The Way To Gain Influence

We don’t always have the opportunity to share the gospel directly with those we love, live around or work with. But we can still exert a godly influence.

I’m stirred by this quote by Tim Keller, commenting on God’s command to Israel to seek the welfare of Babylon when they had been taken captive:

?For you,? God says, ?the route to gaining influence is not taking power. Influence gained through power and control doesn?t really change society; it doesn?t change hearts. I?m calling you to a totally different approach. Be so sacrificially loving that the people around you, who don?t believe what you believe, will soon be unable to imagine the place without you. They?ll trust you because they see that you?re not only out for yourself, but out for them, too. When they voluntarily begin to look up to you because of the attractiveness of your service and love, you?ll have real influence.” — Tim Keller, King’s Cross

Here are some questions this quote raises:

  • How am I seeking to serve or bless my neighbors, co-workers, or unbelieving children?
  • Would the unbelievers in my life see that I’m truly “out for them” – that I have their interests at heart?
  • Would my non-Christian friends say I was “sacrificially loving?”
  • What sacrifices can I make for unbelievers?
  • How is my church sacrificially serving our community?
  • What are some ways we can do that?

What questions would you add?

Win A Copy Of “Note To Self” By Joe Thorn

Today I want to give away three copies of a new book that I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about. That book is called Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. This is a short book that packs a punch. If you don’t have much time to read, the 2-3 page chapters are perfect for you.

Here is how the book is described:

We need good preaching?preaching that challenges us by God?s Word and brings the comfort that comes from God?s promises. Yet many of us rely solely on others to preach to us and are not benefitting from the kind of preaching that should be most consistent and personal?preaching to ourselves.

Note to Self is a practical introduction to this daily discipline. Pastor Joe Thorn delivers fifty brief, devotional chapters that model preaching the gospel to ourselves and its practical implications. Readers will be challenged by the book?s direct, personal exhortations to apply the law and the gospel to their own lives.

To win a copy of the book, use the form below: (note RSS and email readers need to click through to the actual post). The giveaway ends on Monday.

Aging Is Humbling

Here’s my favorite comedian, Brian Regan with some observations on getting older.? And he’s not even old…

I think I’m going to get one of those Sonic Ear thingies…

What To Do When God’s Word Doesn’t Give Answers

I’m a kind of guy who likes answers. I don’t like ambiguity or gray areas. When I get sick, I want to know exactly what I have, which sometimes leads to me getting on WebMD and trying to do self-diagnosis. Getting on WebMD and looking up my symptoms is never helpful though. I always come away feeling confused and thinking that I either have a cold, liver failure, or some rare form of nasal cancer. But I keep going back because I want answers.

Sometimes I treat the Bible like the Internet, as if the Bible is God’s big book of answers. And that often presents a problem, because on a lot of issues, the Bible is silent. God doesn’t tell me exactly how election and free will work together. He tells me that he is perfectly just, but he doesn’t tell me how he will be just with people who haven’t heard the gospel. He tells me that he works all suffering for good, but he doesn’t take me behind the scenes to show me exactly how everything is working for good.

So what should I do when I have questions that God doesn’t answer? I find the words of John Calvin helpful here:

Let us use great caution that neither our thoughts nor our speech go beyond the limits to which the Word of God itself extends. For how can the human mind measure off the measureless essence of God according to its own little measure…? Let us then willingly leave to God the knowledge of himself. But we shall be “leaving it to him” if we conceive him to be as he reveals himself to us, without inquiring about him elsewhere than from his Word. And let us not take it into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than in his sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from his Word. (Quoted in “Historical Theology”, pg. 155)

In other words, I need to let God be God. When he is silent on an issue, I need to be okay with that and not look for answers elsewhere. I need to shut my mouth, marvel at his glory, and humbly submit to him.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know…

My son David and his wife Sarah just had their first child 2 days ago.

All the love of which they are humanly capable is focused on that beautiful little girl. ?They are devoting all their thoughts, affections, strength and energy to caring for her. ?They would do anything for her. ?As she lies cradled in her father?s arms, swaddled in her blanket, wearing her little stocking cap, she?s completely unaware of the intense love he and her mother have for her.

