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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 2 Things You Need to Know to Share the Gospel to Anyone, Anywhere

Many Christians don't share the good news of Jesus with others. I don't believe it's because they don't want to, but because they are too afraid and/or they don't know how. Perhaps you're one of these. I know I was...

...until I was trained by EvanTell, Inc. to teach the amazingly practical You Can Tell It! evangelism training seminar!

The gospel is simple: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-5). What God is asking the nonChristian to do is simple: trust in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

How to share this gospel with anyone, anywhere, at any time is also quite simple. All you have to know are two things: Bad News and Good News.

Dr. Larry Moyer, CEO of EvanTell, Inc. in Dallas TX, has taught this simple method for almost 40 years. To put it simply...

the Bad News is: All Have Sinned (Rom. 3:23) & the Wages for Our Sin is Death (Rom. 6:23).

And the Good News: Christ Died for Our Sins (Rom. 5:8) & You Can Be Saved through Faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).

I have used this easy method that keeps the gospel as clear as crystal with many, many people. Children can understand this, and people from all walks of life can as well. I have seen several great ways to share the gospel, but this one is my favorite. It keeps Christ as the center, and the main issue is to trust.

If you'd like to learn how to share the gospel with anyone, anywhere, at any time, check out my friends at EvanTell by visiting their website:

And if you'd like to have this live evangelism training at your church, click here.

There's also a free training via the web! Your whole church, youth group, or small group can go through this. Just go to It's interactive and fun!

God bless you as you serve Him in evangelism!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dare to Go Where Jesus Went

It's an incredible passage! "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp." (Hebrews 13:11) Doesn't that verse grip your heart? Doesn't it make you want to share the gospel with children everywhere? The truth is that "outside the camp" wasn't a pretty scene for the ancient Hebrews, and it's far from pleasing to us today.
Inside the camp was security, comfort, worship, pleasure, miracles, protection, provision, safety, and life. But the phrase "outside the camp" conjured up all kids of negative thoughts and feelings for the Hebrew people each time they heard it. Leviticus sheds light on the phrase for us. In 16:27 we read that the bodies of the bulls (skin, guts, and all) were burned outside the camp--not inside the camp where people lived and worshiped. Outside the camp the smell of death and burned corpses lingered.

It gets worse. Leviticus 13:45-46 tells us that those who contracted the deadly disease of leprosy were sent outside the camp--alone. It didn't matter if they were loved family members, close friends, or gentle grandpas and grandmas. They were sent to the place designated for the despised and people to avoid.

It gets even worse than that! Leviticus 24:13 says that any person who cursed and blasphemed God was sent outside the camp and stoned to death. Outside the camp was a precarious, disgusting place of abhorrent people and deathly smells. It was a smelly, dirty, and dangerous place. It surely wasn't the kind of place you would plan as your next vacation spot!

Then the author of Hebrews writes, "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate." The King of kings did not even receive a kingly death, but instead He experienced torment in death and in the very place no one wanted to be--outside the gate.

He also spent most of His time there. Jesus spent time with persons the Pharisees would not have: smelly, dirty, and despised people, and Jesus loved them, and many believed in Him and were saved. Jesus was hated; partly because of the company he kept.

Are you ready for this next verse? You might want to sit down, because verse 13 is the clincher: "Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach." It's not a suggestion, is it? I believe the author is exclaiming, "Listen! We are the body of Jesus on earth. Therefore, we must act the way He acted when He was here; be willing to suffer what Jesus suffered." It's our calling. It's our purpose. It's our destiny.

What exactly is our purpose for living? To work, earn money, pay the bills, play church, raise kids, retire, and then die? It's evident to me that we were meant for so much more than these. I'm thankful to know my purpose; it drives me. It's to inspire and train believers to evangelize. You can join me! You can join the great purpose of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF)! Your prayer, financial, and volunteering all support this ministry which enables us all together to reach those whom no one else is reaching--all across Houston, the U.S., and even the world. Believe me. They are there.

I challenge you with this: CEF of Greater Houston has launched an initiative called RADIUS. Go to our newly revamped website,, and click on the white box that says "RADIUS." Carefully read what it's all about, and prayerfully join the movement.

Then let's work hard together putting Christ on display by our willingness to suffer for Him outside the camp!

Serving you in evangelism to the children,
J Chad Barrett

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Inspire Your Church to Evangelize

Deep-seated in a society where the biggest seems to be the best, the fastest is apparently the most sufficient, and professionalism trumps community lies a simple church with a steeple on its roof. And inside this church sits the pastor in his office chair wondering how in the world he can possibly motivate his congregation to take the town for Christ.

The Faith Bible Church facility, La Marque, TX

I've set in that chair many times. (The people in the church pictured above are fantastic, and are working hard at reaching people for Christ!) Perhaps you have, too. Perhaps you're there now--the pastor of a church seeking to motivate your people to use their God-given gifts to somehow spread the gospel to the community and abroad. Or maybe you've been asking the wrong question, "What will it take to pack out my building on Sunday morning?" Perhaps you could, instead, ask, "What will it take to persuade my people to share the gospel in our community and abroad during the week?"

Or maybe you're a Sunday school teacher, youth worker, or pew warmer who feels the burden to become a mover/shaker for Christ; you feel something (or Someone) is tugging on your heart to say something or do something that would spark a great desire for your church to become a catalyst for the gospel in your community.

Whether you realize it or not, the big question at hand really is, "How can I inspire my people to evangelize to our community and beyond?"

While I definitely don't know all the answers, I'd like to offer a few suggestions that may be overlooked by many.

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest.
If you're like me (If you are I wouldn't tell anyone--it's for your own safety!), you may have jumped on the latest and greatest bandwagon of books, DVD's, and seminars on how to get Christians to share the gospel. Thank God there are some great stuff out there on this topic! But isn't it interesting that the first thing Christ told His disciples in regard to evangelism was to pray? Read about it in Matthew 9:35-38.

Jesus had the opportunity to give the boys His greatest tips on evangelism, but He said, "Ask my Father to rise up more people like you to bring the Good News to them." The reason was apparent: there were only 13 of them and multitudes of lost people! So by all means, PRAY! This must be our top prayer request in every small group, prayer meeting, and corporate service: for God to rise up more laborers to go into His harvest!

Prayer motivates. When your people sees your heart for the lost as you consistently lead them in prayer for laborers, something happens to them. They will either get tired of hearing you pray, or they will join you. Those who join you in prayer for evangelism will follow you in evangelism.

Set the Example
Isn't that what Paul told Timothy? Check it out in 2 Timothy 4:5. Paul told him to do the work of an evangelist. This doesn't mean Timothy was an evangelist. In fact, it is quite apparent he wasn't, or else Paul would've said, "Do your thing, Tim!" Paul told a young pastor to do something he may very well have been most uncomfortable doing--evangelize.

You can't lead anyone in a direction you aren't going yourself. I love the way my mentor, Dr. Larry Moyer, puts it, "Instead of talking about the lost needing Christ, we must talk to the lost about Christ!" And Paul told Timothy to "do as I do." So if you really want to inspire your people to share the gospel to the lost, then you must be in the practice of sharing the gospel to people yourself. In fact, bring one or two of your church members to watch you evangelize. They'll get a kick out of it!

