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Everyday Evangelism

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Every other year I try to go to a conference hosted by Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY — Together for the Gospel. Not only is a great time to hear the Word preached and fellowship with folks I haven’t seen in years, but it is a great opportunity to pick up a lot of books. Every year I go, I come back with at least 40-50 books. Most of those are handpicked by those putting on the conference and are free.

One of the free books I got at the last conference was Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles.

Outreach Misconception and Correction

In the book, Stiles tells of a time when he went to speak on Evangelism at another church. They had a question and answer session after his talk. One lady noticed that a lot of Vietnamese were moving into the neighborhood. She wanted to know how the church was going to reach out to them.

Here is what Stiles told her:

“It is really not the best thing for ‘the church’ to set up programs for Vietnamese outreach, but rather for you to think how you can reach out. I would recommend you learn something about the Vietnamese culture, maybe by learning some greetings in Vietnamese, trying their food, and learning about their struggles they face living in the majority culture. Reach out and invite the friends you make to come with you to your homes, a small group Bible study, or church. Then, perhaps, some of you should even think of moving into the Vietnamese community with the purpose of [spreading] the gospel among that community.” — Stiles, Evangelism, 66.

Probably not the answer the lady was thinking she would get, but that is what Stiles recommended — that we not wait for the church to setup a program to reach a specific people, but that those in the church take it upon themselves to go and reach those people.

Everyday Evangelism as Community Missionaries

I think Stiles is right. If we want to impact our community and city, we can’t wait for the church to setup an outreach to a specific people. Instead, we have to reach out on our own. We have to see ourselves as missionaries to our community and city.

As missionaries we must seek to build relationships with folks everyday with the purpose of speaking the gospel into their lives.

Everyday evangelism happens when everyone in a church sees it as their responsibility to daily reach out to those in the community with the purpose of building relationships and spreading the gospel.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you reach out to your community?

Resources

Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus, 66.

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On Imitating Jesus

Quotes

This preoccupation with Jesus’ social and economic identity – whether asserting his relative poverty or affluence – misses the point. We are never explicitly called to imitate Jesus’ early life or career. These aspects of Jesus’ example are never directly identified as the framework for the economic life of Christians, though they obviously influence us.

But we are specifically commanded, over and over again, to imitate Jesus’ unselfish giving on the cross.

To be sure, we are not all necessarily obligated to enter into a life of voluntary poverty. But we cannot claim Christ’s cross as the source of our lives without allowing the same cross to shape the whole course of our lives.

Our faithfulness is not to be judged by where we fit into the socioeconomic ladder, but by the degree to which our daily decisions and life story as a whole correspond to Christ’s self-giving example on the cross.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you agree with Kapic?

Resources

Kelly Kapic, God So Loved, He Gave156.

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Why does God make a way for us to return to paradise?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.com

The world we live in is sinful. It is the way it is because Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden after they rebelled against God. Because we are mostly focused on the negative, we think a lot about why things are bad and messed up in this world but we spend little time thinking about why God makes a way for us to return to paradise.

You see, one day God will recreate this world. Everything that is broken, corrupt, and wrong with this world will be gone and in its place will be paradise. But why?

Why God would go to all the trouble, especially since we are the ones who lost paradise by rebelling against Him?

Well, God goes to all the trouble, He makes a way for us to return to Paradise because at His core God is gracious and merciful.

Jen (my wife) and I like to watch movies, but we are cheap, so we don’t go to the theater. Instead we go to the Red Box. I understand you don’t get the experience of the movie theater, but I’ll take a movie at our house for a $1.50 any day. One of the movies we rented recently was Pompeii.

There was a scene in the movie where a princess in a horse drawn carriage was passing by a line of chained gladiators heading to Pompeii to fight in the arena. The terrain was very muddy. As they passed by the gladiators, one of the horses slipped and broke its leg. Seeing that the horse was in extreme pain and couldn’t go on, one of the gladiators runs over, and in a show of strength, breaks the horses neck with his bare hands.

Now, he could have allowed the horse to live, but he didn’t. He didn’t because he knew death right then was better than allowing the horse to suffer and die later. So this gladiator, in an act of grace and mercy, did what was best for the horse.

In the same way, God in an act of grace and mercy in Genesis 3:22-24 did what was best for Adam and Eve – He cast them out of the garden.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Ge 3:22–24)

So God, in an act of grace and mercy, cast them out of the garden and barred them from entering again to keep them from the Tree of Life and living forever in a sinful world.

The same grace and mercy that drove God to cast Adam and Eve out of the garden is what drives God to make a way for us to re-enter the garden.

