Come And See

Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them!

Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves.

The Easter season is upon us, so we have a golden opportunity to reverse this stat. There is something about Easter and Christmas where even those that don’t normally attend a church service feel like this season might be a good time to do so.

I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words:

Come and See

No pressure. No promises. No gimmicks. Just this: “Come and see for yourself what a relationship with Jesus is all about.”

Over the next two Sundays we’ll be looking at some obstacles we church people may have to overcome, and some excuses many unchurched people use. But all of this will help us to simply and clearly say to our friends, “Come and see!”

Please join me in person or watch on Facebook Live.

Appropriately Proactive

Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away… (1 Samuel 13:8).

The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead. 

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Saul stayed … Saul waited … and as a result, Saul sinned.

Saul ended up being inappropriately reactive, and thus committing a sin. His reaction to his men slipping away, hiding, and defecting was to act in a way that was inappropriate for anyone but the priest.

It’s been said that action has killed its thousands, and reaction has killed its tens of thousands. But if only Saul would have proactively sought God, or proactively formed a battle strategy, or proactively spoke an encouraging word to his men, or proactively moved out with his troops—anything(!) but just sit still—perhaps his legacy as king wouldn’t have been so short lived.

When leaders aren’t appropriately proactive, they risk becoming inappropriately reactive.

A mark of a godly leader is one who is appropriately proactive.

This is part 20 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty (book review)

Ty Cobb was baseball’s first superstar and its first inductee into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet when most people think of him, they think of a racist jerk. Was he? Charles Leerhsen unpacks Ty Cobb’s life in an outstanding biography entitled Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty.

Leerhsen himself initially believed all the negative reports about Cobb. He wrote:

“When I started researching this book I believed, like a lot of people, that Ty Cobb was a maniac, meaning a racist and a mean, spikes-sharpening son of a bitch. This was not a professional opinion based on knowledge; it was an assumption based on stories I’d been hearing all my life. People said it in bars; Ken Burns said it in his baseball documentary, so it must be true—that sort of thing. That I’d come to this conclusion without investigating the matter myself made the myth more, not less, powerful for me. … The experience [of researching and writing this book] taught me a lesson about how assumptions can shape our thinking, and hence our lives. Just because you’ve heard something a thousand times doesn’t mean it’s true.”

As Leerhsen began meticulously going through the real-time daily accounts of Cobb’s life, when he began reviewing original source material, all his preconceived ideas about Ty Cobb began to melt away. Leerhsen discovered that an opportunistic journalist named Al Stump almost wholly made up the derogatory claims about Cobb from unnamed sources. And as the cliche goes, the bad stuff is easier to believe than the good stuff, so the lies about Cobb stuck.

Ty Cobb was a phenomenal baseball star. He set 90 Major League records in his career, and he still holds the records for:

  • Combined runs scored and runs batted in (4065)
  • Highest career batting average (.366)
  • Most batting titles (11)
  • Most steals of home (54)
  • Stealing second, third, and home in succession (5) … once he did that on consecutive pitches!
  • The youngest player to compile 4000 hits and score 2000 runs

Not only does Leerhsen rebut all of the lies about Cobb, but he uncovers the life of a man who almost singlehandedly made Major League Baseball the national pastime that it became.

There’s also a great lesson to be learned here—never judge someone by what “they” say, but get the facts for yourself!

All baseball fans—and especially Detroit Tigers fans like me—will thoroughly enjoy this book.

The Wonder Of God’s Forgiveness

King David was intimately confident that God would hear his prayers. No matter what—even if David had sinned.

The prophet Nathan confronted David after David had committed adultery with another man’s wife, gotten her pregnant, and then had her husband killed to try to cover up their affair. David assumed he had gotten away with it, but God sent Nathan to tell David that He knew all about it.

David immediately went to prayer.

His prayer is instructive for us when we sin too. David’s appeal to God for forgiveness is based solely on God’s ability and willingness to forgive, not on any merits David brings.

In this prayer, David presents a tally sheet. On his side of the ledger, he lists my transgressions, my iniquity, my sin, my bloodguilt. He sums it up with, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.

David also tallies up God’s side of the ledger: You are right, You are just, You are righteous.

We might be tricked into thinking that a Perfect Being like this wants nothing to do with a sinful creature like you and me. But this is completely wrong! David appeals to God’s unfailing love, and Your great compassion. He lists God’s desire to cleanse, wash, blot out sins, restore, and release from blood-guiltiness.

David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And immediately Nathan responded, “The Lord has taken away your sin.”

Sin is all on me! Restoration is all on God!

With this in mind, we learn that the mark of a maturing Christian is not one who never sins, but one who…

  1. …feels a broken heart because of their sin (see Psalm 51:10)
  2. …confesses my sin
  3. …confidently asks for His forgiveness
  4. …helps others who have sinned (v. 13)
  5. …continues to abide in Jesus (vv. 10-12)

God is quick to forgive. Are we equally as quick to ask for His forgiveness?