Leverage Yourself
One of my good friends and board members at Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Houston taught me a wonderful leadership technique several years ago: leverage yourself. It's Coleman McDuffee's favorite phrase, and it has helped me lead people into a direction I felt God telling us to go.

A common approach to evangelism in many churches today is to have all church members bring their unsaved friends to one event to hear one man share the gospel one time. I'm not saying this is a wrong or bad thing to do, yet Christ told His disciples to go out and make disciples who go out and make disciples. (No, that's not a typo. I meant to type that last phrase twice.) If you were to leverage yourself in evangelism by training 5 of your people to share the clear, simple gospel, then you can potentially reach many more than you can by yourself. Plus, those 5 people know many whom you do not know! Surely, it would be much easier to send a trained Christian into the harvest than to bring the harvest to an unfamiliar building.

Think about how many people can hear the gospel if 10 of your people were inspired and trained to bring the gospel message to their friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family members. Pray, set the example, and leverage yourself. You will be amazed at how the Holy Spirit will bring His inspiration to believers in your church who seek His wisdom and direction in evangelism.

(For more Inspiring Evangelism, feel free to contact me! I would be honored to partner with you!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do You Feel Purposeless and Powerless?

Jesus was quite the famous One among the cities, villages, and countrysides. Check it out:

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

So Jesus heals all the sicknesses and diseases in this whole area. Definitely the healthiest place on earth! But it wasn't the physical illnesses that moved Him to break emotionally.

His disciples saw it. I can imagine Peter turning to Andrew, "Hey, Andy, look at the Messiah! He is sobbing!" Jesus is bent over weeping over the emotional and spiritual condition of the multitudes.

Multitudes. Not a few hundred, or a few thousand. But multitudes. Too many to count.

Then Jesus tells His disciples to pray for more disciples to bring His love to the lost. This must've been quite an event. There were only 13 of them (including Jesus), and there were multitudes of the hurting. Just a few laborers among countless lost people with countless needs to be met. Jesus allowed His disciples to witness His great compassion for people--His passion for glorifying His Father by loving people. And loving people is not just being nice. It's meeting their whole needs.

Then Jesus gives them supernatural powers. Here's 10:1--
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Jesus could've just given them power, but He wanted them to see the purpose for the power. He gave them purpose by showing them His passion. So Passion gives Purpose to Power. Without His passion within us, we are purposeless and powerless.

It literally frightens me to know that there are many purposeless and powerless churches in America today. It's because there are purposeless and powerless Christians in America.

Would you grasp and embrace His passion: to glorify our Father by loving people? And we love people by seeking to meet their whole needs. That's the love of Christ in action. That's sharing the whole gospel: in word and deed!

(My heart's desire is to inspire believers to evangelize. Check out my website at for more information!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why Do Christians Tend to Avoid Evangelism? Reason #3

Christ set out to aggressively meet the many needs of people—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. When He left this earth, He gave this mission to His disciples.

Today, we might call this ministering, and so we hire professional ministers to do the work. I am convinced this is why churches seem so uninterested in evangelism. Many churches expect their pastors to do the work of ministry. I've been told that as a pastor.

The great question, here, is “Why are we not obedient to the Great Commission?” Before you feel that I am placing all the blame on the senior pastor and his seminary, allow me to shed some clarity on where I am going with this. I have often wondered if we have professionalized the role of the pastor to the point where we expect far too much of him.

Take a drive through a large town, like Houston, and you’ll see billboards advertising local churches. Whose picture might you see? If you guessed “the senior pastor,” you’re correct. The senior pastor is the face of the local church. Everything is based on him. Nothing can get done without him. Churches come to a screeching halt when a pastor leaves until the search committee hires a new one.

If you conducted a survey in your church to find what people desired most out of their senior pastor, I’m willing to bet the results would show your church would like to hire Jesus, the Messiah. This makes much sense to me because there are people in your church. There are those who hurt emotionally and need a counselor. Those who suffer need someone to offer peace. Those who are confused need an instructor, and those who are down need encouragement.

Then, there are sick people who need to be visited in the hospital. There are singles who get married, marriages to be saved, and the dead need to be buried. Then there are the sermons. The people need deep, practical, persuasive, powerful, calm, meaningful, emotional, and convicting sermons…every Sunday. They need someone who can lead with grace, energy, and victory.

In other words, the people in the local church need a professional teacher, preacher, trainer, counselor, comforter, administrator, leader, and so on. And we tend to look to one man to offer all the above. Perhaps we have forgotten who Christ gave to the Church “to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.”

And then we come to evangelism. Just another item to add to his list of professions?

Here is what Paul stated in Ephesians 4:11-13,

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Basically, the apostles and prophets were used as the foundational builders of the Church (as seen in Acts), and then there are pastors, teachers, and evangelists. We see many pastors and teachers in churches today, but where are the evangelists Christ gave? Has our Head ceased in supplying evangelists in churches to continue to edify the body to reach the maturity of which Paul spoke?

I do not believe Christ has ceased in giving His Church evangelists. I believe they are all over the place, and many of them are working. However, they are not popular. They don’t have pictures on billboards, or business cards to hand out to people. They may not have master’s degrees or doctorates. They probably don’t have offices inside buildings. But the evangelists are out there. They are in your church. I wonder how many there are in your church, but who have not become evident because evangelism is not the desired answer to the ever popular question: What will it take to pack out our building on Sunday morning?

It appears in Scripture that the office of the evangelist was just as important as the office of the pastor and teacher. I am not suggesting churches ought to spend extra money and put mug shots of evangelists next to the senior pastor. And I'm certainly suggesting popularity. In fact, I am not suggesting anything, save the one principle that to Christ, evangelism was equally as important as the preaching of the Scriptures.

Yet, we tend to bank everything in the local church on one human being—the senior pastor. We recognize that office, but neglect the office of the evangelist in the local church. More often than not, the senior pastor is not gifted in evangelism, and rightly so. He is gifted in teaching, or leading, or something else that the majority of the people sought for when they hired him. He is gifted by the Holy Spirit to properly teach God’s Word, or lead with enthusiasm, or administer with grace.

I’m convinced our churches do not evangelize because the evangelists are not evident. And the evangelists can lead others to effectively bring the holistic gospel to the nations. This is being obedient to our Head who gave the evangelist to His Body.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why Do Christians Tend to Avoid Evangelism? Reason #2

To put it simply and bluntly, the problem seems to start in the seminary. Professors are not the blame for the lack of missional churches in America, but it does seem to have quite an effect. Seminary professors usually train pastors to be great exegetical technicians, church growth experts, homiletically apt, and skilled counselors. If this were not so, our churches would not have the opportunity to know the Word of God as we do. I am very fortunate and thankful to my professors in seminary who have taught me these things. And I am exceedingly glad for the great training my pastor has received so I can gain greater understanding of what God wants from me.

However, many seminaries fail to teach and exemplify evangelism. Many Bible colleges and seminaries have very few classes on this subject. Therefore, there are professors who fail to train pastors to evangelize effectively. Thus, there are pastors who fail to train their churches to evangelize effectively. And, sadly, there are 95% of Christians in America today who have never had the privilege of leading another to Christ because they have never been trained to do so.

