Evangelism Undresses the Heart

evangelism undresses the heart

Evangelism is the tenderest of things. The evangelistic relationship is so personal, so fragile that many devoted Christians are afraid to try. Evangelism undresses the heart.

Yes, ‘tis true, the gospel presentation involves objective historical facts, e.g., Jesus Christ died for our sins, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Beyond the facts, however, true evangelism uncovers the barest emotions of the heart. Evangelism is one heart speaking with another heart.

Personal evangelism is just that—very personal. The soul-winner takes the wraps off his heart in hope the next person will unveil his own.

When anyone witnesses to another he reveals himself. The Greek word for witness is martyr, e.g., one who suffers or is killed for his faith. The witness opens his life and lays it down in front of another. He is no longer protecting himself, but rather revealing his intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus to another person. He is willing to openly show who he is, what he believes, who he loves, and who he is willing to suffer or die for. He knows that he may be rejected, mocked, or ridiculed, yet he plunges ahead with the most personal element of life—his faith and love toward God.

Inherent in the gospel presentation (“Jesus did for our sins”) is the acknowledgement “I am a sinner, saved by grace.” To witness means we reveal ourselves, maybe more than we wish. To witness means to open up to another person a hidden part of ourselves that may be very private. When we say, “I’ve invited Jesus into my heart,” or “I love God” or “My sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ,” we are confessing very personal things about our lives.

Evangelism is delicate, tender and revealing. It cannot be otherwise. Soul-winning may open up old hurts and tell how we got the scars. In the recipient, it often evokes the same.

My wife, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, will sometimes ask a stranger, “What could I pray for you?” This simple question has prompted ladies to open up or emotionally melt—even burst into tears.  Sometimes evangelism cries and weeps, not restraining the tears.

Of course, not every conversation releases all these emotions. The soul-winner pours out his breaking heart in intercession before he ever meets the one with whom he shares his faith. The heart of a soul-winner cries out to God like Praying John Hyde of India, “Give me souls, or I die!” Then in conversation with a hungry heart, distilled love is poured out in a cascade of truth and emotion on a receiving man or woman, boy or girl.

People need closure. To bring issues to the surface and then leave a person spiritually or emotionally dangling demonstrates immaturity or ineptness on the part of the witness. The Holy Spirit will often prompt a soul-winner to pray gently with a needy person for salvation or healing.

But that’s a topic for another day. For now, let’s humble ourselves. Let’s be willing to take off our protective layers and gently bare our souls in front of some who hurt.

 

Apostles Open New Territory

Apostles Open Doors to New Territory

Apostles Open Doors to New Territory

 How Can Apostles Help Churches?

“An apostle is a Christian leader called and supernaturally gifted by God to open new spiritual and geographical territory for the gospel, lay foundations, equip believers, and serve as catalyst and coordinator for churches and ministries.”

Notice, apostles are those who open new spiritual . . . territory for the gospel.”  Click here to find a fuller explanation of apostle. We are speaking here of modern day apostles as well as those closer to the time of the Apostles Creed.

So how do apostles open up new territory? And what is new territory?

One example is evangelism. Evangelism is not new, of course, but almost non-existent in the lives of most Christians. Five percent or less of all church members share their faith with non-believers. Frankly, evangelism needs to become “new” to the church.

Another prime example  of new territory is the ability for believers to hear God’s voice. Many Christians still doubt that God talks to them or if He does, they don’t hear. Let’s look more closely.

The study of a matter is termed “ology.” When “ology” is coupled with a noun we often find a specific category for study or investigation. For example, the study of the church is ecclesiology, from ekklesia (the Greek word for church). The study of the Holy Spirit is pneumatology, from pneuma (the Greek word for spirit). The study of living things is zoology, from zoe (the Greek word for living things).

The Greek word for “hearing” is akouw. I propose a field of study called “akouology,” the study of hearing and following the voice of God. The Bible says, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27).  God expects every believer to hear Him in some way or another.

What follows is a PROPOSED INTRODUCTION to akouolgy, the study of hearing God and doing what He says.

God speaks primarily through the Bible. Other ways God speaks are through people, prophecy, dreams, visions, trances, circumstances, finances, impressions, nature, angels, etc.

All extra-Biblical speech should be tested by Scripture; no word from God will contradict the Bible.