So while God doesn’t have to make a way for us to return to Paradise, He does because He is gracious and merciful.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you realize God doesn’t have to make a way for us to return to paradise?

Resource

Post developed from the sermon Can We Return to Paradise?

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6 Reasons We Know God Wants What’s Best For Us – Part 2

God and Man

This is the second post in a two part series. You can read Part 1 here.

6 Reasons We Know God Wants What is Best for Us

(4) God created a purpose for us in life 

Some of you reading this are retired, are approaching retirement, or wish retirement was closer. The one thing that those who are retired know is that retirement doesn’t mean you don’t work anymore.

Take my dad for instance, he worked at the same job for 33 years. Now he is retired. But if you looked at my dad’s schedule, you wouldn’t think he is retired. That’s because he is just as busy, if not busier, than he was when he was working a full-time job. The reason my dad and many of you don’t just sit on the couch all day is because we were created to work.

You see, work gives us purpose in life. That is why we do it even when we are retired. The One who created work is God. After placing Adam in the garden, God tells Adam in Genesis 2:15,

to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15b)

God could have placed Adam in the garden and left him to lounge around all day, but He knew that wasn’t good for Adam, so He instituted work. He did that because God wants what’s best for us.

(5) God created a helper for us

It’s no mystery our culture doesn’t think much of the institution of marriage, and that many of our cultural elites despise it.

Dr. Keith Ablow from the “Fox News Medical A-Team” thinks marriage is “a source of real suffering for the vast majority of married people.” He basis that off his own observations as a psychiatrist, where he sees the vast majority of marriages ending in divorce with the couple hating each others.

Popular actress Cameron Diaz, recently said that “[she doesn’t] think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don’t suit our world any longer.”

While those are just two voices from popular culture, they represent what a large majority of people think of the institution of marriage. But God hasn’t designed marriage to be an insufferable institution. Marriage is given to us as a gift.

After God places Adam in the garden, He discovers he is alone. And in Genesis 2:18,

… The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; [so God says He] will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).

That is exactly what God does. He creates Eve to be Adam’s helper. Seeing Eve, Adam is ecstatic, and the first institution of marriage is formed (Gen. 2:19-25).

So from the beginning, marriage was designed to be a help to us. Something we are to look forward to and be excited about, not dread. Something we are to love, not hate. God gives us a helper, He gives us marriage because He wants what is best for us.

(6) God wants what’s best for us because He sends Jesus

After Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, their relationship with God was broken. They were cast out of the garden to face the consequences of their sin in a broken and fallen world.

While they broke their relationship with God by sinning, God didn’t want their relationship to remain broken forever. A plan developed before the foundations of the world was in motion to restore man and God’s relationship. The plan involved Jesus – the Son of God – who came, lived a perfect life, and then died in our place.

On the cross at Calvary as Jesus hung there dying, the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him; wrath that should be poured on us. But because God wants what is best for us, He sends His Son to die in our place so that our relationship with Him might be restored and we would experience eternal life.

Hopefully by now you see that God really does want what is best for us.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God wants what is best for you? Why or why not?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon: Does God Want What’s Best For Us?

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6 Reasons We Know God Wants What’s Best For Us – Part 1

God and Man

When I was growing up, my mom and grandma liked watching the news. As we all know, there aren’t a lot of happy stories on the news. It is mostly about people getting killed, kids getting kidnapped, or some other bad thing happening to people.

Watching that everyday scared my mom into thinking something like that was going to happen to me, so she was pretty strict with where I could go without her in our neighborhood and how long I could stay outside and play. Basically, I had to stay close enough to the house to hear her calling for me, and I had to come in when it got dark.

That rule was pretty annoying to me because if my friends went too far from my house — say to the convenient store down the street — I couldn’t go. Or if my friends were hanging out after dark — playing hide and go seek or something like that — I couldn’t play with them. So as a kid, I had to miss out on a lot of things that my friends got to do.

At the time, I really didn’t like my mom’s rules. I certainly didn’t think she was doing what was best for me. But looking back, and especially now that I have a son, I know that she was doing what what best for me. She didn’t make those rules to be mean. She did it because she cared about me and loved me.

I am sure your parents had some rules you didn’t agree with growing up, but now, hopefully you realize they made those rules because they wanted what’s best for you.

Our parents aren’t the only ones who want what’s best for us. Typically your teacher wants what’s best for you, as does your spouse, and hopefully your friends.

But what about God? Does God want what’s best for us?  

A lot of people don’t think that He does, especially in our culture today. Most people see God as a cosmic kill joy. Someone with a lot rules that we have to follow.

