Live Like a Missionary (2)

In my first post by this title, I shared a list of things Tim Keller suggests in his book Center Church for engaging our neighbors with a missionary mindset.

In this followup post, I want to bring the list he suggests for engaging colleagues, coworkers, and friends.

  1. Do recreational activities with them – watch sports (live or on TV at home or in a nightspot); go to a theater show, museum exhibit, art gallery exhibit, etc.
  2. Invite them to join a sports league with you.
  3. Invite them to work out with you at a gym.
  4. Put together a movie night.
  5. Go out of your way to eat with them as often as possible. Invite people over for a meal in your apartment or home or just invite them out to try a new restaurant.
  6. Plan trips or outings – a trip to the beach, a historical site, etc.
  7. If the person has a skill or interest, ask them (sincerely!) to educate you.
  8. Organize a discussion group on something – politics, books, etc., inviting mainly non-Christians.

Last week I got to have lunch with one of my neighbors. We had a terrific conversation about his atheist beliefs. It was another important step in my life-on-life relationship with him toward an opportunity to share the gospel. I have invited him next week to catch a movie with me while Nancy visits with her Mom for her birthday.

Are you embracing your identity as an on-mission Christian by engaging the folks where you live, work, and pray? May Paul’s rally cry in 1 Cor. 6:19 be that of our own – woe unto me if I do not preach the gospel.

By the way, I learned today that about one quarter of all the volunteers signed up to serve at the Chinese Student Welcome Party this Saturday night are from OGC. Way to go, church!

Boldness in the Air

I prayed for a first class upgrade on my return flight from Minneapolis last week. It worked for the outbound version on Monday morning. I could get to like that treatment.

But, as usual, the inbound to Orlando flight on Wednesday night saw every seat filled. I had to settle for coach. Woe is me.

God had a design in it all. Surprise, surprise. I got seated by a Delta pilot on his way home from a flight from the UK. Turned out he was verbal. He actually wanted to talk. In this day and age of the tablet and smart phone, most folks plug in and lay low. Witnessing chances on planes come few and far between.

So I took the plunge and engaged. Turned out his kids attend Master’s Academy. I breathed a sigh of relief. He must be a believer, I thought. Surely he wouldn’t send his children to Christian school if he wasn’t. I was off the hook. This was going to be a breeze. No pressure. Piece of cake.

Then I asked him where they went to church. Let’s just say the answer put me back on alert that I might still have some gospel work to do. But then the beverage cart came around. He donned his ear buds to watch a movie. I figured that was that. End of story.

But as the plane started its descent into Orlando the conversation window opened again. Man, I debated whether or not I would take the plunge. I am such a weenie. Then I remembered the exhortations I heard at the conference about trusting the sovereignty of God and being bold in witnessing for Jesus. Regeneration is a miracle anyway so why not trust God and determine to be His means of conversion if He is so pleased?

So off I went. Long story short, I got to share the gospel with the man. Gave him my card. Invited him to church. Chalk one up for boldness in the air.

Now if only I can muster up  some boldness on the ground where I spend most of my time. Lord, hear my prayer for me and for us all.

An Opportunity We Simply Must Buy Up

I just finished hemorrhaging over my latest message earlier today. I decided to study and write with a grand opening of our facility service in mind. I felt led to camp out in 1 Timothy 3:14-16. I entitled the message Why Church?: A Case for Christianity in a Many-Gods Age. I worked from the word pictures Paul employs for showing the true nature of the church and why it should compel our priority participation in its ministry.

We still don’t know when we will schedule such a service. It all depends on the granting of a CO by the city and the timetable for “soft openings” so we can get our act adequately together for a “hard opening” service likely to happen no earlier than sometime in June.

But mark my words. Whenever it does happen we have to determine to act intentionally and strategically with a Colossians 4:5 kind of mentality in mind. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Paul actually uses the metaphor of walking in the original for the way we live our lives. He calls for us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, those who have yet to embrace faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What does that kind of wise walk look like? It involves making the best use of the time. This is an interesting phrase in the original. Literally it reads redeeming or buying up the time or opportunity.

