In Between the Best and Worst

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens’ first line in his classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous in all of literature for a very good reason. Every person in every era in every part of the world knows what it means, even if they’ve never read the book (which applies to just about everybody, including us).

Not only is the line true, it’s disquieting. It’s one of those universal truths you acknowledge but wish were not the case: The relentless parade of human achievement that makes our lives better and longer is offset at every turn by the ongoing plight of human misery. Often, the contrast comes in a moment.

Something very good happens to you, and then you check your phone to scan the headlines and a picture of a two-year-old Syrian refugee laying face down on a beach slaps you across the face and makes your heart ache. And once again you are reminded of Dickens’ famous first line.

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In This Day and Age, Evangelism Is Spelled: A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S

On Saturday morning I woke up to find God’s Crime Scene ranked as the #1 Best Seller on Amazon’s list of “Evangelism” books. I will admit I was excited and humbled, but truly surprised. Saturday was the first day the book was available to the public, and prior to this publishing date I saw it was doing well in pre-sales in a variety of Amazon classes. God’s Crime Scene had been listed in the #1 “Hot New Release” spot in the Apologetics, Physics, Metaphysics and Philosophy categories at one time or another in the weeks prior to its release. It is, after all, an apologetics book that utilizes scientific and philosophical evidence to make the case for God's existence (from the perspective of a homicide detective), and I was delighted to see it was doing well in those expected categories. But evangelism? I really didn’t anticipate people would see it as an attractive alternative to the many other titles more traditionally written as evangelism books. But the early success of God’s Crime Scene may simply be a reflection of a new and important reality: In this day and age, evangelism is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S.
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Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship (part 2!)

(This post is the 5th and final blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

Making disciples is what the Church was made by God to do. In this series I explain why we aren’t doing it well (Read it here)  and two things that stand in our way (read about them here—Roadblock #1: the Christian message that is too easy to be good, and Roadblock #2: we have traded acts for facts).

Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship

(This post is the 4rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

True Greatness

I have always been fascinating by big buildings, especially really tall ones. The Empire State Building is my all-time favorite, but I also admire the iconic Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco and Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly the Sear Tower). My dream would be to someday visit the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 160 stories and 2,716.5 feet the world’s tallest skyscraper.

On our recent trip to Israel, I wasn’t expecting to see any tall buildings, or any really big buildings for that matter. The Dome of the Rock is impressive, mainly because of that golden dome that dominates the “skyline” of Jerusalem, but mostly you see very old buildings that are more important for their age and place in history than for their size.

Of course, that was before I learned about Herod the Great, known by that name, not for his reputation as a King, but for his overwrought ambition to conceive and develop some of the most impressive building projects of the ancient world, or any world for that matter. Put all of those tall buildings I mentioned into one portfolio, and they wouldn’t begin to match the construction genius of Herod the Great.

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Not Opposed to Effort: the Second Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 3rd blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)

 

In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus. 

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

Not Opposed to Effort: The First Roadblock to Meaningful Discipleship

(This post is the 2nd in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today. Click here to read the first post.)

 

In last week’s post (Read it here) I argued that our misunderstanding of the oft-used phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

We have a shallow view of grace and an incomplete definition of discipleship.

How Cold-Case Killers Confirm the Biblical Description of Humans

I’ve been investigating cold-case murderers for about fifteen years. During this time I’ve met several defense attorneys who have been certain their client was innocent. One confided she was unable to believe her defendant could have committed such a horrific crime given his present life. I can almost understand her disbelief. Most of my suspects are regular people who live quite ordinary lives following their crime. They are doting parents (and grandparents), firemen, church elders, engineers, painters, professionals and blue collar workers. They’re your neighbor, your kid’s scout leader, your co-worker and your family member. These people aren’t serial killers, they’re regular people who have committed an extraordinary crime. When you arrest a serial killer and interview his neighbors, they’ll typically say something like, “Wow, I am so glad you took that guy to jail. He was weird. I always suspected he was up to no good. I heard strange noises and smelled strange smells over there all the time!” But when you take a cold-case murderer to jail, his neighbor will typically say, “No way! I’ve known that guy for a dozen years. He’s watched my kids and we hang out all the time. There’s no way he could have committed a murder!” How can regular people who’ve lived good, decent lives for decades be capable of committing a horrific murder thirty years earlier? If you’re a Christian, you may already know the answer to this question. I certainly do, because my cold-case killers confirm the Biblical description of humans.
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Not Opposed to Effort: The Work of Discipleship

Grace is not enough.

That sentence alone will send the reformed crowd into orbit, and it just might make the rest of you scramble for Bible verses that refute works-based righteousness.

But when I was recently asked to comment on Christian discipleship today, I could not help but think that grace is not enough.

Obviously the truth of that statement relies on one’s definitions of “grace” and “enough.”

If grace is defined as God’s unbelievable act of reconciling humanity and all things to himself through the work of his Son, Jesus

Lee Strobel and The Case for Grace (Part 1)

Lee Strobel almost died before his own story joined the pages of his newest and most personal book, The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives (Zondervan, 2015). 

In this captivating book, the bestselling and award-winning author of several “The Case for” books shares his own personal transformation alongside seven real-life tales of men and women whose lives have been revolutionized by God’s grace.

These grace-filled stories are contrasted with world religions focused on earning divine favor. Only Christianity reveals a God who showers humanity with unmerited favor...amazing grace.

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