Two Clear Ways People See Jesus

I’m fascinated with the things people will sell on eBay. I’m equally fascinated that people will buy these things!

  • Need an inflatable unicorn for your swimming pool?
  • Want a collection of old embalming tools?
  • Looking to spend $2069 for a used pen with no historical significance?

Yes, eBay has it all.

The thing that intrigues me most is that people will buy mystery boxes. They have no idea what they are bidding on or what they win. They don’t know until UPS drops the box at their house. I’m quite sure that as the box is opened, a befuddled wife says, “You bought what?!

I want to see what I’m buying.

Henry Heinz had the same notion and built a huge company on that idea.

Before the days of the Food and Drug Administration, before the days of ingredients being listed on packages, people were hesitant to buy “packaged” food. Take horseradish, for example.  In the 1860s (and earlier), making horseradish was a time-consuming process, so producers would add fillers like turnips, ground beans, wood fiber, or even chalk.  You just had to take the seller’s word for what you were buying, because the stuff came in dark brown glass bottles.

Henry Heinz wanted people to know they could trust his horseradish, so he sold his product in clear bottles. People could see what they bought. They benefited from seeing they were getting a pure product, and Heinz benefited from a quickly growing company that soon included staples like ketchup and mustard—all in clear bottles.

We don’t have to debate people about the merits of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to prepare fine-sounding articulate theological treatises. Sure, there is a place for those, but if you want people to know Jesus, it just takes a simple invitation:

“Come and see.”

That’s what Philip did. After he first encountered Jesus, he told his friend Nathaniel he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel was skeptical. Philip did not debate or get defensive; he simply said, “Come and see.” (John 1:43-50).

We can’t physically walk someone to Jesus like Philip did, but they can still see Jesus.

1. The clear bottle of Scripture. Invite them to discover Christ as presented by those who knew Him.

  • Matthew and John were two of the twelve apostles who walked with Jesus.
  • Mark knew Jesus and likely used Peter as his main source.
  • Luke interviewed the disciples as well as other eyewitnesses. (See Luke 1:1-3.)

2. The clear bottle of your life. Live the Christ-filled life. Live with authenticity and transparency. Let people clearly see Jesus in you. No can argue with a changed life. Even more, they will be attracted to the One who lives in you. (Read how the Christ-filled life even smells good.)

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Come and see.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Share Christ” in Bible Studies for Life.


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Love People, Not Objects

I love a good chimichanga—but not enough to marry it.

Apparently, not everyone  would agree with me. Why not marry it?

It’s called Objectum Sexuality (OS), a term for people who so love an object that they are even sexually attracted to it.

  • The Santa Fe Depot in San Diego is a classic train depot known by railfans across the country (me included). But one woman “married” it and even took “Santa Fe” as her last name. Watch the video.
  • A  woman in Sweden married the Berlin Wall in 1979.  (Source.)
  • Erika Eiffel fell in love with and married, that’s right, the Eiffel Tower. (Source.)

My intent is not to make fun of these women—as bizarre as their behavior is. I believe their behavior is symptomatic of deep-seated psychological and relationship issues. Yet I also see these women as taking to the nth degree an attitude we have all exhibited at one time or another.

Our love for things.

  • The person fawns over a car like a parent with a young child.
  • The person hesitates to loan or share something because she doesn’t want it damaged or soiled.

You’ve probably heard the old adage: Love people. not things. Use things, not people. We personalize objects (ever named your car?), and we objectify people. We give “life” to objects and we take life from others by making them objects for our own use and gain. The ways we treat both objects and people come down to the same reason: they are all to serve me—serve my needs and my self-interests.

Let’s see the worth in people—not the worth we give them because of their ability to meet our needs, but the worth God gives them.

Consider the worth you have before God:

  • God created you in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).
  • God, who oversees the entire universe with its countless stars and galaxies, knows you deeply and intimately (Ps. 139:13-16).
  • God seeks to fill your life with His goodness and abundance (John 10:10).
  • God loves you deeply in spite of your sin and rebellion (Rom. 5:8).
  • God gives you every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
  • God desires to do great things in you and through you (Eph. 2:10).

You know that person you might be tempted to befriend only so he might serve your purposes? God sees in him the same worth and value He sees in you.

