Thoughts, observations, scripture and other articles relating to Christianity and the Christian life.

Evangelism

Coexist: The Bumper Sticker

This might be the most popular bumper sticker in america.  A bit of a double-edged sword if you ask me.

While I partially agree with the message this bumper sticker is trying to promote, there is a second level message (at least to me) that this bumper sticker endorses that I totally disagree with (as would proponents of the of the vast majority of the three major world religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity).

What I agree with:

I agree with the general sentiment that people, regardless of their religious values, should do thier very best to coexist with people around them in day to day life; caring for one another and being loving representatives of their varying faiths.  I think this is something that everyone can agree is something to strive for and good for humanity, not to mention the reputation of their people’s collective faith system.

What I disagree with:

I disagree with, what I perceive to be, an underlying message of this bumpers sticker, which is to “Keep your religion to yourself”.  This viewpoint not only begins to scratch at the first amendment of the constitution (while not completely undermining it, it does undermine the SPIRIT of free speech, which is to allow people to express themselves in nearly anyway they see fit.  Obviously there are some exceptions.) it also flies in the face of one of the main themes of most organised religion: securing converts.  The idea of “Keep your religion to yourself” hinders the evangelism efforts of these religions and, for the people who hold this view, it shows either a lack of knowledge of, or a complete disregard for, the beliefs and rights of the adherents to their respective religions.

Ultimatley, I feel that it is, at best, a weak faith and individual, that emphasizes peace more than spreading truth.  Peace at the cost of truth, integrity and generally doing what is right is just cowardice.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me as a prisoner, but share with the sufferings of the gospel, according to the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:7

What do you all think?

God bless.

-Neil



Witnessing to Witnesses

(I mean no offense to Jehovah’s Witnesses with posting the above image, I just thought it was funny.)

Three or four times in the past few months a few Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to my door;  a very sweet elderly woman (sadly her name is escaping me) and a man named Clay.  They have been very kind and I have let them know that I am a Christian, but  I feel like the next time Clay comes back, I may invite him in for a discussion on faith.  I have zero interest in converting to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness as I know their Bible is curropt and they teach falsehoods on God, Jesus, the holy spirit and salvation, however I would like to witness to this man.

I was wondering if any of you out there have had a discussion with witnesses in the past, and if so, what questions or tactics are good to take when witnessing to them?  Is there anything else you would recommend?

Please pray this man, that his eyes may be open to the free gift of salvation, through faith, in the authentic Jesus Christ.  Also, please pray for me that I continually have a humble, truthful and loving tone when talking to him.

God bless.

-Neil


Quick repost

I know I have posted this video before, but Shai Linne says in 8 minutes EXACTLY what I want to tell others.  This guy is AMAZING.  Check him out if you are in to hip hop.

Please pass this video along, especially to any young/urban folks out there who might never have heard the gospel proclaimed so clearly from someone like Shai before.

I pray this video blesses you and others.

-Neil


Sharing Christ with Others

Evangelism.

It SHOULD (and usually does) come down to one word: Love.  Love for others.  Love for God.

That is what this looks like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, there are times when people evangelize for one word: Love.  Love of self.  Love of pride.  Love of belittling others.  Love of being right.

That is what this looks like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, a lot of non-believers out there have an idea (and in some cases they ARE right) that we have some sort of selfish motive to try and get others to come to Christ.  Some of this is due to a previous bad experience with evangelism.  Maybe they were given the “fire and brimstone” approach.  Maybe they were given the “easy believeism” approach, and when they realised that becoming a Christian IS a commitment, they bailed, never understanding the true gospel.

Whatever the case may be, we ARE called to spread the gospel.  This does not mean every Christian must be out on the streets talking about Jesus.  God has told us in his word that we are placed in our situations by him for his purposes.  If that is the case, then he can use us where we are.  Think of people in your current “sphere” that need Christ.  Friends, family, neighbors and coworkers.  These are all people we have regular contact with, and unless you are very sheltered, chances are at least one of them needs to hear the gospel.

If evangelism makes you nervous, try starting with these steps:

1) Pray for them.  Prayer is very powerful.  Sometimes prayers are answered immediatly, some are answered much later, and some might not be answered at all.  But we are encouraged to do it, and it DOES make a difference.

2) Ask people about what they believe.  Ask people about what their thoughts are on God, what their religious background is etc.  Simply bringing up the topic will help break the ice.

3) Share your experiences, but be careful not to share them all at once.  People like to hear stories, but most wont be interested in hearing your ENTIRE story.  Start with some simple things like and answered prayer for illness in the family, or something like that.

4) Ask them if they know about the Gospel.  Ask them if they know what Christians believe (Especially about the nature of God and salvation.  These two are critical.)

5) Be patient.  It can take years or decades for people to come to Christ.  My mother prayed for me for over 25 years before I had REAL faith in Christ.  I am so thankful that she did.

I pray this helps our efforts and that we can all be tools utilized for the salvation of other and the glory of God.

Take care.

