Category Archives: Evangelism

Do I Really Hear?

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.’” (Is 6:8-10)

This passage seems crazy!  Why would our patient, long suffering God tell Isaiah to preach this message?  It’s a total downer.  It’s like God didn’t want his people to repent.

I think this only makes sense if we realize that God doesn’t have unlimited patience.  We so much get this idea in our heads that no matter how long someone ignores the Lord, they can repent in the end and it will be okay.

And one one hand, this is true.  Jesus told a parable (Matthew 20) about workers in a vineyard, and how some began working in the beginning of the day, some in the middle, and some at the very end.  They all got the same pay, no matter when they came.  And this means that everyone who repents and obeys the teachings of Jesus will go to heaven, no matter when in their life they repent.

But there’s another principle that is also true, and it’s that there comes a point when God has given people, especially a nation of people, chance after chance, and their time runs out.  I believe that’s the message Isaiah was given to preach.  Time was running out for the Jews.

Jesus told a different parable in which a land owner went away, and left tenant farmers in charge of his land.  The owner kept sending servants to get his share of the crops, and the tenant farmers kept killing the servants so they could keep it all for themselves.  Finally the owner sent his son, thinking they would respect him.  But the tenant farmers killed the son as well.  Jesus asked the religious leaders what they thought would happen to these tenants.  The leaders said the tenants would be put to death, and the land would be leased to others. Jesus told them the same would be true for them, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)  God had sent prophets to his people and they didn’t listen.  He sent his son, and they still wouldn’t listen.  So God’s patience with them would come to an end.

I think this commentary by Matthew Poole sums up God’s thoughts in Isaiah 6 well, “Their time of conversion and healing is past; it is now too late, I will not convert, I will not heal them.”

Now it makes sense why Jesus quoted Isaiah 6 and said to his disciples, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’”  (Luke 8:10)  

By speaking in parables instead of plain language, God, through Jesus, actually made it difficult for the Jews to understand the gospel.  It was like God was saying to the them, “You reap what you sow.  Because you wouldn’t listen for so long, now you won’t be able to hear.”

Man, that’s hard! It’s a side of God we need to try and understand.

And the lesson for us in this is that it’s vitally important to learn how to listen better.  In the same passage where Jesus taught about Isaiah 6, he used phrases like, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear, ” and, “Take care then how you hear.”  (Luke 8:8b, 18a) He told the parable of the soils and concluded, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)

Can we be good soil, better hearers than the Jewish nation of old?

This is exactly what I need to focus on at this point in my life.  You see, I’ve started life coaching, and I’ve been struggling to be effective at it.  And the feedback I’ve been getting is that I need to learn to stop worrying about saying the right thing to the client, because then I’m not listening to them.

And I’m seeing that can also play out in my day to day living.  I get so busy performing, and thinking about what I’m supposed to do, that I forget to listen to God.  It becomes about me, and not about HIM.

But I’m learning to listen better.  And I want to pass this on to you.  Here are some ways to be a good hearer.

  1. Look for what God is doing.  Have the attitude of Jesus, who said, “The son can do nothing by himself.  He can only do what he sees the Father doing.”  (John 5:19)
  2. Listen to God in prayer.  Have a time in your devotional when you stop speaking and open your ears to spiritual promptings.
  3. Be reactive, instead of proactive.  Don’t be so set on your agenda that you can’t go with what God puts on your plate.
  4. Be open, instead of closed. A closed person hides behind walls of self protection.  An open person is like Mary, who said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be to me as you have said.”  (Luke 1:38)
  5. Read the Bible with the intent of understanding God’s heart.
  6. Clean out the gunk in your heart that keeps you distracted, like worries, hurts, anger, bitterness, and loving the world.
  7. Touch base with the Spirit frequently.  Envision that each breath fills you with the Spirit.  Let every plan and action flow from that, like exhaling.

Today, just as in the days of Isaiah, God wants everyone to hear, despite the state of their hearts.  That’s why he commissions us in the same way he commissioned Isaiah.

Will we respond to this commission as Isaiah did, saying, “Here am I, send me!”

Will we go out and tell others, even when they’re not receptive?  That’s what Isaiah had to do.  That’s what it feels like I do when I share my faith.

But I I have to admit that when I persevere, I always find that one person who has a more open heart.

And that’s the last piece we can learn about God in this discussion.  Yes, he made it difficult for the Jews to hear and be healed.  But he knew that a few of his people would understand and respond to the gospel.   The whole nation of Israel would not be converted.  But a handful of invididuals would get it.

