What’s the Best-Selling Book in Norway?

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OSLO, Norway (AP) — It may sound like an unlikely No. 1 best-seller for any country, but in Norway — one of the most secular nations in an increasingly godless Europe — the runaway popularity of the Bible has caught the country by surprise. The Scriptures, in a new Norwegian language version, even outpaced “Fifty Shades of Grey” to become Norway’s best-selling book.

The sudden burst of interest in God’s word has also spread to the stage, with a six-hour play called “Bibelen,” Norwegian for “the Bible,” drawing 16,000 people in a three-month run that recently ended at one of Oslo’s most prominent theaters.

Officials of the Lutheran Church of Norway have stopped short of calling it a spiritual awakening, but they see the newfound interest in the Bible as proof that it still resonates in a country where only 1 percent of the 5 million residents regularly attends church.

From the Associated Press, Yahoo edition, June 6,2013

Is the spiritual hunger of Norwegians–as shown by their thirst for the Bible– surprising to anyone?

It shouldn’t be. Whenever culture or government excludes religion, people’s thirst invariably rises. Russia experienced a revival after the communist regime failed in the late 1980’s. China is currently undergoing rapid expansion of Christianity due to government persecution of Christians.

Norway’s cultural secularism serves as an invitation for the gospel. God created man with an “empty space” in his spirit that can only be filled with Jesus Christ. Ignoring this “hole” in man’s heart invariably results in revival, a renewed quest for something spiritual.

My wife and I have traveled and ministered in the Norway, a nation of dramatic beauty. It appears there is a growing hunger for God in the hearts of many. Will the church seize the opportunity to proclaim the gospel with clarity?

What is the gospel? Paul clearly expresses the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: The gospel is the good news that “Jesus Christ died for our sins, and was buried . . .  He rose again the third day and was seen by Peter, and James, and by over 500 others at the same time. ”

The challenge now is for Norwegian evangelists to rise up and offer the living Christ, the only One who can fill the void.  Church of Norway, rise to your destiny!

 

 

Evangelism is Easier than You Think

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Why make evangelism so hard? Jesus said it’s easy. If it’s as difficult as some people think, we need a mental adjustment.

For some, fear and evangelism go together like ice and snow. “You can’t have one without the other,” they shudder. For many Christians, fears paralyze. Let’s identify three biggies in the devil’s fear-factor industry and then see how “chicken evangelism” overcomes the boogey-man every time.

Do These Things Scare You?

First, “I don’t witness because I might lose a friend.” That’s unlikely. More realistically, your friend will respect you for sharing your faith. But if losing a friend concerns you, get started by witnessing to strangers. With strangers you have little to lose.

Second, “I don’t know where to start or how to begin.” Try Chicken Evangelism; it’s tailor-made to help overcome fear and get started.

Third, “I might say the wrong thing and make things worse.” That’s doubtful, and if you don’t say anything, the prospect could end up in hell. Which is worse, his eternity in hell or your fear of saying the wrong thing?

Jesus Made Evangelism Easier Than You Think

Let’ see how Jesus made evangelism easy. Almost immediately after meeting a woman of Samaria, Jesus invited her to receive Him and his gift (John 4:10). No beating around the bush! Later, He explained basic principles of evangelism to his disciples.

“I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John 4:32). Evangelism God’s way is satisfying. It’s as easy as eating. It fulfills a person. Eating is something we do at leisure, at rest. Eating is enjoyable and so is evangelism God’s way.

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). When God asks us to do something, He simultaneously gives us the grace (ability) to do it. It has to be this way; otherwise, He would expect us to accomplish His will by our own power which is clearly not His expectation. Reaping souls is God’s work and we are joining His crew. To reiterate, it’s His work, not ours. He is the initiator and the One responsible for the outcome. Knowing evangelism belongs to Him frees us from the responsibly of the outcome. He gets the credit and we get the privilege of flowing with Him.

Our family lives near the Mississippi River which has a powerful current. I have tried to swim upstream against the Mississippi current. It doesn’t work. To swim or paddle against the flow is exhausting, almost impossible, for more than a few minutes. God’s way of evangelizing is like flowing with the current. Evangelism God’s way is like getting in a boat and floating downstream. It’s effortless and relaxing!

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then [emphasis added] comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35). Jesus sees something we may have missed. He sees hungry people ready to be reaped. He sees men, women, young people, and children with hearts hungry for Him.

Pascal, the great French Physicist noted, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ” (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, published 1670).  Jesus said the fields are white (ripe) and ready for harvest. As Bill Bright and Campus Crusade have taught for years, many people are ready to be saved; they just need to be shown how.

