Pray - Click - Pass Along

For five weeks I've been meeting with the launch team for a new church in Chicago – 180 Chicago. Now I have a request. I simply want you to prayerfully consider who may really benefit by being part of this adventure. If it's you...great. If it's others...pass along the link. 

Here's who we're looking for: People who are broken, utterly dependent on God, and believe that he is radically changing lives today. These are the things that makes a strong launch team. 

I've been reading extensively about revivals. Prayer moves mountains and prayer creates movements. Your prayers make a difference! Pray, click here & pass along. Many thanks...

Blessings,

Karl

 

They Just Need To Hear!

I can't wait to connect again with my new friend. I just met him briefly after a meeting I had with some other pastors. He shared with me that he loved what he overheard us talking about...but that he didn't know too much about Christianity. 

WOW! A young man hungry to talk with me more about life in Christ? He truly wants to know more and the passion in his eyes was amazing. I'll be meeting with him soon!

I firmly believe the church is missing something big. Our nation isn't as much post-Christian as it is unreached. Most people I meet who aren't Christian have no real idea what Jesus wants for them - to be freed from constraints of sin and experience abundant life.

We must be courageous because many millions simply haven't heard the gospel for all it is. Our hopes must be lifted and our vision must expand. Jesus came to seek and save lost people. We can't wait for them to visit church, we need to confidently reach out in love.

I have two simple, but powerful, ways to help equip and inspire people to share the gospel:

  1. The church needs to celebrate life-change stories every weekend service. I'm not big on doing something "all the time", but this is an exception. In the church I was lead pastoring in Anchorage, Alaska, we had these stories every week. It created of culture of expectation and I believe life-change stories help spur a booming church. We had "many added to our number" year after year.
  2. People need to be equipped and encouraged to share their story. If you look at Acts 26 you'll find Paul sharing his story. That's it, just his story! It took him all of 3 minutes, I timed it. The most powerful and relevant tool we have to reach people who are unreached is our story. No one can steal it and no one can deny it...it's our story! 

Sure, there's more to do like arming people with central passages of scripture, having outreach events, caring for the poor, and on it goes. But we can't forget the two big basics: Celebrate life-change as an expectation in our churches and unleash people to share their stories. Many millions of people are hungry to hear the gospel...let's tell them the whole story.

If you want to join a church that will live this out...you're invited to prayerfully consider joining me in a new church plant. Signup right here.

 

The Gospel: So Good We Have To Tell The World

Jesus came to seek and save lost people. We can't wait for them to visit church, we need to confidently reach out in love. (That's my tweet from two days ago - just hours after God met with me in his word. What came next was only a God thing.)

It was early Saturday morning and God had an appointment with me. He wanted my heart to beat fast again for the gospel – for lost people who need to hear the good news. 

I was re-reading a classic by Watchman Nee and also pouring through the gospels for God's heart on reaching lost people. And there it was, Luke 10:2, John 4:35, and Matthew 9:37, all variations of the same theme  – There's a huge number of people who are ready to hear the gospel, and many will respond by saying yes to God!

Just a few hours later God revealed this to me. He wanted me to see how hungry people are to hear about the life God offers them. I'll share the rest of this story, and some basic points of action, on Wednesday. I hope this season has you lifting your eyes to see the spiritually hungry people all around us – what a message of hope we have!

 

You're Invited: We have another "Vision Chicago" meeting on Dec. 3rd. I'd love to have you pray and consider if God would have you join the core of our new church plant in downtown Chicago. Sign-up here

Party, Politics, and Jesus

"One of these things is not like the others...one of these things just doesn't belong..."

After the dust of 2016 settles, we will certainly discover we're in the same place we've been since Cain killed Abel...selfish, angry, divided, fearful, and in need of help.

Party and politics are very much alike. They feed our common weaknesses and highlight our common flaws. More than dividing people politically, it often divides us emotionally – severing our ability to discuss what matters most. It has a blinding effect on our life – causing us to see nothing but the bad in others and the good in ourselves. But worse, the void (even for Christ followers) gets a whole lot larger because no system or person can satisfy the soul.

Let me confess: I've been twisted around the axel of party and politics in my past. I've won battles but lost people who could have been friends. I've declared "the sky is falling" only to discover the sun did come out again. I've seen "my guy" get in, only to watch him get carted off to prison. I've had suspicions confirmed and I've had convictions surprised. This is why I've decided to tackle all things political through the spiritual. I've finally learned that seats are changed by votes and hearts are changed by God – and changed hearts is what will change the world.

