Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I'm leaving this week to go on vacation so I'm busy getting ready and haven't been able to put together a blog for this week. Hopefully I will get one up late next week when I return home. I hope you are all having a blessed week and thank you so much for reading my blog-it means a lot to me!:)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In my last entry, I explored what evangelism is and why according to God’s Word should Christians evangelize. This entry will focus on how to evangelize or share your faith. There are so many ways we can share our faith from a sit down conversation with a friend or family member, to a conversation with a stranger on an airplane to preaching out on a street corner. As Christians we should be ready at all times to share our faith.
1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart 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,”
Notice the implications of the verse above. As believers there will be a change in us (the hope that we have). Something in us that will prompt others to ask why we have such hope. That something, that hope is Jesus. As we set Him apart in our heart as Lord of our life that inward change is seen by others on the outside. It is our responsibility as Christians to be prepared to answer everyone who asks the reason for the hope we have. And we are to share our faith with them with gentleness and respect.
More often that not I found in my life that sharing my faith does not happen through planned talks it usually occurs when I’m hanging out with a friend, family member or stranger and a question or situation comes up where I have a chance to share God’s truth. In fact, I pray for these opportunities to happen and I pray that I will have the courage and wisdom to give a biblical response. Having said that though I think it is easy as Christians for us to believe that “if God wants me to share my faith someone on the street will come up to me and ask me questions.” And we use this as excuse to not share the gospel with the people right in front of us. God wants all of us to share our faith and we should be active in the process. Seeking out friendships with people God has placed in our path, inviting them to church and outreach events, praying for them and praying that God would steer our conversations toward Him.
So then, how do you your share your faith? I must admit that early in my Christian walk I would present Christianity to people as a way to solve all of their problems. Come to Jesus and your life will be great. It was an easy, pleasant, non-offensive way to share God. The problem is that is not why Jesus came. Jesus didn’t die so I could have a happy life. He died for my sin. Having a personal relationship with Jesus will not solve all your problems. Your life will not be problem free, in fact Jesus said quite the opposite.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
As people with chronic pain and disease we know better than most that in this world we will have troubles. The problem with the way I used to share Jesus is that it didn’t lead people to true repentance. It made people want to know Jesus so that all their problems would be solved and then the minute a problem came up they felt betrayed or mad and jumped ship. About 3 years ago, through the ministry of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, the book The Way of the Master, and learning from my friend Candace’s testimony, my entire view of how to share my faith changed to a Godly perspective. I will try here to briefly go through a biblical way to share your faith but I highly encourage you to research more yourself on http://www.wayofthemaster.com
- The Bad News- When you share your faith you must first identify the problem- sin.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
We have all sinned and our sin separates us from God. There is absolutely nothing we can do to bridge the separation between God and ourselves. On our own merit we fall short and deserve hell. For some people they will be able to look at their lives and see their sin and clearly understand this but for many people their sin isn’t so obvious. In fact they think they are not so bad especially when they compare themselves to other people. The problem is God doesn’t compare us to other people, He compares us to His perfect holy standard. God’s law, the 10 commandments, shows us our sin. It only takes one sin to be a sinner. It doesn’t matter how sorry you are for your past, it doesn’t matter how great you are now. You may volunteer your time and give your money to charity and none of that will get you to heaven. Your good works can’t save you. This is the bad news.
- The Good News- The good news (gospel) is that Jesus came to bridge the gap between man and God. Jesus came to earth lived a perfect, sinless life and died on the cross for your sins. Three days later he rose from the dead, triumphing over sin and death. Putting our faith in Him is the only way your sins can be forgiven.
1 John 2:2
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1 John 1:8-10
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
1 John 5:1
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.”
3. Evidence of a changed life- When a person confesses their sins, turns away from sin (repents) and asks Jesus to forgive their sins and become Lord of their lives they become a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
As a new creation in Christ there is evidence of your life being changed:
I. Turning from sin and obeying God- we have new desires, a hate for sin, and passion to please and serve God with our lives.
1 John 2:3
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”
II. There is evidence of the fruits of the spirit in the life of the believer.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
“Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
There is so much more that can be said about the changes that take place in the life of the believer and perhaps that is a study for another time. The biggest thing I think God wants each of us to take from this study is what exactly does it mean to be saved and how as a Christians do we share the message of salvation to a non- Christian in a biblical way that will lead to true repentance. I pray that this study will encourage you to examine your own life in light of God’s Word and for Christians I pray that God will give you a passion for the lost and will use you to bring many to Himself. Remember don’t believe the lie that your health dictates the ability for God to use you. God specializes in using the weakest among us!
Questions to Consider:
1. Before we can share our faith we have to know that we are saved ourselves. As you go through these steps (recognizing our sin in light of God’s standards, yielding our life to Jesus the only forgiveness for sin, and seeing our life as a new creation in Christ) has your perspective changed on what it means biblical to be saved?
