Thursday, September 13, 2018

 

How I Get Involved in Telling the Jesus Story

After one of my recent blog posts, several asked how I find people to talk to about Jesus.  So I have been thinking about it and here are a few thoughts.

I ask everybody.  That's what my wife Marsha says.  And that is not much of an exaggeration.  I ask church visitors, I ask neighbors, I ask friends. 

"If you ever have any questions, I would love to ...

"I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee and tell you why Jesus...

"Can I pray for you?  I'd love to share how we/friends of mine got thru a similar situation...

"We act this way/did this/said that because we are Jesus followers.  I'd love to tell you why...

I suspect it is sometimes to pushy.  Sometimes comes out awkward.  Probably scares some people off.

I certainly get there are people much smoother and better at this than I am.

But I have resolved not to wait until the time is perfect.  I cannot tell you how many times I have shared Jesus with people that have known Christians as neighbors and friends but never had any of them say anything to them.

Even visitors at church who never understood what the next steps were.

Now in fairness, I am beg believer in hearing their stories also.  I often find out what they think about Jesus, or church, or life. 

And at first we almost always share some version of our testimony:  what Jesus has done, why we do what we do, why I do the job I do.

And I don't ask to study the Bible.  I talk in terms of sharing, telling stories, that kind of language.  Even if a lot of my stories are right from the Bible.

Church visitors.  People we serve.  People we help.  People we get to know. 

We listen.  We ask.  Sometimes they are ready.  Sometimes they come back to us later and are ready.  Sometimes someone else asks and they are ready then.  And some never want to hear.

But at least I gave it a shot.

I'll write more later about where and how I find these people.  And I'll talk more about the idea of being the "designated closer".  Or as my friend Bobby Lawson puts it.  Be a Peter and tell about Jesus.  If you can't be Peter, be Cornelius and bring people to hear about Jesus from the evangelists you know.

But for now.  I would suggest you just start asking. 

So pray for those you can share Jesus with.  Seek the opportunity to ask. 

You will be overwhelmed at what God will do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

 

And just like that I am 67. Now what...

Today is my birthday.  67.  Seems hard to imagine.  I feel like -- and act like -- I am 47.  But I look in the mirror and look 87.  So 67 is just about right for me. 

Our government tells me I can retire.  Most of my friends my age have retired.  Lots of people asking me what now...

So here are a few thoughts on turning 67

Who cares?  I am not much of a "retirement" kind of guy.  Not even sure what I would do.  I imagine I would do just like I do now.  Well, except without pay.

As long as my mind, strength, and energy hold up I will just going around the country (and sometimes the world) talking about Jesus.  And helping others learn how to share their faith.

I'll keep talking to people in our personal corner of the world that are not believers.

Marsha and I will keep helping people struggling in their marriage.  Or with their addictions. 

but I will say this from the perspective of 67 years.

Jesus is the most important.  More important than work or church.  Only thing that really matters.  If I keep him, everything else will be OK. 

Family is next.  I love Marsha more every day and every year.  And not just because of the chocolate pie she will make today.  So proud of my kids.  Grandkids are growing up.  Accomplishing lots academically and athletically.  Most happy they love Jesus.  My Mom is still hanging out with us at 87.  Still active and still sharp. Maybe I'll be like her and go strong till I am 87.

I know what I will do for as long as God gives me life.

And that is the key.  Where I will work, go to church, live... well, those are not the most important things any more.

So the older I get, the less clear some things are.  And the less that matters. 

God will take care of me and mine..  Always has.  Always will.  I have been blessed way beyond anything I could have ever hoped for or even imagined.  So I am pretty much OK if today is the last day in this life.  Pretty much OK if I have 20 more years.

So today I will do what I do every day.  Follow Jesus and invite others to do the same. 

Thanks God.  I am in awe of what you have done.  Still excited to see what you will do.  So I'll just keep on keeping on as long as you want.     