And this small group would be enough to impact the world for eternity.

So we have to take the same attitude.  We can go out and share our faith, and hundreds of people won’t get it.  But there IS that one heart out there who will.  There might even be others who will remember later, and respond.

And the few who do, will change the world.

That’s why we go, as Isaiah did.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Luke 10:2

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A Remedy for the Refugee

People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor.

The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.

A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say,

“You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!”

But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy.

I have no food or clothing in my house;

do not make me the leader of the people.”  Is 3:5-7

I’ve been reading beautifully written novel about Syrian refugees.  It really brings home to me what it would be like to lose everything we take for granted — our  home, food, schooling.

It reminds me of this passage above.  Isaiah prophesied about a tumultuous time when people would oppress and destroy one another.  All would be laid waste, like rubble.  If this isn’t a description of a Syria, I don’t know what is.  I’m not saying this prophesy was about Syria, only that Syria gives us a good picture of what this passage is describing.

Here is a picture of Syria right now:

Syria

 

And here is a video with a view of what it is like to be a Syrian refugee.

Two of the Syrians who were interviewed in the video said, “We used to be comfortable and safe all day.  Now we have to stay here with nothing to do.. . . There is no water, you have to buy it.  Now you can’t get anything you need.  It is difficult to buy bread because we don’t have enough money.”

Over six million Syrians have been displaced.  It is estimated that 10,000 more Syrians become refugees each day.  They struggle for even their basic needs, and families are reported to spend up to twenty percent of their income on clean water.

We can see the hopelessness.  We can see the heartbreak.

It is as the verse in Isaiah 3 says, “I have no remedy.”  Or a more literal translation is, “I will not be a healer. In my house there is neither bread nor cloak.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about people’s souls.  For a long time, my dream has been for our church to grow, for it to be a place where people could come and find shelter from the world, could find wholehearted joy in God, and could worship in spirit and in truth.

But lately I haven’t been doing anything to help the church grow.  I haven’t been reaching out to people and inviting them.

And as I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that my goal needs to be more than growing the church.  It needs much more be to reach out to people’s souls.  I need to long for each soul to be saved.

You know, when Jesus saw the people of his day, his heart went out to them.  He didn’t just condemn them for their poor decisions or their worldliness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

I so need to be more like Jesus!  People are like refugees on the inside, bereft, wandering, needy.  They need healing, and I have a remedy for those who would listen.

But it’s hard to be the worker who reaches out. I told myself this morning when I went to a kids’ consignment sale that I would open my mouth and share my faith.  I talked to two people, but didn’t get any further.  My motivation just wasn’t great enough.

And then I remembered that I have heard many, many people say that they were praying to know God better, or praying for a church, and within a few days someone shared with them.  And I thought, the next person I meet could be one of those people!  They could be the person God put in my path for a reason.

So when I went to pick up my groceries from Kroger ClickList this afternoon, I asked the young woman who loaded up my bags if she would like an invitation to church.  She told me about her church, and how she has a daughter who is 14 who feels called to the ministry, and the daughter has already given a couple of messages to the children in the elementary school ministry.  It was a heart warming story.  I don’t know if me sharing with the woman made a difference in her life, but it enriched me!

Let’s reach out more.

Maybe we will find someone who is searching.

Maybe there’s a little refugee in all of us, and we can touch one another’s souls.

 

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Fix the Bad or Spread the Good?

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

There is so much strife in the world.  Right now, what I see is politics.  I intensely dislike the antagonism there.  My Republican friends post on Facebook about how stupid the Democrats are.  The Democrats post about how dumb the Republicans are.  It is just so hateful, so inconsiderate.

But this is nothing compared to the conflict all over the world.  It is utterly disturbing to see the fighting in Syria, the Middle East, and other places — people killing one another, full  of rage and antagonism, over and over, without end.

Looking at the above passage in Mark 13, there is a huge contrast between the strife foretold, and the building of God’s kingdom.  One makes it seem like the world is falling apart, and the other speaks of a kingdom that is GROWING through all the hardship.  One is bad news, the other is good news.

So does Jesus want us to fix the bad news, or does he want us to focus on the good news?

I think it’s obvious he wants us to focus on the good news.  Look at the wording of verse 10 again:  “And the gospel MUST FIRST be preached to all nations.”  That is the priority of Jesus. He doesn’t once say they should engage in the wars, or even fight it if they are arrested.