We ultimately must exercise our right to vote. Too much blood was spilled for this great freedom. Even run for office if God calls you to that battle. And when it comes to candidate selection, pull that lever with passion. But remember, you just voted for imperfection.

Don't take the bait. The more we hold high or try to tear down a party or a politician, the smaller we become. Even the best party platforms and elected candidates are deeply flawed. And don't allow your passion for/against party or politician exceed how much you champion our great savior.

When all the dust settles in our nation, we'll still be a ripe harvest field with truck loads of people who are hurting and hungry to hear a message of hope that can transform their lives from the inside out. Only God has a history of making promises and delivering on every one!

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17) Boom!

Aren't you glad Jesus is "not like the others"?

A Christian Response To Terror

The tragic events in San Bernardino have rocked the soul of our nation. We now know there are people in America that hate our values and aim to send shocking terror through the fibers of our culture. How we respond is critical.

Yes, strong boarders, national security and vetting processes are imperative if we wish to protect innocents and leave our children's children a legacy of peace. But what can't be lost is our calling - that the world may know of a life found only in Jesus.

We have a powerful message, as Christ followers, and to carry it into the world involves a high level of risk. There are no assurances that we will be safe this side of heaven. The only sure thing we can count on is persecution. Jesus said "you will be hated for my name's sake".

There is an even greater threat to our lives than terrorism. The greatest threat we face is fear, followed by retreat or hateful aggression. This will only steal our joy and rob us of the many blessings of witnessing lost people break though into the blue sky of salvation.

We have a calling and a hope! Our "ministry of reconciliation" is too rich a reward to cower from neighbors. And if we pray for our enemies to be conquered it should be, first and foremost, that their hearts are conquered by the love of God. God is still turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh!

Lean in! Carry the message of hope with uncommon boldness. There are many millions of people who have yet to hear the message of the gospel and understand the greatest freedom known to mankind. Peace...

Matt. 10:23, II Cor. 5:18, Ezk. 36:26

Please Say It..."God, Make Me Clean"

The good news and the result of God touching our life just isn't wimpy. But for too many the reality and power of salvation is illusive because they've settled for intellectual assent but the power of the gospel has never touched their soul. Many have walked isles but not yet walked with God. This doesn't have to be the case.

Take a listen to some of the clearest evidence of what happens when authentic change happens. When God touches a heart and turns a life, it comes "not only in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction". This is how each of us can have assurance of salvation...to know "that he has chosen you". I Thessalonians 1:4-5

Yes, we can be so close and yet so far away from saving faith. The illusion of salvation is so blinding that no one is beyond the reach of its deception. Jesus says that preachers, demon casters, and even Christian workers can claim the name of God...and not be his kids. Matthew 7:21-23

It's no accident that, just following those stone sobering words by Jesus, a leper (one that was filthy and believed to suffering from his sin) approached him. He simply said "Lord, make me clean". The answer for our lostness, deception, and powerless life is to confess the uncleanliness of our soul and trust Jesus to touch it and turn it. Let him! Matthew 8:1-3

The Main Thing

Blown away this morning by studying Acts 2. The very few men and women that hung on to the promises of Jesus were truly extraordinary and filled with the Spirit. What is most amazing is what's NOT being done or talked about.

The earliest followers of Jesus weren't worrying over the fact that their numbers had recently dwindled. They did not hide or run for the hills. They didn't slam the culture or show disgust over godlessness, even though they saw it everywhere. And their rights as individuals or their freedom to drink wine weren't the featured discussion. This mighty few had one passion - Point people to Jesus! - all the rest just didn't matter that much.

Those things that worry us, divide us, and consume us, would grow strangely dim if we were compelled to point people to Jesus - the giver of true abundance, who helps us overcome the pain of a broken world with his overflowing life.

Let's Start A Fire (Guest Blogger Jim Strietelmeier - Moody Man)

The Apostle Paul told his disciple Timothy to “fan into flame the gift that he had received by the laying on of hands by the elders.” Praise God that He gives gifts to individual Christians. The Lord gives these gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. The Lord’s church is a gifted community! All of us, who know the living God have the privilege of God Himself taking residence in us. He empowers His family by His own strength. “Greater is He who is in you than He that is in the world.” Your position as a believe is one of power. You are already attached to the Greatest One. You are great because God is Great, and He is in you. You are gifted!

I am trying to fan into flame the gifts that God gave me. It is God’s command to Timothy and in my experience it is something that God calls all of us to. My gifts include mercy and faith. The gift of mercy means that the one who has it is like the Lord in this way, he is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” But the Lord Himself said “blessed are the merciful they shall receive mercy.” I need God’s mercy. And I have had the merciful compassion of the saints poured out on me, my family, and our community. I am blessed. We are blessed.

