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Growing in Sharing the Good News

Some of you aren’t good at sharing your faith. You are fearful. You have a hard to bringing up Jesus in conversations. When you do,it’s muddled.

I understand. I’ve been there.

There are two things that I think every believer should understand about sharing their faith.

The first is that, with some exceptions, most of you were the best at sharing your faith when you knew the least about Jesus, Christianity, and theology. It was your fresh love for Jesus and the wonder of being saved at all that motivated you to tell your friends, co-workers, anyone who would listen about how great Jesus is. Did you lose that? If you did, it’s time to get it back. Growing in Jesus shouldn’t take away the wonder. If you grew away from the wonder of Jesus, maybe you grew in the wrong direction.

The other thing is that growing in sharing the good news takes time. Don’t get frustrated if the first, second, and third times don’t go well. Press on. Sharing your faith is a muscle you strengthen over time. You don’t set a resolution on New Year’s Eve to get in shape and wake up on January 2nd with a ripped body. You set a goal, work towards it, and slowly see improvement. John Wimber used to say you couldn’t say God didn’t heal today until you prayed for 100 people and nothing happened. I would submit to you that you can’t say you’re not good at evangelism until you shared the Gospel 100 times and nothing happens. In the mean time, pray, get closer to Jesus, get around some people who will support you in this journey. You will get better.

I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years, and finally, after a lot of ups and downs, I’m starting to get good at sharing the Gospel. No one’s come to faith (yet), but I’m somewhat regularly sharing in a way that I know connects to the hearts of people around me.

You can, too, if you don’t give up.

Photo Credit: Selective focus photography of You Are Loved Book by Rod Long on Unsplash

What Happens When No One Preaches

Yesterday was our “All House Church Meeting.”

It normally is the one time a month where our house churches gather together for a more concrete time preaching, worship, and vision casting.

I had a message to share that fit within those lines. It didn’t get shared yesterday.

Instead, when we gathered, everyone was catching up. The holidays were long and relationships needed some time to reconnect. Then, the news of a brother who was part of on of our house churches passing away had to be talked through. Next, an extended time of worship came and it was more participatory than normal. This is a good thing.

When worship was over, we talked over our network’s support of a house church network in Uganda and how we will handle finances with that. Then we talked over an upcoming time of fasting and prayer we hope to have. Then we prayed for those affected by the passing of our friend and those who needed healing. Then the pizza arrived and the kids could not be held back any longer.

So, no, we never got to the message.

We did sing the word back and forth to each other. We did live out the word in our care for one another. We did call each other to biblical financial principals and plan a way to increase our faithfulness. And we did pray for those who are sick and in need, like the Bible commands us to.

It’s rare for us not open the Bible when we gather, but if you had your eyes open, you might have watched a sermon in progress.

Photo Credit: Man and woman sitting on a sofa in a room by Ben White on Unsplash

A Lesson From My Six Month Old

For those of you who don’t know, six months ago my wife and I welcomed our fifth biological kiddo into our lives. Korah Grace was born to us happy and healthy. Needless to say, I’ve been pulling a lot of extra hours being dad lately.

A few days ago I was holding Korah with my big Bible sitting on the arm of the chair next to me. She, with her six-month-old eyes and perception of reality reached out towards the Bible expecting to easily stuff the Bible in her mouth, only to find out that it was much bigger and heavier than she had originally thought. It wouldn’t just move under the weight of her little arms.

As I sat and watched her explore the world with her six-month-old senses, I realized that you and I aren’t so different from my daughter. We believe that we are much bigger than we really are. We think big truths (like the Bible) are able to be manipulated easily. It’s not until we try to manipulate them that we realize there is much more substance to them than our senses and perception of reality allow us to understand.

Wisdom comes when we realize we see in this age dimly. We don’t see the substance in spiritual truth like we need to. We believe we can manipulate it easily, when really if we had eyes to see, there’s so much more weight and gravity to God’s truth. It’s real and won’t move under our strength.

This is what my daughter has been teaching me lately.

Photo Credit: Baby Lying of White Fur Surface by Irina Murza on Unsplash

A Word for the New Year

I’m not the guy who gives words for the New Year. I usually think that things like this are things men dream up rather than actually hear from Jesus.

So when my 11 year old son gave a short prayer before our New Year’s Eve gathering, I was a little taken aback. Normally those kind of prayers are short and help move us along to dinner. We have a rule in our house churches: “No warring over the nations before dinner.”