But I think otherwise. I think God does want what’s best for us. To prove that I am going to give you six reasons.

6 Reasons We Know God Wants What is Best for Us

(1) God created us

When I say God created us, I don’t mean He started the evolutionary process billions of years ago and we just happen to be its most glorious achievement. What I mean is that God formed us with His own hands.

In Genesis 2:7 we read:

“… then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Gen. 2:7)

Did you catch that? God formed man. The idea is not that God just threw us together, but that He intentionally and carefully formed us like a Potter forms a vessel.

I don’t know if you have ever seen a potter making a vessel, but it is an intimate process that takes a lot of care, skill, and intentionality. Starting with a block of clay, the potter is able to work what was once bland and dull into something like a beautiful vase.

In the same way, God starting with the dust of the ground formed man into the beautiful and magnificent creatures we are today. And being God’s special creation, you have to know He wants what is best for us.

A couple of summers ago I was able to go to Camp Copass with the RA’s. One of the cool things about the camp is that they have all these stations setup that you visit throughout the day. They have archery station, BB gun station, an outdoor cooking station, and a blacksmith station. The cool thing is that you get to play at all these stations with the kids.

At the blacksmith station, you get a chance to form something, to make something with your own hands. I made a fish symbol out of a horseshoe, and a handkerchief holder with our initials on it out of some metal. Now, I am not a blacksmith, so my fish and my handkerchief holder turned out to be pretty crude. But even so, when I came home, I didn’t throw those things in a box, instead I displayed them in my office. I put them in a special place because they were my special creation.

Similarly, as God’s special creation, He puts man in a special place – The garden of Eden. He does that because He wants what’s best for us.

(2) God gave us things to enjoy 

In Genesis 2:8-9, we read,

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Ge 2:8–9)

Notice God didn’t hold Adam and Eve back from the garden — a place of extreme pleasure, and paradise on earth. Instead, He “put the man” in the garden, a place where he could enjoy God’s creation. God did that because God wants what is best for us.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should run off to Las Vegas tomorrow and indulge in everything that city has to offer. While God created this world for us to enjoy, sin has since entered into the world. Some of the things we are attracted to are not good for us. So we have to be careful as to what we indulge in because all of what this world has to offer is not good for us. Which leads me into my third point, we know God wants what is best for us.

(3) God gives us rules or commandments to follow

The rules God gives us aren’t meant to take our joy away, instead they are there to preserve our joy. You see, God knows what’s best for us, and through His Word, He guides us towards that which brings us the most joy and away from that which takes our joy away.

We see evidence of this even in the garden. While God placed The Tree of Life in the garden, He also placed The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden. In Genesis 2:16-17 we learn,

God commanded the man saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17)

So we see that God’s rules or commands are not meant to steal our joy away, but to preserve our joy. Let me give you a personal example of that.

At our church on Potluck Sunday, there is always a smorgasbord of desserts. Because I love dessert, I want to try everyone of them, but I know that if I indulge in every dessert offered, I am going to be sick. I know that from personal experience, and I know that from God’s Word.

Proverbs 25:16 says,

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.”

God doesn’t tell me that to ruin my dessert time. Instead He tells me that because He truly wants me to enjoy it. So God isn’t some cosmic kill joy who is trying to take things from us. Instead God wants what’s best for us. He wants us to enjoy this world and He tells us how in His Word.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God wants what is best for you? Why or why not?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon: Does God Want What’s Best For Us?

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Why Do People Deny the Existence of God?

No Rules

The Theory of Evolution is fraught with errors, our world screams designer, and other theories for life’s existence are far fetched and scientifically untenable – a comet or aliens bringing life, multiple universes, a cyclical universe that continually “Bangs” and “Crunches”. Why do people deny the existence of God?

An Ulterior Motive

I believe folks push evolution and these other theories, even though they are fraught with error because they want to live in world without God.

If God doesn’t exist they can live life on their own terms, according to their own rules. If God doesn’t exist, there is no one to which we have to answer.

I believe at it’s core this is why people push theories that are fraught with error. It’s not because science has proven them correct, its because they have an ulterior motive – to eradicate God from the world so they can live how they want.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Is God Or Evolution Our Creator?

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What are the Barriers to Making Disciples?

Disciples

Even though we are commanded to make disciples and Jesus gives us a simple three step method to follow, we have trouble following His command. We have trouble because we encounter barriers. The list of barriers we encounter can be a mile long. There are a lot of things that hinder us from making disciples. I can’t cover all of them, nor do I know all of them, so let me offer you five.

