A life in Christ confidently proclaims the truth of God's Word.

Witness Well

Start spiritual conversations by sticking to the basics

“It’s best to remain silent and be thought of a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” 

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 17:28)

If silence is golden and a silver tongue commands respect, then why do I tend to open my mouth and remove all doubt about being a fool?

Perhaps that is why evangelism is so dangerous.

A life in Christ is a no-win conundrum.

Proclaiming the wisdom of the gospel is considered foolish by the world.

Holding our tongue and refraining from giving reasons for the hope a believer has in Christ can cause unbelievers to earmark Christians as fools.

Or worse, by remaining silent, the world can assume that professing Christians don’t really care about the spiritual welfare of those who don’t care about God.

A badge of faith in today’s climate casts judgments that are not based on what a person believes but on what is assumed they believe.

Due to historically high levels of biblical illiteracy, growing political division, and a promoted cultural ideology that elevates the progression of human wisdom over God, the fields are being filled with suffocating thorns and weeds.

By remaining silent, unbelieving neighbors and acquaintances may assume that Christian believers are out-of-touch, uncaring, and intolerant.

Instead of the Word being the double-edged sword that separates, silent believers are allowing untruths and hyperbole do the separating for them.  

How can Christians start to engage the world around us and have spiritual conversations?

How can Christians begin to communicate the most important message a lost soul will ever hear?

A way to start spiritual conversations is by sticking to the basics.

Witnessing does not need to step on cultural landmines (homosexuality, immigration issues, #metoo movement) that destroy well-meaning opportunities. We keep doors open to share the gospel by being steadfastly concerned about winning souls through the power of the Word rather than defending a political stance.

Cultures change. They shift like sand in the wind. But God is unchangeable. His Word is the same. His Word still works.

When starting a conversation with a person who does not know Christ, always bring conversations back to Christ and what he has done.

This is the strategy that was employed by a monk five hundred years ago who tackled the culture and the teachings of the church.

Widespread religious lunacy punctuated by the selling of indulgences dominated the culture of the early 16th century. Uplifting man’s ability to save themselves and their loved ones from hell through the purchasing of indulgences was a church-sponsored way to raise money. The possibility that the forgiveness of sins was attainable outside of God’s grace cloaked the world with spiritual darkness until God raised up a monk to confront it. Martin Luther boldly declared “Sola Scriptura” – God’s Word alone – as being the only way and truth to receive righteousness from God. Faith alone saves sinful men and women. Faith alone through the power of the Word declares that all people are justified by faith.

Even before the Reformation, the church fathers provided a plum line for Truth. The Apostles Creed serves as a basis for confession and the proclamation of the orthodox Christian faith by teaching:

Christ really died.
Christ really rose from the dead.
God the Father has really accepted his Son’s work on our behalf.
Our sins are really atoned for in full.
A real heaven awaits those who trust in God’s promises.

This is the core message of the gospel – the essential doctrine of the Christian faith. The creed is a simple explanation of who Jesus is and why.

Spiritual conversations are risky, but I don’t believe a discerning tongue in today’s climate can remain silent. People don’t know that they don’t know. They need the Truth.

It’s worth remaining a fool to remove all doubt that Jesus lives. Eternity in heaven is dependent on receiving this message.

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

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Starting spiritual conversations

Most people consider themselves spiritual. There is a desire for inner peace, harmony with body and soul, or a reconnection with a higher power. While many spiritual paths are offered, few provided satisfying solutions. And sadly, there is a growing reluctance to seek out a Christian church to find answers.

We seem to be arriving at a time to employ evangelism strategies that emphasizes individual believers to go and get the Word out rather that inviting people to come and hear the Word.

How can we start spiritual conversations with people who don’t know Christ?

If you feel like a novice in the area of personal evangelism, may I offer three suggestions to help get started:

Be willing

Be adventurous

Be okay

These suggestions may appear simple but are profound in helping believers step out of their comfort zones and into the world to proclaim the gospel.

Be willing

What is the favorite word of a two-year-old child?

No!

It takes faith and spiritual maturity to say yes to God.

A faith rooted in Christ declares, “I am willing to serve God instead of myself.”

A mature faith responds by praying, “Lord, you have always kept your promises before and I trust that you will do the same when I carry out what you desire me to do – share my faith with others.”

God not only graciously gives us the gospel but entrusts believers with it. The gospel is meant to be shared.

Witnessing will not change a believer’s status before God. Faith alone seals a believer’s adoption as a redeemed child of God.

Secure in his grace, believers are willing to be changed and set apart to be who God created them to be.

Preserved in his Word, believers readily confess their fears, laziness, and self-absorption so that they may be willing messengers for the sake of the gospel.

Be adventurous

I recently attempted to install a timer switch for the outdoor lights at my house. After investing several days of flailed attempts and trips to the hardware store, my emotional energy was exhausted. Frustrated and defeated, the decision was made to call an electrician for help.

When he arrived at our house, I soon discovered that he had an adventurous spirit.

When I offered to go to our fuse box to turn off the power, he turned to me with a sly smile on his face and said, “Where’s the fun in that?”

