Sunday, May 13, 2012

To All Whose Mother's Day Is Hard

Mother's Day provides us with a tremendous opportunity to thank all the moms who mean so much to us in a special way. It's a celebration that often has a flip side that I hardly ever see mentioned, and that's sad. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I wanted to compose this post before I got too tired to make heads or tails of the thoughts running through my head.

But through all the well-wishes, thank-you's, and proud pronouncements wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day, it doesn't seem like the people who hurt most at Mother's Day get any mention or attention.

There are women all around us who struggle every day, because they can't have children. My family experienced that heartache day after day, month after month for a long time before God blessed us with our first child. Some are experiencing that frustration today. How hard it must be for those ladies to watch as everyone celebrates the very thing that keeps her so heartbroken day in and day out.

Or the moms who have difficult children. Who love their children dearly, but suffer daily through major challenges, doubts and depression at the journey they must travel.

Or the moms who have children who are older, and they see their children living contrary to everything they were taught. How helpless, alone and hopeless some of those times must be.

But everywhere, I see Happy Mother's Day cards, hugs, and thank you's. As a church, we should be reaching out and seeking those who hurt deeply because of this day. We must be sensitive to realize that for every mom who deserves this day to celebrate who she is and her contribution to our lives, there's a woman who aches deeply because it's Mother's Day, and she feels like doing anything but celebrating.

Who's going to comfort those who hurt? Thankfully, the God of all comfort will never let you down. To all ladies, whether you're a mom or not, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you in whatever situation you're in.

And remember that your worth isn't found in being a mom, or not being a mom. It's not found in being the perfect parent. It's not found in the lives your kids live now or after they're grown. Your worth is found in Jesus Christ. And please know that the "Happy Mothers" may get all the press, but you, too, are not forgotten today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Are You Awake? Are You Sure?

Sometimes, only the aroma of a strong, fresh, piping hot mug of coffee wakes me up. Sometimes, it's the sound of laughter, or screaming boys that should've stayed in bed longer.

What about you? What wakes you up? The piercing sound of an alarm clock? Or maybe you've tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep at all.

What about spiritually? What does it take to wake you up, spiritually? What does that even mean?

The center of a Christian's spiritual universe is the Gospel. Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and makes forgiveness available to all who repent and trust in Him. A clear conscience. Eternal life. What could be better than that? If you had the choice between a million dollars and forgiveness of sins, which would you choose? A lifetime of financial security, or Jesus?

Jared Wilson, in his book Gospel Wakefulness, offers you and me a spiritual wake-up call. He says that we may not be living in the center of the Gospel like we think we are. We say we're spiritual, play the part, and go through the motions of this "Christianity" stuff. But our lives may not be as Gospel-centered as they could be. Could he be right?

Wilson gives us 11 statements that help us determine for ourselves whether we're truly awakened to the Gospel or not. Could you really not be as Gospel-centered as you think you are?

How many of these statements are true of you?

1. The Gospel doesn't interest you that much, or other subjects (end times, for example) interest you more.
2. You take nearly everything personally.
3. You frequently worry about what other people think.
4. You treat inconveniences like minor or major tragedies.
5. You're impatient with people.
6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, and self-control).
7. The Word of God holds little interest.
8. You have great difficulty forgiving. You harbor a grudge.
9. You are told frequently by a spouse, family member or close friend that you are too clingy or too controlling.
10. You think someone besides yourself is the worst sinner you know.
11. The idea of Gospel Centrality makes no sense to you.

How'd you do? When I look at myself in the mirror in the morning, I realize how much damage my appearance has suffered from the night's "rest." As I look at my heart through this list tonight, I must admit that I look a lot like that man in the mirror.

How about you?

So, what can we do about this condition, then? We do this, every single day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can You Do This, Too?

I'm Just Like You

I never want to set myself up as a hero. I'm proud of my Savior, who died for me and rose from the grave. I'm thankful to Him for all He has done and continues to do daily in my life. I want to share that message that brings hope, life and peace to wilted, dying hearts. 

But the truth is, despite the fishing stories you see on this blog, I'm a big fat chicken when it comes to evangelism. I kid that I know God has gifted me to evangelize because I'm an introvert who hates starting conversations with strangers - especially controversial ones. That way, I know any fruit that comes from me sharing the Gospel gets credited to God.

