New Territory

Photo credit: lightstock.com I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. 

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭14-21 (NLT)

The letter to the Romans was written to people who were believers, people who knew and understood the truth of the gospel. Many of them could teach and share the gospel with others.

Here the apostle Paul reveals his heart for those who've not heard the gospel. Those who don't know of Jesus or of God's redemptive love for them. This is Paul's ambition.

His ambition is not for a bigger and better church. It's to reach out to those who've never heard the redemption message in the gospel and are not engaged with those who do know it. His focus is to reach nonbelievers.

Today, as in times past, much of the growth of one church is at the cost of another. Believers in one church body transfer to another one that seems better for whatever reason.

And yet, over 40% of the world's population are unreached by the message of God's redemptive love—over 3 billion people are unreached. Some of these unreached or unengaged peoples have immigrated to North America.

Now, more and more young people, born and raised in America, are part of a new, growing group of unreached and unengaged people.

It's time to stake out new territory. This means each believer is responsible to reach out to others, and church leaders need to equip their people to do this.

Let's reach out to the unreached and unengaged, especially in our own neighborhoods, and help support missionaries who go to other nations to reach the unreached. ©Word-Strong_2016

Tolerance and Intolerance

Photo credit: lightstock.com Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don’t get into an argument over differences of opinion. Some people believe that they can eat all kinds of food. Other people with weak faith believe that they can eat only vegetables.

People who eat all foods should not despise people who eat only vegetables. In the same way, the vegetarians should not criticize people who eat all foods, because God has accepted those people.

Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. The servant will be successful because the Lord makes him successful.

One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision. When people observe a special day, they observe it to honor the Lord.

When people eat all kinds of foods, they honor the Lord as they eat, since they give thanks to God. Vegetarians also honor the Lord when they eat, and they, too, give thanks to God.

It’s clear that we don’t live to honor ourselves, and we don’t die to honor ourselves. If we live, we honor the Lord, and if we die, we honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this reason Christ died and came back to life so that he would be the Lord of both the living and the dead.

Why do you criticize or despise other Christians? Everyone will stand in front of God to be judged. Scripture says, “As certainly as I live, says the Lord, everyone will worship me, and everyone will praise God.”

All of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God. (‭Romans‬ ‭14:1-12‬ (GW)

Jesus said His followers are to be known for their love for one another (John 13:35). Sadly, Christians have a reputation for being self-righteous and judgmental, not to mention hypocritical.

Why? Because of disputes about beliefs and practice, and other petty disagreements. This tends to create an "us versus them" mentality towards believers and nonbelievers.

As Paul points out, this has gone on for years. Intolerance towards others is nothing new. Christian believers get outraged by the intolerance of non-believers towards us, but we don't realize the log in our own eyes (Matt 7:1-5).

How we live out our faith shouldn't be focused on what we do or don't do, but how the Lord shines out through our lives towards others.

We are to be examples of the cross—the Lord Jesus' redemptive death and resurrection—by walking the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

One day, sooner than expected, we will be held accountable for how we live. Everyone. That Day will reveal how we've honored the Lord with our daily lives now. ©Word-Strong_2016

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.

This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

A Wild Branch

Photo credit: lightstock.com Now, I speak to you who are not Jewish. As long as I am an apostle sent to people who are not Jewish, I bring honor to my ministry. Perhaps I can make my people jealous and save some of them. 

If Israel’s rejection means that the world has been brought back to God, what does Israel’s acceptance mean? It means that Israel has come back to life.

If the first handful of dough is holy, the whole batch of dough is holy. If the root is holy, the branches are holy. But some of the olive branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place. You get your nourishment from the roots of the olive tree.

So don’t brag about being better than the other branches. If you brag, remember that you don’t support the root, the root supports you. “Well,” you say, “Branches were cut off so that I could be grafted onto the tree.” That’s right! They were broken off because they didn’t believe, but you remain on the tree because you do believe. Don’t feel arrogant, but be afraid.

If God didn’t spare the natural branches, he won’t spare you, either. Look at how kind and how severe God can be. He is severe to those who fell, but kind to you if you continue to hold on to his kindness. Otherwise, you, too, will be cut off ⌊from the tree⌋.

If Jewish people do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted onto the tree again, because God is able to do that. In spite of the fact that you have been cut from a wild olive tree, you have been grafted onto a cultivated one. So wouldn’t it be easier for these natural branches to be grafted onto the olive tree they belong to? (‭Romans‬ ‭11:‭13-24‬ (GW)

Grafting a branch from one tree onto the bark or trunk of another takes skill. In order for the graft to take and produce, a compatibility must exist between the two. Nowadays, the rootstock of a wild olive tree is used to graft in a younger, more productive cutting.

Paul's illustration of the wild branch being grafted into the older root is used to show how God chose to change things in His kingdom. Because Israel was unfaithful and rejected their Messiah when He came, the kingdom of God was opened up to include the Gentiles (other nations).