God talks a lot (John 16:13-17). Some people call Him a “chatterbox.” His speech often focuses on natural, small, seemingly unimportant, or mundane matters.

We can and should all learn to hear God’s voice. This requires practice and experimentation.

Hearing from God may not mean “voice” of even words; rather, feeling, motivation, “whispers”, slight impressions, strange coincidences, etc. may all be a part of God’s voice.

God has chosen to speak in symbols, parables, puzzles, etc. He wants us to seek Him for meaning and interpretation.

God gives dreams (Acts 2:17, Matt 2:12, 19, Numbers 12:6, Job 33:14-18).

Not all dreams are from God (Eccles 5:3, 7).

The initial response to dreams is generally meditation and intercession (Dan 7:2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 13).

God’s voice, i.e., dreams and visions, etc. precipitate faith (Roma 10:17) and require a faith response. His rhema words are not automatically fulfilled but depend on our faith and obedience.

Dreams, like prophecy, are only one part of a larger picture (1 Cor 13: 9)

Don’t “marry” your dream or vision. Things often turn our somewhat differently than expected (Compare Acts 16:9 with Acts 16:13).

Don’t “bury” your word from God. Some words are multi-generational in fulfillment (Gen 12:7). Some words require “death of a vision” before completion (Gen 22).

There are many different types of dreams, e.g. healing, self-help, telling the future, warning, confirming, etc.

When a word form God involves a major decision or a group of people, there should be confirmation.

God speaks to unbelievers as well as believers (Dan 4:4-5).

Speaking in tongues and personal prayer requests can precipitate God’s voice (1 Cor. 2:9ff)

To ignore God’s voice involves consequences (Heb 3:7-19).

Conclusion: Apostles Need to Open Up the Study of Akouolgy in Churches Today

What I have written is a proposed introduction to the study of hearing and acting on God’s voice. I’m calling it akouology and suggest this is an area of utmost importance for believers and the church of God in general. If the church on earth is be what God called us to be, we must learn to hear God and do what He says. This is what it means to be the church.

Apostles and prophets need to advance this study– akouology, hearing God and doing what He says–in order to liberate the churches and people they influence.

For an extensive study of how churches related to apostles in the New Testament era, get a copy of my book Local Churches Global Apostles.

 

Symptoms of True Love (Part 5)

Symptoms of true love

Symptoms of true love

 

Symptoms of True Love.

This post is about one of the symptoms of true love toward God, not romantic relationship. It’s about giving up everything to Christ.

There’s a famous cartoon of Garfield the Cat hanging with his two front paws on a clothesline wire. The caption reads, “When all else fails, hang in there!

Symptoms of true love is the final part of a series, “5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned as a Cancer Patient.” You can access the introduction here. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 here.  Find Part 4 here.

This Garfield cartoon fits a man with cancer. We never know the future. All of life and the precious things we’ve worked so hard for could be pulled away from us in an instant or a few weeks. There’s nothing we can do about it. We begin to understand more fully what’s important in life and what isn’t. Money, time, even friends and family are fleeting.

All we can do is hang onto God with our two front paws. When all else dissolves, God is still there.

For me, I have to give up everything and lay back on the chest of Christ. Family hopes fade. Ministry dreams evaporate. But love remains—His love to me and mine toward Him. I have ministry goals: I want to see people saved and healed. I want to see lives changed and His kingdom come. I want to see the church built up and become more influential in the community.

But I have cancer. I have to give it all up. All I want is to love God. I will let Him determine my ministry. I have no other choice. Nor do I want anything else. I am His and He is mine. This attitude is one of he symptoms of true love. And that’s the way it should be from the beginning.

“Not My Will, But Thine Be Done.”

Tony Reinke over at the Desiring God website has a quote from Tim Keller that helps define and identify one of the symptoms of true love. “Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story.”

Am I willing to give it all up to Jesus?

Are you willing to suffer for Jesus sake? Am I?

 

Why Teach Kids Memory Verses (Part 4)

What’s so Important about Kids Memory Verses?

Kids memory verses–those I learned as a child–helped me go through the torment of chemotherapy. Here’s what I found.

This is part 4 of a series, “5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned as a Cancer Patient.” Read the introduction here.