This is a terrible chain reaction! If you are a professor or pastor, I plead with you to make the necessary changes to break this reaction. The sad truth exists; most churches are simply not reaching the lost. We are not obeying. We must have pastors who are passionate for and properly trained to lead churches to effectively bring the holistic gospel to the lost! It’s hard to be obedient when we are not sure of what to do.

Why Do Christians Tend to Avoid Evangelism? Reason #1

The Consumer-driven Church

In his book, Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, Dr. Dennis Okholm states, "…in our desire to maximize our return on investments in reaching people for Christ, we...are often captives of the consumer-driven, efficiency-minded, results-oriented culture in which we grow our churches. But [Saint] Benedict and his contemporaries remind us that Christians mature more like trees than like fast-spreading computer viruses....We have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life."

The spiritual life that Okholm speaks of involves making disciples. To make a disciple, one must enter into the life of another, show the love of Christ in deed, share the good news of Christ in word, and continue on developing maturity in Christ. It truly hurts me to say that we seem more interested in cultivating empires with steeples than we do in making disciples.

So many churches in America are like the Super Wal-Mart, offering a little of everything in order to get the buy-in of the consumer. We, Christians, shop for a church where the pastor preaches our kind of sermon and wears our kind of clothes on stage, the band plays our kind of music (or the choir sings our kind of songs), the youth group fits our teens, the children’s ministry gets our approval, and the nursery has walls decorated with Noah’s Ark. We make our list of “grocery items” and choose the church that has the most items checked off. We also choose our country club with the same basic principles.

Let’s face it. Many of us may choose to attend a church based on what we want, and not what God may want. We may pray for God’s direction, but when we pray, we ask for God to lead us to a church that fits our preferences, fills our lifestyles with pleasure and goodness, and feeds our souls with what we hunger for the most: entertainment, satisfaction, comfort, and well-being.

What would it take for a Christian to desire a particular church as a place where he can be discipled in the truths of God’s Word so he can utilize his spiritual gifts to edify the body and reach the lost? How many Christians would join a particular church for the purpose of seeking to make it better used for the Kingdom? Tell me: have you ever heard a Christian say, “I want to join this church because I feel I can best be used here.”

Perhaps this is the mentality Christ wants us to have—to be passionate to give, rather than to receive. Perhaps Christ wants us to be passionate to sacrifice to spread His gospel, rather than expect others in a church to sacrifice to fit our preferences of ministry. Perhaps Christ wants us to come to the point where we are willing to risk it all to bring the gospel to the nations, and perhaps that starts with you in your church.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Two Babies in the Manger?

Life isn't lived to the fullest unless it is given away. The following story is cited from Dr. David Anderson's commentary on 1 John, Maximum Joy.

"Two American women were challenged to go to Russia and spend some of their time in ministry to orphanages. They weren't professionals, and it cost them a pretty penny to leave their jobs and pay their own way. They sacrificed, but as they gave their love, they too found love in return.

They came to one orphanage of about a hundred kids where the Christmas story had never been told. So they shared the story of Bethlehem, and the inn, and Mary and the manger, and you know the rest. Then they gave each kid some cut-outs to build their own little manger scene. They used brown flannel to make baby Jesus, some cardboard for the manger, and some yellow scraps of paper for straw.

As these women went around to look at the work of each child, all went well until one of the women got to the table where little Misha sat. He was about six years old, and everything was in perfect order until the woman looked into the manger. There were two babies in the manger. She thought, "Oh, my goodness. What's happened here?" So she asked the translator to come over so she could find out where Misha had gotten mixed up.

Misha had all the details in place until he got to the very end, and then he began to ad lib. He said,

And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, she looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told her, 'I have no mamma and I have no pappa, so I don't have any place to stay.' Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. Then I told Him I couldn't because I didn't have a gift to give like everyone else did.

But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, I thought, what do I have that I could give as a gift? I thought maybe if I keep Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, would that be a good gift?' And Jesus said, 'If you keep me warm, that would be the best gift anyone gave me.' So I got into the manger, and Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with Him in the manger always.

As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed with tears and they began to splash down his little cheeks. Then he put his hand over his face, his head dropped down to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would always stay with him. The American finished her story by saying, 'And I learned it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, that counts.'

These two American women gave their lives away to children in orphanages, and in turn, their lives were filled with abundant joy! And many children placed their trust in Jesus, and He filled them with His joy.

To whom are you giving your life?

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Field of Wealth Inside My Pain

I've found out I'm allergic to pain. Sometimes it causes swelling, irritation, loss of breath, aches, and a host of other problems. Pain hurts. And I don't like it.

But I can't avoid it. Usually. Life brings it--unexpectedly at most times. And yet, Jesus gave me something supernatural that not only gets me through the pain, but enables me to thrive in the midst of it. It's called JOY!

The disciple whom Jesus loved (John) wrote about this abundant joy. It's abundant because one more drop of it will cause it to overflow. And He gives it to us in abundance when we follow what John says in 1 John.

1:3-4 -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

The aspect of fellowship seems to be the main theme throughout this book. And John doesn't waste any words describing the realness and depth of the kind of fellowship that Christ desires to have with us and desires us to have with one another.

He says in 2:3-4 that we "know" (meaning a deep, intimate, experiential knowledge) God if we obey His commandments. And the commandment he talks about next in chapter 2 is "loving one another!" Then he describes this love as all giving, sacrificial, toward those who don't deserve it, and taking the initiative. Now that's love. That's real fellowship with others.

AND, that's fellowship with God. It's fellowship with God because, according to John, if we are not loving one another this way, then we are not loving God.

So think about the painful experiences in your life. I have mine in mind. Our daughter, Kristina (9 years old), is currently battling a rare cancer. Scary. Heart-wrenching. Heavy.

HOWEVER (and I really mean HOWEVER), others have entered our lives, felt our pain with us, and helped carry this heavy burden. And we have sought to do the same with others.

The result? We continue to find a field of wealth inside our pain. During the days of sorrow and ultimate stress due to difficult news we receive...during the times of anguish and desperate desires to be out from underneath this heavy load...during the times when we feel hopelessness alongside our helplessness, He speaks. And He splits open the sky and showers us with His bountiful and abundant joy.

And then, in the mist of our tears, rays of light slice through the dark clouds. Truth is spoken despite our dark, lingering feelings: "I am your God. And I am here."

Suddenly, strength seeps into our pores. We find power that enables us to take another step. And at times we can run and dance. Other times, we gently walk. And with each step He walks alongside us. Often times, when we turn to see His face, we end up seeing the faces of those in our local church who are carrying this burden with us. The body of Christ.

That's fellowship. That's love. That's joy.

That's living above the common.

Are you pursuing this kind of obedience to our Father?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

You Finish the Story...

As I walked out of the shadows of my loneliness, I saw a man standing in the sunlight. His silhouette gently transformed into color as I cautiously approached him, and he turned to face me.

I have dreamed of this moment for all my life; albeit, I knew not what this moment would entail. I had been afraid of the exposure of my darkness. I have betrayed, lied, lusted, coveted, and stolen. My innermost thoughts had been evil, and I was most expecting this moment to be the cup of wrath I had deserved.

My expectations were proven wrong. What I thought would be shame from his countenance towards me was actually a simple smile. But not just any smile. A grin from ear to ear. Eyes wide and brows raised, as if he had been anticipating this moment for a long time.

At first I was tempted to turn around to see from whence I came, but the eagerness in this man's face was compelling me to remain the eye contact. And then, as small as a beam of light and as fast as it travels, a seed of passion was ignited deep within my soul. The desire for something I knew not drastically grew with an anticipation I had never felt.

He stared at me. He could not remove it, and in front of him was his canvas. He motioned for me to approach him, and I did. With a sudden newness of expectation I approached him and viewed his canvas. It was a painting of another world--another time. Another dimension, even. And I found myself wanting to be there.

Yet the painting was unfinished. I looked to him and asked about the unfinished part. It was as if his eyes spoke to me. He had applied the foundation of base colors and structure. He had supplied the architecture. Then he handed me the brush. It was my turn.

I looked at him with happiness, and grabbed the brush. With enthusiasm overwhelming my heart and my lungs full of fresh air, I applied my stroke of genius. But then I dropped my brush.

I had caused a stroke and the color was black. It ruined the painting, and I was heartbroken. I knew the man was disappointed in me. He needed someone who knew how to paint--someone with artistic talent and skillful hands. I admitted--I was neither. How foolish I had been to pretend to be someone I was not.

Then he lifted my face to see him. And he smiled at me. There was supposed to be anger, but I saw only gentleness. I had expected (and would have accepted) him to reject and remove me from his canvas. But he just smiled. Then he stooped down and retrieved the paint brush. He handed it to me and directed my attention back to the canvas.

He lifted his right hand to the black smear I had caused. As he wiped it clean, it was replaced with a bright crimson. Then he instructed me to continue to paint. But this time, I looked into his eyes as my brush created a beautiful masterpiece--a masterpiece where the center was a wave of red that brought out the other colors so magnificently.

And then he spoke. He said he was proud of me.

"But I messed up," I replied. And his returning comment reminded me that my black streak had been removed.

I stood back to see the whole canvas. I took in the entire picture. And that's when I realized the truth...

(You finish it. What is the truth? Conclude the story.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Final Flight: A Beautiful Picture

The space shuttle Atlantis just lifted off the earth for the last time. It takes thousands of brave NASA workers to make this happen, and millions just watched it all over the world.

Everything has to work just right. In fact, at only 31 seconds left before take off, the clock stopped to check on a “failure.” As soon as a camera revealed all is OK, the countdown resumed, and the shuttle lifted with precision.

Such a beautiful picture, this is, of how Christ orchestrates His Body on earth. His Spirit gives gifts to each newborn believer for the purpose of edifying His Body. And these gifts are given with supernatural precision. With His guidance, we can follow Him and amazing things happen.

Your local church possesses the gifts of the Spirit, and when they all work together, amazing things happen. However, just as tragedy has struck NASA when something went wrong with two shuttles and people lost their lives, tragedy strikes a church when the precision of our gifting is neglected.

Lives are hurt. Hearts are broken. But when we follow His commands as given in His Holy Word, something incredible happens. It works.

NASA must be patient, pure (precise), thoughtful, optimistic, brave, educated…

Sounds a lot like His Church. Patience, purity, thoughtfulness, educated in His Word…

When we just follow His guidance, we live above the common!

(1 Cor. 12-14)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wanna Be a Superhero?

Yes, you do.

Oh, come on. You know you do! You know you lay in bed at night fantasizing that you can stop bullets with special powers, or you can fly, or you can...whatever. You know you do. Don't lie to me.

All superheroes have three things in common: they are secure in their purpose, they are determined to follow through, and they are not cowards. Well, OK, at least by the end of the movie they become these things.

There are three things I've learned from the life of the Apostle Paul: he was secure, determined, and he was no coward.

Check it out in Philippians 1:12-14.

12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

I think it's safe to say Paul faced setbacks in his life as a believer and follower of Jesus. And it's pretty safe to say he came across many various kinds of difficulty when it came to spreading the gospel, planting churches, and motivating Christians to shape up. Furthermore, he certainly was no coward. Experienced fear? Of course, but he was no coward.

Look at it more closely:

1. Setbacks Reveal Security - (v. 12) But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.

Paul was in jail. His peeps thought this meant the end of the gospel. Paul told them otherwise.

We should be secure in the fact that God will spread His gospel no matter what setbacks the enemy brings. We all face setbacks: financial issues, health issues, problems with your co-workers, problems with your boss, death of a loved one. Will we really allow setbacks to be a dictator that prevents us from sharing His truth to a dying world? Or will we believe God may have a purpose for these setbacks? And will we believe God is powerful enough to use these to spread the gospel through us?

2. Difficulty Reveals Determination - (v. 13) so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.

The Roman palace guard consisted of about 9,000 soldiers. Wow! They all heard the gospel because of the determination of Paul while under great difficulty.

We should determine to obey no matter what difficulty arises. Are we really going to allow difficulty to rob our determination to fulfill God’s #1 desire: that all men might be saved? Will we allow ourselves to be so caught up in the affairs of this world that we lose sight of His passion? Or will we choose to believe that God is powerful enough to use difficulty to spread His gospel? Don’t you think we should just do what He says and share it?

3. Conflict Reveals Cowards - (v. 14) and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Most of the brethren. That means not all. That means some were cowards. Harsh words, you say? I call 'em as I see 'em. Some were overcome by fear and chose to be defeated by the conflict rather than be a part of God's victory in spreading the gospel. Do I know how this feels? Yes, I most certainly do.

We should realize how invincible His gospel is and how powerful He is in us. Are we going to allow conflict to turn us into cowards? Are we really that weak—that spineless—to choose fear over His power within us? Fear is common, but have we forgotten who God is? Or will we see God on His throne and worship Him by overcoming our fear of sharing the gospel? We are strong, because He is in us. His gospel is invincible because He will spread it. And He wants to use us.

At the end, there will be victory. Question is: will we be a part of it? Those who choose to live above the common will be. You can choose today!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Never Satisfied

It's like the potato chip. One is not enough. I've gotta have more. Right?

So it is with entering the life of another.

My wife, Melissa, and I have recently entered the lives of another family in our community. A family that has been through difficult times. A family searching for, support, love, authenticity. We met them a few weeks ago at the gym where we work out, and friendships began to blossom.

What I am about to tell you--well, I am hesitant. (I've restructured that last sentence 5 times.) I don't want to come across as anything other than one who strives to possess the heart of humility. Yet with my passion to inspire others to live above the common, I don't want to miss out on something that God can use.

My new friend told Melissa and me just last Sunday over lunch that he agreed to join us at church only because he saw how we lived. He said we were real and that our faith was evident in front of others.

He opened up to us with things about his life. They are trusting Jesus for salvation, but they desire to grow more in their relationship with Him. And they want to come back to our fellowship this Sunday.