Not only were Gentiles included, but they became the primary people of God's kingdom. Just as Israel was to be a light to the nations, now the church (Jews and Gentiles alike) is to carry the light of God's redemption message to the world.

Paul reminds us of two things—the church's heritage is embedded in Israel and things can be reversed again—Israel can be re-grafted into the olive tree. Why did God graft in the Gentiles? Because of Israel's unbelief and unfaithfulness.

This illustration helps us see God's purpose for those He chooses. He is the one who grafts, and He is the one who brings compatibility and unity (Eph 2:11-14). It's also a reminder of each believer's responsibility—to believe, to trust, and to be faithful to God and His purposes. ©Word-Strong_2016

Beautiful Feet

Photo credit: lightstock.com There is no difference between Jews and Greeks. They all have the same Lord, who gives his riches to everyone who calls on him. So then, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.”

But not everyone has believed the Good News. Isaiah asks, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke. But I ask, “Didn’t they hear that message?” Certainly they did! “The voice of the messengers has gone out into the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.”

Again I ask, “Didn’t Israel understand ⌊that message⌋?” Moses was the first to say, “I will make you jealous of people who are not a nation. I will make you angry about a nation that doesn’t understand.” Isaiah said very boldly, “I was found by those who weren’t looking for me. I was revealed to those who weren’t asking for me.”

Then Isaiah said about Israel, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to disobedient and rebellious people.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10:12-21‬ (GW)

You've probably heard the sentiment credited to Francis of Assisi—Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words. But the apostle Paul, who predates Francis, makes it clear that words are necessary for speaking the message of the gospel.

So, why is this saying so popular? Francis of Assisi is a beloved figure and a man with a humble heart. But this expression is only attributed to him, it is not certain that he said it. Perhaps more to the point, it's popular because it somehow relieves us from having to intentionally share the gospel message.

Yes, our example is important, and hopefully our life is a testimony to others. But these verses speak a lot about hearing not seeing, and of using words and a voice.

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋?

God says the messengers who announce the Good News have beautiful feet. An illusion to their freedom and their intentional purpose.

Words are important for communicating the gospel clearly, and our life needs to match the message we share. ©Word-Strong_2016

Deep Sorrow and Endless Heartache

Photo credit: lightstock.com As a Christian, I’m telling you the truth. I’m not lying. The Holy Spirit, along with my own thoughts, supports me in this. I have deep sorrow and endless heartache.

I wish I could be condemned and cut off from Christ for the sake of others who, like me, are Jewish by birth. They are Israelites, God’s adopted children. They have the Lord’s glory, the pledges [covenants], Moses’ Teachings, the true worship, and the promises.

The Messiah is descended from their ancestors according to his human nature. The Messiah is God over everything, forever blessed. Amen. (‭Romans‬ ‭9:1-5‬ (GW)

Doctrine is important, worship is valuable, but prayer is essential to spiritual growth. Prayer also is a strong indicator of where our heart is with God. Honest prayer. This simple prayer of the apostle Paul reveals his heart for his people.

At the end of Romans Chap 8, we're reminded that both the Holy Spirit and Jesus are intercessors on behalf of believers (Rom 8:27, 34). Chap 9 of Romans opens with Paul interceding for the people of Israel, so that they may know the Messiah—Jesus.

He opens his heart to God and lets us see inside it. It pleads with passion for his own people—Israel—who have the Lord's favor, the covenant promises, and true worship guided by the Law. Jesus the Messiah was descended from Abraham, through King David, and He is God in nature.

But Israel was blind to this, even as it is now. So also, many nations with some heritage of the gospel in their history need interceding believers. Yes, we need to reach the unreached and unengaged. Still, many nations formerly reached and engaged with the gospel need intercession once again.

The question is—Are we interceding on behalf of our own nation? Are we praying for their blind eyes and closed hearts to be opened to the Lord? ©Word-Strong_2016

Here's the Reason Discipleship Can Be Difficult

Photo credit: unsplash.com_GRakozy We Americans live in a culture focused on self. More and more, the concept of team or community is just that—more of a concept than reality.

Self-identity is an industry, not just a psychological term. More attention is given to individuals than groups. We fawn over star-power, whether it's American Idol, fantasy sports leagues, or CEO's pulling down outrageous salaries and bonuses.

Yet, focus on self isn't just an American cultural phenomenon, it's a human issue. Self-interest has been with us since the first humans on earth.

Just follow Jesus

When most everyone around you is focused on doing what's best for them, following Jesus can feel a lot like swimming against the tide. It can wear you out fast. Unless you learn how to do it from the Master Himself.

Believers and followers of Jesus need help, His help. Jesus is the core of the Gospel, and the core of the Christian faith. By Christian faith, I mean all the theology, doctrine, and practice known as Christianity. Jesus is the core of the Gospel and He calls each believer to follow Him.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is the core of the gospel and core of the Christian faith"]

His call is a personal one. It's a call to surrender our free will to Jesus, and put Him first in our lives. Jesus calls us to set aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment. But this involves no striving, only abandonment and surrender to Jesus and His will.