Part 1, “Who are the Majestic Ones?” is found here. Part 2, “What to say to a Sick Man?” is practical and something everyone needs to know. Part 3, “Love Doesn’t Let Anyone Go to Hell” will grip anyone with a heart.

It’s rough to have cancer. It’s rough to go through Chemo-therapy treatments. Chemo changes a human body and mind. Digestion, sleep patterns, energy levels, almost everything changes as those chemicals take up bodily residence. I have spent plenty of sleepless nighttime hours.  What’s a person to do hour after hour of drug induced sleeplessness?

The best idea is to meditate on Scripture. That’s where kids memory verses like Psalm 23 saved the day. (Or should I say, saved the night?) I don’t want to turn on the lights and get totally awake by reading something. Meditation on Psalms or other Bible verses can relax and induce sleep. But how can a person meditate on verses he’s never committed to memory? No way; the Scripture has to be learned in advance of the crisis.

My Great Discovery

The Psalms and other verses I’d learned as a child returned; the verses or chapters I’d memorized as an adult slipped so easily away. I was surprised about this. Normally, we’d think what we learned most recently would be most retained. In fact, the opposite was true. I knew it was easier to memorize as a child, but I was unprepared in my hours of need to recall the verses I’d memorized as an adult. John 3:16, Psalm 46 and other verses came back but only because I’d committed them to memory in my childhood.

What’s the “take home”?

Parents, do yourself and your children a favor by teaching kids memory verses now before their minds get cluttered with the affairs of life. Sunday School teachers and Children’s Church workers, do the same. Teach the children whose parents never come to church verses about God’s love and salvation through Christ. You never know—some of those verses may return in hours of suffering or crises during adult years.

I’m saying it again.  I learned this as a cancer patient. These simple kids memory verses carried me through the nights of chemo-induced torment. You will never regret teaching Bible memory verses, nor will they!

 

Love Doesn’t Let Anyone Go to Hell (Part 3)

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I experienced hell. No place on earth is like it. If we care about anyone, we will do our best to rescue them from the ravages of the devil and his place of torment.

This is part 3 of a series “5 Life-Changing Lessons I learned as a Cancer Patient.” Read the introduction “You’ve Got Cancer!” 

Read part 2 here.    

Part 3 “What to Say to a Sick Man?” is practical and located here.

 

Following my first chemotherapy treatment I was reduced to what seemed like a near vegetable state. I was weak physically, and weaker still in my mind. In a drug induced stupor I was susceptible to demonic attack. As I tried to sleep that first night I felt all hell was turned upside down and poured out on me.  Hideous, evil thoughts I’d never seen or imagined camped in my mind.

I do deliverance ministry. I know how to combat the devil. But this was different. When I called for the blood of Jesus, the devil himself seemed to appear.  I couldn’t get free no matter what I tried. What I experienced was the horrendous hatred of the devil toward me and every human being. No words can adequately describe the devil and his hatred. No words can fully prepare a person for the torments of hell.

The next night I came armed with the prayers of my oldest son and the elders of the church. Through their prayers I was greatly protected.

I see now more clearly than ever the need to rescue people from the devil’s deception and bring them into heaven. If we care at all about friends, relatives, co-workers we will tell them about Jesus. No feeling should stop us from giving the good news about salvation from hell to people we care about. I say again, if we love someone, let’s spare nothing in order to tell them about Jesus and lead them to salvation. (See some posts on this site for simple, empowering ways to lead someone to Christ—it’s serious business, but also a lot of fun!)

Hell is neither picnic nor place to go and be with friends. Learn about Chicken Evangelism—bring up Christ before you chicken out. If we love ‘em, tell ‘em ‘bout Jesus now!

What to say to a sick man?

This is Part 2 of a 5 part series. Read the introduction here.

Read Part 1 “Who are the Majestic Ones?” here.

Here’s something practical, down-to-earth, and just plain helpful. ” What to say to a sick man?” This can be important for evangelism too.

Nearly everyone wants to help, but how? Most of us struggle to find words when we meet someone who is sick or going through a crisis. I admit that up until now my most common response has been to say, “I’m sorry.”  I was doing my best to empathize with the hurting. But since I got cancer I’ve discovered that to say, “I’m sorry” doesn’t help much. It just leaves me in my condition. What I need is hope and lots of it! I found that any attempt at hope, even suggestions for crazy alternative therapies, offers some hope.

