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Evangelism 101: The Power of Knowing the Scriptures

1419184_44660695In the last post, we discussed the power of listening to others.  In order to truly understand where people are at, we need to ask them questions; give them a chance to tell us what’s on their hearts.  Once we know the questions in their minds or the stance that they may take on certain subjects, then we have an amazing opportunity to meet them where they’re at and lead them to a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ.

The problem comes when we don’t know enough about the Scriptures to be able to adequately answer their concerns.  Sure, most Christians know the basic Scriptures that spell out the path to salvation: John 3:13, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23.  But what happens when the person you are trying to witness to brings up a subject or an objection that has nothing to do with the plan of salvation that you have memorized.

For example, let’s say that after a wonderful heart to heart conversation, the person to whom you’re trying to witness brings up a tough question: “If God is so loving, why does he let bad things happen to people who haven’t done anything wrong?”

This is by no means an easy question to answer, let alone use it to lead someone to the Lord.  But if your answer to the question is, “Well the Bible says that everyone is a sinner, and that the wages of that sin is death.”

To this answer, the person then says, “So you’re saying that my wife died of cancer because she was a sinner?”

Not only have you now offended this person, but you may have lost that soul instead of saving it.  There’s no point in meeting people where they’re at if we are unprepared to take it any further than that.  We need to be in the Word.

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Roman 1:16 ESV)

The Word of God has the power to lead anyone to Christ.  As my amazing pastor has said, “Perhaps what we need to say has already been said…by God.”

It’s so important that we are in the Word every single day so that we can be ready to answer any question that people may pose for us. (1 Peter 3:15)  And it’s not just enough to say, “Well the Bible says…..” We need to be specific.  We should be able to direct people to the exact place in Scripture that backs up what we are saying, and preferably be able to give them the context of the Scripture as well.

But remember–and this is incredibly important–if you don’t know the answer, don’t give one.  It’s ok to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question.  One of the worst things you can do is give someone the wrong answer to an important question.  Likewise, an answer that lacks authenticity can drive a person away.  People are looking for the truth.  They don’t want some sugar-coated Gospel that tells them what they want to hear.

In order to witness to people, we must be able to ask the questions that will help us meet them where they’re at.  But we must prepare ourselves to take it from there.  And the best way to prepare is to know the Word of God.  Studying is great, but we need to cement the Word in our minds so that we can recall the necessary Scriptures when the moment calls for it.  Give yourself a goal, maybe one verse or passage a week.  Don’t try to win people with your words when the Word of God is more than able to handle the job.

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Evangelism 101: The Power of Questions

1409010_84143580Our church is finishing up a sermon series called “Wildfires.”  The purpose of the series was to light a fire inside of Christians and motivate them to go out into the world and win people for Christ.  It was incredibly inspirational and convicting to me.  So I wanted to take a few posts and hit on some of the highlights of the series and present them here for you, as I believe these are some great points that all Christians should think about.  From a recent sermon comes a quote from my amazing pastor, Darrin Ronde.  “You need to know what’s in people’s hearts before they know what’s in your head.”

This statement was made to emphasize the power of questions in evangelism.  Sometimes, we as Christians, and I especially mean myself here, come with prepared sermons that we have just been waiting for a chance to preach.  So instead of listening to people and meeting them where they’re at, we tend to launch right in to the gospel message, usually leading off with the fact that everyone is a sinner and in need of a savior.  But in Acts chapter 8, Philip to a different approach in his witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch.

“Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  The man replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30-31 NLT)

Philip didn’t just launch into a pre-made evangelistic approach.  He didn’t recite anything from a script.  He simply asked a question.  The eunuch was already reading from the book of Isaiah and Philip simply asked if he understood what he was reading.  That simple question helped him to see where the eunuch was at that moment in time.  This has such an important application in our lives.  We need to take the time to find out where people are.  We need to discover what questions are in their hearts and then take it from there.

For example, if a friend of yours comes with you to church, after the service you could start with a questions like, “So, what did you think of what the pastor preached?”  Or if your friend or acquaintance is commenting on the sad state of the world with all the crime and corruption, maybe you could ask a question like, “Why do you think there’s all this crime?” or “What do you think the solution for all the crime is?”

I’m sure that you can tailor your questions based on your friends and their reactions to certain topics.  But the point is, don’t just launch into a sermon.  Ask questions.  Find out where people are and the questions on their hearts and address that.  They don’t care how many Scriptures you have memorized and how much stuff you know and how many random Bible facts you can spout.  But if you take the revelation that they’ve given you and meet them at that spot, then you have a chance of connecting with them on a deep level and a realistic chance of leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Don’t underestimate the power of questions in your evangelistic efforts.