So when Joel prayed, “Lord, make this a faithful and fruitful new year…” in the midst of blessing the food, I was taken aback. He doesn’t normally pray like that.

Especially before meals.

So, may I commend to you this prayer (and prophetic word) for 2020. May it be a faithful and fruitful year. May you stay the course on the things the Lord has called you to. May God reward you with seeing the fruit of that faithfulness.

Photo Credit: Boy Holding Holy Bible by David Beale on Unsplash

My Top Ten Books of 2019

It’s that time of the year when everyone reveals their yearly reading list and what they consider their top reads of the year. Not to be left out, I’ve compiled my own list to help those who are looking for good reads for next year’s list. So, with no further ado, here’s the best of the best:

Joan: The Mysterious Life of The Heretic Who Became a Saint

This is the story about a young girl who begins to have visions of angels and hear voices. The voices tell her to unite the French to oppose the occupying English forces and anoint a man King of France. She does all of this as a young maiden in 15th Century France and is later tried and killed by the very country she saved. What I love about this book is the author treats her visions and voices as something that she actually heard and saw, rather than trying to explain them away. This book will be a great encouragement to you in your own journey of hearing the Lord’s voice and obeying it, despite the cost.

The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ

This is an obscure little book written by Catholic priest Saint Alphonsus Ligouri. The whole book is a journey through 1st Corinthians 13. It takes every virtue of love (“Love is patient, love is kind, etc.) and applies them to how a believer should faithfully love Jesus Christ. While it was written by a Catholic and you have to ignore some of his admonitions to pray to Mary and accept sickness as God’s will, there is a lot of wisdom in this book that you won’t find in the traditional Christian book being rolled out these days. This book will stir your heart to love Jesus more.

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse

This is a short book by A.W. Tozer that is filled with poetry written by some of the great Christian mystics throughout history. While that may scare some people, the fact that A.W. Tozer edited this compilation should put your heart at ease. Each of these poems are biblicaly solid while at the same time full of the kind thirsting after God that you’ve come to expect from a guy like A.W. Tozer. I found myself keeping a list of the poems I loved from this book, but I didn’t expect the list to include every third poem. Please read this book, take time to soak in the poetry within, and even spend some time turning some of these great works into prayer to aid your devotional life.

Prophetic Fishing

This was the second or third book about evangelism I read this year and it was easily the best. Jean is a prophetic minister who regularly hears from Jesus and shares His heart with lost people around her. Not only did I learn about hearing from Jesus and sharing what I’m hearing with the lost by reading this book, but I encountered the love of Jesus as I read the author’s testimony. I highly recommend picking up the audio book. There is an incredibly personal story towards the end of the book that the author narrates herself and it’s incredibly worthwhile to hear it in her own voice. If hearing from God is new to you or you’re old-hat at it, you will meet Jesus in a more personal way by reading this book.

1984

This was the most disturbing, difficult read of 2019 for me. I’ve never read this book before it showed up on my Man Book Club reading list. This is a story about a dystopian future where three governments rule the world and keep those three nations in perpetual war. The story follows Winston Smith as he tries to navigate life living in this world where every activity is constantly monitored and history is constantly changed to reflect the governments’ narratives. I won’t ruin the ending, but it’s dark and unexpected. Truthfully, the book is a prophetic glimpse into a world that we are now living in and if you don’t leave this book rethinking where society has gone, you probably weren’t paying attention.

Fahrenheit 451

This book takes place 100 or more years in the future, where books are banned and society has adapted the role of firefighter as a force to find and burn them. Guy Montag, a fire fighter, secretly becomes a reader and must hide it from those he works with in order to not be killed. The real point of the book is to force us to look at our inability to handle concrete arguments and emotions that books present us and where it could drive our society. This book is slightly more hopeful than 1984 and there are important lessons in it that will help us today. Maybe give yourself some space between reading this and 1984, though.

The Cost of Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Nazi-resisting theologian, wrote this work believing that the time had come for believers to band together and practice living out the Sermon on the Mount together. This was a revolutionary statement in a time when many considered the Sermon on the Mount the code of conduct for the Millennial Kingdom, not something that applied to them now. The book begins with a look at cheap grace–a kind of grace where we can sin because we know we are forgiven–and how it prevents Christianity from being expressed the way Jesus wants it to be expressed. Bonhoeffer then walks us through each chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, detailing how it applies to every day believers. I recommend this book to everyone (it’s a classic!) but I especially recommend it to those who haven’t thought seriously about the Sermon on the Mount.