Thursday, September 06, 2018

 

Why am I such an evangelism freak?

So why do I get so cranked up about evangelism?  I do get asked that occasionally.  Sometimes by people that think I am too focused on reaching lost people.  Or at least too intense about it.  Sort of a one trick pony.  As if that is all I care about.

So every once in a while it is good for me to remember why I am the way that I am.

I live in a broken world full of broken people.  There are a lot of evil people in our world.  Mean, hateful people.  People who will do anything for money.  People who will destroy anyone to get what they want.  Addictions and broken relationships everywhere.  Fear abounds.  Very little joy, peace, or hope.  And I know why.  Sin.  Sin breaks our relationship with God and nothing will ever work right until that relationship is restored.  And by the way, I am not speaking generically.  I have friends and people I love that are broken.

I know the answer.  It is Jesus.  He is the only way to restore our relationship with God.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The answer is not found in any political system or country.  The answer is not to try and be so nice that everyone around me will be nice also.  The answer is not food and housing.  Or better jobs.  Those only address symptoms of the real problem.  Sin is only fixed by Jesus.

So God sent Jesus to die for the sins of this world.  Because He loves us.  I know that.  I believe that.  I have given my life to Jesus.  I am forgiven and restored.  I am a follower of Jesus.

And he told me to go make more followers.  I get to partner with God in reconciling the people in my world back to God.  By bringing them to Jesus.

Most Christians will not.  Jesus himself said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 

Most churches will not.  The vast majority of their time and money is focused on themselves.

If your church is not sold out to reach the lost, you can be.  And others will join you.  You may change the whole culture of your church.

If you cannot figure out how to be a natural evangelist, support those who are.  Pray for them and the lost people.  Pray for lost individuals.  Support the evangelists among you.  And I mean financially.  Fund the coffee and meals they buy when engaging non-believers.  Invite the lost to a meal or to special events.  Connect them to the evangelists.  To use an old sales saying:  feed prospects to your closer.  Most evangelists I know are happy to talk about Jesus.  You can be the connection point.

So do something.  Please.  Our world needs Jesus. 

You know people that will spend eternity separated from God.  You cannot make them follow Jesus.  You can be sure they have the opportunity.

I am going to make other followers for as long as God gives me life.

Please join me. 

You will change lives forever.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

 

Church Growth May Not Be the Same as Kingdom Growth

I spend much of my time in conversation with church leaders and members about church growth.  Lots of churches out there that are shrinking and dying.  They are very aware that if something does not change, they are going to be gone in a few years.  Other congregations are treading water and they know it.  Not really growing. 

So they ask my opinion about how to grow.  And almost every one of them does not like my answer.  Too simplistic.  Maybe it is.  But they are asking me so they should probably expect a simplistic answer.  After all, I am no church growth expert.

And my answer is hard.  It requires a real attitude shift in most churches.

But here it is. 

Make disciples.  Add new births (spiritually).  Sell out for evangelism.  Change lives.  Serve in the name of Jesus.  Share your faith.  Grow.

But what I often hear leads me to believe many of these churches do not really want Kingdom growth.  They want church growth.  Or at least "stay even" numbers.

Because they say things like this:  Of course we need to be evangelistic, but what about

... our young people.  How do we keep them from leaving.
...our young families are not involved.
...should we look at changing our worship style
...should we use women in our public assemblies

Sometimes it is like seeing cracks in the foundation of the house and listening to a discussion about if someone ought to try a different color of paint on the outside.

Be a gospel church.  Be a good news church.  Your message ought always to be that sin leads to a broken relationship with God.  Jesus is the answer.  Follow him.  Preach it.  Communion it.  Sing it.  Pray it.  Live it.

Changed lives because your church loves God with all you have.

Radical service in your community and taking care of each other because you love your neighbor as yourself.

New births because you tell the story of Jesus.  Everywhere.  And all the time.  Every member.

