100 Truths in 30 Years with Christ


'The Thinker' by Auguste RodinThis year (2007) marks my 30-year anniversary of coming to Christ. I met Him at a Lutheran camp on a confirmation retreat weekend. Even to this day, I can remember much of that evening.

I’ve kept my eyes, ears, and spirit open over that time, storing away what I’ve learned. Obviously, what I share here isn’t the sum total of all I’ve learned, just some basic truths God taught me that inform my every day.

I hope these observation get you thinking and praying. Most of all, I pray that they are a blessing that brings lasting fruit for the Kingdom. Thanks for being a reader.

In no particular order…

  1. Love God. Love people. It’s that simple.
  2. Anytime we interact with another person, we should ask the Lord, In what ways can I help this person grow closer to You?
  3. Christians who take time to observe the world around them see God and gain wisdom.
  4. The most worthy lessons of the Kingdom take the entirety of one’s life to fully learn.
  5. You are never more alone than in an unfriendly church.
  6. God could directly feed the widows and the orphans with manna from heaven, but He instead chose us in the Church to bake the bread through the resources He’s already given us and then distribute it.
  7. The world is tired of hearing Christians talk about the Gospel; they want to see it actually lived.
  8. In the end, nothing in life satisfies but Jesus.
  9. It’s a terrible indictment against men and young people in the American Church that old women are praying most of the intercessory prayers.
  10. Always lead with love. Love should precede every act we perform in the name of Christ and love should be the finale.
  11. Small home groups are fantastic for relationship-building, prayer, and sharing, but usually not the best venue for serious Bible study (especially if they’re co-ed).
  12. Admonish an adult once, perhaps twice, then turn the issue over to the Lord in prayer. Never hound people.
  13. We won’t find ourselves transformed, much less change the world, if we pray less than an hour a day.
  14. Most Evangelicals have little or no understanding of the Holy Spirit.
  15. The American Church needs to learn a truth Ben Franklin uttered at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
  16. Too many Evangelicals long to see Jesus thrash those they view as heretics rather than help them come to a better understanding of truth.
  17. One of the most easily seen fruits in mature Christians is that they pray for people who oppose them rather than complain about them.
  18. A simple truth we constantly forget: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  19. If all other aspects of Sunday meetings were removed, prayer would be the one untouchable, yet we spend less time doing it in our meetings than anything else.
  20. The mature Christian is more concerned with being loving all the time than being correct all the time.
  21. Each of use should know our neighbors’ names and the names of their children. We should also know their birthdays, if possible, because the card we send might be the only one they receive. And that’s a powerful witness.
  22. It is a sign of our trustworthiness as Christians that other people seek us out when they need help. If that’s not the case, then something is wrong with our witness.
  23. There is no shame in confessing a need, especially before fellow believers. That’s one reason why the Church exists.
  24. Many of Evangelicalism’s most intractable problems would vanish if we adopted the confessional booth.
  25. We must start seeing discipleship in terms of an entire lifespan and not what we can accomplish in the moment.
  26. Preaching is most effective when it’s lived by the preacher.
  27. We do a great disservice to families in our churches when we split them up the second they hit the lobby.
  28. If we wish to see the American Church be all She can be, then let’s welcome persecution.
  29. A youth minister’s primary responsibility isn’t to teens directly but to their parents. A good youth minister teaches parents how to teach their own teens, leaving the bulk of the responsibility to them.
  30. The way we so easily judge people offends the One who said, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
  31. We are too obsessed with heretics and not concerned enough with understanding what their heresy says about our own shortcomings and failures.
  32. It costs us nothing to judge others, but an enormous amount to walk beside them and help them grow.
  33. Bible study works best when led by highly-trained, Scripturally-knowledgeable people who have lived what they believe.
  34. Busyness is crippling the effectiveness of the American Church, but no one wants to fix the root causes because doing so would call into question the very nature of our modern society.
  35. True love is laying down our plans and schedules to help a person in need.
  36. One of the worst things a Christian can be is unteachable.
  37. God never rescinded His first command to Man: Steward the Earth.
  38. The man who recognizes the goodness of God in nature and sees Christ in the stranger has the more complete theology.
  39. A man is only as deep as his prayer life.
  40. A message every church in America should learn: You never have to advertise a fire.
  41. The more we restrict God in what He can and will do, the more He’ll honor that restriction.
  42. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He only shows up where He’s gratefully invited.
  43. Our neighbors should know that our houses are always open to them.
  44. Love truly does cover a multitude of sins.