2. How have you shared your faith in the past? Is it different from how you share in now or will share in the future?
3. Read James 2:19 (http://www.biblegateway.com if you don’t have a Bible). This verse always surprises me and humbles me. It puts it into perspective that it is not enough that we believe but we must surrender and yield ourselves to Jesus. What is your reaction to this verse?
4. If you are a Christian how is your life different now than it was before?
http://www.wayofthemaster.com - tons of resources on evangelism!
My friend Candace’s ministry: http://www.candacecameronbure.net/index.php
As we dive into these next two entries it is my prayer that as you study along that God will stir in the hearts of Christians a passion to share the gospel with the lost. For those of you following along who do not have a personal relationship with God I pray that God will use this study in your life as a turning point where you choose to follow Him. As always any and all questions are welcome!
About a year ago I had the privilege of hearing an amazing Godly woman speak at my church. She’s an older woman probably nearing her eighties who has spent decades as a missionary in Brazil. I was so overwhelmed and encouraged by this woman’s commitment to give her entire life over to the Lord for His work to be done here on earth. She inspired me to want to live each day of my life yielding all of myself to God’s will and His plan. This woman’s example confirmed to me one thing I know to be true whether you live in the jungles of Brazil or the suburbs of America -every Christian is called to be a missionary. No, not every Christian is called by God to move to an unknown land to share the gospel but every Christian is called to serve as a missionary to those people God has put in our path. Put simply, evangelism is sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus. As Christians, there are no magic words to say or things we can do to “win” people for Christ. Jesus alone is the one who saves. The amazing thing is as Christians we have the privilege and honor of being used by God to share the gospel with people who don’t know Him. Sometimes we will have the enormous blessing of seeing that person accept Christ and sometimes we may be the one who plants the seed that ultimately leads them to Christ later on. Evangelism is not just for pastors or “super-Christians” it is for all believers. All of us have people in our lives that are lost and need the Savior. Being able to share the gospel is not just a privilege, but also a command.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
These are our marching orders as Christians. It is our awesome, amazing responsibility to share the gospel not out of some legalistic duty but out of obedience to Christ’s command and the yearning of our heart to see people know Jesus. If you don’t have this yearning and passion is your life to see others know Him pray for that passion and urgency to be placed in your heart.
So if you’re anything like me at this point you’re probably feeling pretty inadequate to share the gospel. The surprising good news is that on your own you ARE inadequate. As a Christian God will empower you and equip you through the Holy Spirit that lives inside you giving you everything you need to share the gospel with those around you. When we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:10) and allow ourselves to be totally surrendered to God, He will infuse us with strength to do things, go places and talk to people we would never otherwise do. As a person, I used to be (and sometimes still am:) an anxious and worried but by the strength and grace of God I have traveled to places I never imagined I would and shared the gospel with people despite how nervous I was or how it might make me look and I did it all only through the strength of God. Even if you are homebound a lot from pain or disease remember there is still a role for you. You can use the Internet to evangelize friends, family, or even complete strangers. You can also pick up the phone or meet a friend for coffee or lunch that the Lord has placed on your heart. As you spend time with people, pray and ask God to change the conversation and open up a door for the gospel to be shared and for Him to give you the words to speak. I know for most people not knowing what to say or saying the wrong thing is their biggest fear. In my next blog entry I will talk about how to share the gospel in a biblical way that will lead to true repentance.
Questions to consider:
