Tag Archives: Tim Keller

Truth and Grace: How to Share?

The C12 Group focused on the issue of trust in this month’s business segment. Trust is a foundational element of our relationships in the workplace, family, friends, churches, schools, government, military and pretty much anywhere two or more people interact. One of the first building blocks of trust is engaging with truth. In addition to engaging with truth is engaging with grace. We in America are certainly being challenged today to engage each other with truth and grace. The double edged sword of technology allows us to share our thoughts and opinions very easily, but also in a way that can be harsh and demeaning. How do we engage with each other, pointing out when the truth is being misunderstood, but doing it in a way that doesn’t damage or even sever the relationships that are important for us to keep?

Let’s start with man’s definition of each of these terms. As is common in the English language, there are nuances to the definition of a single word. From Merriam-Webster, the definition of truth: the real facts about something; the things that are true; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; the body of real things, events, and facts; a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality. Again, from Merriam-Webster, the definition of grace (relevant to what I am sharing): unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.

For me, all truth starts with the foundational truths that God exists, that He created the universe, including us, that He has a plan for the human race and that we are active participants in that plan. The foundational source of these truths that God revealed to us is the Bible. Abraham Lincoln said, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible on September 7, 1864 (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 7:542). The apostle Paul writes in 2nd Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

When we engage in any relationship one of our tendencies is to assume wrong motives for the other person’s words or actions. This is especially true when engaging in social media, texting or emailing interactions because the amount of communication is very limited compared to an in person engagement with conversation and body language. There is a lot of personal history that we may know nothing about which has shaped this person’s view of the world and what truth they have been exposed to. This is one of the reasons I try to start new relationships, especially important ones, with sharing our respective life stories from birth to present day.

The foundational truth of grace is that God loves us so much that He gives us something we don’t deserve, eternity with Him, otherwise known as Heaven. That gift is only available through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, which does require submission. Another aspect of that truth is that if we reject the gift, reject God and reject Jesus Christ as lord and savior, then we reject the outcome and will not spend eternity with Him, otherwise known as Hell. These are eternal decisions, not taken lightly. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12 NLT).

If we are Christians who have accepted these truths, then how do we conduct ourselves in these personal engagements, sharing truth and grace? The Bible gives us instructions to do that. “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25 NLT).

Returning to the point about understanding motives, let me give you a practical example. I intensely dislike cigarette smoking (note I prefer these terms instead of “hate” which is a strong word, often wrongly applied). What is my history with this issue that is affecting my view of smokers? I did not like cigarettes the first time I tried them as a teenager. The odor is quite intense in a bad way for me. And most importantly, it is a fact that cigarettes cause cancer. My grandmother and father both died of cancer (not from cigarettes) and my wife is a cancer survivor. I have been and am in relationships with people who smoke. I know that quitting is very difficult and I empathize with that difficulty. But, the outcome of not quitting could literally be death. When I have a crucial conversation with someone about their smoking habit, I try to engage them by sharing what has shaped by view and try to help them see the truth of what they are doing and the truth of the potential consequences to themselves and their families. I don’t like their actions, but I do in fact love them as people and I am trying to engage them in a way that demonstrates that.

The same methods can be applied to any relationship and any discussion of differing views. Let’s civilly and respectfully share our stories forming our views and in the process share the truths that God has and continues to reveal to us each day. There are many opportunities today to have these discussions around marriage and family; the role of government in our lives; the freedom to live out our faith every day in every place, not just one day in one place; interacting with the world; and abortion to name a few. I have previously written about a great book with practical advice on how to have these crucial conversations: https://marcjmartin.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/get-better-at-having-difficult-conversations/.

If you are a disciple of Christ, then fill yourself each day with God’s truths from the Bible so you can continue to grow in sharing the truth with grace. Gather with fellow disciples in groups of three or four regularly and challenge each other to grow in these areas. Pray for wisdom and discernment each day. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5 NLT).

If you are not a disciple of Christ, investigate these truths with an open heart and open mind. Thanks to technology (another gift from God) we can easily access many places to do that. The best source again is the Bible and you can start in the book of John: https://www.bible.com/bible/116/jhn.1.nlt. Talk to someone you know who is following Christ and you see that person living it out in a God honoring way. Feel free to contact me as well.

Here are some other resources:

http://www.timothykeller.com/books/the-reason-for-god

http://www.josh.org/resources/free-book-downloads/

http://godlife.com/

 

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Do You Know Your Purpose?

“Christian CEO’s and business owners building great businesses for a greater purpose” is the C12 Group motto. That purpose that every C12 Group member and area chair shares is honoring God in the way we conduct our businesses and serving Him according to our talents and abilities. That purpose has an eternal perspective, which helps us when we are faced with challenges in this life, whether those challenges are in our businesses, our families, our churches or our communities. A greater purpose helps you overcome and it helps you deal with circumstances that prompt the question “Why?”