The Storm-Tossed Family

The family is under attack today by satanic forces. That sounds dramatic, but a quick look at the state of families around you will prove that statement true. Russel Moore writes, then, about cultivating healthy family as an act of spiritual warfare. To win the war, one he finds in the early stages of marriage all the way up to aging and dying with grace, it requires us to find the Gospel for every stage of family life. I loved that at every stage, he calls believers in Jesus to find the Gospel as the answer for common and extreme problems that plague the family. Also, though this is a book about the family, there is plenty in this book for singles to learn from and grow in practice. Some of the best explanations about the church as family that I’ve seen in a while were found in this book. I highly recommend it.

The Master Plan of Evangelism and Discipleship

This book is a classic. You can’t go anywhere in American Evangelicalism without encountering someone whose thoughts have been impacted by this book. What I found interesting is that so much of the house church movement’s thinking finds its origin and support in the discipleship principles laid out here. The key to effective evangelism is found in sharing the Gospel and training up converts in a way of life that leads them to do the same. Without this plan in place, both our evangelism and our churches will suffer. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.

A Tale of Two Cities

This is one of those classic books that everyone talks about but I feel like very few people read. It contrasts two cities, London and Paris, as the country of France is going through a revolution. It centers around a girl named Lucy who’s father was imprisoned when she was very young. When she is grown, she finds out her father is still alive and is charged with caring for him. During this season she falls in love with a French man who has connections to a former ruling family in France. Like many of Dickens’ works, there is a large Gospel thread woven through the whole story. Finishing this book felt both like a great accomplishment and the end to a marvelous story. If you’re looking for some fiction with some meat on it, this is the book for you.

And in case you’re interested….here all the other books I read this year with my rating for them in parentheses:

January

The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ (5) / Evangelism in a Skeptical World (4) / Atomic Marriage (1) / Prophetic Fishing (5)

February

Poke the Box (5) / A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (5) / Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (3) / Fahrenheit 451 (5) / 1984 (5) / Trump, 2019, and Beyond (3)

March

The Art of Invisibility (3) / The Master Plan of Evangelism and Discipleship (5) / Raising Giant Killers (4) / Beyond the Local Church (3)

April

A Tale of Two Cities (5) / Gospel Boldness: Mission, Prayer, and Evangelism (3) / Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out (4) / Disruptive Witness (2) / Spirit Led Evangelism (4) / Managing Oneself (4) / The Mystery of Catastrophe (4) / I see A New Apostolic Generation (4)

May

The Religious Affections (4) / Rising Tides (4) / God is Good (2) / The Three Day Effect (3) / Hope Never Dies (3) / Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (4) / Giving Up Control (4) / Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours (4) / The Dispatcher (4) / Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World (4)

June

The Cost of Discipleship (5) / The Consolation of Philosophy (3) / The Seven Spirits of God (5) / Getting Things Done (4) / To Be Near Unto God (3)

July

The Poverty of Nations (4) / Screwball (3) / From Cocaine to Christ (3) / The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon (4) / The Lost History of Christianity (3) / The Fuel and the Flame (4)

August

12 Rules for Life (4) / Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic (3) / Redshirts (4)

September

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (4) / Journey to the Center of the Earth (3) / Godology (3) / The Charisma Myth (4) / The Joy of Early Christianity (4) / Grace Abounds to the Chiefest of Sinners (4)

October

Joan: The Mysterious Life of a Heretic Who Became a Saint (5) / Balaam’s God (4) / One Bloody Road (4) / Seeing in the Spirit Made Simple (4) / Burnout Generation (3) / Divine Healing Made Simple (4) / Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (4)

November

Mostly Harmless (4) / Climbing with Mollie (4) / Microchurches (4) / Not the Parable of the Lost Sheep (4) / Fox’s Book of Martyrs (3)

December

The Communist Manifesto (2) / The Storm-Tossed Family (5) / Bird by Bird (4) / Called Together (4) / Do More Better (3) / A Preface to the Acts of the Apostles (3) / The Christian Book of Mystic Verse (5) / Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Spoke in the Wheel (3)

So…what’d you read this last year? And what did you love? Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Library Hallway by Yiqun Tang on Unsplash

How I Read Significantly More This Year

I read a bunch of books this year. 72 books, to be specific. While there are certainly people who have read more books that me this year, this was 3.6 times more books than I read last year. I had hoped to end the year reading four books a month, but ended the year having read 6 books a month. So, for those who are looking to read more books, here are some how to’s that helped me read more.

