Sharing and defending your faith. Proclaiming the gospel, the good news of Christ.
Sharing and defending your faith. Proclaiming the gospel, the good news of Christ.
What is the church’s role in extending God’s peace to the world? Mark Buchanan gives perspective in this excerpt from Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down.
The primary gift God gives to those who trust in him is reconciliation with him. But the primary gift the people of God give to those who are reconciled to God is a community of reconciled people. We give them the gift of our own wholeness and oneness. We give the gift of community. We invite them to be part of a people where everyone makes “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” [Ephesians 4:3].
God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light [1 Peter 2:9]. But his intent is that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” [1 John 1:7]. So God prepares us to be a people who draw and who welcome every tribe and tongue and nation into the light by first making us light. And he does that, in part, by bringing those who are far away near. He does that by making the community of the converted also the community of the reconciled…
One sign that God has returned to dwell in the center of our lives and of our churches is that we become a living testimony of what we promise. We promise that in Christ all become new creations, no longer seeing others according to the flesh. We promise that in Christ we have the peace of God and the God of peace. We promise that we through Christ receive God’s love and forgiveness, and then extend it — with authority — to the whole world. We promise all this, but then claim exemption for ourselves in some petty matter or another.
If you had to pick five words to describe the Christian life, would these make your list: wonder, whimsy, beauty, magic, adventure? These five elements are bursting at the seams of Joel N. Clark’s new book Awake: Discover the Power of YOUR Story.
I haven’t encountered a book like Awake before – I could call it a Christian adventure memoir, but it’s more. In Awake author and filmmaker Joel N. Clark shares stories that challenged him to live a bigger story, one suffused with wonder and deeply connected to God. As Joel reveals in this exclusive interview, he believes God created all of us to live that way, pursuing Him “fully awake.”
Read on as Joel discusses what we stand to gain if we accept the “fully awake” challenge. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
ZBLOG: You write that you want to live “fully awake.” What does a fully awake life look like?
JOEL: For much of my life I’ve heard pastors say, “God is not just found in the four walls of the church, but he’s found in our places of work, in our homes and in our daily lives.” Yet for many years my relationship with God came down to the times I prayed, read the Bible, worshiped (which usually meant singing) and went to church. This was the entirety of my relationship with God and therefore I was bored with him and all things Christian.
Living “fully awake” is about more than finding God in the midst of ALL of my story. It’s about experiencing him fully, his pleasure, his heart and his presence in the midst of every part of it. This is something that doesn’t come naturally, but he is speaking and acting constantly throughout the day.
When I am “fully awake” I am able to see and hear him in all of it and my life is filled with wonder, beauty and magic, even in the seasons of pain and heartache.
ZBLOG: In Awake you recount many of your adventures, and some are quite dangerous! Some readers may be tempted to say, “Joel is just addicted to danger” – but you claim you’ve never been an adrenaline junkie.
So, what is it that drives you?
Our late friend, Chuck Colson, relates how some prisoners he knew reacted to the gospel. Excerpt from The Faith: Given Once for All by Colson and Harold Fickett.
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40–43
Chuck Colson sketches the joy at the heart of the Gospel in this excerpt from The Faith: Given Once for All by Colson and Harold Fickett.
God is. And He’s told us how His world works. He is the ultimate reality. Why then is there suffering? Because God gave humans free will. We chose not to obey, so evil came to the world.
God invaded earth in His Son… The Holy Spirit was sent to finish the invasion, establishing Christ’s Kingdom through His body, the Church.
Satan’s control didn’t stand, however. God invaded earth in His Son. The battle raged, and the Son was arrested and executed, as the payment for evil. But the stone was rolled away, and God raised Him from the dead, and with His resurrection guaranteed our own new life. The Holy Spirit was sent to finish the invasion, establishing Christ’s Kingdom through His body, the Church.
Excerpt from Jim Cymbala's new book Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit.
When God's Spirit moves, his purposes are revealed and accomplished in ways that no committee, personality test, or computer program could ever figure out.
D. L. Moody is a great example of that. No one ever would have expected him to be one of the greatest evangelists of all time. Moody was initially a shoe salesman and basically uneducated. He was a short, overweight man and not very good-looking. He had a slight speech impediment and a rapid-fire delivery when he spoke.
From a cartoon of D. L. Moody, dated 1875.
After he became a Christian, he started working with children on the streets of Chicago, working with the YMCA, and later handing out tracts during the Civil War. Though he never went to seminary, his work bore fruit, and eventually he was invited to England to preach.
While he was there, well-trained, velvet-tongued pastors sat in amazement at his preaching. Many of their churches were dead, and the kingdom wasn't being extended. But along came Moody, and the crowds followed. Despite his limitations, God’s blessing was evident. The guy couldn’t even pronounce Daniel correctly. He said Dan'l. And more difficult names like Nebuchadnezzar? Not even close.