Do you have a purpose for your life? Is it to accumulate wealth or stuff? Is it to have the most pleasant life experience you can? Is it to be recognized as a leader in your community? These are all things our American culture promotes on a daily basis. If you hear it often enough, you can start to believe those are purposeful things, especially if you don’t have any other source of truth. So, where do you discover your purpose, where do you discover the truth? My answer is that it all starts with the Bible.

The Bible is what God has given us to begin to know Him and understand His plan for all of humanity, as well as our individual role in that plan. That plan applies to both here in the present on this Earth and in the future eternity. If you don’t believe in God I challenge you to read the Bible and see if your opinion changes. You don’t even need to read it all at first (everyone can gain wisdom from reading the entire Bible at some point in their life, preferably multiple times). Just read a few books in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. If you aren’t willing to take that step consider reading a book or two like “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel or “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. If you aren’t much of a reader you could start with Josh McDowell’s web site providing answers to skeptic’s questions, http://www.josh.org/resources/study-research/answers-to-skeptics-questions/. If you truly want answers, seek out a Bible reading evangelical Christian in your community and invite them to coffee or lunch and begin a dialogue.

Do you believe God exists but you don’t see Him active in your life or you’ve experienced loss and can’t understand why God is letting that happen to you? Again, you need to invest some time and effort in searching for answers. God doesn’t turn His back on us, but He also doesn’t always grab us by the shoulders and turn us around when we turn our back on Him (that free will thing, He can’t force us to love Him). A book written by a pastor who lost his adult son in an accident may be helpful, it is “Hope For Hurting Hearts” by Greg Laurie. Another is Tim Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”. Keller and his wife both have experienced life changing diseases. The previously mentioned books and web site are still relevant for you as well. That coffee with a Christian idea is a good one for you too.

What about you who are Christ followers but don’t have your purpose figured out? The first question I would ask you is how much time do you spend with God on a daily basis? What kind of relationship do you expect to have with someone if you never talk to Him or listen to Him? I realize it’s a little harder because He is invisible and very rarely audibly speaks to anyone, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t just show up for an hour or two on Sunday and expect the relationship to be the same as when you spend time every day reading His Word (the Bible) and talking to Him about the things in your life (prayer). There are plenty of Bible reading plans available to help you develop a new habit. Bible.com offers apps for multiple platforms. One of the best books on prayer that I have recently read is Philip Yancey’s “Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?” Instead of the coffee with a Christian idea, you need to make a bit more of a commitment, get together with two or three other Christ followers (men with men and women with women for transparency reasons) who all want to live out their purpose and help each other discover how to do that (it’s called discipleship).

Here are some other ways I stay plugged into what God wants me to know about His will for my life (in addition to the daily Bible reading and prayer):

  • Going to a Sunday service where I worship Him and give thanks for His provision, listen to some Bible teaching from someone who studies the Bible for a living and spend time in community with other Christ followers.
  • Listening to Christian music that is uplifting as well as sometimes challenging.
  • Listening to other Bible teachers in addition to the one I listen to on Sunday (Greg Laurie is one of my favorites, http://www.harvest.org/radio/ways-to-listen.html)
  • Reading books like the ones I’ve shared.
  • Spending time with other men on a regular basis encouraging and challenging each other.

I hope you find your purpose and more importantly I hope you find God through the person of Jesus Christ, not just for this brief time on Earth, but for all of eternity. Eternity without being in God’s presence will be horrific and I don’t wish that on anyone.

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Are You a Christ Follower and Do People Know?

Do the people around you know if you follow Christ? If you own a business do your employees, their families, your customers, your distributors, your vendors, your competitors all know that you follow Christ? If you are an employee do your co-workers know you follow Christ? If you are a teacher do your students know you follow Christ?

In recent years George Barna has released results from a number of studies that show incongruities among American Christians based on their activities and their expressed beliefs in a number of areas.  Bible reading, volunteerism and attendance are all down. The percentage of adults considering themselves unchurched is going up, but so is the percentage who considers themselves born again Christians. Inconsistencies appear when you read how many people have accurate beliefs about who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, who Satan is, and the Bible’s accuracy. Here are links to the studies:

Barna Examines Trends in 14 Religious Factors over 20 Years (1991 to 2011)

Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist

Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth

In addition to this research, I’ve recently read a number of books that support the results reported and talk about the reasons for these results. (Radical, David Platt; Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller; Building a Discipling Culture, Mike Breen; Forgotten God, Francis Chan).

