Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? the Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the WorldThe Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? the Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard that my favorite coach, Mark Richt had read this book and how it changed his life. He coaches the University of Georgia football team. He decided to sell his Lake house and use the money to help the needy. This book is full of great quotes. Please take the time to read them.

What is God asking for, really, from you and me?  Much more than church attendance. More than prayer too. More than belief, and even more than self-denial. God asks us for everything. He requires a total life commitment from those who would be His followers. p. 1

When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God’s character – His love, justice, and mercy – through our words, actions, and behavior. “We are … Christ’s ambassadors,” wrote the apostle Paul, “as though God were making His appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). God chose us to be His representatives. He called us out, to proclaim the “good news” – to be the “good news” – and to change the world. Living out our faith privately was never meant to be an option.  p. 3

Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.  ~Bob Pierce p.9

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.  ~Saint Teresa of Avila  p. 13

Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.  ~Frederick W. Faber p. 13

Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different. In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing.   ~Dallas Willard  p. 15

The kingdom of God, which Christ said is “within you” (Luke 17:21), was intended to change and challenge everything in our fallen world in the here and now. It was not meant to be a way to leave the world but rather the means to actually redeem it.  p. 17

God's love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated.  ~Richard Stearns p. 18

God is responsible for the harvest – but we must plant, water, and cultivate the seeds.  p. 18

Think about all the things that must happen before there can be a good harvest of crops. First, someone has to go and prepare the land. This is backbreaking work that involves felling trees, pulling massive stumps out of the ground, extracting rocks and boulders from the field, moving them aside. But there’s no harvest yet. Next the soil has to be broken up. The earth needs to be plowed, fertilizer churned in with the soil, and orderly rows tilled to prepare for the seed. Then the seeds must be carefully planted and covered. But still no harvest. Perhaps a fence needs to be built to protect the plants from animals that might devour them. And always, the seedlings must be carefully watered, nurtured, and fed over the long growing season.  There are sometimes setbacks – bad weather, blights, floods, and insects – that can jeopardize the harvest. But if all of the hard work is done faithfully and with perseverance, and if God provides good seed and favorable weather, finally a glorious harvest is the result. Haven’t we heard the stories of faithful missionaries who dedicated their whole lives in another country without seeing even one person embrace Christ as Savior – only to learn that fifty years later there was a tremendous harvest? In our instant-gratification society, we would prefer to go directly to the harvest. Who wants to do all that hard work of stump pulling and boulder moving? But isn’t all that “other” work the essence of the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness? When we become involved in people’s lives, work to build relationships, walk with them through their sorrows and their joys, live with generosity toward others, love and care for them unconditionally, stand up for the defenseless, and pay particular attention to the poorest and most vulnerable, we are showing Christ’s love to those around us, not just talking about it. These are the things that plant the seeds of the gospel in the human heart.  pp.  19-20

Preach the gospel always; when necessary use words.  ~Saint Francis of Assisi  p. 23

We have shrunk Jesus to the size where He can save our soul but now don’t believe He can change the world.  ~Anonymous p. 23

To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.  ~Confucius p. 25

The true gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self-fulfillment.  ~John MacArthur  p. 25

Whosoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  ~1 John 2:6  p. 26

Why did God make me? The answer? To love, serve, and obey Him.  p. 29

Are you willing to be open to God’s will for your life?  p. 34

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  ~Frederick Buechner p. 36

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  ~Joshua 24:15 p. 36

When we say that we want to be His disciple, yet attach a list of conditions, Jesus refuses to accept our terms. His terms involve unconditional surrender.  p. 38

God expects us to serve Him on His terms – not ours.  p. 39

If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master. The covetous man cannot so properly be said to possess wealth, as that may be said to possess him.  ~Sir Francis Bacon  p. 42

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.   ~Gail Sheehy p. 44

God never picks the person you or I would choose. He chose a posse of fishermen, tax collectors, and insurgents to be His disciples. He picked Paul, the greatest persecutor of Christians, to be Apostle to the Gentiles and to write most of the New Testament. He selected David, the runt of Jesse’s litter, to be king over Israel, and Moses, a shepherd, to confront the most powerful man on earth, the Pharaoh, and to lead several hundred thousand Israelites out of slavery. [So way wouldn’t He chose you?]  p. 45

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.  ~Hosea 6:6  p. 51

Hell will be full of people who thought highly of the Sermon on the Mount. You must do more than that. You must obey it and take action.  ~John Macarthur p. 53

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  ~Martin Luther King Jr. p. 53

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  ~Micah 6:8  p. 53

Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.  ~Martin Luther  p. 64

If we truly love God, we will express it by loving our neighbors, and when we truly love our neighbors, it expresses our love for God.  p. 66

To love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds – means that we must love God with our whole being – totally and completely. All forms of obedience to God must first and foremost flow out of our love for Him.  p. 66

We are not to give up on the world, nor retreat from it – just the opposite. We are to reclaim and redeem the world for Christ’s kingdom.   p. 68

