There Is No Off-Season

The year we have just entered is a year when the Gospel will be setting more people free than any other year in your lifetime. As we pray and the Holy Spirit works opportunities will open for us to share the love of God. And, that love is discovered and received through the finished work of Jesus the Christ. So, we need to be ready to share the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) as doors open allowing us to do so. 

The key to being ready to plant seeds and bring in the harvest is preparation. Always being ready. The most excellent athletes in the world have this principal down pat.

Every sport has an off-season. This is the time when players who have been enduring a long, exhausting season take a break to relax and rejuvenate. All sports have these designated periods of rest. The best competitors will take a few weeks to allow their bodies to recuperate, but then they’ll use the rest of the time to prepare for the next season.

They train.

They lift weights.

They run.

They go through drills.

They push their bodies to the limit so that they will not only be ready for the next season but will also be better than the previous season.

The Bible clearly states that there is no off-season for an ambassador of God. And we are all ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Notice this wasn’t a casual suggestion, but a charge. A strong command for all believers – not just pastors – to be ready to preach the Word anytime, anywhere, to anyone. When it’s convenient, and when it’s not. When it’s easily accepted, and when it is adamantly rejected. Our circumstances, situations, or surroundings do not alter the charge.

The mandate is still the same – no matter if you’re in Southern California, Mexico City, Bangladesh, South Africa, or any other region of the world: preach the Word!

God’s Word is precious. It is everlasting, unchanging Truth. We as believers have been given the awesome responsibility to become stewards of the Word of God. It is our duty and spiritual obligation. Now is the time to preach the Gospel … more than ever before. It is exciting to anticipate Jesus’ return to this earth – but until that happens there are specific mandates God has made clear to every Christian.

Receive the Word. Be faithful with the Word. And preach the Word as often as you can. 

To preach the Word simply means to share the love of God with others you relate to and those you don’t. It is more than helping or serving someone in a physical way. It must always include speaking God’s Word to them – sharing your experience of being born again and set free by the Cross of Christ. You will, of course, need to be familiar with the Gospel of the Kingdom. You will also need to learn how to share that good news with others in a way that they can understand and receive it. And, you need to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work and let Him do what He does best – convict the person of their sin (John 16:8-10). So there is some training to undergo. 

And, as important, realize that when you are speaking to another generation – that although the message has not changed the method by which you share it must. You need to approach each generation differently and be sensitive to where they are at in their understanding of spiritual truths  and in their spiritual journey.

We are mandated to be ready to share. But, there is a season of intense preparation and I believe we have entered that season here at the start of 2020. 

If your church is not teaching you how to share the life-changing Gospel of the Kingdom, change churches. Find one that believes in being born again and that teaches, trains, and equips believers to share the Gospel with others. Find someone more mature than you are who is “going into al the world and making disciples” and ask them to teach you how to do what they are doing. It is your responsibility to fulfil this command that Paul writes to Timothy about. And, everyone of us will be held accountable for what we have done in this regard. 

Born Again or Bored Again

The Barna Group found that 68% of unbelievers would describe Christians as boring. I can’t handle that statistic. Jesus was many things, but boring was not one of them.

  • Boring people don’t have five thousand followers flocking to hear their boring message
  • Boring people don’t get approached at weddings to make the party better
  • Boring people don’t get crucified for their boring beliefs
  • Boring people aren’t greeted with palm branch parades when they enter cities
  • Boring people don’t inspire martyrs to give up everything for their boring cause
  • Boring people don’t change the world

My point is simple: Our God is not boring!

The world altered its calendar and gauged human history by everything before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD). His life made a mark. His life made a difference. His life was everything but boring.

So obviously the question is: If the Christ we follow isn’t boring, why in the world are we?

If you look around at those who claim to follow Jesus – believers – they really are generally very boring. They lack angst. They lack a faith that cost them anything. But, I think the situation is far worse than it looks.

I don’t think Christians are just boring. I think Christians are bored.

I think many older Christians were once born-again Christians and now they are just bored-again Christians. They are waiting on the next message, the next conference, the next experience that will ignite their faith. All the while the Great Commission is at their doorstep. The reality is, we are bored because we are disobedient. I bet painters that don’t paint are bored. I bet dancers who don’t dance are bored. I bet writers who don’t write are bored. And I am convinced that disciples that don’t disciple are bored (and boring).

There is a true story I read just a few days ago. It is about a dog named DeSoda. When the owner’s children were young, he got them a puppy. This puppy, like all puppies, had a ton of energy and lacked a lot of wisdom. DeSoda always tried to run away when the door opened, always tried to jump on any stranger who walked in the home, and always barked obnoxiously. Then a decade went by. DeSoda was now an old dog and no longer a young puppy. His energy was gone. He desire for adventure was gone. Heck, he didn’t even care when a stranger walked in the house. He would just lift his head from the mat, give them a nod, and go back to sleep. In dog years, DeSoda was really old. The family was pretty sure he was going to die soon.