This is difficult, no, impossible without God’s help and His power at work in us internally, but it becomes an amazing testimony to the power of God. It captures the attention of people, and brings lasting change to the world.

[bctt tweet="Jesus calls us to set aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment"]

Real change in the world only comes when people are changed within their hearts. Only Jesus can bring this about. But He chooses to do this through true self-denial—choosing to trust in Jesus implicitly and dying to a life fixated on this world.

Are you confused?

Why does the world have so many different ideas and misunderstandings about Jesus and Christianity? Perhaps it comes from the body of believers who profess to be Christians.

What message does the world receive about Jesus, the Gospel, and the Christian Faith through the followers of Christ? What is the church’s living example?

If there is confusion about who Jesus is among Christian believers, it's communicated by speech and example to others, and confuses those who seek to know Him.

[bctt tweet="If we're confused about who Jesus, it's communicated by speech and example to others"]

Jesus, the core of the Gospel and Christian faith, is the core call and purpose of a believer’s life. By core, I don’t mean the center, but the central strength and nature of life in Him.

This could be likened to the nucleus of an atom, defined as “the central point of the atom.” An atom’s particles, protons and neutrons, are bound and held together around the nucleus by a nuclear or residual strong force.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is the core of the Gospel and Christian faith, and core of a believer’s life"]

These properties of a nucleus and atom always remind me of this description of Christ in Colossians—

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17 NIV)

Jesus at the core

Perhaps what Jesus expressed about His own self-denial in going to the cross helps make this clear—

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26 NIV)

Looking at a kernel of wheat, or the seed within a fruit like a peach, the importance of the core is easy to see. The very life of a peach tree is in the core of the fruit itself. The flesh of the fruit surrounding the seed is eaten, and the seed is thrown away.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is not just what we focus our lives on, He is our source of life"]

When the seed is planted it grows into a tree, but the seed has to die before it can germinate into what becomes a tree. This is God’s design. It’s God’s continuing illustration within nature of the importance of the core.

This illustrates the simplicity and necessity of keeping Jesus as the core of the Gospel. He is not just what we focus our lives on, He is the source of our life.

More than a belief

Our daily life example needs to match what we tell others. God’s Story is more than a belief to hold onto, or something to be done—it's a personal relationship with Jesus who transforms our life.

When we can express the simple truths of the gospel and others see Jesus at work in our life, it is an easy and natural thing to share our faith with other people.

[bctt tweet="God’s Story is more than a belief, or something to be done—it's a relationship with Jesus"]

Jesus is the core of the Gospel. He is the Savior of all people and the Son of God. He, God the Son, came into the world, died upon the cross for all humanity, and rose from the grave victorious over death.

He calls every person to follow Him, whoever is willing.

Each follower will need to give up his or her own selfish ways, the natural lifestyle of this world, and trust only in Him for all things, in every way, every day.

[bctt tweet="Jesus calls every person to follow Him, whoever is willing"]

Jesus honors this commitment with life beyond anything the world has to offer, and a life beyond this world. He alone is worthy of a person’s unreserved trust.

This is the last in a series of posts taken from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here are links to the previous posts—

Who Is Jesus…Really?

Who Jesus Is

A Culture Conflict

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share these posts!

Who Jesus Is

Photo credit: unsplash.com People have sought spiritual truth for centuries. Make that millennia. Philosophers, theologians, and religious people of all persuasions. For the most part, spiritual truth has passed from one person to another, both in oral and written forms.

The truth of the Bible is unique. It was first passed down from God to humans, then from person to person. Of course, many philosophers and theologians who do not accept the Bible's veracity dispute this.

Beyond rhetoric and posturing, the Bible tells the story of God Himself appearing to humanity. This was confirmed by sources other than those who accept this revelation within the Bible, as well as the Bible's internal evidence. And yet, there's even more to the story than many people realize.

The second question

Last week, we looked at the first question Jesus asked His followers, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” People today have lots of different opinions about Jesus, just as they did then. What's important for us is to understand where people stand, what their understanding of Jesus is.

We need this understanding before we launch into any attempt share the gospel with them. People need a frame of reference to understand things, especially spiritual truth.

But when the opportunity arises for us to share our faith in Jesus, we need to be clear about who He is. As we pick up the story in Matthew's gospel (Matt 16:13-20), we look at Peter's answer to Jesus' second question.

The right answer

Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question gives a compact, complete understanding of the Lord. Jesus commends Peter on his answer, but tells him the source of his understanding was not Jesus’ physical presence, but a direct revelation from God, the Father.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17)

Peter’s response is more of a declaration than a simple answer. He declares what he and other disciples had come to know. Jesus says it’s not Jesus’ physical presence among them, but revelation from God the Father.

Does this seem contradictory or paradoxical? Perhaps, but it is the same for any believer sharing the Gospel—spiritual truth is made known by God’s Spirit, not mere words, nor physical proof.

