Presenting A Different Evangelism Program: “Crucifixion Evangelism”

Discipleship, Apostleship, and Dying

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be one of the disciples of Jesus – to hear his words, to see his miraculous works, to walk with him on dirt paths, to eat with him. That all sounds cozy and warm. Yet, I don’t really want to experience what he taught and lived – especially the notion that to follow him I must deny myself, take up my cross and die. Even though that is just what his faithful apostles did.

History teaches us that:

  • Peter was crucified upside down.
  • Andrew was crucified.
  • James, son of Zabedee, was beheaded.
  • Philip was crucified.
  • Bartholomew was crucified, filleted, then beheaded.
  • Thomas was pierced with five spears.
  • Matthew the evangelist was burned to death.
  • James, the son of Alphaeus, was crucified.
  • Thaddaeus or Jude, brother of James, was crucified.
  • Simon the zealot was crucified.
  • Matthias was stoned then beheaded with an ax when dead.
  • Paul was beheaded.
  • Only John, the brother of James, died in peace.

What a strange way to advance the gospel – make sure the most prominent members of the movement die ingloriously. Perhaps we’ve got it wrong?

When was the last time you heard of a gospel program that included death as one of its methods? “Folks, in order for your neighbors to be saved, you have to give up your life. Live the gospel of Jesus Christ is such a way that it costs you everything.” Evangelization by elimination. Crucifixion evangelism. I’m not sure you’d sell a lot of product.

Sadly, many try to evangelize by showing people how prosperous they will become if they follow Jesus. No wonder Christianity is losing its impact on society, culture, and individual lives.

Now you can see why I’m uncomfortable with all the talk about being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others. I hardly ever deny myself or take up the cross of death or actually follow the ways of Jesus. I talk a lot about it but never do it. I can’t even deny myself caffeine or sugar or a smart-mouth remark for Jesus’ sake let alone my life. How pitiful is that?!?

When I see what it cost these real disciples and apostles of Jesus, I’m conflicted regarding my own comfortable lifestyle. And I despise the fact that I want to live even more comfortably. Though there’s nothing I can do about the plentiful time in history in which I live, there is something I can do about its influence on my life.

I’ve already had caffeine and sugar this morning. I guess today I’ll just start by keeping my mouth shut when I want to say something stupid.

How will you live today in denying yourself, dying, and following Jesus? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

Faithful Perseverance On The Journey: It Takes a Team

Living a Life Unworthy Of The World

I’ve got to be honest – I don’t understand faith. I’m confused by faith’s various aspects. For example, if I ask in faith I’ll receive what I ask for. The notion that people who meet certain conditions can ask and God will give them what they desire, seems to have support in scripture (Matthew 7.7-11; John 15.7-8). Whole ministries and movements have been built on the premise that if you say the right word in the right way, God will do what you ask. Yet, thousands of the faithful would disagree. Faith is not getting what we want but persevering no matter what.

There are many people highlighted in Hebrews 11, often called “the faith chapter,” who experienced incredible acts of God – kingdoms conquered, promises obtained, fires quenched, murders avoided, feebleness empowered, armies defeated, and dead resurrected.

A Different Kind of Faith

Yet on the same list are those who were sustained by the same powerful work of God whose end doesn’t fit the usual “faith” pattern. Look what these men and women endured with a tenacious faith.

They gladly received:

  • torture not wanting it to stop
  • mocking and whippings
  • shackles and imprisonment
  • death by pelting rocks
  • being sawed in half
  • death by a sword
  • having to dress in animal skins
  • being impoverished
  • being wronged, beaten down, tormented
  • being homeless wanderers, dwelling in hard and isolated places

These people with monumental faith were the poor homeless abused who didn’t know if they were going to live another day. These are steller examples of faith? We assume the people with great faith live well, are successful, have a special way of getting things from God, and have few problems.

That’s why it is said of these people, “the world was not worthy of them.” These people have a faith that is “other-worldly.” It runs counter to what the world calls faith. It’s a foreign faith. These tortured, beaten, poor, wandering, “facing-death” people live a faith so noble and true that it could only come from the Triune God Who exists in faith. Remaining faithful in such harsh conditions demonstrates a deep, abiding life in God.