Audible

For those of you who don’t know, Audible is a service offered by Amazon that sells and streams audio books for many of the books you’ve been wanting to read. When I started the year, I had been using Audible to get any reading in at all. Somewhere during this year I began using Audible to get through books that were longer or more difficult reads. Audible also began offering two free “Audible Original” books every month in addition to the one book I got with my monthly membership. This increased the number of books I was able to read from one to three on a monthly basis. I’m now able to read three books a month while I get ready in the morning, drive to work, or cut the grass, and it helped me read more than I was previously.

Less Social Media

Maybe I’m the only one who this applies to…and if so…good…but I was spending WAY too much time on social media. Early in the year I decided to spend less time on social media and more time reading. I had this shocking revelation that I can read books on my phone during the time I was looking a funny videos on Facebook! Amazing, right? This is probably why you’ve seen less of me on Facebook and Twitter, by the way. Eventually I began reading for a short time in the morning instead of scrolling through social media and it helped me get more legitimate reading done. Reading in the morning has also helped sharpen my mind’s ability to focus and process information. If you do one thing in 2020, spend less time on social media and more time in books, especially in the morning. You won’t regret it.

Man Book Club

In 2018 I had read The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse. It was a great read that left me determined not only to better parent my children but also to continue growing myself. One of the five solution chapters in the book encourages readers to develop “Five Feet of Books.” This is 60 inches (theoretically an inch per book) of the best books in twelve different categories. Then, Sasse gave his list of the best books in each of the twelve categories. I was talking about this chapter with a friend who admittedly wasn’t much of a reader and we both decided that to be good fathers we needed to read more good books like the ones on Sasse’s list. And voila! Man Book Club was born.

Now, usually once a month, but sometimes less, we gather in a greasy spoon bar and talk about the latest classic we’ve read from the list. Some of us are great readers, some of us have never read much at all. But each of us are committing to stretch ourselves and read books that challenge us and should change us. Last month was the book of Genesis (from the section on “God”), this month will be the Communist Manifesto (from the section called “Tyrany”), and after we get done with that, we’re going to start reading “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” (from the section on “Greek Roots”). The beautiful thing is having a reading circle with other men has helped me read more, be more thoughtful in my reading, and bite off a bit more than I would normally try on my own. I’m reading longer, older, and more complex books because I have a group of guys doing it with me. There are plenty of book clubs for women, but if you are a man, want to read more, and have an entrepreneurial bent, I would highly recommend starting a Man Book Club.

Hoopla

Hoopla made a significant addition to my reading this year in only the last month and I expect it to make a far more significant impact for me in 2020. Hoopla is an app that works in conjunction with your local library. If your library offers access, you will be able to borrow five titles every month from a significant catalog of ebooks, audio books, music, and more. Currently I have 90+ audio books identified that I want to read, many of which I was planning to buy through Audible. Not only will I save money using Hoopla, but I’ll also be able to listen to more books in a month by using the service. In December alone, I was able to listen to an extra three audio books. It’s also important to note that Hoopla offers a significant number of Christian Audio audio books. If your library uses Hoopla, I would highly recommend signing up.

So between Audible, less social media, Man Book Club, and Hoopla I was able to read 56 more books this year. Really the lesson here is do what works for you. These are the things that worked well for me and my hope is they work well for you, too. What worked well for you this year? Let me know in the comments.

Tomorrow, I’ll post my Top Ten Books of 2019 along with my list of books read. If you’re looking for a good read for 2020, stop by. I’m sure there will be something for everyone!

Photo Credit: Man Reading Book On Beach by Ben White

This Year in Reading: Evangelism

I did a lot of reading this year.

A lot.

I read so much I surprised myself. Over the course of the next few days, we’ll talk about the how’s, why’s, and what’s of my reading this year. For now, lets just say I read more books this year than in any single year of my life.

While that level of reading by necessity must be broad, I did have one goal in my reading this year—read as many books as I could about evangelism. Now, why, you may ask would I read as many books as I could on evangelism? Well, the simple answers is I want to get better at it. The more complex answer is that I find that the more I think about a topic, the more central it becomes in my life. One easy way for me to think about evangelism more was to read more about it.

There were a lot of books. I didn’t get through all of them. I plan to continue the emphasis going forward in the New Year. Because evangelism is not just something I need to get better at, but I believe the whole body of Christ in America needs to get better at, I created a list of the ten best books on evangelism I’ve read this year. There’s a short blurb below each link that tells a bit of my journey with the book and why it might interest you.

