Great Questions to Ask

We have been chatting recently about spending time with those who are spiritually disconnected. And, how to have the same heart for the lost that Jesus had. In the process we saw that we don’t need to know the answers to all the questions that we will be asked as we engage in conversations with the spiritually disconnected. Today, let’s look at some of the questions that we could ask a non-believer as we speak with them informally…

As you watch the Holy Spirit open doors for spiritual conversations, you can feel free to ask some questions that might spark meaningful interaction. Don’t be afraid to ask good questions and really listen to people’s answers. The point of a well-asked question is not to set you up to unload your spiritual wisdom on others, but to create space for meaningful discussion. Of course, If the door opens to share your story of faith or the gospel message, then wonderful! Walk through that door. But you can have a meaningful spiritual conversation without having to close it with a gospel presentation.

Here are some questions that could move your conversation with non-believers to deeper levels of spiritual interaction:

  • What are some joys you are experiencing in this season of your life?

Most people would love to share about the good things in their lives, but they are afraid that others won’t care. Just by asking and listening, you open the door for great interaction. Also, if there are clear signs that God is blessing their life, you could open the door for conversation about the source of all good things.

  • What challenges and struggles are you facing?

People will share their pains and hurts with someone who really cares about them and takes the time to listen. As they share, you may find that it becomes an opportunity to minister the grace of Jesus. Sharing struggles can also create space for you to pray for or with them. 

  • What is your personal history when it come to faith and God?

This question is not so much about what people believe as it is about their personal histories. A person might say, “I have no history when it comes to religion,” or “I grew up going to Mass every week and my parents are quite devout,” or “I have always been very spiritual and I still read my horoscope daily and do a lot of meditation.” No matter what answer they give, you end up learning something about their journey that may allow you to move the conversation to a deeper level. 

  • What do you believe about God?

With this question, we move into more personal convictions and beliefs. Again, no matter how they answer, remember that you are learning and already going deeper than a typical conversation. Some Christians feel pressured to correct “wrong thinking” or “errant theology” in their conversation with non-believers. Try not to do this. Just listen and learn where they are coming from; then you’ll gain a sense of where they still need to go on their journey toward Jesus. 

  • What if your perception of Christians?

Or put another way, “What is your perception of Christianity or of the Christian church?” It takes courage to ask this question, listen, and not get defensive. But I have found that it can be an open door to deeper conversation.

When it comes to asking good questions, the key is to keep them open-ended. Create space to talk. Don’t become defensive and tell people where they are wrong. Just listen, learn, hear their hearts, and get a sense of where they are in their spiritual journeys. Even an angry atheist is on a journey. They are just very far from God. By listening to their perspective, you can learn how to pray, reach out, and walk with them toward the Saviour. 

Sharing Your Uncertainty with Non-believers

Here is a truth that needs to seek deep into your heart and mind: “You don’t need to know all the answers.” When I am talking with non-believers who don’t know Jesus I am willing to admit that I (and we – Christians) don’t have all the answers to life’s tough questions. Christians aren’t always certain about everything in this life, in our faith, or even in the Bible. No one understands everything with absolute clarity. God is just way too big for us to proudly declare that we have every aspect of our lives and faith nailed down., The fact that we still struggle with our own questions will help unbelievers see that they don’t need to have everything figured out before surrendering their lives to Jesus.

A clear Bible example of this concept is the blind man in John 9. This man had come to faith in Jesus through a powerful healing encounter. Now the religious authorities were asking him complex questions that he was not equipped to answer. Instead of pretending he had it all figured out, the man admitted what he did not know and affirmed what he did know. He said of Jesus, “Whether He is sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind and now I see!” (John 9:25). When we are honest about our uncertainties, we can also be bold about what we know with confidence.

When I encounter a person who struggles with why there is so much pain in the world, I have to be honest and admit that I wonder about this too. They might even say, “How can a loving God allow so much violence and suffering?” I don’t try and give a tight defence of God and tell them it’s easy to understand why suffering exists. Instead, I enter into an honest conversation and struggle with them.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have a hard time understanding why thousands of women are sold into sex slavery every year, why entire towns can be buried under the rubble of an earthquake, and why AIDS is devastating entire countries in Africa. In these moments, I don’t try and defend God; I just listen and share my own struggles over the violence and pain that so many experience.

