Changing Our Christmas Message

It’s December. The month where we as Christians proclaim our sacred message of…outrage. Wait what!?  Yep, you read that right. Outrage.

Outrage, because some people won’t say, “Merry Christmas”. Instead, they’ll say “Happy Holidays” or (God-forbid) nothing at all. Outrage, because some people won’t even write out the word “CHRISTmas” but instead will use the dreaded substitute, “X-mas”. Outrage, because a secular company like Starbucks won’t even use Christian language or symbols on their cups. Oh the humanity!

What could be worse than living in a world where non-Christians don’t respect Christian traditions? How about a world where our message of outrage is the very thing keeping Hell-bound souls from hearing about Christ?

That would be worse.

So this December let’s stop the outrage. Let’s not fall into the Devil’s trap. Let’s not do anything that will take away from the beauty, the goodness, and the truth of the Christmas message. Let’s not do it.

We can, and should be, Christians who still say, “Merry Christmas” to others. Even if others won’t say it to us.

But let us also be Christians who listen to the Holy Spirit. Let us also be Christians who use our words and actions to reflect Jesus. Let us also be Christians who spread a message of hope (rather than outrage).

What might this look like?

In their own words, here’s how the Holy Spirit recently led three members of Fellowship to embody and spread a different message this season:

Carmen said: I was driving to Wendy’s for lunch and I passed the line of people waiting in camping chairs outside of Active Faith. My heart beat a little faster and the Holy Spirit said, “You should get something for them too.” So I added 10 cheeseburgers to my order and handed them out before continuing on my way.

Ben said: I was given by God an opportunity to share with a coworker about the importance of memorizing and meditating on Scripture, because good works can only be accomplished if I put good words into my mind.  What we put into us is what will come out.  This stuck with him.  He started asking more questions, because I explained how the Bible is divinely inspired, and is the best presentation of the one true God that I can examine for myself routinely.  He asked about justice and goodness, turning the other cheek, and why Jesus’ death was any different from other people who have been crucified.  I am sure that this was orchestrated by God, and that God can use this conversation to steer my friend’s life toward Him.  Amen!

Meredith said: I felt like God was calling me to reach out more to the moms of my daughters’ best friends. One thing led to another over the course of a couple of days, and now we’re all getting together at one of Cindi Jackson’s “Paint and Patter” classes for a girls night out. I’m looking forward to seeing where God takes me with this and how these relationships can strengthen and grow.

So how might the Holy Spirit want to lead you?

If we’re willing to give up our “right” to be outraged, I believe we can expect the Holy Spirit to lead us.

He’ll lead us to be Christ to others.

He’ll lead us to share Christ with others.

He’ll lead us to partake in and present the greatest message of all- the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This December, will you allow Him to lead you?

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Every Question Is A Personal Question

The other week a student at SLHS asked me a question that comes up a lot in evangelism: what about the person that never had the chance to hear about Jesus? How can God send that person to Hell?

Now, like I said, this question comes up a lot, so I went into one of my typical answers. I talked about God’s sovereignty over all creation, and how all people have been given the ability to see that God exists and respond. And then how God, before he created anything, knew that if he gave all people free will some of those people would never in any possible scenario receive his free offer of grace. Therefore when he did create them he was free to put them in places where they would never hear about Jesus.

I think that is where I lost him. Actually, I know that is where I lost him because he said out loud, “That’s BS!” (Except he didn’t use the abbreviation). No, it’s not BS— it’s Christian philosophy at its best. Nevertheless, that didn’t really matter.

So I said to him with a laugh, “So you’re not convinced?”

And this is where the conversation took a turn. As we continued to talk he mentioned that all of his family is Buddhist. Ah, now things made sense. He wasn’t just asking some abstract philosophical question, he was asking a very personal question. He wanted to know if his family, who in his mind had never heard about Jesus, was going to Hell. That is a very different kind of question.

The mistake I made is a mistake that is often easy to make when talking to people about matters of faith. It is easy to talk about and respond to matters of salvation in the abstract. It is easy to do because often the person asking the question poses the question in this way as a means to protect him or herself.

But what I had forgotten that day is there are no purely abstract philosophical questions when it comes to matters of salvation. Every question asked is a personal question because the answer will always affect the questioner in a personal way. It may affect how they think about their own eternity, or it may affect how they think about eternity for others—but in both cases, the answer matters to them. If it didn’t they would not have asked the question.

