Friday, 31 October 2014

Expressing your Christian Identity

How do people express their identity? Very often it is by the clothes they wear, or the people they associate with. Other methods are the ways that a person acts, through the sports club they support and of course the things that they say and do.

When someone suppresses their identity it can be a very frustrating experience. This means that a person desperately wants people to see their real identity, but feels for some reason that they have to hide it. An obvious reason for this could be related to fear of what they perceive could happen. I have read that in some Muslim countries when a person openly converts to Christianity their life expectancy is very often cut short.

May I present a challenge in asking how you express your own Christian identity? Are you a person who suppresses it in some way? For some, this is an easy question to answer, whereas others may find it more difficult.

We have a great example from Scripture where Paul says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1: 16

The Psalmist also wrote, “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long.” Psalms 75:15

I believe that both these scriptures clearly point out that when it comes to letting people where we stand, we are to express our Christian faith, rather than suppress it.

Some Christians find it effortless to demonstrate their beliefs through the way that they act and the things that they say. For example, when it comes to gossiping they will simply but firmly say, “I am sorry, but I don’t speak ill of others.” Or when a conversation comes up on spiritual matters at work, with family or friends, they seize that opportunity to nail their colours firmly to the mast and witness for Jesus.

What should you do if you have been suppressing your faith? Firstly, discover the reasons for it. Is it due to fear of rejection, ridicule or damaging relationships? Or are there other reasons such as a lack of confidence in sharing or because of thinking that you may not be able to answer questions? Perhaps for some the reason is that they prefer to be “Sunday Christians” so that they can be accepted by those around them.

Key Point: God doesn’t want you to suppress your faith, but rather to express it through your words, actions and deeds.

Jesus commanded us to be witnesses for Him. There is no doubting this: He said to them,Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”.  Mark 16: 15

We are not meant to hide our faith but let people see the reality of it through the way we act, speak and the things that we do. The scriptures leave no room for doubt.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(.) Matthew 5: 16.

This comes back to a combination of lifestyle evangelism and being a proactive believer.  In my early days as a Christian I was taught by my Pastor, who was an evangelist, that as Christians we can make opportunities for the Gospel.  This can be in the form of an invitation or sharing of your testimony of salvation or even sharing the Gospel

The definitions of the words express and suppress are very interesting particularly when applied to making our Christian identities known.

Express: Convey in words or by gestures and conduct

Suppress: To keep from being revealed

If you are easily able to express your Christian identity it is really great news. If you find this area of your walk challenging, you will need to pray and ask the Lord for courage. I can speak from experience and tell you that He will answer if you do. After all, His desire is to communicate the Gospel of truth and the atoning death of His Son through you. What an honour!

Ask the Lord to help you and guide you. If you do you can be reassured of one thing. Scripture says:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4: 13

You could pray a simple prayer like this: “Lord, I ask you to help me to express my identity in Christ so that it is clear and evident for all to see. Send people who don’t know you as Lord into my path and help me to share my faith and bring honour and glory to You in Jesus’ name. Amen”

Be Blessed!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Does God have a sense of humour?

The event I describe below is one that I will never forget. Looking back now I remember it very fondly. When it actually happened though, my feelings were the exact opposite. I never believed that I would share this story the number of times that I have over the years when speaking about my journey to finding Christ. This story and others like it can be found in my book "A Fall From The Top". 

I often say that I believe that God has a sense of humour, because many of the things that I used to despise about Christians, I now do myself! Yes, I am often the man that knocks the front door to say "Hello, I am from your local church”, or the person who stands on a street with a microphone sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before becoming a Christian I particularly disliked anyone involved in preaching. Well, I am delighted to say that I do a lot of that now. God is so good! 

The Lord is able to use our situations when we yield ourselves to Him - even our struggles and hardest times. Through my own life experiences I am able to empathise with people who have been through similar circumstances. When people know that you really understand and care, it builds trust and credibility. From there you can then point people to the truth of the Gospel.  

The great Christian motivational speaker Zig Ziglar often used to say, “People don’t care what you know, until they know how much you care!” I used to listen to his sales training tapes over and over again while driving long distances between my offices. I have never forgotten the statement. I can confirm its validity because you will see the hardest people open up when they know you genuinely care.

Key Point: The Lord is able to use our experiences when we yield ourselves to Him.

