Monday, August 30, 2010


Many of you remember when we added "Cludging" to the Roaring Shepherd dictionary of terms.    The time has come to add another word.  Let the lexical entrepreneurship begin!.  

Evangeveto (verb) 
--To forbid the evangelistic endeavors of another: The man evangevetoed the gospel presentation.
--To hinder or stop the evangelistic efforts of another: You shouldn't evangeveto evangevultures

Evangevetoer (noun)
--One who evangevetoes: The evangevetoer told the evangelist to quit feeding the hungry.  

Recently, I received the most affirming accusation of my life.  In what I thought was an unrelated discussion, someone told me that our church is too evangelistic!  That's right.  Too evangelistic.  Open Door has been evangevetoed.   I was taken aback.

I did my best to explain what I thought was obvious about Jesus' command to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).  I even tried to argue that we haven't been as effective as we need to be in the "soul-winning" department, but to no avail.  Flat disagreement.  It was like asking a baptist to speak in tongues.

I can hardly imagine someone not wanting to do everything possible to make sure that as many people as possible are given the opportunity to have the relationship with God they were created for.  Isn't that why we are here?  My initial response to the comment came before I had the time to react.  That's good news.  Had I been given the time to think about it, my responses would have been cutting.  So, here is what I'm glad I didn't say:

"I am so glad that this grave error has been brought to my attention.  Apparently we have exceeded our quota for redeemed souls and must now 'throw some back'.  I will not begin the process of deciding who we will go about revoking Kingdom of Heaven citizenship from.  Would you like to go first?"  

"Perhaps we should protest evangelism and all outreach, especially to the poor.  There's already a chant for that: Us four! No more!  Close the door! (This even works to contrast the name of our church.)"

"Did hell start an affirmative action initiative?" 

"We should probably give out evangelism hunting tags and have a limited season.  Maybe we could break up the season like with deer.  We could have tract season, street preaching season, relational season, etc.  We have to keep up the population of lost souls so that we can keep the sport going."  

"When exactly did we become too evangelistic?  Was it when we obeyed Matthew 25:31-46 by giving food to the hungry or when we obeyed James 1:27 when we helped children and single parents at the Family Fair?"

As I think of all these slice and dice responses, I'm struck by how much easier it is to come up with clever jabs than it is to speak the truth simply and plainly.  I can be funny.  I can be cruel.  Often, I can do both at the same time.  How painfully ironic that cruelty come out in my defense of evangelism.  Isn't that like "purity by way of fornication"? (Derek Webb Quote)

I think it would do me well to spend less time thinking of the best clever response and more time considering the character of Christ in such matters.  I've also included a few good quotes from Jesus:

Matthew 5:3-9
 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 4Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
 5Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth.
 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.
 7Blessed are the merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
 8Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God.
 9Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God. 

When it's between Jesus' perfect law of love and my sarcastic slices, Jesus wins every time.  

Help me out.  Can you think of a specific time when someone tried to discourage Jesus from sharing the good news?  What did he do? (I am really asking)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Art of Poetry

Many of us have heard the name "Christopher Hitchens" in association with the most recent and extreme form of atheism bleeding out of academia.  "The New Atheism" is the term for a populace of speakers and authors who see belief in God not just as false but as dangerous.  While their sentiments are not not shared widely, the existence of such belies or "anti-beliefs" at the popular level is indicative of the intent of persecution.

For many years, extreme atheism in the west has been limited to extreme circles of writers in the academic field. The release of Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion to a popular rather than academic audience is an unfortunate cultural step toward the limitation of religious belief.

Many Christians see belief movements like this and assume that we have lost the debate.  The thinking is that if professors and scientists hold a belief, it must be in response to great evidence.  The fact that the new atheism has moved from academia to the populace must mean the atheists won the debate in academia.  This is not true.

In the academic realm, theism (belief in God) is taking new ground.  The argument from atheism used to be: "Look at all this scientific evidence about the age of the earth and how natural law works.  The universe is a closed system of cause and effect.  There is no God, because we know how the universe works."  However, as Albert Einstein awakened us to the reality of atomic and subsequently sub-atomic physics, many scientists and philosophers had to concede that the universe is significantly more complex than we thought.  We now know that we cannot predict every cause and effect action with absolute certainty.  Simply put, we don't know everything.