  45. If we haven’t died at the cross, we’re worthless to the Kingdom.
  46. Who we are in secret is a better gauge of our spiritual maturity than who we are in public.
  47. Not seeng results in prayer? Better check how grateful we are to God for the little things He gives us.
  48. We never know enough of someone else’s story to judge them perfectly. Better to listen carefully, then admonish…carefully.
  49. No great, wise saint of God started out that way. We never know at what stage we meet one of those future saints, so we must always be gracious when interacting with others.
  50. The perfect recipe for helping someone grow in Christ: Six parts love to every one part admonition.
  51. God makes all things beautiful in His time, not ours.
  52. If there were no people, there would be no reason for the Gospel.
  53. If we are unwilling to help others work through the admonitions we give them, we should instead remain silent.
  54. On Judgment Day, God will be far less concerned with how well we knew the Scriptures than how we practiced what we knew.
  55. Too much of what we supposedly do for the Kingdom comes from the arm of flesh, not from the power of the Spirit.
  56. There’s no reason each of us can’t lead at least one person a year to Christ.
  57. Most churches never once consider what it feels like to be an outsider, which is why so few visitors take root.
  58. Most of the West has heard about Jesus (even if they’ve heard incorrectly), which is why our practice of our message is as vital as our pronouncement of it.
  59. A person may have perfect doctrine and a form of religion, but if he doesn’t care about his neighbor, it’s all for naught.
  60. The reason we learn the Scriptures is to be equipped for every good work.
  61. The more tender my heart is toward the least of these, the more tender it is toward God—and vice versa.
  62. We minister best from the overflow of our Spirit-filled hearts, not from being poured out until empty.
  63. For some reason, we stopped making heaven the ultimate destination.
  64. Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain.
  65. We make an idol of the nuclear family if we raise it above the needs of the household of Faith.
  66. If a fellow Christian has a financial need, forget about buying that plasma TV. And remember this: someone is always in need.
  67. The first thing the new Church did after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to see that no one among them lacked for anything.
  68. Fear drives almost all human failings. The opposite of fear is love.
  69. You can tell the effectiveness of a church’s discipling program by noting how many of the leadership staff came from within.
  70. A king’s ambassador, when sojourning in a foreign land, is the full representative of the king and wields his complete power and authority. Never forget that we are Christ’s ambassadors.
  71. We perpetually underestimate Satan’s wiles; at the same time, we underestimate our authority over him in Christ.
  72. Most lost people aren’t consciously looking for ways to sin; they’re only trying to get by.
  73. You and I have benefitted greatly from the prayers of others, but most people have never had someone pray for them.
  74. Because our God is a God of beauty and truth, we Christians need to honor our artists and intellectuals as much as our pastors and preachers.
  75. Most of the Lord’s finest servants labor in obscurity.
  76. We Christians should spend every day working to depopulate hell.
  77. We may know what it means to be a sinner, but few of us have appropriated what it means to be a saint.
  78. Our communion meals should be feasts as big as we eat on Thanksgiving Day.
  79. Wine is the drink of celebration, not Welch’s.
  80. A church-hopper is a carrier of dissension.
  81. We need to treat our pastors as imperfect fellow laborers, not as Grand Exalted Poobahs.
  82. Without the Lord, we can do nothing.
  83. If we Christians stopped worrying about what others think of us, the Church would be transformed and the world along with us.
  84. We spend too much time trying to keep our youth from sleeping with each other and not enough time teaching them to be husbands and wives.
  85. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
  86. We were all born to serve.
  87. American Christians are more concerned about what’s in their bank accounts than in their treasure chests in heaven.
  88. Joy can only well up in a grateful heart.
  89. Gossip destroys anyone it touches.
  90. In Christ, there is no shame or guilt.
  91. Christians who pray prayers with enormous faith get enormous results.
  92. If we don’t reach people with the Gospel before they are 21, most will never come to Christ.
  93. We have not because we ask not.
  94. It is best to think of the Scriptures not as what we can read through in a year, but as what we can read through in an entire lifetime.
  95. We come to Christ full of holes. Whatever hole we forbid Christ to fill will instead be filled by the world.
  96. If we’re discipling correctly, no Christian in a church should be irreplaceable.
  97. A community of Christians is only as strong as its weakest members.
  98. If our lives are filled with everything but Christ, then we are impoverished indeed.
  99. We are all dust.
  100. God is always nearer to us than we believe Him to be.

Blessings! Have a great day.

Two Halves of the Whole Gospel


Goin' nowhere fastDo you sometimes feel like we’re not hearing the whole Gospel? Hang around the Godblogosphere long enough and you get the eerie feeling that no one truly knows what the whole Gospel entails.