As the conversation presses on, I might recommend they read the first chapter of Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Faith.” Strobel does a better job than I could ever do of walking through biblical and logical arguments for how suffering can exist in a universe created and sustained by a loving God. We may be able to provide reasonable answers to many of the questions that spiritual seekers raise, but sometimes the best response is to be honest and say, “That’s a great question, and I wonder about that sometimes too.”

When I run into people who are wondering about all the different world religions and how anyone can be sure that their faith is trustworthy and true, I don’t give the glib answer, “I just know they are all wrong and my faith is right!” Instead, I ask questions about their faith background and talk about what my faith means to me. I do my best to explain the solid historical evidence that supports the Christian faith. Often, I direct them to a great book like “Choosing Your Faith” by Mark Mittelburg. In this resource they will get far more help than I can offer.

When people question the Bible or mention things they just don’t understand, I usually say something like, “Join the club! I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things – and I’m a leader!” I don’t question the authority or truth of God’s Word; I believe that every single word of the Bible is breathed by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and that the Scriptures are true from the first word of Genesis to the last work of Revelation. But I do confess that there are things in the Bible I don’t fully understand. God is bigger than me, and His ways are higher than mine. I’m comfortable admitting that I don’t have everything in the Bible figured out.

Admitting we don’t have all the answers will often open the door for ongoing conversations. When I am faced with a question that I’m unable to answer completely, I admit that I don’t have all the information, but because I care about the person asking the question, I will go to others and spend more time in study to get a more complete answer. When we are in a spiritual conversation and someone asks a question we can’t answer, it is usually wise just to say, “Let me do a little study and reflect on that and get back to you.” Some Christians fell like they need to have all the answers, so they make up an answer on the spot. This is unwise. Instead, just humbly admit, “That’s a great question, and I don’t have a good answer right now. Let me get back to you on that.” Then make sure to follow up with the person and share what you have learned. 

Raising Your Spiritual Temperature – Part Three (end)

The last two days we have been looking at how to raise our spiritual temperature for building relationships with the lost and sharing Jesus with them was somewhat lacking for many today. We looked at what we need to do to raise our spiritual / evangelistic temperature and thus become committed to and deeply involved in The Great Commission – reach the lost, the last, and the least, the spiritually disconnected.

1> Engage in prayer for the spiritually disconnected (you might call them the lost) on a consistent and regular basis

2> Make time to be with those who are far from God

3> Tell stories

4> Make celebration natural

5> Spend time reflecting on eternity

Oner way to raise our spiritual temperature and thus love for the spiritually disconnected is to spend time reflecting on eternity and the eternal consequences facing those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.

The reality of Heaven kindles the flame of our evangelistic fire because we long for people to know the glory and wonder of being in fellowship with God who loves them in this life and for eternity. What an amazing motivator! Through faith in Jesus and by embracing the grace that He offers, we can be assured of intimacy with God. We can be restored to communion with our Creator God for all of eternity. And while some might worry that the hope of Heaven makes us a bunch of “pie in the sky, by and by” nuts, this clear teaching of Scripture is a powerful motivator. There is a real Heaven, it will be glorious, and it will be our home through faith in Christ. 

Reflecting on the other side of the coin can be helpful too. Hell is real, and those who are not saved by God’s grace through Jesus Christ will spend eternity separated from God. I wish there was no such place, but I don’t have the right to take out scissors and remove things in the Bible that I don’t like. Living with a sober awareness of hell stirs us to help people meet Jesus and make Heaven their eternal destination rather than hell. 

The existence of Heaven and hell are not the only reason we share the gospel, but they are powerful motivators. The we accept the truth of the Bible, the reality of Heaven and hell stirs us to reach out to others with the grace and message of Jesus. 

To conclude… Passion and vision leak. But God is ready to fill us with His Spirit afresh and give to us a renewed desire to share His grace and love. By being aware of our own heart condition and outreach temperature, we are well on our way to living lives of organic outreach.

Even if I am fired up about evangelism today, there is a good chance I will be apathetic about it next week. Because the forces of hell come against the work of outreach, we will no doubt become distracted, discouraged, and disillusioned. To counter the tendency to lose our outreach passion, we can apply these five thoughts or suggestions to our lives and they will help us to take steps to increase our spiritual temperature every day of our life. 