1. Why should Christians share the gospel?
2. Do you have a heart to see lost people know Jesus? If not, ask the Lord to give you a heart for the lost, He will!
3. How did you accept Christ? Who was the person or ministry put in your path to share the gospel with you?
4. Who has been put in your path to share the gospel with? Ask the Lord to show you people around you who need Jesus and what to say to them. This could be relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers etc.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
In honor of Valentine’s Day this Saturday (or Singles Awareness Day as I prefer to call it:) I decided to depart from my normal style of blogging on being a Christian while enduring chronic pain and decided to do a blog entry on the topic of love. Not the kind of “love” found in cheesy, girly movies (which I love by the way) but real love as the Bible defines it. Love is a very important topic in God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 there is a whole section devoted to defining what love is and is not. In Matthew 22:36-39 it says:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
If loving God is the first and greatest commandment then I want to know, how then do we love God? The Bible says we show God we love Him by obeying His commands (1 John 5:3a). We can tell God all we want that we love Him but our actions reveal the true condition of our heart. We must obey Him even when its tough or we don’t feel like it. We don’t obey out of some legalistic ritual or to win favor with God. We obey out of genuine love for our Savior and a desire to please Him. There are times when obedience is tough. In my own experience when my feelings aren’t lining up with obedience or I just plain don’t want to obey, I have to make a choice to obey anyways. God knows what He’s talking about and I trust that if He tells me not to do something I’d be smart to listen. Sometimes just choosing to obey anyways will alone begin to change my heart to desire God’s way. When its really tough I pray and ask God to change my feelings to line up with His Word. Certainly the God who parted the Red Sea and saved me from my sin is capable of changing the heart of little old me when I pray and ask Him to. As Christians we have victory to overcome the temptation to sin and disobey God by relying on the Holy Spirit who lives within us. (1 John 5:3-5, 1 Corinthians 10:13)
So if the second commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves then how do we truly love others the way God wants us to? First we must recognize that love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and our ability to love others, especially difficult people, can only come through relying on the power of God that lives within us a Christians. The Bible says that God is love ( 1 John 4:16) and our ultimate example of how to love others comes from Jesus Himself. It says in Romans 5: 8:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Using Jesus’ example we are to love others in a sacrificial way even when people don’t deserve our love. Who are you having a difficult time loving? A friend? A rebellious child? Your spouse? Pray and ask God to show you practical ways to show them love through your words, attitude and actions. As an aside to those of you who are married especially, I highly recommend the movie Fireproof. Its out on dvd now. Its an incredible movie that shows how even the most damaged marriage can be changed through relying on God and choosing to love your spouse even when its difficult and not reciprocated.
So this Saturday as you celebrate what has become just another greeting card holiday to many take the time to remember what the Bible says about love and then take the time to examine yourself. Are you showing the love of Christ to those He’s put in your life? In what relationships are there changes you need to make?
Are you showing God that you love Him through obedience to His Word? In what area of your life are you disobeying God? Pray and ask God to forgive you of your sin and then make a choice to turn from that sin. Regardless of how long you’ve been a Christian there are always going to be areas of our lives that could be more fully yielded to God and His will. Also no matter what you’ve done or are doing there is nothing beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 :
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Choose today to be the day of new beginnings in your love for God and those in your life. Love is a beautiful thing because its something we can all do regardless of the pain you may be in or the struggles you may face daily. You are still capable of showing the love of Christ in your own unique way. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
“For I know the plans I have for, “ declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
Why when God’s word was so clear did I refuse to believe it? Maybe you are in the same situation that I was in now. You know God has plans for your life. You know He can use you but yet you cling to the sadness over your circumstances. What I have found to be true (and constantly have to remind myself of) is that no matter what challenging circumstances get heaped on you, don’t believe the lie that there isn’t a plan and a purpose for your life. In fact as a Christian there is a role that only you, in the way God designed you, can play. In the Bible, Christians are referred to as the body of Christ. Read along in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 starting in verse 12 (if you don’t have a Bible you can read at www.biblegateway.com). In this passage, Paul starts off by saying, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (v.12). This passage goes on to discuss how just in the same way a human body has many unique parts all working together so it is with the body of Christ. In your human body, if one part decided to stop working, the entire body would suffer so it is when one member of the body of Christ decides to stop doing their particular part…we all suffer.
Are you doing your part in the body of Christ? Where does God want you to serve? Maybe its children’s ministry at church, maybe starting a Bible study for women in your neighborhood, maybe its re prioritizing your life and schedule to make sure your husband and kids are your primary ministry as they should be. Don’t limit God and the creativity of how He can use you. Don’t believe the lie that just because you’re in pain or have health problems that somehow you can’t serve or that you’re exempt from service. The Bible says neither. Please don’t take this as a guilt trip either. I’m not talking about serving in the body of Christ just to look busy or impress or please others. I’m talking about believing God’s word when it says He has a plan for your life and then going and doing the part that only you can do.
God can use you in exactly the state you’re in when you rely fully on Him and allow Him to work through you. Pray and ask God to show you where and how He wants you to serve in the body of Christ. As I prayed and sought God in my own life, He has blessed me with unique service opportunities that were perfect for the gifts He’s given me and the limitations I face. For the last six years I have been involved in co-leading an online Bible study and more recently doing some writing and public relations for my church as well as starting this blog as another form of online ministry. The Lord is using the unique gifts and education He’s given me in writing and public relations and using it for His glory in a format (online) that works with the limitations I have. Doing ministry online allows me to work at my own pace in spite of the pain and allows me the privilege of sharing Jesus with people all over the world without ever leaving my house. I feel very blessed for the opportunities the Lord has given me and continues to give me to serve Him especially online. In many ways I’m so thankful for the pain and limitations because its opened up doors of ministry that I likely wouldn’t have been involved in if I was a “normal” pain-free person working a regular 9 to 5 schedule. God knows exactly what He’s doing and if we let Him, He will use even the worst parts of our life for His glory.
If you are a follower of Jesus are you fulfilling your unique role in the body of Christ? If not this week I challenge you if you aren’t involved in an area of regular ministry to pray and ask God to reveal to you where He wants you to serve and then choose to trust Him to give you the strength and ability to do what He’s called you to do.