And it’s not just the Godblogosphere. I suspect that many of our churches can’t articulate the entirety of the Gospel.

As I see it, we’ve made this mistake of viewing the whole Gospel as two halves. The mistake—one of typical human nature— is to wrap the entirety of our brains around the one half that resonates with us the most, then act as if the other half doesn’t exist.

If we must delineate the error of the two halves, it’s best to look at the one passage of Scripture that defines those halves. We find both in Ephesians 2:8-10.

Half A:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
—Ephesians 2:8-9

Half B:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
—Ephesians 2:10

Those who cling to Half A are the folks I’ll call the Elect. They obsess about doctrine, detest even a whiff of works righteousness, and are enormously concerned with getting people saved. They got their marching orders at the Reformation and consider it the high point in modern history. And heaven help anyone who’s not in total agreement with them.

Those who adhere to Half B are the folks I’ll call the Fieldworkers. They obsess about  helping those in need, detest the hypocrisy of not walking the talk, and are enormously concerned with bettering the lives of everyone around them. They can’t point to any one point in time for their marching orders,  but earnestly believe that we need a new Reformation. And heaven help anyone who’s not in total agreement with them.

The problem with the Elect and the Fieldworkers is that they are so focused on their half of the whole Gospel, they simply can’t bring themselves to understand the other half. The blinders are on so tight that neither group  can even acknowledge the other side’s main propositions are just as Scriptural as theirs.

The Elect easily trash the loose theology of the Fieldworkers. The Fieldworkers quickly note the clean, uncalloused hands of the Elect. To the Elect, the Fieldworkers are false teachers and heretics. To the Fieldworkers, the Elect are uncaring, self-absorbed Pharisees. Both sides point to the other and claim, “You’re not living the Gospel. I doubt you’re truly saved!”

And you know what? On that claim, both sides may actually be right!

Worrying about how you come to Christ is great, but Elect, what are you supposed to do with the sixty or so years of discipleship you have staring you in the face afterwards? Worrying about the needy is great, but Fieldworkers, how do you receive the heart of God to do so if you can’t articulate how to know God at all?

The whole Gospel contains both the power to raise the dead in spirit to spiritual life in the name of Jesus AND the power to tenderize the human heart toward the service of others in the name of Jesus.

What baffles me is why this is so hard to understand.

Why do we slice the Gospel in half then whine about the half we don’t like? Why the venom between the Elect and the Fieldworkers? Why?

The whole Gospel is the whole Gospel. If we’re not concerned with seeing people saved through hearing the message of salvation, maintaining the integrity of our doctrine, and preaching that we can’t earn our way to heaven, then we’re blowing it. If we’re not concerned about taking care of those in need, living out the love of Christ in practical ways, and fighting for the betterment of everyone we meet, then we’re blowing it.

Please Church, it’s time to believe and live the whole Gospel!

Welcome to Jerkville, Population Me


All I wanted to do was to take my family out for dinner. That’s how these things start.

It was a bad week for allergies here. My wife takes a particular medication for them, and we tried OTC solutions to no avail. We would have to bite the bullet because the longer her allergies persisted, the greater the likelihood she’d wind up with a sinus or ear infection. (With it being ragweed season, just about everyone we know is suffering to some extent.)

I priced the medicine last month: $65 for one month. So I swallowed hard and walked into the pharmacy only to have them hand me the pills and say, “$88.99.”

“Excuse me?” I said, my heart suddenly pounding. “Last month they were $65!”

“That was last month,” the woman said.

Kiss dinner out goodbye.

The drive home was a case of the grumblies. And trust me, I can grumble with the best of them.

By the time I’d gotten home, though, I’d found a solution. I’d received a $25 gift certificate to my son’s favorite restaurant a couple weeks ago. We would just spend that gift certificate. Problem solved.

Or maybe not…

Our church sponsors an appreciation picnic for all the church volunteers. As part of the worship team, I qualify, so my family had fun being served by the elders and pastor. A nice time.

Someone arranged a puzzle game at the picnic that required people to match some visual presentations of objects with well-known phrases. A boy I’ll call Nate came running up to me, saying, “Dan, I want to be on your team. Can I be on your team, please?”

I told him it wasn’t really a team event. Since the first person to complete the puzzle won, working as a team defeated the whole idea. I couldn’t help him and still win.

“But I want to win,” he said. “I’ll be on your team. You and I are a team.”

“I don’t know that I’ll win, Nate,” I said. “A lot of people are playing.”

