Good Reads 10.05.17 (on anxiety and prayer, evangelism, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On evangelism: Engaging Others with the Gospel by Adam McClendon

We are called to consistently engage our culture with the gospel in mind, within and outside our normal routines. We should go on mission trips. We should, on occasion, go door-to-door to people we don’t know to engage them in gospel conversation, but we don’t end our engagement there. We should engage others from a gospel perspective in our everyday and every-weekend moments like our school boards, club teams, Home Owners Associations, Parent / Teacher Associations, workplaces, classrooms, charities, neighbors, etc.

We should take others fishing, hunting, golfing, or whatever other recreation activity we might prefer, and we should do it with a gospel mindset and a love for others. Many of us are already engaging our world where we are through social media, neighborhood conversations, sitting at our kid’s practices, etc. We just need to ensure we shift in our mindset, keeping the gospel in view. In addition to just being friendly, we must engage with a gospel mindset that looks for opportunities (i.e. open doors) to point people to Christ and gauging their openness to the gospel. (click here to read more)

On prayer and anxiety: What if Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse? by Mike Leake

This is why I still pray…or try to pray…in the midst of darkness. Because eventually the gospel wins out and God breaks through. It happened with Bunyan and it happens with me.

Prayer is helpful even when our thoughts of God are jacked up simply because the gospel is true. When we cry out to God—even with hearts tinged with unbelief, depressive thoughts, and the whole lot—he answers. It may not make me feel better in the moment in which I pray. But God hears and God answers. (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship by Rachelle Cox

Less than a year ago, I helped organize a women’s ministry event focused on discipleship. During this hour-long event, we offered women the chance to ask anonymous questions to a panel of female leaders in the church about the practice of discipleship. It went well. Frankly, a little too well. The five of us participating on the panel ran out of time long before those in attendance ran out of questions.

While I was encouraged by the interest women showed in the topic, I left the panel feeling somewhat burdened by the trend I saw in the questions women were asking us. Many women in my church seemed to struggle with the essential rhythm of discipleship, mostly because they had unrealistic ideas about what discipleship should look like in the first place. They were frustrated by their lack of theological prowess or their inability to squeeze a group Bible study into their schedules, and rather than doing discipleship “wrongly” they were just foregoing discipleship completely. (click here to read more)

On doing good to others: Enjoying God Fuels Doing Good by David Mathis

Titus also has something to say about “learning” to do others good. There’s a process — with practical steps to take ahead of time — to make space for the Spirit’s leading. That may include leaving enough margin in your schedule to be able to meet unexpected needs, or carrying paper money to give on the spot to someone in need, or setting aside funds for personal ministry in your monthly budget.

“Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). Being ready to do good doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It’s something we learn. We learn to devote ourselves to the good of others. (click here to read more)

Sunday 08.20.17 (gospel conversations: the conversations)

This Sunday we’ll conclude our “gospel conversations” series with a look at John 1:29-51 and some examples of how we can have conversations about Jesus in our everyday lives. Then in the evening we’ll look at God’s mercy and grace in our “attributes of God” series. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study in the church library

Sermon Notes
Gospel Conversations: The Conversations ~ John 1:29-51

  • The Conversations: As people who love Jesus, we want to love others by telling them about Jesus.
  • Three conversations about Jesus (John 1:29-51)
    • Some of us will speak to a large audience, like John the Baptist (1:29-34)
    • All of us can speak one-on-one with people we know like Andrew and Philip (1:35-51)
  • Starting points of Gospel conversations
    • Assume people want to talk about spiritual things (God created us with a longing; Gen 1:26-27)
    • Try to see the best in others (1 Cor 13:4-7)
    • Even if they reject you and the Gospel, they are not the enemies, our war is spiritual (Eph 6:12)
    • Pray (Col 4:4-6)
  • Ways to have Gospel conversations
    • Personal testimony
    • Ask good questions, listen, and respond
    • Get to know a basic presentation such as The Story or The 3 Circles

Gospel Conversations (sermon series)

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Sunday 08.06.17 (gospel conversations: the conviction)

This Sunday we’ll start a 3-week series entitled “Gospel Conversations”–and we’ll see what it means to be everyday missionaries, seeking to share our hope in Jesus through the relationships we have. Over these three weeks, we’ll consider: The Conviction, The Story, and The Conversations. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study in church library

