How Shall We Escape?

October 25, 2013

Drifting is easy. Staying on course is hard. Drifting takes no thought. Piloting to a desired destination takes paying attention and concentration. Drifting is to allow the currents to take you where they will. The true sailor may tack into the wind and go against the currents–destination taking precedence over contrary forces. The careful sailor finds secure anchorage in the safe harbor. Drifting can be dangerous.

Neglect is easy. Maintenance is hard. Two houses in the same neighborhood, one maintained and the other neglected. At first the differences may be undetectable, but a little work done in regular intervals holds back the ravages of time and decay. Peeling paint, rotting wood, fallen shingles, and crumbling mortar can spell disaster if not averted. Neglect can lead to ruin.

Powerful images are conveyed by the words “drift” and “neglect.” Hebrews asks us to apply them to our spiritual lives and heed the warning. Many who begin the walk of faith end it not with a conscious rejection, but with a slow, creeping neglect. It comes on them with many little decisions and plausible excuses that lead away from faith. It’s like the boat that has lost its anchor. The drift is slow and almost imperceptible, but if it is not checked, the current leading it away may become stronger than the will to return.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:1–3a, ESV)


October 18, 2013

The population of the world is about 7 billion. If we were to lump together all groups that claim Christ in some sense, they would amount to 33% of the world’s population. But we would have to confess that this amalgamation is not one in the sense that Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one (John 17:11). Yet, the Great Commission has not been revoked. It still reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).

The task seems staggering. But before we allow ourselves to become discouraged, we need to consider the power of multiplication. The legend of the chessboard is a famous way of doing this.

In the story, the mathematician named Sessa presents the game of chess to a king. The king is so impressed with the game that he grants the mathematician the right to name his prize. Sessa requests that his prize be one grain of rice on the first square of the board to be doubled on each subsequent square of the board. The king, unaware of the power of multiplication, grants Sessa his prize.

After a week, the king is upset with the treasurer of his kingdom, because the prize had not yet been granted. The treasurer protests that it has taken the week to do the calculations. There are, after all, 64 squares on a chessboard. But the king’s displeasure soon turns into horror. The amount of the prize is greater than his kingdom’s assets.

The math puzzle is this. Place one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard. Place two grains of rice on the second. Place four grains of rice on the third. Keep doubling the amount of rice on each subsequent square until you have gone through 64 squares. How many grains of rice would you have on the entire chessboard (if it could hold it, which it can’t):

18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains of rice

Most of us only have occasion to consider millions, billions, and trillions. We hear of billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and the U.S. federal budget is measured in trillions. After trillions comes quadrillions, and after quadrillions comes quintillions. The answer to the chessboard math problem is over 18 quintillion grains of rice, and it all started by doubling one.

The solution to the staggering task of the Great Commission is simple. We plant the seed, and God gives the growth. God wants us to multiply

Speak A Good Word

October 11, 2013

One communication researcher did a study on people’s ability to identify another’s emotional moods from facial expression, body posture, and tone of voice. Not surprisingly, these non-verbal forms of communication actually do communicate. People can accurately identify emotional moods without words at a rate higher than chance would explain. Further, some people are better at reading emotions than others. Women did a better job than men in this particular study.

But one interesting fact from the study confirms the wisdom of Solomon: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:5, ESV).

The researcher divided the moods into four categories—pleasurable or distressing, active or passive. The easiest emotions for test subjects to spot were the active/distressing ones such as fear, anger, and disgust. Test subjects almost always identified them correctly. But when the moods were passive/pleasurable such as feelings of love, admiration, and satisfaction the test subjects often missed them. The subjects either confused emotions with one another, or half the time, labeled them as boredom or dislike. The researcher noted:

The implications are obvious: if two people like each other but never give voice to their affection, there’s a good chance at least one of them will miss it. Yet if one party is temporarily upset by the other, it will come through loud and clear, even without a word spoken. Remedy: if you feel positive toward someone—say it!1

We may communicate even when we are not saying a word, but effective communication of the good feelings we have towards others need the added touch of the spoken word.


1Em Griffin, Making Friends (& Making Them Count) (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), pp. 88-89.

What We Learned from Jerry

October 4, 2013

Jerry Tallman has conducted thousands of evangelistic Bible studies through the years. He shared what he has learned with us in his workshop. What have we learned form Jerry?

Despite having conducted thousands of Bible studies, Jerry has never converted anyone. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The power to convert is in the message not the messenger.

We often worry about being rejected or messing up, but if the person is lost (separated from God because of sin), their situation is not going to be worse because we have attempted to share the good news. The person who is lost is in danger of being eternally lost unless he or she is rescued by the good news.

Jerry asked each night whether we had learned anything new, and the answer each night was no. What he talked about were things that we already knew. Our problem is not needing to know more, but to actually use what we already know.

All of us should be able to tell someone what God has done for us.

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, he turned a conversation about physical things into a conversation about spiritual things. We need to think of ways of introducing the spiritual into our conversations as well. It may be in simply offering to pray for someone’s needs.

People need to see us as good news. It may be in service. It may be in the quality of our life seen as being different from the world. As Edgar Guest’s poem says, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” Seeing us as good news may be the preparation for them to hear the good news.

We don’t have to have all the answers. It is fair to say, “That’s a good question, let me write that one down.” Questions can then become studies. You can research what the Bible says and get back to the person for a further study.

Studying with a person is letting them read what the Bible has to say for themselves. It is not us telling them what we think. We just help them to find the passages. If they object to what the Bible says, then their argument is with God not us.

We need to meet the lost, reach them, and keep them. We all need to think of ways of meeting the people in our lives and getting them to think about spiritual things. Not all of us will be the ones to reach them, that is, actually do a one-on-one study with them. But we all have a part in meeting people and introducing the gospel to them and being the bridge between them and people who can study with them. We also need to keep them. The whole body of Christ plays a part in maturing the new Christian. All of us have things that we can do to make this an evangelistic church.

Jerry reminded us that spiritual swords are sharpened to be used.