When the student asked the question, I should have responded in a more personal way. Here are some examples of what I could have said.

  • “Wow that’s a really great question. It sounds like you are concerned about God’s fairness. If God is fair, how do you think God views you?”
  • Or “Wow that’s a great question. What led you to think about that question?”
  • Or “Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but if you really want to know, I’d be happy to get back to you with an answer. But what about you? It seems God is wanting to tell you about Jesus. Do you know what Jesus has done for you?”

I’m grateful that God is bigger than my mistakes and missed opportunities. But hopefully this article will help you and me to remember whenever someone asks us a question about salvation, that question is always a personal question. So we need to pray (sometimes in the moment) and ask God to show us how to respond with a personal, not just philosophical, answer.

Sharing The Gospel Can Be Easier Than You Think

How much do you have to know to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

The answer is not a whole lot.

The important thing is not knowing a lot, but knowing where to go.

Think of a gospel-conversation like walking with friends along a path and making a few stops along the way. Your job is simply to walk with them in conversation and lead them to the right stops. Then at each stop give them an opportunity to respond.

What are the key stops on the path?

Stop #1 God’s Law.

Stop #2 God’s Judgement.

Stop #3 God’s Grace.

Stop # 4 God’s Offer.

What might this look like?

Watch this video:

Did you notice how the conversation was build around six key questions?

  1. Do you think you are a good person?
  2. Have you every broken one the Ten Commandments?
  3. If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on the Day of Judgement do you think you’d be guilty or innocent?
  4. Do you think you’d go to Heaven or Hell?
  5. Do you know what God did for sinners so that you don’t have to go to Hell?
  6. Are you willing to receive God’s gift, repent and to trust Jesus?

Did you notice how the questions lead the person to consider God’s law, God’s judgment, God’s grace and God’s offer?

The conversation took a few turns but ultimately it kept coming back to the four key stops. And that is all you have to do when sharing Gospel with others–take them to the stops.

I didn’t originate this method, and I definitely don’t think it is the only way to share Jesus with others. But it is one way. And it is a way that is easy and clearly points to our need for Jesus.

So try it out and then tell me how it goes.

And if you have a favorite method of Gospel-sharing put in the comments. And let others  know.

Blessings,

 

Saint Patrick’s Story

The story of Saint Patrick is a great story.

I think it’s one every Christian should know.

Because the story of Saint Patrick points us to the Gospel story.

Patrick lived in Britain in the 5th century A.D. He grew up in a Christian home, yet was not a believer.

At the age of sixteen Patrick was captured by a group of Irish pirates. He was taken to Ireland and enslaved.

Yet, it was in slavery that the Lord met Patrick.

In his book The Confessions, Patrick says that the Lord had mercy on him and gave him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins.

Patrick received the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness and was forever changed. So changed, that he pursued God with a new passion.  In The Confessions he writes:

“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn.

But that was only the beginning. After six years of slavery God gave Patrick a vision that led Patrick to freedom. Once free, Patrick returned to Britain and devoted his life to God.

He studied to become a priest and then a bishop. Then God gave Patrick a new vision–return to Ireland and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

Now is his twenties Patrick, returned to Ireland. For 40 years he shared the good news of Jesus with the Irish. He suffered and endured many hardships. Yet in the end, God used him to convert thousands of people and plant many churches all over Ireland.

It’s a great story. And it’s a Gospel story.

Patrick knew he needed a Savior. Patrick knew what he had been saved from. Patrick knew he had received God’s grace. And because of that Patrick responded to God’s call to share God’s grace with others.

The story of Saint Patrick reminds us that at one time we, like Patrick, were all slaves…slaves to sin. That it was in our slavery that Jesus met us.  Offered us forgiveness. Offered us freedom. And Jesus did all this so that we could pursue Him and help set others free.

So this Saint Patrick’s Day let us take a moment to meditate on Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and freedom. And let us take a moment to thank God for the grace he has shown us. Then maybe, just maybe, we might find our story becoming like Saint Patrick’s story. One that points others to the Gospel story.

Who’s My Neighbor?

I’m reading a very convicting book right now. It’s called The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. It begins by asking the reader to play the following game:

Think about your eight closest neighbors. To do this just imagine a Tic-Tac-Toe game piece. Then put your house in the middle. Next think about the eight houses in the sounding boxes. (Need a visual? Click here).