 
 

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Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter

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Danger of Death!

I was told by a Christian once that there was no need for teachers to tell people what to do.  It was far more valuable for people to just sit around and discuss the Scriptures, giving their opinions on what the Bible was saying.  I can think of nothing more harmful to yourself or another person that to blindly give your opinion about what the Word of God is saying.  Here’s the deal: the Bible only says one thing.  There are many different applications you can draw from the truths of Scripture.  But there is only one truth, and that truth is not up for debate or change.

This is a growing trend in the church, although the concept has been around since the time of Christ.  People think they can read something and then they know exactly what it means.  This is not always the case.  There are things in Scriptures that require a little more study than that.  A brief perusal may not be enough to fully grasp the message that is being conveyed.  Likewise, reading the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily help.  You need to dig deep in order to understand the Bible.

That’s the amazing thing about pastors.  That’s why God has given us pastors, to study and convey the message of the Scriptures so that it is understandable to the common person.  This doesn’t take away your responsibility to study on your own, but it does give you a place to start.  God instituted the office of the pastor and that should not be taken lightly.  Personally, I thank God on a daily basis for the pastor He has chosen to lead my church.  He unashamedly preaches the Word of God in a way that makes me think and constantly reevaluate my life.  Keeping me in check as I live a life for Christ.  Not letting me get away with justifying sin with excuses.

Saying that you don’t need a pastor or teacher to talk at you is an ignorant and boastful statement.  “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” (Hebrews 13:17 NLT)

Denying the fact that we are given spiritual leaders is disrespectful to them and to God who instituted their position.  “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.”  (Jeremiah 3:15 NLT)  He gave them to us to teach us, to guide us, to look after our spiritual well-being.  “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.”  (Ephesians 4:11 NLT)  God called pastors into their roles and that should not be taken lightly.

That being said, there is a danger with giving your opinion about the Bible.  The danger is that your opinion may be wrong.  God doesn’t care about your opinion, He cares about the truth, and what is truth has been written in the Bible for all to see.  Your opinion about it, if contradictory to the Bible, is nothing less than blaspheme.  Jesus doesn’t say He’s one of the ways or the partial truth.  He is the only way and the only truth.

The danger of your own opinion may be that you will inadvertently lead someone away from the actual truth.  “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.”  (Luke 17:1-2 NLT)  Teaching the Word of God is a great responsibility and not one that should be taken lightly.  I would not want to be the person who teaches something false from the Bible and leads others away from the real truth.  “Dear brothers and sisters,not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1 NLT)

Don’t discount the teachings of your pastor! Don’t think that by simply reading the Word of God that you are an expert.  And don’t think for one second that sitting in a circle and discussing your opinions about what a certain passage of Scripture means is anything less than a dangerous practice that can lead others astray and condemn you to a harsh judgement.  It’s only through studying the Word that you can truly find the message that is intended for those who read it.  Your opinion doesn’t matter.  Only the truth of the Scriptures matter.  Be careful that you only speak the truth and leave opinions out of the equation.

 

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The Lamenting of a Fan

imagesIt’s no secret that I’m a New England Patriots fan, and the shocking events of this week have not been lost on me.  Sure, I’d love to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing happened, but this is Aaron Hernandez we’re talking about.  One of the most dynamic players in the NFL.  What’s going on here?

For those of you who don’t know, Aaron Hernandez is, was, a tight end for the New England Patriots.  He was arrested yesterday and charged with first degree murder.  This doesn’t come long after he signed a forty million dollar contract extension that doesn’t include the just over twelve million he gets from bonuses.  This man is twenty-three years old and his life is over.

I will never pretend to understand what makes the rich and famous do incredibly stupid things.  I know that if I was blessed with an exorbitant amount of money, I would be on my best behavior, wanting to preserve my money and status.  But perhaps that is too wise for some people.  Aaron Hernandez is not alone in his idiocy.  There have been many before him and I’m sure many after who will spectacularly and irrevocably fall from the graces of their fans.

But why does this happen?  Why does it seem that people who are perfectly equipped to do the right thing and make huge impacts in the world, throw it all away in a moment of lust, or anger, or greed?  Proverbs 12:15 says that fools do what is right in their own eyes.  I’m going to be writing more about this tomorrow, but the gist of it is this: people, no matter how good they are, if they are not following after God, will, in this life or the next, fall.