So the kids, now young teenagers, asked their dad, “Dad! Dad! Can we please have a new dog? DeSoda is so boring now! He never plays with us anymore. He just wants to sit around the house all day.”

The Dad conceded and got the family a new puppy. And the process repeated itself. The new puppy, Beau, had a ton of energy and no wisdom. Except one difference was, their puppy Beau had DeSoda to show him the way. Beau and DeSoda became really good friends; they were like peas and carrots. All the puppy passion and energy in Beau would get DeSoda to do things he normally wouldn’t do. DeSoda was playing outside again. He was modelling for Beau where to go to the bathroom. DeSoda was now wrestling with Beau. He had a renewed energy, and the kids could tell.

The dad noted, “The crazy thing is we thought DeSoda was going to die that year. It just wasn’t looking good for him. But he ended up living four more years. And I’m convinced it was because of Beau.” Then he said a profound thing we have all heard before but never in this way. He said, “You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can give an old dog a new purpose.”

I just wonder how many old dogs in the Church are bored out of their minds, and their lives would be radically changed if they’d just find a young puppy.

That is what the Great Commission is all about. “Old disciple, go into all the world and make a new disciple (or two). Find a puppy and end boredom.”

Are You Counting the Cost?

Sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom isn’t always a safe endeavour. At times, your reputation, your well-being, and even your life could be at stake. According to 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

The Bible says that this is a fact. It’s not a “might happen” kind of scenario. There isn’t a chance that you’ll squeak by unscathed. Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms in Matthew 24:9 that you “will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and [you] will be hated by all nations because of me.” Since we represent Jesus as His ambassadors, we will be treated as Jesus was treated.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and again the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This means that when you are persecuted or rejected because you are a believer …  or as simple as ignored when you share the gospel with someone … there is a behind-the-scenes battle going on. The root, the cause, the underlying opposition is actually spiritual. 

In John 15:18, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” And He said later,

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (John 15:20-21 NIV)

Why does this happen?

It happens because the message of the Cross of Christ offends people. The Son of God confronts humanity with their sin. His truth shines a floodlight on darkness, and that makes people uncomfortable – even hostile or angry. So, instead of reaching out for salvation when you share the Gospel with them, people may mistreat you. They may ridicule, or hurt you to get you to stop sharing the good news. 

Don’t think it can happen where you are. Some recent examples in North America….

I read recently about a 19 year veteran of the United States Air Force who was placed under a new commanding officer who happened to be a lesbian. His commanding officer asked him about his views on same-sex marriage. The veteran replied that he did not believe his opinion on the matter got in the way of doing his job. She insisted that he answer the question. As a Christian, he said, he believed that a marriage was only between a man and a woman. Because of his answer, he was immediately relieved of his duties.

A federal judge threatened to incarcerate a high school valedictorian unless she removed all references to Jesus in her speech. In another city, officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals at the senior citizen center.

In Portland, Maine, three Muslim men murdered a 49 year-old Christian man. He was found beaten to death, with blood splattered on the Bible that was on his bedside table. This did not happen in the Middle East. It happened in the United States.

Friends, persecution in the world is a present reality. At this moment there are people who stand against your message, and some will do whatever it takes to stop you. 

But don’t be alarmed. This has been happening for a long time and it will continue to happen until the Lord returns. It hasn’t stopped the church yet. In fact, the opposite is true – it strengthens and grows the church.

Of course, if no one knows that you are a believer…  

If your lifestyle is no different than your unsaved neighbours…

If you never speak about Jesus…

If you never defend the right of others to believe in Jesus…

Then you have little to no concern that someone may take offense and come again you, your beliefs and your message. You can simply live without fear of being persecuted for your faith because no one will know that you are a believer and followed of Christ. Sad!

I’m Out Of Here

A hero of the faith died a week and a half ago quietly passing from this life into the next. Cecil John Glover of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan died at the age of 79. Although he passed from this life into the next quietly it was definitely not quiet in Heaven. All of Heaven broke into rejoicing as they welcomed one of their strong warriors into their presence. 

I met Cecil almost 40 years ago when he was sharing his testimony at a Full Gospel Businessman’s banquet. He often did share his testimony at their banquets in the many cities and towns where there was a group wanting to impact the business community with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Cecil would show up and just be himself. With guitar in hand he would lead worship, sing about his relationship with the Lord, share what the Lord had done for him as well as what Jesus was continuing to do through him.