But I chicken out. All the time. The reason I started this blog was to encourage weak-kneed, feeble, chicken Christians like me to share the Gospel. 

You Can Do This, Too!

I want everyone reading this blog to know that God has given you everything you need to share the Gospel. If you're scared, that's perfect. If you don't know what to say, that's perfect, too. That will drive you to your knees and to the bible. And that's when your conversations will have eternal impact - when God works through you instead of you trying to do it on your own.

It's the Spirit of God that gives you power, wisdom and courage. All you have to do is ask, and continue asking. 

Listen, I wimp out way more often than I obey the Spirit's tugging on my heart to start these conversations. But I want you to know that you can be bold for Jesus and share the Gospel - even with strangers - if you'll pray and believe that God will fill you with the wisdom and courage you need. It's not that I have to share my faith. I want to, because I have words of life that everyone needs. I want people to experience life the way I experience it. People search all their lives for meaning and purpose. I know why I was created. I don't have to waste my life searching. Neither does anyone else, if they'll believe the good news I have to share and place their trust in Christ. In an instant, everything changes. That's what I want to see. That's what you want to see, too, or you wouldn't be reading this. But how?

The Chicken Little Guide to Evangelism

Here's how I started, and how you can start, too. 

First, I studied people who actually evangelize. You can download a million sermons on evangelism, from pastors and preachers who don't regularly share the Gospel. 

But let me ask you a question: if you wanted to make a million dollars, would you ask your Uncle Buddy (who's always broke) how it's done? Of course not. Stop listening to anyone who isn't doing what you're after. 

Search Youtube for guys like Mark Cahill, Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. I learned a lot by watching conversations these guys had with unbelievers. Apologetics strengthens your faith, but you can't spend 30 minutes explaining creation to a person in a one-on-one conversation that lasts 5 minutes. You'll get sidetracked and never get to the Gospel. How do you stay on track? Watch how these guys do it, and learn from them. 

Second, start small. Grab some well-written, creative tracts. I get mine from Living Waters. I use the "World's Best Optical Illusions" one the most. Why? Because I can say, "Did you get one of these?" and get away quickly before they realize it's a Gospel tract! See? Told you I was chicken.

When you hand them a tract, say "Did you get one of these?" That stirs up curiosity in many folks. They wonder what they're missing out on. Try it!

For a week, commit to carrying tracts with you every time you leave the house. Set a goal to give one tract away per day. Before long, it will come easily to you.

Third, practice conversations in internet chat rooms. If you make a mistake and look foolish, who cares? You'll quickly learn what you don't know, in a safe training ground where the pressure's off. You'll go to your bible and find out that answers exist for all of these stupid questions fools (atheists) will throw out at you. You'll also see that some questions are genuine, and learn to navigate the conversation back to the Gospel gently and lovingly through practice.

Finally, if you can, find a friend that wants to evangelize with you. I'm so thankful for my fishing buddy. he helped me get my feet wet. He was my bodyguard when I did stupid things that got us into trouble (okay, I made that part up). But you'll be a lot more fired up when you evangelize in twos. I think the main reason Jesus sent His disciples out in twos was so they could build each other up and stir each other up. When you get discouraged, your buddy will be right there to push you forward. Try it and notice the difference.

Not everyone is called to be an evangelist, but every Christian is called to evangelize. Equip yourself through prayer and bible study, learn from the conversations of others, prepare through always carrying Gospel tracts, and find a buddy. Above all, know that you can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you. Start sharing your faith, and I promise you that your walk will never be the same again.

Oh, and one bonus tip: worried about not having all the answers? I've found that one of the most effective answers I can give in a witnessing conversation is "I don't know." People respect you more when they realize that you're just like them. You don't have to know all the answers. "I don't know. Can I find out and get back to you?" Grab their email or something. Easy peasy. They'll be more likely to listen to the rest of what you have to say when you show them you don't know it all. 

Can I ask you a favor? If this blog is an encouragement to you, would you please tell a friend to check it out?  I want to encourage as many people as I can through these words. 

What do you struggle with when sharing your faith? Please let me know in the comments.