testimony

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 Man and His Faith

Ayele_teaching_Omo Last week, I took a quick look at theology—our beliefs about God. We've all got theology, but we all don't believe the same things. By "we," I mean humanity.

Why don't we believe the same things? Because we're all different, with different backgrounds, and different life stories.

This week, I want to look at the intriguing life story of a friend of mine.

My Ethiopian friend

I first met Benjamin (pronounced Beny-a-min) at a church service and liked him immediately. He was the first Ethiopian I met, but not the last. His life story intrigued me, yet it stirred some controversy. He has a common name, but his life story is far from common.

He was born in rural Ethiopia into a muslim family. When he came home from school and saw smoke rising from his home, he was happy. He knew his mother was cooking a special meal for his father, who had other wives than his mother.

He came to faith in Jesus through dreams, as I've heard take place for many of Islamic faith. Because of his choice to follow Jesus, he was ostracized by his family, which sent him on a search.

Benjamin set out to find help to learn about his new faith and was directed to missionaries in Kenya. Along the way, he was captured by Communist soldiers who tortured him for his faith in brutal ways. Eventually, he found the guidance he needed, and came to America for education.

A passion for his people

I met Benjamin as he raised support to work with a mission in Kenya. He became a missionary to Ethiopian refugees gathered in neighboring Somalia. These were his people and he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus.

I had him preach at our church a couple of times in the mid-eighties, so I heard much of his story. We also spent time talking about his mission and passion for reaching his people with the gospel.

I found Benjamin to be a man of great faith and integrity. He was childlike in the ways of American culture and social norms, but well-read and intelligent. I trusted him.

An interrupted testimony

He told me of a time when he shared his testimony at another church. The pastor invited him on the recommendation of someone in his congregation. As he told the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ, the pastor interrupted him and had him sit down.

The pastor told him he didn't believe in such things (the supernatural experiences), and discounted his life story. This stunned my friend Benjamin. It saddened me as he told me of it. Needless to say, this pastor was not one of his supporters.

Here was a man of integrity and without deceit who shared his personal encounter with Jesus, but he was not believed. Why? Because the pastor couldn't get past his own theological filters.

I'm glad for my encounter with Benjamin. His life added more depth and fullness to mine. He was one more encouragement for my own missionary experience. Years later I would visit his homeland (see photo above).

When we moved to the Philippines and he moved to Kenya, we lost contact with each other. But I will never forget Benjamin and his faith.

We're not all the same

Our experiences and encounters in pursuit of the truth shape and impact our faith and understanding of God. Identical experiences don't produce the same results. A simple reading of the gospels reveals this.

All of the apostles were afraid of Jesus as He walked on the water. Only Peter got out of the boat to walk towards Him (Matt 14:22-33). The Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus realized He was innocent, unlike his fellow soldiers (Luke 23:47). After Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).

Each of us view things differently. We often draw different conclusions with different perspectives from similar experiences. So, how can we possibly have any unity in the Christian faith? Benjamin and I shared the same faith in Jesus, but our life stories were very different.

The Christian faith is a personal faith because it's centered on the person of Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more unified we become as a group. This can be seen during a worship service, as the Lord intends (1 Cor 12:12-14, 25).

A question and a challenge

Last week, I mentioned two things I hoped to get more response on, so here it goes again.

Would any of you reading this post be interested in learning more about inductive Bible study? If that sounds interesting, let me know.

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important to your spiritual growth and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

I'd love to hear your responses to any of the above. You can post it in the comments for this post, or post it on the Word-Strong Facebook page.

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

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!

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.

Heard for Ourselves

WS-devo_PMS“Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Do you think he might be the Christ?” So the people left the town and went to see Jesus. Many in that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman said: “He told me everything I ever did.” When the Samaritans came to Jesus, they begged him to stay with them, so he stayed there two more days. And many more believed because of the things he said. They said to the woman, “First we believed in Jesus because of what you said, but now we believe because we heard him ourselves. We know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:29, 30, 39-42 NCV) God reveals Himself personally. We hear His voice echo in our heart. ©Word-Strong_2013

What gives Words their Meaning?

Nehemiah 8:8 Learning English is difficult. It has a strong emphasis on grammatical structure.

I remember weeks in grade school and middle school diagramming sentences. I don't think that's done anymore. Pity.

It shows in the way people speak and write. And pity because, I think every student should endure the same torture (just kidding).

English!

English words can have different meanings and pronunciations, but the same spelling. Did you read the book? She read the book. The book was red. Imagine how difficult this is for someone learning English as a second language (ESL)!

How about two words that sound the same, spelled differently, mean different things, and used in the same sentence! He read the red book.

Context is important

This week I talked to two different people who used the acronym PT. One spoke of physical therapy, the other referred to physical training. How could I know the difference? The first person described what he meant as he explained what he was studying. The other one is in the military—known for their use of acronyms—who talked about his physical conditioning.

It's the context a word is used in that gives it meaning.

The one speaking (or writing) has something in mind when using a certain word, phrase or acronym. However, those listening or reading may not be familiar with how the person using the word intends for it to be understood. How many times public figures (mostly politicians) say their words were "taken out of context" when what they say stirs controversy. Christian believers, are you getting where I'm going with this?

Disconnect

This past week, someone asked me what my occupation is. My answer was that I'm a writer and teacher. The inevitable next question is, "Of what?" Right now I'm involved with three part-time jobs to pay the bills, but for the majority of my life I've been a teacher and leader. The transition from teacher-leader to writer-occasional teacher, and as an online teacher-writer, has been a steep learning curve.

When asked what I wrote, I told of my recently published book and my current writing project. I explained my concern of many Christian believers not understanding the speech they use, called Christianese, nor did non-believers understand these words.

As we talked about this, I could see it struck a chord in her heart. Although her church background is different from mine, we both saw a major disconnect of young people from church, or Christianity in general.

Why? There are plenty of stats and opinions, but I believe one thing that goes unnoticed is this issue of Christianese. Christian believers need to speak in plain language, not an obscure form of it. If we want people to understand what we're saying, we need to make the meaning of it clear.

What is your experience with hearing Christian terms and Bible-talk?

Have you ever considered the language you use when talking about Christianity?

____________________________________________________________

For a funny look at Christianese check out this video by B.A.D.D.– Christianese

Here are some Scripture references that might help to make the point even clearer— Nehemiah 8:8, 12; Proverbs 1:2; 25:11; Luke 24:27