You can study more of the lessons from the prayers of David:

“When Your Prayer Life Is Active And Full…

…when you are communing daily with God, you will begin to see others as God sees them. The next time you find yourself angry, frustrated, or disappointed with someone, I challenge you to pray, ‘Lord, help me to see this person as You see him.’ The next time you are compelled to harbor bitterness or respond in anger, pause and soak in the gravity of God’s unconditional love for you.” —Jack Graham

Poetry Saturday—Mountain Sheep

Step by step we make the climb
A rhythm beat from foot on gravel
Lost in thought and void of time
As we track this tower of babel

Hard dead earth, scorched by sun
More confused near the top
Both hot and cold are found in one
Both grasp for life like the withered crops

These people, poor people, hid up in the mountain
Seeking always to find life’s summit
But poisoned by deceit’s sweet fountain
And so, into darkness they continue to plummet

Why is the truth to these people unspoken
Who comes to shepherd these mountain sheep
Where is the news that the grave was broken
The harvest is plenty, but who comes to reap —Luke Brogden

(This was written by my nephew after visiting Nepal and meeting people who hadn’t yet heard about Jesus.)

Thursdays With Oswald—When You Can’t Do Anything To Help

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

When You Can’t Do Anything To Help

     One of the first things a worker for God has to learn by experience is that strangely obvious lesson, that none of us can understand the cases we meet to work with. Then how can we work for the cure of them? Remember the first principles we laid down: By knowing Jesus Christ for ourselves experimentally, and then by relying on the Holy Spirit. …  

     In Goethe’s writings, in 1824 he writes: “I will say nothing against the course of my existence, but at the bottom of it has been nothing but pain and burden, and I can affirm that, during the whole of my seventy-five years, I have not had four weeks of genuine well-being. It has been the perpetual rolling of a rock that must be raised up again.”

     Robert Louis Stevenson said that three hours out of every five he was insane with misery. John Stuart Mill said that life was not worth living after you were a boy.

     This is not fiction, these are human facts. What does Christian Science do—ignores them! New Thought—ignores them! Mind Cure—ignores them! Jesus Christ opens our eyes to these facts, but here comes the difficulty: how am I to get Jesus Christ in contact with these sick souls?

In the first place, will you realize that you do not know how to do it? … If you get your little compartment of texts, and search them out and say, ‘I know how to deal with this soul,’ you will never be able to deal with it; but if you realize your absolute helplessness and say, ‘My God, I cannot touch this life, I do not know where to begin, but I believe Thou canst do it,’ then you can do something. …  

     God grant us the grace so to rely on the Holy Ghost, to so know our ignorance, so to get out of the way with our knowledge, that we will let the Holy Ghost bring the Majestic Christ face to face with the diseased, sick folk we meet. … God grant we may so rely on the Holy Spirit that we allow Him to introduce through the agony of our intercession…the Living, Mighty Christ! … Blessed be the name of God, there is no case too hard for Jesus Christ! …  

     God grant that we may be so centered in Him that He can use us in that wonderful way.

From Workmen Of God

How to help those in need:

  1. Admit that we can’t help them
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to help them
  3. Share only what the Spirit tells us to share
  4. Intercede in prayer for our friend

“God grant that we may be so centered in Him that He can use us in that wonderful way.” Amen!

10 Quotes From “Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice”

I loved the financial insights that John Thornton presented in Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice. The advice is “terrible” in that it flies in the face of conventional financial wisdom and puts it in the proper biblical light. Check out my full review of this book by clicking here.

“As God waits patiently to receive our all, wonder, and appreciation for all He is and does, an idol steps in to accept our applause. Like an insidious illusionist, the idol misdirects our attention to itself. … What does an idol do? Nothing. That’s all an idol can do. Nothing. Nothing but steal God’s glory.”

“Jesus is not trying to impoverish us when He tells us to store up treasures in heaven.”

“Here is where some people mistakenly make it about the money. They wrongly conclude that rich people can’t make it to heaven, but poor people can. This is a grave error. In truth, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven, rich or poor, without God.”

“If we are seeking heaven because our life here is so good that we don’t want it to end, or simply because we don’t want to go to hell, we’ve missed the point. We’ve made the same mistake this young man made [Mark 10]. So doing what Jesus always did, He redirected the young man to the right thing. The greatest good. He redirected the young man to God. Jesus clarifies that no one is good but God Himself. … What makes eternal life good isn’t the length. It’s the company. God Himself is what is good about heaven [John 17:3].”

“Regardless of how much of a blessing of wealth has the potential to be, it becomes a curse for us when it separates us from the love of God.”

“Don’t wrongfully conclude that rich people can’t make it, but poor people can. Or that poor people are godly, but rich people are not. If we do this, we miss the point entirely. We think that Jesus is just calling out rich people. We think He is talking about people’s financial position, when He’s really talking about our heart condition. … At the end of the day, answer to the question ‘Does Jesus want you rich or poor?’ is obvious. The answer is yes! Jesus wants you. And the answer is all about God’s goodness, not ours.”

