing your money away, and I’ll have the pleasure of an extra dollar or two.

The most interesting thing about this is what Jesus said about obligation:

 

            23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents  was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  26“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.             28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.             29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’             30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.  32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.             35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”                                    —Matthew  18:23-35(NIV) 

            I understand that this passage is about forgiveness. But at the risk of being labeled a blatant proof-texter, I think that the principle of responsibility applies as well.             Finally, I am convinced that working for our wages beats the something for nothing ideology that pervades much of the church today. The idea that we can simply use our faith as a springboard to riches, health, and power doesn’t hold with Christ’s example. The greater satisfaction comes from working and serving for the rewards that are lasting. 

And now, the incident that started it all. Our baby girl is 8 months old. She’s teething, and she likes to be held. I can count on one hand the number of nights I’ve been able to stay in my bed and not sleep on the couch. I hear people saying, “Just let her cry.” The problem is she shares a room. I’d rather lose the sleep myself than let her siblings miss out on their needed slumber. So I get up, I sleep on the couch, with Baby in my arms.

 

Our son is three. He, too, gets up in the middle of the night. He’s perfected his stealth mode and Mom and Dad wake up with an extra lump in the middle of the bed.

 

What if . . . just what if you could have all the joy of children and none of the pain, none of the headache, none of the responsibility. To see the smiles, share the joys, applaud the first steps, the first words, the triumphs, and avoid the tears, the scrapes, the arguments.

 

Yesterday we were complimented as we sat at Cracker Barrel enjoying an evening meal. One of the other diners stopped by long enough to say, “You have beautiful children . . . and so well-behaved.” I looked at my bride and grinned that knowing grin, little does that lady know.

 

I don’t think I’d enjoy my children so much if I never had to comfort them, never had to correct them, never wept over them. I love those victories, I love to laugh at the way my son says the word “truck”, I love that my eldest wants to show me how she can dance. I love them more because of the care I have to give them. Perhaps God loves us more because of the attention we require.

I’m working on a series to post here that will deal with the carefree life. More than the Life of Riley, the carefree life is one that you could enjoy all the benefits without any of the downside. Wouldn’t it be great, for instance, if you could eat all the chocolate that you wanted without getting fat, without developing a stomach-ache, without breaking out in acne from brow to chin? This is the kind of life I’ll be posting about.

 

The point? This life doesn’t really exist, but what if it did? Would you want to be a part of it? Would you want the aspect mentioned?

 

You, my readers, can help out. If you have a suggestion about the carefree life that you’ve thought about before (i.e. Commuting without Traffic), share your thoughts in the comment area here or an any of the Carefree Life posts.

This week I will be preaching a sermon entitled REvisit your Salvation as part of the “REasons for Living” series. In it I encourage followers of Christ to remember the first time that they said yes to Jesus. With this in mind, here’s the short version of my story:

 

I grew up in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher. I like to say that I was in church nine months before I was born. I’ve always loved church and being in church whenever I can. But
Cason, Texas, and a little church located there have a special significance for me. It was in a spring revival, on the last night (a Sunday) of the meeting that the Lord drew me closer to Him than ever I had been before. As a six-year-old boy, my mother noticed that I was more thoughtful, more attentive, more . . . I don’t know what. And when the invitation was offered, I walked the length of the pew I was on to the center aisle and then all of 5 feet (we were on the second pew) to get my father to introduce me to my Father.

 

If you know Jesus you have a story. Let me encourage you to tell it this week. Tell it once, tell it twice, then tell it once again. Someone wants to hear. My friend and former colleague Ed Tarleton likes to say, “You have a story, and someone will listen to you.”


I’m getting ready to go on a trip. One of my church members and I will be attending the IMB Volunteer Summit Central & Eastern Europe in Apex, North Carolina. Our hope is that this two-day event will help us determine some ways that our little Midwestern church can get involved in partnering with on-going mission work on the other side of the world. This is a double good trip for me because I’ll get to visit for a minute or two with some of my former colleagues from the mission field.

Ya’ll have a good time while I’m gone now, ya’ hear. (The summit will be at Salem Baptist Church–click on the logo to see their site.)

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