Teachings don’t help much either. Sick men don’t need teaching; we need faith.

What should a person say to a sick guy? The best response I found is for someone to come along side, listen and humbly ask, “What can I do to help?” Who knows? Maybe the need is a ride? Or meals for the family? Or help to change a light bulb?

Flynn is a young and single father whose daughter Riley had a dramatic bout with a cancerous brain tumor. Riley survived the surgery with eighty-eight stitches in her head. Flynn mentioned something I had recently taught the church. “I really appreciated what you taught the other day. You said, “Don’t say, ‘I’m sorry’ to people who are hurting. That doesn’t help. What we need is encouragement, not sympathy.”

Think about it. “What can I do to help?” or “How can I help you?” These questions show humility on our part. No need to guess or assume what someone else needs. These questions place the sick man in the driver’s seat. They show respect to the sick. They empower the person who’s hurting and allow him or her to express his own needs. And who knows better than anyone what’s the need of the moment than the sick man himself?

 

Who Are the Majestic Ones? (Part 1 of 5-part Series)

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5 Life-changing Lessons I learned as a Cancer Patient

Click here to read the introduction “You Have Cancer!”

My wife, Kari, and some of our children stood on either side of me as I announced to our church that I had cancer. When we sat down, the entire church immediately gathered around us and started ministering to us in faith and prayer. They didn’t hesitate one bit. One lady, Sherry, who is herself a cancer survivor, announced with unmitigated faith and passion, “Christ is a big “C”; cancer is a little “c”! There I was, a broken man, and the whole church was standing as one in staunch faith and love.

Who are the majestic ones? “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16). The church of the Living Water has stood by me like an immoveable rock throughout the duration of my chemotherapy treatments. If I didn’t know it before (and I did) I know it now—the saints of God, the church, are the majestic ones in all the earth.

My wife and family, each and every son and daughter, are giving me unwavering assistance throughout this trial. They are majestic in my eyes.

My fellow pastors in Muscatine have rallied to my benefit. God has heard prayers from the pulpits of nearly every church in town. Baptist, Methodist, Vineyard, non-denominational, and so on, they have all prayed for me. These are a majestic band of brothers.

“A brother in need is a brother indeed.” The aphorism is true. Crisis reveals our true friends. Nor should anyone be surprised that Christian people are salient in the mercy department. Every believer in Jesus Christ has received His mercy. It’s only natural that we pass it on.

It’s common in some quarters to criticize the church in America. Yet when the chips are down, who is the greatest support group anywhere? Unbelievers need to know there is an assembly of “Good Samaritans” ready and willing to help in time of need. God bless the church!

5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned as a Cancer Patient

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“You Have Cancer!” (Introduction to 5 Life-changing Lessons I Learned from Cancer)

Who Are the Majestic Ones? (Part 1)

What to Say to a Sick Man (Part 2)

Love Doesn’t Let Anyone Go to Hell (Part 3)

Why Teach Kids Memory Verses (Part 4)

Loving God (Part 5)

 “You Have Cancer”

 

The doctor was firm but gentle when he spoke to me the fateful words, “Your lungs are filled with cancer.” He went on to say this particular cancer was inoperable. Of course, I was shocked; we all were.

As a pastor and counselor, I knew the first stage of grief is denial. Well, I was in denial for some days. I couldn’t believe I had cancer. (After all, I was chopping wood and riding bicycle. I could ride up hills just as well as some of my adult children!) Dr. G., who first discovered the abnormality in my lungs from a CAT scan, had quizzed me in a way that should have prepared me for the dire diagnosis.

“Do you smoke?’

“No!”

Have you ever smoked?”

No.”

“Have you been around a lot of second hand smoke?”

“No.”

“Well, cancer has its own mind. Some people who smoke all their lives don’t get it and some people who never smoke do get it. I’m sending you to a cancer specialist.”

Following exploratory surgery, the cancer specialist later ameliorated his grim diagnosis to something happier. “You have lymphoma which has settled in your lungs. This is very unusual.” He went on to say that lymphoma is treatable and the survival rate is greater than for lung cancer.

If need be, I’m ready to die. I have received Jesus Christ as my Savior from the guilt of my sin. According to God’s Word, I am secure in His love and forgiveness and will be with Him when I die. In the meantime, I will try to beat this thing by the power of God and the prayers of His people. That’s my confidence in God and His Word. If I do die, I don’t want to die of cancer. I believe if someone is going to die, they should die healthy!