The New Bible Commentary makes this remark on the idea here noting that the word redeem or buy up suggests an intensive activity, a buying which exhausts the possibilities available because they recognize that their time is limited. Kind of like determining to purchase all the remaining copies of some print of a famous painting because you know its a limited edition.

May I suggest that the occasion for opening our facility and publicizing an inaugural service in that facility represents a unique opportunity for reaching out to those outside in a winsome and wise way that we as a congregation simply cannot afford to miss?
Thus I wrote a sermon specifically with this in mind. Thus we will do a mail out with this theme in mind. Thus we will provide printed  invitations that you can give to the folks where you live, work and play that you have been laboring to reach for the gospel that they might hear that gospel in a contextually crafted, biblically sound way (oh, Lord, I pray that’s what I have written in this message!) with this in mind. Thus we may determine on that Sunday to host a barbecue following the service to meet and greet those who come specifically because of the opening of our building.
So let me ask you to pray with me that God will work powerfully in this once-in-a-lifetime-of-our-church opportunity to acquaint many of those “outside” with the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is an opportunity we simply must buy up exhausting all the possibilities available because we recognize that the time is limited.

Beautiful Feet

These don’t look so hot to me today.

But they dazzled with beauty on Friday, August 5, in the village of Mrima, Kenya. I mean with an Isaiah 52:7 kind of beauty.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

I got to do that with this man, among others.

Allow me to introduce you to Tandara, the village chief and local Muslim imam of Mrima. He hosted us for the dedication of the well OGC funded to have dug in this unreached community of Eastern Africa. You can see the well pump in the background. In this photo Tandara had just accepted a copy of the Digo New Testament.Pray he reads it!

During the dedication ceremony, with all the village surrounding us and Tandara seated at my feet of all things, I found my anxiety growing about the words I would say in preaching the gospel to this man and his people – people who likely had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ before. To say the least, this was not my normal Friday morning agenda!

The Lord was gracious to me as he brought to mind the promises of His word, especially the one above about lovely feet. I claimed that as I stood to preach the gospel from John 7:37-38 with as much boldness and courage as I could muster with the help of the Holy Spirit. Rarely have I felt such anointing from the Lord. I was so grateful for His help. I felt so privileged to accomplish such a mission.

Do you think of your feet as beautiful when it comes time to share the gospel with someone? You should. Last Sunday I put forth an appeal at the end of the service to look for opportunities to share with others and to let me know when the Lord opens the door.

God has been so gracious to me already this week. And it is only Wednesday! On Monday I met with a young man who is new to our church. He is on fire for evangelism and practically begged me for outlets to share his faith. I put him in touch with some folks in the area who go out on Friday nights and he was so grateful. On Tuesday I heard about another brother in our fell0wship who plays basketball in his neighborhood on a regular basis. He recently invited some of his unbelieving friends to church and they accepted his invitation. Another brother shared with me how he and his wife have been befriending neighbors who are Mormon. Recently he had a discussion with the husband about how the Old and New Testaments fit together in terms of the covenant faithfulness of God.

I felt like the Lord encouraged me to see that we have many beautiful feet in the congregation at OGC!

Do you see your feet in such a light? Are you praying for open doors for the gospel where you live, work, and play? When you feel the anxiety hit you in such situations, remember the promises of God, especially that your feet are most lovely when you proclaim the good news of the gospel.

The week is only half done. I would love to hear from anyone else in the body about your exquisitely beautiful, most lovely, gospel feet!

A Lesson in Compassion at Walmart

Undaunted by the rain and wind, a bunch of us worked at Walmart today from 10 AM to 4 PM wrapping gifts for patrons for free.

Due to the inclement weather we got stuck under an overhang away from the main traffic going into the store.

So for a good bit of the afternoon I stood outside the main entrance announcing our effort and location. That helped things pick up significantly. We got to wrap a lot of presents, give out several tracts, and succeed in one more effort to build bridges into our community for the gospel.

I greeted a ton of people today outside that store. All kinds of reactions came back to me in return. Some seemed quite distressed. The absence of joy in some spirits was palpable. My heart went out to them.

