Responding with Grace to Everyone

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Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:5-6).

It’s not just enough to know the gospel, and it’s not enough just to know that our friends, our relatives, our associates, and our neighbors need Jesus. But we must walk in wisdom amongst the outsiders. Our primary interaction with our FRANs (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors) should not be on social media, where it gives an illusion to connecting with people, but be among actual people.  And when you are, may your speech be fueled by the grace of which you were saved and by which others are saved.

“Seasoned with salt”?  Yes.  In Paul’s time, salt was actively working and moving and preserving.  When we speak, we speak with an active graciousness that is winsome.  We shouldn’t talk in a fearful, apologetic, overpowering, or a boring way.  We should speak in ways that are ready to answer, but in a way that compels, not repels.

 

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Is Jesus Enough Even When the Answers Won’t Come?

We are in a chapter in our lives where we have a specific issue arising in our family, and are hoping for answers, but they just aren’t coming at this point. We consult experts, we pray, we search, we seek advice, but no answers yet. They haven’t come. Sure, experts and wanna-be experts speculate, but speculation doesn’t help nor cure.

Even the most spiritually mature struggle in this area. Questions arise as to how matters came to this point. It’s here I think of Job.

Though Job did all he was supposed to do, trials arose when his possessions, his family, and his health left him (Job 1-2). We know the reasons why: Satan sought to take away God’s primacy in Job’s heart by asking God to allow these devastations to happen. Yes, God established limits as far as taking Job’s life, but God not only allowed Satan to take his family and possessions and health, but to keep his wife and his friends around.

You see, his wife thought Job would be better off dead that to go through these issues: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Job did. “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil/disaster?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). The recognition of God’s sovereignty over all things must extend to, well, all things.

His friends served him no better. Now, for seven days, they done good (as my friends used to say) by just being with him. Job, feeling comfortable in telling them exactly what was on his mind, unloaded. He wished he had never been born (3:3-10). He laments that the wicked flourish, therefore why does he (Job 3:17-18). Basically, he is asking God, “Are you just? Where are you?”

This sets off a flurry from his friends, who spend the rest of the time trying to defend the goodness and the righteousness of God, and as a result, for Job to repent of sins he committed. Until he does, he will find no relief.

I’m reading Job in a whole new light right now and see the following:

  • Our ease in life does not equal God’s favor on my life; conversely, our discomfort and affliction in this life does not mean God’s favor is removed.
  • Friends and those close to us should not feel that their job is to ultimately find the solution or understand God’s plan. Sometimes, just keeping our ears open and our mouths shut is the very best way to show friendship.
  • We cannot discount the fact that there is another level of existence that we cannot see. Job, Daniel, and the book of Revelation show us that other drama in the spiritual realm is being enacted.
  • We must realize that when the answers do not come, we must cling to Christ more, not less.

And yet, another level of understanding what it means that Jesus is enough. This does not mean that He will keep trials from happening. But He will be with us always and strengthen us during the trials.

One person one said, “You don’t realize Jesus is all there is until Jesus is all you have.”

I know Jesus is enough, even when my heart aches and hurts to the degree it does right now. Contrary to what some may say, my best life will never be now in the best of circumstances–but my best life is in the life to come when all sorrows, tears, and pain will go (Revelation 21:4).

But He is enough.

He must be!

Will You Pray for an Opportunity to Share Jesus This Week?

I don’t know about you, but missionaries are heroes of mine. Last Sunday night, Kent and Rachel McDowell came and shared about their ministry as missionaries to Russia. Maneuvering amidst a troublesome political climate, developing relationships in what they call their “sphere of influence” and what we call our FRANs (friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors), and always being ready to share the Good News of Jesus.

You see, I need to talk to missionaries frequently because they have not lost the primary purpose of their mission: to make disciples. Everything they do, every breath they breathe, every dollar they spend, every word they say or teach or preach, it all has the ultimate purpose of making hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus. The calling that Jesus gave them as disciples is enough to propel them as missionaries.

