Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fishing Report: Rabbit Trails

This will be the shortest fishing report ever.

Charlie, Nathan and I just had a conversation with a nice gentleman for almost 3 hours in the hot sun. And I really can't tell you anything about it, because I need to maintain the privacy of the individual we spoke with for future conversations.

Unfortunately, much of the conversation was down looooooooooong rabbit trails and away from the essentials. But I believe that every appointment we have is a divine appointment. God chooses to use the foolishness of preaching to deliver truth.
Thank you, Lord, for using this fool today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fishing Report: The Blooper Reel!

First, let me say that I really need to write the Fishing Report right after going fishing, because I know I'll forget some important details. But I'll do my best to capture what happened.

Second, let me say that I learned so much this Saturday. I've been thinking a lot about something evangelist Mark Cahill talks about. He played basketball at Auburn University with Charles Barkley. He said that he got a scholarship to Auburn University for one simple reason: because he could put a round ball into a hoop. And the way he got good at it was hours upon hours of practice. It's the same with sharing our faith. The more we do it, the better we'll get at it.

Well, let's just say that Saturday was tremendous practice!

My fishing buddy, Charlie, and I decided that instead of knocking on doors, as we have been, we'd go to a local park. We drove up and decided to first talk a bit about the direction God leading us . Before we even prayed and headed out of the van, we were in a conversation about eternity!

We're talking and Charlie sees a man walking (sort of) in our direction. He says, "Hey, come see!" or something and waves him over to the vehicle.

Now understand, I've been wrestling with how to turn conversations to spiritual things for years. So Charlie says, "Hey, we're from a local church, and we're just here talking to people about spiritual things. Have a couple short minutes to talk with us?"

Um, well, I guess I'm without excuse, huh? Think maybe I don't want to get into those conversations, and so I find an excuse? Ever done that, when the Holy Spirit tugs on your heart to get into a spiritual conversation with someone? Yeah, me too. Lots of times.

So we talked with this gentleman, who was very nice and polite. We stayed in the vehicle and he was outside. First, we spoke to him about natural things. Found out he recently went to England. Talked about how dreary it is there sometimes, and how they're getting ready to be World Cup crazy there (the USA-England game was kicking off in about an hour and a half).

Then Charlie says, "I'd like to switch gears for a minute and talk about spiritual things." Well, I guess that's one way to switch gears and talk about spiritual things!

I really can be a coward sometimes.

Had a great conversation about eternity, and God's standard for admission to Heaven, and the authority of the bible. He was uncomfortable for a while but open and polite. Very nice conversation.

Then, we prayed and got out of the vehicle for more fishing!

It was hot. Not many folks were at the park. Probably not a fishing hole we're going to be returning to often. But there was 3 divine appointments this day, so we were certainly in the right spot.

Talked with a gentleman that grew up Jehovah's Witness, but wasn't really going to church anywhere. In fact, he turned down a million dollars! We talked with him for a while about the park, the ducks, growing up in Lafayette, and then Charlie asked about his spiritual background. This man was very guarded but willing to talk.

Charlie talked with him a little while about his background, but he gave really short answers. So Charlie asked if we could have 3 minutes to try to convert him to Christianity. He agreed.

I went through the commandments with him. I thought his 11 year old daughter had walked off, but she didn't. I asked him if he'd ever looked at a woman with lust, in front of his 11 year old daughter! He said, "I can't answer that." I asked him, "Why not?" He said, "I can't answer that in front of my daughter." I was so embarrassed!

Thankfully, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. I went through a few of the commandments, and he admitted he'd be guilty, and end up in Hell. I asked if that concerned him, and he said yes. We talked about the cross, and repentance and faith. Then Charlie talked with him about Jesus. He wanted to touch on Jesus being God, since the man had been raised Jehovah's Witness. Charlie talked about the fact that Jesus clearly claimed to be God (accepting worship, getting killed because He claimed equality with God, etc). He said that Jesus was either a liar, insane, or He was telling the truth. And because He rose from the dead, that proves He was telling the truth.

So lesson is: don't ask dads about adultery in front of their children! (hey, I didn't see her come back...cut me some slack, will ya?)

We thanked him for talking, and went on to our most memorable encounter - probably ever.