This kind of faith really gets my attention because I lack it. If I lived in union with Him more deeply then I’d experience faith more deeply. It always comes back to a lack of abiding in Him.

Modern Faith?

So I wonder how modern Christians deal with a faith that doesn’t result in answered prayer or in problems being solved.

When persecution comes, will we fold like cheap paper?

Will we be humbled by our lack of real faith instead of being proud of our puny faith?

Will we re-evaluate our understanding of real faith? Will we admit that we don’t understand faith and struggle to live it?

Will we be motivated to live an “other-world” faith, abiding in God, even when it means being treated harshly by others?

Great News! 

Those that have lived this kind of faith are with you right now. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses made up of these martyrs and faith-dwellers who help you. You can lay aside your burden of sin and walk the journey of endurance with this team while keeping your eyes on Jesus. He’s the Foundation and the Perfecter of the faith you have. (Hebrews 12.1-2)

If you keep moving forward in faith, how can you lose? With this holy squad urging you on and giving you what you need to persevere, you can be faithful on the journey no matter the results.

How are you struggling with faith today? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

Here’s The Most Awesome Life You Could Ever Live

Becoming By Grace What God Is By Nature

Here’s some news that’s beyond good. It is awe-inspiring, breathtaking, stunning! As Millennials would say: “It’s dripping with awesome sauce!” The life you’re living – right now! – can be immeasurably more than you ever imagined.

Most of us have been sold a bill of goods that leaves us stymied and confused if we ever stopped to think about it. We’ve been told that the main project of the Christian life is to get to heaven when we die. We don’t want to go to hell – scary!! – so trust in Jesus and you’ll go to heaven.

Have you ever tried to find that exact teaching in the Bible? I just looked. Can’t find it. Now that’s scary!

That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to trust in Jesus or that there is no heaven. My point is that I can’t find a connection between the two ideas. It’s true that for anything good in this life and the next, you must have faith in Jesus. And, there is something in the future sometimes referred to as heaven.

I don’t say this to discourage you or cause you to question your relationship with God. I say this because the design of the Christian life goes way beyond “cause”/faith and “effect”/heaven.

If being a Christian is not about getting into heaven, then what’s it about?

The design of the Christian life is to become by grace what God is by nature. That’s it. Plain and (not so) simple! Wowsy!

You’ve been called to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1.4). You have been invited in prayer to “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.19). That beats “going to heaven” any day. Cash in the bus ticket; you’re flying to another universe!

Becoming by grace what God is by nature is like diving into the Atlantic ocean – an abyss of mystery. Escaping hell and going to heaven is like swimming in a back-yard pool – wonderful but confined. Both have their place. But one is so much grander than the other.

Grander because it absolutely provides challenges and motivations for you to actually LIVE to become someone like Jesus Christ…NOW. It gives the best answer to the question, “What do I do now while I’m waiting to get into heaven?” (If you’ve ever asked that question.)

Many authors of scripture write with this reality in mind. This truth is communicated by St. Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century. It’s what the early church understood as God’s design for humanity. It’s how people of the Church lived for a thousand years before some started messing with it. It is a remarkable way to understand and live the Christian life.

Do I dare say it? You are designed to become a little Jesus by God’s grace. How awesome is that?!? A stunning, delightful, stimulating, and provoking reality all wrapped up in a salvation tortilla.  Tasty and filling!

You have aspiration, direction, and design to live by – become by grace what God is by nature. It is awesome beyond awesome!

What now? 

  1. Meditate on 2 Peter 1.3-11 and/or Ephesians 3.14-21 for a while or for days.
  2. Pray for eyes to see this truth.
  3. Begin exploring the abyss of the mystery of becoming by grace what God is by nature.
  4. Slowly read, On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press; Introduction by C.S. Lewis
  5. Accept the grace of God in every circumstance of your life.

Ponder: What would this reality mean for you? What differences would it make for you?

