Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Great Leaders Call Out Greatness

I read this on Sermon Central today -
Leaders: Don’t apologize for expecting excellence. God deserves it, and people are capable of it. Call it out.
The impetus for it came from my observation that some leaders are afraid or embarrassed to expect excellence as a normal product from the people they lead. Usually it’s because they don’t want to appear to be demanding or demeaning. Apparently it’s an affront to expect a lot out of a person.
But it’s actually just the opposite. It honors them.
The highest compliment you can give to those you lead is to demand the best from them. Low standards do not communicate appreciation. They communicate contempt for someone’s ability and potential. Once you have stopped challenging someone to do more, you have stopped believing in them. And you have effectively stunted their ability to grow in their God-given gifts and calling.
It’s the responsibility of the leader not only to cast vision, but also to make sure that those serving under the vision are maximizing their gifts in support of it. An indispensable tool that every leader must learn to develop, then, is the ability to speak life into potential. Call it out. And the best way to call it out is by maintaining a high standard. People don’t grow by being allowed to live in mediocrity.
So, leaders: Don’t apologize for expecting excellence. God deserves it, and people are capable of it. Call it out.
You’re not being demeaning by holding your people to a high standard. The real affront would be to allow someone to work at a level that doesn’t correspond to the potential for greatness that God has put in them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are Christians Totally Depraved

If you are part of our chruch you have ehard me teach on this but, Tullian Tchividjian says it well . . . 

Are Christians Totally Depraved?

Believe it or not, this is an important question. It’s not simply a theological question. It’s a theological question that has profound practical implications. Our answer will inevitably reveal our understanding of the gospel and reflect our understanding of sin and grace.
First things first: what total depravity isn’t.
Total depravity does not mean “utter depravity.” Utter depravity means that someone is as bad as he/she can possibly be. Thankfully, God’s restraining grace keeps even the worst of us from being utterly depraved. The worst people who have ever lived could’ve been worse. So, don’t read “utter depravity” into “total depravity.”
Well, if total depravity isn’t utter depravity, then what is it? As understood and articulated by theologians for centuries, the idea of “total depravity” means more than one thing.
On the one hand, total depravity affirms that we are all born “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13), with no spiritual capacity to incline ourselves Godward. We do not come into this world spiritually neutral; we come into this world spiritually dead. Therefore, we need much more than to reach out from our spiritual hospital bed and take medicine that God offers. We need to be raised from death to life. In this sense, total depravity means we are “totally unable” to go to God. We will not because we cannot, and we cannot because we’re dead.
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
Salvation only happens when God comes to us.
When the Resurrection and the Life says “Lazarus, come forth”, the rest of the story does not depend on Lazarus. He can drag his feet all the way–admittedly, a hell of a thing to do–but he rises, no matter what. He just plain does… Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That’s it. (Robert Capon)
So, in the sense above, Christians are obviously not totally depraved. We who were dead have been made alive.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…(Ephesians 2:4-6)
But once God regenerates us by his Spirit, draws us to himself, unites us to Christ, raises us from the dead, and grants us status as adopted sons and daughters, is there any sense in which we can speak of Christian’s being totally depraved?
Theologians speak of total depravity, not only in terms of “total inability” to come to God on our own because we’re spiritually dead, but also in terms of sin’s effect: sin corrupts us in the “totality” of our being. Our minds are affected by sin. Our hearts are affected by sin. Our wills are affected by sin. Our bodies are affected by sin. This is at the heart of Paul’s internal struggle that he articulates in Romans 7:
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
The painful struggle that Paul gives voice to arises from his condition as simul justus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinful). He has been raised from the dead and is now alive to Christ, but remaining sin continues to plague him at every level and in every way.
Paul’s testimony demonstrates that even after God saves us, there is no part of us that becomes sin free–we remain sinful and imperfect in all of our capacities, in the “totality” of our being. Even after God saves us, our thoughts, words, motives, deeds, and affections need the constant cleansing of Christ’s blood and the forgiveness that comes our way for free. This is what J.C. Ryle was getting at when he wrote, “Even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned.”
While it is gloriously true for the Christian that there is nowhere Christ has not arrived by his Spirit, it is equally true that there is no part of any Christian in this life that is free of sin. Because of the totality of sins effect, therefore, we never outgrow our need for Christ’s finished work on our behalf–we never graduate beyond our desperate need for Christ’s righteousness and his strong and perfect blood-soaked plea “before the throne of God above.”
The reason this is so important is because we will always be suspicious of grace (“yes grace, but…”) until we realize our desperate need for it. Our dire need for God’s grace doesn’t get smaller after God saves us–in one sense, it actually gets bigger. Christian growth, says the Apostle Peter, is always “growth into grace”, not away from it. Many Christians think that becoming sanctified means that we become stronger and stronger, more and more competent. And although we would never say it this way, we Christian’s sometimes give the impression that sanctification is growth beyond our need for Jesus and his finished work for us: we needed Jesus a lot for justification; we need him less for sanctification.
The truth is, however, that Christian growth and progress involves coming to the realization of just how weak and incompetent we continue to be and how strong and competent Jesus continues to be for us. Spiritual maturity is not marked by our growing, independent fitness. Rather, it’s marked by our growing dependence on Christ’s fitness for us. Because we are daily sinners, we need God’s daily distributions of free grace that come our way as a result of Christ’s finished work. Christian growth involves believing and embracing the fact that, even as a Christian, you’re worse than you think you are but that God’s grace toward you in Christ is much bigger than you could ever imagine.
Because of total depravity, you and I were desperate for God’s grace before we were saved. Because of total depravity, you and I remain desperate for God’s grace even after we’re saved.
Thankfully, though our sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches infinitely farther.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What is grace?