When we see people with this God-given worth and value, we can avoid a lot of problems in relationships. We can avoid a lot of sin.

Take King David, for example. One of the best-known stories of his life was the adultery he committed with Bathsheba followed by the murder of her husband. We usually highlight his sins of adultery and murder, but consider what lay behind those grievous acts.

He saw them as objects for his own purposes.

There was a whole lot of heartache and pain—not to mention death!—that could’ve been avoided had David seen both Bathsheba and Uriah in a different light.

Let’s see people as God sees them: deeply loved and deeply valued. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “See Their Worth” in Bible Studies for Life.


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What Does Your Attitude Toward the President Say About Your Faith?

Does anyone question that our country is divided?

It seems that half our country hates President Trump. OK, “half” is an exaggeration, but it’s clear that large pockets of people  despise and vilify the president. They may publicly bemoan the antics of pseudo-comedienne Kathy Griffin,  but inwardly their own sentiments are just as hateful.

Lest you think I’m censuring one group, let’s remember that just last year the other side of the political spectrum hated President Obama.  For the eight years of his presidency, we endured hated-filled rhetoric and Internet memes designed to show just how much people despised President Obama.

Such a view from either side of the aisle is unchristian. It’s unbiblical. It’s wrong.

Consider the words of two men who both lived—and died—under Nero, one of the worse Roman emperors. While still only a teenager, Nero murdered his stepbrother who stood in his way. He had his wife killed because he didn’t like her. He married again and then supposedly killed that wife by kicking her while she was pregnant. The next year he would marry his third wife after her husband was driven to commit suicide. Because Nero’s mother plotted against him, he likely had her killed as well.

Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christians. He had Christians arrested, punished in horrific ways, and murdered. Yet two of the believers who died violently under his rule wrote these words.

  • Paul: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).
  • Peter: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors” (1 Pet. 2:13-14).

Saul was the first king of Israel, and he was pretty lousy at it. It got to the point that God essentially said, “That’s enough. I’ve raising up a new king.” And that king would be David. Saul knew it. David knew it. Everybody knew it. King Saul was the ultimate lame duck.

Everyone knew God had chosen David, yet when David had not one, but two opportunities to kill Saul, he wouldn’t do it. C’mon, David. Saul has been rejected; you’ve been chosen by God to be the king! But David would not raise a hand against “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6).

This is the same David who was a man after God’s own heart (13:14).

Let’s strive to be people after God’s own heart.  Do our recent presidents—past and present—deserve our respect? No, but we don’t deserve God’s grace either. And yet here we are: recipients of something we don’t deserve.

Let’s respond to His grace with loving obedience to Christ, and that means respecting the authorities God has placed in our lives. And when we do this, we show …

  • … we  are not ruled by our politics.
  • … we are not ruled by our emotions.
  • …  we walk in the love of Christ. The absence of hate-filled rhetoric or disrespect  makes it possible for others to see the love of Christ in us—and to be drawn to that love.
  • … we are citizens of a greater kingdom, an eternal one ruled by One whose love knows no limits.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Respect Authority” in Bible Studies for Life.


How Many Friends Can You Handle—Really?

If you needed a friend in the middle of the night, who would you call?

If you’re on Facebook, how many friends do you have?

The average Facebook user has 338 friends. 

If you’re on Twitter, how many followers do you have?

The average Twitter user has 208 followers. 

If you’re on Instagram, how many followers do you have?

The average Instagram user has 843 followers. 

Have you encountered anyone who has a sense of pride—even braggadocio—because of the number of Facebook friends they have? I don’t know if these folks are trying to boost their sense of self-worth or make up for the lonely years in the middle school lunchroom. I wonder.

How many friends can you adequately handle?


That’s it. Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University anthropologist, says our brains really can’t handle more. Even those with large numbers of friends (Facebook allows up to 5,000) only keep an “inner circle” of 150. [read more]

I wonder how many of these “friends” are more accurately defined as acquaintances. Maria Konnikova, wrote in the New Yorker:

With social media, we can easily keep up with the lives and interests of far more than a hundred and fifty people. But without investing the face-to-face time, we lack deeper connections to them, and the time we invest in superficial relationships comes at the expense of more profound ones.