It was about time to call it a day. We headed back toward the parking lot. There, we ran into a sweet family. Mom, daughter and son. Kids were about 12-14ish.

Charlie asked mom: "We're out here talking to people and trying to convert them to Christianity. Does that bother you?" Mom was really nervous, sort of backing away, but she shook her head no, that it didn't bother her. Charlie asked about the lady's spiritual background. They're Catholics. As we began talking, she could tell that we really weren't freaks and that we really cared about them. She backed away a little more, but with body language that clearly told us she was giving us access to speak to her kids. It was strangely appointed by God and very hard to explain if you weren't there.

So Charlie asked the boy, "Got anything new recently that you really like?" The boy said, "a laptop." Charlie asked, "Did you tell anyone about it?" Of course. "Were you excited about it?" Of course. "That's why we're here talking to you about spiritual things. Because we have something we're excited about that we want to share with you."

He asked the daughter, "what do you think you have to do to get to heaven?" "Be good. Keep the commandments," was her reply. Charlie looked at the son and asked, "What do you think about that?" The son shook his head from side to side and said, "There's no way we can keep the commandments!" Very sharp fellow. We could tell he had been thinking about these things.

So Charlie turned to mom, and asked: "Since we can't keep the commandments, that's not it. But that leaves us with a problem, because we are all headed to a final exit, and after that, it's Heaven or Hell for all of eternity, because there is no purgatory."

Her answer showed me she has been thinking about these things, too. "I know. There is no purgatory." Certainly not the answer I expected from a Catholic. We turned back to the kids, and Charlie and I shared a little more about eternity and spiritual things. As we talked, I could see mom wiping tears from one of her eyes. It was an extremely touching moment. Explaining it doesn't do it justice.

It seemed like this family probably never talked about spiritual things with each other. Yet they've been thinking about it. And God set up a divine appointment to talk to us. And there they were, as a family, talking about the most important topic in the universe together.

All in all, I learned a great deal. The only way to learn is to practice, and I got a lot of great practice on Saturday.

More and more, I'm learning that sharing our faith is a conversation, not a presentation. If I ask questions and listen, I can truly find out where a person is on their spiritual journey without jumping to conclusions. If I seek first to understand, then seek to be understood, people will be more receptive and less inclined to think that I'm shoving my religion down their throats.

A relationship with Jesus Christ is a very personal decision. I can't twist somebody's arm or use the right formula and trick them into becoming born again. I'm just a messenger. Delivering a message, as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, hopefully representing him accurately to the world.

The devil will tell you that nobody wants to talk to you about Jesus. I won't pretend there's never opposition. But many people have been very interested in talking about eternity.

Now if I can just bottle up some of that courage that Charlie has. Throw me into the deep and I can swim. It's diving into the deep on my own that I'm having a problem with.

And remember: don't ask dads about adultery in front of young kids. That's your witnessing tip of the day!

Now, don't you want to keep reading to find out what embarrassing situation I find myself in next time?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why the Fishing Report?

Jesus told His Disciples, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The Fishing Report is my attempt recount as many personal witnessing encounters as possible. This is not a place I come to brag. As you can see here and here, I am far from perfect.

And Jesus said that when you do good, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. If you seek the praises of men, you have your reward. I don't post these stories to brag or pretend I'm super spiritual, because I'm not. I'm just a guy that want to use the gifts God has given me (and primarily the gift of exhortation) for the purpose He has given me these gifts (primarily evangelism and encouraging Christians to share their faith).

I'm human, and I mess up. I'm no more spiritual than you are, if you're born again. I chicken out way more than I admit on this blog.

I post these encounters for 2 reasons:

1. To motivate me. If you don't see the Fishing Report very often in this space, feel free to post comments asking why. If there's no fishing report, that means that there's no fishing going on. And I've been called to be a fisher of men. And for over 2 years, I didn't share my faith with a single lost person.

2. To motivate you. Every second, 7 people die. By the time you put your head on your pillow tonight, over 150,000 people will have walked off this planet and into eternity. Then it's Heaven or it's Hell, for all eternity. Do you care? Do you care enough to get into a conversation with a lost person about Jesus?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"This is Desert."