Sermon Notes
Gospel Conversations: The Conviction ~ Acts 1:8

  • The Conviction: Every follower of Jesus is a Spirit-empowered missionary tasked to share the gospel
  • Our Power: The Holy Spirit is God in us, empowering us to tell others about Jesus
  • Our Task: We share about Jesus, desiring to see others also become his followers, wherever God places us

Gospel Conversations (sermon series)

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Everyday Missionaries

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed. – Mark 5:18-20 (CSB)

While coming into the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus encountered a man possessed by a legion of demons. After casting them out into a herd of pigs that then jumped off a cliff, the people of the land asked Jesus to leave. He did, and as he was departing, the man who had been possessed begged to go with him.

But Jesus had different plans for the man. He told him to return to his own people and tell them how much God had done for him.

Sometimes Jesus calls us on an epic journey of faith that takes us well beyond our comfort zones to proclaim the gospel far and wide. Other times, Jesus tells us to go home—but even then it is with the same task: Tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

Some of us have stories, like this man, where we were radically saved from a situation or lifestyle that brought great harm. Others of us lived generally as “good people” according to the world’s standards, but came to realize that didn’t keep us from being desperate sinners against God who chased our own heart idols instead of worshiping him.

Whatever our background, our salvation is a great act of God where he does infinitely more for us than what we deserve. Saved by grace, we each have a story to share with others. We each are called to be everyday missionaries.

Maybe that means that Jesus will lead you to get into the boat with him and go to some region far from home. Maybe that means that Jesus will tell you to stay and share with your friends, family, and neighbors. Either way, tell others the story of the great things that God has done for you.

Mark 5_19

Picture taken and modified from pixabay.com

The Seed and the Soils

Jesus said, “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and their birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil and it grew up quickly, since the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. Still other seed fell on good ground and it grew up, producing fruit that increased thirty, sixty, and a hundred times.” ~ Mark 4:3-8 (CSB)

In Mark 4, Jesus tells the crowds a series of parables, or illustrative stories Jesus used to make a spiritual point. The first was about a sower with seed and the different types of soils he encountered. When his apostles asked for an explanation, Jesus gave it in 4:13-20.

The seed is scripture, or God’s word. The sower is a person sharing God’s word with others. The soil is the condition of the listener’s heart. The path is where no soil exists and the seed of the word produces no fruit. The rocky soil is the person who hears and initially has great joy in the gospel but hard times cause them to walk away. The thorny and weedy soil is the person who also initially hears with joy but worries or desire for riches or other distractions draw them away. The good soil is the person who hears, responds in true faith, and has a life that is forever transformed by Jesus.

This parable tells us several things:

First, we should have no prejudice in spreading the gospel. We are tempted to think that certain people or certain types of people would surely never respond to God’s word, and we think others should hear it and believe in Jesus with no problem. The reality is, we don’t know the condition of a person’s heart-soil. We can’t see that deep. Jesus didn’t tell us to try to figure out the soils; he told us to sow the seed. Any person anywhere who will give us an ear is a person with whom we are called to share the gospel.

Second, we should be prepared when people walk away. As followers of Jesus, we often aren’t surprised by people who flat out reject the gospel. That’s the natural way of the human heart in its sin until our will is turned to Christ. We also aren’t often surprised by people who receive the gospel. That’s the whole point of evangelism, after all, to see people come to know and follow Jesus.

But we do get caught off guard by those who seem to be in love with Jesus and then they walk away. Yet, these represent half the responses in Jesus’ parable. Everybody dreams of a better life with more joy and purpose. Sometimes, the message of Jesus will pique a person’s interest due to the offer of an eternally joy-filled life. Yet, when they realize that doesn’t mean freedom from hardships now, or when the next big thing in their minds comes along, then they walk away.

They lacked a faith that truly sees heart-transformation. It should sadden us. We should pray that they would come to see the light of Christ clearly and truly follow him. But it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus told us to expect.

Third, a true Jesus-follower will experience life transformation. Good seed (which the gospel is always good seed) that falls on good soil produces fruit. Most often in the New Testament such symbolism of fruit represents a changed character—such as the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Not everyone will grow and change at the same rate—Jesus spoke of different amounts of fruit: thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. But a person who has truly committed their life to Jesus will experience spiritual growth. The good fruit of good character will become more and more evident in their lives.

