by Laurie Aker

The more you draw near and get to know God, the more He may surprise you. He is so much more loving than we expect. He has greater plans for you than you have for yourself, but His ways are not our ways. He always has His eternal purposes in mind while working all things together for our good and His glory. He may not move when you want Him to move or answer when you want Him to answer. He may not change your circumstances, but He loves you with an everlasting, perfect love. He is God. He is your God. He knows what is best for you. Go forward by faith and enter into your relationship with Him expecting Him to answer the desires of your heart. He promises us that whatever we ask in His name, He will do: Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will  give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:3-4). May you love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and may your relationship with the Lord far exceed and transform every other relationship.


This blog post is an excerpt from the Thistlebend Discipleship Study Falling in Love Again with Your Lord available here.

by Michael McKinley

The New Testament compels God’s people to take the gospel out into the world. Jesus gave his disciples a standing order to go and make disciples (Matt. 28:19). He told them that they would become fishers of men (Matt. 4:17). Peter advised the churches of Asia Minor to be ready with an answer when people asked them about their hope (1 Pet. 3:15).

But it seems like something has gone wrong. Many Christians do not live like fishers of men. Not many people ask us about the hope that we have in Christ, and when they do we’re not really ready to give an answer. Evangelical churches talk a lot about evangelism, but according to popular surveys and anecdotal impressions most church members don’t share their faith very often.


I’d like to suggest five reasons that churches and church members don’t share the gospel as part of their normal course of life. Other articles in this Journal suggest ways to remedy this situation, but for now let’s stick with diagnosing the problem.

1. Churches isolate Christians from unbelievers

First, churches isolate Christians from unbelievers. Simply put, a lot of Christians don’t know any unbelievers. Though our daily lives put us into regular contact with many people who don’t know Jesus, it’s easy to go through life without having close relationships with any of them.

Churches enable this isolation in a couple ways. Many churches run a host of weeknight programs and then define being a good church member in terms of attendance at those programs. As a result, the calendars of many Christians are filled up with church activities and there is little time to have neighbors and co-workers into their homes.

In addition, some congregations cultivate hostility toward the world. As our culture becomes more explicitly hostile to Christianity and biblical morality, it’s easy to allow a bunker mentality to set in. When that happens, the outside world becomes a bogeyman and the way for God’s people to be holy is to keep their distance from it. So Christians live lives on parallel tracks from the world, with their own schools and businesses and sports leagues and scouting programs, but very few chances to build relationships with unbelievers.

2. We believe that evangelism is extraordinary

A second reason Christians don’t evangelize is that we believe it’s extraordinary. We suspect that evangelism is only for those who have the gift of evangelism, or for pastors and other professional Christians. And so they simply don’t feel like they are capable of sharing the gospel. From time to time people in my congregation will bring their friends or family to me so that I can tell them about Jesus, and I have to challenge them to step up and do it themselves! After all, in Acts 8:1-4 it’s not the apostles but the “normal” Christians who take the message about Jesus out of Jerusalem and into the wider world.

3. Churches don’t talk about the cost of following Jesus

Third, our churches don’t talk about the cost of following Jesus. Yet evangelism will be costly. There’s really no way to tell people that you believe God took on human flesh by being birthed by a virgin and then, after dying on a cross, rose from the dead and soared back up to heaven without at least running the risk of losing their favor. But that’s okay. The apostle Paul says that God intentionally saves us in a way that will seem foolish to the “wise” of our world (1 Cor. 1:18-29). Our message will not be well received by those who are perishing, but will be like a stench in their nostrils (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

If I understand Paul correctly, it’s actually God’s plan for you to suffer some as you share the gospel. If you don’t agree, read through the book of Acts and just make a note of every time someone shares the gospel and something bad happens to them.

But many churches never confront their people with the reality that following Christ will cost them. We teach them that God is all about them and their sense of personal wellbeing. So when it comes time to pay the price and share the gospel, many of us simply aren’t willing to lose our reputations.