Ten minutes later our timer was installed.

Was he foolish working with the power on? Was he over-confident in his abilities? Perhaps. But he knew what he was doing, accepted the risks, and seamlessly carried out the task.

I started thinking that evangelism is the same way.

Proclaiming the gospel is not easy, nor is it safe. There are risks involved.

Jesus gave us an example of a man with an adventurous spirit.

In the parable of the God Samaritan, several notable men – who probably ought to have known better — passed by an injured man on the side of the road. A Samaritan came by and made himself available. He went beyond what was expected by extending grace, time, and resources. He didn’t expect anything in return, nor did he stick around to receive complements or rewards. He just did it.

The desire to share our faith is a natural outpouring of faith. It’s like a fruit tree bearing good fruit or a grape vine producing grapes. By being connected to the root, fruit happens.

Believers with an adventurous spirit rooted in Christ are gospel intentional in their daily lives. Opportunities emerge like a wounded victim alongside a road who desperately needs spiritual help. Time and resources are spent for that person to deliver a message of eternal salvation. God’s grace is extended like low-hanging fruit. It just happens.

Evangelism is not easy, nor safe. It’s risky. It may seem like installing a light with the electricity on. How foolish!

An adventurous spirit secure in Christ will say, “But where’s the fun in that!”

And their life will never be the same.

Be okay

My electrician understands fragile male egos.

He allowed me to be an observer and ask questions while he installed our timer. When he showed me the correct way to connect the neutral wires, I pretended like I fully understood my mistake.

He graciously told me, “That’s okay. It’s a very common thing to miss. You almost got it!”

Yea, right.

Experience matters.

Experience recognizes that you are going to screw up 90% of the time when you are a novice. But that’s how you get better.

Experience doesn’t compare yourself against the professionals who know what they are doing, but desires to learn.

Experience understands that it takes a great deal of effort to stand up, dust yourself off, and be willing to try again.

It requires an emotional investment. It means being okay with enduring setbacks.

Experience matters with personal evangelism.

It means being okay with the feeling that you will probably screw up.

It means being okay with feeling like a failure after you tried to proclaim the gospel.

Be encouraged that feelings of failure will dissolve when confronted with biblical truth.

In Christ, you are an expert in witnessing.

In Christ, you are a light — even when you don’t feel like it.

In Christ, you are salt — even when you feel that witnessing is tasteless.

People notice a life in Christ. Unbelievers concerned about their spiritual welfare are just as afraid to ask about our faith as we are afraid to tell them.

God isn’t asking believers to go out into the world and win debates.

He is asking believers to be a messenger so that the power of his Word can be unleashed.

And it’s going to be okay.

A delighted life in Christ proclaims the life of Christ.

An invitation to come to church doesn’t seem to be enough these days, because people are asking themselves, “Why in the world should I accept your invitation? Give me a reason why I should come?”

We already know the answer. The resurrected Christ who lived and died in our place is the object of our faith, the source of our peace, and the answer to every question.  We convey to others what we already know to be true.

Evangelism means living a gospel-intentional life that breaks us out of the pattern of living for our self.

It means to be willing, adventurous and okay to give reasons for the hope we have in Christ to anybody who asks.

That’s how we can begin to have spiritual conversations in this world.

Making new year resolutions that are lasting

I listened to a podcast recently about why people complain so much.

In the big picture, many of our complaints can appear inconsequential. It’s an outward cry of an inward focus on thoughts and attitudes.

Let’s confess that our human nature is drawn to look at what the world has to offer to solve what we believe is essential in our lives. 

The greatest Christmas story never told

We are familiar with the Christmas story in Luke 2, but there is another Christmas story in the Bible that can be just as powerful.

An enormous red dragon appears from its gloomy lair. A jeweled crown adorns each of its seven heads and ten horns stick out from its scaly skin. A long, powerful tail sweeps across the heavens causing massive destruction. Swooping down, the dragon appears in front of a woman clothed with the sun. She is giving birth and crying out in pain. Caught in the most vulnerable of positions, unable to defend herself, the terrified woman can only watch as the dragon awaits the arrival of the new baby. Hungrily, the dragon licks it lips in anticipation,ready to devour the baby the moment it is born.

Are you familiar with this Christmas story?

Do you remember how it ends?

In one of the most dramatic rescues that rivals any suspense movie, the child is snatched away at the last moment and a great war ensues in the heavens. The great dragon is defeated and hurled to the earth. But the story doesn’t end there. The dragon pursues the mother of the child and she is rescued by the wings of a great eagle and natural forces.

Isn’t this a great Christmas story?

I can only imagine what parents would think if they saw their Sunday School children re-enact the 12th chapter from the book of Revelation for next year’s Christmas pageant. Instead of three wise men, young boys could be an enormous red dragon. Instead of the pristine Mary holding a baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes, the young girl would give birth in front of a snarling dragon then sprint away in terror from the ferocious beast.

Perhaps Revelation 12 is not intended to be a Christmas story, nor is the woman a picture of the virgin Mary, but the child is Jesus Christ and the red dragon is the devil. Perhaps there is a story behind this story when we consider the spiritual realm behind Christ’s birth.