You could be witnessing to  a person who may be going through a really difficult time and in what they feel is an impossible situation. We know that God can transform situations when people allow Him to move in their lives. I often explain that I know He can turn things around because He transformed the life of a self obsessed, money grabbing, lying, cheating, adulterer. Yes, that was me! The amazing thing is that He now uses me to share the good news!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". Romans 8:2

This is the excerpt:  I didn’t have a full licence to drive a car on my own at the time, as I had not yet passed my driving test. I used to get a lift to work with our Butchery Manager, Terry Ford. He used to pick me up with his wife and children.

They were a Christian family and his wife was one of those ‘happy clappy people’. She would say things that irritated me, like “Praise the Lord” and “Thank you Jesus”. She reminded me of the weird Christians I had seen on television some years before.

I considered her and all other Christians to be the same type of people. I disliked them all and believed that they were all weaklings that used Jesus as some sort of crutch. To me being a church goer was the total opposite of karate which had taught me about building self belief and inner strength, which was nothing like what I thought being a Christian was.

One Friday afternoon when we on our way home from work with Terry and his family, we got stuck in a traffic jam in the centre of the town. We were moving along very slowly in the car in a busy area. We came to a standstill behind a white Triumph Herald. A sign that was stuck on the lower middle part of the back window gradually came into focus. It read in bold print, “TOOT IF YOU LOVE JESUS!” “Oh no!” I thought, “Oh Please don’t let her notice it there.” She saw it and with a big smile on her face she said at the top of her voice, “Oh look, Praise the Lord!” I hoped that she would only give the horn a quick thump, but oh no, she waved to the person in the car in front and hit the horn long and hard “TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!”,"TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!", "TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!"

I felt extremely embarrassed and believed everyone was staring at me. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. Everyone was laughing in the car except me. I sat there with my arms folded and had a look of total disgust on my face. I resented her for doing it and I even started walking to work because of it. On the odd occasion I saw her, it was very difficult for me to even speak to her.

I hope this story made you smile or even laugh. You have a story to share. Go and share it.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Are you welcomed at church?

Recently I was speaking to a very close friend of mine who pastors a busy, growing church. We got on to the subject of engaging new people or visitors when they come to church.  How would you answer the question, “What would you expect to happen when visiting a new church?”

I preach in a wide range of churches and when doing so, have experienced a very diverse range of welcomes. Some have been very good but others really poor. It’s important to remember that not all of the visitors to your church will be Christians. Some may be there as a result of an invitation, others because they are searching for God. Sometimes people visit a church because they are desperate and need an encounter with God. They are ready for Him to speak to their hearts.

Key Point: You need to welcome people in the way that you would expect to be welcomed on a first visit!

The way that we engage and interact with a newcomer plays a huge part in whether the person returns and definitely influences their decision to make your church their spiritual home – or not. You need to welcome people in the way that you would expect to be welcomed on a first visit.

The scriptures tell us very clearly how we are to behave. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4: 5-6

There are two ways we could comment on this scripture, but for now let’s consider these words in respect of visitors to your church. We will assume that every new visitor receives a personal welcome at the door of the church, at the very least. We are looking beyond this initial introduction at your church.

These are a few basics:
    *They are met by a happy, smiling person as they arrive

    *They receive a firm handshake

    *They have a good conversation with effective eye contact and positive body language
    *They are presented with details of the church and are given a visitors card
    *They are made aware of the church facilities

    *If they have children that they receive information about young people’s activities
    *They are shown where they can sit, or even better, to a seat

    *They are introduced to someone in leadership (if possible).
I lecture on customer service and how to give customers the right impression. Visitors to your church are not like people who visit shops and businesses, but we must give them an impression of Jesus, after all, He is the reason we are there and as a result we should demonstrate His love and grace.
A few years ago I visited a church not too far from where I live. I like to arrive before the meeting starts, so we entered the church to be met by a greeter who smiled and shook our hands. He gently waved his arm in the direction of the seats and that was it. We sat down and for the next fifteen minutes watched the people arrive. As the church filled up no one spoke to us at all, until the Pastor and his family arrived just a few minutes before the service started. At the same time some other friends arrived, came over and said hello to us. We were pleased to see people we knew but overall, our experience was not that welcoming.

I know people who have visited a church and had the complete opposite happen –because it seemed as if the whole church came over to greet them, so much so, that it felt claustrophobic. They felt pressured and overwhelmed by the attention.

A couple of years ago my family accompanied me to a preaching engagement. We were welcomed in much the same the way I described earlier and of course by the pastor. However, no one else even engaged us, even during the after service refreshments.

It’s obvious that we ought to use wisdom in the way that we act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity that comes to us.

I have another question. “Do you make the most of every opportunity?”