A reminder of the five…

1> Engage in prayer for the spiritually disconnected (you might call them the lost) on a consistent and regular basis

2> Make time to be with those who are far from God

3> Tell stories

4> Make celebration natural

5> Spend time reflecting on eternity

Raising Your Spiritual Temperature – Part Two

Last time we saw that for many disciples of Jesus our spiritual temperature for building relationships with the lost and sharing Jesus with them was somewhat lacking for many today. We began to look at what we need to do to raise our spiritual / evangelistic temperature and thus become committed to and deeply involved in The Great Commission – reach the lost, the last, and the least, the spiritually disconnected.

1> Engage in prayer for the spiritually disconnected (you might call them the lost) on a consistent and regular basis

2> Make time to be with those who are far from God

Along with praying for the lost and praying for yourself as you seek to reach out, make time to be with those who are far from God. Look at your schedule and honestly evaluate how much time you spend with non-Christians each week. Be sure you don’t get sucked into the black hole of church-related activities; instead, push yourself out into the community.

Far too many Christians have become insulated from the world. But Jesus intentionally and consistently spent time with people who were irreligious and even hostile to the faith. From what we can tell, Jesus even enjoyed being around these people, in their homes, at their parties, and involved in their lives. 

When we spend time face-to-face and heart-to-heart with those who are far from God, our evangelistic temperature is guaranteed to skyrocket! Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we begin to have hearts like His, filled with love and longing for people to know the grace that He offers them. If you have become too busy with church activities and hanging out with Christian friends, it might be time to make some changes in your schedule. Make time for family members, friends, and neighbours who are far from God.

3> Tell stories

Another way to raise your temperature is to tell stories. When you spend time with other Christians, use that time to do some mutual heart igniting. Tell stories about spiritual conversations you are having, about people you know who have come to faith in Christ, and about the steps forward people have taken in their spiritual journey. Talk openly about people you are praying for and reaching out to. Ask other believers what they are doing to share their faith. Talking like this should be an ordinary and organic part of our conversations with other Christians. As we talk together about how God is working among those we are reaching out to, temperatures rise. 

4> Make celebration natural

Another way to boost your spiritual temperature for reaching the lost and thus fulfilling The Great Commission is to make celebration natural. In your home, church, workplace – anywhere God takes you – make time to celebrate whenever someone takes a step forward in faith. 

When someone crosses the line of faith and receives God’s grace through Jesus Christ, temperatures jump! It’’s like pouring gas on a campfire. The angels of heaven rejoice and so should we (Luke 15:10). When we hear of a person accepting Jesus, we should tell their story to every believer we meet., This is not a time for quiet and introspective reflection. It’s a time to dance, sing, jump, and rejoice!

As we celebrate God’s amazing grace and rejoice that another sheep has been found, we will find ourselves longing for more, and our hearts will cry out to God with renewed passion.

Stories of conversion remind us that God has the power to soften the hardest of hearts. They propel us forward with renewed energy to pray, love, and share the gospel. 

SeeKing Jesus

The title at the top of the teaching (on the screen) is not a typo…

It is a time for Jews to come to Jerusalem to celebrate their feast days remembering all that God has done for them in the decades and centuries past
They come as commanded by their holy book – seeking to please God and find favour with Him
Jesus has come up to Jerusalem with His disciples – they are fulfilling the requirements of the Jewish law that all Jewish males come to Jerusalem at certain times of the year
In among the multitude of Jewish men were some Gentiles (non-Jews) who were from the part of the Roman Empire known as Greece (the former Greek city states)
Let’s pick up the Bible story at this point…

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Raising Your Spiritual Temperature – Part One

Have you given any thought recently to The Great Commission? Or, in reality, have you written it off as a ‘great suggestion’ and thus not something you are planning to become involved in? Many believers do not have a consistent focus on the lost and are self-focusing as life is busy and there are always issues, needs, and desires that demand our attention. So, there is little time or energy left over to connect with and be concerned about those who are spiritually disconnected.

One day each and every one of us will be held accountable for what we have done with the gifts, skills, and talents that the Lord blessed us with. One day we will stand before the Lord and He will speak to us about the fruit that we, as believers and disciples, were called to bear – fruit, much fruit, eternal fruit (John 15). And, at that point it will be too late to make any changes. However, if you are reading this, it is not too late yet…

I was recently in Moscow ministering at an Armenian Church and had an evening with the youth of the church. It was a questions and answers session and near the end there were several questions about how I keep my passion for the lost in the midst of both a busy life and ministry. This led to one of the most powerful prayer times I have ever been a part of as I individually prayed for every person present that their heart would be broken by what breaks the Lord’s heart – the height of His creation, human beings, going to hell because they did not know Him. Powerful and life changing – for them and for me.