While most messages at church provide something of value, I was blown away at how much the Lord gave me to think about today. And if I don't blog about it now, I'll probably never reflect on the message. So, here I am!

At Calvary Chapel of Lafayette, we go through the bible, verse by verse. I love this approach to God's Word, because the Pastor doesn't get to skip over passages that challenge us or feed us a steady diet of his pet doctrines. Everything is learned in context, and we are edified as a result. Sometimes, you have to eat your vegetables, too! (As we are doing on Wednesday night, having just started studying Leviticus verse by verse). There's some rich, delicious dessert in there too, by the way.

Anyway, today we were in Acts 8. I'll try to briefly hit on all the things that stuck out at me.

It's amazing how the Holy Spirit operates. It was as if He was speaking directly to me today, regarding the ministry He has prepared for me (Eph 2:8-10).

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
Acts 8:26

Philip was in the midst of a great revival. People were getting saved and turning to God. Healings were taking place. Everyone was fired up. And God told Philip to go somewhere else. Not just anywhere else. The middle of nowhere.

If I attempt to do ministry my way, or my pastor's way, or my favorite teacher's way, then it will fail. Because no successful ministry happens unless I am filled with the Holy Spirit, listening for His call, and obedient to that call whenever it comes. Even if it looks like foolishness to the world, I must allow the Holy Spirit to tell me where to go. He has set up divine appointments for me. Sometimes, those appointments are where you least expect them - away from the excitement and in the desert.

By the way, if you're in Lafayette and I knock on your door this Saturday, it's a divine appointment. Please don't take it lightly. If you're a Christian and you haven't shared your faith with a lost person recently, can I challenge you this week to get out of your comfort zone and into a conversation with a lost person about Jesus? Charles Spurgeon said, "If you have no desire for others to be saved, then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." I'm not putting a legalistic trip on you. I'm just asking you to pray about it.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

Acts 8:29-30

When Philip heard the call of the Holy Spirit, he ran. He didn't question or ponder. He didn't think of excuses. He didn't walk. He ran. May my heart be one that hears and runs to obey. Lord, create that sense of urgency in my heart to be on time for the divine appointments you've created for me.

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“ He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”

So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”

Acts 8:30-34

When you come to a difficult part of Scripture, ask God for understanding. He promises to answer you with the wisdom you seek (James 1:5-8).

Philip also shows that we should meet a person where they are and steer them toward Jesus, because their eternal destiny is on the line. In this case, Philip showed the Eunich how the Scripture he was reading pointed to Jesus.

Whether it's Scripture or a situation a person finds themselves in, we should be looking for ways to steer conversations toward spiritual things. The more I practice doing this, the better I become at it. If I'm not looking for those opportunities, I will easily miss them with all that is around to distract me from my purpose of sharing the Gospel.

This is a big weakness I have. I know that God has called me to evangelize, and I want to share Jesus with everyone. But how do I swing from natural conversation to a conversation about eternity, without sounding like a wierdo? There are so many things we can use.

Recently in Lafayette, a man shot a fast food employee at the drive-through window. Think people in Lafayette have an opinion about that? I wonder what sports fans in Lafayette think of the recent passings of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, or former Astros pitcher and colorful character Jose Lima? Where do you think those guys went when they died?

I wonder if the people of Lafayette feel safer today than they did on Sept. 11, 2001. I wonder if they have an opinion on where the pe0ple in those buildings went? Or the terrorists who took over those planes?

By the way, if you believe in Heaven but not Hell, where did those terrorists go? Are we all going to be spending eternity in Heaven singing Kumbaya with people like Stallin and Hitler? Seems we're in the midst of a conversation about eternity, and it was a very short trip to get there.

Or, how about: "Can I ask you an interesting question? followed by "Where are you on your spiritual journey?" or "When you die, what do you think is on the other side?" There are many ways to turn conversations to spiritual things without looking like a wierdo. I know many of them.

I claim I don't because it's easier than sharing my faith. But one day, I'll no longer be able to share my faith with any more lost people, because I'll be in Heaven. There are no lost people in Heaven, and I want to take as many people with me to Heaven as I can. Don't you?

The bigger question is this: am I willing to put my pride aside and live out what I just said? Are you?