Prophetic Fishing

This was the second or third book about evangelism I read this year and it was easily the best. Jean is a prophetic minister who regularly hears from Jesus and shares His heart with lost people around her. This may seem really scary and difficult, but Jean makes the process seem so simple and friendly that by the end of the book you’ll be wanting to put it into practice. Not only did I learn about hearing from Jesus and sharing what I’m hearing with the lost by reading this book, but I encountered the love of Jesus as I read the author’s testimony. I highly recommend picking up the audio book where you’ll get to hear a very personal evangelism testiomony told in the author’s own voice toward the end of the book. It’s well worth it.

Spirit Led Evangelism

Spirit Led Evangelism was such an encouraging read. The book is by Che Ahn, a stalwart in the charismatic renewal movement who has been moving in Holy Spirit-inspired evangelism since his days in the Jesus People movement. Che covered the whole spectrum of evangelism, from sharing the Gospel and partnering with the Holy Spirit in signs and wonders to church planting and its impact in the harvest. Ahn encourages believers to follow the Holy Spirit and be persistent and faithful in evangelism, which is a rare combination. I think you’ll be helped by this book.

The Master Plan of Evangelism and Discipleship

This book is a classic. You can’t go anywhere in American Evangelicalism without encountering someone whose thoughts have been impacted by this book. What I found interesting is that so much of the house church movement’s thinking finds its origin and support in the discipleship principles laid out here. The key to effective evangelism is found in sharing the Gospel and training up converts in a way of life that leads them to do the same. Without this plan in place, both our evangelism and our churches will suffer. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.

Gospel Boldness: Mission, Prayer, and Evangelism

This book has one clear focus—convincing you that you need to be more bold for Jesus. The author believes in the West, we don’t share the Gospel because we are afraid, and I agree with him. His answer is to regularly ask Jesus for boldness to share the Gospel. It’s a simple formula and a long book. I hesitated putting this book so high on this list, because the book repeats the premise so much, but I believe that the premise is so true and accurate that I think you should read it and put some of his recommendations into practice.

Evangelism in a Skeptical World

Many of the books I read on evangelism were written from a perspective that would have worked in 1990, but no longer work in 2019. This book was the first book that acknowledged that we are no longer culturally in the same place that we were in 1990 and that the tactics that worked in 1990 might not be as helpful as they used to be. My big takeaway from this book is that people need to be exposed to Christians in normal, everyday life in order to see that Christians aren’t the odd cultural phenomenon that the media makes them out to be. If you struggle with the culture being less receptive to Christianity than it used to be, I would highly recommend this book.

Reaching The Unreached

This book is written by Peyton Jones, a missionary to Wales who spent time planting a church in a Starbucks there. Peyton writes from the perspective of someone who has been to Western countries who have rejected Christianity at a far higher level than the United States and he plants churches and trains church planters to reach those same types of people here. I came to this book looking for strategies, I left with the conviction that God loves lost people and if we spend time with people who are far away from God and have the Gospel at the ready, we will see people come to Jesus.

Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out

This is a good book written by Alvin Reid, a professor of evangelism at a Southern Baptist university who wrote this book to help people who don’t see themselves as evangelists get better at sharing the good news. There is a lot of good, practical advice about sharing the Gospel as part of your everyday life. If you struggle with fear in evangelism or need a good, practical starting point, this is a good book for you.

The Fuel and the Flame

I don’t remember who, but some semi-famous preacher who has led a lot of people to Christ said this was the book that has informed all of his evangelism. After reading this book, I can understand why this book would be a solid introduction to evangelism. It’s mostly about creating a system that enables evangelism and discipleship and that works extremely well in a college environment. The trick is making it work in a post-college environment.

Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World

This is an older book, but one that is full of stories of the author learning how to share Jesus with people. The premise of the book is that Christians need to get out in the world and bring the Gospel to where people are. There are a lot of encouraging stories that will benefit Christians trying to learn how to share Jesus with others.

Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus

I didn’t intend to learn much about evangelism from this book but I couldn’t ignore the forward by David Platt that commended the author as a model for evangelism. I think the core thought that was helpful in this book was an emphasis on teaching in aiding people to come to Christ. Especially if you identify as a teacher, this book may give you insights into how you can lead people to Jesus.

So, there you have it. The top ten books on evangelism that I’ve read this year. If you haven’t read a good book on evangelism this year, pick a book from this list and start reading.

You won’t regret it.

Photo Credit: Person Holding Unfolding Book by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash