Tag Archives: Prayer

Look at My Muscles, Dad

When my children were younger, they would suddenly get it into their heads to start exercising. They’d do some jumping jacks and some push-ups, taking all of five minutes. After they were done, they would flex their biceps and say something to the effect of, “Look at my muscles, Dad. See how strong I’m getting? I’ve been working out.” Not wanting to crush their spirits, I would praise their efforts, after all I remember doing the same thing when I was younger. Not surprisingly, it would be weeks (or even months) before they would work out again. This is how Christians, including me, act towards growing in our strength. A little Bible reading here; a little Bible reading there. A prayer today; another next week. The difference is that many times, we don’t become giddy with accomplishments like a young child after doing push-ups. We lament that we are not growing in faith and strength.

Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). The word for “train” is where we get the word “gymnasium.” It has reference to training or to exercising. Training might work, but exercising is not helpful in our culture since many exercise like my children and I used to do. The best word is perhaps “discipline.” My godliness is linked to my discipline—my buckling down and getting to business, consistently and intentionally. If I were to consistently and intentionally do all the disciplines that Don Whitney wrote about (Bible reading, study, meditation, and memorization, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving others, stewardship of money and time, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning on my own) there is no telling what type of man I’d become! Two things are for sure: I would be a very busy man and I would be so busy, I wouldn’t have time to get ensnared by sin. That isn’t to say that I would never sin, but that being captured by it would be nearly impossible. Holiness, or as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:7: godliness, would be a near given state of being.

In some ways, I wish Dr. Whitney’s book was introduced by the concluding chapter, but then again, it probably would not have had the impact that it does as a conclusion. In that chapter, he articulated what discipline really was: “But even though disciplining yourself is sometimes difficult and involves struggle, self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is instead an attempt to do what, prompted by the Spirit, you actually want in your heart to do.”[1] This will probably be the point that I am going to take with me. I’m not seeking to make my life drudgery by disciplining myself; I’m seeking to give my life godliness. That’s what I really want. It is easy to forget the reason for doing anything, especially the things that go against the flesh. The flesh has a way of fogging up the mind. Whitney reminds the reader that the heart (not the stony heart, but the born again, heart of flesh) wants godliness and holiness. It is a struggle, but it is one worth fighting.

In my bullet-journal, I have a habit tracker in which I record whether or not I did a certain habit (good or bad). My goal is to actually add a Spiritual Discipline’s tracker which would include all of the disciplines Dr. Whitney wrote about. I was planning on having it done by August, but as the saying goes: “No time like the present.” As J. C. Ryle wrote, “Tomorrow is the devil’s day.” Thus, I will be sure to finish my Spiritual Discipline’s tracker today, and begin today with disciplining myself unto godliness. May God allow me to supplement my faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge and knowledge with self-control and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-7).

[1] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (Downers Grove, IL: 1992), 244.

The Ingredients for Evangelism

D. T. Niles once said, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”[1] If Jesus Christ is the Bread of life, then we who were once in need of that life now have the ability to tell others where it is to be found. But let’s face it, there’s no table with which we can point and say, “The bread’s over there.” I would more liken evangelism to baking bread than telling where bread is. Baking is much more difficult than pointing. There are ingredients when one bakes bread. Having done it many times, I know that flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter are typically the least amount of ingredients necessary. Of course, there’s the kneading of the dough before it bakes. In evangelism, there are probably just as many ingredients that go into it.

  • First prayer. Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, that it was the power of the Holy Spirit that would come upon them to be His witnesses. That power is utilized greatest through prayer. Prayer gives a heart for evangelism to the evangelism. It also softens the heart of the one who is to hear.
  • There is an understanding of the gospel itself. If the evangelist doesn’t understand the gospel rightly then he cannot speak it plainly. Jesus explained the gospel in Luke 24:46-47, “And [he] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem,” (ESV). The gospel is that man has sinned against God and that Jesus suffered, died, and rose again for all who would trust in him and repent of their sins. Those who believe will have their sins forgiven.
  • There is courage upon the part of the evangelist. Evangelism is not an easy task, but again we have the power of the Holy Spirit, but beyond that we have Christ Himself. As Matthew recorded his words, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (28:20c, ESV).
  • As silly as it may sound, there needs to be the evangelized. That seems to go without saying. Yet, this is often the missing ingredient. By that I simply mean that many Christians don’t know anyone to tell about Jesus. Like the baker who goes to his refrigerator to grab eggs and suddenly realizes she has none, so the Christian is who finally becomes determined to proclaim the gospel. There’s no one to tell. This has to change within the church.
  • Which leads to the next ingredient; there must be a heart—a passion—for the lost person. Spurgeon wrote, “When you know how to carry a man on your heart, and have felt the burden of his case, you will have his name engraven upon your soul.”[2] Theodore Roosevelt is given credit with coining the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is true. Does the evangelist care about the person with whom he speaks, or is there no earnestness in the soul or in the lips?
  • Still another ingredient is time. While it is easy to give a tract to someone and it takes little time to do so. That is not exactly evangelism in its fullest sense of the word. The one who desires to evangelize needs to set aside time to talk to others. Like anything else, it must be planned on doing. Other moments, events, or druthers will crowd out evangelism if one is not intentional.
  • Finally, I would say that there needs to be determination. While one needs to be sure to make time to evangelize, one also needs to be determined to evangelize. How easy is it to go out for a cup of coffee and start chatting things up and never actually get to the gospel? How often does one know the calling to evangelize and yet haphazardly thinks that they will get around to it one day? Determination is a key ingredient.

After all these ingredients are mixed together, one has a good base-bread. Depending on the individual and where he/she is in their spiritual walk, will depend on extra ingredients. Sourdough bread takes the same base-bread ingredients as French bread, but there are other ingredients that go into each. The same will be for individuals. There is no cookie-cutter way of evangelizing and we cannot expect one way to work with everyone. That being said, be patient. Let the dough rise. Knead it here and there when appropriate, but give it time for the ingredients to meld and the yeast to rise before trying to bake it. Sometimes the lost is close already to receiving Christ, sometimes they are not. We must be careful; almost always there will be some hint of what happened with Peter in Acts 2. After preaching the gospel, the people, “heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do,” (v. 37, ESV)? If the Spirit is truly convicting the lost person, they will respond. Then we can finish baking.

Okay, enough with the metaphor. Jesus is the bread and not the actual work of evangelism. But if one is not clear as to what evangelism is, people may tend to think that “just talking about Jesus” is evangelism. There is definitely more to it than that. There is a lot that goes into the prepping, the evangelism itself, and the aftermath. Jesus told us not only to share the good news, but to make sure that in that we are also discipling—developing the new convert to live a life worthy of his/her calling beginning with baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). So perhaps being a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread is technically true, I find it leaves a lot of questions as to how exactly that happens. I hope this helped at least a smidge.

[1] Quoted by Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism is. . . How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville: B&H Academic Publishing, 2010), 55.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1961), 181.