I have endured six chemo-therapy treatments. I don’t wish these treatments on anybody, but I realize God has used chemo to save my life, at least temporarily. Without treatment I would be a “goner” by now. Instead, I’m gaining strength and feeling better week by week. Praise God!

There’s got to be a reason for all this suffering. May I share 5 life-changing lessons I’ve already learned as a cancer patient? Blogs in this series “5 Life-Changing Lessons I Learned as a Cancer Patient” tell the stories.

What is the Church?

What is “the Church?” Have you ever thought through a definition? I’ve been thinking about a good definition for years. Here’s my current thought.

Let us know what you think.

The Church is Redeemed people called out of the world to come together to hear God and do what He says.

The Church is the redeemed People of  God
•Redeemed
•Bought with blood
•We are not our own
•Paid for, purchased
•1 Cor 6:19-20
•not just an institution
•Not only an organization

•But an organism

The Church is “called out”
•Greek ek=out of plus kaleo=to call
•We are called out of the world, devil, flesh
•World: anything, good or bad, that takes us away from God

•“Called out’ to “come together to hear God”

Hebrew Background
•Qahal=to summon as assembly, congregation
•Numbers 10:7–two trumpet blasts

•People called out of tents, dwellings to  assemble at door of tabernacle to hear God”

Greek Background

•Ekklesia: the convened assembly (Acts 19:32)

•Assembly gathered to take responsibility to raise funds, govern military, declare war.

The Church is God’s People
•Not just “called out”
•Rather, called out to ”come together”

•109 times in New Testament

Church Myth # 1
•Attendance is optional
Rather,  God Himself has summoned His people!
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . .

 

Church Myth # 2
• “I have chosen to assemble”
Rather, God has summoned us
You did not choose Me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16)
The Church is—Called Out to Come Together
•To Hear—”My sheep hear My voice (John 1:27)

•To Do—Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them. . . (Matt 7:24ff).

What to Do When Church Meets?
•1 Cor 14:26:
•What is the outcome, then brethren? When you come together each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.

•Let all things be done for edification.

Summary:The Church is Redeemed People Called Out of the world to Come Together to Hear God and Do What He Says.What do you think?

18 Murders in Iowa on One Day

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On April 5, 2011 18 murders were committed in Iowa.  All took place at 2751 Tech Dr., Bettendorf, IA 52722.  The murders were done systematically, one at a time.  Records were kept of who did it, but none of the individuals involved have been charged.  All the victims were children, which makes these murders in Iowa even more egregious.

Who were the perpetrators of these ghastly events?  The Planned Parenthood doctors and staff performed the actual killings.

But wait. . .to tell it like it is, you and I were responsible, at least in part.  We have not sufficiently mourned over the killing of infants this close to our homes.

There’s a parallel recorded in the ninth chapter of Ezekiel in in the Bible.  The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city. . . and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.” (Ezekiel 9:4)  It turns out  those who grieved over the terrible acts of that day were marked with the sign of a tau, a Hebrew letter written like a cross at that time.  Those who got the mark were spared from death; the others not.

Killing of innocent children is our present day abomination.

We, “good people” all, were accessories to these murders because we have not mourned sufficiently.  We have also voted for such men as Dave Loebsack, Bruce Braley, and US Senator Tom Harkin.  Loebsack represents Iowa’s Second District and Bruce Braley, Iowa’s First District. These elected officials repeatedly use their legislative powers to promote the culture of death in our state and in our nation.  They justify murder by hiding behind the “reproductive ‘rights’ of women.”  We, the “good citizens” of America, have also elected a president who is so callous that he voted to withhold life-saving nutrition from children who survived botched abortions.

A Spirit-filled person stands for life!  The Bible says, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (Acts 1:8)  The power of God’s love is growing in the nation.  Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans now oppose tax-funded abortion.  We are winning, but the battle rages.  The Spirit-filled life evinces grief over sin and love toward the enemies of life.  The Spirit energizes those He fills to stand for life, lobby for life, and produce life in our own marriages and families.

There’s blood on our doorstep. But thank God, the Spirit is moving in our land.  How long the blood stains remain depends in part on you and me.