Radical Transformation

In God’s economy, real transformation is meant to find its way into our daily lives.

True transformation of the mind results in transformation of our attitudes, which in turn results in the transformation of our actions.

In other words, biblical transformation is meant to be all-inclusive to our being.

No wonder Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength!

As a result, we are not only to think differently because of our relationship with God, we are called to act differently.

This is very much the theme of the book of James.

James sought hard to make this case: because we have been saved, we ought naturally live like we are saved.

I think sometimes, though, (and I’m speaking from personal experience) we often try to allow “just enough” transformation to take place in our life so that we look better than others, hoping God will get off our back and go work on someone else.

What I mean is this: we are willing to allow God some latitude to do some surface level transformation, but we are much more hesitant to all him to go deep into who we are and let him work on some of our most grievous attitudes and stubborn sins.

Sometimes this happens because we really aren’t too crazy about Jesus getting that much control of our life!

I think this type of thiniking is well-represented in Wilbur Rees’ short poem, “Three Dollars’ Worth of God.”

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,

but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk

or a snooze in the sunshine.

I don’t want enough of God to make me love a foreigner

or pick beets with a migrant.

I want ecstasy, not transformation.

I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.

I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Gulp. Can anyone else relate?

Other times our struggle with experiencing transformation is an issue of faith, where we find ourselves celebrating and worshiping the God of transformation, all the while wondering if He is really able to change those things that hinder our spiritual connection to Jesus.

Adrian Rogers said this:

The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.

All this makes me wonder: are we experiencing, or will we ever experience the transformation that God so badly wants to bless us with?

Balancing Church Life

In our church, like many other churches, we have people at varying commitment levels.

We have some people who attend a Sunday service from time to time…if there’s not something else popping up on the calendar. But if there is a morning 5k, or a big game on TV, or maybe they stayed up too late on Saturday, we likely won’t have them in attendance.

Bottom line, their participation is minimal and non-committal.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are involved in a multitude of activities, events and ministries. Years ago I was at a church where there was one member who seemed to be on campus every time we opened our doors.

Truth be told, this seems to be an extreme way to be involved in church, because it leaves very little room for other areas of life to develop.

I believe that somewhere between all that “near non-activity” and hyper-activity exists a healthy level of church commitment and involvement.

Years ago I heard someone share a sort of equation that I felt was a great way for people to gauge the level of their church involvement: worship + 2

The strategy for worship + 2 is simple. Its a call to involve ourselves in three realms of church life:

  1. Attending a worship service
  2. Finding a place within the church to grow
  3. Finding a place within the church to serve

A few thoughts on each of these components:

Taking part in corporate worship is important as we need to be connected as a body. We participate in the community of worship because the Bible calls us to it (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is great value in worshiping together, learning together and fellowshipping together.

We find a place to grow because we need to develop as a believer. Throughout the New Testament we find exhortations for the Christian to grow and mature.

Ephesians 4:15-16 says,

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

Finally, we search for a place to serve. One reason for this is because Jesus both called us to serve as well as modeled service for us. Serving allows us to put our spiritual growth into practice.

As a pastor, I would be very satisfied if everyone in our church body practiced the worship +2 concept.

I believe it would make us a stronger, wiser and more compassionate collection of Christians.

Minimal commitment to a church renders little spiritual development and impact.

Over-commitment to a church can cause a person to have an imbalanced life and put them in danger of burnout.

Worship + 2 strikes a solid balance of upward expression, inward development and outward ministry.

 

 

 

 

Simple Worship

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Worship isn’t meant to be professional.

And its not intended to be a performance.

I look at worship as simply an opportunity to pour out.

To release and reflect back to God the realities of who He is…and what He has done.

We can worship based on the revelation of scripture.

And we can worship in light of what He is doing in our life.

Worship is a way of declaring, “I’m not God!”

Which is something we seem to be consistently reminded of.

Anyone can worship, but not all will worship.

Some will refuse to worship because of pride, embarrassment or laziness.

In some cases we might choose not to worship in the church gathering because we feel our voice isn’t very good, as if God is looking for only the best vocalists.

But worship isn’t based upon the quality of one’s vocal chords but rather on the condition of our hearts.

God would much rather soak in the worship of a bunch of off-key people who really love Him than have to endure the voices of pitch-perfect vocalists who disdain Him.

Back in the Old Testament, God complained at His people Israel time and time again about the problem of their “worship” that appeared externally acceptable, but was in fact internally corrupt.

I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrased Micah 6:6-8, one of the OT accounts where God called upon Israel to rearrange her priorities:

How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin? But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously. (The Message)

Just like the OT Israelites, we too must be on our guard against presenting a form of worship that really isn’t worship at all.