The Messiah

Two important truths are declared in Peter’s answer. They are not two separate truths, but two parts of a whole truth. First Peter says, “You are the Christ.” The title Christ is an interchangeable term with Messiah. Then he says, “ . . . the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus is both Messiah and God’s Son. Most people are familiar with the title Christ, meaning Anointed One. Christ is taken from the Greek word, Christos. Messiah is taken from the Hebrew word, Mashiyach, or more commonly, Mashiah. Although the term or title Christ is more familiar, the title Messiah helps keep the context of Peter’s declaration more precise.

This Anointed One was the Hope of Israel, long-awaited by those looking to God for deliverance. The Messiah would come as the direct representative of God—a Prophet-King, a Deliverer and Savior—made known to the Jewish people.

The Son

The second part of Peter’s confession, “Son of the Living God,” speaks of who Jesus is in nature—the personal presence of God upon the earth. Jesus and the Father are of one nature.

Although Christian believers are spoken of as children of God, even sons, we are not by nature God. When someone is born again, they receive a new nature and become a new creation, but they don’t become God in nature.

People are human in nature. When a person becomes a genuine believer, a new nature is brought to life internally. They are born again.

The expression, “...Living God,” is a more familiar Jewish sense of God. Israel was to be a “light to the Gentiles,” because they worshiped the One, True, and Living God.

Israel was to be distinct from all other nations (people groups) as God’s Chosen People. This was God’s purpose in establishing the people of Israel as a nation.

The Rock

Jesus’ response to Peter’s declaration of faith includes something not easily understood—the Lord’s play on words with Peter’s name. His name is taken from the Greek word meaning rock or stone. Jesus says, “you are Peter (a stone), and on this rock I will build My church.”

First, Jesus speaks of those included in the church Jesus would build and their need to believe this truth Peter declared—that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Secondly, Jesus is the Rock the church is built upon and no one else. The important thing is having a personal relationship with Jesus, which is only possible by God’s grace, through faith.

The apostle Paul speaks of the church being built upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Note verse 20 (italics mine)—

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV)

Jesus also says His church will have a prevailing power, which indicates there will be a spiritual battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. It is a great assurance to know the church will prevail against the devil and his kingdom of darkness.

The right answer, the wrong time

What the story says in verse 20 is surprising.

Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matt 16:20

Imagine you are with the disciples at that moment. Jesus commends Peter on his answer, and makes other strong statements related to it. The disciples would be encouraged and excited, especially Peter. After all, Peter came up with the right answer!

But, following all of this discussion, Jesus tells the disciples to keep this revelation to themselves. He doesn’t just tell them, but commands them. It seems opposite of what we might expect. I imagine it surprised them too.

It was the right answer, but it wasn't the right time. Not yet. In a matter of months, Jesus would be arrested, sentenced, and crucified. But there's more to the story, much more, and that will have to wait for now.

Has God revealed the truth of who Jesus is to your heart?

Are you ready and willing to share who Jesus is with others?

This post is another excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel.

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

Who Is Jesus...Really?

Photo credit: Unsplash.com_mhull Surveys. Opinion polls. Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite to know what other people think about... fill in the bank.

For all the mining of opinions and the flood of information available, what do we really know? Are we truly the most informed generation in history?

We know a lot of minutiae about a lot of things. This helps us in trivia games, but doesn't answer life's big questions.

A valuable question

At the beginning of this story (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He wanted to know what the disciples heard among the people.

Yet, He was far more concerned with what the disciples thought, as seen by His second question to them.

In sharing the gospel with others, we need to be mindful of what people are thinking and saying about who Jesus is. It is valid to ask people what their perception of Jesus is before launching into a presentation of the gospel.

Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should be a factor in how the gospel is told or related.

[bctt tweet="Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should factor into how we share the gospel"]

The wrong approach

When zealous believers approached me during my spiritual search, I would hear, “you can become a Christian and still have fun!” One time I was approached while in an altered state of mind and told I could still “own a sports car and become a Christian.”

Having a sports car was the farthest thing from my mind at the time! It did not attract me to Christianity.

Although well-intentioned, this approach to share the gospel was off target. My biggest need was getting my eyes off what I wanted, or what I thought could bring fulfillment in my life.

A frame of reference

Genuine questions can reveal where people stand on spiritual matters, and their opinion about Jesus.

Asking about a person’s life can open them up to hear God’s Story. If a person’s life story is full of difficulties, or reveals a searching for spiritual truth and significance in life, it opens an opportunity for connecting them with God.

Presently in America, more and more people, especially young adults, have a limited understanding of Jesus. They may know more about Buddha or Mohammed than Jesus. Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth.

[bctt tweet="Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth"]

Spiritual truth is conceptual, abstract, and intangible, yet we live in a material world. If we don’t perceive what their perception is about Jesus, the Bible, or other spiritual truth, we give them information they can’t process.

We need to know

In contrast, we may pay more attention to what others have to say than we should. Many people are intimidated to share their faith story, fearing rejection. Others are unsure of what to say or how to say it.

Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed—an understanding rooted in a genuine personal relationship with God.

[bctt tweet="Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed"]

When the gospel is shared with sincerity of heart and in simple words, it is more apt to be heard.

Who do You say Jesus is?

Then Jesus asks His second far more pointed and important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

It was a question of progress for the apostles. Were they grappling with the same question, or were they sure in their hearts? Ultimately, everyone must answer this question. One day, all people will answer this question in God’s presence.

What is your belief?

Other opinions aside, what is your belief? What others say may be of interest, but what is your own belief? How would you answer the question of who Jesus is?

If you are a Christian believer—that is, you have a personal relationship with the Lord, and you’ve experienced a spiritual rebirth—you should be able to answer this question. But, how would you answer? How would you describe who Jesus is to someone else?

Truth is revealed by God

Spiritual truth can only be conveyed if a person understands it in his or her own spirit. As the apostle Paul says, “ . . . not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13).

It is not knowledge of words, written or spoken. God through the Holy Spirit must reveal spiritual truth. It is expressed in words, but understanding and acceptance is God’s work in a person’s heart and mind.

What are your thoughts about Jesus? Do you know who He is?

Do you know Him personally and tell others about your relationship with Him?

Next week I'll continue to look at who Jesus really is. This post is an excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here's another related post– The Core of the Gospel

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel


There Is a Way

Photo credit: lightstock.com

But God has a way to make people right, and it has nothing to do with the law. He has now shown us that new way, which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. He does this for all who believe in Christ.

Everyone is the same. All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness. They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people’s sins through their faith in him.

God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins. God gave Jesus to show that he always does what is right and fair. He was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And in our own time he still does what is right. God worked all this out in a way that allows him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus. (‭Romans‬ ‭3:‭21-26‬ ERV)

No human being has an inside track to God. We're all the same. We're all needy. We disguise or hide our need in different ways, but it's there. And we can't get rid of it on our own.

But God made a way to deal with our neediness, and opened up relationship with God. It was always His plan, but this wasn't known till He sent His Son, Jesus Christ.

What was God's plan? The Father sent His Son to rescue us. Jesus traded His life for us—everyone—to set us free from our selfish need (sin).

His life was taken on the cross—by His free will—so we could be accepted into God's family. What's required of us? Nothing. Nothing but our trust in Jesus and what He did for us all. ©Word-Strong_2015

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: www.sunset.com I remember this phrase when I was young. It's a variation of asking the simple question, "What's up?" or "What's going on?" I know there are at least two songs with this as a title, but I'm not referring to them.

The morning glory is a climbing vine with beautiful, white, blue, pink, and deep purple blossoms. The blossoms open in the early morning and close as the day moves to evening. I remember my first encounter with their beauty as a young boy at a daycare center.

I still admire their simple beauty and prolific trumpet-like blooms. My favorite is the deep bluish-purple, but they're all beautiful. Just as their trumpet shape suggests, they shout out beauty in the morning.

Each of us has a story, a life story. In Christian circles, we refer to them as testimonies. This comes from the idea of a witness who testifies what they've seen, or their version of an event. Hence, when someone tells the gospel story, it's often referred to as witnessing.

But as mentioned last week, witnessing or personal evangelism doesn't come easy to many of us. So, I introduced a basic outline for becoming an evangelist without really trying. There are three general points in this outline—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep alert for opportunities. Today I want to explore the first point—keep it simple.

Start with what you know—your own life story

All of us have a life story

As a young believer, I remember hearing other people share their testimony at church. Some of these testimonies were so vivid and amazing, it may be feel like I didn't have much of a testimony. My life and conversion seemed boring compared to some of the stories I'd hear.

You don't need to compare or compete with others

This is the first thing we need to get squared away—we all have a valuable story to tell. It doesn't need to compare to sensational ones we might hear, it just needs to be genuine. Isn't that the catch-phrase nowadays, to be genuine and real? Who knows your life story better than you?

Your life story is genuine

Your life story is real. You don't need to embellish it to make it worth hearing, but you do need to be able to share it in a brief, clear way. Here's a basic guide if you're not sure how to do this— Guidelines_life-story

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Most people worry about how to handle questions or challenges when sharing their faith. Don't worry about what you don't know! Focus on what you do know. The point is not to argue theology or get into debates with people. The point is to share your life story with them.

You don't need to have all the answers. You already know the answer. The answer isn't a doctrine or theological point, but a personal encounter with Jesus. So, just share your own encounter with Jesus. It's unique to you, even if it isn't sensational.

Take a cue from Jesus. When challenged by the Jewish leaders, who tried to find fault with Jesus, He side-stepped their challenge with the truth, or put it back to them with a question of His own (Matthew 21:23-27).

If you want to become more knowledgable in how to answer others, here's a resource you can get— Stand to Reason-Tactics

Engage people

When you gain some confidence to share your faith with others, the next thing to do is engage people in conversation. How? It's really not that hard. Think about the conversations you have throughout a day—at work, at a store, in a restaurant, with a neighbor, and others.