So, how do we engage with The Great Commission? How do we get excited and committed to reach the world for Jesus one person at a time? Let’s refresh your memory regarding exactly what The Great Commission is…

Jesus said, “Then Jesus came close to them and said, ‘All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 The Passion Translation)

1> Engage in prayer for the spiritually disconnected (you might call them the lost) on a consistent and regular basis

Pray for people that God has placed in your life who are spiritually disconnected. Make a list, post a note, put a reminder in your electronic calendar, set an alarm so that you will remember to pray. 

When you pray, ask God the Father to draw people to Himself. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to them, soften their hearts, and draw them Jesus. Cry out for God to do whatever needs to be done that they might see their need for a Saviour and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

Pray that your heart will go out to these people. Jesus taught His followers to cry out to God to send workers for the harvest because the fields are ripe and ready. Let God know you are ready to extend His love and hope. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to notice people in need. Pray for boldness to serve others in the Name of Jesus. And, pray for wisdom to know the right time to share your testimony and the message of Jesus. 

Pray for the Holy Spirit of God to give you eyes to see beyond the realm of the physical. Ask God to pull back the veil and let you see and experience people as He does. This prayer will undoubtedly turn your life upside down. Just as Elisha prayed for his servant’’s eyes to be opened (2 Kings 6:17), we can pray, “Open my eyes so I can see.” When God, in the power of the Spirit, opens our eyes to see this world as He does, our evangelistic temperatures will rise and ice-cold hearts will melt with a love for those who are spiritually disconnected.

Man-made Waves of God

Recently friends of mine from a number of countries traveled to Russia to attend a conference with some fairly powerful speakers. If I were to name them you would probably know two or three of them. The others would be well known to Russian speaking Christians. Many of my friends posted pictures of themselves with the speakers … you know, the constant flow of selfies. What did we ever do before selfies?

Several posted videos of the worship and the speakers on Facebook. I didn’t listen to the speakers as I am a reader and not a listener. And, I have read their books and so have heard their message. And, I am busy working to apply God’s Word in my life and that is more important. But, I was struck by the worship videos. Great worship leaders and teams backing them. Good music. Great songs (I know enough Russian to be able to sing along to some of them). But, what struck me was how many people were not engaged in the worship. 

The people were standing there as the worship was going on and they were texting, talking on their phones, speaking to one another, looking around, taking selfies, taking videos, just standing there motionless. So, so many of them were not engaged in the worship – including those taking the videos. They were not standing in awe of Him who called us to Himself and loves us with an unconditional and never ending love. I wept.

But then you read the write-ups and the summaries and almost every one of them talks about God moving, the Holy Spirit’s presence being powerfully there, revival is about to happen or is happening, and that there is a new wave of the Spirit… 

I wonder how much of what they sensed and felt was God. I am not judging anyone. I was not there to experience what they saw, heard, and felt. But, I believe that at times we have ‘man-made’ waves of God. It is emotion and not the Holy Spirit. It is ‘feel good’ that pats us on the back and lets us know things are good and God is pleased even if they aren’t and He isn’t. We are not feeling challenged. We are not being stretched spiritually. We are not being encouraged to love the one beside us back at the home church. We are not being trained in witnessing and evangelism so we can win the lost and fulfill the Great Commission. 

Yes, it can be exciting and a powerful experience. I would hope that people are touched and encouraged. But, a lot of what we claim to be the Holy Spirit is often, at least in my 46 years of experience as a Bible teacher and conference attender, simply emotion. And, that many of our “waves” and “revivals” are not in the least a serious move of God. They are, at the worst, emotions let loose and, at best, a desire for true revival to come upon the world. We are settling for man-made waves of God and not a true life-changing move of the Spirit of the living God. 

Just a thought and observation. 


Jesus is alive – He is alive – Hear me, He is alive …

Living here with His people
Living here with you
Living here for you – available to help
Revealing Himself to others through you
In spite of the fact that many believers live life like…
He is not here
He is still in tomb
He is dead and buried
Her is not available or active today

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Hear My Heart

I was reading some familiar passages in the Bible the other day (1 John 5:13-15). Passages I have preached on many times and in many places. There are, after all, an abundance of messages in those three verses and so much to learn from them.

As I was reading, thinking, marking them up with my colour-coding system, in a new translation God spoke to me and said “Hear My heart.” Of course, my answer was quick and as might be expected: “I am hearing Your heart as I am reading Your Word so that I would.” And again, He spoke very clearly to me and said, “Hear My heart.”

