So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6

FRONT PAGE - here you will find the last 20 postings about recent conversations. Please pray for these people!

Listening

6/14/18                    Rahaku        (video)              59             



“To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.”  Proverbs 18:13

Everyone has a story, which is a reason I loved the writings of Studs Terkel, a Chicago author, historian, actor, and broadcaster.  He is best remembered for several books chronicling the oral histories of average Americans, bringing out fascinating details from their life stories. Sometimes I feel like I am doing the same thing as I try to listen well and ask good questions of people in my Gospel outreach conversations.

Evangelism has a bad connotation in many people’s eyes because evangelists are not often good listeners.  We have a message to preach, or, for some, a “spiel” to run through, and listening and responding to people’s stories is often seen as just an unimportant distraction, maybe even a diversion tactic to keep Gospel truths from being communicated. 

I believe there is a place and a need for preaching the Gospel uninterrupted, but there is also value in taking the time to hear and respond to people as a way to discover where their lives and the Gospel might intersect.

Early in a conversation with Rahaku, 59, he told me “It’s not what I believe, it’s what I KNOW.  I KNOW God doesn’t exist.”  I soon found him to be very opinionated and unwilling to listen much, but with a fascinating story and point of view nonetheless.  I tried to dig deep and discover the source of his animosity toward God, and found I had to listen to some uncomfortable truths about my own role as white, male, and Christian in America.

As he told more of his story I realized I was hearing an oral history of the black migration experience from the sharecropping south, with stops at state and federal penitentiaries along the way.  He told of his struggles to overcome the legacy of slavery and discover his African roots, and the view that Christianity is a white man’s religion.

I think we concluded that, if those who claim to be Christians in a person’s life can be either the best reason to accept or reject Christianity, then he has experienced only those who helped drive him away.

Neither of us changed our positions, and I didn’t really get to share much of the Gospel, but I think our conversation was of value.  I think it was a valuable time of self-reflection for Rahaku, and I hope he sensed the compassion I truly felt for him as he related his story.  Maybe I could have even been one of those Christians in his life, if only for a brief time, who might give him reason to believe. 

For my part I gained in my appreciation for all the people and resources God has blessed me with, including Rahaku.  Although he is not a brother in Christ, he is nonetheless a fellow human being formed in God’s image, and his story isn’t over.

PS – You are welcome to “sit in” on my conversation with Rahaku.  It’s on YouTube HERE




Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?

6/18/18          Nick (video)         late 20's


Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?

Nick – late 20’s, didn’t have much Bible background but somewhere along the way he did pick up and remember that B.I.B.L.E. acronym.  I agree with the sentiment, but is it really that simple?  Is the Bible really that basic?  Can it really be reduced to just a set of instructions?

When we tell people that the Bible is “God’s Word”, we should probably explain what that means to us.  It isn’t enough to say “God said it, that settles it”, because there are many different ways to interpret the Bible.  Jesus said as much when he answered an expert in the Scriptures ““What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”  (Luke 10:26)

Many people are under the impression that Christians must read the Bible uncritically, accepting each statement as literal, stand-alone facts, and they are quick to criticize the different ways we approach the various books of the Bible written in different genres to different audiences at different times in history.  Without actually having read much of the Bible themselves, in our online age most people have heard critics and scoffers who love to cite passages that, when taken literally and out of context, make a mockery of Christian faith. 

Many are quick to give up trying to read it for themselves when they don’t find clear, user-friendly instructions that give guidance and clear directions in all of life’s decisions to them personally.  Some begin to read the Bible like a novel and get bogged down after Genesis, dismissing it as irrelevant and outdated, or they make false assumptions about the overall message of the Bible.

So what do we mean when we say the Bible is God’s Word?  How can we convey a proper respect and appreciation for the Bible, without giving the impression that it is too difficult to comprehend without being a Bible scholar?

I have two points I try to make in my outreach conversations.  One was the point I tried to make to Nick, that the Bible is a revelation of God’s character as He has acted throughout history, as opposed to our scientific methods of trying to determine truth by human effort.  

Nick had been explaining his spiritual beliefs, which generally involved the “essence” of his character going on after his body dies, based on a sort of positive energy or karma he demonstrates in life.  He didn’t really have a source for this information other than his own imagination and wishful thinking, so I explained that God is too awesome for us to figure out by our own efforts, but if He revealed to us what He wants us to know, that would be enough.  The Bible is the primary place for that to happen.

I didn’t get to explain the second point to Nick because his daughter fell and cut her knee, so we had to end our conversation.  But I think it is important to understand that what makes the Bible God’s sacred word is that everything in its pages is what God has orchestrated and ordained to be written there, both in content and in style of writing. 

Imagine that, everything you read in the Bible, warts and all, is there for God’s purposes.  We may not always know what those purposes are, but it is a living word meant to be read over and over again at various stages of life, with some parts conveying a new or different message to us the second, third, or 23rd time around, and other parts clear as day from the first time we read them. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

The Bible isn’t a place where we go and figure God out by our own efforts.  It’s a place to discover, with His help, what he chooses to reveal to us.  That help comes through the Holy Spirit as described by Jesus in John 14:26 “…But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  He often speaks through other believers, books, sermons and the experiences we have living it out, but always based on or inspired by the Bible.

2 Tim.3 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  We aren’t left to our own imaginations, and we can’t trust our wishful thinking.

PS – feel free to sit in on our conversation HERE