Silent Gospel

 

Forgotten. That one word would terrify most of us. While there are many longings of the human heart, the ones of being needed and important reign supreme. The fact is that we all desperately want to leave a legacy, an imprint on those around us. We want to leave one that is so deep that if we were gone, we would be the topic of everyone's conversation. We would be trending on twitter. There is obviously many mega themes throughout the Scriptures, but one that will make that wanted imprint indelible is to humbly love the needy and helpless. Actually, this one issue is a measuring stick of whether we are genuine God-followers or just coldly religious.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

One book that has greatly challenged my perspective and my heart on this theme is a one called,“The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns. In the book Stearns explores Jesus' call to love our neighbors and shows us how to use our time, talents, and money to heal a broken world. While there are countless ‘stop and check your heart’ quotes, I will highlight just a few in this post. (found in red)

1. “When we say we want to be His disciple, yet attach a list of conditions, Jesus refuses to accept our terms. His terms involve total surrender”.

Ouch. This goes contrary to the current culture of ‘me first’. The call of Jesus goes beyond what is comfortable, easy, and humanly possible for us. God wants us to live above all that or else we are attempting to steal glory from Him.

2. “Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything… If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”

3. “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just” Abraham Lincoln

There is no kindness too menial, and no gift too small in reaching out to those marginalized by a life of tough knocks. A giant bank account is nice, but God never calls us to save all we have for a possible future need. Whatever we have right now is what He is asking for us to use. If it is small, then it is still sufficient.

4. “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic [malicious] words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”

5. “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” Martin Luther King Jr.

6. “the rich man did not abuse Lazarus, didn't beat him or mistreat him; He simply ignored him, passing by him, day by day, with indifference… he was aware of the beggars plight, had the power to relieve his suffering– yet chose to do nothing… all too many [in the church] have been.. more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stain-glass windows.”

The biggest travesty of the church may not be that we did too little, but that we did nothing. Too many of us have so drown ourselves in technology, debt, and frivolous possessions that if a starving person was laying in our path to work, we would have to pat him on the back and tell him that help is on the way. And it is not just a resource problem, it boils down to a cold heart issue. Honestly we just don’t care. Try saying that out loud where you are right now. Go ahead. ‘I don’t care’. It is almost as difficult as saying ‘I am sorry’ right? Sometimes the truth hurts.

“I'd like to ask God why He allows hunger.. Injustice when He could do something about it.. But I'm afraid He'll ask me the same thing”

Oh boy. Is that not the truth? While we may wonder how a God of love could stand aside while people die of hunger and disease, we are walking on paper-thin ice. Everyday we could do something for someone in need. We would not have to venture on a plane trip to Africa or Papua New Guinea. We could go on a simple 15-20 minute ride to our closest town or city. We are so insulated that we think we only see such needs on the Nightly News or in National Geographic. God must wonder how we could see the need, and simply do nothing. And in doing nothing, we make the gospel a little more distant to those looking for love and God.

One last quote from the book. It is how I want to close. It stings me because I am guilty. I want to see people come to Jesus. I never want to be a cause of someone not coming to Christ. The distaste of our lack of compassion can really sting. This is how Mohandas Gandhi said it. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Maybe we just need to slow down enough to be able to notice the most obvious needs of people.. Maybe its not a homeless man, or a starving orphan. It could be a co-worker, a neighbor, or a person that sat in your pew last Sunday. In being more aware, we give the gospel some context in their life.

Join me on www.goodreads.com to find what your friends are reading and what the a book is all about!

 

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Book: Defining Moments

One of those “in your face” books that I read recently was one called Defining Moments by Dan Schaeffer.

Defining Moments, those times when temptation and opportunity meet, are those instants in our ordinary days where we can make or break everything we have worked to build. Our character will be authenticated or mutilated, depending on our split second decisions.

These moments come without warning, but not without preparation. We actually can develop the character to do the right thing, even in the most stressful of temptations, in the quiet and unassuming little choices we make every day. These moments reveal our character. They define our legacy.

For me, this book was a goldmine of quotable thoughts. I have many times retreated back to my notepad to reread and be challenged in my faith. Although you may not get the whole context for each quote, I believe you will see why I was challenged.

Enter Defining Moments!