from Tullian Tchividjian . . . 

What Is Grace?

Paul Zahl:
What is grace? Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing…Let’s go a little further, though.
Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver (the one who loves) in relation to the receiver (the one who is loved) that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is one-way love.
The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. You can find this out for yourself by taking a simple inventory of your own happiness, or the moments of happiness you have had. They have almost always had to do with some incident of love or belovedness that has come to you from someone outside yourself when you were down. You felt ugly or sinking in confidence and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you. You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy.
Some fear that grace-delivered, blood-bought, radical freedom will result in loveless license. But grace alone–redeeming, unconditional, one-way love–(not fear, not guilt, not shame) carries the power to compel heart-felt loyalty to the One who bought us (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Gospel + Safety + Time

A great post on the gospel oriented community.  Just think if all our churches were so . . .

It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.
Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the present power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.
Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.
Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  No rush.  No hurry.  But a lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  If we relax, trusting in God’s patience, we actually get going.
This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s the only way anyone can ever change.
Who doesn’t need that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Studying the Trinity Is an Exercise in Love

A short article on the importance of studying the trinity by Trevin Wax.

“Why does a doctrine like the Trinity matter?” some ask. After all, the idea of one God existing eternally as three Persons is complex. A brief survey of Christian theology will show you that most heresies are heresy precisely because they get the Trinity wrong.
Even more… is it possible to completely understand the Trinity anyway? If finite human beings are unable to fully exhaust the teaching of the Trinity and full explanations are impossible, then why is it important to get the Trinity right?
Gregory of Nazianzus said in the 4th century:
“It is difficult to conceive God, but to define him in words is an impossibility.”
So words may help us along in our effort, but God will not be bound by them.
Why Bother?
When face to face with such complexity, some may wonder, Why even bother? If the Trinity is so difficult to understand, why spend so much time on it?
The answer is love. Those who love God desire to know Him personally and to know more about Him.
My wife is a complex person. I readily admit that I do not know everything there is to know about her. There are times when I simply cannot figure her out. But my love for her causes me to want to know her better.
If a husband sometimes has a hard time figuring out his wife, surely the human attempt to understand God will be even more difficult. But consider this: if I find great reward in growing in my knowledge of my wife, how much bigger will the reward be for us to grow in our knowledge of the Almighty God!
An Exercise in Love
Understanding the Trinity is not a pointless theological exercise. It is an exercise in love. We are plumbing the depths of the One who loved us enough to create us and then save us. Where our explanations and definitions fail, we go back to our knees.
Isaac Watts ended his Trinitarian hymn “We Give Immortal Praise” with these words:
“Almighty God, to thee be endless honors done,
the undivided three, and the mysterious one.
Where reason fails with all her powers,
there faith prevails, and love adores.”
Bernard of Clairvaux once said:
“It is rashness to search too far into [the mystery of the Trinity]. It is piety to believe it. It is life eternal to know it. And we can never have a full comprehension of it, till we come to enjoy it.”
Indeed. All theological reflection on the Trinity should have as its ultimate end the purposeful enjoyment of the Triune God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You want to meet, but “What do you Really Want?”

