Tag Archives: ravi zacharias

How to talk about God (and how not to)

26 Oct

Image result for conversationA friend of mine was at Park City, the big mall here in Lancaster, at a department store jewelry counter.  Just down the counter stood a couple girls looking at crosses.  One of them wanted to get a cross necklace.  My friend overheard one girl say to the other, “Oh look, this one has a little man on it.”

It was a moment of awareness for the girl (some crosses have a little man on them), but much more so for my friend. He knew that some crosses have little men on them. They’re called crucifixes, and they are depicting Jesus on the cross.  For my friend, this was a moment of awareness for a different reason.  It was an “aha!” moment that our culture has moved farther and farther away from an understanding of the Gospel.  Years ago you could assume that most everyone knew about Jesus.  No more.  It is highly likely that at least some of your neighbors and co-workers have no idea what the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone is all about.

During the month of October at Faith Church we’re talking about the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation because this month marks the 500th anniversary of that world-shaping era.  The Five Solas we have looked at are Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone and this week, Christ Alone.  My posts so far this week have focused on whether or not God is fair by mandating that in Christ alone is found salvation to abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven.  But I think there is something even more important than that discussion.  What could possibly be more important than that?

We know the story of Good News in Jesus. 

We can get so focused on God’s fairness to those who can’t hear the Good News.  But let us remember that we already know the story.  And here is the kicker, we also know there are people who have never heard the story. In other words, the story of Good News has a missionary impulse behind it.

That should fill our hearts with excitement.  There are people who we could share that story with.  Yes, I am talking about tribal people, and I am talking about translating the Bible in languages so people can access the story of Jesus.  Yes, I am talking about taking the Good News to Muslims.

Maybe you would take a step of faith and seek becoming a missionary yourself. We have a story of amazing Good News to tell, and perhaps God is calling you to step out in faith and take the Good News to people who might otherwise not be able to hear. Maybe it is a one-week trip.  Maybe it is a one-day trip.  It doesn’t have to be to a jungle tribe or a Muslim country, but it could be.  It also could be to an city neighborhood.

It could also be right here in Lancaster.  It could be in the community where you live. I am talking about sharing the story of Good News of Christ Alone with our neighbors and friends.  We have a message of incredibly good news, but are we sharing it?

Imagine that vasts deposits of gold were discovered underneath your neighborhood.  A mining company wanted to purchase the rights to dig deep under your property, as they did with all the other properties in your neighborhood.  All the neighbors are so excited, getting huge sums of money by selling digging rights, paying off their debts, helping those in need, and even purchasing new vehicles or upgrades to their homes.  Now imagine if no one told you about the gold or the lucrative digging rights.  How would you feel if many of your neighbors were walking around in newness of life, while you were left in the dark?

Not everyone will agree that what we think is good news is good news to them.  We Christians (and especially evangelicals are guilty of this) have been too quick to try to force feed our good news to anyone and everyone.  Years ago I worked in an office with cubicles, and if you have ever worked in cubicles, you know that everyone in the cubicle grid can hear what everyone else is saying.  No privacy on the phone.  No privacy in cubicle to cubicle conversations.  No privacy on what music is being played.  People didn’t even try for privacy.  You would sit at your desk working on your computer, and if you wanted to talk to a person four cubicles down, you just started talking to them.  Everyone else could hear.  I tended to play lots of music, but at one point I started listening to podcasts from one of my favorite speakers, Ravi Zacharias.  That dude is incredibly smart and engaging.  I encourage everyone to listen to him, just because he is so interesting, and also because he is perhaps, in our era, one of the best communicators of Good News.  I remembering playing his lectures, and playing them loud.  There was no doubt other people in my cubicle grid could hear them.  But did they want to?  I was not so subtly attempting to share the Good News with them.  One day, after hearing what I considered to be a particularly compelling lecture by Ravi Zacharias, I said out loud, knowing exactly what I was doing, “Anyone who doesn’t believe that would have to be stupid!”

I’m sad to admit that I had what I considered (and still do) very good news, but I was trying to shove it down my co-workers’ throats.  Jesus once called that trying to feed pearls to swine.  In other words, though it is valuable to me, it won’t nourish the people.  I took good news and turned it into something offensive.

