When Fear Gets in the Way of Sharing the Gospel

I know I’m supposed to share the gospel. But fear always seems to get in the way.

To wit: I once had a conversation with a staunchly liberal (and probably unsaved) lady in my town. I invited her to my church and mentioned how faith inspires us to love the least of these. As I walked away, though, I realized I had only wanted to talk about topics she wanted to hear. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with her worldview — namely, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

On another occasion, I discussed faith with a deeply conservative (and probably unsaved) man. After I explained my interest in international missions, he said, “I hope you don’t leave the country. I hate any country that’s not America.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with his worldview — namely, the parts about Jesus saving us to share his good news to the ends of the earth.

In both instances, fear prohibited me from sharing parts of the gospel my listeners didn’t want to hear. So I stayed away from controversial topics. And both of them heard something less than the full gospel message.

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A Savior Greater Than Our Divisions

They were unlikely friends.

One man had betrayed his family and culture to work for the corrupt, overbearing government they despised. His old friends now counted him among the thieves and murderers. They even refused to worship with him.

His associate was part of an anti-government movement. This occasionally militant group aspired to wage war against the government and return to the glory days when their culture and religion ruled.

These men had little in common, and they should have been enemies. But they decided to lay aside their past and their politics to work together for the common good.

This story sounds naïve and unrealistic. In today’s divisive world, everything is divided into camps of red and blue, black and white. We can’t even imagine a scenario in which two people this different could find a way to work together.

But this is no made up story. This is the true story of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot, two of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Continue reading

Fools-Golden Rules: The Golden Rule’s Cheap Substitutes

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

We all know the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s practically hard-wired into our brains.

Yet even though we know the golden rule so well, we often have a harder time putting it into practice. Too often, we prefer one of the golden rule’s cheap substitutes, such as… Continue reading

A Homeless Gospel in a Partisan World

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades. Yet, yesterday morning, I woke up to this:

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publically went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character, and religious freedom.

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all). Continue reading

The Ashley Madison in All of Us

He knew what he was doing was wrong. God had clearly told him not to. But he saw it. His eyes lingered over it, and he began to crave it. Finally, he went against his better judgment and took it. He knew the potential consequences — that it could destroy his family and community. He hid it, convinced that no one would ever know.

Yet one fateful day, his secret was exposed. All the gory details were out in the open. And he and his family suffered the consequences.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But I’m not talking about Josh Duggar and his Ashley Madison account. I’m talking about a man named Achan. Continue reading

When People Love You (or Hate You) for Your Faith

Have you ever had a good day turn bad? Elon Musk can empathize. Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX, celebrated his 44th birthday on June 28. The day started off great, I’m sure. Who doesn’t like birthdays? Yet that morning one of his SpaceX rockets, destined for the International Space Station, exploded after launch. What started as a great day quickly turned sour.

Paul and Barnabas had one of those days, too. Luke tells us the story in Acts 14:8-23. Continue reading

Four Ways to Pray for Christian Teachers

[Editor’s Note: My wife, Katie (a teacher), and I collaborated on this post.]

The dawn of a new school year is often a time for complaining. Parents complain about the early start to the school year, the local school system, or the fact that their child got that teacher. And teachers may complain about education policy, increased responsibilities (without increased pay), or the fact that they got that child in their class.

Yet a new school year also means that thousands of Christians return to their classrooms to make a profound impact on children’s lives. This is a huge responsibility and privilege — and teachers need your prayers.

Please consider praying for the following: Continue reading