Missionaries aren’t just the professionals. When Jesus rescued us, He brought us on into his work as ones who would be His witness from our neighbors to the nations, and in our case, from Denver to the nations, helping all know that He is enough. One passage that will propel our time together is found in Colossians 4:2-6:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:2‭-‬6 ESV).‬‬

Three questions come from this, and here’s the first:

Will you pray for an opportunity to share Jesus this week? Few meaningful things happen in this life without intentionality. You don’t pay your bills without intentionally making sure you have the money, you know how much to pay, when the due date is. Even if you have it automatically withdrawn, you need to make sure you have enough money to cover it. You don’t get your homework done without intentionally doing it and doing it well. Coming to church took some intentionality: showering, putting on clothes, getting your Bibles and phones and car keys, getting in the car, etc.

So let’s realize that the same intentionality is needed for this. And it starts with prayer. We are praying for opportunities to tell people about who Jesus is, what He’s done, and what He aims to do in us. Paul writes to the Colossian church, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” The intentionality begins with prayer for you personally. Prayer increases that intentionality by making us alert to what’s around us, and more thankful for what God has done in us.

But we also pray that God would open a door for others to bring the message of hope and joy as well. That message is about what Jesus has accomplished as holy God in human form to come and rescue us and restore us to God’s original design of walking and worshiping him. Without this praying, we are not alert. Without this praying, our thank-o-meter registers very low. Without this praying, others are not covered as well.

Will you pray that opens a door for you to tell others about Jesus? Will you pray for the doors to open for others?

What a Rout Teaches Me About the Kingdom of God (Updated)

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Last night, my wife, my boys, and Katilyn went to see my Cincinnati Reds play their archrival, the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a beautiful cool evening at Great American Ball Park where we sat way up (Section 520, Row P) and could see the beautiful Ohio River over the right field wall.

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As for the game itself, it was 9-0 before I could blink– and the Cardinals won 13-3. Daniel’s favorite player, Joey Votto, hit a three-run home run that made his day, but highlights were few for the home team. We left after seven innings to beat traffic.

I started thinking about some issues as I talked with my boys during the game. Daniel is very interested in the game, but David is more interested in watching the people at the game. As seven-year-olds, most of this is new, especially the drubbing the Reds took. But lessons abounded during this game that we would do well to remember:

1. Pull for your team through the highs and lows.

David mentioned that he wasn’t having a good time because the Reds were losing. I told him that we stick with our team no matter what. In baseball terms, I haven’t abided by this. I grew up. Dodgers fan, switched to the Marlins when I got sick of keeping up with late games out West, then switched to the Reds when I got sick of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria for blowing up the team very five minutes.

Churches have highs and lows. In our consumeristic society, it’s all about us. When something doesn’t satisfy us, we bail. When we commit to a body of believers, we commit–as long as they are sticking to the Scriptures and exalting Christ in public and private.

2. Celebrate the wins.

Down 9-0, Joey Votto of the Reds, hit a three-run home run. You would have thought our boys won the World Series. They could have said, “We are still down six runs.” But, no! Their favorite player hit a home run! Fireworks went off! They were still competing!

Celebrate the wins! Someone goes on-mission, a great offering, the Word preached, a baptism, someone goes the extra mile–celebrate it! “Well, that’s only one baptism this month!” Right! Celebrate!

3. Develop community.

The Reds and Cardinal Nations are a strong union. I run into Cardinal and Reds fans in abundance in Colorado. Both were well represented last night at the ball park. Seeing thousands of fans in Reds paraphernalia extended that bond. We felt a connection.

We all were meant for community–we were never meant to be alone. We as believers share something far more significant than a ball team. We are connected by the Spirit of God in Christ into a unity that lasts into eternity. So I can go to Lexington, Cincinnati, Denver, Trinidad & Tobago, or South Africa and I have a connection with believers in Christ that is incomprehensible to the watching world. This aspect is quite attractive to the world that is filled with a cold, hard void.

[Originally written August 3, 2013.]

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