I found this great article on meeting with people, by Brad Lomenick:
in Misc. 3 Comments
Over the last 15 years, I’ve heard this alot. From key leaders, CEO’s, authors, celebrities, politicians, actors, producers, pastors, and lots of other folks.
I would figure out a way to make a connection with someone, and then arrange a meeting, phone call, breakfast, lunch, or coffee. Inevitably, this question would eventually come out in the conversation. I loved hearing it. It was the honest question.
Now I ask it. Not because I’m someone who deserves to ask it, but more because time is precious. When you are a leader and have a team and an organization to run, besides family and friends and all kinds of other things that require your attention, and there are people who want to spend time with you, you have to make choices. I understand now why all these folks were always asking me that question.
So next time you have a meeting or phone call or a lunch with someone who you respect and want to learn from and consider to be a key influencer, here are a few pointers on how to make sure they’ll want to talk to you the next time you call or want to meet:
1. Honor that person’s time. Find out how much time they have, and then stick to that. And actually wrap up sooner than what is expected.
2. Ask way more questions than you give answers. You’re not the expert, they are. So leverage the time and soak up their wisdom. Don’t use the time to share your story, unless the person truly wants to know.
3. Pay for it. If you are at breakfast or lunch or dinner, pay for the meal. I don’t care if you are meeting with Bill Gates, pay for it. It is a sign of respect. Even if you are a non-profit and trying to raise money, pay for the meal. Seriously.
4. Tell the person what the agenda is. If you are planning to ask them for money, tell them that. If you want a favor, tell them that. If you have a certain need you want to get their advice on, tell them that. If you have specific questions you want to ask and get their answers on, tell them those questions. Be upfront. Be honest. Be real and authentic.
5. Be prepared. Know everything you can about the person you are meeting with. Have 8-10 questions prepared for the conversation (more on this in a later post), plus several items of interest you will want to cover. Do your homework. The more you know about someone and have a good understanding of who they are and what their interests are, proves that you value and respect their time.
6. Write it down and follow up. Bring something to write with, and write down the good stuff. Also, based on questions you ask, figure out ways you can serve that person. If that person likes a certain coffee, send them a gift card. If that person likes a certain college team, make a connection about that team a month later. If you can make a connection for that person that will serve them, do it. If you want to create a long term value add friendship, you’ll need to be intentional around their likes and interests.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When is it Ok to Be Angry?

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." (Eph 4:26; 31, ESV)

Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 to be angry but do not sin yet in verse 31 he says to put away anger! What gives here? He seems to endorse anger then moments later prohibit it. Are there circumstances in which anger righteous and holy (v. 24) and circumstances in which it is sinful? Apparently. Then how do we determine when it is ok and even good and when it is not ok and sinful? This is where we let the whole counsel of God, all of Scripture, speak to a particular Scripture. If we look at the Old Testament for examples of righteous anger we see Moses coming of his mountain top experience with God only to find the people of Israel reveling in idolatry. While he was up the mountaintop receiving the ten commandments, the people of Israel, under the leadership, or lack of leadership of Aaron, had created their own god (Ex. 32). That was righteous indignation, holy and righteous anger displayed by Moses. Yet later when Israel was angry with Moses because of the discomforts of freedom, God tells Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water for Israel and their cattle to drink from. Yet Moses in his anger disobeys God's instruction and is prevented from entering the promised land (Num 20:1-13). Moses let his righteous anger get the best of him and disobeyed God.
Moving to the New Testament, we find Jesus angry with the Jewish leaders for making the temple a place for profit at the expense of the the worshipping community (Mat 21:12-17). He overturns the tables and lectures them for hindering the worship of Gods people. An example of holy and righteous anger with appropriate actions. Lastly, in Mark three the Jewish leaders, looking for an opportunity to accuse Jesus, see if he will heal on the Sabbath. Work in their mind but not really as Jesus only spoke and the healing was the work of God. When he asks them if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath, they ignore him. He becomes angry and grieved at their hardness of heart then turns and heals the man with the withered hand. Again, his anger is righteous and holy.
So I believe the anger Paul is endorsing in verse 26 is righteous indignation - anger toward the things God gets angry about is good and holy as long as it does not get the best of us and we sin in the moment of anger. That is why he says to be angry but sin not. This verse is not a license to be angry as long as we do not sin in this anger, which is the way I hear some Christians understand this verse.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hope for Change

"Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:21-24 ESV)
I have been in Ephesians for quite some time in my personal bible reading.  It has been an enriching and encouraging time.  In this passage Paul contrasts the hopeless spiritual condition of those outside of Christ (v. 17-19) with believers.  We are not to walk as those outside of Christ, we are to put off the old manner of life (literally the old man) and to put on the new self or new man.  There are three distinct characteristics between the two:

  • The old man vs. the new man (ethical categories)
  • corrupt vs. created (positional categories)
  • deceitful desires vs. righteousness and holiness (positional/functional categories)

The old man, with an old nature, is irredeemable, so corrupt by deceitful desires that God has to re-start with something recreated new.   This is done through the miracle of new birth (John 3:1-4).  Living the Christian life is the result of a supernatural miracle accomplished by God alone.  He created us anew by his Spirit (John 3:5-8).  He uses the imagery from Genesis 1:26-28, created in the likeness of God.  Our old nature is so corrupt that God gives us a new one (2 Cor 5:17), created after the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness.
Then he goes on to tell us to put off that old man.  The only reason we can put off the old way of living is that he has created us with a new nature, in God's righteousness.  The hope of change in my life, is because he has given me a new nature, which is righteous and holy!  I have been given a new nature and given new resources to live the Christian life.  The daily struggle to live not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit is supernatural and possible because of a miracle accomplished by God and God alone! 

The Negative Effects of Technology - A MUST READ!

 Here is a great post on the negative affects of technology.  It is well worth the read.  I identify with many of the thoughts and conclusions of this blog and have been thinking about the changes I need to make in how I use technology.

January 14, 2012 by mikewittmer

Over the last week I read some provocative books on digital technology, including Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains; William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry; Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody; Michael Lewis, Next; and Tim Challies, The Next Story. Challies does an excellent job summarizing the insights of the others, and he adds his own Christian perspective. It is easily the best place to begin.
Here are five things I’ve learned:
1. Texting has a proud and distinguished history. It began in Finland, when frightened boys figured out how to use the keypads on their Nokia phones to ask girls out. They passed their skill on to their parents, who decided they liked the control and concealment that came with texting.
This week I heard of a young woman who was talking with a friend on her phone. The conversation became too emotional, so they decided to hang up and text each other. When asked why she would do such a thing, the woman replied that she didn’t want the other person to hear her cry. Maybe our technology is not connecting us as much as we think?
2. The Internet is giving us Attention Deficit Disorder. The neurons in our brains are constantly reconnecting and creating new pathways, and so our brains adapt to whatever thinking style we are currently using. The Internet encourages rapid, shallow thoughts that skim along the surface of pictures and text (mostly pictures). The more we surf the web the more difficult it is for our brains to slow down and think deeply in a single direction.
Don’t believe it? How long has it been since you’ve read an entire book? Why don’t you sit down and read one now? It’s harder than it used to be, isn’t it? We are becoming skimmers rather than readers.
3. Google encourages distraction rather than reflection. This company makes money every time we click on one of their ads, so they have a vested interested in keeping our mouses moving. The last thing they want is for you to bog down and immerse yourself in a single story.
Stand up to their manipulation by reading the rest of this blog post, slowly and with deep thought (he said, manipulatively).
4. The Internet is destroying our memories. The first step to memory formation is attentiveness. We focus on a certain event, which then enables that experience to transition from our short-term to long-term memory. So what happens to people who lose their ability to focus? They lose the ability to develop long-term memories. There is a third thing too, but I can’t remember what it is. Oops.
5. The Internet never forgets. Every click you’ve ever made is stored somewhere, so either be careful what sites you visit or make sure you never become famous—because your dirty laundry could be dredged for all to see. Of course, we’re all going to stand before God someday, so we already have the best reason to be careful, whether or not we’re planning on becoming famous.
6. I learned lots of other things, but if these books are right, then few of you have read this far anyway, and if you have, you’re itching for a break. So I’ll save the rest for another short post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What should you do if you know someone who seems to be more excited about movies than Jesus?
Many professing Christians give little evidence of valuing Jesus more than the latest movie they have seen. Or the latest clothing they bought. Or the latest app they downloaded. Or the latest game they watched. Something is amiss.
We are not God and cannot judge with certainty and precision what’s wrong. There is a glitch somewhere. Perhaps a blindness going in, a spiritual deadness at heart, or a blockage coming out. Or some combination. Christ doesn’t appear supremely valuable. Or isn’t felt as supremely valuable. Or can’t be spoken of as supremely valuable. Or some combination.
Here’s my suggestion. Instead of dampening their enthusiasm for movies, clothing, apps, and events, let that go as an expression of God-given personality. Instead, model expressive joy in Jesus. Over time, if there is no resonance from their heart with your joy, query them humbly:
I love your enthusiasm for the things you get excited about. You’re so free and expressive about good movies and nice clothes and cool apps. It seems odd to me that you don’t seem to be as expressive about the way you feel about Jesus and what he’s done for us. Have you thought about why that might be?
The point of this query is to help them see that the problem is not joyfully loving good created things. The problem is the apparent absence of similar affections for Christ.
If similar affections for Jesus are not possible, then the specter of idolatry becomes serious. But they may sense this themselves without your having to start with that indictment, if you draw their attention not to the excitement that’s there, but to what’s missing.
We don’t want them to lose their exuberance about anything good. We want Christ to be supreme in their hearts so that all their exuberance comes under him and for his sake. When Jesus is felt as supremely valuable in our hearts, all other values gradually become properly ordered and purified.
May the Lord give you great courage and wisdom as you help people awaken to the supreme value of Jesus.