One of the salient points of Chicken Evangelism is many people are ready to be saved. Perhaps you have found some who are not ready. Has that has clouded your vision? The fact remains for every day in every century, Jesus said, “The fields are white for harvest.” We need the eyes to see what He sees and the faith that God will lead us to ready-to-be-reaped people.

“Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal” (John 4:36). Jesus corrected the idea that more time was needed, that better relationships had to be formed, that people were not ready. He said in effect, “Now, already people are being saved for eternity.” Paul chimed in, “Now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 7:1)

“I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:38). This is the primary reason evangelism is easy: Somebody before you has done the work. They preached the gospel, they set the example, and they lived the life. Perhaps that someone developed a relationship. No one person can do it all. God didn’t plan for one person to do it all; rather, He planned that someone works, another tags along and eventually leads the “ripe” man to salvation. If an individual is not ready for harvest, we go on to the next until we find the one who is. We are called not just to witness or build relationships—we are called to reap.

There is a place for labor in evangelism. The gospel must be preached. Sacrifices must often be made. Patience is required as people consider the claims of Christ. When I say, “Evangelism is easier than you think,” let no one construe this to imply that the labor intensive work of steadily teaching, preaching, writing, and living the life of the gospel is unnecessary or unimportant. The opposite is true. However, the scales have tipped too far to the opinion that evangelism is an odious, time-consuming, and wearisome job best left to professionals or super-Christians.

The time has come to tip the scales the other way. This is what Chicken Evangelists understand: In the case of reaping souls, much of the work is already done: “Today is the day of salvation.”

Is evangelism really easier than most people think? Is this scenario realistic? Does it work? To answer, here’s a true story.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab three keys.

First Key: Pray

  • That you be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  • That God will open your mouth (Eph 6:19-20)
  • That God will lead you to the hungry (John 4:34-38)
  • You don’t need to take extra time
  • You don’t need to plan
  • You don’t need to go out of your way
  • Just go about your regular business, and as you are going . . .

Second Key: “As you are going . . .  “ (literal Greek for Matt 28:19)

  • You don’t need to take extra time
  • You don’t need to plan
  • You don’t need to go out of your way
  • Just go about your regular business, and as you are going . . .

Third Key: Pop the God Question early

  • Do it before you chicken out.
  • Ask “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?” (or similar question)
  • Expect a yes or no answer.
  • If yes, encourage them and talk about it. Ex: Great! How did it happen for you?
  • If no, give them the gospel in story or testimony.
  • Follow with “Is there any reason why you would not want to receive Jesus right now?
  • Let them pray (or pray with them) to receive Christ

Chicken evangelism makes soul-winning easier than most people think. It’s a way to bypass fear by bringing God into the conversation right away. It’s an adventure and it’s easy.

What do you think? Drop me a comment. I’m interested in your thoughts. Or better yet, are you willing to give Chicken Evangelism a try? If you are, contact me and let me know how it goes. I’ll talk with you.

The Gospel and Peach Cobbler

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The phone rang.  It was David Nitwalker (name changed) who had made an earlier appointment to buy a bundle of grassfed lamb from our farm.  He stood on the walk, a tall, rugged man and older than I had expected.  He was wearing large rubber boots.

I invited him in and he immediately commented profusely and about our house.  David noticed the wide pine flooring and huge beams.  “God, what a beautiful house,” he effused, and all this Southern pine.”  He knows wood, alright, I mused to myself.

Since it was supper-time I invited David for some toasted cheese sandwiches, our fare for the evening.  He politely declined but trailed me to the kitchen freezer where we stored the lamb bundles.  Together we chose a bundle that would suit his needs and loaded his cooler with the individual lamb pieces.  David wrote out the check and asked a few questions about age of lamb, why I prefer mutton, and so forth.

About this time David discovered a pan of peach cobbler on the counter.  “U mm. . . what’s this?” Right then I knew we were buddies, even though we had set our sights on each other a mere 5 minutes earlier.  “Peach cobbler,” I responded, “Want some?”  And so we sat down at the kitchen table to chat and eat cobbler with cream.

Something in me didn’t want to ask him about his faith.  But I could see that he was an older man and the thought crossed my mind that I would never see him again.  This would be my only chance to lead him to Christ.  He could die and depart to hell never knowing Christ as Savior.  I felt the urgency of the situation and waited.

The break came when David asked what I did for a living.  I replied, “I farm and pastor The Church of the Living Water.”  He seemed to approve and started to ask location of the church, but I knew I couldn’t pass the opportunity to follow up.  Many unsaved people like to talk about churches and religion just as the woman at the well.  But I could not be diverted from the goal.  “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?” As I asked, all fear left.