Thankfully, worship is not about professionalism or performance, as some in the Christian culture would have us think.

Anyone can worship if their heart is right toward God.

Even if our voice creaks.

Last thought: worship is more an act of obedience than it is an act based on feelings.

Such thinking is another symptom of our culture.

I like how Graham Kendrick seeks to reformat our thinking:

“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which “comes upon you,” but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Worship can be complex, but it ought not be complicated.

It can be rich and deep, but there is a shallow end where everyone can enter in and get their feet wet.

May we discover the joy of simple worship.

 

An Effective Witness

A primary way people receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior is through the testimony of our words, experiences and our life.

It’s true that many people respond to the Gospel by reading a book, listening to a radio program or attending a crusade event.

But its my belief that the primary means for the evangelism God has in mind is this: people talking with people about Jesus in a face-to-face, conversational format.

In the New Testament, the word witness shows up just before Jesus returns to heaven. In Acts 1, Jesus had gathered his crew of followers together to give them one final challenge regarding their mission:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

In the dictionary the word witness is described in two ways: (1) a person who sees something happen, and (2) a person who makes a statement about what he or she has seen.

Tying the teaching of Acts 1:6-8 to the dictionary’s definition, a Christian witness describes is simply a person who has had an experience with Jesus Christ and then goes on to share that experience with someone else.

Sometimes we feel that our story about connecting with Christ must be dramatic, and this keeps us from sharing. I’ve had some people tell me that they don’t talk to others about their Christian experience because they think their witness is boring compared to the stories of others.

But not every testimony about coming to Christ plays out like a Hollywood action movie. In fact, the vast majority of people who become Christians do so in a way that is fairly tame and conventional…and yet no less powerful.

The fact is every Christian has a story and every Christian should be sharing it.

I believe an effective witness is composed of three elements:

First, we must verbally communicate the message of the Gospel with accuracy and clarity. In other words, we must present Jesus as the Bible presents Him. Also, we must describe the proper process of salvation, lest anyone believe that it is something earned by works or religious activity.

In essence, to properly communicate the Gospel, we must be able to rightly answer two questions for our listeners: “Who is Jesus?” and “How can I be saved?”

Second, we can share our own personal experience of becoming a believer. To accomplish this, all we have to do is answer three basic questions: (1) What was my life like before I met Jesus? (2) How did I become a follower of Christ? (3) What difference has Christ made since I met Him?

Regarding sharing our personal experiences, Jim Cymbala said this:

“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.”

Third, we witness effectively through our life. The demonstration of our life is all about testifying to others that the Christian life is real and that it has the power to bring about transformation. The reason transformation is possible is because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is meant to produce in us acts of kindness, gentleness, love, self-control, patience and so on. I also believe one of the biggest changes that helps communicate the reality of Christianity is the presence of humility.

Regarding the witness of our life, Henry Blackaby wrote:

“The Christian needs to walk in peace, so no matter what happens they will be able to bear witness to a watching world.”

Through these three components – our words, our experience and our ensuing life – God can work to open up hearts to Him. Make no mistake, our witness doesn’t save anyone, but it does provide a tool in which God can break down the walls of a stubborn heart and a dismissive mind.

Summing up the components of an effective witness, Jack Wellman put it this way:

“It takes a man of God, with the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, to make the children of God, for the glory of God.”

 

I Can’t Do It For You

The other day I had a young man visit my office whose life was a bit tattered and scattered.

As I listened and we talked, I offered him two avenues of assistance.

The first avenue was this: I sought to offer him some short-term advice regarding some of the issues he was facing, particularly in the area of marriage. He was a newlywed who had little understanding of the basics of marriage. To keep him from making things worse, I wanted to advise him toward actions that would help build his marriage up.

But I also realized that more than just a few tips for improving his marriage, this man needed the Gospel.

He had a bit of church experience as a child and young teen, but from that point in his life he began living for himself. And after many years of firmly gripping the reigns of his life, he was realizing he wasn’t the best life navigator.

He was now tired, confused and unsure of what to do next.

So I sought to explain the gospel for him.

The word gospel means “good news,” and from the bottom of my heart that’s what I felt I was offering him.

I shared with him how every person falls short of God’s glory because of sin.

I talked about how God sent Jesus to pay for our sins on the cross.

I explained that beginning a relationship with God doesn’t come through works, but through faith.

I wanted him to know that to place Christ in the center of one’s life is key life making sense.

And I finally told him that each person must make a decision about Jesus personally.

My last words on the subject were this: “I can’t do it for you.”

I said those words just as much for me as for him, because sometimes I am tempted to try.