That will grow the Kingdom and your church.  If that does not engage your young people and young families then so be it.  But I am convinced most of our younger adults are hungry for a church that makes a difference.  That asks them to partner with God in growing our Kingdom.  Asking them to serve, not be served. 

A church focused on those outside, not focused on those inside.

Real churches for real people serving a real God.

So if your family is shrinking ... make more babies.

It is what Jesus told us to do.  All over the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

 

The Danger of Believing Scripture Does Not Mean What It Says

I grew up in churches of Christ.  One of the great blessings of that heritage is a deep and passionate commitment to Scripture.  To this day I am thankful for Bible class teachers, preachers, memory verses, Bible reading, and all the other disciplines that led me to Scripture.

But there is a dangerous tendency among some churches today.

They sometimes insist the Bible does not mean what it says.

Not just interpretations drawn from a study of principles found in Scripture.  I am talking about making your conclusions have more weight than what the Bible actually says.

One example is the discussion about male authority.  Not about what functions in the church are authoritative and can be performed by either sex.  Or debating what might constitute authority.  But that it is wrong to believe in or practice male authority. 

And the problem is that the Bible says the husband is the head of the wife.  Elders are married men.  The twelve apostles were men. 

I agree the principle of male authority has been abused.  And we have made it apply to things that are not matters of authority.  But Scripture is clear.  It speaks of male authority.  So to advocate for equal authority is to say the Bible does not mean what it says. 

Lately I hear this same argument about marriage.  That God will sanction, for example, a marriage between people of the same sex.  Except the Bible says differently.  So you have to maintain the Bible does not mean what it says. 

You may want to argue that these are positions for then and there, not here and now.  You may want to say that I am misinterpreting what God meant.  But do not tell me the Bible does not say what it plainly says.  Don't tell me we just read Scripture differently.  Of course we read it the same.  The question is does it mean what it says.

It bothers me when people attempt to say God did not mean what he said.  It is as if he needs a modern day editor to explain why what he said is not correct.

And this view leads to problems.

Churches split over this.  When you insist that God's Word does not mean what it says and I am wrong to believe it, we are not going to be able to continue in fellowship.  So you better be sure God really does not mean what He said before you divide the body.

You can begin to interpret Scripture in ways that fit our beliefs and feelings. So feelings, culture, and our experience become the determining factor as to whether we believe it really means what it says.   And anyone that does not agree with us is narrow and wrong.  It becomes hard not to be arrogant about our beliefs and to look down on those who disagree.

It is hard to study the Scriptures with someone when we have to explain that this verse means what it says but this one does not.

And young people growing up in this environment sometimes decide to leave it.  They want real authenticity concerning Bible study.  At some point you realize your church really doesn't stand for much anymore.  You want to know their is a solid footing for your faith. 

Let me be clear.  This does not describe everyone that holds some of the positions I mention.  I know people that hold to these positions that are loving, committed, and passionate about following Jesus. 

But there is a real danger in deciding that we know God did not mean what He said.  That we can absolutely and without a doubt explain that what you read is not what God really meant.  Your interpretation is not the same as truth.

Be careful.  I try hard to remember that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what he was doing when he inspired Scripture. I am not sure he needs me to correct it for him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

 

The Danger of Believing Scripture Means What It Does Not Say

I grew up in churches of Christ.  One of the great blessings of that heritage is a deep and passionate commitment to Scripture.  To this day I am thankful for Bible class teachers, preachers, memory verses, Bible reading, and all the other disciplines that led me into Scripture.

But  there was one dangerous tendency among some to the churches I knew. 

They sometimes insisted the Bible meant what it did not say. 

I am not talking about conclusions drawn from principles taught in Scripture.  I am talking about making your conclusions drawn from Scripture have the same weight as actual Scripture.

The most obvious example is when some insisted the Bible condemns instrumental music in worship.  Not that singing only might be a better choice.  Or after studying Scripture they concluded that singing only is a better choice.  But that instruments were wrong and that is what is taught in the Bible.