As I reflected later this evening on the effort, I thought of this passage in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 9:

[35] And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The word for helpless in the ESV comes from a word that means to throw something down with a forceful motion. The NASB translates it dispirited. That’s what I saw in far too many faces. Sheep without a shepherd can get struck down and dispirited and left looking like this:

Jesus answer? Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

We need more laborers and we need to get out into the harvest more often.

OGC, let’s keep pushing the edge of the outreach envelope. We’ve got lots of sheep on their backs that need the Good Shepherd.

5000 psi & GIL

“It’s never been cleaned before,” Darlene said.

“I’ve never seen more dirt on a driveway,” Randy said.

“Sorry we took so long to get to it,” I said.

Almost a year ago to the day, the OGC faithful descended on my widow neighbor’s home for a massive painting project. We sought to put James 1:27 into action. We worked to build bridges into our local community for the gospel. I promised we would come back to do the driveway but failed to do so until this morning.

I got by with a little help, who am I kidding, a lot of help, from my friends, deacon Randy and his boy, Andre. Good thing too. Together our pressure washers combined for 5000 psi and we needed every bit of it to tackle the job.

“If you want, you can eat dinner off the concrete tonight,” I beamed.

My neighbor smiled. Her daughter thanked us profusely. The neighbors took notice. I ask for prayer every week for open doors for the gospel in La Floresta. In our postmodern world the way you get them is through acts of love and ministries of mercy.

And so tomorrow we dive into a four month study called Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything during the 9:30 adult equipping hour (including middle and high school students). We want to understand more about how the gospel of Jesus can captivate our hearts, shape our community as a church, and overflow in transforming power into our world. This curriculum from Tim Keller and the folks at Redeemer Pres aims to do just that.

Here’s the summary description for tomorrow’s first session from the GIL website:

In Session 1 we learn that we are not just to seek prosperity and peace in the city where we live, but we are to seek prosperity and peace for the city, as well. We see the reasons that cities were created, how they have fallen under sin, and how we can be a part of redeeming them—how we are a part of God’s story to redeem and restore the whole world for his glory.

From 9:30 to 9:45 we will meet in elder groups to share about our lives and pray for each other. From 9:45-10:00 we will study the Scripture passage of the day together. At 10:00 we will view a ten minute video presentation by Tim Keller, and from 10:10 to 10:30 we will move back into elder groups for discussion about the video. Newcomers are welcome to join any of the groups they like.

Please pray with me and our leadership team that God uses this equipping emphasis in a powerful way. May He make us more a church on mission in the city that we have ever been before!

The World Cup & Sharing Not Hoarding

When I realized that the soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands takes place this Sunday at 2:30 PM I faced a dilemma of sorts.

Nancy and I had already agreed to go to lunch after church with fellow believers in Jesus that we dearly love.

I’ve planned for a while now to take advantage of the cup final to build a bridge of connection with some of our neighbors by inviting them over to watch the game with us. They love football, as the rest of the world calls it.

What to do? I called our brother and sister and asked for permission to reschedule because I do not want to fail to capitalize on the opportunity to connect with my neighbors in hopes of building a bridge for the gospel. Our friends most graciously agreed and even applauded the motivation behind asking for release from our commitment! I knew they would. They are that kind of people.

The whole “dilemma” brought to mind a passage of Scripture from 2 Kings 7:1-10.

But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”3 Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. 9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.”

The story concerns a miraculous reversal of fortune for Israel during siege warfare with Syria. God intervened by driving off the enemy on His own. Through an act of desperation, three lepers discovered the turn of events, happening on the empty Syrian camp with the intention of surrendering. They went nearly berserk with glee at their good fortune, devouring everything in sight!

Somewhere in the middle of their celebrating and stockpiling, the lepers came up short under an avalanche of conviction. It was time for another consultation. They said to one another, “We are not doing right.  If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” Two things struck these men in their revelry. What they were doing was wrong AND it was risky. It wasn’t right. They knew in their hearts that God brought them on the camp not just for their own sakes but all of Samaria’s sake. To withhold the news would subject perhaps countless people to at the very least more suffering and at the very worst death. To remain silent was morally indefensible and outrageous.

