Category Archives: Passages

“You Are Not the Help You Think You Are

Ascent to Jerusalem


“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2)

There is a collection within the psalms known as the Songs of Ascent. Pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the feasts sang these psalms on their way up the 2,700 foot climb to the holy city. The pilgrims would be begin with Psalm 120 and work their way up toward Jerusalem and the temple reading or singing their way through to the last Song of Ascent, Psalm 134. The progression of the psalms in this collection are representative of the various stages along the journey.

The pilgrims traveled oftentimes dangerous trails and roadways and were frequently confronted with a variety of unforeseen circumstances and conditions. As one journeyed up to Jerusalem, one could easily be consumed with these struggles and soon find oneself feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Does this sound familiar? Have you been there recently? If not, you may be there before long. We live in a fallen world full of struggles and difficulties, some of our own making and some which are not. The psalmist’s perspective is helpful at times like these.

The nature of these particular psalms was to remind and focus the sojourners on their destination point, rather than to consume them with the difficulties and helplessness they were sure to face along the way. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” He does not look to himself (a creature), rather, he looks to the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is a certain and steady source of help. When the psalmist’s head is low, down in the plains, he feels helpless, but when he lifts his head to look upon the Lord, he is immediately reminded of the source of his rescue.

In an age obsessed with self-help, one would think that we’d be especially aware of our inability to provide ourselves the real help we are in constant need of. Yet, we are tempted to turn to ourselves and everywhere else, except up to the all sufficient grace of the Lord who made heaven and earth. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (v. 3-8)

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The Glad News



I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.  (Psalm 40:8-10)


Did you read that?!  The psalmist cannot restrain himself from proclaiming the glad news of how he has been delivered by the faithfulness of God’s salvation.  He has not restrained his lips or hidden the news in his heart, but has spoken of it to the great congregation.  What an encouragement to tell everyone the glad news of our own salvation and deliverance through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Like the psalmist, we are recipients of God’s promise to rescue us from our sins and provide an eternal inheritance in His presence.


The Christian faith rests on what God has done for us and what He faithfully offers to all.  If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will not be able to conceal it from others.  It will well up and pour out of us.  Those outside the faith may know we are different by our actions, but they won’t know of Jesus unless we, as the psalmist reminds us, tell others by speaking of Him and the Gospel.  I can think of no better time to speak of and proclaim God’s steadfast love and faithfulness than as we approach holy week.  Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is a special time to tell others this great historical truth and glad news of our deliverance by a Savior.  It is by far the most glorious date in the Christian calendar, for without the resurrection the news would in no way be glad.


Won’t you consider inviting a friend or family member to church on Easter Sunday and maybe even for lunch or dinner thereafter to talk more about Jesus?  I will be preaching and explaining the glad news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Your friends and your family will undoubtedly experience the saints singing with unrestrained lips of joy.  O for Christ has risen and we wouldn’t dream of concealing it.

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Sharing Life Together

shared life

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

We spent all of 2013 journeying through the Book of Acts as a congregation, and what became readily apparent was that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is front and center. Getting the message of the Gospel out to those near and far (Acts 1:8) was, and remains today, the charge of Christ’s Church. No one was more fervent in proclaiming the Gospel than Paul. He gave his life as a living sacrifice to make Christ known to a world that was, and still is, perishing without Him.

But Paul did not just sacrifice his life to proclaim the Gospel. He also gave it for the sake of others in the body of Christ. In reading Paul’s letters, we realize that giving his life for other Christians was just as sacrificial as proclaiming the Gospel to hostile unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 provides a long list of the sufferings of Paul, which includes beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, hunger and thirst, sleeplessness and lack of clothing and shelter. It’s quite a list of Paul’s hardships as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul concludes the long list with this (v. 28), “and apart from all these things, what comes upon me daily; my deep concern for all the churches.” Paul’s ministry was somewhat itinerant in nature, and yet he could not separate that ministry from those who were unified with him in Christ. He sacrificed for and identified with his brothers and sisters on a daily basis. He lived a shared life. It was life on life.

The importance Paul placed on living a shared life is also apparent in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (above). Not only was Paul always ready to share the Gospel, he was also ready to share of himself with the dear brothers and sisters at the church in Thessalonica. Paul’s concern was not merely to get the Gospel to new people and move on. He was deeply moved to share his life with other believers. A cursory look at Paul’s epistles reveals that he often wrote to clear up controversies and correct sinful behaviors. Living life on life with these folks was nothing but messy. It required a lot of love and devotion, and it had to be incredibly tiring. Yet, Paul said this is what he desired and loved to do. Why? Because he too was a sinner in need of grace, just as they were. Paul was the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), yet knew that life in the body is the place where God shapes sinners to be like Christ (Colossians 2:2). That happens in our worship, in our fellowships and during our Bible studies, along with any other time brothers and sisters come together.