No, in fact, they are to use the conflict they encounter as a platform to be WITNESSES.

I think the same should be true today.  Our main focus should be on the spreading of the gospel, not in fixing the wrongs of the world.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think there’s a place for righting injustices. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.  Isa 1:17a 

And most definitely we need to serve the poor and needy.  After all, pure religion is to take care of the orphans and widows. (James 1:27)  Jesus said that in caring for “the least of these” — the sick, the hungry, those in prison — we are caring for him.  And Isaiah said about true fasting: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”  Isa 58:7

But the gospel MUST be preached.  I guarantee, most of us want to put it on the back burner instead of the front.

So what is the “gospel?”   I looked through the first few chapters of Mark to see what good news Jesus was telling people, and I found almost nothing.  The only thing I saw was this:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”  Mark 1:14-15

The good news was that it was time for the kingdom of God to come.

And what did the kingdom mean to the Jews?  They thought God would make them a sovereign nation, as He did in the time of David and Solomon.  They would be an empire, great on earth.

But this wasn’t the kingdom Jesus was bringing.  Even if we don’t see him describing it, we can see what he was doing.  Jesus was amazing people with new teachings about God.  He was casting out demons.  He was healing the sick.  He was forgiving sin.

And that shows us that actually, JESUS was the good news.  He was the kingdom that was coming.  The king, God, was WITH men as never before.

Sure, God was with his people in times of old.  He told Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”  (Joshua 1:5)

But God wasn’t with men in a physical sense, as He was when Jesus came to earth.  And what a powerful time it was!  Demons were conquered.  Sin was forgiven.  Words of life were spoken.  Needs were met.  Bread was multiplied.  Love was manifest.

God was with them.  That was the good news.  And, of course, it became even better news than that, because Jesus made a way for people to be WITH God always.

So whether there were disasters or wars, or any manner of catastrophes, Jesus ushered in a time when it didn’t matter what was going on, because the Almighty God was WITH them.  He didn’t come to bring an end to their suffering.  He came to bring them power amidst the suffering.  THAT was the good news.

And it still is the good news.  Last night Ken and I were praying with our friends, Mike and Carol.  I confess, that when it gets to be about 8 PM, I am just gutting it out sometimes.  I love my friends, and I love to pray to God.  But I’m tired.  And so my prayers can be listless.  But last night I remembered the good news.  The powerful God was with me!  And I KNEW He would do exciting things because of our prayers.  So I started to be infused with strength and excitement.  I felt alive.

The gospel is such good news.  I could go on an on about the hope we have, the impossible prayers that have been answered, the miracle being a part of the family of God.  It’s not lackluster, it’s HUGE and glorious.

Thus, the gospel must be preached.  It is bigger than any catastrophe, because no matter what happens, we can be WITH God.  People need to know this truth that will transform them forever.

May this calling swell in our hearts.  Let’s not get distracted by ranting about the numerous wrongs in the world.  Yes, let’s seek to right injustices.  Yes, let’s spend ourselves on behalf of the needy.

But let’s also seek to give people the thing that will help them find hope and strength in their difficulties.

Let’s give them the Jesus who will make possible immeasurably more than all they can ask or imagine.

Let’s give them something that will last far beyond the troubles on this earth.

The world will always be falling apart.

With our help, there’s something more.  The kingdom that will always be growing.

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Expecting Providence

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  (Mark 11:1-6)

I love here that Jesus EXPECTS that God will provide the colt.

Yes, it could be that Jesus had it set up ahead of time for the colt to be tied up and ready for him.  But I think if he had done that, he would have had his disciples tell that to the people who questioned them.

No, I think this is purely a faith issue.  Jesus has read the scripture in Zech 9:9 that says, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

And he knows that God is the PROVIDER.  As it says in Genesis 24:14, “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the LORD will provide’). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'”

Jesus knows that God will provide what he needs to fulfill his mission. 

Because God DOES orchestrate life so the right thing is in the right place at the right time.

This has certainly been true in my life.  One day, about four years ago, Liz Chang and I decided to go out sharing.  We met someone in the dairy department at Kroger and had a good conversation with them and invited them to church.  This person is now our wonderful sister in Christ, Markeya.  I believe God put her in Kroger at just the right place and time so she would be met. And I could cite so many more examples of the same thing.

Markeya and me

Markeya and me

We have to believe that Jehovah Jireh, the PROVIDER, will provide us with what we need to carry out our mission, just as he did for Jesus.