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference  ~Robert Frost  p. 73

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.   ~C.S. Lewis p. 73

God uses broken and imperfect people to challenge and inspire others.  He utilizes our mistakes and our victories to shine a light on the path, so that others might follow. p. 73

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. Both God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.  ~1 Corinthians 1:26-29  pp. 76-77

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.   ~Jim Elliot  p. 82

A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, only shine.   ~D.L. Moody  p. 88

If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God will use anybody if you’re available.  ~Rick Warren  p. 88

Anything we put ahead of God in our lives becomes an idol.  p. 89

God can’t give you the blessings He has for you until you first put down the other things you are clutching in your hands. p. 89

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  p. 89

God chose those deemed to be weak and imperfect by the world to do great things. p. 90

Every follower of Christ was made for a purpose and our most important task is to discern what that purpose is.  ~Bill Hybels p. 92

He created us all for a purpose and envisioned our lives at the very beginning of time itself. He gave us each a unique personality and a set of aptitudes and placed us each in a particular family. Day by day, He brings key people into our lives and provides life experiences that shape us. God does all this with His purpose in mind, tailored to the individual – you and me.  p. 92

Discerning our unique calling is not always a simple thing. We need to be quiet enough to hear God’s still, small voice. We must also faithfully read the Scriptures, pray diligently, follow the Lord’s teachings, listen to wise friends who know us, and consistently make ourselves available to serve. Finally, we have to remain open to God’s possibilities, always willing to take the outrageous risk and do the unpredictable thing.   p. 93

Often we are too busy pursuing our careers to discern our calling. But there is a vast difference between career and calling. Read what Pastor John Ortberg had to say about it:
“American society does not talk much about calling anymore. It is more likely to think in terms of career. Yet, for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives. A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god. A career is something I chose for myself; a calling is something I receive. A career is something I do for myself; a calling is something I do for God. A career promises status, money or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering – and the opportunity to be used by God. A career is about upward mobility; a calling generally leads to downward mobility.”  p. 93

For perhaps the first time in my (Richard Stearns) life, God had me right where He wanted me, helpless and relying completely on Him.  Mother Teresa once said, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." She had it right. We're not authors, any of us. We are just the "pencils." Once we understand that, we might actually become useful to God. p. 94

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied … but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.  ~John Berger p. 95

More and more I come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above everything else … All our lauded technological progress – our very civilization – is like the ax in the hand of the pathological criminal.  ~Albert Einstein p. 97

Facts are stubborn things.  ~John Adams p. 106

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.  ~Flannery O’Connor p. 106

The Bible is clear from the Old Testament through the New that God’s people always had a responsibility to see that everyone in their society was cared for at a basic-needs level. Ruth was able to glean wheat from Boaz’s field because God had instructed those who controlled the land to not harvest everything, so that there would be food left for the poor: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien” (Lev. 23:22). A modern-day version of this might read: “If your job produces a decent income for you, do not spend it all on yourself. Make some of it available to the poor and the less fortunate, that they, too, might live a decent life.” For Christians, this is a justice issue or, stated more bluntly, a moral issue in which those of us who have plenty seem willing to allow others to have nothing.   p. 123

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.  ~Helen Keller p. 125

We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. ~John W. Gardner p. 125

While providing things like these in urgent situations is sometimes necessary, it neither addresses the underlying stubbornness of poverty, nor is it sustainable; it just creates a dependency. Frankly, giving things to the poor does much more to make the giver feel good than it does to fundamentally address and improve the condition of those in need.  p. 126
When we see [those in poverty] as God sees them, we will glimpse His image in their faces   - Christ in His distressing disguise.  ~Mother Teresa  p. 130

He who is dying of hunger must be fed rather than taught.  ~Thomas Aquinas  p. 132

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everything.  ~Martin Luther King Jr.  p. 151

Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.  ~Bob Pierce  p. 152

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.  ~Proverbs 19:17  p. 152

Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.  Well, why don't you ask Him? Because I'm afraid He would ask me the same question.   ~Anonymous  p. 161

Bad news goes about in clogs, good news in stockinged feet.   ~Welsh Proverb p. 161

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world   ~John 16:33  p. 161

Pray, but when you pray, move to your feet.  ~African Proverb  p. 164

We’ve drifted away from being fishers of men to being keepers of the aquarium.  ~Paul Harvey  p. 169

Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.  ~Leo Durocher  p. 169

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.  ~Proverbs 21:13  p. 171

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  ~Isaiah 29:13 p. 179

When our churches become spiritual spas in which we retreat from the world, our salt loses its saltiness, and we are no longer able to impact the culture. Morgan Chilulu, an African pastor of a small and humble church in the midst of the AIDS pandemic, once told me, “A church that lives within its four walls is no church at all.”   p. 180

The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes – a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.   ~Dallas Willard  p. 181

We tend to drift away from God’s bold vision, replacing it with a safer, tamer vision of our own.  p. 183