Dunbar also says that we truly only handle five close friends at a time. Only five BFFs.

So if you needed a friend in the middle of the night, who would you call?

Let me ask you to dig further on that. What makes these close friends so close? I believe it goes deeper than just shared interests. You share deeply rooted convictions and commitments.

You gotta love the example of Jonathan and David. Read their account in 1 Samuel and you’ll see two people who shared a deeply-rooted commitment to the God of Israel. They both knew who they could call on in the middle of the night.

We all want a close friend or two like that. The challenge for me is not to find that friend, but to be that friend to others.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecc. 4:9-10).
  • My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 12-13). 

Be that kind of friend. 

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Forge True Friendship” in Bible Studies for Life.


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When Social Networks Become Anti-Social

If you use Facebook, you’re not alone.

  • 1.9 billion people use Facebook
  • 700 million use Instagram
  • 500 million use LinkedIn
  • 328 million use Twitter

We are more connected that ever before, but our relationships may not be any better.  In many ways, we have lost connection.

Let me first set the record straight: I like social media.

  • I have rekindled friendships from high school (sparing me the need and cost of traveling to one of those high school reunions we all dread).
  • I can stay in regular contact with former church members whom I served alongside in Texas.
  • I have several family members who serve overseas in missions. When Hudson Taylor left in 1853 to serve Christ in China, he told his mother goodbye, knowing he would never see her again. But today I can stay in touch with family overseas on a daily basis.

But social media has its downside.

1. Social media is intended to connect us with each other, but since we usually view these sites while alone, we can actually feel isolated.  We’re viewing the events in others’ lives from a distance.

2. Multiple studies have pointed to a link between social media usage and depression and low self-esteem. These feelings are triggered by “social comparison.” This can happen as we follow the lives of those with more friends/followers and those who appear more attractive. But the key factor is that we tend to only post about the best in our lives.

  • We post photos of us on our best days, not those days when our complexion looks like the dark side of the moon or we’re wearing that ratty T-shirt we bought in 1998.
  • We post pictures of that exquisite dinner at a nice restaurant, not the bowl of Fruit Loops we ate while watching Wheel of Fortune.
  • We post about the happy events; we rarely post about the mundane routine of our lives.

You do it—and your friends do it. So depression kicks in for many of us because all we’re seeing is the “highlight reels” of others’ lives.  Who am I compared to that? I can’t measure up.

There is a remedy. Spend face-to-face time with people.  Sit down with real people, not the digital, online versions of them. Online, we put our best face forward, but live conversations help us see and connect with people as they really are. Sure, some people still like to put up a mask, but when we’re face to face, we have a far greater opportunity to see the real person.

Be the presence of Christ in the lives of others. See them as Christ sees them—and love them like Christ loves them.  Consider how the many “one another” passages in Scripture call for a physical connection to people.

  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). 
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12:16). 
  • “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15:7).
  • “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

Set down the phone. Walk away from the computer. Get in the presence of another person and live out these verses. You’ll feel better and you’ll build stronger relationships.

For a printable version: click here.

For further reading on social media’s impact on depression:

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Love Like Christ” in Bible Studies for Life.


Six Keys to Building a Bridge to Someone

Would you cross a bridge built by someone who had no experience building bridges?

In the 1870s, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in our country, but it was the hardest to reach. Standing between it and most of the country was the ginormous Mississippi River.

James Eads set out to change that. Only problem was he’d never built a bridge. But he had two things going for him: he was a designer/inventor, and he knew the Mississippi River.

When the bridge was ready for use in 1874, not everyone was eager to use it. Not only was Eads an untested bridge builder, his bridge was radically different.

  1. No bridge had ever been built with alloy steel and wrought iron.
  2. No bridge had ever depended entirely on cantilevers.

Would these things hold against the currents of the river and the weight of traffic?

To provide his bridge was safe, Eads walked an elephant across it. Then he ran 14 locomotives across the bride. The elephant did not drown, and the locomotives lived to see another day.

Since then, bridges like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate bridge have surpassed the Eads Bridge as recognizable icons of America, but Eads paved the way.

James Eads had never built a bridge before, but he proved that we can build bridges in difficult situations. You can build a bridge too—even if you’ve never built one.