See, I understand what a powerful difference the gospel can make in a person’s life, and I want people grab hold of it.

But the decision to receive and believe in Jesus is a personal one. It is a one-to-one transaction. There’s no such thing as “coat tail Christianity.”

What’s really hard is that sometimes when I lay the gospel out, some people will look at it, consider it, and then choose to walk away empty handed.

But I have to let it be. Because a person ought never be coerced, manipulated or pressured into responding to the Gospel.

It has to be a free choice. And it has to the their free choice.

In fact, I believe that if a person does choose Christ out of manipulation, or fear, or trying to please someone, they will have a very hard time building a healthy spiritual life. Why? Because the foundation of their  Christianity is flawed. That’s how much a personal, free choice for Jesus matters.

Sometimes we have to accept the disappointment that not all will respond to the good news of the Gospel.

Even though such disappointment can be painful or frustrating, it is a much better path than trying to work out someone else’s salvation.

Who knows. In God’s time, perhaps that person will receive the Gospel.

And how much better it is to rest in the genuineness of a personal decision.

 

 

 

 

I Have Rights!

As an American citizen, I possess certain rights.

The right to free expression.

The right to worship.

The right to due process.

Rights against government overstep.

There are times, when unduly pressed or hindered, that a person can rightfully declare their rights.

It’s nice to know that we have rights.Sometimes we must employ them.

But just because I have rights doesn’t mean I have to use them.

In fact, there are times when, in certain situations, I believe the wise thing to do is to forgo my rights.

Why?

Because sometimes the exercise of my rights impugns upon the rights of someone else.

I think a verse that captures this sentiment is 1 Corinthians 10:23:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.

It seems that the pursuit of personal rights to the detriment of others was a common theme in the Corinthian church.

Time and time again Paul exhorted the members of this church to dare to think beyond their own rights and consider how those around them were being impacted.

It takes a bit of wisdom to know when exercising my rights is stepping on the toes of someone else.

Of course, the perfect example of someone who gave up rights for the benefit of others is Jesus.

I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrases Philippians 2:5-8:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (The Message)

Jesus gave up his rights so that we might experience freedom.

He could have stayed in heaven. But he chose to come to earth in order to save us.

All this might be described as the practice of “winning by losing.” Gaining by giving up.

Perhaps the reason Paul was so adamant with the Corinthians was because the practice of giving up rights was core to his ministry.

As an apostle Paul could have demanded his rights and asserted his authority. But he chose otherwise. In 1 Corinthians 9 he wrote:

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:19-21 NLT)

Paul determined to live in a perpetual mode of flex, constantly thinking about the feelings and needs of others over his own. Though he was a man with many rights, he rarely chose to employ them.

The giving up of rights can be a very difficult concept for us. We seem hard-wired to assert our rights at any given moment.

But sometimes letting go of our rights is the wisest thing we can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Risking Community

Some things in the Bible are really deep. Difficult to understand. Mind bending.

Others aren’t really so tough to understand, but for some reason we find them difficult to apply.

I think that’s the case with biblical community. It’s pretty tough NOT to see how much the Bible talks about the importance of “life-on-life” Christianity.

The writer of Hebrews exhorted, “Do not forsake assembling with others!”

But applying ourselves to a life of inter-connectedness with other believers can often tumble way down on our list of priorities.

A word that is often found in the Bible to describe community is the Greek word koinonia.

Koinonia shows up 19 times in the NT, yet it sometimes translated a bit differently based on the context of the passage:

  • Most times it is translated “fellowship”
  • Although in a few cases it is translated “sharing”
  • A few times it is translated “participation”
  • And, in a couple of cases it is translated “contribution”

Fellowship is one of those words that is really quite common among Christians, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that as much as we talk about it, I wonder if we really experience it very much.

See, fellowship is NOT just hanging out or being in the same room with Christian. And fellowship is NOT just showing up for church events

No, fellowship is something that is marked by the presence of a deep love, along with a concern and closeness among the people of God.

In other words, real fellowship moves far beyond the superficial.

Fellowship is inter-connectedness…“life on life”…. and sometimes, much too our dismay, this means that fellowship can feel a bit intrusive along with being a bit messy!

This can be tough for us if we have a strong pull toward relational independence and a pursuit of all things in our life being orderly  and sanitized.

Remember the story from Luke 10 about the Good Samaritan and the man who was left robbed, beaten and left for dead on the roadside?

If you recall, prior to the man being assisted by the Samaritan, two people came across the man.

And do you remember what they did?

They avoided the situation! They didn’t want to risk involvement!