  • “One morning you wake up, totally unaware that today you will make a decision that will define your life for years to come/ perhaps forever. If you had known this moment was approaching, you would have prepared for it. But you didn't. Such moments will cast us in either a positive or negative light. We can be defined as much by noble actions and words as by tragic ones. George Washington was defined as much by his valor and fortitude at Valley Forge as Napoleon was by his overreaching ego at Waterloo. 'Each of us will experience moments that are far more important than all the others. In these moments we will say or do something because such behavior has become second nature to us. But the consequences will be drastically different. This one act may become a permanent 1 snapshot of our lives that we will be unable to erase. When others look at us/ that action, those words/ that one moment/ will dominate their thoughts. It will be come our defining moment.”
  • “If not dealt with properly, a single weak character trait can have a negative effect on the rest of our lives” (page 32)
  • “Character flaws are like weeds they grow faster when there are ignored and become increasingly difficult to pull out.” (page 32)
  • “Faith is not a blind leap as much as a small step of obedience.” (Page 53)
  • “Pain plants a flag of reality in the heart of a rebel fortress” (page 55)
  • “A fatal attraction is something we find ourselves drawn to that we know is dangerous and sinful, yet we have convinced ourselves that it is safe for us” (page 67)
  • “this was not a momentary character lapse for Achan, but the natural result of a fatal attraction he had nurtured… Unfortunately, it was an attraction needing only the right opportunity— a defining moment– to prove his undoing.” (page 67)
  • “There is [hidden] within all of us a fatal attraction. We may ignore it, assuring ourselves that we have it under control… Often we mistake the lack of opportunity with self-control, but… In the mercy of God we may never have been exposed to the right opportunity” (page 68)
  • “…unaddressed passions within us… Do not remain dormant; they will demand attention, and we must either deny them— sending them back into the shadows— or feed them, making them stronger still.” (page 69)
  • “An unaddressed perverted passion had grown too strong for Achan to control.” (page 69)
  • “an unaddressed passion will slowly but surely deaden us to God's Word and work in our lives. We begin to tune out God's voice because it will present an unwanted obstacle to our sin, and we don't want our sin challenged; we want it fulfilled” (page 70)
  • “We wander away from faith.. It is a slow defection rather than an abrupt departure” (page 71)
  • “a fatal attraction stimulates the growth of other sins within us” (page 72)
  • “a fatal attraction blinds us to encroaching danger” (page 73)
  • “Achan obviously had the will to sin, he lacked only the opportunity” (page 73)
  • “Rather than like Achan's process; I saw, I coveted, I took, I bid.. May our legacy be; I saw, I was tempted, I resisted, I escaped. (page 77)
  • “Wealth is an attitude revealed in priorities, not the size of a portfolio” (page 90)
  • “Ananias and Sapphira craved a reputation [of self sacrifice] that they did not deserve.. They tried to gain a good reputation at a discount” (page 102)

In closing the most challenging quotes from this book, I close with one final thought from Defining Moments.

  • Senator Dan Coates said “Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life or even a nation, is those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. Habit is the daily battleground of character”

Reading this book rekindled a healthy fear of sin and its sneaky tactics to take me down. It renewed a desire to be able to claim what Paul cried out in his letter to Timothy: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Are you ready for your Defining Moment?

 

Bullied By Books

I have a confession. I beat a couple kids up. While they were a couple years apart, they both got nasty with my sister and BAM. Bloody noses. Before everyone lines up for autographs, or calls child protective, I was in second and fourth grades. Neither of my opponents got a punch in. If they had, I wouldn't be typing this. I struggled to fill my 28 slim pants till I was a junior in high school.

Although I won both of those scuffles, I have lost countless other encounters with a convicting book. I have been mugged by conviction. I have been blindsided by a new perspective. I have had the wind knocked out by a new slant to a passage of Scripture. Have you had that experience lately?

While books can be a source of great wisdom and spiritual challenge, the powerful lessons can be quickly lost in the craziness of life. Having a drive for organization motivated me to eliminate this problem. In light of that, I developed a habit of digitally journalling the zinger quotes I discover in the books I read on my IPhone. Whether digital or in a paper journal is not the point. Easy access to these resources is the idea. With this simple concept I don't have to have my whole library with me, just my smartphone or tablet. I don't have to be in my office where all my books are shelved. I don't have to flip through thousands of pages, just a few scrolls of the touch screen.

For me, these logged nuggets of inspiration have now become a part of my Legacy Journal that I keep, and will leave to my family one day. At some point, I will share about that journal too. This has become a priceless resource of some of the greatest thoughts and challenges that have had a part in my spiritual maturity.

I plan to have some entries in this blog sharing some of my favorite books and their power- packed quotes. Maybe you will consider beginning a journal for the books you read. You'll find it to be a rich means to initiate extended times of meditation.

In the meantime, when is the last time you got into a good scuffle.. with a book?

 

Book Allergies?

When I was in junior high, you couldn't bribe, pay, trick, or guilt me into reading. It was like telling a five year old boy to take a bath. One teacher handed out a summer reading schedule.. That was funnier than the Sunday comics. Read? In the summer? Not a chance.

Since then I have discovered the wealth there is in good books. I now believer that the poorest people are those that make no time to read.. Especially the Bible. Jesus asked a very sharp question of the religious people in his day. He looked them in the eye and asked (in our terms), “You mean you have not read about this?” (Matthew 12:3,5). Ouch! There is no way to know God outside of the Bible. Peter reminds us that all our spiritual growth hinges on our involvement in God’s timeless Book!

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

The truth is…

  • A casual reading of the Bible will only give minimal reward.
  • An occasion reading of the Bible will only give minimal desire for it.

While God’s Word is the irreplaceable, supreme, and unrivaled goldmine of wisdom, there are also books that can open the world to us and change our lives. Paul recognized this too. While trapped in the Mamertine prison in Rome, he wrote a note to Timothy and asked him to bring the Scriptures AND some books for him to read when he visited.

2 Timothy 4:13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee,and the books, but especially the parchments.

Charles “Tremendous” Jones, one of the biggest Christian promoters of reading good books in last century once said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

I plan to share highlights from some of the books I am reading or have read in some blog entries soon.

Don’t be trapped in the bubble of your experience. There is wisdom to be found in books. If you want to find some good books to read based on recommendations, start a membership with “goodreads”. You can do it online or on an app on your smartphone or tablet. It's easy and you can see the great “reads” your friends are recommending and why.

Let’s strive to NEVER have God ask us, “You mean you have not read?”