Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sharing the Love of Christ

Chuckle: "Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go south for the winter. --Sara, age 6

Ponder This: "God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called." --Unknown

SHARING THE LOVE OF CHRIST

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV).

Studies show that only 8 to 10 percent of Christians regularly share Christ with others. I saw a poll that showed the following reasons why people do not witness for Christ:
- 33.50% are afraid of being rejected or embarrassed.
- 21.70% are afraid of not having answers to people's questions.
- 19.20% rarely even think about the need to be witnesses.
- 17.30% don't know what to say.
- 8.30% haven't yet found a way to share that fits his or her personal style.

If you are concerned about the millions of people without Christ, these statistics should alarm you greatly. Maybe you fall into one of the above categories and have difficulty sharing your faith. If so, you can see by this poll that you are not alone. Some of the same fears reflected in the poll are common to all of us, and if God understands this, how does he expect us to carry out his instructions to be his witnesses?

The major problem is that we depend on our own strength to make us effective witnesses; when, in fact, God has provided for us His supernatural strength to encourage and enable us. You see, if you depend on your own abilities, vocabulary, personality, and determination, you are sure to fail. It is the power of God's Holy Spirit who provides all the resources you need to share your faith effectively. He can take away your fears and empower you with the right words. Here's what Jesus said to His disciples as He sent them out: "At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19b-20 NIV). He can also prepare the hearts of those to whom you witness. All you have to do is be willing and trust God for everything else.

Building relationships with those who need Christ is essential for effective witnessing. By getting to know someone and bonding with them, you will increase your credibility and their receptivity to the gospel message, especially if they see in your life the qualities of a fully devoted follower of Christ. Once a mutual trust has been established, you will feel much more comfortable sharing the plan of salvation. Please keep in mind that as a witness for Christ you must go in the power of the Holy Spirit. Also, the way you live is as great a witness as what you say. "Preach the gospel at all times, and sometimes use words." --Saint Francis

Finally, to be effective witnesses, we must have within our hearts a genuine love for people and a burning desire to see them come to Christ for salvation. We must have a burden for those who are lost and without the hope that faith in Christ can give them. We must care about people!!!! If you really care, you will ask God to show you a way and give you strength to share his love with others; but if you don't really care, you will never be an effective witness. The "want to" must come before the "how to." When you have the "want to," God will teach you all the "how to" you will ever need.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 17, 2009

Greater Things

Chuckle: "Nowadays early to bed and early to rise probably means the television set isn't working."

Quote: "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish." --Michelangelo

GREATER THINGS

"The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater (things) works, because I am going to the Father. You can ask for anything in my name and I will do it" (John 14:12-13 NLT).

When we read about all the miracles Jesus performed in the lives of lost, sick, needy, lonely, hungry, and hurting people, it's hard to imagine that any one person, or groups of people, could ever do greater things than Jesus did. If you consider that Jesus even raised the dead, it's hard to imagine his followers doing something greater than that. Yet, here, Jesus says this will be so. This begs the question, "How could this be so?" Let's see if we can figure this out.

I think a simple way to address this question is with another one. "After Jesus goes to the Father, what, or who, would enable the followers of Christ to do even greater things than Jesus did?" Jesus was not saying his followers would do greater individual works. But rather, the disciples, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, would carry the Good News of Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom from Palestine to the whole world. Jesus was limited, geographically, in the scope of his earthly ministry, but he prepared his followers for a much larger mission, and he empowered them to accomplish it with his Holy Spirit. Consider these words from Jesus: "If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you" (John 14:15-17 NLT).

With the power of the Holy Spirit, down through the centuries, Christians have led millions to faith in Jesus Christ, many more than Jesus did personally. As he promised, Jesus is still with us in Spirit. "No, I will not abandon you as orphans -- I (my Spirit) will come to you" (John 14:18 NLT). By faith we can appropriate the Spirit's power each day we live. In our first passage, Jesus says we can ask for anything in his name and he will grant that request if such requests are consistent with his character and purpose. He will give us the love, wisdom, and power to accomplish his Great Commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT). It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can do great things for our Lord.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Flawless Message

Chuckle: "If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple car payments!"

Quote of Note: "The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others." --Albert Schweitzer

THE FLAWLESS MESSAGE:

"But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice" (Philippians 1:18).

Previously, we considered that we all are imperfect messengers for our Lord. Our flaws are many. But today, we can praise God that his message to the world is flawless, perfect, and everlasting. "For God so loved the world" is the refrain that echoes throughout all eternity as God's motivation for giving his one and only Son. Because of His great love, God gave us a way to have all our sins and blemishes removed forever.