At our church, the Pastor and leaders will always make a point of speaking to new visitors as a matter of priority. I am aware that some churches have large numbers attending so it may be difficult for the Pastor to do this. In these circumstances, it is vital that the regular church attenders are mindful to welcome the newcomer with a handshake and a smile as they introduce themselves. Try to avoid saying “I haven’t seen you here before” because they may have been there and you didn’t know it.
When I greet people I smile and say “Hi, my name is Moray and it’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t believe we have met before…do you live locally?” This simple question should let you know how willing the person is to speak. Some conversations finish quickly because people are a little shy whereas other times the opposite can happen.
If visitors have children with them I will make a point of speaking to them as well. I might ask if they were informed about the children’s facilities and crèche programmes.
I will also introduce them to key people in the church who I know will be welcoming. We have just once chance to make a good ‘first impression’!
Be sure to speak to them after the service finishes. I don’t ask “Did you enjoy the service?” because this question may make them feel under pressure. So instead, I may comment on an aspect of the service which often starts a conversation which can lead on the other things.
The way we do this has an impact on attendance. How welcoming are you?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Witnessing to a God hater

I was speaking to pastor recently when the subject of ‘God-haters’ came up. You probably have met people like this, who are often vocal in their anti-God status and don’t want to hear the gospel. This situation is mentioned in Romans 1:  29 – 30, where the writer covers the subject of God’s wrath against sinful humanity. The passage gives some strong descriptions about a wide range of people: They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents”.

Recently I have thought long and hard about how we can reach these people with the truth of the Gospel. To begin with, it is vitally important to understand why some people are so against the Gospel. What causes them to take a stand that is so against Christianity and makes them full of hatred when it comes to the things of God?

From experience I believe that the reasons for this type of hatred are many and they range from things like family upbringing right through to those that are demonic. God-haters can come from areas that may be surprising.

A number of years ago I worked part time for an evangelistic newspaper called ‘New Life’. Part of my job involved meeting with groups of church leaders to encourage them to use this publication as an evangelistic tool. At one such meeting, I arrived early to meet the organiser, who was a Salvation Army Major.  Solemnly, he explained that he needed to give me a warning. “Oh, what is the warning?” I asked. “Two of the ministers in the meeting are vehemently again the gospel,” he replied. That meeting was a real battle from the start to the finish and it felt as if I was flogging a dead horse. Believe me, God-haters come in all shapes and sizes!

Key Point: He is able to break down the biggest barriers to people’s hearts. The exciting thing is that He chooses to use people like you and me to speak to them.

Having witnessed to many people like this over they years I have come to the conclusion that many are God-haters because they have either had a bad experience with Christians or a church. Other reasons are often that they have either been impacted by, or witnessed, Christian hypocrisy.

My wife attended a Catholic school and used to tell me how the students struggled to listen to the priest that took some of the classes, as he were often known to be drinking alcohol. This made the students in the school struggle to take him seriously which resulted in a lack of respect.

These types of things can cause immense damage and make it incredibly difficult to even engage somebody with the truth of God’s word. However, the good news is that God is able to do the impossible! He is able to break down the biggest barriers to people’s hearts. How exciting that He chooses to use people like you and me to speak to them!  

On a number of occasions, people that I have shared the gospel with point the finger at an individual saying “ I would never go to church if that person was there”. They give examples of hypocrisy in the person’s life examining the way the person behaves in work or how they treat their neighbours. This makes the job of witnessing more difficult. In this situation, I explain that a person shouldn’t base their decision to accept or reject Jesus based on someone else’s bad behaviour.

As Christians, our lifestyle must be one that gives a good witness of Jesus being in our hearts. He didn’t gossip, criticize people or get involved in factions at work. He demonstrated love and compassion and in order for us to have credibility with people when we share the gospel, we must show the same. 

What is the key to reaching hard-hearted people? Is it a well presented gospel or testimony or something else? Those things are very important, but we have clear instructions in the Bible - we must demonstrate love always and add to that much prayer.

When we are with people who hate God we must love them - even those who would persecute us – showing that we have the love of Jesus in our hearts. This must be backed up by prayer, calling on God to break down walls of rejection, fear, disappointments and those of hatred.

We need to use wisdom in the way that we witness to people because we will sometimes come up against the enemy who hates all things that involve the Gospel. This is why prayer is essential in personal witnessing. When we engage an unbeliever in the Gospel we are involved in spiritual warfare. That is one the reasons that we need to be prayed up. A mentor of mine always told me that prayer and evangelism go hand in hand. It is undoubtedly true. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43 – 48

If we want to reach God Haters, we will need to get on our knees.

