Beautiful Feet

Photo credit: 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

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: 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: 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, " 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!

A Community Is Not a Clique

Photo credit: Many people have difficulty connecting at church, especially larger ones. A myriad of reasons contribute to this, and blame can't just be laid at the feet of the church itself.

It's easy to get into church-bashing and stories of abuse, but it can also be the person's inability or unwillingness to connect.

I've been in many different churches in different nations. I've been an outsider and part of the church body infrastructure. Too many times, I've seen a cliquishness within good, solid churches. It happens, and it usually isn't intentional. But it happens.

Trouble connecting?

Community is a popular theme today. But what is meant by community? It depends on the context. A community can be defined as a group of people who have something in common, or are related by something common.

You or I may be in community with others and benefit from it. Yet others, not included in our community for whatever reason, may view us as a clique. Without going too far down that trail, let's understand a simple truth—a clique is not a community—and I'm speaking of a biblical community.

It doesn't matter that we don't think we are a clique. When others feel or seem excluded from our community, we are a de facto clique. And yet, we feel a common bond, which makes us a community.

A look at biblical community

Many are seeking genuine community within and outside of churches. It's a legitimate desire, in fact, I'd say we all ought to be seeking community. It's what the church was intended to be, and what we see in the Book of Acts.

In the late sixties and early seventies, community began to spring up in a natural, biblical way. My wife and I lived near one such communal (community) house connected to our church. It was a small version of what we see in Acts. Today, not many of those types of church communities exist in the US, though there are still some legitimate ones.

Even the community we see in the first few chapters of Acts ran into some dissension (Acts 6:1-7). It was resolved, but it shows it's difficult to maintain that type of community. What was the secret of the early church? I don't see a particular secret, but I see a few things that make up biblical community.

5 Basic elements of biblical community

The first biblical model of community is found in the Old Testament under the leadership of Moses. But the community in Acts was based on what Jesus modeled for us. Of course, one obvious thing is that a church community is the Body of Christ, so Jesus is the Head of it.

Here are five general things based on the early church model in Acts. You might see more or less, but here's what I see.

Biblical community is relational

The early church had one thing in common. That one thing was their relationship with Jesus as their Lord, though they referred to Him as Messiah. Jesus was their primary bond. This is the heart of observing communion, or as some call it, the Eucharist.

The one obvious thing of any community, biblical or otherwise, is that it's relational. This is the nature of being a community. A biblical community not only has a shared relationship with Jesus, they have close ties to one another because of shared experience. This is seen with the early church.

The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.... All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. (Acts 2:42, 44 GW)

It is inclusive, not exclusive

When we have close relationships—people with whom we're comfortable and familiar—it's easy to become exclusive. It's not intentional, hopefully, but it happens rather naturally.

The early church, following the example of Jesus, was inclusive, not exclusive. People followed Him who were not part of the religious community of that day. This created opposition, as it does today.

When I was involved with my community working with a drug intervention program, someone in my church said to me, "What if those kinds of people start coming to church?" I told the church that I hoped they would, and they'd be welcomed. It didn't sit well with some and they left our church.

It is dynamic, not static

A real community changes, even when we want it to stay the same. If it doesn't change, its life gets choked out. It's been said that the last few words of a dying church are, "But we've never done it that way!"

I planted a church towards the end of the seventies and remember our growing pains. One that shocked me was the attitude towards the church's growth. "Pastor, I miss the days when we were a small, close-knit group."

Although I understood what they meant, I could see the problem it caused. As new people came to church, they weren't easily included, especially when they were different in some way.

It is open and non-discriminating

We tend to discriminate for a lot of reasons—race, status, doctrine, appearance, behaviors, even politics. Sometimes, we don't even realize how we discriminate.

Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group. (Acts 2:47b GW)

Will the church be open or discriminate against the LGBT community, people of other religions, the de-churched, and unchurched? We discriminate against non-believers by our attitudes of self-righteousness towards them, though we say we want to win them to the Lord.

Remember, Jesus broke a lot of social norms and met a lot of opposition because of it.

There's a shared sense of responsibility

Do you remember the call of the Three Musketeers? "One for all, and all for one!" This expresses the idea of a shared sense of responsibility. It goes beyond having a common bond. It's a commitment to one another.

The whole group of believers lived in harmony. No one called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything. (Acts 4:32 GW)

This may be one of the more challenging elements of true biblical community today. We live in a culture that asks, "What's in it for me?" But, a biblical community asks, "What do I have that benefits others?"

Sharing is what we're supposed to learn in kindergarten, but not out of obligation, nor emotion. It needs to be out of a commitment of love for Jesus and His people.

To connect or not to connect?

It's not up to a pastor or a church, it's up to each believer within the church. Each of us is responsible for creating community and not a clique that appears to be community.

Each of us is responsible to be relational, inclusive, open to change, open-hearted, and committed to others. These are my thoughts on the subject, but what about you?

How have you experienced healthy community within the church?

How have you contributed to a healthy and biblical church community?



Tell Them

WS-devo_PMSThey came to Jesus and saw the man who used to have the many evil spirits, sitting, clothed, and in his right mind. As Jesus was getting back into the boat, the man who was freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus would not let him. He said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man left and began to tell the people in the Ten Towns about what Jesus had done for him. And everyone was amazed. (Mark 5:15, 18-20 NCV) What has the Lord done for you? Not just this past year but your whole life. Tell your story and how it is connected with God's story to everyone who will listen. ©Word-Strong_2014