Let us share the gospel with everyone who will listen. Then as that seed sprouts to growth, let us keep watering and fertilizing it with prayer, Christian fellowship, and more of God’s word to see it grow and produce more and more.

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 4_8

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Jesus, Friend to Sinners

Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:17 (ESV)

While Jesus was traveling with a crowd, teaching them on the way, he came across the tax booth of a man named Levi (also known as Matthew). He called Levi to follow him, and immediately he left his work and did.

The scandal in this act was Levi’s occupation. Tax collectors in ancient Rome were known to make extra money for themselves through extortion. To be a Jew and a tax collector made you very unpopular, for you would be stealing from your fellow Jews in order to make a living and pay the foreign government occupying your land.

As if this weren’t enough, Levi had a party at his house for coworkers and friends, presumably so they could meet Jesus as well. The religious leaders scoffed and complained, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In a self-righteous manner, they would not lower themselves to dine with such people, and here was the man claiming to be the Messiah?

Jesus’ reply was simple and to the point—he ate with them because they were the ones who needed him.

Often, we followers of Jesus might not have the same sour attitude of the Pharisees and Scribes (though some certainly do), but we can still isolate ourselves away from the people who Jesus came to save. Some people call this the “Christian bubble.” It is when our lives are so filled with time around other followers of Jesus that we never make time to build real relationships with those who are not followers of Jesus. We get so busy with church activities that we can forget we’re called to be ambassadors of light in the world.

On the one hand, we do need regular fellowship with other Christians. They are the ones who can help us avoid falling into the traps of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13) and they are the ones to whom we can confess our sins and find healing through prayer (James 5:16).

But we also need to build relationships with those who don’t know or follow Jesus.

We should not view them as projects. We should not yearn for their conversion as if it is another badge to wear. Rather we should see them as people made in the image of God, living in a world darkened by sin, and in need of the love of Jesus just as we are.

Their beliefs, way of life, and views of the world might be radically different than ours, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends. And just maybe through that friendship the day will come where we can also call them our brothers and our sisters in Christ.

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 2_17

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Fishers of Men

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” ~ Mark 1:16-17 (ESV)

As Jesus sat out on his ministry, he called different men to follow him for a new purpose in life. To Simon (Peter) and Andrew, as well as James and John, who worked as fishermen, Jesus called out to follow him and he would help them catch people.

In other words, if they devoted themselves to him, he would use them to bring people into God’s kingdom. This first call to these men anticipated Jesus’ last command in Mark’s gospel: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), or as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”

Though the call to be “fishers of men” may have been a play on words with these men’s occupations, Jesus places the same call on the life of each of his followers. We are to seek to expand the kingdom. As disciples of Jesus, we are to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Alvin Reid in Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out says it this way: “Talk to the actual person in front of you about the Jesus inside of you; let them see and hear the change Jesus makes in you” (pg. 99). He then gives the example of a man named Alex:

Alex worked very closely with his colleagues. As much as he wanted them to know Jesus, he knew if he brought up the gospel all the time they would stop talking to him. He developed the practice of five: as he interacted with coworkers, about every fifth conversation he had with one of them he would talk about Jesus. For his context that seemed to be about right: not too preachy, and yet not negligent of speaking of Christ. Let’s face it, if you know someone really closely for years and never speak about Jesus, you are speaking about him: you are saying with your lack of words he is no big deal.

I shared Alex’s practice of five with a group of businessmen who immediately saw it as a very helpful way to think about sharing Jesus in the workplace. I don’t know what it is for you: five times, or three, or seven. I do know there is a balance between how you live the gospel and how often you speak it. (pg. 105)

When calling us to be “fishers of men,” Jesus won’t call all of us to be pastors or foreign missionaries (though he will certainly call some to that). Yet he will call all of us to use our relationships where we live, work, and play in order to share about him with others. As Reid points out, we don’t want to be overbearing and push people away, but we also cannot be consistently silent about our faith.

If we love Jesus and love others, we will want them to know and love Jesus as well.

Another thing that Reid suggests is to pray this simple prayer each day: “God, give me today (1) an opportunity to speak with someone about Jesus; (2) the wisdom to see it; and (3) the courage to do it.” (17-18)

Will you seek to bring men and women into God’s kingdom?

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 1_17

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