And it was risky. They feared the punishment that would come should they withhold the blessing from the king’s household and the people he ruled. And so reason, responsibility, and duty won out. They went and told the good news in v. 10. And their feet were indeed beautiful to all who heard (Isa. 52:7).

We must fight the temptation to do spiritually the very thing these lepers first did materially. By all means we should delight in the surpassing pleasures of Christ, revel in His goodness, feast on His word, bask in His fellowship. But beware the temptation to hoard. Beware the folly of silence when it comes to your testimony. Jesus told the demoniac made whole in Mark 5:19 – Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he had mercy on you. Paul in 2 Cor. 5:18-20 says we have received the ministry of reconciliation, that we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ, God making his appeal through us.

Charles Spurgeon spoke forcefully on the implications of this text:

What, my dear brothers? Are you saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation and can you keep the blessing to yourself? Do you not wonder that all the timbers in your house do not groan at you and that the earth itself does not open her mouth to rebuke you? Can you be such an ungrateful wretch as to have tasted of amazing mercy and yet to have no word to say by way of confessing it? Suppose He should come tonight, and you, who have thought that you knew Him and loved Him, should never have sought to win a soul for Him—how will you face Him? How will you answer your Lord, whom you have never acknowledged? You knew the way of salvation and you concealed it! You knew the balm for the wounds of sinners and you let them bleed to death! They were thirsty and you gave them no draught of Living Water. They were hungry and you gave them no Bread of Life. Sirs, I cannot venture to His Judgment Seat with such a blot upon my soul? Can you? Oh, by the love of God, or even by a lower motive, by the love of your fellow men, burst your bands asunder and speak out for Christ! Or else, if your profession is true, you are not doing right, indeed, and I believe there is reason to question your religion.

Where are you taking steps to build bridges for the gospel taking advantage of things like the World Cup and the opportunity it affords to do lifestyle evangelism?

Let’s do less hoarding and more sharing. The news we have to share with lost people is even more stunningly good than that of the lepers of 2 Kings 7.

Living for Souls

As is my custom, I began my day this morning reading, among other things, the current edition of Free Grace Broadcaster. This summer edition of the Chapel Library in Pensacola focuses on Thoughts for Young People.

The collection of articles includes a piece by J. C. Ryle in which he prescribes certain general counsels for young people. Needless to say many of these have application to believers of all ages.

One such counsel he gives is this: never forget that nothing is as important as your soul. He concludes that section this way:

Do not forget this. Keep the interests of your soul in view—morning, noon, and night. Rise up each day desiring
that it may prosper. Lie down each evening inquiring of yourself whether it has really got on…Set your immortal
soul before your mind’s eye; and when men ask you why you live as you do, answer them in this spirit, “I live for
my soul.” Believe me, the day is fast coming when the soul will be the one thing men will think of, and the only
question of importance will be this: “Is my soul lost or saved?”

You can read the entire essay here.

Of course as ambassadors for Jesus Christ and ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20) we labor under an obligation not just to live for our own souls but also for the souls of others.

That is why we will wash cars for free tomorrow at 9:30 AM at our church office and give out Independence Day flags and pins and tracts. We want to build bridges for the gospel into our community. This is what it means to live for souls, precious souls, lost and dying souls, who will soon ask the only question of importance, “Is my soul lost or saved?”

Whether you can participate in tomorrow’s outreach or not, please pray with us that God will pour out His Spirit on the effort, for grace to love well the folks we encounter, for wise and winsome conversations about the gospel, and for some to go away believing perhaps for the first time that they must start living for their soul.

Ligonier National Conference Begins Today!

Tough Questions Christians Face.

That’s the theme for this year’s Ligonier National Conference beginning today here in Orlando and running through Saturday morning.

Here is the promo paragraph from the Ligonier website for the conference:

Christ has redeemed us to be a light that directs others to Him. Fulfilling this call requires us to be able to deal with the most difficult questions asked about the Christian faith. If we are unprepared for the darkness around us, it will be harder to counter it with the truth of God’s Word. Join us as we look at some of the toughest questions Christians face. Our goal is to equip you to answer questions that all Christians and non-Christians find perplexing.

Did you know that Ligonier is live streaming video of every session on line?

You can view any talk you wish by clicking on here.