The Grace of God in Every Book of the Bible

Found this on Justin Taylors blog today:

Dane Ortlund:

While the Bible is not uniform, it is unified. The many books of the one Bible are not like the many pennies in the one jar. The pennies in the jar look the same, yet are disconnected; the books of the Bible (like the organs of a body) look different, yet are interconnected. As the past two generations’ recovery of biblical theology has shown time and again, certain motifs course through the Scripture from start to end, tying the whole thing together into a coherent tapestry–kingdom, temple, people of God, creation/new creation, and so on.
Yet underneath and undergirding all of these, it seems to me, is the motif of God’s grace, his favor and love to the undeserving. Don’t we see the grace of God in every book of the Bible?
Here is his OT list:
Genesis shows God’s grace to a universally wicked world as he enters into relationship with a sinful family line (Abraham) and promises to bless the world through him.
Exodus shows God’s grace to his enslaved people in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.
Leviticus shows God’s grace in providing his people with a sacrificial system to atone for their sins.
Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.
Deuteronomy shows God’s grace in giving the people the new land ‘not because of your righteousness’ (ch. 9).
Joshua shows God’s grace in giving Israel victory after victory in their conquest of the land with neither superior numbers nor superior obedience on Israel’s part.
Judges shows God’s grace in taking sinful, weak Israelites as leaders and using them to purge the land, time and again, of foreign incursion and idolatry.
Ruth shows God’s grace in incorporating a poverty-stricken, desolate, foreign woman into the line of Christ.
1 and 2 Samuel show God’s grace in establishing the throne (forever—2 Sam 7) of an adulterous murderer.
1 and 2 Kings show God’s grace in repeatedly prolonging the exacting of justice and judgment for kingly sin ‘for the sake of’ David. (And remember: by the ancient hermeneutical presupposition of corporate solidarity, by which the one stands for the many and the many for the one, the king represented the people; the people were in their king; as the king went, so went they.)
1 and 2 Chronicles show God’s grace by continually reassuring the returning exiles of God’s self-initiated promises to David and his sons.
Ezra shows God’s grace to Israel in working through the most powerful pagan ruler of the time (Cyrus) to bring his people back home to a rebuilt temple.
Nehemiah shows God’s grace in providing for the rebuilding of the walls of the city that represented the heart of God’s promises to his people.
Esther shows God’s grace in protecting his people from a Persian plot to eradicate them through a string of ‘fortuitous’ events.
Job shows God’s grace in vindicating the sufferer’s cry that his redeemer lives (19:25), who will put all things right in this world or the next.
Psalms shows God’s grace by reminding us of, and leading us in expressing, the hesed (relentless covenant love) God has for his people and the refuge that he is for them.
Proverbs shows us God’s grace by opening up to us a world of wisdom in leading a life of happy godliness.
Ecclesiastes shows God’s grace in its earthy reminder that the good things of life can never be pursued as the ultimate things of life and that it is God who in his mercy satisfies sinners (note 7:20; 8:11).
Song of Songs shows God’s grace and love for his bride by giving us a faint echo of it in the pleasures of faithful human sexuality.
Isaiah shows God’s grace by reassuring us of his presence with and restoration of contrite sinners.
Jeremiah shows God’s grace in promising a new and better covenant, one in which knowledge of God will be universally internalized.
Lamentations shows God’s grace in his unfailing faithfulness in the midst of sadness.
Ezekiel shows God’s grace in the divine heart surgery that cleansingly replaces stony hearts with fleshy ones.
Daniel shows God’s grace in its repeated miraculous preservation of his servants.
Hosea shows God’s grace in a real-live depiction of God’s unstoppable love toward his whoring wife.
Joel shows God’s grace in the promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.
Amos shows God’s grace in the Lord’s climactic promise of restoration in spite of rampant corruption.
Obadiah shows God’s grace by promising judgment on Edom, Israel’s oppressor, and restoration of Israel to the land in spite of current Babylonian captivity.
Jonah shows God’s grace toward both immoral Nineveh and moral Jonah, irreligious pagans and a religious prophet, both of whom need and both of whom receive the grace of God.
Micah shows God’s grace in the prophecy’s repeated wonder at God’s strange insistence on ‘pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression’ (7:18).
Nahum shows God’s grace in assuring Israel of good news’ and ‘peace,’ promising that the Assyrians have tormented them for the last time.
Habakkuk shows God’s grace that requires nothing but trusting faith amid insurmountable opposition, freeing us to rejoice in God even in desolation.
Zephaniah shows God’s grace in the Lord’s exultant singing over his recalcitrant yet beloved people.
Haggai shows God’s grace in promising a wayward people that the latter glory of God’s (temple-ing) presence with them will far surpass its former glory.
Zechariah shows God’s grace in the divine pledge to open up a fountain for God’s people to ‘cleanse them from sin and uncleanness’ (13:1).
Malachi shows God’s grace by declaring the Lord’s no-strings-attached love for his people.
To read the NT list, too, click here.