It was then that I realized what I was doing… I was reading God’s Word and interpreting it through my experiences, my desires, my current situation. 

In seminary this was called “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. 

So, it involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to my own ideas. 

We are ‘proof-texting’ our beliefs and resulting lifestyle. Not the way to really hear God’s heart and what He is saying to us. 

Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis.

Exegesis is the critical explanation or interpretation of a Bible passage. Synonyms for the word would include: interpretation · explanation · exposition · explication · elucidation · clarification.

The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?

To hear God’s heart through reading and studying His Word we need to be in “exegesis” mode and not “eisegesis” mode. We need to approach God’s Word objectively allowing it to speak to us. We should not approach God’s Word subjectively, trying to make it support what we think, what we want, what we need, what we believe. 

Let the Word speak for itself – in the context it is written (the chapter, the book, the testament, the Bible). Let the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word, show you what it means in its context and then help you to apply it to your own situation and circumstance. Then you will truly hear God’s heart for you for that day.

So, we are to read listening for God’s heart. Not reading to back up what we believe in our heart. 

When you look at the Church today – you will realize that most of what we do in our churches is not biblical. We have read the Bible and interpreted it according to our hearts, our thoughts, our traditions, our culture. We have looked at Scriptures and used them to proof text what we are comfortable with or familiar with. This is eisegesis! We need to read the Bible and see what God says about His Church. Read it and let Him speak. This would be examining Scriptures exegetically. This is how we hear God accurately and often. 

I knew this, of course. But, I had slipped back into reading it to hear my mind and heart and not to hear His mind and heart. So, I repented and made the decision to be more careful with my time in His Word.

How about you?

His Words Bring Revelation

I am reading the book of Proverbs. It has been a while since I visited this book of the Bible. And, this trip through (a chapter a day so read through the whole book in a month) I am reading The Passion Translation. It is speaking volumes to me.

Of course, this is what we want when we read God’s Word. We want God the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Word, to speak directly to us personally. We want His word to enter our lives at the heart level and not just the head level. There are many people – believers and non-believers – who have read and even know a lot of the Bible. But, it has not changed their lives, their values, their morals, their perspective on life. It has become to them simply more information to process. But, God says that His Word is a sharp two-edged sword touching deep into the heart (spirit) and soul).

Hebrews 4:12 “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet!”

This means that God speaks His Word, then we, in agreement, also speak His Word as we apply it in our lives making it real and practical. This double speaking is the “two-edged” or, in this version, “two-mouthed” sword. The soul and spirit are the immaterial parts of every person that makes us who we are, joint and bone marrow are the physical aspects of our existence. All of this combined forms our humanity – and who we really are as individuals. God’s Word has the ability to uncover our hidden aspects (often hidden from ourselves) and make them known. 

As God speaks and we come into agreement with His Word to us we call this revelation. At issue is “are we listening?” Often, we read the Word out of a sense of obligation or because we have a daily discipline. We read a portion each day so we can get through the Bible in a year or some other timeframe (as if that is a valid goal). We read it so we know the stories and the ideas and principles it contains. All good, I suppose. But, really, we should be reading it as part of our on-going conversation with the Living God whose Word it is. We should be reading it in such a way that we are allowing the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word, to speak through the Word to us personally. It is not a task to complete so we can say we read the whole Bible this year. It is one of a number of  vehicles through which God can speak.

When we give God space in our reading of the Bible to speak to us, believe me you will hear Him. He will speak directly through the words that you are reading or simply use those words to show you something else that is on His heart to share with you. This is what having a personal and intimate relationship with the Living God is all about – hearing Him speak.

The book of Provers spoke to me the other evening as I read before heading to bed…

Proverbs 2:6 “Wisdom is a gift from a generous God, and every word He speaks is full of revelation and becomes a fountain of understanding within you.”

Proverbs 2:10 “When wisdom wins your heart and revelation breaks in, true pleasure enters your soul.”

We are looking for “revelation” when we read the Word and when we pray the Word. This revelation is a gift from a very generous God. This revelation is there because He wants to speak to us and thus build a more intimate and dynamic daily relationship with us. He wants it so much that He literally gave to you “the Spirit of revelation” when you were born again.

Ephesians 1:17 “I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelations to know (discover) Him through your deepening intimacy with Him.”

This is God’s gift to you – revelation of this thoughts and His heart. Don’t settle for anything less.