It is only when we fail to acknowledge our need of Christ, and attempt to stand in our self-righteousness, that we fail to receive and give God’s grace in our shared life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, said “It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”

The fact is, as Bonhoeffer says, “we are sinners.” We cannot be helped and we cannot help others when we claim to be better than our neighbor. We will remain alone and certainly no closer to God. As Bonhoeffer says, “If my sinfulness appears to me in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.”

Sacrificially giving of ourselves for other Christians in our church will be messy, tiring and inconvenient and, at the same time, dear to both us and them. But only, if we recognize that we are all equally in need of God’s grace and considered part of Christ’s Church solely because of what Jesus has done for us. That is the beginning of grace, and radically alters, for the better, all Christian fellowship. It is the beginning of sharing life together in a meaningful and God exalting way.

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Do You Care What Others Think?



But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

How often you have heard, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Who cares?” How often have you made that statement to a friend, your spouse or to your children? I certainly have said that to my friends, wife and children more times than I’d like to admit. Sometimes I was right. But other times I was wrong. Whether I was right or wrong depended upon the circumstances.

When I care what someone else thinks, I may be doing so as a way to earn that person’s approval. I may very well be doing it to take my reputation up a few notches in that person’s eyes. That’s pride. In that case, I would have been better off not caring what that person thought about me. I was wrong in seeking to inflate my own self-worth, further fueling my pride and narcissism. I’ve already been accepted by God through Christ’s life, death and resurrection on my behalf, and that’s all the acceptance and validation of my worth that I should need.

There are times, however, when you and I should be concerned about what others think. We should be concerned about what others think when it affects what they think about Christ. This was the Apostle Paul’s approach. In 1 Corinthians 9 he said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake.” Paul said that he made himself a “servant to all.” He cared deeply about those he encountered and desperately worked to lead them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He cared what they thought about Jesus. Paul’s actions were a manifestation of what the Gospel was doing to Him, and that really is the motivator of all our actions.

God’s grace in you is what motivates you to be a servant to all and to care about how your actions magnify Christ and the Gospel. So often we want to jump straight to the imperatives of Scripture: “BE a servant to Christ, “BE a good witness to Jesus.” But when we do so, we often forget that the imperatives of the New Testament are preceded by the indicatives. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (above), Paul points to how God’s grace in us, brought about through faith in the Gospel, provides not only the desire in us to do the imperatives, but it also ensures the results of those imperative efforts. Paul writes, “We ARE the aroma of Christ…”, not “BE the aroma of Christ. Because of the outworking of the Gospel in our lives, we ARE already the aroma of Christ. Paul states that It is because of who we are in Christ that God “always leads us in triumphal procession.” Because of God’s grace at work in us, we will be effective witness to Christ in the world. Sometimes our witness falls on deaf ears, unopened by the grace of God and other times it will, by grace, bring about new life in Christ. Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And the answer is, “we are not.” But by God’s grace we are.

I pray that we will walk boldly in our efforts to influence what others think about Jesus. By God’s grace, may they see in us that pleasing aroma of Christ. Who else, other than God, is sufficient for these things?

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Are You a Minimizer?

Jesus saves sign

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)


I talk and preach a lot about the Gospel. By the Gospel, I’m referring to the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the historical and theological reality that Jesus lived, died as a sacrifice for sins on the cross and rose from the dead, overcoming death and providing eternal life for all who put their faith in what He did. My faith is unapologetically Gospel-centric, in that not only do I believe that our eternal salvation depends on our faith in the Gospel, but that our world view and the way in which we live our lives are deeply affected by what we believe about the Gospel.


I hope you have put your faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you truly have, the Holy Spirit will begin and continue to change the way you live your life and respond to its challenges. One way to assess the role of the Gospel in your life is to gauge how you react to your own sin.


Bob Thune and Will Walker, authors of The Gospel Centered Life, have designed a short diagnostic tool to help us see how we deal with sin. I found it very revealing. Determine which of these responses (may well be more than one) best describes your response to sin:


I find it difficult to receive feedback about weaknesses or sin. When confronted, my tendency is to explain things away, talk about my successes, or justify my decisions. As a result, people are hesitant to approach me and I rarely have conversations about difficult things in my life.