A man known only by Mr. Reynolds once described the first time he met Moody:
The first meeting I ever saw him at was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon-keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold the meeting in at night. I went there a little late: and the first thing I saw was a man standing up, with a few tallow candles around him, holding [a young African-American boy], and trying to read to him the story of the Prodigal Son; and a great many of the words he could not make out, and had to skip. I thought, If the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for his honor and glory, it will astonish me. After that meeting was over, Mr. Moody said to me, "Reynolds, I have got only one talent: I have no education, but I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to do something for Him: and I want you to pray for me." I have never ceased from that day to this, morning and night, to pray for that devoted Christian soldier.
In a sense, Moody was nearly semiliterate. I once saw a letter written by Moody that was reproduced in Love Them In: The Life and Theology of D. L. Moody, by Stanley N. Gundry. Any sixth grader could do better. There were no capital letters, and commas and periods were few and far between. He would have been laughed at today when we judge ministry by slickness of delivery style and not by spiritual power. Yet this man preached to millions of people with no sound system and became one of the best-known evangelists in the history of Christianity. He led thousands to the Lord and went on to found three schools and a university.
We're not all called to be a D. L. Moody. But regardless of how we're set apart, it is God's responsibility to equip us… Sometimes the work encompasses world-changing missions, such as that of Moody. At other times, the work is much more personal and closer to home…
Just as each member of the human body functions differently from the others, the Spirit energizes each of us in the body of Christ to fulfill God's purpose. Without the Spirit's power being exercised, we tend to sit on the sidelines, inactive and unfulfilled. Worse, we are tempted to critique those actually "in the game" trying to proclaim Christ and serve his people. Anyone can criticize the efforts of another believer, but at the judgment seat of Christ, we will answer for ourselves only, not another…
Christ didn't die on the cross so that we would spend our time as Christians on earth merely sitting around waiting for his return. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few" (Matt. 9:37). The reason for the shortage today is that too few are yielded to the Spirit whom Christ sent to us. But there's still time, and we have a patient, merciful Savior on our side.
Who knows how God can use you if you step out in faith and let the Holy Spirit take control? We're not called to be spectators watching from the stands as the prince of darkness goes about to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus said there is a shortage of workers, but the actual work will be done by God's Spirit through you and me doing things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.
And then we can pray the prophet Isaiah's prayer, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isa. 6:8).
– Jim Cymbala (@jimcymbala)
Learn more about Spirit Rising
(Image & some styling above are web-exclusive features not included in the text of Spirit Rising. Image attribution: "Prayer and Praise," a Vanity Fair "Spy" Print of D.L. Moody, dated April 3, 1875; courtesy darvillsrareprints.com. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)
Excerpt from Grace Notes: Daily Readings with Philip Yancey (eBook).
Taking God’s assignment seriously means that I must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people who stroke my ego, I find those whose egos need stroking; instead of important people with resources who can do me favors, I find people with few resources; instead of the strong, I look for the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Is not this how God reconciles the world to himself? Did Jesus not insist that he came for the sinners and not the righteous, for the sick and not the healthy?
People often look upon [Jean] as mad…
The founder of the L’Arche homes for the mentally disabled, Jean Vanier, says that people often look upon him as mad. The brilliantly educated son of a governor general of Canada, he recruits skilled workers (Henri Nouwen was one) to serve and live among damaged people.
Vanier shrugs off those who second-guess his choices by saying he would rather be crazy by following the foolishness of the gospel than the nonsense of the values of our world. Furthermore, Vanier insists that those who serve the deformed and damaged benefit as much as the ones whom they are helping. Even the most disabled individuals respond instinctively to love, and in so doing they awaken what is most important in a human being: compassion, generosity, humility, love. Paradoxically, they replenish life in the very helpers who serve them.
In India I have worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who alone were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to study the dreaded disease. As a result, Christian churches thrive in most major leprosy centers.
In Myanmar, I have visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. In Jean Vanier’s center in Toronto, I have watched a scholarly priest lavish daily care on a middle-aged man so mentally handicapped that he could not speak a word. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden, the rejects, God’s kingdom takes root.
“The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile & Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly … God’s kingdom takes root.”
(Image & some styling above are web-exclusive features not included in the text of Grace Notes. Image attribution: By MicheleLovesArt (Van Gogh Museum – Tree-roots, 1890) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer’s personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)
The 2012 Outreach Resources of the Year were announced today in a press release from Outreach magazine, honoring twenty evangelism-themed resources from the last year. Five of these resources are by by Zondervan authors.
The Outreach Resources of the Year series celebrates of "the best outreach-oriented books and curricula," says the magazine, which selects titles in "areas such as evangelism, compassion and justice ministries, missional living and cross-cultural ministries." Here is the magazine's Editor, Brian Orme, on the goal of the series:
These resources deserve accolades, but Outreach Resources of the Year is about more than that… We strive to help churches share God's love, reach their communities and change the world. Drawing their attention to the best resources available each year is one way we do that.