Now try to answer the following questions about each of your closest neighbors.

1. What are the  names of the people who live in the households represented by each of the other boxes?

2. What are some relevant facts about the people in each house? For example, where were they born? What is their job? What do they like to do?…etc.

3.  What’s something personal you know about each person in each of the houses? For example, what are their dreams? Do they believe in God? What do they fear? Or some other meaningful bit of information that you could only know after a meaningful interaction with them.

 

Take your time…

 

Now, how did you do?

 

Yeah, my sheet was mostly blank too. Turns out we’re not alone. The authors of the book report the following:

  • About 10 percent of people are able to name the names of all eight of their neighbors.
  • Only about 3 percent of people can share any facts about their eight neighbors.
  • And less than 1 percent of people know any personal information about their eight closest neighbors.

 

I’m not even in the 10 percent group.

 

Here’s the hard news (and the whole point of the book). Jesus said to love our neighbors. And there is no reason to believe that Jesus didn’t mean love our actual neighbors—people who physically live next door to us.

Which means if you’re like me, (you actually want to follow Jesus) then you need to make a change. So let’s do it together.

This summer let’s commit to praying for our eight closest neighbors. Let’s commit to building relationships with our neighbors. Let’s commit to learning something meaningful about our neighbors.

We all desire to see our neighbors have their lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is, so does God. That’s why he led you to live where you live.

God has put us in our houses so that we can represent (and be ambassadors for) Jesus to our actual neighbors. God wants us to step out in faith and begin to pray for our neighbors so that we might get to know our neighbors. So that God might open a door for them to one day hear and respond to the gospel.

I’m not gonna lie, this makes me nervous. I’d much rather share the gospel with 100 strangers then the person living 100 feet from my door.   But hey, if Jesus said “Love your neighbor” then I guess we ought to actually love our neighbors.

Who’s up for it?

 


 

To learn more about how you can love your neighbor join me this summer in reading the book, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door

Or check out their website http://artofneighboring.com/

Or watch this video for a little inspiration:

16 Gospel Verses Worth Memorizing

 

  1. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
  1. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  1. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have Bible_and_Key_Divinationeternal life” (John 3:16).
  1. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
  1. “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).
  1. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” ( Romans 4:25).
  1. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8).
  1. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures … he was buried.… The third day he rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures … and he appeared” (1 Cor. 15:3–6).
  1. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).
  1. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
  1. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
  1. “[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
  1. “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” ( Hebrews 9:28).
  1. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
  1. “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
  1. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

 

 


This list comes from the book Grounded in the Gospel…

 

5 Online Gospel Resources Worth Using

 

Where can you go online to find great gospel resources?

Of course there are numerous websites dedicated to the Gospel and gospel resources. But if  you don’t have the time (or the courage) to wade through them all,  here are five online resources that will get you started:

1. Bible Gateway1024px-20060513_toolbox

Ok, this is just a Bible website with lots of great study tools for the Bible. But let’s face it the only way to really to know the Gospel and to be equipped to share the Gospel is by spending time in God’s word. Because everything in God’s word is in some way connected to the Gospel. So start with God’s word.

2. The Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition is often a go-to site for pastors. But it has many great articles, videos, and other resources for the average church goer. The folks at the Gospel Coalition are passionate about the Gospel are doing their best to equip churches, families, and individuals to know and to live out the Gospel.

3. Veritas Forums

You might remember Veritas from your college days. Veritas is a ministry geared toward college-aged students and academics types. Online they have some wonderful videos tackling all kinds of tough issues. Sometimes the discussion can be a little heady and academic. But if you have smart friends who don’t know Jesus, this is the site for you and them.

4. KindnessResources

When it comes to evangelism and outreach there is a lot of Jesus “junk” out there. Thankfully that is not the case with these guys. I feel like most of their products would actually be helpful–crazy, I know. That’s  probably because this company was found by actual pastors who have hearts for evangelism and church planning. I think it shows in their products.

5. Liberate

Liberate is a relatively new site started by Billy Graham’s grandson pastor Tullian Tchividjian. I’ve just started going to it.  I like the articles, videos, and book reviews. But more than any of that, I love that Liberate exists “to connect God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world.” That’s Gospel.

I hope you find these sites helpful. If you would like more Gospel resources online or otherwise, just email me.

 

What resources would you recommend?