Beyond that, theism has gained ground recently by shifting apologetic focus from creationism which, like evolution is heavily dependent on interpretation of evidence to the Resurrection which brings its own evidence and leaves little room for debate.  In the academic realm, we are taking ground.  Physicists like Frank Tipler are aligning themselves with Christianity not in spite of the evidence but because of it.  Additionally, we have not ceased to celebrate Antony Flew's turn to theism.  His reason? "I have to go where the evidence leads."  If you read only one of the books I've linked today read There is a 

Why then is the New Atheism gaining popularity while simultaneously losing their debate?  The simple answer is that there is a lot of bad press for theism.  The New Atheism's argument has shrewdly moved from evidential to effectual: "Look at all the suffering in the world caused by religion.  Religion is dangerous to humanity."  Their argument is popular, not because it is true but because it resonates with a world frustrated by terrorism and politically-driven religion.

The big question then is: What do we do about it?

Surprising to many is that Christopher is not the only Hitchens with a book about the existence of God.  Peter Hitchens (Christopher's Brother) recently released The Rage Against God addressing the issue of belief from a theistic perspective.  That's right.  They're brothers and they completely disagree.  I'm not sure why so many are surprised by this.

As Christians, our first response (after brief celebration) is to ask Peter what new argument for God's existence should we use on his brother Christopher.  Keeping in mind the effectual rather than evidential  reasoning behind the new atheism, Peter says something profound: "It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time."  Strange that the most effective response to the most jaded opponents of Christianity is not evidential (though we must have evidence) but relational.

Atheism cannot account for the existence of genuine, unconditional love.  There is no logical reason for a person loving someone who hates them.  Loving your enemy is the irrefutable evidence of Christ in you. I'm not saying we shouldn't rise to the occasion and debate for the truth of God's existence.  The evidence is in our court and we should use it to show that the Truth of God is not afraid to be tested.  Debate with relentless passion for truth, supported rationally with irrefutable evidence, driven by and dripping with love.

Could this be the reason Jesus told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44)?  At the fear of this statement becoming a bumper-sticker or T-shirt, here's a suggestion:  Prove an atheist wrong today.  Love them.

What made you belief in Christ?  Was it evidence or love?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Night to Remember

Tonight God did something amazing.

I recently found out that our special meeting place, Jim's Coffee House is closing.  Business isn't good.  Financially, Jim just can't keep the place open.  A pillar of our community is dissolving, and it hurts.

I think if all the memories I have at Jim's.  I've watched people shed their doubts as they see the truth of God revealed.  People far from God have returned to Him.  Hope has been restored there.  It is a very special place. Watching it disappear is like losing a home.

A lot of things have been changing.  I'm watching my grandparents move more quickly toward eternity.  I've seen friends move away.  On top of it, today I found out my Compassion child, Carlens is too old to remain in the program.  I am writing my last letter to him this week.

With a heavy heart, I walked into Jim's Coffee House for Frequency.  I was grieving, but didn't want to show it.  I tried to keep my chin up so that the group (which has grown significantly in the last year) would not lose hope, but inside I was aching.

I couldn't wait to get to the discussion.  Something happens when we open the Word of God at Frequency.  The words become clear, the discussion becomes rich.  The Holy Spirit shows up.  I wanted Him so bad tonight.  I wanted His comfort.  I wanted to know that God has a plan and that its all going to work out.

It is no coincidence that we have been studying Romans and just happened to be studying Romans 8:18 to the end of the chapter tonight.  The whole passage is on God's power and plan.  The Words were more than comforting.  When we came to Romans 8:28, which says that God works all things together for the good of them that love God, someone who almost never speaks raised her hand and shared about something God had done.  She had prayed very specifically that a child she knows would ask for her to give him a Bible.  She didn't just pray for an opportunity.  She prayed that the boy would ask.  The child had seen great sufferring, and she knew he needed God.  Later, they met and he started talking about God.  A question came up and she got out her Bible to show him a verse.  As soon as they were done he said, "Could I have this?"  She choked back tears as all of us stood in awe of this sovereign God who honors the prayers of His children.

Her testimony led to another, and then to another.  The Holy Spirit was working and we could all feel Him.  I can't explain exactly what its like, but it involves awe as you see the magnificent glory of God.  The discussion went on and we couldn't help but respond with praise to this awesome God.