The broader concept here is the idea of relative truth versus absolute truth.  I’ve heard it as I’m sure you have: this is what’s true for me.  If my children used that phrase while in the process of telling a lie, I would lose it!  I lie is still a lie no matter how much you believe it to be true.  Aaron Hernandez did something horrible.  He didn’t do it because he felt justified (although he might feel justified), he didn’t do it because he got angry and carried away (although that may have occurred).  He did it because he is a sinful person who, instead of following after God, followed after the wisdom of himself and others.  That is ALWAYS a losing formula.

“The wicked are too proud to seek God.  They seem to think that God is dead.”  (Psalm 10:4 NLT)

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Random Ruminations

 

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Testimonial Follow-Up: How to Weave God into Our Everyday Lives Part 2

1182894_31430952Part of allowing God to take control of every aspect of your life is reacting to sin the way that He would.  Psalm 45:7 says that God “hates evil.” (NLT)  So what do we do when encountered by evil and sin?  How do we react when others around us are blaspheming our God and polluting the minds of our children with their words.

I know that it can be hard.  But let’s look at a practical example.  Let’s say you’re standing in line at the grocery store with your children.  There are two guys behind you, cussing and telling crass stories that everyone, including your children, can hear.  They have no shame for their sins, in fact, they seem to revel in them.  What is your reaction?  Do you just wait until you’re in the car and then privately tell your children that what they heard was wrong?

2 Kings chapter 22 tells about a king the likes of which the kingdom of Judah had never seen before.  King Josiah wanted nothing more than to please the Lord.  He raised enough money to start some serious renovations of the temple.  One day, the man in charge of overseeing the renovations found a copy of the Books of the Law and brought them to the king.  Here was the king’s reaction to hearing the Law of the Lord.

“When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.'”  (2 Kings 22:11-13 NLT)

King Josiah was brought to the point of despair at the knowledge that he and his kingdom was not doing everything the Lord had commanded them to do.  The rest of that chapter and all of the next go on to say that he effected a massive religious reform in Judah, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before.  He removed everything that resembled another god, anything that could be worshipped other than the one, true God.

He didn’t just repent, he tore his clothes and felt deep despair.  He felt about sin the way God feels about sin.  He was repulsed by it, deeply offended by it.  And upon realization of the sin of his country, he spent years cleansing the land of the evil they had turned to.  I believe that there are two major applications for us.  First, we need to rid our lives of things that cause us to sin.  Paul tells us to run away from temptation, (2 Timothy 2:22) not bring it into our lives and hope we are spiritual enough to overcome it.  If you find something is replacing your God-time, perhaps it’s time to get it out of your life and replace it with God.  Don’t let the false gods of today (television, computer games, work, cleanliness) take your focus off of your relationship with God.  Take the steps to remove them from your life.

Second, we need to take action against passive sins.  These are sins that are not necessarily committed by us, but by those around us.  You can’t stop people from sinning, it’s their choice to either follow God or reject Him.  But there are things we can do in response to those sins.  If we go back to our example in the grocery store, what is the proper response?  I’ll leave that up to you and your conscience.  But for me (as I have been in this position before, as I’m sure most of you have) I would turn around and politely tell them to watch their language around our children.  I wouldn’t boast that I’m a Christian, so we don’t talk that way.  But I would take a stand for the innocence of my children.

If we want God to come into our lives and completely take over, then we need to have the same attitude that He does regarding sin.  We have an amazing example in King Josiah and his reaction to the sins of his kingdom.  He didn’t just sit back and pray for the strength to resist the idols that had been erected all over Judah.  He took action and rid his life and the lives of those under him of any temptation.  He exiled and executed the priests of those false gods. (in our day, this could be as easy as unfriending those who are a bad influence in our lives) We need to follow the example of King Josiah and treat sin the way God does, with contempt.

Lord, please help me to view sin as you do.  Help me rid my life and the lives of my family members of the idols we have erected, of the false gods that consume our time and energy.  Help me to place you and keep you at the center of every part of my day.  Thank you for your faithfulness and love.  Amen.

 

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What Are You Sacrificing?

1424920_32047446I was reading in 2 Kings about the kingdom of Israel and the incredible sins that they had committed shortly before their capture by Assyria.  They would sacrifice to every idol possible, but the most tragic thing that I saw was that they actually sacrificed their children, their own sons and daughters, instead of following the Lord.

