SHOW & Tell


Mega kudos to one of my alma maters. This fall, RTS Orlando sponsored something called “The Current Read.” They unpack their motivation this way:

We believe that the Christian community should be full of thoughtful readers. For this reason, we’ve created a book program called The Current Read that encourages not only our students, but others in the Orlando area, to read a book together, discussing the issues it raises and engaging the topic with the author at a “meet the author” event at the culmination of the program. Each fall, the library staff choose a thought-provoking book for the program and plan events to correspond with the reading.

When I received notice earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity. I ordered the current offering and RSVPd for the author meet-and-greet. That event occurred this morning in downtown Orlando. I happened to engage Mr. Douthat while grabbing a bite in the breakfast line. I asked if I could share something personal with him. He obliged. I proceeded to tell him that I read his thought-provoking book during my recent vacation in Idaho. In so many words, I encouraged him with my testimony of just how much wind the read blew into my pastoral sails. His book, along with other means, convicted me more than ever to hunker down and plow on in my role as a pastor of a confessional church in suburban Orlando where much of what he describes does indeed ail the church. He admitted how humbled he felt at such a notion. His autograph signing of my personal copy of Bad Religion revealed as much. Nice. I might have to start reading the New York Times.

As I listened to his remarks during breakfast, one thing above all stood out. He spoke very strongly about the need for the church of Jesus Christ in this day and age to do more showing than telling in order to win a hearing about its message. The deficit brought about by the preponderance of heresies masquerading as the real deal has so disenfranchised the average American that now more than ever more than not we have to show folks the real thing before we get to tell them about the real thing.

bridge building

My take away is this: bridge building into the culture is a big deal. Doing things like free-parking outreaches and craft fairs and whatever else we can come up with to connect with those outside the church is something we must make a priority as we continue to strive to bless our city and preach the gospel.

It’s time for show and tell with a heavy emphasis on show so we get to tell when God gives us opportunity. Covenant member at OGC – will you pray for the craft fair? Will you serve at the craft fair? Will you visit the craft fair or if not, will you plan to participate in the next available opportunity you have for bridge-building? Titus 3:1 says to be ready for every good work. Are we?

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.

Ministries of Mercy – Free Audio Book

Christian Audio is giving away this month a free download of Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road.

I have read this book. It is an important contribution to the conversation about the need for believers to show mercy to the poor and compassion to the needy.

If you need motivation for showing the gospel through deeds of mercy and want help in building bridges into the lives of unbelievers, this will help.

Don’t forget to use the coupon code “AUG2010″ when checking out.

Also, for the month of August, you can get Ministries of Mercy for half price ($6.49) at Westminster Bookstore, if you prefer reading your books.

Take advantage of either deal while you can.

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.