7 Tips For Talking with your Neighbors about Jesus

from the Resurgence blog . . . 

Tim Gaydos » God Mission Evangelism Culture
We met in the elevator of our condo building. Instead of the classic stare down at the ground and avoid eye contact bit, I said hello and introduced myself. I asked him a few non-awkward, basic questions. How long have you lived here? Do you like it? Have you met any cool people?
The following week, I saw him in the lobby, and we picked up the conversation with a longer discussion revolving around the Seattle Mariners and their dim prospects for the year. I checked again to see if he was up for talking more, “If you want to watch a game at Sport, [the appropriately-named Seattle sports pub,] let me know.” He accepted, we figured out a good date and time and within a few weeks, we were grabbing a bite and watching a game together.

Breaking the Stereotype of Judgmental Jerk

It wasnʼt long before he found out I was a Christian, went to church, and loved Jesus. He said to me, “Wow, my stereotype of Christians has been blown away. Youʼre normal. You like good food and drink, you love your city and donʼt come off as a judgmental jerk.” I soon invited him to church, where he heard the gospel preached powerfully. He became a Christian and got involved in Community Groups, praise God.
For whatever reason, it’s easy for Christians to clam up and get weird when talking about their faith in the day-to-day. Here are a few tips to make bridge those inhibitions and get the conversation going:

1. Find a road that leads to Jesus.

In the course of conversation, be thinking of how Jesus intersects with the discussion, because Jesus intersects and touches everything in our culture: sports, music, art, politics. Look for bridges to introduce Jesus into the conversation. It should be just as casually or passionately as you talk about everything else.

2. Donʼt be weird and awkward.

“, Iʼd like to talk with you about Jesus.” If all of a sudden you put on your "Jesus" hat and you are talking to them like a project and not a friend, then you're entering awkward territory. Now, there will be times it becomes awkward because talking about Jesus and sin can be that way, but don't let it be because you are socially weird.

3. Be winsome.

Included in that word is the word “win.” Be “winning” friends and the conversation by being engaging, friendly, and kind. For more on being winsome, check out Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon.

4. Counter stereotypes and caricatures of Christians.

Many urban, secular folks have a particular caricature of a Christian, which is not very flattering (judgmental, harsh, the “morality police”), although many don’t personally have any Christian friends. Be gracious and talk with them, serve them, and love them.

5. Host an open house.

When my wife and I moved into a new apartment building we hosted an open house for the whole building and went over the top with really good food and wine. Dozens of our neighbors came out and it was the foundation for future gospel-centered conversations.

6. Be honest about your struggles and failings.

We all fall short. We all struggle and fail. The credit has to be given to Jesus in your life. Many non-Christians donʼt want to talk with Christians as they will feel guilty regarding their own problems.

7. Actions also communicate.

Serve your neighbors. Serve your neighborhood. Look for opportunities without being an attention-getter. Your neighbors are watching you and just as James said, faith without works is dead.