I strive to keep up appearances and maintain a respectable image. My behavior, to some degree, is driven by what I think others think of me. I also do not like to think reflectively about my life. As a result, not many people know the real me. (I may not even know the real me.)


I tend to conceal as much as I can about my life, especially the “bad stuff.” This is different from faking, in that faking is about impressing. Hiding is more about shame. I don’t think people will accept or love the real me.


I tend to think (and talk) more highly of myself than I ought. I make things (good and bad) out to be much bigger than they are (usually to get attention). As a result, things often get more attention than they deserve and have a way of making me stressed or anxious.


I am quick to blame others for sin or circumstances. I have a difficult time “owning” my contributions to sin or conflict. There is an element of pride that assumes it’s not my fault and/or an element of fear of rejection if it is my fault.


I tend to give little weight to sin or circumstances in my life, as if they are “normal” or “not that bad.” As a result, things often don’t get the attention they deserve. They have a way of mounting to the point of being overwhelming.


Which of these best describes you? None? Are you sure you’re not just “downplaying” or in denial? Each of these responses represents an attempt to justify yourself, rather than let Jesus justify you through the Gospel. When you minimize your sin, you try to justify yourself or find your worth in something other than the Gospel, and that means you end up minimizing Jesus. In doing so, you have begun to find ways to build worth and justify yourself apart from Christ. It causes you to live your life for someone or something else and relegate Jesus to the sidelines. Minimizing Jesus always ends in disappointment, keeps His Gospel grace from freeing you to be and do what He created you for, and denies you the relief you need from sin and despair.


I want you to know, it is never too late to turn to Jesus. Yes, you may already be a Christian and have faith in the Gospel, but the Gospel is not merely for “getting saved,” it is for all of life. Right now, and every day, you and I must bring our attempts to minimize Jesus and maximize something else to the cross and receive Christ’s forgiveness and grace to maximize the impact of the Gospel in our lives. Every one of us needs to and denying it just means you need to take another look at the list. Don’t wait and waste your short life. Give Jesus the place in your heart He already holds in the universe. His grace is more than sufficient.

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Pondering Christmas

star over manger

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

I’ve been pondering this verse for a little while now, and what I would give to know all the things Mary pondered about Jesus. First there was the visit by the angel, Gabriel, who broke to her the news of the virgin’s upcoming birth of a son, the long awaited Messiah. Then there was the joyful leaping of the yet to be born John the Baptist from inside of his mother, Elizabeth, upon entering the same room as his womb bound Savior. So far, this is pretty exciting, but what about the unremarkable birth in Bethlehem that followed? There wasn’t even room for Jesus at the inn, so Mary delivered Him in a manger. Ponder that! Certainly, Mary must have wondered why He was not given a more noble birth place or welcoming party. There was no crown, no throne and no gifts until much later when the wise men visited.

Well, it wasn’t long and the shepherds arrived, having been visited by angels, and they were the first to greet the Son of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes. When they saw Jesus, the shepherds told the parents all the angels had said concerning this young Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And it was at that point, we’re told, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Try and imagine all that Mary had been told and seen up to that point. Amazing!

But how much more amazing is it, from our vantage point two thousand years later, to ponder the full weight of Christmas. What God has done for us is incomprehensible in human terms. Jesus, “who was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, BORN in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Shall we not treasure such a thing in our hearts?! What could the Lord Jesus Christ have done for you more than He has by coming, except in His return at the next advent? How can you escape from pondering such things?

The season of advent is now upon us once again. Let us not forget to celebrate, treasure and ponder the birth or Him who redeemed us from the sin that cut us off from our Creator. Read the Christmas narratives, sing the Christmas carols that speak of great truths, give of yourself to others as Jesus has given unto you, and use the opportunity of the season to encourage others to ponder. Don’t let Christmas sneak up on and overrun you, rather, treasure up and ponder in your heart the advent of your Savior and Redeemer. Take time to unwrap and appreciate the one Gift most worth pondering.

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A Clearer Picture

American Christianity


“O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

Have you noticed how much politicians have changed in the last eight to ten years? Whether Democrat or Republican, it used to be in vogue to tout your Christian faith before the voters. But that’s not so much the case anymore. Wearing the Christian label can be politically incorrect for several reasons.

The main reason is that fewer Americans are checking the survey box for “Christian.” According to Lifeway President, Ed Stetzer, many of the same people are merely deselecting the Christian label. In a recent USA Today column, Stetzer said, “People who once called themselves Christians are simply no longer doing that. As Christians find themselves more and more on the margins of American society (on moral issues), people are beginning to count the cost. It can actually be polarizing or considered intolerant now.”