But, thanks to the actions of the Samaritan, I believe we have a perfect picture of what real fellowship looks like.

The Samaritan dared to get down into the nitty-gritty of life. He took a risk.

In our current culture, as much as we may seem connected to one another, most of our interactions are either superficial or technological.

The reality is that we are highly independent and oft-times isolated from one another.

Real community happens when we come together, based on our commonality in Christ and the under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and tend to the matters of spiritual care, compassion and comfort.

Fellowship always has the end goal of seeing believers draw closer to God and developing in spiritual growth.

Yet, I wonder…for all our gatherings and times of connection with other believers, how often do these types of things happen?

We may talk about the weather, the big game, shopping, vacations, politics…on and on…but perhaps very little prayer takes and very little discussion about our walk with God occurs.

Why don’t we go deeper into fellowship with one another? Why do we struggle risking community?

Here are three potential reasons:

  • We’re afraid – Is it safe to open up my life to others?
  • We’re prideful – fellowship sometimes means admitting we have needs!
  • We’re selfish – A key component to the idea of fellowship is sharing…which sometimes we just don’t want to do!

Let’s be honest: living in Christian community isn’t always easy.

Perhaps this is why D.L. Moody said this:

“It may not be an easy thing to live in sweet fellowship with all those with whom we come in contact; but that is what the grace of God is given to us for.”

When it comes to community, may we trust in God’s grace to fill in the gaps of our fears, our pride or our selfishness, so that we might make deeper connections with those whom God desires for us to engage.

May we risk community.

 

 

 

Prodigals

A prodigal is a person who veers their life away from an intimate relationship with God and instead pours their time, money and attention into the pursuit of their own pride and pleasure.

A prodigal is described in the dictionary as “a licentious, dissolute person.” Words associated with a prodigal include terms like “wasteful,” “imprudent” and “debauched.”

To one degree or another, a prodigal is of the mindset that living life on his or her own terms is better than living life under God’s direction and influence.

One of the most famous stories in the Bible centers around a son described as living as a prodigal.

Here’s how the story begins in Luke 15:

And Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:11-13 ESV)

In these three verses much is revealed about the mentality of the younger son.

First the son dares to ask his father for his inheritance while the father is still living. Imagine how this must have made the father feel. It was as if the son was saying, “Dad, I want your money, I just don’t want you!”

Yet the father complied. And not soon after, the son made another bold statement: he moved far way from his father. Talk about adding insult to injury.

This is the modus operandi for most prodigals. They begin thinking selfishly and then follow up such self-absorption by distancing themselves from anyone who might call them out for their self-centeredness.

Note the son didn’t make his journey away from home to gain an education, start a new career or invest in a business. No, the son left home with one thing on his mind: party!

As for understanding the mindset of a prodigal, I find this quote quite instructive:

“It is not reason which turns the young man from God; it is the flesh. Skepticism but provides him with the excuses for the new life he is leading.”
― Aurelius Augustine

A prodigal may try to justify his actions in a way that sounds high and mighty, but the fact is he are just trying to life for satisfying self apart from God.

As a pastor, I find it sadly predictable that when someone within our church begins the “prodigal drift,” it is only a matter of time before they unfriend me on Facebook. Why? Because their postings will likely reveal a shift in their lifestyle, and they’d rather not have the pastor privy to their prodigal activities.

So what do we do with prodigals? 

First, we ought never give up on them. Jesus’ story of the prodigal son tells of how the son, after much stubbornness, finally came to his senses.  And in much humility, the son began the journey home with hopes to renegotiate his relationship with his father. That’s what we hope for with our prodigals: that they will all of a sudden figure out that their life is being wasted and damaged. One person once said, “No matter how many steps one has taken from God, it still only takes one step to get back.”

Of course, we always want to pray for them. Prodigals burden our hearts, and as the Bible instructs, we are to cast all of our cares and burdens upon Jesus. It’s always good to remember that God loves our prodigals even more than we do.

Third, we should speak truth to them. If our loved one is acting foolishly, we shouldn’t be afraid to tell them so. I don’t believe this should be done is a critical or judgmental way, but more in a matter-of-fact manner. As difficult as it may be, I believe that keeping our emotions under control makes it easier for the prodigal to process our words, and in time better allows for a “coming-to-their senses” moment to occur. Also, it is key that we keep our own life on track. Don’t let a drowning prodigal pull you into the water!

Fourth, I believe we need to understand the path every prodigal needs to take. Ed Cole writes that “the pattern of the prodigal is this: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration.” We understand the first two components (and they break our heart). But to see a prodigal truly get back on a level path, the application of the last three – repentance, reconciliation and restoration – are key. They lay the groundwork for a more successful future. We must put effort into seeing each step realized in the prodigal’s journey.