-Neil


Letter to an old friend

 

So I was on facebook a while back (Ok, ok…i’m on it a LOT) and this was put into the status of an old high school friend of mine:

I’m getting ready to type an essay about crime and capital punishment and I need some help from my FB friends. Please give me your thoughts/opinion…. If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him? Deep thoughts on FB! 🙂 Any input would be greatly appreciated.

I felt compelled to write back and I thought I would share what I wrote:

Original question: If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him?

So, most, if not all, of my thoughts on this find their roots in scripture, so if you are a believer, this will probably be familiar to you. People’s view on scripture vary, but my personal belief is that scripture is “God-breathed”, (theopneustos in the original Greek), or “Divinely inspired” as quoted in 2 Timothy 3:16. Bearing that in mind, here is what I think:

People are bad because we have a nature in us that is present the second we are conceived in our mother’s womb. We are dead in our sins from our birth (Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me). This sin nature finds its roots with Adam in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, and is passed down through his descendants, namely, you and me. How sin is passed exactly, I am not sure, but any honest person will tell you that they have been guiltily of breaking one of the ten commandments at least once, making them guilty of sin (aka a “sinner”). The cycle continues on and on, generation to generation.

Not only do I believe that some people are “bad”, I believe ALL people are “bad” (myself included) when their actions and thoughts are held up to the standards set forth in scripture, like the Ten Commandments. Commonly, in our post-modern, relativistic, subjective truth oriented society, what separates people from thinking one person is “good” while another is “bad” is really a man centered view of “goodness”.

If we all compare ourselves to someone worse, it is easy to think that we are “good” people because we aren’t as bad as the person we are comparing ourselves to. By this logic, every person in history (except for one) could be considered “good” because there is always someone “worse” to compare themselves to. For example, if we use Adolf Hitler as our standard of the worst person in history, then Charles Manson could logically come to the conclusion that he is a “good” person because he was not as bad as Hitler. This is the sad relativist movement in full force in humanity today: as long as there is someone “worse” to compare ourselves to, we can make the argument that we are a “good person” and therefore do not need to change our bad habits even though deep down we know they are wrong.

For the believer however, the standard of goodness is God’s law. We know we are sinful because we are aware of our past and continuing struggle with sin that is in stark contrasts to God’s standards. However, we also have the hope in knowing that if we profess that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior, that we can be saved from the ramifications of sin (A literal and eternal hell). However being saved from hell is NOT simply saying a prayer one time, SAVING FAITH will result in a changed life, desiring to be obedient and glorifying God.

Even when we “follow our heart” to try and do what is right, we can still be deceived (Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?). That is why it is important to have an objective source of morality and standards to keep us from thinking what WE think is ok must be ok. It might not be objectively.

As far as capital punishment is concerned, people often like to (mis)quote Deuteronomy 5:17 by saying that “You shall not kill.” The accurate translation is actually “You shall not MURDER.” The difference between killing and murdering is whether or not it falls within the law. Murder does not, killing however does. Ironically, the people who often misquote this verse, also criticize the old testament for its rules enforcing capital punishment. So from a scriptural standpoint, the argument is completely baseless.

For me personally, I think there comes a time when a person’s history has shown that the individual is such a danger to society that it is best to end his life in the interest of protecting the society as a whole. That being said, I think there is also a lot of room for forgiveness in the judicial system as it has been set up to err on the side of NOT falsely convicting innocent people. Society as a whole needs to do a better job of forgiving and giving ex-cons a second chance when they have served their time, and give them a fair chance to prove that they have changed their ways.

We can’t be like God because of the same reason of Sin. However, there is a three step process that believers go through that does eventually make us like him:
1. Justification: This is the moment someone becomes a believer. Someone professes true faith in Christ and is saved (from hell).
2. Sanctification: This lasts from the second someone becomes a believer until a person’s death. This period of time is spent making those horribly difficult changes in our lives. We work on being more Christ-like: Sinning less and loving others more. It is a VERY tough time for the believer as many old habits die hard and temptation is CONSTANTLY an issue.
3. Glorification: This happens when we are physically resurrected to join Christ in heaven. We have perfected bodies that are no longer hindered by sin. Can’t wait for that day.

It makes me so sad how many people think that what saves them is a prayer. What saves us is Christ’s mercy, that is only given by sincere faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that there will be MANY people that THINK they are saved, but will be rejected and sent to hell. I pray daily that myself and my loved ones will not be one of them.

Ok sorry for the big time tangent, but I get WAY passionate about this. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this as well. Write me back about this when you get a chance. 🙂

On a side note:  Part of being a Christian is being ready with answers to questions like these.  I think it is important for a couple reasons:

  1. It shows others that we aren’t in our faith just because it is how we grew up.  It shows people that we have been thoughtful about our faith and take it seriously.
  2. Having answers ready for questions like these provide us an opportunity to witness to others.  These core questions (Why does God allow evil to exist?  etc.) are CRUCIAL in opening up the door for further exploration into Christianity for non-believers.  If we can not even supply a thoughtful answer to the core questions, people will almost always just stop there and not look into the faith further and an opportunity at exploration and conversion could be lost.