Friday, 11 April 2014

What happens in a person's heart to make them decide to follow Jesus?

What was your journey to find Christ like? My own took some time and along the way I battled with the very truth that I was searching for. The evangelist Steve Hill once said, “Some people come to Christ easily while others come violently!” My journey to find Jesus certainly wasn't easy for me. Understanding what Jesus did for me took some time.

Over the last couple of days I have been considering what happens in a person’s heart to cause them to want to accept Jesus as Lord. What is it that brings them to that point? What happens to keep them following after the Lord and not looking back?

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13: 3-8

It is vitally important to remember about how we ‘sow’, if we want to reach people for Jesus so that they surrender their lives to the One who died for them. If we don’t understand this we will miss opportunities and even waste them.

People come to Jesus in many ways, some people in ways that are extraordinary, where they see Jesus in a dream, or experience a supernatural encounter. I know people who have found Christ in ways that are profound and almost unbelievable. The reality is revealed by seeing Jesus outworked in their lives. In other words, that the fruits of the Spirit (Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) are visible for all to see. This is the case for our own lives too; for without these qualities being demonstrated in our lives our credibility will come into question.

What is it then that causes a change of heart? It is simply the Gospel. Nothing else!
I often share my testimony on a one to one basis as well as to groups and churches. I am very grateful to God for the many decisions to accept Christ through it. God gets all the Glory!

One thing is certain –no one would come to Christ if all my testimony contained was what happened to me, interesting as it might be for some. It is crucial to explain the Gospel, that Jesus lived a perfect life and was crucified for our sins on Calvary, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day. He is now in heaven, sitting at God’s right hand, interceding for us.

Sharing the Gospel is absolutely vital and incredibly powerful when explained using scripture - because it is the life changing WORD OF GOD!!

Key Point: It is the Gospel that saves and it the Holy Spirit who convicts hearts. Not you or me.

As a young Christian I was full of excitement, enthusiasm and passion, but I lacked depth in many ways. I wanted the world to know about Jesus and as a result I was a huge embarrassment to my then unsaved wife.

I would tell anyone and everyone what had happened to me. Somehow the Holy Spirit used me and my story of salvation to reach people. The few scriptures I knew at that time were vitally important and made the difference for the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts.

I remember witnessing for a long time to a businessman who patiently listened to me. I told him about my church, what was happening there, how good the worship was, about the miracles I had witnessed and stories of people who had made decisions like me. I was enthusiastic, burning with passion and desperately wanted for this man, who was a close friend, to accept Jesus.

Sadly, nothing happened - because I didn’t share the Gospel. I didn’t bring it into the conversation nor link it in a relevant way to my testimony. Upon reflection, all I did was preach at him. Undoubtedly, this demonstrated my belief in Jesus even down to the point of adoration; but I wasted an opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel.

Your testimony, explaining about the church services, talking about the worship, miracles and countless other things, should do only one thing and that is to point people to Jesus. When we share the Gospel linked to stories and events, things will start to happen.

A pastor I know once made the point that some people can come into church service, get caught up in an atmosphere, experience a ‘God awareness’ and make an acknowledgement of Jesus, only to fall away when trials come along -  like the scripture quoted above. We shouldn’t be surprised about this because Jesus said it would happen. However, when the seed of the Gospel takes root in someone’s heart, a miracle occurs that is life changing!

I am so grateful to God that someone shared the whole truth with me in a way that was uncompromising. I needed to hear it because I was lost and headed for a terrible place.

Anyone who doesn’t know Christ needs to hear the truth of the Gospel because that is they only thing that will save them. If we have a heart for the lost, God will give us opportunities to reach them. Let’s make sure that we share the Gospel. All of the other things should point to Jesus. When we have someone in front of us who is willing to listen, let’s remember how to sow the Word – and the Holy Spirit will do His Work.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1: 16

Friday, 28 March 2014

Where is sharing the gospel in your prioroty list?

Recently I have received numerous cold calls and, emails and also seen many advertisements on social media on how to make money, save money and all manner of things related to wealth. It can be very irritating to be bombarded with these things. In addition, I have people in businesses offering me money-making schemes and ‘opportunities of a lifetime that will increase prosperity and create a fantastic life’!

With every one of these, the people and companies are really enthusiastic, exhibiting a strong belief in their product, business or service.