Barriers to Making Disciples

(1) Busyness

Let’s be honest, we all have a lot going on – work, church, kids and grandkids sporting events, school, friends, family – are just a few things that compete for our time on a weekly basis. With all these things going on, we might think we don’t have the time to make disciples.

But here is the problem with that line of thinking, Jesus commands us to make disciples. In Matthew 28 Jesus says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28)

So Jesus commands us to make making disciples a priority in our lives, which means we have to do it.

Reading those words, you are probably thinking: “Great, one more thing to had to my schedule.” But what if I told you making disciples doesn’t have to be another thing you add to you schedule. Remember Jesus’ idea of “go” is “as you are going” you are to be making disciples. If we do that, if we focus on making disciples as we are going, it won’t be something extra to add to our schedule because it would be apart of the natural rhythm of our lives. So while you are at the football game or the school play, or whatever else it is that you are doing, you can be making disciples. You can be meeting others with the intention of building a relationship and speaking the truth of God’s Word into their lives.

Personally, that is why I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. I am going to prepare sermons every week, so why not do that in place where I can meet people, build relationships with them, and either encourage them in their Christian walk, or share the gospel with them. I have to tell you, I have had a lot of conversations with people through the years at Starbucks.

So while busyness can be a barrier to making disciples, it does not have to be, if we incorporate making disciples into the natural rhythm of our lives.

(2) Fear

One fear you might have is that you won’t know what to say. While that is a real fear, we don’t have to let it keep us from making disciples. You see, Jesus hasn’t left us alone. At the end of verse 20 in Matthew 28, He says,

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Mt 28:20b)

So as we are going about our day, Jesus is with us and He will give us what we need to make disciples.

Another fear you might have is that someone will respond negatively to your message. While that is a real fear, a fear I personally have, research tells us that only about 5% of people in the States will be hostile to the message of the gospel.

You know, I think that is true. Even though I am afraid of how people will react, personally I have never had anyone outright attack me because I talked with them about the gospel and only a few people have been rude. For the most part, everyone I have ever engaged in a gospel conversation has been respectful.

So while fear can be a real barrier to us making disciples, it doesn’t have to be because Jesus promises He will be with us and most people we engage will be receptive and polite.

(3) A loss of your first love

What I mean by that is that something else has captured your attention. Something has become more important to you, more exciting. You see, we talk about that which we are excited. That which we love. Think about your favorite restaurant or vacation spot. You share those things with people because they excite you.

But if you think about it, what is more exciting than the gospel? What is more exciting than knowing Jesus has willingly died in your place so that you might have life? If we are truly a believer, nothing should be more exciting than that.

So if you have lost your first love, if something has become more exciting than the gospel to you, then you need to meditate on the gospel. You need to preach the gospel to yourself until that excitement returns and you want to share that with other people.

(4) I need to get my life right first

But here is the thing, if we wait to get our life right before we make disciples, we are never going to make disciples because our life is never going to be completely right. Becoming a fully mature disciple of Christ is a process; a process that takes a lifetime.

Plus, Jesus never said we need to get our life right first before we can make disciples. Remember, His idea of “go” is “as you are going” As you are going through life. As you are growing in your Christian walk, you should be making disciples. You should be bringing others along on the journey with you to be more like Christ.

(5) I am just a sinner saved by grace, what right do I have to speak into another person’s life. 

That is true — you are a sinner saved by grace. But you have been given a commandment by Jesus to make disciples. And as Jesus’ disciple you are an ambassador of Jesus.

You know what Ambassadors do? They speak on behalf of another. Nations have Ambassadors. The United States has ambassadors. When they go to another country, they have the right to speak on behalf of our country. That is the same for us. As Christians we are Ambassadors of Jesus and we have the right to speak on behalf of Him.

Now when we speak to others we don’t do it harshly. We are sinners saved by grace so we need to exercise grace and mercy when we speak to others.

But the point is we have the right to speak to others. We have the right to make disciples and we have been given that right by Jesus.

So those are some of the barriers to making disciples. Admittedly, those can be difficult for us to overcome. They can take a lot of work for us to overcome. So why?

Why should we fight to Overcome These Barriers?

Fighting to overcome these barriers and making disciples is the only way our country is going to turn around. As well as if we don’t do it — if we don’t make disciples — no one else will. You see, we are God’s plan. God uses disciples to make disciples. So if we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it.

Question for Reflection

  1. What barriers have you faced in making disciples? How did you overcome them?

Resources

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Post adapted from the sermon: Disciples Make Disciples

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