Mercy is something that is fanned into flame easily. For the very reason of geography, mercy can become a raging fire of godly compassion. Every day, wether we plan it or not, just because of where we live, there is opportunity to express God’s mercy. This week the extraordinary has become our norm. A panicked twelve year old found refuge in our home after fearing for his life. A prostitute found new clothes and words of comfort because she knew there was help at the church building. Prayers for those who had threatened harm to themselves have been made. Food for the hungry has been handed out.“And the poor have had the Gospel preached to them.” Mercy is easy.

Faith, that is harder. Now, it is true that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” So all of us“must have the faith of a little child so that we can enter the kingdom of heaven.” But faith that moves mountains, or faith that sustains the martyr is the goal. This is true especially of someone who might be gifted in that area. Our Lord is the One who tells us that “all things are possible with God.”He tells us that if we “ask anything in His name and it will be done.” Faith, being the basis of our relationship with God, should be as common as water around the Great Lakes. Yet our Lord asks the question that rings over the present church. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” It may be because of the “faith healer” or televangelist who came in previous generations, it may be because the church has replaced faith with administration. But works without faith is the mark of the Pharisee class. Good works without faith are only filthy rags. No! Faith must be fanned into flame in this generation. I must see how big a fire can grow in me. Now, what about you? What gift are you going to fan into flame?

II Timothy 1:6, I Corinthians 12:28 Ephesians 4:7-12, I John 4:4, Romans 8:10, Isaiah 53:3, Matthew 5:7, 11:5, Hebrews 11:6 Matthew 18:2-4, Mark 11:23, Hebrews 11, Matthew 19:26, John 14:13-14, Isaiah 64:6

Door #3

How do you walk in a culture that winks at extramarital sex, embraces homosexuality, and blurs the beauty of gender? We have three options when it comes to cultural/moral shifts. 1. Cave in to culture and try to be accepted. 2. Fight the cultural trends and get angry. 3. Hold onto scriptural truth with a heart of love.

We need to take door #3 if we truly desire to honor God and want to have a consistent message that leads to transformation. We will certainly look really narrow and even ignorant against the backdrop of cultural change. But we simply can't allow the culture to shape or dilute our presentation of truth. It's the truth that sets people free and not a single soul can be helped apart from the light of God's love and truth. 

Caving into culture can be subtly sold as relevance. But there is nothing relevant about compromise. Being a chameleon may not make you an identifiable target, but someone looking for help won't be able to find you either. Jesus stood (and loved) in the culture without caving to the culture and so should we.

But fighting the culture and getting angry isn't going to cut it either. Angry evangelicals are clearly identifiable but they're also not relatable. Jesus warned that we must suffer for the sake righteousness, not for the sake of self-righteousness. We can do better by remembering that lost people generally act like lost people and it's the kindness of God that led us to repentance. Kindness is just plain powerful.

One of the most powerful interviews I've ever had was just yesterday. Trevin Wax is a cogent thinker with a powerful analogy from history for us to consider. Please read this and be encouraged. This all works out in the end! 

 

Must Christianity change its sexual ethics? History may hold the key (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) Whenever people today say that Christianity needs to update and adapt its moral standards for the 21st century, I hear echoes from 100 years ago. Back then, the calls for change had less to do with morality and more to do with miracles. But the motivation was similar, and the results are instructive.

What rocked the early 20th century was the call of many church leaders to adapt the Christian faith to the scientific age of discovery. One could not expect thinking men and women to accept at face value all the miracles in the Bible, the thinking went. The biblical testimony of the miraculous was embarrassing to an educated mindset.

In order to rescue Christianity from superstitious irrelevance, many church leaders sought to distinguish the kernel of Christianity (the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man) from the shell of Christianity (miracle stories that came from another cultural vantage point). One could still maintain the moral center of Christianity while disregarding the events that required suspension of disbelief.

As this adaptation spread, belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus was reinterpreted and given a solely spiritual meaning (he is alive in the hearts of good people). Miracle stories such as Jesus’ feeding the 5,000 were given a moral twist (the true miracle is that suddenly everyone shared). The Virgin Birth was rejected altogether.

Meanwhile, churches outside the West were appalled to hear “Christians” reject the clear testimony of Scripture and what the church had always believed. In North America, the rise of the evangelical movement was due, in part, to a desire to reclaim the center of Christianity and refuse to allow contemporary sensibilities to alter the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

Presbyterian minister and theologian J. Gresham Machen made the case that this refashioning of Christianity was no longer Christianity at all, but a substitute religion with a Christian veneer.