What Stetzer’s effectively saying is that those who merely called themselves Christian, but had no genuine commitment to Christ, are now opting out. Perhaps we could say, those folks are finally calling it like it is. As Stetzer points out, “The Church is not dying, it is just being more clearly defined.” A Christian is, after all, one who puts his or her faith in the life, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the Gospel). Anyone calling themselves a Christian outside of this definition is actually not a Christian, no matter what box they check. Christians serve Jesus as Lord, by taking up their own cross and following Him. None of us do that perfectly, after all we’re still a work in process, but by God’s grace we have the desire and strive to do so.

While this trend may seem negative, I actually believe it’s positive for American Christianity. Finally, our non-Christian neighbors will be able to see that we are different. By different, I don’t mean that we act more righteous than others, although I hope there’s some evidence of the Holy Spirit in us which testifies to that fact. What I mean is that because we are not righteous on our own, we see our own need to depend on and not abandon Jesus. I hope they see us not as “intolerant,” but as compelled by love into our neighborhoods and towns to tell others boldly and respectfully the truth about their need for Jesus.

While the percentage of those identifying themselves as Christian is on the decline in America, the actual percentage of those who say they have “faith in Jesus, He has changed their lives, and since that time their lives have been increasingly orient around their faith in Him” has actually increased by almost the same amount as nominal Protestantism has decreased. This represents not a shift from one group to another but, rather, new life in Jesus Christ as a result of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel.

Our own country is fast becoming a mission field. We can now more clearly see to whom we need to bring the Gospel. Therefore, let’s take advantage of this historic opportunity to make the most of telling others about Jesus. And let’s pray that God would use our witness to bring about revival and transform a nation from nominal to authentic Christianity.

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Is This Your Labor Day?



“When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you”
(Psalm 128:2)


The official U.S. Department of Labor website states that Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” That’s not too far off from the Christian view of work in the world. Well, sort of. At least it’s closer to God’s perspective than how most Americans define the day.


Labor Day is rarely celebrated for the reasons stated by the Department of Labor. We claim Labor Day as our unofficial last day of summer. It’s the last day of freedom and leisure before we go back to school and the rigors of our jobs kick in, now that summer vacations and vocational laxity are in the rear view mirror. A modern American perspective on work is that it’s something which makes us miserable, as we grudgingly endure it until such time as we hit the lottery, receive a generous inheritance or retire. We live for leisure and work for the weekend.


That is an upside down view of work in God’s economy. As Martin Luther points out, “Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it He wants to bestow His blessing on you. This praise of work should be inscribed on all tools, on the forehead and the face that sweat from toiling.” A Christian view of work recognizes God, not the labor force, as the source of the contributions that strengthen, prosper and provide for the well-being of our nation. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth (Deut. 8:17-18a). God provides for you, me and our nation through our labors. God intends for us to work and to delight in it.


As Christians, our work is not a secular duty, but a sacred calling or offering. The Apostle Paul reminds us, in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Do you think of everything you do as a form of serving Christ? That includes your homework, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, changing diapers, driving a school bus, working at the checkout line, serving as a state representative, painting homes, writing code, teaching, providing medical care, cutting hair, managing a business, balancing the books, priming the assembly line, wielding a chainsaw, answering the phone or an email, installing HVAC systems, designing bridges, painting and even pastoring (insert your daily work here if I missed it!).


Brothers and sisters, let’s consider what our daily work truly is and go back to it with happy and grateful hearts, doing it all as unto the Lord. Don’t you think, just maybe, your neighbors will notice and ask you “to give the reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) How could that not glorify Christ more?

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Shared Life – Shared Mission

Shared Life Shared Mission



Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  (Philippians 2:2)

One of my favorite passages often read during Holy Week is Jesus’ high priestly prayer contained in John 17.  This prayer, from Jesus to the Father, takes up the entirety of chapter 17 and occurred the night before Jesus gave His life on the cross.  What was on Jesus’ heart that evening?  You were!  On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for His present and future disciples.  He prayed that they would be partakers of the love He, the Father and the Holy Spirit shared, and He also prayed for the unity of the body of Christ until such time as He returns.