After all, God is the good father.  Just like it says in Matthew 7, He’s not going to give us a stone if we ask for bread.  He gives GOOD GIFTS to those who ask!  So if we ask for open people, or for workers, how will He not put them in the right place at the right time?

So I started thinking about this passage on Saturday, and wondered if I could put it into action in regards to my prayer to meet married people.   Ken and I went out for coffee at Mama Mocha’s, as is our Saturday morning habit.  As I was waiting in line, I saw a mature couple sitting at the coffee bar.  “They could be the answer to my prayer,” I told myself.  I caught the woman’s eye and mentioned that my husband and I have coffee together, just like they were doing.  We got to talking about all sorts of things.  (The line was slow that day!)  At the end, she asked me to be her friend on Facebook, and gave me her name!  I had made a new friend!

Now the challenge is for me to act more and more like God is going to provide.

After all, I realized this morning as I was praying,  the challenge isn’t to DO MORE, it’s to HAVE MORE FAITH.  “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.'”  John 6:29

This verse says the same thing:  “Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you because you do the actions of the Law or because you believe what you heard?”  Gal 3:5

It’s HARD work, to believe!  But even when we feel like we don’t have it in us, God is still the provider.  He gives us the Spirit. (Luke 11:13)  He gives us wisdom.  (James 1:5)  We just need to ask.

And God set it up that we would need to ask.

Because here is the crazy thing about carrying out a mission.  We can only do it if we are totally depending on God’s providence.

I mean, look how Jesus sent his disciples out: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.”  Mark 6:8

God wants us to do His work through faith, through Him, not through our own strength.

And He WILL provide what we need to do His work.  We can believe it.  We can EXPECT it.

In that, my soul finds rest.

Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow.  II Cor 9:10

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A Friend a Day #2 — The Target

arrow_on_target

This past weekend felt like a bust, so when Monday came, I was revved up to get out there and try to meet people.

I started at the dry cleaners.  I will say that if I didn’t have a challenge going on, I probably wouldn’t talk much to the person who stands there and gives me my clothes.  But this time I started chatting with the young woman as we conducted business, exchanging comments about the weather.  I mentioned that I had never seen her before, and she said she often works at one of their other locations.  I asked her which location she liked better, and so on.

The good part was, when I invited her to church, she said she was looking for a church in the area!  Now I want to find more things that need dry cleaning so we can work on our friendship!

So I could have been done for the day with sharing, but I wanted more.  Later in the day I went to Publix for milk and eggs.  This was harder.  As I wandered the aisles, I kept finding things I wanted to buy.  I found a nice little plant for only $2.99 that would go perfectly in the monogrammed glass container someone gave me for Christmas.  “Oh, and I need almond butter,” I told myself, going to that aisle and sighing over the poor selection.

Then I shook myself out of my shopping reverie and tried to start conversations.  Everyone was on their cell phones as they pushed their carts.  Finally there was a sweet looking older woman in the cleaning section.  “Oh, I love this sponge thingie,” I said to her as she looked at a dishwashing wand.  “Me too,” she said, and we talked for a moment before she moved on.  “How much are those bags?” I asked another person in the clearance section.  We discussed how we bought the green shopping bags, and then always forgot and left them in the car.  But I couldn’t think of what else to say, and didn’t have the courage to bring up church, so I moved on.

After awhile, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I went to check out.  But even my efforts to share with the clerk were foiled.  The manager came over and bagged my groceries and handed them to me.  I choked.

I was glad that I had tried.  I was also glad that I had spread good cheer, in a sense.  The sweet older woman smiled at me a couple of times as we passed one another in the aisles.

Then in the evening I got with my friend Carol for our discipling time.  Usually we meet at my house, but we decided to go out and have coffee.  We had a great time visiting with the short haired barrista wearing a ball cap.  She told us how she used to manage a mice restaurant in town, but they closed, and she actually made pretty good money working full time at the coffee shop.  She went with us to the jars of loose teas, and we smelled them, and talked about what our favorite ones were.

We gave her an invitation to church.  “Oh, someone else gave me the very same invitation,”  She told us.  “I remember him telling me I made him the best mocha.”

I laughed.  “That would be my husband,” I said.  “He loves mochas.”

It was encouraging.  I don’t know if the barrista will come, but she was interested.  And Carol and I enjoyed the opportunity to share together.