All of this has made me ask myself, “What’s more important, making money, saving money or saving souls”?  Before you start thinking that I mean that we shouldn’t be motivated by doing well in our jobs and businesses. Let me make it clear, I am not saying that for a minute.

I worked in business for many years and was a very high achiever. I loved it: the excitement, the ups, the downs, the goals, just about all of it! We all need to earn money to live and hopefully have some left over to save for rainy days and for when we get old and grey.

I believe this challenging question about ‘what is most important?’ is something we seriously need to consider especially with the way that the world and society is rapidly changing. People need to know about the One who died for them and how He can help them in daily life. The vital part is that they come to know Jesus died a painful death so that they might have eternal life. God made a choice to use both you and me to share the all important message. If we don’t tell people, who else will?

The question is, where does sharing this important life changing news with others come in your list of priorities?

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3–4

Paul used the words, “Of first importance” when he wrote to the Corinthians explaining that Jesus died for our sins and how He was raised on the third day. Reading the scripture caused me to ask myself the question “What is of first importance in my life?”

Key Point: Ask yourself the question, “What is of first importance in my life”?

Having a sense of urgency is very important in any business, certainly in the sales industry where I come from. Working in sales means constantly seeking and creating opportunities to get appointments to sell.

My boss set a great example of how to remain focused and committed. When he was a sales person, he would carry five coins in his left trouser pocket. He would make appointments by cold calling, referrals or face to face and would transfer one coin to his left pocket each time he was successful. He would not go home until he had moved all of the coins from left to right pocket.

Remembering this made me ponder - what would happen if we as Christians had a similar focus on sharing Jesus in some way every day, let alone five times a day? What would happen?

I use exercises like the one below when I teach classes on self awareness. Being totally honest with your answers will tell you a lot about yourself.

Here is a list of priorities that I have written in a random order. Rate how you important these things are to you, numbering them 1 to 10.

·        Family

·        God

·        Prayer

·        Reading Gods word

·        Giving financially, supporting the church

·        Work

·        Hobbies and pastimes

·        Church attendance

·        Witnessing for Christ

·        Serving in the church

I have completed a list myself and it has made me examine my own priorities.

Recently my pastor and friend used a terrific prop when he preached a message about the subject of faith. He placed a chair in the centre of the stage and asked the congregation how they would pray if God was actually sitting there in front of them. How would we pray about a need or a desire that we had? Would we pray differently if we could actually see Him in the room?

Thinking along those lines, what would the Lord think of your list?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Can you honestly say follow my example?

I was deeply saddened by the recent news that the evangelist Steve Hill passed away after a prolonged fight against cancer. I first heard him preach many years ago when my pastor loaned me a cassette tape of one of Steve’s best known messages called “White Cane Religion”. Up to that point I had heard many well-preached evangelistic messages; but when I listened to Steve, I was deeply moved by his passion and zeal. From then on, I became a regular listener of his messages, watched his videos on television  and read many of his books.

Back then and even now as I write this, I am still challenged as Steve’s words make me consider my own passion and desperation for the lost. We have many examples both in scripture and in Christians we know, who demonstrate the reality of their faith through their lives.

I feel blessed to have come under his ministry in Pensacola during the revival as well as being part of two missions he led in Wales.  I was delighted to meet him on a number of occasions.

These scriptures come to mind when I think of Steve:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
 1 Corinthians 11: 1

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:15-16

I often say that I like to be challenged when people preach and without a doubt, when Steve preached the Gospel I always was!

Key Point: There are many great examples we can follow in Scripture and there will also be many Christians that model a godly attitude, have consistent prayer lives and much more.

As Christians we go through a process of sanctification as we follow Christ and His example. There are always areas we need to work on, parts of our lives we haven’t fully given to God. Steve was just a man like me, a sinner saved by grace.

Reflecting upon this, here are three examples he set that still challenge me. How do they challenge you?

Demonstrating that you believe what you say: When you talk to people who have not accepted Christ how do you come across? Do you show a deep conviction and passion for the one who saved you?

In my own case there are times when I don’t do this as I should. When we demonstrate passion and zeal for Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, things happen! I remember being on a training course in a hotel some years ago. Relaxing after our evening meal with about ten colleagues, I introduced the subject of church and before long everyone in the group was listening intently. One of them asked “Do you really believe that the Bible is true?” I answered with real passion saying “I know that it is true! As I spoke they all fell silent, a number of them looking visibly shocked. That night I was able to share the gospel and as a result had many more opportunities to witness.