This is why it INFURIATES me that more churches and more believers don’t at least have a basic grasp of apologetics (Apologetics just means being able to provide a defense for Christianity). PLEASE, for the good of your own soul, and in the interest of being a tool for Christ, know some basic apologetics.  There are some WONDERFUL resources at http://carm.org/http://www.gotquestions.org/ and http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/.  I would HIGHLY encourage you to bookmark those websites and use them often.  CARM and Please Convince Me also have weekly podcasts that you can listen to as well.

May God bless you all and use us as tools to bring others to Christ.

-Neil


Christian Thrill Seeker?

Video games.  They used to be a huge passion of mine.  I would spend easily dozens of hours a week playing or researching them.  Then I went and grew up.  I play games now probably less than 2 hours a week.  Unless the game is HEAVILY story based (which is more like an interactive movie), they really don’t do a whole lot for me anymore.  I’ve come to the realization that the only difference between an experience between one video game and another is the combination of buttons pressed, and the combination of pixels that appear on the screen.  About the only time I play them is to kill time, or to interact with friends.  I have a different passion growing in me now.  The seed was planted a few years back when I had my “Road to Damascas” experience and truly came to Christ for the first time in my life.  Since then I have read dozens of books and looked at hundreds of videos that are faith oriented, especially regarding evangelism, theology and apologetics.  These three things evangelism, theology and apologetics have taken hold in me and have stoked a fire like no other.

I DEEPLY desire to share my faith with others (thus, “Christian Lenses” came to be), and to lead people to Christ.  I continue to have this vision of talking to people in Portland.  On the streets.  In bars (not that i’m really a drinker).  Wherever.  However, there are a few things “standing in my way” (also known as excuses):

  1. Fear of confrontation: I have never been someone who likes confrontation.  Don’t get me wrong, when push comes to shove, I will stand my ground, but I am defiantly not one to go pick a fight, and usually I am a good enough speaker to talk my way out of sticky situations.  When talking about things like faith, and absolute truth, people can get VERY defensive which will make people more likely to get heated.  When people get upset, they are less likely to listen to reason, thus less likelihood that people will keep their minds open to the gospel.
  2. Fear of my intellectual limitations: I have a veracious appetite for knowledge relevant to the faith, but the more I learn, I realize I know less than I thought.
  3. Fear of pride: Winning an argument, being proven right, or “achieving” a conversion leads me toward pride.  It happens a LOT.  That is me becoming prideful (not necessarily winning an argument…Just ask Jenn, my fiancé : ))  If leading people to Christ continually lead me to be prideful, I would have mixed feeling about continuing in this specific form of evangelism.
  4. Fear of job-oriented repercussions: I am a teacher at a public school.  As such, I am, in a very small way, a public figure.  While I am not ashamed of my faith, I must confess that if some of my students (Many of whom are not Christian) started to feel uncomfortable in my classroom (not that I evangelize in my class or anything) I would be heartbroken.  Not to mention, I may start to become avoided by parents who are uncomfortable with my outspoken faith.
  5. Fear of the unknown:  Then there is that general fear of what COULD happen.  What am I not thinking about?  What could come of this that I am not aware of?

So people out there on the net, what are you thoughts on this?  What would you do?  What (if any) has your experience been witnessing to strangers?

God bless.

-Neil


The “god of comfort”

God himself is a God of comfort.  He, through his promises, covenants, love and presence can comfort us in all of our afflictions.  Sadly, I find people (myself included) worshiping the “god of comfort” instead of the “God of comfort”.  What I mean by that is that, if God is the lord of our lives, we will be compelled to follow him and his decrees.  Certainly this will not be done perfectly as we are unable to be separated from our sinful flesh until we die and achieve glorification through God’s grace.  However, we need to be sure that comfort itself does not become our “idol”, “prize”, “goal”, “object of worship” etc.  As americans, we are so used to being able to achieve extremem confort that, often, we an forget that times of DISCOMFORT is usually when we grow the most.

How comfortable were you during your first real job interview?  How comfortable were you on that first date?  How comfortable were you when you moved out of your parents house?  How comfortable were you when you realized that you committed sin against a holy, perfect and righteous God, and he had every right to put you to death right then and there?  Yet, through all of these experiences, while there was discomfort (and during some perhaps EXTREME discomfort) there was also TREMENDOUS growth.

I don’t know about you, but comfort is boring.  Give me an opportunity to represent Christ.  Give me a resource to learn more about God.  Give me a chance to evangelize.  There is nothing on this earth as satisfying as serving the Lord and knowing that another soul is being saved.  Let us keep in mind that there is nothing more important that we can tell someone than the gospel.

Embrace the fear.  Embrace the discomfort.  Embrace the spirit of the saints.  Embrace that lost soul!

Let us be uncomfortable and disgusted with our “god of comfort” and pursue the “comfort of God”!

God bless.

-Neil