My point in sharing these stories is that too often we have either kept the Good News to ourselves, which leaves people wondering if we really care about them, or we have tried to abruptly force it on people, turning it into bad news.  And that is so sad, because the good news of salvation in Christ alone is actually really, really wonderful.

The message of Solus Christus, salvation in Christ Alone, is a message that God is love – more loving than we could ever imagine. It is a message that God is just – fairer than we could ever imagine.

God’s love is so clearly seen in Christ. Consider these verses:

  • John 3:16 says it so well, and that’s why it might be the most famous verse of the Bible: “For God so loved the World that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 says that “God desires all men to be saved.”  Doesn’t mean they all will choose him. But that is the scope of God’s heart of love.  The whole world!
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  Again, not all will repent.  But God wants all to repent.

God loves all, and he has gone to such great lengths to show that love in Christ alone.  The story of Jesus is a story of incredibly good news.

You know what that means?  Let us not be silent!  Let us share the story of Jesus with gracious gusto so that all may know. If you are thinking, “Yeah, I have people in my life that need Jesus.  And I want to share the story of good news in Jesus with them.  But I don’t know what to say or how to say it.”  Or maybe it feels a bit scary or awkward, and you don’t want to be offensive.  If you feel that way, please don’t keep that to yourself.  Talk about it.  I know that I myself often feel guilty or like a failure, thinking that I could do so much more to share the good news about Jesus to my friends and neighbors.

To rectify this situation, one very practical step I would encourage you to take is to begin praying for the people that God has placed around you.  Pray that God would break your heart for the spiritual lives of those around you. Ask yourself whether you have a callous heart when it comes to the salvation from sin of the people in your life.  If so, ask God to break your heart.  Pray for a tender heart.  Finally, pray for God to give you opportunities to share about Solus Christus.

We had a wonderful training here Saturday a week ago.  It was discipleship training, but it was all about the outreach part of discipleship.  Disciples reach out.  Disciples make more disciples.  Disciples tell the story of good news.

At the very end of the training, I was so encouraged by what some shared that God was speaking to them about being disciples who reach out.  Here were some of the comments:

  1. I want to get out of the pew and go.
  2. What neighborhood can I reach?
  3. Be yourself. I am too worried about what other people will think.
  4. I want to make time to walk the neighborhood.
  5. Wait for God’s timing.

Who are you praying for?  What will it look like for you to reach out to them with the love of Christ?

Mug, Magazine, Brochure, CDs – The Monday Messy Office Report – May 12, 2014

13 May

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found:

1. Coffee mug half filled with coffee. I have a suspicion about why this was on my counter because it looked a lot like the half-filled cups of coffee that are frequently on our kitchen counters at home…

books-and-culture_200707102. Books & Culture. When I graduated from Bible college, the academic dean at the time, Bob Willey, also one of my favorite professors, got all of us graduates a trial subscription to Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and one other magazine.  I’ll never forget him telling us that college grads have a horrible reputation for barely ever picking up a book and reading it after college.  I wonder what the stats are today.  At any rate, I am super grateful for that word of encouragement from Dr. Willey.  I never did get a subscription to one of those magazines, but he definitely piqued my interested. A few years later my uncle Jim Ohlson highly recommended Books & Culture, and offered to get me a subscription.  I was delighted and have been a subscriber ever since.  I have a large stack of B & C issues on one of my bookshelves in my office.  The issue in the bottom of the pile is July/August 2002.  Here’s why I love B & C: it takes me places I would never otherwise go.  Every single issue is like a rollicking romp around the world, through the lens of academic reviews of books (primarily) and other cultural artifacts.  The current issue (May/June 2014), for example, has articles about the recent movie about Noah, and loads of books about such varied topics as the “Secret Gospel of Mark”, young Catholic America, Protest England, and the countries of India, Guatemala, and various places in Africa.  Not to mention the topics of death, public schools, Jimmy Carter, and more.  See what I mean?  But let me say this, most of the articles are not easy sledding.  I am regularly challenged just to comprehend them.  Frequently, however, I my mind is expanded by what I read, and I’m thankful I stuck with it.  I haven’t read every issue cover-to-cover, but I come close.  Go to booksandculture.com and you’ll see what I mean.