Passion and zeal for those who don’t know Jesus: Considering this I would say that I am passionate for the lost, but not anywhere as near as much as I should be. Sometimes I allow the business and daily events of life to distract me so that I lose focus.

You don’t have to look very far in the Bible to realise that we are in the end times. Jesus could literally return at any minute and I want to be ready when He does. Like the men in the parable of the talents who couldn't wait to see the master when he returned.

We should all have a desire to reach the lost and demonstrate that in our prayer life as well as talking about Christ to people who don’t know Him as Lord. I often pray asking God to give me just a little of the passion that Jesus had for the lost. I believe that with an impartation of just a tiny spark of Jesus’ passion would set me on fire.

An example to follow: I wonder, do people consider for even a millisecond the example that I set? Would my actions inspire another  believer? Would I want to be like me? 

Can I truly say like the apostle Paul when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Could you say it? Its good to be challenged isn’t it?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Commitment is a very big word. Especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

We live in a society that isn't that big on commitment today.  An example of that would be marriage versus co-habitation - these days, young couples move in with each other ‘to see how things go’, rather than make a commitment to each other. The world is changing rapidly as a consequence of this attitude in society.

I have been thinking a lot lately about commitment to the Gospel. When we know how vital it is to witness to others and that people need to about the One who can save them – does this knowledge renew our passion and commitment to share the good news?

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

The scripture above is one that is extremely challenging. Jesus was speaking about commitment. When I was in sales and management we used to call it “Being blinkered”. In other words, someone being totally focussed on achieving their tasks or goals.

After the man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”, Jesus gave him a straight answer, which in today’s language would be “Think about what you are saying, following me is not going to be easy.”

I preached a message recently and asked the people listening “What do you think evangelism or witnessing is?” and received responses like “Sharing the good news” and “Letting people know about Jesus”.

I spoke about someone who once described it this way:

Evangelism is the work of rescuing people from certain death. It is putting aside all fear and hesitance, knowing that we cannot stand by and watch people die without doing something to stop it.”

I am challenged by that statement and it made me examine my own commitment levels. Am I blinkered when it comes to sharing the good news? How do I view people that I come into contact with on a daily basis? Do I view them as souls either going to heaven or destined for a lost eternity? What if I don’t think about it and just get on with my day?

Being committed is hard. It requires resilience and effort. It is not an easy thing to do. We are often committed to specific TV programmes, activities, hobbies and family-time. But many Christians lack in commitment to prayer, reading the word, church attendance and that of sharing the Gospel.

Key Point: Don’t allow yourself to develop a loser’s limp!

When I was a sales manager I would spend many hours driving my car. During those times I would listen to sales training tapes or ones about maintaining a positive mental attitude. One of my favourite speakers was Zig Ziglar. He would often talk about the “Loser’s limp”. He would explain how a player in an American football game would be chasing someone with the ball, only to pull up, limping. He felt that sometimes the reasons were genuine and other times the chaser wasn’t committed and manufactured the limp.

The point I am making here is like the example of the man who said to Jesus “Lord, first let me go and bury my father”. We can get distracted, or we can find other things to do, or even sometimes find reasons not to be committed.

I once worked for a man in sales called Bob, who was a multi-millionaire. He would never listen to excuses, or allow any negative talk around him. As a result you always had to be positive whenever he was in earshot because if anyone spoke negatively or made an excuse, he would react very strongly.

He was not a believer, but I wonder what he might have said to people if he was saved, when people were struggling with their commitment to the Gospel. Here are a few examples of the kind of ways Bob would respond:

Believer: “It’s difficult to witness my colleague at work.”
Bob: “Well, meet them outside of work and share the Gospel!”

Believer: “I can’t find the time to witness.”
Bob: “Make time, how much time do you spend in front of the TV?”

Believer: “I am not sure what to say.”
Bob: “That’s easy, learn what to say. Spend some time with John who is great at that. He will help you.”

These answers might seem a bit extreme. But that is what he was like. Bob would never allow anyone to limp unless it was genuine. I am very grateful for having no nonsense bosses like him. They pushed me on to try things I’d never have dreamed of myself. In turn, I became the same with my people and developed them with similar challenges. 

 When it comes to the Gospel, how committed are you? What could you change?

Here are a few things you could commit to:

·        Intentionally give out a least one tract a week. By that I mean pray about who to give it to.
·        Build bridges with neighbours or colleagues to give you opportunities to share your faith with them.
·        Start inviting people to church.
·        Learn how to share the Gospel
·        Pray for opportunities consistently – and expectantly!

If someone asked you about your commitment, what would your answer be?