Except of course the Bible does not say that.  And by the way, I am strong advocate of non-instrumental worship for a number of reasons.  But not because that is what the Bible says. 

We did it with the Lord's Supper also.  Insisting that a Christian has to take it every Sunday.  And only on Sunday.  Even if you had to take it by yourself on a Sunday night.  You may decide those are reasonable conclusions.  Just don't tell me that is what the Bible absolutely teaches unless you can show me the passage that says it. 

It is concerning when someone says they know what God meant even tho he did not say it.  As if God needed an editor to clean up his oversights.

And this view leads to problems.

Churches split over this.  When you insist I am wrong and worshiping in error, we are not going to be able to continue in fellowship.  You better be sure that is what God meant before you divide the body. 

You tend to start thinking there is truth about everything and anything.  We can determine it and if anyone does not agree they are wrong.  And this leads to drawing smaller and smaller circles of fellowship.  Christianity is reduced to getting everything right. 

It is easy to revert to a system of why everyone else is wrong instead of explaining what you believe to be right.

The Bible becomes a proof text.  Every verse has a absolute meaning.  It is like a rule book or collection of laws for the Christian.

And if not careful, we become mean and judgmental.  As if God entrusted us to decide who is in and out. 

It is hard to share good news when we are so paranoid about getting something wrong and so arrogant to think we have everything right.

And young people growing up in this environment often decide to leave it.  They want authenticity concerning Bible study.  So at some point, your church withers and dies. 

I do want to be clear that this does not describe everyone that believes some of the things I mentioned.  I know people that hold these positions that are loving, committed, and passionate about following Jesus and bringing others to know him.

But there is a danger in deciding we know what God meant when it is not what he said.  That we absolutely and without a doubt can say what God not.  Opinions and judgments are not the same as truth. 

Be careful.  I try hard to remember that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what he was doing when he inspired Scripture.  I am not sure he needs me to edit it for him.



Thursday, August 23, 2018

 

Living as a believer in a non-believing world.

I talk quite a lot about how Christians are counter-cultural.  That is, our world view -- and the way we live that out -- is often at odds with the people around us.

People occasionally ask me what that means.  So here are three convictions I hold that are are counter to the culture I live in.

I believe Jesus is the only way to God.  Not a way or one of many ways. I believe He is the only way to God.  Jesus himself said no one comes to the Father except thru Him.  We cannot be good enough or work enough to save ourselves.  Jesus died to save us from our sins and restore our relationship with God.  No one else.  The Jesus way leads to heaven.  That is not a popular or prevalent view in our culture.

I believe in male authority in the home and in the church.  Not a view that would be endorsed by our culture.  But I think Scripture is clear.  The husband is the head of the wife.  Elders shepherd the flock and they are to be married men.  It is not a matter of spiritual superiority or power.  In fact, Scripture is very clear on how husbands are to lead their homes and how elders are to lead their churches.

I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  Sex outside of marriage is wrong.  God makes his view of this very clear in Scripture.

And these are just three areas where I am out of step with my culture.  There are others. 

Counter cultural.

Christians may not always live out these convictions perfectly.  I don't.  But that is my world view and I believe it is truth.  And so as a Christians I work to align my life with truth.  It is not just to be taught and believed.  It is to be lived.

So we try to live more like Jesus.  We work to have homes of faith.  We commit to bring our behavior in line with what God wants.  Not perfect.  But forgiven.  But the rationale for how we live is at odds with what most people in our world believe.

The world can think that makes us -- me -- judgmental, or narrow-minded.  They can say I am not loving or that I am hateful.  But it is hard to say that when they see how we treat people.  How we serve others.  Even those in our world who are -- oddly enough -- judgmental and hateful to us.

Peter said it best in I Peter 2:12

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

This world is not my home and I will never be comfortable here.  But I am not here to be comfortable.  I am here to follow Jesus and to lead others in my world to become followers.

Till I get to my real home.  Forever.



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