Nothing satisfies me more than seeing God honored in public. And we have had the opportunity to do that many times during these last few months of trials (our daughter has cancer). It has opened up so many doors for people to see how pain affects a believer who desires to follow the Christ who set him free.

And yet, I'm not satisfied. I've got my sights set on another guy at the gym. I'm praying for an opportunity. Seeking and strategizing. Watching for God's creation of events that would lead up to a discussion, activity, mishap, or whatever would provide me the chance to share the grace and love of Christ with him.

May we never be satisfied with just one. May we all prayerfully strategize with our new relationships in public. On Sundays the Church gathers to worship. But during the week, watch out world, for the Body of Christ is in your presence! And our spirit burns with desire to live above the common in front of you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When to Leave Your Church, Part 2

God does lead some people away from their churches. Members become missionaries. Jobs move their employees. And when truth is left out of the pulpit, it's usually time to go.

Here's a unique perspective, though: I've got a best friend who has a fantastic stance on his church membership. He's there to serve. He's told me more than once when things got tough in the church that he desires to do whatever he can to make things better. Leaving has never been an option for his family. He's not there to gain--he's there to give. He's not a consumer. He's a contributor. That's his perspective.

And his great contribution has done so much for the church. His perspective has inspired me. It's made me think. Churches go through difficult times because of one reason: people exist. But when a member is burned in a church, then his perspective of leaving his church to go to another is just like jumping out of one hot, frying pan only to land in another sizzling skillet.

However, when a member has the perspective of being a giver--a contributor--then when he doesn't receive what he feels he needs, it's OK. His purpose is to give--to use his God-given gifts to edify the body, especially when it is sick.

Wow. If only more members would possess this perspective, just how healthy do you think the body would be?

You are gifted, if you've trusted Christ as your Savior. Your gift is supernatural. It's phenomenal! There is no limit to what you can do with your gift. So what are you contributing to your church? (Remember, the church is people, not the building.) What are you giving? Are you doing what it takes to make the body healthy?

Or are you a consumer who ends up making the body sick?

One could not pry my friend away from his church, because contributors live above the common.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

When to Leave Your Church, Part 1

Church life is tough, to say the least. The reason is simple: there's the possibility (probability, really) of backbiting, gossip, spreading dissension, conflicting personalities, differences of opinion, and so much more. Really, there's the probability of being hurt by someone else from within your church.

I like what Ken Sande of Peacemakers Ministries said at one of his great conferences I attended, "If two or more are gathered together, there will be conflict." Pretty funny, eh? And true.

Before I get into the depths of this topic, I wish to give a preface. I'll call this Part 1.

Over the years as a pastor, I've seen and heard of many people leave their churches for various reasons. And the reasons most leavers give, I've noticed, really aren't the real reasons.

"God is leading us away." That's too vague.
"We don't really like the music." Really? That's a reason to leave your church?

I know what some of you may be thinking, "Is it really everyone's business why one leaves a church?" And that's a very good question. Of course, I should not make an "across-the-board" statement. However, if you are thinking of leaving your church, then you are actually thinking of leaving your church.

You're not leaving your building. You're not leaving your programs. You're leaving your people. Please allow me to present a unique and often neglected perspective of your church. The Apostle Paul wrote a phrase numerous times in his epistles that may be taken lightly: "one another." Bear with one another, love one another, look out for the interests of one another, carry one another's burdens. I can go on and on. The idea is of familial intimacy. (Most churches miss out on this extravagant gift from our Lord.) When you decide to leave your church, you are leaving "one another."

So is it my business that you are leaving my church? Yes. It's my business because you are part of my "one another." Now, it's not my business to spread rumors of why you are leaving. And it's certainly not my business to hold a grudge against you for leaving. But if you leave my church, you are leaving me.

Interesting perspective I think this is. It's not a perspective we usually think about when we decide to leave our churches, because usually the reasons why we leave carry the negative and dangerous ingredients of anger and bitterness. Those are not "one another" emotions. Those are "me and no other" emotions.

Usually, when a church member decides it's time to go, he leaves as quietly as possible. Perhaps an email or letter is sent, but he doesn't face anyone (or very few) in his church telling them his plans.

We're quick to call our churches "families." But when one leaves, even because of conflict, there's very little course of reconciliation. I couldn't imagine if one of my kids just disappeared! That would be tragic! How unfortunate that we don't view one another this way.

Tragedy strikes many churches each week. Members leave because of something they don't like. And most of the things they don't like have nothing to do with essential doctrinal issues. Most of the time, the real reasons church members leave their church families are because of relationship issues with their church family members.

It's much easier to just run away than it is to obey. Confront with love and grace. Forgive. Ask for forgiveness. Be full of grace and truth. These things are difficult, but they are commands from our Master.

There's more to this topic coming in the near future, but for now--I know one good reason NOT to leave your church. Bitterness.

It keeps me from living above the common. Believe me. I've been there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Come to Our Church! We Offer...

a Starbux-like coffee bar, amazing playground for the kids, most coolest youth room, hottest blazing band for worship, we offer...we offer...we'll give you...we'll give will feel will feel good...We are friendly people!

OK. Forgive the slight sarcasm. And I do like coffee. My kids like playgrounds, and youth rooms should be cool. (What? You think they should be boring?)

It makes me wonder, though. I've read many times that church members in the U.S. tend to be consumers. We like to shop around for a church in much the same way as we shop around for a good restaurant:

"The waiter didn't smile much."
"The food was a little cold."

Or, how about, "I didn't like the way the preacher said..."
Or, "The music was a little too traditional for me."
Or, "The carpet was old."

I was a pastor. For 15 years. And I got frustrated at comments such as these. But I wonder if the philosophy put forth by pastors and leaders of churches today is something that causes (or, at least lends toward) a consumer mentality among American Christians.

Have you ever read a church marque sign that stated: "Join our church! We'll put you to work!"

Or, has anyone ever invited you to their church because they "strive to suffer much for the sake of the gospel"?

"Join us! Join us! Join us this Sunday at 11am--YOU'LL LOVE IT!!"

That's much different wording than what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." (2 Tim. 1:8)

Inspiration is missing in church. I'm talking about real inspiration to sacrifice for the most worthy cause. I'm talking about real motivation for the most worthy purpose!

"Join our church! It might hurt a little, but the rewards are out of this world!"

Churches in America need contributors, not consumers. CONTRIBUTORS: diehard believers who refuse to settle for complacency, but instead contribute their gifts/talents/skills toward following Christ even into the darkest places so His glory can shine through them.

We sing songs about this! "Shine, Jesus, Shine!" (But, of course, most of us don't like the style of the song. So we miss the whole meaning.)

So are you a contributor? Or a consumer? Are you a pastor or church leader who is producing consumerism in your church? Or are you challenging and inspiring God's people to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of the gospel?

One is surviving life. The other is living above the common. Can you tell which one?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fearless Determination

What would you do if you had no fear? Drive really fast? Skydive? Confront your ex? Or your mother-in-law? (just kidding, G-Momma!)

What is most important to you in this life? Seriously. Hobbies? Family? Job?

What was the most important thing in the lives of these men: Apostle Paul, Peter, John, James, Matthew, Jesus?

Does your important thing match theirs? Why or why not?

Most Christians do not share the gospel with others because of 2 simple reasons: we don't know what to say, and we are too afraid.

But what if you learned exactly what to say to anyone, any age, anywhere? What if you learned how to overcome your fear in sharing the gospel with people?

Would you do it? Would it become more important to you?

What if the world really will end soon? It will sometime. He's coming back sometime--this we do know for sure.

Wanna learn how to share the clear, simple gospel effectively to anyone, any age, anywhere?

Go to and click on Live Evangelism Training.

And live above the common.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What to Do When Days are Low

Whether it is stress, depression, marital issues, or bad pizza, everyone has those low days. Some are lower than others, and some people experience lower than "normal" days. Yes, these days for me can be difficult.

As someone who was severely depressed for a period of 2 years, I have learned quite a bit about what I should do on these days. I know these feelings well: the heaviness on the heart/chest, loneliness, sadness, unreasonable guilt/shame (you feel this but don't know why), despair, anxiety attacks, anger/bitterness, etc. The list goes on and on, and for some people this list can be so severe that medication and/or therapy might be required. (For those who disagree with medication for depression--I've heard your opinions. The scope of this blog is not for that.)

The best cure for those low days? Well, it's not found in a bottle. Sure, meds help, but it's not the cure. It's certainly not found in a glass bottle. Friends can be a good source of comfort, but they can also be a source of dragging you down--so choose wisely.

But the best cure for me (the only cure, actually), and for many others I have counseled with depression, is found in one word: TRUTH. And truth is found in God's Holy Word.

Now I'm not saying that all you have to do is recite a couple verses and then life is all yippy skippy. How dare we ever view the Word of God as a formula to follow, or a vending machine (just press the right button and out pops your order). Instead, God's Word is truth.

The truth is...we often tell ourselves lies. And these lies can, and invariably always do, lead to low moments/depression/guilt/shame, etc. For example, if my dad always told me that I was a good-for-nothin' boy, then I would grow up telling myself that because I would eventually believe it. But it wouldn't be the truth.

If I feel scared about something, it is tempting to say that, since I have no control, all Hell's about to break loose on me--that I might be destroyed. But that isn't the truth.

If I feel lonely, it would be easy for me to tell myself that no one really cares for me. But that really is far from the truth.

We often tell ourselves lies. What to do? Philippians 4 talks of our thoughts--that our thoughts lead to something. It commands me to think on certain things. Check it out by clicking here.

These thoughts, according to God's Word, lead to peace. "But," you may say, "I can't control my thoughts." And that's where you're wrong. (Another lie.) We may not be able to control our emotions, but we can control our thoughts. Read about it here.

It takes practice--like everything else. But, believe me, it works. (Amazing that the Bible works, isn't it?!) So, just to clarify, I don't just get rid of a wrong thought. I replace it with a truthful thought.

By the way, I've been having one of those days today. Sure am glad I blogged on this. Feelin' a lot better. Now I just need a cup of coffee, and I'm good.

Livin' above the common requires truth in the inwards parts. That's a truth statement.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Shepherd

PLEASE READ FIRST: The following is an excerpt from a book of short stories called Perspectives. At the bottom of this post, you will have the chance to purchase this entire short story for a small fee, as well as The Incarnation in its entirety. And just in case you're wondering, purchasing these short stories helps feed my kids!! LOL

© 2010. J. Chad Barrett, Sr. All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles or reviews.

It must have been the cool air that woke me up. It was the third watch of the night, and I was the only one awake. The sounds of the night echoed in my waking mind. The silence of sleeping sheep, the snoring of the other shepherds—all was well. All was calm. I loved moments like this. So peaceful—I felt like I could float on clouds with no worry of falling.

Lying on my pallet, I could feel the wind barely blowing, and I could see the tops of the field grass gently moving to its command. I could faintly hear the bristling of the nearby brook, and I became thirsty for its cool, refreshing water. Trying not to wake my friends, I carefully rose to my feet and made my way outside the circle toward the brook. My body felt tired and sleepy, but my mind wanted to stay alert. It was times like these when I would sneak off during the night, climb on top of a large rock, lie on my back, and look up into the big, black sky. I have done this many nights—letting my mind wander from star to star.

In my mind’s eye I could fly into the vast blackness, past constellations and shooting stars. I would close my eyes and dream of flying so fast and so far that I would finally approach heaven’s door—where dwelt the Dream Maker, Himself. I would dream of landing gently on His front step, and the great door would open. I would walk through a large golden corridor and into a magnificent arena of every color and blazing light and wonder. It appeared as if the walls of the arena were made of light and color. In the middle of it all was the throne. And on the throne sat He—Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As my mind would wander, I would walk to the side of His throne, not feeling worthy enough to approach the front. He was too bright for my eyes to gaze upon, so I would cover my face with my hands, and I could see through them the color and light being thrown from the center of the arena. I could hear deep sounds, vibrating and ricocheting off the walls of color and light. I could faintly make out a figure like no other. His head was like fire, but His eyes were even brighter. As my dream always went, His head would turn toward me and His flaming eyes would begin to pierce right through me. I could feel my heart pounding with excitement and anticipation of something marvelous. Something celestial—something supernatural was about to occur. Through my hands, I could see all this. Then the Dream Maker would open His mouth as if to speak, but my dream would end.

It is times like these when my mind would wander so far, but not this night. In fact, I had not had this dream for the past week. Something was changing. Something was growing. I was sad that I couldn’t dream of this flight, but I was growing mysteriously anxious for something I knew not.

Drinking the cool water from the brook made the rest of my body wake up. My hands were cold from lapping the water to my mouth. I stood to my feet and looked back toward the circle of sheep surrounded by my fellow shepherds. It always amazed me how we shepherds can fall in such love with animals that smelled as bad as these. But we would give our very lives for these sheep. We had named each one.

My father used to tell me being a shepherd was the lowest job on earth, yet the most meaningful. No one could understand the overwhelming emotions had by a shepherd as he watched the birth of a lamb. The lamb’s mother cherished him, nurtured him, protected him, and caressed him. She helped him learn to walk until he could run on his own. And we, shepherds, would watch these little lambs grow to become fully grown sheep, providing for their own little lambs. And we were the ones to lead them to green grasses and gentle waters.

We nurtured the nurturers. We provided for the providers. We protected the protectors. They knew us and loved us, because we loved them.

As I walked back toward the circle, I pondered these things in my mind. I thought of the stories told of how Elohim led my ancestors out of Egypt and, eventually, to the green grasses and the still waters. I remembered the stories of King David as a young shepherd boy and heard his poems read at our gatherings. Oh, how he loved the Lord, Adonai. To think that he sat underneath these same stars, his mind’s wanderings making their way to the writings we cherish today, is thrilling to me. I laid back down on my pallet, closing my eyes, trying to fall back into my dreams.

Morning came quickly. The breakfast, the daily washing, and the first guard had been accomplished, but not by me. I overslept again. My best friend confronted me with a very familiar question.

“The dreamer finally awakes?” His smirk was sarcastic, but pleasing. The two of us grew up together, playing in these same fields and woods. “You were up during the night, again, weren’t you?” He said with one eyebrow raised.

Tying my rolled pallet together, I responded, “The tax farmers count. The sowers sow. But dreamers dream, my brother. I am what I am. Can’t change that.”

“You definitely are what you are! But you need your rest. Your eyes are like crimson.”

I finished tying my pallet closed, sat there for a moment, then shared my concern, “But something is not right. I can’t dream anymore. My heart is afraid.”

“Afraid of what? Are you talking about your dream of Adonai and His grand arena?”

“Yes. And I don’t know what I fear. I feel something is coming for me.”

“Something is coming?”

I can see concern on my friend’s face. He must think I have gone mad.

“My friend, you do really need your sleep.” At that, I rose to join the others in the daily duties of shepherding.

This day was not unlike any other day. The same chores done. The same games played. But something deep inside me—something unusual—kept nagging at me. I was anxious, and I didn’t know why. It was like something was coming, and I felt I needed to go hide. Something great and terrible and mighty was fast coming my way. I couldn’t eat during this day. The trouble I felt robbed me of my hunger. My fellow shepherds sought to comfort me, knowing that if a shepherd loses his health, he could easily lose his life. I continued, though, tending to our flock underneath the mid-afternoon’s blazing sun.

The long day was finally nearing its end. We had crossed over a lot of land, and our feet were sore and dirty—crusted with dried mud. One of my friends built a nice fire, and all of us simply stared at its glowing flames.

There’s something about a camp fire that makes a person settle. We were tired of talking, tired of walking, and just wanted to sit near the warmth of the fire. The cracking and popping were like rhythms that soothed and calmed our weary bodies. Staring at the fire brought me into a trance, forgetting about my surroundings. My heart beat slowed. My breathing deepened, and I closed my eyes and began to wander again. I prayed that I would see Him.

When I opened my eyes it seemed everything around me had vanished, yet I was still gazing at the flames. But these flames were different. These were His flames. His eyes were so powerful. They flashed and sparked and consumed me as He looked in my direction again. I was near asleep, sitting by the fire with my shepherd friends, but I was actually inside the heart of heaven—the deepest place in the universe—witnessing the greatness and wonder of the limitless color and blazing light that seemed to gush from the center of the arena. The center was the Dream Maker.

I grew sad knowing that as soon as He opened His mouth the dream would be over. And He did open His mouth, but something different happened. This time He spoke! I heard a voice coming from the throne. I tried, but couldn’t comprehend the words. It was a language I had never heard, but the beauty and majesty of that sound was breathtaking. My feet and legs trembled as my hands were over my face. The sound flowed through me and all around me like quilts swimming in the wind. My breathing was shallow—I felt as if my lungs were collapsing. And I saw His eyes which were piercing right at me grow more intense—brighter and brighter with each passing second. His face dimmed just enough to where I was able to recognize the features. It seemed as though He dimmed His own light just so I could see Him. And what I saw
sparked a transformation in me unlike anything I’ve experienced before. A flood, like a surge, overtook my heart as I saw a smile like a great canyon form across His face. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing—Elohim was smiling at me! And I heard His voice again, like rushing waters. This time I understood clearly what He said.

It was my name.

Suddenly, the blaze from His flaming eyes consumed the entirety of His person. Radiant beams splashed out from His center and filled the arena. Smoke lashed and swirled all around, and the ground beneath my feet shook. Flashings of light ricocheted off the crystal walls, seemingly passing right through me. Each time it did the nagging, anxious anticipation I had in my heart intensified to the point that I thought my heart would burst.

The Dream Maker saw this happening to me and, now bursting with laughter, turned His head forward and shouted, “Now!”

Immediately the arena burst open with brilliant white flame. The crystal walls of light and color shattered into billions of sparkles revealing an innumerable host of beings on the other side. My eyes were blurred. I faintly saw one large being hover in front of the Dream Maker, then escape like a flash of lightning and was gone. I was striving to make out what happened next, but it appeared to be angels exiting the now-open arena. The roaring sound of the huge wings boomed, and I almost couldn’t bear the pain in my ears. The entire space was now turning and flowing and twisting with every color dancing and bouncing all around. All the while the Creator never left His throne.

In a flash, it ended. The angelic beings were gone. The arena was back to its original state. And the Dream Maker’s head bent downward.

I slowly opened my weary eyes and saw the glowing coals of the once flaming camp fire. My friends were asleep on their pallets, but I was still sitting near the smoldering coals. They must have given up on me and turned in for the night.

I rose to my feet, my heart beating fast. I was so exhilarated by the dream. I walked over to my pallet, knelt down, and began untying it when all of a sudden the sheep began to squirm. Something was waking them—something in the distance. A sound was coming toward our circle.
It is only the wind, I tried to tell myself, but I knew what was happening. I had felt this time coming. Suddenly, one of the shepherds woke and immediately rose to his feet. His breathing was fast and shallow. It seemed he woke from a nightmare. He looked at me, then in the direction of the approaching sound. The wind picked up fast, blowing wildly. We saw above the mountains in the distance a small flashing speck of light. The speck grew larger as the sound grew louder. Amazingly, it appeared to be an opening in the sky, and brightness and radiance were seeping through from the other side. Suddenly, the opening burst and magnificent lights of all colors danced all around us. The other shepherds jumped to their feet. We were ducking and dodging the moving lights afraid of what they might do to us. The glory grew in intensity, and we were blanketed with brilliant color and blazing lights.

The sheep were running in circles, bouncing into one another. We, shepherds, fell to our knees—our faces to the ground. We were petrified. Suddenly, I heard a word spoken. It was familiar to me. I looked up and saw a being walk through the lights, which were tremendously whipping all around us. It was glorious! The being was magnificent in size. His face was like chiseled stone, and stood with powerful demeanor.

The glory of it all!
Towering over us, he looked down at us. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! This wasn’t a dream! Or, was it? The being opened his mouth, and we heard glorious sounds rushing like a river out of his mouth. It was amazingly comprehendible.

“Do not be afraid,” he said. I didn’t think that command was possible for me. My stomach was wreaked with knots. My heart was in my throat.

He continued, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

I adored what I heard! The voice, the words, the moment were all overwhelming my emotions. I wanted to kneel here forever and just keep listening. I was grateful when he kept speaking.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”

My mind was blown. My nerves were nearing destruction. If I would have heard these words spoken by a mere man, I would have listened with great joy. But this was more than what my inner self could contain. The Savior! The Messiah! The shock of the reality of this moment was petrifying and exhilarating at the same time. For hundreds of years our people have been waiting for the Promised One. Now, He is here! He is really here! Could it really be?

As I was trying to breathe in enough air to speak to my fellow shepherds the night sky lit up with incredible brilliance! There was no sun, for it was the middle of the night. But the sky was brighter than it normally would be during the brightest part of the day. Suddenly, painted all across the sky were multitudes and multitudes of blazing beings, all looking right at us! It was like the whole earth was full of this most amazing, unimaginable light.