It really got me thinking.  What do we sacrifice when we avoid calling on the Lord?  I’ve heard the question phrased, ‘what do we sacrifice for the Lord?’ but I want to talk about what we sacrifice when we forget to turn to the Lord.  Any time we don’t call on the Lord, whether for help or in an attitude of gratitude, we are sacrificing something that God wants to gives us.

If we try to tackle tough situations on our own, then we are giving up the hope and peace that God promises us in Matthew chapter 11.  “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bare, and the burden I give you is light.”

God wants us to go to Him in times of trouble.  He wants us to trust Him with our trials, when we’re week.  For it’s in our weakness that His glory is able to shine in our lives.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  So we need to call on Him, otherwise we are not only sacrificing hope and peace, but a chance to show God’s glory in our lives.

Conversely, if we fail to praise God during our victories in life, then we are sacrificing a joy that can not be expressed.

“Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us.  What joy!” (Psalm 126:3 NLT)

God wants us to experience great joy in our lives, but what joy is there when we celebrate victories apart from the only One who can truly give joy.  Any victory apart from God is empty and meaningless.  It’s only through rejoicing in what He has done for us that we can experience a joy previously unknown and unexperienced.

We sacrifice more by failing to call on God than we do by trusting in Him.  The promises and gifts that God wants to bestow on us because of our faith in Him are unattainable if we turn our backs on Him when we should be calling out His name.

Dear Lord.  I pray that you will help me to remember your part in everything that happens in my life.  I want to call on your promise to give me an abundant life by praising you in good times and calling for your help in the tough times.  Help me to acknowledge you in every part of my life, and I pray that you will be glorified by the way I live.  Amen.

 

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Testimonial Follow-Up: How to Weave God into Our Everyday Lives

779640_30359765After I spoke on Sunday, several people have come forward and asked me to be more specific about how to weave God into their lives. First of all, for those who may not have been there to hear what I was speaking about. In summary, I have gone through a few rough spots in my life and I have found, through diligence in Scriptural study, that an important aspect of getting peace in your life in to weave God into every aspect of it. I used Isaiah 40:31, “For those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” The word ‘wait’ in that verse is the Hebrew word ‘qavah,’ which literally means to bind together like a rope. This does not mean to tie something up, but rather to take four or more smaller strands and weave them together into one strong rope.

This is the interesting part of that verse. Because a lot of people, like myself, have been waiting for the renewing of the strength and mounting up with wings. We were tired of growing weary and fainting on the road to wherever we were going. But, as I shared, I neglected the first part of the verse; the part where I had something to do. I realized, through God’s grace, that I needed to bring God into every aspect of my life, weave Him in. After I had begun to do that, things started changing. My lows didn’t seem so low anymore and became manageable. The scary moments in life became less terrifying when I knew that God was by my side. But the best part is the enduring peace that comes over me during good times and bad because every second of every day, God is right beside me, waiting to comfort me when I need it and overflow my cup with joy when the occasion calls for it.

So, now, down to the practical part: How do you weave God into every part of your life?

Let me just say that I have by no means arrived and I am not claiming to be the authority on this subject. All I can do is share with you what I have learned and am applying to my life, and hopefully this will be able to bless you and can apply it to your lives as well. Instead of cramming everything into one, incredibly long and drawn out post, I’ll split this up over a few days and you can pick and choose what you want to read.

The first way to weave God into your lives is to acknowledge Him in everything.

Verbalization makes it real. Take every moment possible to thank God for something, or acknowledge that He is with you. For example: if you get a coupon in the mail for a buy one get one at your favorite restaurant, don’t let your response be “Sweet! What a great day this is going to be.” (Not that anyone would speak in such a robotic and monotone way) But instead, force your first words to be, “Praise the Lord!”

By verbalizing the fact that you are praising God, it makes it real in your life. To acknowledge God’s presence in your life is to affirm that He is actually there in your own mind. It’s easy to forget about God during the hustle and bustle of life. But if you force your self to praise His name or call on it in times of trouble, you will find that He will emerge as the first thought that comes to mind when you really need Him, and when you don’t think that you do.  He is always present in our lives as believers, but if we don’t acknowledge His presence, we are doomed to forget that He is here at all.  Don’t let God slip from your mind!

Lord, I pray that we will always acknowledge your presence in our lives.  It is so comforting to know that you ‘will never leave us or abandon us.’  I call on that promise today and I pray that each person who reads this will make the conscious effort to keep you at the forefront of their minds.  Amen.

 

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