4. We look for immediate results

Fourth, we look for immediate results. Of course, it’s easy to become discouraged about our evangelism. Maybe we read a book or listened to a sermon and went out and shared our faith, only to grow discouraged when nothing visibly happened. I think many Christians have simply given up on evangelism because they made an effort and didn’t see any results.

But we simply aren’t in a position to judge what God is doing in any given situation. It may be that in God’s plan we are supposed to be the first in a long line of people who evangelize a person before they come to Christ. I can think of plenty of examples of evangelistic conversations and efforts that seemed like a waste at the time. It was not until much later that I found out that the person had come to Christ.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), and the word of God is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12-13). We must cultivate confidence that the Lord who causes the growth will accomplish his redemption. He will save souls. He often does not do it according to our timetables, and he may not choose the people we would choose. But he will use us if we are faithful.

5. We aren’t clear on the message

A final reason we don’t evangelize is that we aren’t clear on the message. When someone asks to join our church, one of the things that I ask is for them to briefly summarize the gospel message (think 60 seconds). And I am consistently surprised by how many Christians find it difficult to do that. It’s not that they don’t believe the gospel—they do. It’s not that they are ignorant—many of them know their Bibles very well. And while they might be nervous or surprised by the question, it’s still a disturbing trend. There’s no way to share the gospel if you aren’t prepared to share the gospel.

Mike McKinley is the senior pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, and is the author, most recently, of The Devil Made Me Do It (Good Book Company, 2013).


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Thistlebend Quiet eMoment

by Laurie Aker

Focus Scripture: Luke 7:36-50 ESV

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him,
and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.
37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner,  
when she learned that he was reclining at table  
in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  
38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping,  
she began to wet his feet with her tears  
and wiped them with the hair of her head  
and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this,  
he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet,  
he would have known who and what sort of woman this is  
who is touching him, for she is a sinner.  
40 And Jesus answering said to him,”Simon,  
I have something to say to you.”  
And he answered, “Say it teacher.”  
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors.
One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.
Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose,  
for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”  
And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon,  
“Do you see this woman? I entered your house;
you gave me no water for my feet,  
but she has wet my feet with her tears  
and wiped them with her hair.  
45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in  
she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil,  
but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–
for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  
49 Then those who were at table with him began to
say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
50 And he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Dear Christian,
do you know how much you are loved?
Do you suppose there is anything you can do
that would cause Him to not love you?

He has forgiven all your sins, known and unknown.
He has not only washed your feet, He has rescued you, taken you in,
bathed you, clothed you, and provided for your every need.

Your situation or your circumstances may tempt you to doubt.
Your emotions may rage or toss you to and fro.
Your thoughts, imaginations, or dreams may take you wandering.
But He is who He says He is.

He is your Rock.
Your Redeemer.
Your Rescue.
Your Reward.
Your Everything.

Remember what He has done.
Remember how much you been forgiven.
And live in the safety and the beauty of this truth.


Oh that we would remember!Oh that our lives would be an outpouring
of gratitude and love to Jesus Christ.

May my heart be as beautiful and soft as that alabaster jar.
May my life be a continual outpouring of gratitude,
love, and faithfulness to my Lord.

Use the following passages
to meditate on His great love for you.

John 15:14
Greater love has no one than this,  
that someone lay down his life for his friends.

1 John 3:16
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…

Isaiah 53:4-6
4 Surely he has borne our griefs 
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,    

smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,    

and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned-every one-to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Ask Him to help you see His love for you
and see His great forgiveness
so your life might be a fragrant outpouring of love.


Write out the following passage from Luke 7 and recite it 3 times.Take it with you throughout the day.

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors.
One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.
Now which of them will love him more?”

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–
for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”


Father God, help me see your gospel love for me
with all of its height, depth, width, and length.
May I cherish it with every breath I take.

In His hands for His glory,