You know, in my last blog, I mentioned how I want to be sharper.  It later occurred to me that in order to be more focused, I have to have something to focus towards.  Sure, I’m going to feel aimless, unless I am aiming at something!

I need to articulate what specifically my objectives are for in the new year.  And I can come up with all kinds of goals, but what is God’s objective for the coming year?  It came to me that it’s simple — God wants people to know Him, I mean really KNOW Him.

That’s my objective too.  And it helps just to define that.  I know more what direction to take.

Mike did a super sermon on Sunday about giving our best to God, not our scraps.  It’s not up yet, but check our web site in the future for it.  The text was Malachi 3:10 —

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

This reminded me of going to Europe and seeing the churches.  They were incredible.

cathedral

Such time and artistic talent went into them.  I felt like they reflected what people thought of God — that they should creates something astoundingly beautiful.  They didn’t just slap together a building in a few days.  They gave their best.  They painstakingly constructed a homage to who God is.

Our lives should be the same way.  If we just give bits and pieces to God, we’re not showing the world how amazing and holy He is. If we live in an excellent way, we declare that God is excellent.

And the more we know God, the more we see how excellent He is.

To know God is to exalt Him, and magnify Him, to want to bow down before him an abject humility, to want to pour ourselves out for Him.  The more we know Him the more we consecrate our lives.

Ken and I have have been listening to Doug Jacoby’s new lessons on Romans.    They are so great!  In them Doug talks about how in Romans 1:19 it says that anyone can know of God: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

And then it says in Romans 1:18 that there are many who suppress the truth.

Let us not suppress the truth, but find ways of speaking it, so that we may increase vital knowledge of God.  For everyone can recognize that there is a God, but few really know Him.  Let us pray to this end.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Eph 1:17

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.  Jer 9:23-24

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A Friend A Day 2015 — A Sharpened Arrow

sharpened arrow

. . .  he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.  Is 49:2

. . . if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Jer.  15:19

Yesterday, I started on my “friend a day” challenge again.  I want so much to share the goodness I have.  The only way to do that is to meet more people.

I believe that God is continually blessing us.  And I believe that one way God gives good things is through each one of us as we give to others.  I need to be the instrument that God can use for bestowing blessings on the world.

So even though it would have been easy to stay at the house yesterday — it was cold, grey and spitting rain all day — I determined I would go out and run a couple of errands.

First of all, I decided that I could not do this on my own.  Yes, I could gut it out by my own strength, but I knew that wouldn’t produce any results.  So I prayed that whatever happened, God would be with me, and focused on that.

My first stop was Target.  I got a large purple plastic tub that was on sale for $5.99 to store Christmas lights in, and some shiny wrapping paper that was 70% off.

Wait!  I was getting distracted.  I reminded myself to stay focused.  I went shopping for people.  I saw a woman with a bleached mop of yellow of hair  trying to find party supplies with her daughter.  “We’ll have to go to Walmart” she said, frustrated, as she looked at the selection of invitations and printed plates.

“Be sure you go to the Walmart that has a good selection of party supplies,” I told her.  “The one in Auburn doesn’t have much to choose from.”

She thanked me and went on her way.  I didn’t share my faith, but I get get my creaky evangelism wheel turning a bit.  I had started a conversation, and I had been helpful to someone.

At Ross, I found a young friendly woman looking at dog beds.  We started talking about our dogs.  She and her boyfriend had just gotten a bulldog mix puppy, and it was sleeping on her boyfriend’s coat.  She couldn’t let that happen, thus her perusal of the canine cushions.  I invited her to church, and she said she had a church, but mine might be a good one to visit in the future.  I gave her an invitation.

Then I talked to the checkout clerk, a slender African American girl, who warmed up and glowed as we started a conversation.  She was very happy to take an invitation to church.

So as I think about how this went, I was happy to get out and try to make something happen.  But I also have some areas I want to work on —

  1.  Care more about people as I talk to them — for instance, I could have asked more about the young woman’s dog, how old it was, was it a good dog, etc.
  2.  Look for people I would want to be my friend.  The young girls are good, and they need to know the gospel.  But I think I shy away from starting conversations with the women more my age.
  3. I would like for there to be more actual faith sharing going on, not just asking someone to church. I would like to have more of a conversation .  What do you like about church?  What are you looking for in a church?  This is what I like about my church.  And so on.