Eventually, I closed in prayer, but in the middle of my prayer I sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to open it up for salvation.  I paused the prayer and presented the Gospel then asked anyone interested to pray along with me.  When I asked if anyone did, a hand went up.  God saved someone tonight at Frequency!

As we finished, he came and spoke with me.  Before long, another young man came up to share thank me for the lesson.  He has been far from God and came tonight seeking help.  He has returned to God.

I don't know what is next for Frequency.  I know we will keep meeting at the church after we can no longer meet at Jim's (our last meeting there is August 31st).  I also know that God is doing something big.  I'm certain we are going to have more stories of His sovereign hand.  I also know that some of those stories are going to involve trials.  Whatever happens, God is going to work it together for our good and His glory.  Praise Him!

It is a great thing to see His glory revealed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exhaustion, Ninjas, and Spirit-Filled Hosts with Big TVs

This has been a busy year.  Life Groups are growing.  Serve Elyria keeps getting bigger.  Christy gave birth to our first child, and a second is on the way!  It may seem strange, but all the good things going on left me worn down.  My mind was dull, my spirit was dry.  At first I didn't notice.  Exhaustion doesn't just show up one day and tell you you are tired and need rest.  It's sneaky, like a ninja.  Last year after some vacation time, I came back charged up.  I had ideas, spiritual renewal, and was pretty sure I could kill an alligator with my bear hands (That may have been a late-night, caffeine-induced episode...or maybe not).  Little did I know, the Exhaustion Ninja was lurking in the shadows.  For months, he stalked me, waiting for the best moment to attack.  Slowly, he set his traps and waited.  He made swift hits here and there, each time darting away before I knew what hit me.  Over time, I was weakened by his blows.  Some days I would  feel ok.  Other days I would feel frustrated and disoriented.  He was wearing me down.  At times, I would think I felt a little better, but really my "OK" just has lower standards.  I just wasn't myself.  It was time to fight back.

Christy and I were headed to a wedding in Virginia and decided to make it into a vacation.  We met my parents in Williamsburg and had a few nice days with family visiting historical sites and Busch Gardens.  It was a good time, but as we drove away Christy and I both acknowledge that we still didn't feel we had enough vacation yet.  The ninja had not been conquered, though he had been dealt a blow.

The wedding was in a town we had never visited, and we knew almost no one other than the bride.  However, she had arranged for us to stay with a couple from her church whom we did not know.  It is an awkward thing staying in someone else's home.  It can be made worse when they are strangers. But, this was different.  When we got there, they showed us to a room upstairs with our own bathroom.  The king-sized bed faced what I am sure is the biggest high-definition TV Sony makes.  It was as if we had been declared king and queen of TV Land.  This great bed was our throne and the remote my scepter.  I had dominion over hundreds of channels.  We had a reign of peace and prosperity.  I watched a couple shows on Animal Planet and realized that it really didn't matter what I watched.  Everything was interesting, because everything looked real!  I saw a few minutes of Whale Wars on Animal Planet and spent most of the time amazed at how crisp and blue the Arctic water looked.  I can't really remember the details of the show, but I rested.  I turned off my mind and enjoyed some mindless, wholesome entertainment.  It was a great day.

The next day, we were able to spend some time with our hosts after the wedding.  We struck up a conversation and ended up talking for hours about life and ministry.  As we sat in their living room, I noticed that the TV they used was much smaller and not nearly as nice as the one in our room.  They had actually invested more in their guest room than in the room they use themselves.  Further into the conversation, I found out that they host guests often, usually people connected with the church that need a place to stay.  Sometimes, they don't even get to meet the people they host.  They just know that it is a needed ministry and that God has gifted them to serve as hosts.  After dinner together (which they provided), Christy and I went to bed having made some very good new friends.

We left the next morning realizing that we had genuinely rested.  Something  happened there that went beyond mere kindness.  These two servants of God genuinely had the gift of hospitality and used it liberally.  As recipients, I can tell you that we experienced spiritual renewal there.  Praise God for Spirit-led servants!  The Exhaustion Ninja is broken and bruised thanks to those Samurai's of Servanthood (Corny, I know.  But, I couldn't resist).

Do you ever use your spiritual gift and wonder if it really is blessing anyone?  Do you ever think what you do is small and doesn't matter?  You are doing more than you can ever know.  Stay faithful.

What kinds of blessings have you experienced when someone else used their spiritual gift?