For many years Cecil and his wife travelled extensively in Canada and the United States singing, preaching, teaching, and ministering. He had an amazing impact on many lives wherever the Holy Spirit took him. He was always sensitive to the voice of the Spirit and obedient to whatever he heard the Lord speak.

Cecil was an evangelist and a worshipper. But he also pastored a church in Moose Jaw for many years. A church that was a part of the network of churches that I founded and still lead. Many times Cecil would come to our church in Regina to minister, to teach, encourage, and to share. He was always upbeat, positive, and such a blessing to all of us. His music was amazing. Simple but amazing. A sample of his many songs is found in the link at the end of this blog – from his album “I’m Out Of Here.” I thought it appropriate as I remember this amazing man of God. For truly he is ‘out of here’ after having “fought the good (and long) fight of faith.” 

It was an honour to know Cecil, to have him minister to my people, and to minister on occasion to his people when he was pastoring. He was an amazing man of God and warrior for the Kingdom. Many people today are part of that Kingdom because of his sacrifice and ministry. As a result, he leaves a tremendous legacy behind. His funeral was help last Thursday and as I sat and listened it truly was a celebration of who Cecil Glover was and is. Enter into your rest Cecil. You of all people deserve it!

We will meet again …

Fight the Good Fight from Cecil’s “I’m Out of Here” album

            https://youtu.be/PAbyFIDdykg

Drinking Coffee In An Airport

I am in my third of four airports for the day. A 14 hour travel day and I am doing what I usually do when flying and when waiting for a flight. Reading and drinking good coffee. And, when I tire of reading and have run out of things to share in an email with my accountability partner then I watch people. 

People are amazing. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They come in different colours. Some speak loudly and others speak softly. They can be relaxed, uptight, anxious, worried, frightened, or apparently at peace with themselves and the world around them. Some look refreshed and ready to go. Others look tired and wanting to finally board their last flight home. Young and old and every age in-between. As I watch some walk with an assurance and a confidence. Others walk with a definite uncertainty and caution. Some are simply lost and can’t find their gate no matter how hard they are apparently trying. People are interesting.

Here is a deep thought… every person walking by me at this moment has two things in common. First, they are travelling from somewhere to somewhere. I told you it was deep. Secondly, every one of them is dying. Some may be young, others may be old but they are all on the journey of life and this journey will, one day, come to an end. They will “pass” as everyone says it today. They will physically die and cease to be a viable human being on the planet as their earth suit (body) is finished. Life has left it.

But this is not the end of life for these people. They truly have “passed.” They have passed from life to death and from planet Earth to … and here’s the rub. They have predetermined their final resting place – heaven or hell. If they have a vibrant, personal, love relationship with Jesus that is a daily reality, then they have chosen ahead of time to enter heaven. And, Jesus, because of His relationship with them, has prepared a place for them for when they arrive. Others, because they have neglected the message of hope and love known as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) will have a place reserved for them in hell. John’s gospel speaks of this…

John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Please note that their sins don’t send them to hell. They chose not to believe in who Jesus is and what He accomplished through His death on the cross. This lack of belief or faith in Christ and His completed work is what opens the door to hell as their final place to spend eternity. They have chosen this place. God did not condemn them to be there forever. He made a way out and sent His Son to die for us (see: John 3:16-17). Jesus made a way where there was no way. And, if we choose not to believe and to ignore or reject His offer then we can blame no one but ourselves for where life finally takes us. 

Every person born upon the earth has a default setting of “hell”. So, when they pass that is where the go. However, we can change that default setting by understanding the true Christian message of salvation by grace through faith. And, receiving Jesus as Lord, Saviour, Master, and the Christ – the only door into eternity and God’s presence. When you come to believe that Jesus has made a way where there was no way and receive His gift of the supernatural ability to have a personal relationship with Him (called eternal life – John 17:3) then you have reset your default setting to Heaven.

So, a lot of people walking past me here in the airport rushing to or from their next destination are also moving forward in life to their final destination. And, not one of us knows when that day when we ‘cross over’ is going to be. 

Makes one sense the urgency to tell people the good news of the Gospel… that Jesus still saves today.  

Seized With Power

The early Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost when those gathered together were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In Samaria (Acts 8) Philip brings people into the born again experience and then a few days later apostles from Jerusalem travel to Samaria and we see the Holy Spirit decent upon the new believers and they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The same experience is noted in Acts 10 with Peter while he was preaching to Cornelius and his household. 

The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a powerful part of the life of the early Church. An essential part. Today, it is given lip service, people pray in tongues, and we call ourselves Spirit-filled believers. Well, not really. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is much more than the gift of a private prayer language. 