The love of God we are drawn into and the unity of the body of Christ in which we have been placed are not inseparable, even though we may not fully know that love until we see Christ face to face.  That is because we share the love of Christ when we are in the company of those who are also followers of Jesus.  Twice, in John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that we may all be one, just as Jesus and the Father are One.  It is His prayer that our unity will be an expression of the love of the unified Trinity.  You may be surprised, however, to see what the church’s unity is meant to accomplish.  In verse 21 Jesus indicates that it is “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Jesus prays the same objective for our unity in verse 23: “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you have loved me.”  The unity of the body of Christ is for the purpose of accomplishing its commission, to make disciples.  Our shared life is inseparable from our shared mission.  The Apostle Paul makes the same connection between our shared life and our shared mission in Philippians 2.  Our unity, Paul says, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” will make us appear as “lights shining in the world, holding fast the word of life,” which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:15-16).

Are we sharing life together as the local church?  Do we really live life on life with one another?  And when we do, are we of the same mind and love and in full accord?  If we are truly in Christ, we will grow in our unity and love.  That is God’s sovereign will for us. That’s something to consider as we gather to worship on Sundays, meet in the classroom and our small groups, and as we serve together in the ministry of our church.  You magnify Christ to the world and are built up yourself when you seek out opportunities to be transformed within the life of the local body of Christ in each of these areas and in others.  Remember, there are two things you cannot be alone, married and in the church.  As a disciple of Jesus, you were made for His body.

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Church was Great! Let’s Not Talk About it.

Coffee Hour

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Holy week will soon be upon us, which means we will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our greatest hope for this life and the next. Resurrection (Easter) Sunday, along with Christmas Eve, is also one of the best attended days of the church calendar, largely because people who don’t often come to church realize, to varying degrees, that it is an important day. This past Christmas Eve the vestry was full and overflowing with guests who joined us in fellowship.

A recent blog posting by Colin Marshall really got me thinking about the fellowship time we share, over a cup of coffee or sweets, after each Sunday morning service. It also got me thinking about the impact we could have following our Easter services, which are coming up just a few weeks from now. Marshall wonders how it is that “we’ve listened to the Word of God read, heard it proclaimed, sung the praises of our Great God and petitioned Him for mercy in our time of need, and yet we spend the time afterward talking about last night’s movie, the game, the hobby, the state of the nation, or whatever “anything” but the great truths of the Gospel we’ve just heard and by which we’ve been saved?” Of course we want to get to know others better and deeply care about wellbeing, but why is it we still feel uncomfortable striking up conversations about the God we’ve just worshiped together? What better and more natural place to have these conversations than in church?! Even those who are visiting showed up because they have an interest in seeking, hearing from and possibly worshiping the same God who called us here. At the very least they are at a place where they are now open to talking about Him.

Why, then, don’t we more frequently engage in spiritual conversations after each Sunday service? Marshall suggests it is because we often have a half dozen other things to do on a Sunday and this is just another one of them. We’re eager to get to the next thing on the list. He also suggests that those with a serving mindset “find it difficult to get into “God talk” at church. The busyness of serving can keep them from stopping to encourage others and can let them feel they’ve done enough by helping to organize things.”

As the author to the book of Hebrews reminds us, we all called to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” That encouragement, to put the verse in context, comes from the Gospel. The job of encouraging one another in the faith is not just that of the elders, deacons or the pastor. You and I are each called by God to do this. It is not that we don’t want to do this. Sometimes we just don’t know where to start or what to say.

Marshall offers the following five suggestions, which I think you’ll find helpful for getting on track with some great coffee hour conversation. Please, give them a try:

• Pray during the service that God would lead your conversations, and pray for specific people around you.
• Listen to what God is saying to you through the sermon, songs, call to worship, prayers, and so on, and formulate a comment or question to start a conversation. Pick out two things to try as conversation-starters after church.
• Even if the conversations don’t always get off the ground, your enthusiasm for learning the Bible and knowing God will be contagious. And non-Christians will see that church isn’t dull and boring but fascinating and life-shattering.
• These intentional conversations after church will sometimes lead to prayer for one another. Why not stop for a moment and give thanks or petition God for some need?
• Another way to deepen our fellowship is to ask each other how we came to salvation in Christ. Sometimes we’ve been in church with people for years without ever learning their story. The other day at church I asked a guy named Phil how he became a Christian, and we discovered God had worked in us in very similar ways as young men. The door is now open to building a friendship with this brother. What a joy!

So remember, lots of people will be visiting our church on Easter Sunday because they know it is a meaningful Christian holiday. Join me in showing them the love of Christ, as the body of Christ, by welcoming and engaging them in meaningful conversation. I can’t think of a better way to engage and edify our guests (and each other) than by discussing the significance of that day. You might even ask, “What brought you here today?” The benefits of your conversation will extend far beyond the several minutes you will share that day. Who knows, it may even extend into eternity!

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