One of the highest and best ways of expressing our love for God is by demonstrating His love tangibly to those around us.  p. 185

We will never effectively demonstrate Christ’s love to the world, if we cannot first demonstrate it to the Church – the whole Church, and that includes those struggling just to survive.  p. 189

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.  ~Martin Luther King Jr. p. 190

Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay. We criticize its violence, dishonesty, immorality, disregard for human life, and materialistic greed. “This world is going down the drain,” we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is “Where is the light?” Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat; that is what happens when bacteria are left alone to breed. The question to ask is “Where is the salt?” Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish. There is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is “Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?” It is sheer hypocrisy on our part to raise our eyebrows, shrug our shoulders, or wring our hands. The Lord Jesus told us to be the world’s salt and light. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is largely our fault and we must accept the blame.   ~John Stott p. 199

Three clear principles, then, differentiate the scriptural view of our money from the “American Dream” view:
1. It’s not our money – it all comes from God.
2. We are not entitled to it but entrusted with it.
3. God expects us to use it in the interest of His Kingdom.  P. 207

Can you imagine the impact on our own culture if American Christians began using their riches as if they belonged to God and were intended primarily to further God’s kingdom? I’m pretty certain the world would take notice.   p. 208

How different our standard is from Christ’s. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps.   ~Andrew Murray  p. 210

If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.  ~Jewish Proverb p. 210

We must never for a single moment lose sight of the stark realization that whenever we deal with money, we are dealing with dynamite. What is one day that which we control, the next day becomes the controller. Such dynamite must be defused, and the greatest defuser that we as Christians have at our disposal is the opportunity to take that, which seeks to dominate us and simply give it away. Think about it. There is no greater expression of money’s total lack of dominance over us or of its low priority in our lives than when we can with joy and peace, give it away for the Lord’s work. You cannot worship the God of mammon and be a free and cheerful giver. Likewise, you cannot serve the living God and be a hoarder of His resources. Giving, both how we give and how much we give, is the clearest outward expression of who our God really is. Our check stubs speak more honestly of our priorities than our church memberships.  ~R. Scott Rodin  p. 212

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.   ~William Sloane Coffin p. 214

Obedience to the Great Commission has more consistently been poisoned by affluence than by anything else.  ~Ralph Winter p. 215

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  ~1 Timothy 6:17-19  p. 215

Endeavor to live so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry.  ~Anonymous  p. 226

I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.   ~Mohandas Gandhi  p. 226

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.  ~Billy Sunday  p. 231
As Americans, we tend to be impressed with bigness. God is not. I’ve always like the saying, “Its not the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”    p. 235
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.  ~Margaret Mead p. 241
Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.  ~Joel Barker p. 243
The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.  ~Abraham Lincoln p. 243
The difference between the pre- and postresurrection disciples was astonishing. Fear became courage; timidity became boldness; uncertainty became confidence as their lives were given over to the revolution that the gospel – the good news – envisioned. Everything changed because they had been changed, and they had been changed because Christ had risen. He is risen indeed. pp. 244-245

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.   ~African Saying  p. 250

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.  ~C.S. Lewis  p. 250

God has created each of us with a unique contribution to make to our world and our times. No other person has our same abilities, motivations, network of friends and relationships, perspectives, ideas, or experiences. When we, like misplaced puzzle pieces, fail to show up, the overall picture is diminished.  p. 251

In the New Testament, the story of the feeding of the five thousand is found in all four Gospels. Jesus used it to change the way we think about underwhelming resources in the face of over whelming challenges. p. 251

God never asks us to give what we do not have … But He cannot use what we will not give. p. 253

Be the change that you want to see in the world.   ~Mohandas Gandhi  p. 253

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.   ~Henry Van Dyke  p. 257

What has God given you? Moses had a stick. David had a slingshot, and Paul had a pen. Mother Teresa possessed a love for the poor; Billy Graham, a gift for preaching; and Joni Eareckson Tada, a disability. What did they have in common? A willingness to let God use whatever they had, even when it didn’t seem very useful. If you will assess what you have to offer in terms of your time, your treasure, and your talents, you will have a better understanding of how you might uniquely serve.  p. 259

My faith demands – this is not optional – my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.  ~Jimmy Carter  p. 263

That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry, that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked, those shoes, which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you are able to help others, and refuse, so often did you do them wrong.  ~Augustine  p. 266

Earl Palmer said, “God can’t steer a parked var.”  If we sit in the parking lot with our engines turned off, just waiting for a voice from the sky, we’ll never get anywhere in our quest to solve the world’s problems. We need to at least “start our engines.”  p. 273

The one who says it can’t be done should get out of the way  of the one who is doing it.   ~Chinese Proverb  p. 274

Make your life a mission – not an intermission.  ~Arnold Glasgow  p. 274

 There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why … I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?    Robert Kennedy  p. 275

Isn’t it better to light a candle than curse the darkness?  p. 275

The Kingdom of God is within you.  ~Luke 17:21  p. 276

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.  ~Mother Teresa  p. 277

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