In my life lately, I’ve been dull, amorphous.  I need to be sharper, more focused on specifics.  Although I want to trust and let it be up to God, I have to be intentional as well.  I need to pray for wisdom on what to focus on.  I need to let myself be sharpened by God into an instrument He can use to do His good AND speak worthy words.

Through (Jesus Christ our Lord) we have received God’s kindness and the privilege of being apostles who bring people from every nation to the obedience that is associated with faith. This is for the honor of his name.   Romans 1:5

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Filed under A Friend A Day, Diary, Evangelism

Things I am Learning: People are Like Christmas!

Comfort

1. Satan wants us comfortable.  It has really impressed me, how comfort is one of our biggest enemies. It keeps us from growing, addressing sin, and ultimately, feeling deeply joyful and vibrant.  We get dull.

Let’s FIGHT every day to ADVANCE the kingdom of God.  Just little actions do so much.  Let’s pray harder, with faith.  Let’s address our sins.  Let’s open our mouths more, think of others more, dig deeper in the Bible.  Life can be so exciting and fulfilling if we will shake off the lethargy that settles on us like a cozy blanket.

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion. . . You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.  Amos 1:1,4

word of life

2. Keep offering the gospel to those we know.  Don’t just think, “I talked to them and they weren’t interested.  The door is closed.”  God is working all the time.  This might be the time they’re open.

Sharing the gospel is like a game of Marco Polo.  We keep calling out, and listening for a response.  Like the verse in Ecclesiastes, we keep casting our bread on the waters, sending our ships out to sea, knowing after many days some will return.  We keep planting seeds, KNOWING that God is making some of them grow.

“Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.”  Ecc 11:1

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness.”  Ps 65:1

merry go round

3. Abiding happiness doesn’t come from answered prayer.  Our prayer life can become a merry-go-round  of focusing on what we want to happen, rejoicing when it finally comes to be, and then moving on to the next prayer “need.”  It can become a cycle of want that never ends.

Instead, we need to focus on gratitude.  We need to praise God, and just soak up being in His presence.  We need to rejoice in the moment.

Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me. Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful.  Ps 16:6

Cheryl was just baptized!

Cheryl was just baptized!

4. Resurrect the lost art of friendship.  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

I realize that I’ve forgotten how to be a friend to those closest to me.  Here are things I am working on:

  1. I need to get past the shallow superficiality, sharing of banalities and GET REAL! Talk about what my life has really been like. CONFIDE.
  2. I need to believe that each friend has something for me. It isn’t just me giving to them.  I’m learning to relax, and let the relationship wash over me, meeting my needs. I’m learning that we all need connections.  Sometimes it’s enough to just listen to a friend, appreciate who they are, learn about their life. We simply need the back and forth that is a relationship. It is actually soothing.
  3. I need to reach out to friends more with my little pieces of daily news, my joys and heartbreaks. That is what a friend does.
  4.  I need to do things with my friends more – go shopping, have them over just to hang out.

young pregnant woman enjoying life outdoors in summer

5. God is SUPER excited to have children “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”  James 1:18

I hadn’t thought about it before, but when I meditated on that verse, I realized that we are God’s first true children.  Just as a farmer plants a crop, and eagerly waits for the fruit, God has eagerly waited to have offspring who can actually come into his presence and dwell with Him.  It is incredible to think we are spiritual beings, born of the Word and Spirit.  “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.'”  (Romans 8:15)  “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.”  (Eph 1:4b-5a)

Ken asked me yesterday why I had wanted to have a baby so much.  I had had a miscarriage, and after that, I would have given almost anything to have a child.  I had to think a bit, but I told him that I wanted for our unit to increase.  I had this wonderful togetherness with my husband, but I wanted it to encompass more.  There would be a wonderful togetherness of my husband AND children.

Surely it is the same with God.  The difference is that I longed for children for a short space of time.  When I got pregnant, I only had nine months of anticipation before my child was born.  God waited THOUSANDS of years for us!  Just think how fired up he is!

christmas

6. People are like candy and Christmas.  What is God’s attitude about people?  He thinks each individual is the best thing ever.   “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  Luke 15:7

Look at how the father greeted the prodigal son in the parable in Luke:  “he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20)  God is so excited when we come to him.

In the same way, I need to be more excited when I see people.  God thinks they are super special, and so should I!  I need to treat my time with them like it is a gift.

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Filed under Battle Against Evil, Evangelism, Gratitude, Having the Right Heart, One Another Relationships, Prayer, Self Worth, Things I Am Learning