“The number one theme related to wealth in the Bible is that it is a blessing from God.” 

“Whenever we conclude that the plans we have for our lives are better than the plans God has for us, or that the gifts we have for ourselves are better than His gifts, the false master Money steps up. Money promises to put us in charge. With it, we can smooth the way or save the day. Don’t worry. Be happy. But God has a better plan for our lives. We were made to live for so much more. And He is more. God wants us to understand and know Him, His ‘kindness, justice and righteousness,’ for in these He delights (Jeremiah 9:24). God’s plan is to complete us.”

“Wealth becomes a curse for us when we choose it over God.” 

“In a society where we have taken independence, individual freedom, and self-love to cult status, submission is taboo. We want to be our own master. Money offers us what we want, so we love it or fear it, trading in the true God for a false one. But Jesus shows us we have it all wrong. He shows us that submission to His Father is the only way to be truly free. Free to live life to the full. The only way to live a life that matters is to find our sole purpose in Him.”

Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice (book review)

When a trained and certified financial advisor says you’re making a mistake with your finances, you will probably listen to him. But what if the one giving the terrible financial advice is Jesus? John Norton (a CPA with a Ph.D. in accounting) looks at the financial advice of Jesus in a whole new light in his book Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice.

I’ll be honest with you: this book is not at all what I expected. When I hear someone say that Jesus gave “bad financial advice,” I just assume it’s a tongue-in-cheek lead in to a discussion on tithing or giving to missions. But as the subtitle of the book hints, John Norton flips the table on every financial concept that you’ve ever heard taught by the world’s financial experts.

Many people wrongly think that Jesus was anti-wealth, and that to be a truly “sold-out” follower of Jesus, Christians have to give up all semblance of nice things. But that’s not what Jesus taught or lived! Neither did Jesus say that Christians are to pursue wealth on earth. Does that sound like confusing double-talk? Far from it! It’s the truth that John unpacks in this very readable book. John tells us right up front, “I relied on just one rule while writing this book: ‘If my theology disagrees with God, one of us is wrong, and it’s not Him.’”

If you’ve ever struggled with how a Christian is supposed to handle the wealth and possessions of this world, this book will come as a welcome insight into what Jesus really wants for His children: freedom to glorify God!

“Like Jesus’ early followers, we are at a crossroads. He flips the tables on everything we thought we knew about peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. Jesus’ teachings about money and wealth hit us where we live, shake us free from a life that leads to death, and leave us immeasurably more blessed than we ever imagined. All with the single-minded purpose of bringing glory to His Father.” (John Thornton)

I believe you will be as pleasantly surprised at this book as I was.

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer.

How Confident Are Your Prayers?

David hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s never tried to lead a rebellion against King Saul. In fact, he’s never even talked poorly about Saul. And yet Saul is out to kill David!

David tries to get as far away as he can, choosing to live in the desert so that he might get some relief from Saul. Still Saul comes after him with a force of 3000 men! Every time David moves, Saul’s men are hot on his trail. David described his situation like this

My mortal enemies surround me. Their hearts are cold and calloused toward me, and they speak terrible things about me. They track me down and surround me. They are like hungry lions, crouching, waiting to pounce on me!

If you were in David’s sandals, how confident would you be that God could get you out of the situation? Remarkably, David’s confidence was as high as it could be!

David not only was confident that God would hear him, but that He would listen to him. More than that, David knew God would pay attention to him. And then David boldly said, “I call on You, O God, for you WILL answer me.”

How could David pray such a confident prayer? The answer is in this principle…

There is a direct correlation between intimacy and confidence.

David made two very intimate claims about his relationship with God:

  1. You will keep me as the apple of Your eye
  2. You hide me in the shadow of Your wings

The apple of the eye is the pupil. Our eyes are amazingly designed to not only take in information but to protect themselves. If something is getting too close to our eye, the eyelids blink in protection faster than we can consciously tell them to. So David was claiming that God would protect him by reflex!

The shadow of Your wings was a reference to the top of the Ark of the Covenant; a place called the mercy seat. Here is where the priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for the people’s sin and to appeal to God’s mercy. The mercy seat was over-shadowed by two angels’ wings.

David was saying that God kept him in this intimate place—covered by God’s mercy and protection!

Jesus also told us about intimate confidence when He said, “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

  • Intimacy: remain IN Jesus, and let His words remain IN you
  • Confidence: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you

Are your prayers this confident? If not, don’t work on raising your confidence, but work on increasing your intimacy. Check your intimacy level with questions like:

  • Am I abiding in Jesus?
  • Are His words abiding in me?
  • Do I have any unconfessed sin?
  • Is my prayer a “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” prayer?

Focus on intimacy, and then watch your confidence soar! 

If you are interested in learning more about the prayers of David, I have also discussed his prayer for help, his prayer of crying out loud, and his prayer of praise.

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