As you can imagine, the role of the church is discussed. There is certainly room for improvement in our churches, but they don’t deserve 100% of the blame. After all, they are just as imperfect as the rest of us. My point here is that the church is made up of Christ followers who need to be faithful in their journey in order to affect the other Christ followers around us and more importantly those confused or oblivious who are not following Christ. If each of us would fully embrace what it is to follow Christ, then others will want to do that as well.

So how do we know what a Christ follower looks like and acts like? You have to start with the Bible. If you want to know who God is, if you want to know who Christ is, if you want to know who the Holy Spirit is, if you want to know what your purpose is, you need to read the Bible. Not just parts of it, not just once, but every word, multiple times, continuously throughout your life. At first it may be difficult, and at times it may seem like something on your to-do list, but many times it will be rewarding and you will start to understand God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and your purpose. Greg Laurie does a better job than me describing the user’s manual for life in this piece Hidden Treasure.

In addition to reading the Bible on our own, we need to learn from those who have been reading and studying it before us. That is what the Sunday morning sermons are for, as well as getting into a small group of others studying together, discussing and sharing. Ideally, the group should be small, 4 to 6 of the same sex, led by someone whose life shows evidence of being a Christ follower. The guidelines of having small group of same sex promote honesty and openness.

If you are reading and studying and spending time with other Christ followers then you will learn how to follow Christ in everything. You will learn how to pray, you will develop a desire to help others through volunteering and giving financially, you will overcome negative lifestyle habits, you will be more compassionate and thoughtful, you will desire to worship with other Christ followers, and you will share all of this with others. People around you will see a difference, hear a difference and know the difference is Christ. Learning these things in this way is called discipleship and this is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28: 18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This has been my journey since I started following Christ in 1994 at the age of 34, so I am speaking from practical experience. I have read the entire Bible multiple times and continue to read as part of my daily life, I worship with others on Sunday and hear Bible based teaching, and I spend time with other guys studying, discussing, praying and sharing life. I have tried to serve others by sharing my time and finances, personally and in business. I am trying to be a 24/7 Christ follower. One thing that I have learned is that here in the United States there are a lot of distractions, a lot of “noise” in our lives that interfere with us pursuing and finding God. In reality, that should not be a challenge to overcome, considering the price other Christians have paid and continue to pay simply for refusing to recant their faith. Millions have been martyred for their faith over the centuries, and thousands continue to be martyred each year. These are people who were killed just because they were Christ followers and people around them knew it. (Persecution.com). If millions have made a choice that they are willing to die for don’t you think it’s a choice we should consider making and living out in a land where we still have the freedom to do so?

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Interested in Learning More About Following Christ?

If you are interested in learning more about what it means to follow Christ, where do you start? The best place is to start reading the Bible, since it is the story of God’s plan for humanity. Starting to read the Bible from Genesis can be a bit intimidating, although everyone should at some point in their life read the Bible cover to cover, start to finish. Someone exploring the idea of following Christ should start with the book of John. John was one of the original twelve disciples, or followers of Christ, and wrote his message about 90 AD. The focus of John’s writings was interpreting and explaining what happened during Christ’s time on earth in our history.

In the 21st century we are fortunate to have access to many free or low cost English versions of the Bible, as well as many other languages. One of my favorite web sites is YouVersion.com where you can read online and download electronic versions of the Bible. BibleGateway.com is another site that is well done. These and other sites have free audio versions of the Bible if you aren’t a reader. An easy to read English translation is the New Living Translation. The New International Version is one of the most popular, and the Message is a very easy to read paraphrase, but loses some accuracy due to it not being a translation. You can buy Bibles online at ChristianBook.com or Amazon. Don’t be afraid to purchase them locally at your Christian book store either, especially if they provide good customer service.

Beyond reading the Bible on your own, you can attend a church where the Bible is taught as part of the worship service on Sunday morning. How do you know if that is being done? The first evidence is that the person leading the teaching time is using a Bible himself and constantly referring to it in his talk. The second evidence is that the congregation is full of people who are following along in their Bibles, turning to the verses being taught from the pulpit. With the advent of electronic versions of the Bible, this is a little more difficult to observe. Some of us still like to highlight and make notes in our Bibles, so we still carry an actual book to church.

Another thing you could do is find someone you know (and hopefully like) who is following Christ and ask them if you could spend time together reading and studying, asking questions and dialoguing about what you are reading. Starting to build a personal relationship with a Christ follower is an excellent way to enter into a relationship with Christ.

If this all sounds a little too intimidating to start with, consider reading books about the subject to start. One I recently finished is Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism”. Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell are also thoughtful writers on this subject.

Contact me directly if you need help finding any of these resources or connecting with someone in your community.

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. From The Message version of the Bible

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