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

5 Ways to Overcome Secular Christianity

Relating To God Who Is Everywhere Present, Filling All Things

Many Christians live as if God has little to do with their everyday life. He is far off. He lives in some heavenly realm far removed from this world. They live on earth. God does not live on earth. They buy groceries, drive to work, mow the lawn, watch TV, make dinner, drink beer. God can’t relate to any of that. God doesn’t do mundane things. They live as if God does not exist in the real world. They are secular Christians.

Atheism is a belief that there is no God. Secularism is a belief that there is a God but that He is removed from our normal existence. He lives in the glamorous penthouse on the 32nd floor. We live in a bland, 4th floor, two-bedroom apartment. Occasionally we see each other on the elevator. But he’s too important to visit those on the 4th floor.

Moving from that analogy, sometimes He’ll breakthrough whatever barrier keeps Him from operating on earth. We call this “the supernatural.” We know God exists out there somewhere because on occasion He’ll breakthrough with supernatural healing, miracles, visions, dreams, or words. This isn’t natural, however. God doesn’t exist in what’s natural.

When you pray, where do you envision God? Are you trying to beat down the doors of heaven so you’ll be heard? Are you calling down the power of the Almighty to do something here on earth? Do you see prayer as the earnest plea of an earthly creature to persuade a reluctant Sovereign to do your bidding?

Even simple gestures indicate our Christian secularism. I’ve seen many people point upward when addressing God. “He is up there somewhere. I’ll point Him out to you.” Or, we lift up our hands expressing our desire for God to come down or give us something from on high.

Yet…

  • God is among you, day and night. The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above shows his handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge (Psalm 19.1-2).
  • God is with you in creation. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, HIs eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship… (Romans 1.20).
  • God is with you in relationship.  I am with you always… (Matthew 28.20) – even as he departed from his disciples physically.
  • God is with you by His Spirit. And I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. (John 14.16).
  • God is everywhere present, filling all things. One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. God is in everything (Ephesians 4.6).
  • God is in you. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14.23).
  • You are in God. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28)

The Triune God is definitely in your world! Or as some might say: “He is all up in your business!”

So, the problem is not that God is AWOL, living in another world. The problem is you can’t see Him even when He’s near. 

A Solution to Seeing God (Proverbs 3.5-6)

  1. Exercise faith in a God who is in and around you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
  2. Stop rationalizing away God’s nearness. Do not lean on your own understanding.
  3. Acknowledge (accept & live into) God in every detail of your life. In all your ways acknowledge Him. 
  4. You will experience God’s presence. He will make your journey straight.

Plus one:

5. Become, day-by-day, more pure in heart. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5.8)

In God you live and move and have your being. Begin or continue to journey with God who is everywhere present, filling all things.

How will you journey WITH God as present today? Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

Lunch with Kevin: My Conversation With A Dying Man

Lessons About Life While Facing Death

What is it like to face death head on? To know you are going to die in 2-5 years? To experience the reality of death without actually dying? Two weeks ago I had lunch with Kevin. He’d been recently diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a terminal disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player who died of ALS in 1941. Kevin knows that he will pass from this earth sometime in the next 5 years. It is that final. There is no cure. He is dying.

As an Orthodox Christian, Kevin deals with his impending death with a radically different perspective. It’s actually more than a perspective. It’s a reality. He is experiencing the reality of death before he dies. And as a result, he is experiencing life as never before. You might say, in dying he is coming alive.

Counsel From The Conversation 

  • Everything changed with the diagnosis.” His relationship with his wife, children, grandchildren, and friends came alive. Almost instantaneously, familial and friendship love deepened. He wants to be with his wife and family constantly. They want to be with him. His friends no longer assume he’ll be here tomorrow but declare their love as often as possible.

In an email Kevin wrote: “the love of family and close friends is an especially soothing balm. My relations with my beloved wife and rock of 37 years have been transformed overnight. We see into each other’s eyes deeply; we speak meaningfully and with sensitivity, and hold each other with true love; and we now are beginning to understand what “pure love” means. I also cannot believe the number of friends and acquaintances who have reached out with kind thoughts and words and acts. I am spending as much time with my relatives and friends as possible, even though I am more prone to being introspective.”