The apostle Paul was also a bridge builder.

“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:20-23).

Let’s follow Paul’s example, building bridges into the lives of other people—even people we don’t know or who are different from us.

1. Be friendly.  Well … duh. Seriously a friendly word, even just a smile, can make a world of difference to someone.  People are willing to talk to those who make the simple gesture of smiling and saying hello.

2. Assume they also want a relationship. Assume that because it is probably true. Even cranky people. We are surrounded by lonely people who have put up a wall, but deep down they’d love a human connection.

3. Accept them as they are. We can build relationships with individuals without embracing their lifestyle.

4. Ask questions. Don’t just talk about yourself. Get to know the other person by asking questions. People like to talk about themselves, and they feel valued when others want to get to know them. If the person is from another culture, ask about it. Their culture is a part of who they are, so again, they feel valued.

5. Be persistent. Some people, while inwardly wiling  to form a connection, may be initially shy or untrusting. Don’t abandon them; just keep building a bridge—brick by brick.

6. Invite them. Invite them to a party or an event your Bible study group is hosting. And invite them to participate in your Bible study. Do this with caution, though. Your goal is to build a bridge—a relationship—and not give them the impression proselytizing is the only reason you’ve talked to them.

The best thing we can do is build a bridge to a person that will ultimately lead them to cross another bridge, the one that leads to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Bridges take time, but once they’re built, they’re worth crossing.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Life on Mission” in Bible Studies for Life.

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They’re Sitting Right Next to You

If Jesus had first launched His ministry in America in 2017, I wonder where He’d go.

If you’re a regular reader of books (and I hope you are), there’s one part of a book I’ll venture you rarely pay attention to: the margins. Every book and magazine has margins, but we never notice them. (The graphic designers I work with at LifeWay are the exception. Margins are a big deal to them. But I digress.)

In his book, Jesus in the Margins. Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon, wrote that society has margins just like a book.  Unlike the blank margins in a book, though, society’s margins are full of people.

“Society—our world, our culture—has margins just like this book does. They’re places occupied by people who go unnoticed, misfits who seldom figure in when the mainline world defines and esteems itself.  But they’re there.”  —Rick McKinley, Jesus in the Margins 

We don’t notice them, but they’re there. People in the margins. Even our secular culture recognizes this and has a name for them: marginalized. People pushed to the periphery.

So if Jesus launched His ministry in America in 2017, where would He go? He’d hang out among the people in the margins. After all, those are the kind of people He spent time with in the first century. Tax collectors. Sinners. Those who didn’t fit normal society.

You probably assume I’m going to turn this blog into a call to start a ministry to the marginalized in society. And why not? Our society has a lot of “misfits”—those who may look out of place in our white-bread suburban evangelical churches—and they need Jesus. Yes, that would be a good thing to do, but …

Reach out to the marginalized in your church.

They’re there. You just don’t notice them. After all, they’re in the margins.

  • The awkward teenager who comes to church but doesn’t hang out with the other students.
  • The single adult man who dresses badly and has that annoying laugh.
  • The shy “wallflower” who’s there every week, sitting quietly and hoping someone will talk to her.
  • The family that attends regularly. They don’t lead in any way; they don’t volunteer. They’re not stand-offish or unfriendly, but no one really engages them in conversation. And no one knows their family is falling apart.

Society is full of marginalized people—and so is the church. These are people who love Jesus like you do, but they’re on the fringes: socially awkward, uncomfortable to be around, living in a tough situation, and not quite fitting the niche of your church group.  They’re in the margins—right where Jesus is.

And that’s where we should be too.

In teaching about His return, Jesus spoke of separating the people as a shepherd would separate sheep from goats. He told this about the sheep:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:34-36).

The sheep responded with surprise. They did not realize that, as they cared for these marginalize people, they were ministering to the King. The King replied, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40).

Here’s the kicker. Jesus called these marginalized people “brothers.”

The marginalized include our brothers and sisters in Christ. Next time you’re gathered at church, look around. They’re sitting with you. They may even be in your Bible study group. But don’t just notice them. Talk to them. Build a relationship with them. Love them. Support them. Encourage them.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40).

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Life in the Community” in Bible Studies for Life.

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