3. All Pro Dad brochure – This past week our younger kids’ elementary held its second All Pro Dads breakfast.  Actually, I should clarify: I don’t know how much the elementary school was responsible for organizing the event, but the principle and a couple teachers are very involved.  I have been very impressed with it’s powerful, yet simple approach.  A whole bunch of dads and their kids meet in the school cafeteria to eat breakfast and talk. There is almost no program.  Just a brief, guided discussion.  I told a brochure called “10 Ways To Be An All Pro Dad” and brought it to my office.  Here are a couple of the ideas: “Love your wife” and “Eat together as a family”.  I’m excited for the continuation of All Pro Dads breakfasts in the fall.  If your kids go to Smoketown Elementary, I hope you’ll join us.  Or maybe you’ll check out the website to learn about starting a chapter at your kids’ school.

jesus among other gods4. Sermon CDs – Last week I did some cleaning in my office, as there were a few items that had been in here for years that I never, or rarely used.  For example, I had a CD rack.  As you are aware, CDs are not as popular as they used to be.  I remember see my first CD player at a friend’s house around my junior year of highschool.  1990-91 or so. His player had a clear plastic lid so you could see the disc spinning super-fast.  I remember thinking how improbably that something spinner that fast could result in a clear, crisp sound.  So last week I got rid of the CD rack.  It was mostly filled with discs that had photos, denominational info and videos, Bible software, etc.  I did find a bunch of sermon CDs too.  I stacked them in one of my cabinets, except for two which I took to my car to listen to. The one is by Frank Viola about the simple church, which I don’t remember having ever listened to.  The other is by Ravi Zacharias from Urbana 1993, which I have listened to around 100 times.  I was there in person when Ravi gave the sermon, as a group of us from Bible college had traveled to the conference. There were many speakers that week, some good, some bad.  Ravi’s message, entitled “Jesus Among Other Gods”, was a heads above the rest.  In 2000 he published a book by the same title.  I had never heard of him before, and by the end of the sermon, we didn’t want him to stop.  If you want to borrow it, I’d be glad to share it with you. Dr. Zacharias’ combination of intellect, passion, storytelling and humor is amazing.  Learn more about him here.

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!

Big Name Preachers we love!

17 Jan

So who is your favorite Big Name Preacher???

Do you listen to any Big Name Preachers (BNPs) on TV?  Radio?  Online?  Podcasts?

I hear people talking about Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Beth Moore and Charles Stanley.  A lot people have said they really like his son, Andy, too.  Who do you like?  I recently heard of a BNP called Bishop Noel Jones, and I checked out a sermon online…wow!  It was great.  I found this list of the 25 most influential BNPs of the last 25 years.  How could I forget Billy Graham?  He’s the biggest BNP of all.  When I first became pastor, and we were having the church’s outdoor sign changed to reflect the pastoral change, I thought it might be fun to put Billy Graham’s name on there!  In the end we decided not to include a name.  I’m not a BNP, but I sure do like some of them.

I used to listen to the Mars Hill Podcast faithfully.  NOT the one in Seattle, mind you, where you where BNP Mark Driscoll preaches.  I can’t stand Driscoll.  Maybe we should also discuss the BNPs we don’t like!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  But I love Rob Bell, the guy who preached most of the time on the Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) podcast a couple years ago.  There were a lot of weeks that he was not preaching, and that kinda bugged me.  But one time, he preached the whole sermon while people were up on stage building with Legos!  Awesome.  I was so disappointed when he left Mars Hill Grand Rapids!.  So I don’t listen to that podcast anymore.

I also LOVE Ravi Zacharias.  I first heard him preach at Urbana in 1993, and I was blown away.  Pretty much all the other BNPs there were crap, but Ravi…wow.  We were hanging on his every word, and when he was done, we wanted him to continue.  Forget the other preachers and music…get Ravi back on rocking the pulpit.  So I got a copy of that message, and I bet you I have listened to it at least 100 times.  I’ve heard him preach a few more times in person since, and I have listened to tons of his sermons online.  He is the bomb.  He brings it.  He nails it.

So I guess you could say I am of Rob Bell and Ravi Zacharias.

Which BNPS are you of?

PS – Ever heard of Apollos? Cephas?  I heard some people really liked those BNPs too.  More about that on Sunday!  Join us at Faith Church for more on BNPs.