Most of the time you can start a conversation with a few simple questions. How's your day going? Do you have family in this area? Do you like your work? You get the idea. Much of the time you will find people willing to talk and open to sharing something about their own life story.

You can also speak something encouraging to a person. I'm pretty sure there's not excessive encouragement thrown around these days. If anything, there's a lot of cynicism, criticism, and complaining. Encouragement is a welcome break from all of that. It may be a start to a conversation, or starting point to develop a relationship with someone.

Once you engage people in conversation, whether for the first time or as a follow-up to previous conversations, you can look for an open door to share your faith. I'll talk more about that in a later post. But a book that expresses this well is, Just Walk Across the Room, by Bill Hybels.

Find a Bible story that matches

This is something that may take some time to develop, but it's a great way to tie your life to a story in the Bible. The great thing about the Bible is that it is honest. It's not a string of fairly tales, but of real life stories.

Many stories reveal the not-so-pleasant side of people. Other stories show great transformations (as in the Gospels or in Acts). The point is to link a story in the Bible to some part of your own life story. I'll also share more about that in a later post.

Just get started!

The first thing to do is get familiar with your own story. Work on getting it clear in your own heart and mind first. Then, try sharing it with others. You can start with people you know first—like a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker.

Then look for opportunities to engage people in conversation. You don't need to be clever, but you do need to be genuine in your interest in them. People can tell when you're just asking to set up what you want to talk about. So, get others talking about their life, the opportunity will come to share your life story after a while.

We'll look at all this more next week. Until then— What's your story morning glory?

How to Be an Evangelist—Without Really Trying

Photo credit: www.deathtothestockphoto.com/ What comes to mind when you hear the word evangelist? Do you think of a fiery preacher challenging you to "Repent!"? Nowadays that might be more of a caricature than common occurrence.

How about the words personal evangelism? Do you shudder at the thought of going out to witness with gospel tracts?

If the idea of personal evangelism or trying to be an evangelist doesn't appeal to you, keep reading! There is a way to share your faith in a personal, natural and easy way.

Calling, commitment, and a command

I know a young man who has a gift and boldness to engage people in conversation about Jesus and offer to pray for them. I have friends who go into neighborhoods every couple of weeks to knock on doors and share the gospel. A neighbor friend of mine often goes out on a roadside with a placard that reads, "Jesus loves you!"

I admire my friends for their commitment and calling. I've done similar things, but it is not my personal calling. My oldest son and I traveled to Scotland on an evangelistic outreach many years ago. It was a great time of ministry, and it helped confirm that I am not an evangelist.

I'm called to disciple people.

And yet, what is called the Great Commission (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8) is not an optional suggestion, it is a command. The apostle Paul told Timothy to, "...do the work of an evangelist...." (2 Tim 4:5 NKJV).

So, there is a responsibility for every believer to share their faith with others. Even when it's not our calling, we can commit to do something, even when it doesn't come easily.

But, if evangelism is not your thing, here are some thoughts on how to be an evangelist without really trying.

Keep it simple

  • Start with what you know—your own life story
  • Don't worry about what you don't know
  • Stick to what you know and engage people at that point
  • Find a story in the Bible that relates to your own life story

Keep it personal

  • Engage people by asking them about themselves
  • Find a common point of interest or connection as you talk with people
  • Think of a story that connects with the person's life you have engaged to talk
  • Use plain and simple words and avoid using Christianese

Keep alert for opportunities

  • Look for opportunities in everyday life
  • Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible
  • Pray and trust God for opportunities to engage people in conversation
  • Follow up with the people with whom you share your faith

Give it a try

Over the next few weeks, I hope to dig into each of these thoughts in more depth. The broad view of it can be summed up in these three admonitions—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep open and be ready.

I've posted on this general idea of sharing your faith before, but want to be more instructive with these new posts.

Here are a couple of posts I hope will be helpful to you—

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith? (Part 2)

How Does Your Story Connect with God's Story?

Tell me what you think—

What are your experiences with sharing your faith?

What are the challenges you've faced with sharing your faith?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

Beginning and Ending in Faith

Photo credit: lightstock.com I must serve all people—those who share in Greek culture and those who are less civilized, the educated as well as the ignorant. That is why I want so much to tell the Good News to you there in Rome. I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes—to save the Jews first, and now to save those who are not Jews.

The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself. God’s way of making people right begins and ends with faith. As the Scriptures say, “The one who is right with God by faith will live forever.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭14-17‬ ERV)

God's gracious good news is for everyone. Demographics are not a limitation or restriction, as far as God is concerned. People make an issue of culture, status, and education, but not God.

God is inclusive and gracious, but He has one nonnegotiable requirement—faith. Those who come to Him, who desire forgiveness and eternal life, must come in faith. Faith is simply trusting God exists and that He honors a person's trust in Him.

It is not faith in faith, nor a vague belief, it is a genuine, continuing trust in God Himself. As with so many things, God makes it simple, and people complicate it. ©Word-Strong_2015



Photo credit: @geraldteano Have you undergone any major surgery? I have. In my role as a pastor, I’ve also visited many people who were hospitalized for surgery. In all those instances, I can't recall anyone who wanted to talk about their pre-surgery condition or the surgery itself as much as their post-operation life.

There's good reason for that. The surgery was done for a purpose. It was either to enhance or extend a person's life. It's not that we didn’t talk at all about pre-op life or the surgery, but our focus was on life after the surgery. (Click this link to read more)

This week's devo is a guest post at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog– Resurrection

How do you view your daily life as a Christian believer?

Is it focused on your struggle with sin or your victory over it in Christ?

The Good News

WS-devo_PMSGreetings from Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. God chose me to be an apostle and gave me the work of telling his Good News. God promised long ago through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures to give this Good News to his people. The Good News is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a human, he was born from the family of David, but through the Holy Spirit he was shown to be God’s powerful Son when he was raised from death. (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭1-4‬ ERV)

The book of Romans is nicknamed the Gospel of Grace. At the beginning of this epistle, it's clear what the central message is—the Good News about God's Son, Jesus.

This is the gospel in its simplest form, and here are the basics. Jesus is God's (only) Son. He is Lord and Christ (Messiah). He was born into humanity through the family line of King David.

And notice what demonstrates that He alone is the Son of God—His resurrection from the dead! The resurrection, not His death, was always the central message of the apostles when they shared the gospel message.

Victory over death, yes, this is indeed Good News! ©Word-Strong_2015

Hear, Believe, Go, Tell

WS-devo_PMSAfter Mary saw Jesus, she went and told his followers, who were very sad and were crying. But Mary told them that Jesus was alive. She said that she had seen him, but the followers did not believe her. Later, Jesus showed himself to two of his followers while they were walking in the country, but he did not look the same as before. These followers went back to the others and told them what had happened, but again, the followers did not believe them. Later Jesus showed himself to the eleven apostles while they were eating, and he criticized them because they had no faith. They were stubborn and refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen from the dead.

Jesus said to his followers, “Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone. (‭Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭10-15‬ NCV)

Initially, those who were first sent out didn't believe those who told them Jesus had risen from the dead.

Is it any wonder that people whom we tell about Jesus don't always hear and believe at first? I know I didn't believe at first. We all need Jesus to reveal Himself to us personally. How? Our hearts need to be open and willing to believe.

So go, tell, be an example, and trust the Lord to reveal Himself to those you tell. ©Word-Strong_2015

Spiritual Laborers

Photo credit: getwallpapers.net Agrarian economies still dominate a good part of the world. Planting and harvesting are important times of the year. They impact the livelihood of many people, and how good the harvest is, or isn't, impacts everyone.

Our economy in America is more diverse. In years past, we were considered an industrial economy with an agrarian backbone. But now, technology and its counterparts created an industry of its own. Most Americans only see the effect of a good or bad harvest when it affects food prices. Unless you live in a part of the country where agriculture is king, you probably don't know when harvest time is.

Jesus' followers knew when harvest time was and what that meant—hard work. (continue reading)

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog called Spiritual Laborers (click the link for the rest of this devotional)


Next week I'll continue the study in Proverbs


WS-devo_PMSA man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. They led Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull.

The soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he refused. The soldiers crucified Jesus and divided his clothes among themselves, throwing lots to decide what each soldier would get. (‭Mark‬ ‭15‬:‭21-24‬ NCV)

Here we have three people who are compelled to do three different things. Simon is forced to carry the cross for Jesus, weakened from the beating He received. Simon had no choice.

Jesus was compelled to go to the cross because of His commitment of love for humanity. It was His choice. Jesus was compelled by love.

The soldiers were compelled to carry out their duties as soldiers. Their choice was to follow orders and their own self-wills. What compels you to do what you do? ©Word-Strong_2015

A Faithful Messenger

WS-devo_PMSMost of us like consistency, but not monotony. We want to be able to count on something, but don't want it to be repetitious.

So, how do you get the one without the other?

We've all experienced the fickleness of people saying one thing, but doing another. It can make us wonder if there's anyone who can be faithful and consistent in what they say and do.

Like the cold of snow in time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters.”—Proverbs 25:13 (NKJV)

This week's devo is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog. Here's the link– A Faithful Messenger

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

Is There Any Other Message?

Photo credit: youinsport.com In the book of Second Samuel, a messenger named Ahimaaz (A-hee-ma-oz) wanted to bring a message to King David. His father was an important priest named Zadok whom the King trusted. However, the news to be sent was not good, so King David’s general, Joab, chose to send a different messenger.

In those days, certain messengers were sent based on the content of the message; one was sent when it was good news, another with bad news, and another who could bring either good or bad news. Ahimaaz was a messenger for good news.