The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1500 years. Its writers included kings, shepherds, physicians, fishermen, and many others. The 66 books contain no contradictions, no variance in God's message, and paint a clear, unmistakable, and error free word picture of God's amazing love and eternal plan to reconcile human beings to himself through the atoning blood sacrifice of his one and only Son. The message is as perfect as the Almighty God who authored it by his Spirit. Paul, as we must, kept this truth in mind as he dealt with imperfect and sinful people.

The flawless/perfect message of Jesus should be our focus. - Paul never said that the character and conduct of the messengers is unimportant. But, he has a single-minded passion and personal goal that all people should hear the gospel message. As long as the gospel is being preached to the lost, he could overlook the flaws in the character of those who were trying to injure him. It is not our job to judge the motives of others, but rather to be faithful in proclaiming God's message.

Unfortunately, in church life, some people are more concerned with the protection of their feelings than with the proclamation of the gospel message. They always want their way and walk around with a chip on their shoulder -- they are easily offended. Their passion is their own egos and selfish desires. My prayer is that your church may be free of such petty and selfish motives and be completely united in carrying out the church's most important task -- proclaiming the perfect message of Jesus Christ.

The flawless message of Jesus should cause us to rejoice. "And because of this I rejoice" (Philippians 1:18). Paul joyfully endured his imprisonment and the imperfections of others because through it all people were coming to Christ. You too may have to endure hardships to serve the Lord. And in order to do that joyfully, as Paul did, the gospel message must become bigger, and more important to you than your own life and desires. Do you have that kind of joy?

"The minister of the gospel must not be afraid of conflict with the wisdom of the world. Gregory the Great said, 'God first gathered the unlearned, afterwards philosophers, nor has He taught fishermen by orators, but has subdued orators by fishermen.'"

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 10, 2009

Flawed Messengers

Chuckle: "Do you realize that in about 40 years we'll have thousands of old ladies running around with tattoos?"

Quote of Note: "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." --Henry David Thoreau

FLAWED MESSENGERS

"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will . . . But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice" (Philippians 1:15, 18 NIV).

In recent years, we have seen some prominent preachers go down in disgrace because of personal greed, ambition, sexual misconduct, dishonesty, etc. What a tragedy it is when men of God lose sight of the One they serve and become influenced by the standards of the world. All of us, as Christians, whether preachers or not, should say: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." All of us are wise to be on guard and keep our eyes upon Jesus so that our testimony is not discredited by sin in our lives. Whether we are preachers, teachers, or serving our Lord in some other capacity, we are all flawed messengers -- some more than others. We are all sinners saved by grace. Yet, Paul rejoiced if the message was being preached, regardless of the sinful motives of the ones doing the preaching. God can use his message for good regardless of the flaws in the messengers.

Flawed people sometimes attempt to serve the Lord with sinful hearts. "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry" (vs.15). Unfortunately preachers don't always practice what they preach. The same was true in Rome in Paul's day. How can one preach the One who cleanses from sin while still intentionally sinning himself? Sadly, it happened in Paul's day, and it happens in our day as well.

Flawed people should serve the Lord with sincere hearts. ". . . some preach Christ . . . out of goodwill" (vs. 15). Remember, that though good men may be sincere, they are not perfect. Even the best of men are at best only men. Paul says in Philippians 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect (mature), but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Paul's confessions about his own imperfections are sobering. "What a wretched man I am!" (Romans 7:24). "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst" (2 Timothy 1:15). Thank God for his imperfect servants who are nonetheless sincere in what they do for Him. And thank God for his forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).

Flawed people sometimes serve the Lord with sinful motives. "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains" (vs..17). "Some preach Christ out of false motives" (vs..18). Paul certainly had his enemies in the church at Rome, and they saw his imprisonment as an opportunity to demonstrate their perceived superiority over him. Preachers often deal with the temptation to promote self rather than the gospel. No matter who you are or what you do for the Lord, be careful of your motives and heed Paul's admonition. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit" (Philippians 2:2). Beware of what lurks in the heart, for "when the Lord comes, He . . . will expose the motives of men's hearts" (I Corinthians 4:5).

Flawed people should serve the Lord with pure motives. "The latter do so in love" (vs.16). Sincere servants of the Lord are motivated by their love and gratitude toward God, His Word, and the people for whom He gave His Son. Wise preachers, teachers, and other Christians, in spite of their failures and flaws, should make God's love the obvious motive for their service to the Lord.

Love, Jerry & Dotse