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Some of My Favorite Quotes: The Gospel as Proclamation

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2018 in proclamation

 

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Ten Habits That Have Helped Me in My Christian Life! (Habit #5)

In these posts we are asking what habits have I found helpful in my maturing process as a believer. Reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer, developing an attitude of gratefulness, and being alone with Him are vital to my daily walk.

A fifth habit that I’m working on is being ready to witness to others. I know. I know. Witnessing seems to be such a burden, such an opportunity to embarrass oneself. So how can we take the sting out of sharing Jesus with others?

Here are a few considerations that have helped me. First, I need to remind myself that I am on a mission for the Lord. In John 17 Jesus makes it clear that He has sent us into the world to represent Him. Not to witness is clear disobedience to the continuance of His mission!

Second, I am slowly learning that every person has a story to tell and they just need to know that someone will listen! If we are willing to spend time with others and we let them know we will listen to them, they will begin to open up and share their lives with us. Evangelism by strafing (like a combat plane over an enemy encampment) is not witnessing.

When they know we will listen to their story, there will be places where we can carefully insert gospel truth. Some of these conversations may seem fruitless (like listening for a half an hour to one friend complain about the cost of shingling her house), but they are investments in long-term relationships!

Inevitably those who share their stories with us will begin to ask us questions. And it’s a whole lot easier to witness when we’re being asked questions, right?

In our next post I want to talk about a topic many of us need to really work hard at — the topic of basic friendship! But let me ask you — whose story are you going to listen to today?

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . .” (James 1:9)

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in holy habits

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #6- SHARING!)

Counting today (Aug. 27th) I have only five more sermons to give at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Atlanta.  They have found their new pastor and Linda and I are filled with rejoicing — and deep sadness.  It has been a wonderful 1 1/2 years that we have been able to serve them.

I believe there are areas that get us STUCK in the Christian life, and we have considered five of them so far:  SALVATION, THE SCRIPTURES, SIN, THE SAINTS, and SERVICE.  Let’s now look at SHARING.

Do you find it difficult to “share” your faith in Christ with others?  Me too.  Several truths have helped me in what we Jesus-followers call witnessing.  The first is that I am committed to conversations not necessarily conversions.  I would be thrilled if I saw more people converted to Christ, but I see my witness as sowing the seed, nudging people closer to Christ (as my friend Al McKechnie says).

If I am pursuing conversations, talking about Jesus becomes a whole lot easier.  Why?  Because I can LISTEN instead of talk!  This leads to a second truth that has helped me and it is this:  People want to tell their STORY.  If you or I simply show that we are interested in them, they will often open up and tell us about their lives, their families, their struggles.

Let’s take a preliminary look at our main text for this issue of SHARING:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (I Peter 3)

Wow.  This text tells us that we will suffer in this world, not for doing evil, but for doing good!  And Peter’s point is how we respond to unjust suffering.  Do we grab the Yellow Pages and find the best lawyer we can to sue those who are harming us?  No!  Peter gives us very practical advice:  (1)  Don’t be afraid of them!  (2)  Get your heart right in putting the Lord first in your life!  (3)  Be ready to explain why your hope is in Jesus!  (4)  Make sure your behavior backs up your beliefs!  (5)  Trust the Lord and His will for you — even if it involves unjust suffering!  Anyone trying to harm you?  (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in christian growth

 

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Time for a Great (?) Bumper Sticker: Hell!

I am fascinated by the bumper stickers some Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 5.56.19 AMpeople put on their cars.  Yes, at traffic lights I sometimes pull out my phone and take a picture of the car in front of me.
I am also a firm believer in a real hell.  I know it’s not popular, but the truth that some will spend eternity separated from the love of God is clearly taught in the Word.   This bumper sticker certainly grabs one’s attention, doesn’t it?  I doubt the expression “STOP, DROP & ROLL” makes any sense to today’s generation (which is normally not required to practice hiding under their school desks in preparation for a nuclear strike from the Russians).

But I’m concerned more about the tone of the bumper sticker.  I believe we are to warn people to flee from the wrath of God, but does this message accomplish that?  What do you think? By the way, I have a pastor friend who refuses to put any bumper stickers on his truck.  He doesn’t want to be a negative example of a Christian by his driving!

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2016 in witnessing

 

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Time for a Great Cartoon! (the right questions)

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 5.47.21 AMAsking the right questions is very important, isn’t it?  Although Calvin’s topic is graphic violence and the media, I would suggest that we Christians often don’t ask the right questions, especially when it comes to the issue of sharing the gospel.

Saved as a teenager, I recall being challenged to “lovingly” confront people with the claims of Christ whenever I had the opportunity.  Don’t get me wrong — I am convinced, like the Apostle Paul, that we are under obligation to share the Good News with everyone.

But only recently have I learned about using questions in sharing my faith.  Rather than speaking direct, in-your-face propositions, I’m learning to ask questions — about a person’s job, family, hobbies — before diving into gospel issues.  How is it right for me to challenge people about their eternity when I haven’t asked them anything about their now and their before?

I’m learning that, in a sense, conversations are more to be pursued than conversions.  I certainly want people to become converted, but first I need to show them my interest in them as persons.

One of the many books in my stack of TO READ is the book Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 5.58.54 AMQuestioning Evangelism by Randy Newman.  This book is subtitled “Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did.”  (I once did a paper on “The Interrogatory Method of Jesus.”  Email me for a copy if you’re interested).

