Sharing Your Faith

Years ago, after I had just graduated from Law School, I worked in downtown Atlanta. I would take the bus each morning from our suburban apartment to downtown. In the evening I would gather with other suburbanites and wait for my bus to take me home. Near the bus stop there were always street preachers strongly advising the gathering multitudes that they were headed, not just for home, but for hell. As a Christian these guys made me very uncomfortable. For the year I lived there I never saw a single person positively affected by the street preachers. I’m not saying it never happened. I just never saw it. 


A recent survey reveals that most Christians agree with me; only nine per cent said that street preaching was an effective way to talk about Jesus, eighty per cent said that the intimacy of a group of friends was a safer and more effective place to share their beliefs. I certainly agree that sharing with friends is safer and, it seems to be more effective. 

Fifty-seven per cent said it was their actions that would point people to Jesus, rather than their words, with 55 per cent saying they had seen people come to faith through involvement in community projects like foodbanks.
I wonder however, if most Christians are sharing their faith in any way. 
Just under half (48 per cent) admitted they were too scared to talk about their faith to non-Christians. I certainly haven’t been on any street corners lately preaching to passers by. But on the other hand I haven’t been sharing my faith face-to-face with any one recently either. 
I do this blog most days and that certainly is “sharing” but it really isn’t the same as face to face evangelism.  My church is planning on Sunday to don our new “ugly” Amana t-shirts and head over to the Lafayette Christmas Parade. I guess we are going to “share” at that parade. I don’t know exactly what the plan is but it will be interesting to see how many make the trip and how effective it is.
Are you planning on going? Or are you planning to continue your current evangelism plan of talking to all your friends about Jesus. That is your current plan, right?
Be blessed.

Nick

Ho Ho Ho. Stress is on the Way

The Christmas Season has officially kicked off.  All the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. Names have been pulled for gift giving. For some, decorations are up. For others, the boxes of decorations are at least out of the closet. What next? Stress.
Admit it. You are already starting to feel the stress. The resolution to not get stressed out this year is already faded. The idea that you will have a simple, Christ centered Christmas this year…already forgotten. It’s not to late to have a stress free Christmas. 
Here are some ideas:
Pray – When  you start to feel that stress rise within, pray. Start each day asking God to tell you what to do today. Ask Him for His priority for your day. All that needs to get done, will get done. It may not be that you will do more, you just might realize that there is a lot less that really NEEDS to be done.
Schedule – Before you rush off shopping stop and make a schedule. List the things you want to accomplish this holiday season. It can include a list of gifts you have to buy or at least persons you have to buy for, but also include fun holiday things you always say you are going to do this year but never seem to get around to doing. Do like Santa. Make a list and check it twice. Instead of sending obligatory Christmas cards, maybe just call or drop by and say hello to someone you haven’t see all year. Doing more for a few is better than just “sending a card” to a bunch.
Exercise. I know this sounds strange coming from me, but since my knee surgery I have gotten into the habit of exercising several days a week. I was too “busy” for Thanksgiving week and I notice the difference. Exercise is more stress relieving than it is tiring. Trust me. It’s true. Plus you’ll be in better shape for all that holiday eating.
Just say “no.” There are many “demands” screaming at us during the holidays. We have to learn we can’t do everything. Go back to number 1 on the list, pray. Have God help you to know what to say “no” to. Be brave. The ones you have to say “no” to will still love you. May even love you more.
Address issues now. If there are conflicts or problems, address them now. The classic one is if you feel you have more than one obligation for Christmas dinner or Christmas eve. Make a decision and announce what you’re doing. Don’t keep others hanging on. It just increases their stress. Deep down everyone knows you can’t be in two places at once. Make a decision and be fair and move on. One of the great things we’ve done with my family is to have a gathering on Christmas Eve Eve. That’s the 23rd. Everyone gets to see everyone and their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day time is freed up. Be flexible. 
Ask for help. If you are the type A personality in your house. Get over yourself. I know you think you do everything better than anyone else, but give everyone else a chance. They may surprise you and if they blow it, so what? They will just be thinking how much better it was when you did it.
Remember He’s the reason for the season. He can help you make it everything He wants it to be. Forget making it everything you want it to be. You will never create the perfect Christmas. If you did, what would you do next year? If you just bless one person, and do it without stress, it will be all worthwhile.
Relax and be blessed.
Nick

