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

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!

About the Beginning of the Story

Image credit: arturaliev / 123RF Stock Photo I've started a new writing project. It's a bit ambitious, but here's the gist of it. My goal is to take God's Story (in the Bible) and show how my own life story and the life story of others is woven together. Here's the beginning point...

God's story starts out with a simple statement, "In the beginning, God…." God exists and all life as we know it began when He spoke it into existence.

Many people have a hard time swallowing this as true, and see the Bible as a book of fables and folk tales. The reason it's hard to see it differently is because we have lost connection with God, and lost touch with our own human history.

The power of story

More progressive cultures have difficulty believing in God than cultures in less developed regions of the world. While it's easy to dismiss the Bible and God as just a story, stories engage people and are popular today.

What may seem as a trend or fad in western culture (an interest in story) has never been lost in other cultures throughout time. In most cultures, stories take center stage. People gather to hear stories, stop what they're doing to listen to stories, and look for opportunities to tell their own story.

The power of story invaded my own life unexpectedly. As a cross-cultural missionary I do a lot of talking. In a more formal setting it's called preaching and teaching. In preaching, stories are incorporated into the messages as a way of illustrating or explaining whatever truth the message is intended to convey.

Most of the time we preachers see stories as something to add to the message. It's not the focal point, but a means to an end. A way to help make a truth more clear by connecting it to something familiar and known. Jesus used stories in a more central way.

A simple story

One Sunday morning in the Philippines, as I went on and on with my message and followed a carefully written outline, I told a story for illustration. As I began to tell it, I engaged everyone's attention. I borrowed it from a book of parabolic stories made popular in Philippine culture by a doctor and journalist. The story revolves around a carabao (water buffalo). It's a simple story that transcends culture.

IMG_0659A farmer and his son traveled back from a day of farming with their carabao. The carabao is a powerful and mostly docile animal used for pulling heavy things and to plow fields. It's common in South East Asia and beloved in Filipino culture.

The farmer had his son ride on the carabao while he walked beside it. As they went by some people, they overheard them say, "Look at that lazy son! His father has worked hard all day and he insists on riding the carabao. How disrespectful!

So, the son got down from the carabao and the father mounted the carabao. They continued home with the father riding and the son walking, until they came to another group of people along the way. Once again, they overheard their conversation, "Look at that father who rides the carabao while his young son is forced to walk beside him. How cruel this father is to his son!"

The farmer and his son dismounted the carabao and began walking together, leading the carabao behind them. As they approached another group of people, this is what they heard, "Look at this foolish farmer and his son. Here they have a strong carabao to ride on after a long day's work, but they're too stupid to take advantage of what God has given them!"

This time the father joined the son on the carabao. They both rode the carabao and continued to their home. Again, people said something critical, "Look at them, the carabao has worked hard all day and this lazy farmer and son are making the carabao work even harder!"

The point of the story

The point of the story, of course, is that no matter what you do someone is likely to criticize it. It's just human nature.

This illustrates out how well story engages us. It draws us in and engages our emotions and our thoughts. And sometimes, the point of the story can be the story itself.

Have you experienced something like this where no matter what you do someone is critical about it?

Does any of this ring true with the story of your own life, or certain events in your life?

Give me some feedback on what you like (or not like) about what I wrote. You can make a comment below. Thanks for reading!