Thursday, October 16, 2014

The crucial difference between Jesus and the Devil, and what it means for your mind

If I asked you to, in one word, describe what the Devil does, what would you say? Most people (at least the ones I asked) would say "the tempter" or "the tormentor" or something like that. And those answers are accurate.

Photo courtesy of Willaim Brawley at
There is, however, another distinct title that bares more weight, especially to Christians. And you need to know about it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My atheist neighbor knows God's heart for evangelism better than most Christians [Video]

So, I totally reneged on the commitment I made last week. I wrote about how I typically ignore the verses that my boss gives me to preach on, and this time I really wanted to stick with the given text for once. Then I threw it out anyway. But only because I found a really awesome one. 

My church's current series, Domino Effect, has been about God's plan to save the world. Part of the plan is Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection. And the other part of the plan is us. God has always intended to work through His people to save the world. 

The sermon below is about three types of Christians, and how they approach the sharing of the gospel. And here's a spoiler alert, two of them are not helpful. And the Bible only calls us to one of them. 

So please give the sermon a watch or a listen, and then feel free to stick your thoughts, questions, or constructive criticisms in the comment section below. I also included a synopsis of the sermon below in case you're unable to watch the video. 

Having trouble viewing this video?  Click here to watch. from moonvalley on Vimeo.

If you're unable to watch the video, here's a synopsis of the sermon. 

God wants to save the world, and He wants to use us to do it. So He's called us to lean toward our neighbors with love (Matt. 22:39, Mark 12:31). And in Colossians 4:5-6, Paul addresses the way we're supposed to talk to our neighbors while we're leaning toward them. He says:

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Colossians 4:5-6
Paul's words point out three kinds of Christians that live today, but only one of these three Christians takes an approach that is helpful in sharing the gospel with most people. So we'll use these three kinds of Christians as a framework for explaining Paul's words. Here they are.

Silent Stan
There's a mentality among some Christians that goes like this: We want to live our lives in such a way that our actions share our faith without any need for words. Here's the only problem with that - it doesn't work.

Our faith is such a central part of our lives, that we're bound to talk about it. And Paul's words acknowledge that. When it comes to communicating with outsiders, he says, "Let your speech be always gracious."

The implication here is that, as we interact with other people, we will talk about our faith. And claiming that we can do so without using words doesn't make any sense. It'd be as if  I claimed that the wedding ring on my finger clearly communicates everything my friends need to know about my marriage.

In reality, no one knows me for very long before I tell them about my wife, and how awesome she is. And the reality is this - if we have a living, growing relationship with Jesus, we're going to talk about it.

Megaphone Mike
This title belongs to Christians who see every non-Christian a conversion challenge to present the Gospel. His attitude says: If you don't know Jesus, I'm going to tell you about Him, no matter what. He's got a really noble heart. Unfortunately, he's relationally def and blind.

When his non-Christian friends and neighbors are talking to him, they sense that he's only listening to them in as far as he has to in order to jerk the conversation back to where he needs it so that he can give them a full gospel presentation.

Paul confronts the attitude of this guy with his very next phrase, "Let your speech be always gracious" His words call us to use common sense and authentic love when it comes to conversations with people who don't know Jesus. And that requires a totally different kind of attitude.

Authentic Andy
This is the attitude that Paul is calling Christians to. He says, "Let your speech be... seasoned with salt" And the imagery here is that there's a level of measuring that comes with quality interactions with you and your non-Christian neighbor.

If Silent Stan is represented by almost no salt and Megaphone Mike is represented by way too much salt, then Authentic Andy sits somewhere in the middle. He wants to make the best use of his time. And while he's not afraid to talk about his faith, he also ensures that his conversations are seasoned with salt and not containing an unwanted and off-putting gospel presentation.

My interaction with an Atheist. 
Last week, Allison and Invited our neighbors over for dinner. They don't go to church. In fact, Alex (the husband) identifies himself as an atheist.

At some point during the evening we ended up talking about our beliefs. And while I don't want to give out our whole conversation, I do want to share some of the text message that Alex sent me the following day. He said, "Thanks for reaching out and suggesting dinner last night. We had a really great time... I appreciate so much connecting with you on a human level, knowing that religion is always present, but like you said last night, never a hidden agenda."

I think that my neighbor, Alex, nailed the heart of Paul's words when he said, "religion is always present, but... never a hidden agenda," He nailed it so well, in fact, that I used his words as the big idea for my sermon.

This week as you interact with you neighbors and contemplate sharing your faith, think about the words of an atheist:

Let your faith be, "always present, but never a hidden agenda."

Please leave your comments in the section below. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Babies hold the universal secret to an awesome prayer life

Prayer can be so frustrating. Not only is it hard to find time to pray, but when you finally sit down to dig in it can feel almost impossible to focus.

At least, that was always my problem. In the past, I've often left prayer times feeling more anxious than when I sat down. I felt like I just couldn't get it. Then not too long ago, I felt God calling me to pray more. I told Him I wasn't any good at it, and He revealed the secret to me - through my two year old son. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What every stay-at-home mom needs to hear from her husband

Some women dream of being stay-at-home moms. And that was certainly my wife's dream. But before we met, Allison was a career woman and single mom who worked her fingers to the bone providing for her two daughters. She was also enrolled in school to finish her undergraduate degree.

Photo courtesy of Nate at
Then she met me, and that changed everything. During our ultra high speed dating and engagement, she told me she didn't like spending the vast majority of her time away from the girls. And even though we knew I would never make any real money working in ministry, we still decided in favor of her being a full time mom. And we didn't know it, but that was the beginning of one of the most terrifying journey's of her life.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Debunking the number one myth about marrying single moms

Before we met, Allison was a single mom. For years she worked 50 hours a week to earn a meager living her her and her two daughters.

Then, almost exactly 4 years ago to the day, Allison and I first met after a church service where she attended and I was a guest worship leader. I felt like I was being a sly dog, checking her out from across the room. But she insists, I wasn't as sly as I think I was. 

Regardless, we hit it off instantly, and were married only five months later. During the first year of our marriage, we did what most couples do - we got acquainted with each others friends and family. And as we went to parties, weddings, and other events, people began to pay me the most peculiar compliment. 

They'd actually commend me on marrying Allison, saying things like, "It's so good what you're doing for those girls." And since then, I've met a dozen or so people who have said similar things. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The one thing young punks need to become real men.

Not too long ago, I sat across a breakfast table from a young man who wasn't happy with his life. While his age made him an adult, he felt like he wasn't really a man. And he struggled with a lot of the basic necessities of adulthood, such as finances, integrity, work ethic, etc.

Photo courtesy of Nebojsa Bobic at
As with most people, he was his own worst enemy. He admitted to me that one of his greatest hindrances to becoming the man was his own laziness and lack of self control. He was asking for help with problems that stemmed from deep within himself. 

I sat staring at him wondering How am I going to help this guy? Ultimately, the answer surprised even me. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My atheist neighbor has been a better Christian than me.

The goal of all Christian/Non-Christian relationships is for us to declare the gospel to them through our actions and words... right?

Photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass at
Obviously, we're supposed to share the gospel with the world (Matt 28:19-20). But I'm beginning to think there's possibly a way to take the Great Commission too far. And before anyone builds a cross on which to crucify me for saying that, let me explain.