  • I can see more clearly now. I see what I could not see before.” He writes, “My thoughts are clear and more focused. My mind does not wander as it did. I am more “watchful” over my thoughts…Useless thoughts are driven away more easily by repeating the “Jesus Prayer:” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
  • I am less preoccupied.” He’s not attracted to doing or thinking about certain things. Some activities he once gave his time to are not important anymore.
  • “All I want to do is pray.” He has a deep commitment to commune with God. He is ramping up now for what he will do for eternity.  A “bucket list” is nonsense. He’s preparing for eternity.
  • “This is for my transfiguration.” He told me that a friend who is a faith-healer wrote him advising him to resist those who would tell him he could not be healed. But, Kevin isn’t desperate for physical healing. He desires spiritual healing that he knows dying brings about. For him it is more important that he experience God’s presence to transform than God’s power to deliver. He doesn’t doubt God’s ability to physically heal people. He just knows that his need for inner “transfiguration” is much more significant than his need for physical comfort. He is being transformed by death.

Life From Death

Life is coming out of death. True living begins to happen when you begin to die.

Isn’t this how Christians are to live all the time? St. Paul died everyday (1 Corinthians 15.31). He was “crucified with Christ:” dead already. Yet he lived (Galatians 2.20).

Jesus teaches that new fruit only comes from a buried and dead seed (John 12.24). His resurrection demonstrates that life comes out of death.

You and I struggle to know how to live because we struggle to know how to die.

I asked Kevin to teach me how to die. He wasn’t sure he could do that. Yet the words he spoke were lessons I needed and wanted to hear.

Now it’s a matter of struggling to live out the lessons. I hope not to be diagnosed with a terminal disease before I begin practicing them. But, I am not even guaranteed tomorrow. I better start dying today.

Thank you, Kevin! I love you, brother!

Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

 

4 Ways to Deal With Distracting Thoughts When Meeting With God

A Few Take-Aways From Lunch With Ron

I had lunch with Ron at a nice restaurant in Brea, CA last week. We caught up on life, family, jobs, and spiritual “things.” That last item probably wouldn’t have taken place a few years ago. Ron’s in a different place. So am I. We had a meaningful and encouraging conversation. What a difference a few years makes.

I say that because it was just two guys sharing life together. I wasn’t trying to force some spiritual insight into his life as in days past when I was his pastor. He wasn’t trying to influence me in some way. Yet, in the relaxed conversation meaningful issues arose.

In the course of conversation, the topic of his morning devotional routine came up. He told me that he had a special place where he’d sit with his coffee, read 3-4 devotional books with his Bible, and then pray for his family whose pictures lined the mantel in front of him. He often struggled with distracting thoughts and with sleepiness.

I figure some of you can relate. His description might be a summary of your morning “devotions.”

Perhaps unknowingly, he’d ventured right into my bailiwick. I asked him, “Why do you read so much?” “I’m trying to make up for lost time,” he replied. (Ron came to Christ in his late 40’s.) All the reading didn’t seem to be benefitting him much, however. So, I encouraged him to spend less time reading and more time in quiet with God. “This time isn’t about gaining more information as it is simply being with God,” I said.

Then he asked a wonderful question. “What about all the crazy thoughts that come to me then?” I shared with him these ideas:

  • Say a prayer like, “Lord, have mercy” when distracting thoughts come. This will help you refocus on God.
  • Write down items you know you can’t forget – things to do today. Then you can forget about them since they’re written down. But, don’t do this too often. This is not a time to plan your day. You will be able to remember truly important items later.
  • Dismiss random or bad/ugly thoughts. Don’t dwell on them. These “birds” will fly over but you don’t have to build a nest for them.
  • Lastly, I encouraged him to place a candle along with a cross or picture of Jesus on a table in front of him. This would give him a physical object that would help his focus on God. Light the candle saying, “Lord, have mercy” or a prayer of devotion to God. (He really resonated with this idea.) Develop a routine or ritual that you do everyday. Let it be filled with God.

Ron is a great guy who is seeking to know God better. I get to join his journey. Together we become what we couldn’t become as distinct individuals.

Thanks be to God!

What is your take-away from our conversation? Share it below.

Dr. K