First is a fulfillment of a promise that our heavenly Father made to His people (the gathered ones) many centuries before. Jesus told His disciples:

Luke 24:49 “And I will send the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you.” 

(The Passion Translation)

The word “promise” here – the Aramaic reads “the kingdom” or “rule.” In other words, the Father’s promise would be the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in them and empower them (come upon them) as a sign that the Kingdom is now established upon the earth and that His rule is now active in the lives of the believers. So much more than speaking in tongues. 

Jesus comments again about the importance of the experience and encounter.

Acts 1:5 “John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”     (The Passion Translation) 

Again, in the Aramaic, it implies that the disciples would be the ones who would do the baptizing: “John baptized you in water, but you will baptize [others] in the Holy Spirit.”

And, as we are aware, the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not that we could speak in tongues and have a private prayer language – as important as that might be. The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to empower the believer to move in the supernatural power that raised Jesus from the dead and, in so doing, to give witness to non-believers that Jesus is alive and the Saviour.

Acts 1:8 “But I promise you this – the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers…”      (The Passion Translation)

Again, in Aramaic the phrase “seized with power” could be translated “you will seize power. This, of course, changes the whole picture giving us the task of seizing and not just passively receiving. We have to desire it, reach for it, receive it, and then use it.

The early Church seized this power and were seized by it. Their emphasis was not speaking in or praying in tongues. In fact, the only main reference to tongues being a private prayer language is in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul the apostle mentions it. Tongues as a way for God to communicate with us (connected to the interpretation of tongues) is mentioned more often than a private prayer language. 

Regretfully today we have majored on the ‘speaking in tongues’ both as a sign that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and as a major benefit of the baptism. I believe that the main focus of the Baptism is to empower us to witness – not to empower us the talk to the heavenly Father as we can do that, in His presence, in our own natural language any time we want to. It is time to emphasize the biblical reason for the Baptism – not tongues, but witnessing and fully proclaiming the Gospel. It is time to walk in the power and see miracles, signs, and wonders backing up the sharing of the gospel.

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

A Drink Becomes a River

Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. It is noon in the Middle East. The story is found in John, Chapter 4. The conversation starts with talking about physical water and quenching one’s thirst from the noon day sun that was beating down. Jesus quickly turns the conversation to spiritual water – a life-giving spiritual drink.

John 4:13-14 “If you drink from Jacob’s well you’ll be thirsty again and again, but if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never thirst again and will be forever satisfied! For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!”

This is a direct reference to Isaiah’s comment:

Isaiah 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

So Jesus is speaking of a well or a fountain that supplies you with spiritual water so that you will never thirst again. You are born again (saved – salvation) and thus have God’s life-giving Holy Spirit in your spirit and He will satisfy your thirst for meaning, purpose, direction, guidance, acceptance, and forgiveness and lead you into your divine destiny. You will have abundant life and be extremely fulfilled as your walk with Him in God’s perfect will for your life.

But the drink can become a river so others can drink from it and be refreshed, encouraged, and receive eternal life, endless life. We find this mentioned in John, Chapter seven…

John 7:37-39a “Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds—“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive…”

Once a person drinks of the waters of the well (fountain) of salvation and is saved they receive so much from the Lord on a daily basis that they will not thirst for meaning and purpose – the reason and purpose of life – ever again. But, with the second encounter with the Holy Spirit – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 1:8) – the drink becomes a river and many can drink from this inner river flowing out from you. And, as they find answers for their questions and drink deeply they will receive living water – the fountain or well… and the cycle begins again. This new convert needs to then be told of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit so that their drink can also turn into a river and others will come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and be refreshed. 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is so important today. With this experience and encounter with the Holy Spirit you then have the power of God working through you to touch others with the “river.” The Baptism is important and absolutely essential for sharing that “drink” with others. 

So many believers have the well or fountain but never receive the river. So, in their life the drink never becomes a river. And, they seldom see miracles, signs, and wonders or people delivered from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of light. They can share the knowledge of the Gospel but cannot demonstrate that it is true. So, they help people understand the message of the Gospel in their heads but their hearts are left in the same state they were in before coming to understand the message. There is no conviction of the Spirit resulting in true repentance and forgiveness. They say a sinner’s prayer because they understand but without repentance there is no salvation. But, with the river flowing people will be convicted of their sins and their hearts will be transformed while their hearts are being informed. And, they will then taste of the real water – they will have a drink. 

Paul states that to fully proclaim the Gospel you need words (the well or fountain) and miracles, signs, and wonders (the river). Listen to his words:

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

So, after you have had a drink, don’t settle for just a well of living water. Seek after and receive the river of living water that come through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then others will come to know the Living Jesus Christ through your words and deeds as you fully proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

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