They looked directly into our eyes, opened their mouths, and white flames shot out as they spoke words like nothing I’ve heard before, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”

They didn’t sing it. It was more like shouting. It was obvious that what was occurring this night caused an explosion that heaven, itself, could not contain. An explosion of great joy burst out of the heart of heaven and flooded the earth. Then, just as the way they all came, they left.
The sky was black. We couldn’t see for several minutes as our eyes needed to adjust once again to the darkness of the night. It was again silent. The sheep were strangely asleep back in the circle. It was like they never even awoke. We looked around to see if the largest being was still here, but he was gone, as well. It was just us—lonely and lowly shepherds who were chosen by the Dream Maker to hear the first news of the birth of the Chosen One, the Messiah.

I finally caught my breath and spoke, “We have to go! Bethlehem awaits us!”

“Bethlehem?” One of the shepherds was a little slow to grasp the words of the blazing beings in the sky. The others just stared at him until he understood, “Oh! The town of David! OK, but what about the sheep?”

“Do you not realize what just happened?” I said. “Did you not just see with your eyes what took place here? And you are worried about the sheep? If our God can do what He just
did with all those lights and colors and blazing figures shouting in the night sky, don’t you think He can take care of these sheep?”

We ran—our cloaks tucked into our belts. Our staffs were left behind us and glory was ahead. I had not sprinted like I did that night in all my life. I felt empowered, and I was far ahead of the rest.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Discipleship is Dirty

Jesus got in the mud with me and led me out. This was a great picture of the discipleship Jesus has with us as presented by Randy Alcorn in his novel The Edge of Eternity (purchase here).

That's the truth about discipleship. It's dirty. It's usually a thankless job. It's tough. Making disciples of Christ requires a prideless attitude--a surrendering of needless comfort and self-seeking pleasure. It requires endurance (it's definitely not a sprint!). It takes time to develop.

Now, discipling some people can be a bit easier than others. Sometimes the one we disciple just seems to "get it." He really grasps onto the truth of our Lord and follows eagerly. Other times, as was the case with me for quite some time, we have to really sink in the mud with him and gently lead him out by the hand. This means that we will get--muddy. Mud cakes on and is very uncomfortable (unless you're a 5 year old boy, then you love it). It gets in places you wouldn't expect, and sometimes it is downright aggravating. To put it simply: discipleship is hard work.

But when Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, He wasn't asking them. He was commanding them. And almost all of them went much farther than mud in their disciple-making. They went to their deaths. Making disciples cost them their lives.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to "love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." And the second greatest commandment is to "love one another" (Mark 12: 29-31).

Paul said to "bear with one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). What's the law of Christ? Love God, love one another.

So what's a little mud? What's a little discomfort? A little caked on yuk? Apparently, it was quite worth it for Jesus and his disciples. Plus, if it's a command by our Master, then disobedience to His command is a sin.

So latch on to this truth. Don't be afraid to call up that person who is in the fringe of your church, or that introvert whose name you can't remember, or that recently divorced lady in your Sunday school class, or that pot-smoking, tattooed up, long-haired, body-pierced dude who just heard the gospel and placed his trust in Jesus.

Anyone can go to church. It takes one who lives above the common to be a disciple-maker.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Come Suffer with Me!

Kinda awkward invitation, don't ya think?

But that's exactly what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:8), "So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God."

So we've got a daughter who is battling cancer. And we suffer. We could ask why, but we have really been able to share the gospel with more people since Kristina's diagnosis last August than we have in quite a long time. We see many bald-headed kids and their families. Hopelessness distorts their countenance. Fear grips their hearts. And they have asked us about our joy.

This doesn't mean we don't hurt, but that our hurt doesn't overtake our hope and joy. And one thing we are realizing: because of God's grace--this suffering is not that bad. Before you write me off, allow me to clarify. When we place this suffering next the purpose of it, the worth shines brightly. Even Kristina has said that she is glad people are coming to know Jesus because of her cancer.

Suffering hurts. But it hurts less when there is hope and purpose. It's like a woman giving birth. It hurts, but the purpose makes it worthy of the pain and endurance. The gospel shared brings great glory to God. All throughout history, pain and suffering spread the gospel more than comfort did.

And so, with gratitude and enthusiasm, Paul invites Timothy to shamelessly and boldly join him in the suffering for the sake of the gospel. It's not that bad. The suffering only lasts for a while. Eternity is filled with bliss!

So I invite you, my fellow believers, join us in suffering for the sake of the gospel. Be not ashamed of our Lord, but be willing to suffer for the worthy sake of delivering His Good News to the nations!

Now THAT is living above the common!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bad News/Good News

The End of the World?

So according to Mr. Campings, the end of the world was supposed to happen yesterday. Either I'm a heathen, or it didn't happen. And I look around, and all my friends are still here: Christian and atheist. Mr. Campings was wrong.

Apparently, he has done such acrobatic feats with Scripture that has led him to such conclusions. If he twists passages pertaining to the end times, then he most likely twists the ones that pertain to salvation.

So now my heart is broken. Not only is it quite logical to think that Mr. Campings has never trusted Christ alone to save him, but Mr. Campings' followers might have very well been led astray from the truth of the gospel.

Oh Lord, use your people to bring your love, grace, and truth to Mr. Campings. May we go out of our way to share your gospel with them. Perhaps this would be a good time to tell them the truth that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. And trusting in Him alone will save for eternity.

I don't know if Mr. Campings is saved. But I know that his interpretation of Scripture is flawed. God, give us a passion to shine Your light in these dark places.

Give us a passion to live above the common.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gold's Gym, New Friends, & a Funeral

I love this line: live above the common. So I look for ways where I can fulfill this new life motto of mine (which comes from Jesus: the abundant life).

Got a membership at Gold's Gym in Kingwood, TX. Hired a trainer to kill me--uh, I mean, whip me in shape. This guy is amazing. His fiance was the one who signed me up. They've become friends of Melissa (my wife) and I--even on Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post his fiance made: her dad was in the hospital. I asked if I could go see him--to pray with him and the family. She said, "Sure!" I did so, and shared the gospel there.

About 2 weeks later, she posted that her mother was in the hospital. I asked, again, if I could go visit. She said, "Yes." Her mom was in ICU, but she was able to nod her head and squeeze her hand to respond.

One question I asked her--to which she gave a very definitive nod ("absolutely yes!"). I asked, "Are you trusting in Jesus alone to save you from your sins and make you ready for heaven?"

The dear lady passed away last Sunday. And my friend asked if I would share a few words at her Mom's funeral. Wow. Such an honor! I gladly did so--of course I shared the clear, simple gospel! (Learn how to here.)

My Gold's Gym trainer, his fiance, my wife, and I are planning to go out to dinner soon. Friendships are forming. They are asking about the church I attend.

You never know what could come out of a gym membership. Take advantage of every opportunity. God loves to orchestrate fantastic events for His glory!

Living above the common,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Live Above the Common

Have you ever wanted to be part of something much bigger than yourself? Did you know that Jesus came to give you life--abundant life? We like to call it: live above the common.

Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Houston is about to launch The RADIUS Initiative--a motivating and inspirational project prayerfully designed to move the Church outdoors to bring the holistic gospel to children.

Please prayerfully consider having me share this project with your church. Let's initiate The RADIUS Initiative.

Visit to find out more!