An incomplete message

The story unfolds in the eighteenth chapter of 2nd Samuel, after King Absalom died in battle. He was David’s rebellious son who stole the hearts of Israel and staged a coup that sent King David running for his life. Though Absalom had become his enemy, he was King David’s favored son. Joab knew the news of his son’s death would devastate David, so he wanted to send a more neutral messenger, a Cushite. (1)

However, Ahimaaz, because of his devotion to King David, wanted to bring the message. Joab’s response was, ”Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?" (2) Since Ahimaaz insisted on running, Joab gave him permission.

Ahimaaz out runs the Cushite and arrives first, but is told to stand aside because his message is incomplete—it lacked the news most important to David—news about the life of his son, Absalom.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

In many ways, Christian believers are more like Ahimaaz than the Cushite. When delivering the message of God’s story of reconciliation (the gospel), it is often incomplete. The part left out of the gospel is the Lord Jesus’ resurrection.

The resurrection

The resurrection is what guarantees forgiveness from sin, and the believer’s hope in eternal life. It also gives insight into the mystery of this earthly, physical body being changed into a new, indestructible body, which enables a person to enter and live in the presence of God.

[bctt tweet="Many deliver an incomplete version of God’s story of reconciliation"]

Paul reminded the believers in Corinth about the foundation of all he taught them. He exhorted them to continue to believe in the full truth of this gospel and not listen to teaching contrary to it. If they allowed false teaching to influence them, it would jeopardize the work of God’s grace in their lives.

[bctt tweet="The resurrection is what guarantees forgiveness from sin"]

God's story

Additionally, Paul delivered the gospel they heard and received in person. This may seem incidental but is very relevant. The gospel is not just truth about God passed on by any means available, it is God’s story—the personal testimony of God. It relates how God rescued humanity through His Son, Jesus. God's story is most effective when it’s told person to person.

[bctt tweet="The gospel is God’s story—the personal testimony of God"]

The believers in Corinth heard the gospel preached to them with apostolic authority. God gave this authority to Paul, His apostle and messenger, to preach the gospel to the Corinthians. It was God’s story relayed by God’s messenger.

Once they received the gospel as true, they began to live their lives in a different way. The foundation of their lives was a new destiny, one of eternal life in the presence of God. Paul exhorted them to continue, not only to believe but to live according to what they believe, “unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1, 2).

3 Important truths

Paul reminded them of three things about the resurrection and the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-3)—

  1. It is the most important truth
  2. He personally received the gospel from God
  3. It agreed with the OT Scriptures

[bctt tweet="The gospel is the essential foundation for all Christian believers"]

First of all, the gospel is the essential foundation for all Christian believers. All other teaching must be considered in light of the gospel. Secondly, Paul passed on what was revealed to him by God. This is what all believers are to do—share with others what God reveals to them.

Lastly, the truth of the gospel is found in the Scriptures given to the chosen people of God, the Jews. The history of God’s first relationships with people is linked with the gospel.

Adam, the first man, had a face-to-face relationship with God prior to sin’s interference. God’s relationship with Abraham was significant, because Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his personal trust in God. Both men and their relationships with God are found in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Experiencing God's grace

Many of our national staff at Rainbow Village Ministries were staunch Roman Catholic, but they lacked the assurance of eternal life. Entrenched in their religious beliefs and traditions, they refused to consider a personal relationship with God by grace. Anya (her nickname) was a faithful Roman Catholic who would argue dogmatically against the “Born Again” gospel of grace. (3)

But during a women’s retreat hosted by another ministry, Anya came to believe in Jesus in a more personal way—based not on religious conviction, but on God’s grace—His unearned favor. Her testimony for days and weeks later was, “I feel so different inside.”

She experienced a spiritual transformation in her heart that changed her entire life. She continues to live as a born again believer, because she experienced God’s favor, acceptance, and resurrection power in her life.

[bctt tweet="Have you experienced God’s favor, acceptance, and resurrection power in your life?"]

Are you ready?

I mentioned in a previous post about the vanishing hitchhiker who announced the Lord is coming soon, which prompted the question, "Are you ready?" Indeed, we do need to be ready for the Lord's return, whether you're a believer or not.  But there's another readiness all believers need—a readiness to share God's story with others.

[bctt tweet="All believers need to be ready to share God's story with others"]

This is a major point in my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, Unraveling God's Story. I don't see this readiness in many believers, as mentioned above. Many believers are like Ahimaaz, their version of the gospel story is incomplete.

How about you? Are you ready? Ready to share God's Story with others?

(1) Reference— 2 Sam 18:19-33– The context of this story makes this distinction most clear. The Cushite (a foreigner) could bring either good or bad news, whereas Ahimaaz was more known for good news (note verse 27).

(2) Reference— 2 Sam 18:22 (NKJV)

(3) “Born again” is the common tag for evangelical believers or those of the Protestant faith within the Philippines, as a distinction from Roman Catholicism. This is a reference to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3 and what many evangelicals tell Catholics they need.