Fireproof

Last night I watched the movie “Fireproof” on CMT.  It was great to see a movie promoting faith in Christ so directly on a television network. I had heard about the movie for years but had never seen it. Don’t know how I missed it but I had. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
I won’t be a spoiler, but the movie is essentially about a man taking the 40 day “love dare” and experiencing God putting his life and marriage back together. 
The dynamic that struck me was what the wife, and I guess most folks, really want to see in a partner.  In the course of the film, the struggling husband slowly begins to display these characteristics. We want to be men of God and we want to be known as men of God. What does that require?
1. People need to see your faith. It’s much too common for folks, especially men, to believe that it’s important to be seen as self-reliant. The problem is we aren’t everything we need to be and can’t do everything, or even anything. on our own. It’s important that we are seen as relying on God.
2. People need to know your word is true. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s disturbing to see fathers make promises to their kids that will never be kept. It’s even more disturbing to see that interaction between husbands and wives. It’s foolish to no be truthful. We aren’t fooling anyone.  The truth is not always pleasant, but it’s often necessary. That’s not to say we need to feel free to say anything as long as it’s true. It does mean that when we do say something, it needs to be the truth.
3. People need to see your calm spirit. It’s not enough that folks know that you are placing your faith in God. They need to see that you are confident that He will come through. Panic spreads panic. We are not free or wise to cry “fire” in a crowded theatre. We are called to calmly show everyone the way out. 
If there is upset and concern in your world, you might be causing it by your lack of a demonstrated calm spirit.
4. People need to see  you pray. Apparently the most impressive thing about Jesus was His prayer life. The disciples didn’t ask Him to teach them to preach or perform miracles, but to pray. It is crucial that those we love realize that it’s not enough to know about God, we need to have a relationship with Him. By our frequent and relaxed conversation with God, we teach the availability of a real relationship with Him. There is no greater lesson we can pass on to those we love. 
By the end of Fireproof the lead character is showing these traits which arise from his new found faith in God. What do folks see when they look at us?
Be blessed.
Nick 

Being Less Political and More Authentic

“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! … I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. (I Cor. 5:9-13, The Message)


Sometimes I love the direct language of The Message. Since the election, it has been fascinating to see all the articles about how bad our country is. Some are saying the culture war is lost. Others bemoan the loss of our status as a “Christian Nation.” Some are saying judgment is upon us. God destroyed cities when he couldn’t find 10 righteous folks. As I read somewhere today, I have more than that on my Facebook page.

Jesus never suggested that we were in a war we could  win in the courts and at the ballot box. We should be joyful that the world is more clearly secular than perhaps ever before. Christians have always thrived in cultures in which they were the minority, particularly when they were persecuted as a minority. In a truly secular world, it’s easy to spot the true followers. 

We will never “win” by the power of our numbers but by the power of our testimony. By that I mean our lived out, not shouted out, testimony. We just need to do what Jesus commanded us to do: love our neighbors as ourselves, care for the poor and the sick and the brokenhearted, stand up for the oppressed, be generous with our time and our money, and live lives filled with grace and gentleness.


Read again the passage from  I Corinthians set forth above. Paul encourages the Christians to clean up their own affairs. Our teaching is to be principally by example. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that those who enter his kingdom will be people who feed the hungry, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoners.
In a Barna Research study in 1996, 85% viewed Christians favorably. Ten years later, that approval rating had dropped to just 15%. People described Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, close-minded, insensitive, too critical and too political. According to Paul in Galatians we should exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Between 1996 and 2006, too many Christians quit trying to win hearts and focused on winning elections. They lost touch with exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.
The problem we had as citizens of a “Christian Nation” was that what it meant to be a Christian was greatly watered down. Just being an American or going to church or being raised in a Christian family, gave folks the false impression that they were Christians. In our new post-Christian world, the followers of Christ, the authentic Christians,  will stick out like a sore thumb, maybe better said like salt and light. Isn’t that the plan? Wasn’t that His plan all along?
Let them know by our love that we are following Him and they will follow right along.
Be blessed.
Nick

Continuing Christian Education

2 Timothy 4:3

New International Version (NIV)
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.23