We at Zondervan couldn't agree more with Orme. Of course we're thrilled for our authors when they receive awards — we love our authors, and it's exciting to see their excellent work honored by others. But the chief reason we celebrate today is this: we're blessed to work with authors who help people share God's love and transform the world.
Here's the scoop on these five award-winning Zondervan authors and their books:
USE THESE BOOKS:
The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
2. Church & Culture
Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women
3. Children's Outreach
The Nature of God: Ocean Adventures Book & DVDs
4. Youth Outreach
Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids
5. Small Group Curriculum
Muslims, Christians, and Jesus DVD: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships
If you would like to send one of these authors congratulations on their achievement, leave your comment on Zondervan's EngagingChurch Blog. My coworker, Andrew Rogers, has graciously volunteered to forward everyone's messages to the authors!
The full list of 20 award winners are featured in the March/April 2012 issue of Outreach. Now we've covered five of Outreach's favorite books on evangelism. What's your favorite?
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan. Big tip of the hat to Andrew Rogers.
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives; the writer's opinions are his own, and are only intended for information purposes. To receive new blogposts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)
In this excerpt from her new memoir Faith and Other Flat Tires, Andrea Palpant Dilley shares a surprising experience with a hitchhiker that she will never forget.
One winter afternoon when I was twelve years old, my father picked up a hitchhiker. My two brothers were sitting with me in the back seat of our Plymouth Voyager van…
The hitchhiker looked sixteen or seventeen, a tall Scandinavian wearing blue jeans with big holes in the knees. It was thirty-five degrees out. He ducked his head and climbed into the van with us, and then my dad drove on. The ensuing conversation, which I will never forget, went something like this:
"These are my kids, Andrea, Ben, and Nate. My name's Sam. What's your name?"
"Donovan," the hitchhiker said.
"Oh, that's a good name." My father paused. "Have you ever heard of Amy Carmichael?"
"She was a Christian missionary to India who worked to save young girls from sex trade enslavement. The place where she worked was called Dohnavur, which is kind of close to your name, Donovan. So you have a good name, a name with Christian purpose."
In the hitchhiker's long pause that followed, I remember thinking, My father is out of his mind, preying on this young hitchhiker who wanted a ride and instead got a church sermon on Christian missionary history. I felt embarrassed in the same way I did when my dad prayed over our food in a restaurant and the waiter brought the ketchup while he was still praying.
Donovan rode with us for several miles until we reached the cut-off road to our house. After pulling the van onto the shoulder to let him out, my dad turned to my older brother, who was about the same size as the hitchhiker, and said, "Ben, why don't you give Donovan your jeans. It's cold out."
Christopher Hitchens passed away on Thursday, December 16, 2011. (For any who may not be familiar with Hitchens, he was a celebrated journalist, a bestselling author, and an outspoken atheist.) When I heard the news I turned with interest to the Zondervan-published memoir by Mr. Hitchens' brother, Peter, titled The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, where I discovered a slice of the brothers' story that is especially poignant today.
Below you'll find Peter Hitchens' reflections on a public debate on religion with his brother Christopher, a debate which Peter later described as a "ghastly circus."
Unfortunately, "ghastly circus" aptly describes some of the purportedly "Christian" discussion surrounding Christopher's death. So I publish this post for three reasons. First, I want to respectfully say to Christopher's family that I am praying for them.
Second, I am reminded by Peter's thoughtful reflection that Christopher Hitchens was someone's brother, someone's son, and like every person loved or unloved by their fellows, Christopher Hitchens, too, was lovingly made in the image of his Creator.
And third, I challenge myself and anyone reading this far: follow the guidance of the Apostle Peter as we comment on the legacy of Christopher Hitchens: "Dear friends, I urge you … Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:11-12).
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team.
Special thanks to Matt Saganski and Rich Tatum.
I end this book in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with some thoughts on the unsatisfactory debate that I had there in April 2008, with my brother Christopher, about the existence of God and the goodness of religion. I had decided before it took place that I would not take part in such a debate again, on this or any other subject.
Christopher and I have had over the past fifty years what might be called a difficult relationship. Some brothers get along; some do not. We were the sort who just didn’t. (Parents of such siblings will know about this.)
Who knows why? At one stage — I was about nine, he nearly twelve — my poor gentle father actually persuaded us to sign a peace treaty in the hope of halting our feud. I can still picture this doomed pact in its red frame, briefly hanging on the wall. To my shame, I was the one who repudiated it, ripped it from its frame, and angrily erased my signature before recommencing hostilities. In a way, the treaty has remained broken ever since, and heaven knows what happened to the sad little document.
I had already concluded, as my train nosed westward in the spring twilight through the lovely, wistful mountain and river country that lies between Harper’s Ferry and Pittsburgh, that I did not want to do anything of the kind. Normally I love to argue in front of audiences. This time I seemed to have no taste for it.