The Unexpected Adventure by Lee Strobel & Mark Mittelberg

imageAs we follow our particular paths through life we’re all going to encounter people like Jack, people laying tile nearby another conversation, and spend moments with our neighbors and friends. We may find ourselves in the company of a young Hindu farmer or even a Billy Moore. In every one of these interactions there is an opportunity for God to call us into the adventure of a lifetime, opening the door for a spiritual conversation that may be the turning point in someone’s life. In The Unexpected Adventure, authors Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg draw us into the excitement of recognizing these moments without the pressure that sometimes accompanies a programmed evangelism process.

Adventure is about opportunity. Strobel and Mittelberg speak do not set out a program as we might find in Mark’s earlier effort ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ and the training program of the same name. Thousands of churches have participated in these types of programs and trained numerous people in how to have the most important conversation that can be had. You learn your spiritual style and how to find those interactions where this can be utilized to the greatest advantage. In many cases, men and women have been successful in implementing the lessons and have gone on to important evangelistic efforts. Many others have found themselves watching and waiting for their opportunities to put the steps into practice but have been too shy or hesitant to move. What sets Adventure apart is its singular focus on the moments of spiritual opportunity that surround us every day. Strobel and Mittelberg serve up vignettes of personal contacts in which they recognized an opening to tell the gospel story, both directly and obliquely.

Written as a collection of 42 devotion-style entries, each of the chapters serves up a different example of the myriad ways in which God arranges spiritually needy lives to intersect with His evangelistic partners, you and me. From an overheard conversation with someone else, through a misunderstood Buenos Dias, or to a close friend who confides her darkest secrets to you; each is a possible invitation to introduce the hope that you know to someone keenly in need of that hope. The variety of encounters that the authors recall is so broad that you will be able to easily locate yourself in more than one. When you have tuned your spiritual antennae to be alert to these invitations you will find that it becomes the most natural thing in life to share what you know without the pressure of thinking about the ‘E’ word or worrying that it must be done in a specific way.

Strobel and Mittelberg have made a fantastic contribution to the Church and her commandment. This book stands up with Rebecca Pippert’s Out of the Shaker, Paul Little’s Know books and Joe Aldrich’s Lifestyle Evangelism in making sharing your hope a natural outpouring of your transformed life. What sets Adventure apart is page after page of recognizable moments in life that we all have. After reading each chapter, you will fold the pages over your finger and think back to similar times in your own life, perhaps recognizing them for divine appointments and hungry for another chance. With no steps to remember, telling your story of hope or simply answering a question will become a response as easy as breathing. Sign up now for The Unexpected Adventure, you won’t regret it.

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Psalm 29 ~ The Lord Thunders Over the Mighty Waters

29

Recite the first two verses of this psalm out loud, the first time in a whisper and the second time in full voice using the full power of your diaphragm.

Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty one, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. (vv 1-2)

This psalm, in its structure and prose, demands to be fully voiced. The call to worship and praise found in these introductory verses practically rings the kind of praise that we feel in our hearts but rarely have the courage to voice. Compare it to the tepid “Good morning, how’s everybody doin’” that serves as the call to worship in so many churches and it leads you to wonder what would happen if someone got up and belted this out.

In fact, continue to read and you’ll find your blood rising and heart beating harder as the volume and power rise in your head.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders.

The Lord Thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (vv 3-4)

Why not also close the service with the closing affirmation:

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (vv 10 – 11)

Amen

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The Year of Immanuel

The name Immanuel is familiar to almost all Christians, though it appears infrequently in the Bible. We first encounter the name in Isaiah 7:14, most recently heard as a part of the Advent readings:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isa 7:14)

Here we are generally provided with an explanatory note that the name given is actually a combination of words, important ideas, that spell out God is With Us. The fact that the young women will name her child so is either an expression of faith in the face of adversity or a prayer for mercy and help (God Be With Us). Of the coming of our savior satisfies this sign as Jesus becomes one of us and is with us. Is this ideal just a sentiment of is it a theological fact that remains true today?  Theologically, God is with us as believers in the Holy Spirit but in a greater sense, God the Father is present with us intimately every moment of every day. Our response to this promise and its reality to large numbers of people is often quite different.

Many times we are guilty of living as though the Father was distant in heaven, tabulating our behavior from afar, listening to our prayers but not present. We do not consider His immediacy when we sin and we fail to acknowledge his presence surrounding those we do not minister too. Would we bypass the homeless man sprawled out on the sidewalk if the Father appeared as a specter, beckoning us to polish the imago dei for a fellow person? Would we casually continue our bigotry, divisive theological wars, oppression of gifted women, et. al. if we sensed that truly God was with us?

God with us is a profound theological truth that has many implications for our lives and ministry in our current day. It is our call to make it clear to the world at large that not only is God alongside and around us, but as Christian believers, He is in us! We live without condemnation for our past sins and we are empowered to turn from our daily temptation. We can walk into any situation as the Spirit leads without fear — God Is With Us. Why then, don’t we live this truth out in such a meaningful way that we change the world radically so that it nearly shimmers with kingdom values?

God with us has implications for our personal piety as well. Often we see the walls around us as come kind of shield between the God who is with us but not near us. If we truly sensed the presence of God, how would our pursuit of personal holiness be affected? Would we take sin more seriously? Would our devotion to personal and constant worship increase? Would we know in the depths our hearts that God is Truly With Us?

This can be our year of Immanuel, a year of radical change in ministry and a monumental transformation in holiness. I, for one, will be aligning my ministry with the burdens that God has placed on my heart. My pursuit of holiness will be an increased priority. God is With Me is going to be the most profound theological truth that I will pursue this year.

Join me.

Trusting the Promise

It is at this hour of the morning where God’s promises are so passionately and vibrantly clear. Looking to the East, I can watch as the low, endlessly flat horizon of the Great Plains begins to divide from darkness to light. In the dark, the horizon disappears and yet, at the appointed hour the slightest hint of the new day begins to show. At first, it is a change from deep black to a violet to a blue but it soon changes to a hint of pink then orange then a blaze of glorious yellow as the warming sun pokes it rays above the edge of the world!

I see the promised sun again, light that my brothers in the East have already gloried in without my jealousy and light that my sisters in the West await in anticipation. Your promises, Father, can always be trusted though sometimes I must wait while others enjoy your blessing. You remind me by the passing of the day that others are waiting as well and I should have not pride in the blessings your visit upon me. Glory to God in the Highest!

Psalm 113 

Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord.
     Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
     From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
     The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
     Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
     who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
     He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
     he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
     He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.