Finally, we want to be there for them for that time when they are ready to return from living life as a prodigal. In Jesus’ story, perhaps no picture is more striking than the father rushing out to the road to meet his humbled son. Jesus paints a picture of a man who has constantly been looking out the front window with hopes that his confused son might one day make his way home. One of the best things a prodigal can hear is this: “I don’t agree with how you are living, but know this: I love you, and when you are done fooling around, I will be here.” And when they do give up the prodigal life, we need to make good on that promise.

Think about it: isn’t that how God treats us?

Relationally, God is the steady constant. We are the ones who careen back and forth. There are times when we lean in and faithfully abide with Jesus. And there are other times when we drift, led much more by our flesh than the indwelling spirit.

As much as we may feel like we don’t understand our prodigal, the reality is that we have much in common with them. Spiritually, everyone must experience a moment of coming home. It’s that time when we first came to Jesus. We looked at our life and realized that being in the loving, protective arms of God was far better than holding on to the scraps of our sin.

One last thought:

If you love a prodigal, please know that you are not alone.

Watching other families can be painful. Although everyone has their issues, Sunday mornings usually bring out the best in families…at least on the surface. Parents of prodigals often feel as if they are alone, that no one else can relate or understand.

But parents and friends with prodigals are much more common than we may think.

They fill our seats every Sunday.

May God place it upon the heart of every Christian to minister to those who feel the pain and burden of loving a prodigal. And may we love and pray for those who have drifted away from Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Best or Worst, These are OUR Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

That’s the opening line to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

This classic novel, rooted in the years leading up to the French revolution, describes a time in France’s history when, depending on where you found yourself in the social strata, you might see the glass half-full or half-empty.

Dickens continued to build on the idea of cultural contrast as he filled out the last paragraph:

“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

When you think about Dickens’ opening line, and you hold it up to our current culture, which sentiment do you lean more toward? Is it the best of times…or the worst?

Depending on who you ask, the times we live in can be viewed by some as being really great, while others might describe them as really terrible.

It’s true – culturally we are in many ways taking a turn for the worse.

I do believe that we are a society that is heavy-laden with all sorts of issues that seemingly have us going in a “self-destructive” direction.

We are trying to live in ways that we simply weren’t designed to live. This includes the areas of ethics, morals, relationships, sexuality, vocation, technology, and even our ideas about recreation.

It’s as if our culture is trying to take every piece of God’s wise guidance and life-giving direction and do the exact opposite. It’s a day and age of pride, anarchy, selfishness and spiritual emptiness dominate the landscape.

Such feelings about the sorry state of culture are nothing new. Sometime take a spin through Psalm 73 and discover how a man named Asaph found himself dangerously distraught because he saw so much cultural degradation.

If there was a verse that I feel that so speaks to our current culture, its this statement of Jesus found in Mark 8:36:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Yes, there is reason to look at our current culture with disappointment.

The temptation is to simply languish and lament a world on the downturn.

But I think that would be a mistake.

Because (dare I say) we also live in times of great opportunity.

The reality is that the culture, although it can get worse, ultimately cannot sustain itself.

Just on the other side of all the sin is a lot of pain, disillusionment and hopelessness.

Which is fertile soil for the Gospel.

After experiencing a life reduced to rubble, who doesn’t want to hear about a path to redemption and restoration?

Here’s the thing we’ve got to keep in mind: the Gospel does everything that sin cannot. It offers true peace, true hope and true purpose.

When it comes to our current culture and our responsibility to share and model the Gospel, we don’t have to worry about job security, do we? There is so much confusion and chaos happening all around us, yet we as believers hold the answers to help people find clarity and order.

So I get it…when we watch the news, read the paper or scroll through our Facebook feed, we may be tempted to bemoan, complain or simply feel bone-tired from thinking about our ever-changing culture

But at the same time, it is this culture that is going to provide for us more and more opportunities to explain the Gospel  when people begin scraping the bottom.

In trying to strike a proper balance, I like what Russel Moore wrote in his book ONWARD:

“To rail against the culture is to say to God that we are entitled to a better mission field than the one he has given us. At the same time, if we simply dissolve into the culture around us, or refuse to leave untroubled the questions the culture deems too sensitive to ask, we are not on mission at all.” 

Best or worst, this is our time. This is the culture in which we live. This is our mission field.

And what about our leader? What does Jesus say about a culture fraught with sin, pain and disillusionment?

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35 ESV)

Maybe that’s the problem. When times get tough we have a tendency to look down.

But Jesus exhorts us to lift up our eyes and see the opportunities that lie right before us.