Some reviewers of Newman’s book have written:  “Viewed from the evangelical perspective, this book borders on the profound. Viewed from any perspective, Newman brings a new meaning to the word evangelism. With huge amounts of compassion, Newman brings apologetics into evangelism and provides practical examples of how to evangelize by asking questions rather than giving answers. An excellent book for folks who want to communicate with their non-Christian friends without being a bigot.” (William M. Easum Resource Shelf 2005-01-02)

“In an age where evangelistic programs are as numerous as declining churches, it is refreshing to find a text that does not propose another memorized Gospel presentation. Newman states, “The goal of Questioning Evangelism is to help people know how to think about an issue more than what to think.” Newman’s “better way” involves answering questions with questions; not for the sake of evasion but to allow the non-Christian to discover the underlying issue. Newman states, “At times (far too many, I’m afraid), I’ve answered questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders. My answers, it seemed, only further confirmed their opinion that Christians are simpletons.” (William E. Brown Faith & Mission 2006-07-01)

So many evangelistic techniques are concerned with what to say. We rarely consider what to ask.  As Calvin reminds us, “The trick is to ask the right question!”

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in witnessing

 

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Religious Lostness Is Still Lostness!

My heart is sad this morning, friends.  I just spent three hours last night trying to win my Baha’i friend to Christ.  He is a local professional who is a leader in the movement.  His religious zeal is unquestionable.  He is in the middle of a nineteen-day fast (nothing to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, not even a stick of gum).  We had supper together (after sunset) and talked about Christianity and Baha’i for the entire time.

If you know little about the Baha’i religion, you might go here.  One website Screenshot 2016-03-11 06.34.11defined Baha’i as “A sect of Islam evolving into a major independent religion with approximately five million believers worldwide. Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Bahá‘u’lláh and others are viewed as a succession of divine messengers. A 19th century Persian teacher, the Báb, (or “Gate”) predicted Bahá’u’lláh’s coming. Baha’i advocates a new global order of sexual equality, a one-world economic system to eliminate poverty, and a one-world religion.” (Watchman Fellowship).

My friend — let’s call him Michael — is thoroughly immersed in his religion.  I’ve never met a Christian more dedicated to his belief system.  No amount of evidence will convince Michael that he is following a false prophet — Bahá‘u’lláh — and, consequently, has the wrong view of Jesus Christ.  And that saddens me.

Screenshot 2016-03-11 06.36.33Baha’i wants to unite all the religions of the world, to put an end to religious fighting and killing, to establish a New World Order.  Michael admitted that he does not see Jesus as God manifest in the flesh, but simply as a manifestation of God (like Buddha, Muhammad, etc.).  There are thousands of ancient manuscripts which the Baha’i consider their authority, the Bible being only one among many sources.

Michael said that Baha’i parents do not teach their children that they are born sinners, but emphasize their nobility as made in the image of God.  I asked, “If you don’t talk about sin, then why would any of us need a Savior?”  He did not hesitate to state, “Jesus is my Savior!”  But when we began to define our terms, we were not in agreement on the gospel.

Three takeaways from my time with my Baha’i friend:

(1) We Christians must, absolutely must, spend time with people of other religious faiths.  They need our Savior!

(2) We Christians must know our Bibles and our doctrine so that we can show the other person the differences and why they matter.

(3) We Christians must get out into the world of lost people and share the gospel as best we can.

Would you pray for my friend Michael this morning?  And for my heart which is broken over his lostness?

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2016 in lostness

 

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Time for a Great Poem (evangelism)

Screenshot 2016-02-07 08.15.04“I was a nut in a tired, paper bag
One day Jesus found me,
cracked me open, salted me,
and threw me into the world
To make it thirsty for Him.”

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in evangelism

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9c of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689In our discussion of this one-chapter letter by Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, we have seen a number of aspects of our response to the unbelief in the world.

Much of Jude’s material has to do with the content and character of the false teachers which had snuck into God’s people.  But in our verses for today we see that Jude’s attention now focuses on how we are to mature in our walk with the Lord.

Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this —

Step #9c-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

And English teachers?!

And English teachers?!

Where does evangelism fit into our concern for a world wrapped in unbelief?  Obviously we are to protect God’s people from false teachers and we are to work hard at developing our own spiritual lives (vv. 20-21).

Could it be that evangelism — seeking to share the Good News about Christ with those who are lost — is a key to our own spiritual growth?  We learn in verses 22-23 that we are to “be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Sometimes the last response by Christians towards those who doubt is mercy.  We are often tough on those who ask questions, challenge assumptions, suggest alternative ways of understanding doctrines.  Perhaps if we showed mercy, rather than judgment, toward such seekers, there might be more seekers.  And some who are already seekers might settle on the answers the Bible gives to their questions.

Some lost simply need to be snatched from the fire.  What an image!  FirefoxScreenSnapz730Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11 use this expression.  Amos says, “‘I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD.”  There are others who need to be shown mercy, but mercy mixed with fear.  I’m not sure what the fear refers to. Perhaps a fear that they will return to their wayward lives.  Or a fear on the part of the rescuer that he or she might take the path of doubt.  But this third group, those who require mercy mixed with fear, ought to elicit in the rescuer a godly hatred of the effects which sin has had on their lives.

At the very least, verses 22-23 seem to indicate that we can and should take different approaches with different people.  The gospel remains the same (see verse 3), but our methods and approaches can differ quite a bit depending on the type of person we are seeking to reach. (to be continued)

“Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken FirefoxScreenSnapz592desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 27)

Questions:
1.  What is one practical way we can show mercy toward those who doubt?

2.  Do we see lost people as almost already in the fires of God’s judgment?  To snatch someone from the fire indicates imminent danger of being burnt.  Do we see our unsaved friends and relatives that way?  Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is well worth reading to encourage our seriousness about the extreme danger in which lost people presently are.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in unbelief

 

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