Over time, the effort to save the kernel of Christianity and leave aside its shell had the opposite effect. The distinctiveness of Christian teaching disappeared, and the shell of church rituals was all that remained. This is why, even today in some denominations, bishops and pastors and parishioners openly reject the core tenets of the faith but continue to attend worship and go through certain rites. The denominations that followed this course have since entered a sharp and steady decline.

One hundred years later, the church is once again being rocked. This time, many Christians are calling for us to rethink the “embarrassing” parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic. After all, many of the moral guidelines we read in the New Testament were written from another cultural vantage point and are no longer authoritative or relevant today. If Christianity is to survive and thrive in the next century, many of our ancient prohibitions (sex outside of marriage, homosexual practice, the significance of gender, etc.) must be set aside.

Outside the West, this enthusiasm for rejecting Christian moral precepts that have been accepted by all Christians, everywhere, for 2,000 years is mind-boggling.

Churches that accept society’s dogma on marriage and sexuality may think of themselves as “affirming,” but the global church sees them as “apostate.” Meanwhile, it is the height of imperialistic narrowness for a rapidly shrinking subset of white churches in the West to lecture the rest of the world — including those places where Christianity is exploding in growth or where Christians are being martyred — on why they are wrong and how everyone else in Christian history has misread Scripture regarding the meaning of marriage.

Nestled within our own times, it is easy to think the trajectory of history will lead to an inevitable change within the global Christian church. But history’s lesson is the opposite. A century ago, the modernists believed that the triumph of naturalism would lead to the total transformation of Christianity.

It must have seemed thrilling for these leaders to think they were at the vanguard of reformation, that they were the pivot point of Christianity’s inevitable future. But such was not the case. Traditional stalwarts like Machen and G.K. Chesterton (who were criticized as hopelessly “backward” back then) still have books in print. The names of most of their once-fashionable opponents are largely unrecognizable.

Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After. ” Photo courtesy of LifeWay Media

The New Mission Field

I guess there are two primary ways to look at our country. One view is that we're sliding morally and that we're now a post Christian nation. Although this seems quite accurate, we need a greater vision than just shaking our heads in disgust or ringing our hands in despair.

The courageous view is to see our nation as a new mission field that is chalked full of potential. We live among people, many who are distracted and could care less about God. But there are many more who are on a rabid search for substance and a slice of hope.

We can no longer assume that being raised in the greatest nation on earth, assures that our neighbors have heard the greatest message every told. I believe most haven't! We live among the very same "harassed and helpless" people that Jesus spoke of. Standing back with pity or antipathy will never work and it's ripping us off of true blessing. We cannot afford to withhold, from one person, the good news of new life in Christ. Their lives are too valuable and the eternal reward is too rich to walk away.

If we've truly tasted the power and love of God that frees us from guilt and shame, we can freshly offer our heart to be filled by God and let a passion boil inside us to share with others what we've been freely given.

Let's believe God for another great spiritual awakening in our nation. And let's tell God we're ready to roll. Hope spreads one precious life at a time.

Rise Up...Rocks can't keep the good news down!

There's very little balanced behavior in our broken world and the fallout is significant. Taking a stand for almost anything makes you a target. Either people are rock stars or they're getting kicked in the teeth. The higher the profile the greater the emotional swings. And the shift from hero to zero can happen in a moment. It's true of anyone who rises to the surface in almost any setting. From being a 1st grade playground leader to the President of a nation and everything between, fans and friends can feel like a fragile emotional commodity. And here is the brutal reality we must get our minds around: The gospel is very costly to the messenger. The Apostle Paul was clear - "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God".

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In the city of Lystra, Paul went from being worshiped as a god to being stoned as an accused fraud. Through it all the gospel remained strong. Paul was left for dead after a horrific stoning. Then a few faithful disciples of Jesus circled around him. Two miracles happened. 1. Paul actually got up. 2. He went back into the city. He went on to "strengthen" and "encourage" the folks to "continue in faith". Wow! So what does this mean for us? It's gut check time. We have to wrestle with what we believe about the gospel. When we finally pin down that Jesus is the only true hope for our communities, nation and world, it puts a fire in our belly that carries us through the highs and lows. Our strength as messengers of hope parallels our level of core conviction that Christ can transform lives and cities. 

And here's God's invitation to us. Whether cheered or jeered, keep your feet on The Rock and the gospel at the center. The good news can penetrate darkness and God uses his kids at the tip of the spear. The weapon we wield is lousy at traditional combat, but it slices through spiritual conflict like a hot knife through room-temp butter. Rise up...and go into the city with the confidence of Christ. Rocks can't keep the gospel down! 

Acts 14