If the pastor used this version next Christmas, he would probably receive a number of angry phone calls from shocked mothers and grandparents.

Outside the physical realm of shepherds, innkeepers, and wise men, there is a spiritual realm that is difficult for us to fathom. For one shining moment, the veil of a hidden spiritual dimension is lifted, and we peak inside. We see a chorus of angels bursting forth in song and rejoicing over the arrival of the Christ child. They may have also been celebrating a great victory in the heavenly realm. Satan was defeated! Victory is assured! Jesus, the promised Messiah, had come to save the world from the tyranny of death and sin.

Now that Christmas day is in our rear view mirror, we can pause again and give thanks to the precious gift that God has given to us.

Prayer: “O Lord, now that Christmas is over, we ask you to bless us with repentant hearts and a Christ-centered focus. Rekindle our joy and wonder in the year ahead. Let nothing rob us of your peace or deprive us of precious time spent pondering your grace. Be with those who are enduring sorrow or undergoing difficult trials.Comfort us all with knowledge of your certain return to take us home to heaven.Keep us spiritually vigilant and protect us from the distractions of life that turn our attention away from God’s promises. Use us to strengthen others by sharing the light of your saving grace. Let our lives reflect your love and peace so the world may know the saving hope that only you can give. In your name we pray, Amen.

Witnessing Christ during Christmas

Christmas is the best time of the year.

It’s the season with the greatest opportunities to proclaim the message of Good News to ears that are more willing than usual to listen.

The statistics prove it.

Some tag along with family members.

The most visitors a congregation receives is on Christmas Eve.

Others are inspired by the Christmas spirit and feel that attending worship is something they ought to do.

And there are a few who come because they are struggling to find peace and joy in a world that broadcasts fear and uncertainty.

Its appealing to consider singing “Silent Night” in the glow of the candlelight and be caught up in the warmth of a decorated church.

They are looking for some good news.

It is true that there is a growing number of people who are becoming more unlikely to visit an established church on a Sunday morning, but not on Christmas Eve. This is different.

Great opportunities abound during Christmas to declare that God became flesh so that he may finish the redemptive work on our behalf.

Mission-minded congregations are strategic on how they can reach those who don’t know Christ during Christmas. They don’t necessarily celebrate the number of visitors who attend church on Christmas Eve, but celebrate the connections that are made. As unbelievers turn their attention and thoughts to Jesus and church at this time, it can become the beginning of a faith journey. Mission minded churches consider it a joy and privilege to be granted an opportunity to have ongoing spiritual conversations that will require investments of time, commitment and persistence.

While congregations prepare for Christmas Eve, members can also prepare hearts and minds to be gospel intentional in getting the Word out beyond the church doors.

What can a Christian believer say when they invite an unchurched friend or neighbor to come to church on Christmas Eve and provide a short gospel message?

May I suggest the following:

“Hi [name]. Merry Christmas! I love this time of year. We have a very nice Christmas Eve service at my church and I would like to extend an invitation for you and your family to join us. We sing familiar Christmas carols, plus our pastor gives a short message about the love of God and what he has already done for us through Christ. Then we conclude by lighting candles and singing “Silent Night.” In those words, I find true peace during these uncertain times that only comes from trusting God’s promises that my sins are fully forgiven right now. The greatest promise ever kept is what we celebrate at Christmas. Our service starts at 6 p.m. Let me know if you can join us and we’ll meet you there.”

Christians are often surprised when people politely and respectfully receive invitations to come to Christmas Eve worship services. They are willing to listen to the reasons for the hope we have in Christ.

We can pray,

“Lord, thank you for fulfilling your promises in Christ. May our hearts be filled with joy and peace this Christmas season as we reflect on your message. Prompt our spirit to share this message with others and unleash its power. Open our eyes to opportunities you provide to invite people to hear the Good News on Christmas Eve. Thank you for the privilege to be your heralds in this dark world. In your name we pray, Amen.

Words God gives us when confronting fear

When confronted with fear, feeling overwhelmed, tempted to give up or give in, we are given these words from God:

Don’t fear

Stand firm

You will see

These are not buzzwords but promises.

Words glistening with meaning and power.

Not just suggestions, but assurances given in the face of adversity.

These words are perfectly reliable because they come from a perfect God who sees the big picture.

A Way to Start a Spiritual Conversation

Words matter.

With eyes of wonder, believers in Christ grasp on to the words of grace, redemption, and justification. These words define the Christian faith.

The meaning behind these words appear obvious to the faithful but may have an entirely different connotation to an unbelieving world.

And this chasm of misunderstanding is growing wider.

It’s becoming more challenging to verbally express the hope believers have in Christ when they rely on meaningful Christian terminology to express their faith.

To proclaim Christ in today’s world, it may be helpful to bring a dictionary.

Slingshots or Silence

God works through his Word to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers.

His Word is like a weapon used in warfare. It cuts like a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) and explodes like dynamite (Romans 1:16).

One of the greatest weapons ever used in the Bible is a profound example for believers who unleash the power of his Word by proclaiming it to others.

A slingshot.