It?s a faint picture of the love of Christ for those he redeemed.

“…And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Ga 2.20).

What a sweet thing to be able to say – ?who loved me and gave himself for me.?

It?s easy for me believe that Jesus loves others. ?But it?s astounding to think he loves me. He doesn?t simply look upon his people as a massive faceless crowd, but he loves each and every one of us for whom he shed his blood. ?He loved and gave himself for ?me.? ?And he continues to love ?me.”

The One who created, named and sustains each individual star in the heavens won?t forget you (Isaiah 40:26-27). ?The One who loved you and gave himself for you personally when you were a rebel, continues to love you personally as one of his children.

Jesus is the great Shepherd who left the 99 to bring home the one lost sheep.
When he walked the earth he cared for individuals – the woman at the well, the paralytic by the pool, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery. ?He touched and healed individuals. ?He didn?t wave his hand over the crowds and heal en masse, but touched a leper, took a little girl by the hand, took individual children in his arms and blessed them.

Jesus? ears are open to your cry. ?He hears every one of your sighs. ?He loved you and gave himself for you. ?How will he not sustain you and care for you?

Throughout the day today, say, ?Jesus, thank you that you loved me and gave yourself for me. Thank you that your steadfast love for me never ceases.?

photo: my granddaughter’s footprints

The Kid With Giant Ears and a Snake Around His Neck

I’ll admit, I had to resist the temptation to do a double take when I first saw him.

This past Sunday night, my daughter Ella and I were taking a walk before dinner. Ella is getting teeth right now, which means that she is in constant rampage mode, and I needed to get her out of the house so that Jen could make dinner.

As we were walking, I saw three young guys headed toward us. Two of the guys looked relatively normal, but the third one caught my attention right away. He had huge, white discs, easily the width of a tea cup, jammed into holes in his ears. The only other people I’ve seen with their ears gauged that large are Amazon or African tribesman. It was a weird look.

He also was covered in tattoos and his face had various bits of metal sticking out of it. But here was the kicker: he had a live snake wrapped around his neck.

When I walked past him, my first thought was, “Now there’s a person trying to get attention, and I’m not going to give it to him.” Yeah, I know. Call me “Captain Kindness and Charitable Judgment”.

Immediately after passing the trio, my next thought was, “I should have invited those guys to church!” The first thought was from my judgmental heart. The second thought was from the Holy Spirit, who loves sinners. So I said a quick prayer, asking God to let me pass by those guys again so that I could invite them to church.

Now you need to understand something about me. When it comes to the whole boldness in evangelism thing, I stink. I really struggle with the fear of man. Some people can go into Starbuck’s, start talking to the barista (technical term meaning “one who pours coffee), and the next thing you know, the barista is saying the sinner’s prayer. That’s not me. So it was a clearly God working in me that I would want to invite these guys to church.

And wouldn’t you know it, five minutes later I saw the snake handling trio rounding the block about twenty yards in front of me. How do you start a conversation with a guy who has a snake wrapped around his neck? Do you say, “Hey! Nice snake!” Sounds kind of weird, right? So, not knowing what to say, I yelled out, “Yo, what kind of snake is that?”

He turned around and informed me that it was a python. We made small talk for a few moments, during which he informed me that he feeds live mice to the snake. Then I summoned my courage and invited all three of the guys to church. They politely thanked me and we went our separate ways. It was a small victory for me.

I don’t know if any of those guys will come to church, but I sure hope they do. Jesus loved hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors, and I think he would probably enjoy hanging out with those guys as well. And I know that my church would welcome them too.

Maybe he could leave his snake at home though…

Now This Is A Cool Church!!!

I want to go to this church sometime. This is how it is described:

Perhaps one of the most remarkable sights in France, a chapel perched on a volcanic plug. This is the Rock of Aiguilhe, on the edge of the town of Puy en Velay, in the Auvergne. The Chapelle Saint-Michel has stood there for 1042 years, since Bishop Gothescalk had it built in 962 on his return from a pilgrimage to Santiago del Compostella in Galicia. In 1955 workers found relics under the alter that had been there since it was built.

(via Bored Panda)