“I really want to win, Dan. I know you’ll win.”

While I appreciated his faith in me, what could I do? I thought if I just ignored him a little, he’d forget about the whole thing. That failed miserably. I then tried convincing him of the truth that neither of us would win if we tried to solve the puzzle together. He’d wind up losing anyway.

“Why don’t you try doing the puzzle yourself,” I said.

“But I want to win,” he replied, already looking crushed.

Now the thing you need to know about Nate is that he doesn’t have a dad. He’s got some other siblings, too, and his mom’s had some tough times. I’ve tried to be there for them as much as I can, but I never feel as if I’ve done enough.

“You’ll win, Dan,” he said as the game was starting. “I’ll be on your team.”

About five minutes later, I raised my hand. “Done.” The gamekeeper checked my answers and handed me the $25 restaurant gift certificate.

“We won, Dan,” Nate yelled. “We won!”

He went over to the gamekeeper, his round face beaming, and asked, “What did I win?”

“Nate, honey,” she said in as comforting a voice as she could muster,”I think someone else won. I don’t have any other prizes.”

“But I’m on Dan’s team. Don’t I get anything?” You could wring the angst out of his words.

I can’t stand to see kids crushed. Even though I know life runs roughshod over us all, there’s something about the pain that kids feel that turns me to mush.

I called his slumped-shouldered self over.

“Hey, we’ll take your family out and we’ll all eat together, ” I said. “How does that sound?”

If Van Gogh had dabbled with florescent oils, he could not have painted a brighter countenance than the one that shone on the face of that kid.

End flashback.

Holding that bottle of pills that cost me 40 percent more than I’d anticipated, that bottle of pills I knew cost about $1.50 to produce, that bottle of pills that wiped out my dinner plans and the hope that I had to be alone with my family that evening, I stared at the gift certificate and said to myself, How would Nate know if I spent this right now? He’s a kid. He’s probably already forgotten what I said.

So I seethed. I thought about all the times that I’d canceled my plans so that someone else could benefit. I considered that other families go on vacation all the time, but we didn’t because we were always saving our money to help someone else. Someone who can’t pay her electric bills. Someone who can’t pay for his medicine. Someone who can’t pay the mortgage this month. Always some sick, elderly, homeless, fatherless someone needing something else.

And what about all those people who go away to their vacation homes or who have season passes to amusement parks? Those people with kids who never seem to disappoint them because they don’t have to say no when little Johnny or Janie says, “Dad, let’s go to Disneyworld!” What’s their deal? They get to do all these fabulous things while we never do. Why, again, don’t we?

Then that awfulness rises up inside me. I wish they’d all go away, every last one of them. Those that have and those that have not. Lemme have my stuff. Even if it’s not much, I want it to be mine and not someone else’s. And I hope all those folks who seem to always have money to burn likewise burn in hell for it.

It’s all too easy to hate, isn’t it?

The thing about being an S.O.B. is that it runs to the core of who one is. Welcome to Jerkville, population me.

I looked at that gift certificate in my hand, then tucked it back in the drawer for a time when Nate and his family could enjoy it with us. We ate a frozen pizza that night.If not me, then who?

And when I think

Of God, His son not sparing,

Sent Him to die,

I scarce can take it in

That on the cross,

My burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died

To take away my sin.

Who am I? Who are you? Do we realize what we’ve been given?

I know I don’t always get it. These days, it’s hard to see what the future holds, so I want to hang on to my little kingdom more tightly than ever. I don’t want to receive e-mails from people telling me that they’re about to go down unless someone, anyone helps—only to look around and see me, alone, standing in the on-deck circle. Me. You know, the one with the supposed home-run swing for the little girl dying of leukemia, or the old lady who needs someone to look after her because her mind is slowly fading along with her carpeting.

Here’s a depressing truth: I’m not the only one populating Jerkville. It’s not God’s ideal resort location, but it sure seems that a lot of people cool their heels there. Sadly, some never wise up enough to catch the Gospel Train out of town. Worse, some permanent residents consider themselves future inhabitants of heaven. I pray they’re not disappointed.

When I think of what Christ did for me, how can I say no to the Christ who shows up in need on my doorstep, to the Christ in the neighbors who lost a child and need someone to grieve with them, to the Christ in the little boy without a dad who wants to win this time because he’s lost so many times before? I may not have the perfect solution to their needs, but I’ll at least try to help because I have been given so much.

God help me, I’m slowly leaving Jerkville. There’s no life there and never has been.

I hope I’m not the only one getting out of town.