Where the Light Shines the Brightest

where the light shines the brightest (2).pngOver the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. Every year the BGCE pulls together a resource on sharing our faith to help individuals and churches prepare for Christmas during the season of Advent. I was privileged to write for that devotional this year, and I’d encourage you to check it out here.

In the Shadow of the Cloud: Jacob

Here’s an excerpt from my latest post on the life of Jacob at the Gospel Life blog, where I am a regular contributor.

1-3One of the most famous stories in the life of Jacob is the dream he has of angels ascending and descending a stairway or ladder between heaven and earth in Genesis 28. In the midst of this dream, God reaffirms to Jacob the same promises He made with Abraham and Isaac about making a great and blessed nation from Jacob and his descendants, as well as “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:14). What is ironic about this situation is that God is affirming His promises and mission for the world even as Jacob is running away from his family after stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing by deceiving his father.

If you read through Jacob’s story, you may begin to wonder whether Jacob really belongs in the roll call of faith heroes in Hebrews 11. He deceives his father, his brother, his uncle, and his neighbors. He seems bent on his own gain. He seems to avoid direct conflict even as he seems to leave conflict in his wake. He plays favorites with his wives and his children, causing great tensions between his own family members. In one sense, Jacob is a mess.

However, if we step back for perspective and get a little bit more honest, we realize that we are not that different from Jacob. Jacob’s particular sins and weaknesses may not be ours, yet we also have our particular sins and weaknesses. We may not always see them, but others probably do.

There is another story from Jacob’s life that most of us know found in Genesis 32…
[Read the rest of the post here.]

Prayer and the Holy Spirit in Evangelism

Gospel LifeAs I’ve mentioned previously, I have the great privilege of being a regular blogger at The Gospel Life blog. The most recent series of blog posts there is entitled “Leading with the Gospel,” and looks at what several writers view as essential aspects of leading a local church with an evangelistic edge. I wrote a post that appeared yesterday entitled “Prayer and the Holy Spirit,” which I’m including an excerpt from below:

When the first followers of Jesus heard His instructions that we know as the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:7-8), their immediate response was to wait in two distinct ways. Their waiting reminds us of two vital aspects of the vibrant ministry evangelism within our lives personally and for the local church.

The Importance of Waiting in Prayer
Returning from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples gather together in the upper room. It is a different upper room gathering than Jesus’ instruction before His death. Instead, it is the upper room prayer gathering where “they all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14a). Before they went out to proclaim good news, and before they went to make disciples, and before they ever left Jerusalem in the concentric circles of widening missions, the disciples simply waited before God in prayer.

As Christians, we are called to be active in our faith, including having an active proclamation of the good news in Jesus Christ. But for us today the principle is still the same: prayer precedes power in evangelism. Whether as individuals or as churches, the fuel for evangelism comes as we wait upon God in prayer.

[Read the rest of the blog post here.]

You might also enjoy reading the rest of this series of posts on “Leading with the Gospel” by authors including Lon Allison, Chris Castaldo, Paco Amador, Sam Kim, and more.

Apologetics as Evangelism

Gospel LifeIt’s a pleasure to write for The Gospel Life blog. Today, I wrote a post, “Apologetic Evangelism,” as part of their eight-part series, “What’s Your Evangelism Style.” Here’s an excerpt.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, there is a persistent question that children ask teachers, parents, grandparents, and other adult figures. It is a little one-word question that can be asked again and again: “Why?”

Now, what’s amazing about this question is that it shows how deeply curious children are about the world in which we live. The ‘why’ question is one of the primary ways children attempt to put things in the world together for understanding. A recent study showed that when adults answer a child’s ‘why’ question with a non-explanatory answer, children are more likely to ask the ‘why’ question again. For example, if a child asks, “Why do birds leave Wisconsin in winter and return in the spring?” and an adult says, “Because that’s just what happens,” then the child is much more likely to once again ask, “Why?”

The ‘why’ question is persistent for children, but also lingers around for adults. Nearly everyone has our own ‘why’ questions bouncing around in our minds about deep things of life. Some of the questions are personal, like the person this morning who posed this question to me, “Why is God punishing me through this ongoing physical pain?” Some of our questions are more general, like the college student who asked me last year, “Is it really possible for Jesus to be the only way?”

The questions people ask—in fact, the questions we share with many around us—are powerful opportunities to witness to who Jesus is. When someone shares his or her deep questions about life and God with us, he or she is opening a doorway into the deep places of his or her spiritual journey with us.

[Read the rest of the blog post here.]

Broken to Heal: a Good Friday message

Here is the complete text from my Good Friday message given yesterday at Eastbrook Church. You can view the message here.Chosen Words Series Gfx_Web Ad

The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest companions, begins his telling of Jesus’ life with profound words. John describes Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ – that perfect wisdom and revelation of God – who “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1, 2). He says Jesus was “the true light” shining “in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome” that light (1:5, 9). John even goes so far as to say that Jesus surpasses Moses in His authority as a teacher because Jesus is “the One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” (1:17, 18). These rich words show us how highly John thought about Jesus and exactly who we are dealing with when we come to the Gospels: Jesus’ timelessness, Jesus’ authority, Jesus’ wisdom, and Jesus’ divinity.

If we had never encountered the story of Jesus, it may strike us as odd when we read the following words from John nestled amidst those earlier descriptions:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory.” (1:14)

The lofty One comes into our midst in human flesh, John says, and that is a revelation of His glory. Certainly, it could be a slight surprise to hear this. The glorious Word – unstained and pure – steps into rough and tumble human experience – right where we live.

Yet that slight surprise is nothing compared to what we encounter later in John’s story: that Jesus would suffer the brutality of violent execution by human hands. This is exactly what we have heard from another early Jesus follower, Matthew, in his record of Jesus’ life read throughout the service today. It is a litany of broken human experience: Jesus’ isolated and suffering alone in prayer while His disciples fall asleep; Jesus’ betrayed by one of His own followers named Judas; Jesus arrested by Temple guards without clear accusation; Jesus facing authorities who bend justice to match their own aims, even as they stand as representatives of God; Jesus’ utter rejection by a close friend, Simon Peter; Jesus’ life exchanged for the freedom of a known murderer, Barabbas, at the request of the crowds; Jesus humiliatingly mocked as a broken king by the Roman soldiers, complete with a robe, a staff, and a crown of thorns; the voices of cynics shouting insults as Jesus is heaved up on a cross to slowly die of asphyxiation or heart failure.Read More »