David stammered, not knowing what to say.  Nothing came out quite right.  “I . . . I . . . don’t think so,” he finally managed to respond.  I could tell the question caught him off guard and hit him with a dose of reality.

I have good new for you,” I said as I began to put him at ease again.  But David wanted to tell me what a good life he lived and how he was not a bad person. I let him express himself and then agreed, “I can tell you are a good person.  And I have good news for you.  But first some bad news.  Nobody is good enough to get to heaven.  Not me, not you.  God says you have to be perfect to get into heaven.”

Then I gave him the good news:  “Jesus Christ died for our sins.  He took our sins on Himself and gave us His gift–righteousness!”  I went on in this vein momentarily and then asked, “Does this make sense to you?”  He was listening attentively to it all and replied, “Yes, it does.”  “Is there any reason why you would not want to ask Jesus Christ into your life right at this table?” I followed.

David was not ready.  He was thinking, but not sufficiently convicted to take the step of faith.  I listened and let our conversation lapse to another subject.  As I helped David carry his newly-purchased lamb to his car, we both agreed that we were happy to met each other and visit.  We wrapped up our business with mutual thanks and appreciation.  He said he would email me a testimony about the lamb and I suggested he consider what we talked about at the table.  May God bless David on his way.

O Lord, Give Me Souls!

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“Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?” I asked the college-age girl as she sat opposite me.

“No I haven’t,” she responded softly. “I used to go to church when I was really, really little. I enjoyed it,” she continued.

Whenever anyone responds with the church answer when I ask about their Jesus relationship, I know they are not yet in the camp. I was pleased to give this girl the simple gospel message that Jesus Christ died for her sins and that He rose again from the dead. The gospel made sense to her so I explained she could receive the free gift of salvation right then. There were people all around so I mentioned that no one would even know what we were doing. It was OK for her to go ahead and invite Christ into her life either out loud or silently. She didn’t answer. Her only response was to immediately bow her head and pray silently. After a minute she looked up.

We talked briefly and I sensed that faith had been born in her heart..

“Do you have a Bible? I asked.

She said, “No” so I gave her a Bible.

I am so happy to be able to lead a person to salvation via Jesus Christ.

Now for a brief background. There was something especially sweet about this experience. You see,  I had been praying in a new and (for me) different  way.

“Give me souls!” “Give me souls!” had become my earnest prayer. I had been praying that God would lead me to hungry people — the ones already prepared to receive Christ as Savior. I still pray for that. And  I pray with St. Paul “O Lord, open my mouth that I may make the gospel clear as I ought.” Recently, however, I was reminded of a man called “Praying Hyde” who used to plead with God, “Give me souls or l die!” He would set a goal and expect God to use him to lead a specific number of people to Christ each day. He started off believing for one person each day. At the end of the first year, 400 people had been converted. As his faith increased, he upped the number of his goal. Read an account about John Hyde taken from They Knew Their God, Vol. 1 by Edwin and Lillian Harvey as shown on http://www.actsamerica.org/biographies/2011-04-Praying-Hyde.htmlPraying Hyde:

Some time during 1908, he began to pray for the conversion of one soul a day. In the village treks or in tent services, he lost no opportunity to press the claims of God upon many or few. At the end of the year, to his knowledge, there had been four hundred conversions and baptisms. To God he gave the glory, but the goal set for the next twelve months was two conversions a day. Again Hyde’s faith and intercessory prayers were rewarded and, at the year’s end, through his contacts, eight hundred persons were known to have come to the Savior.

Pleading with God for the conversion of four souls each day, divine assurance was given him that such would be the case. Often more than that number would be given in answer to his prayers, and this lifted Hyde’s heart to God in songs of praise and thanksgiving. “There was nothing superficial about the life of those converts. They all nearly became active Christians,” was the comment of one who was on the field and thus able to appraise the results.

Hyde’s faith inspired me, so I set a goal commensurate with my faith. I cried, “Give me souls!” and believed God to let me lead one person to Christ that week. Saturday afternoon near sundown, in answer to my earnest plea, the girl opened her ready heart and prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Savior! Glory be to God who suffered and died for our salvation!

What do you think about “Praying Hyde” and his goal-setting? What inspires you to win souls? Your thoughts may encourage me and others.

Curious Evangelism

Recently I came home to our apartment building to find my neighbor Tanner sitting on the steps having a cigarette. I stopped to talk for a few minutes. I had been thinking that it would be nice to talk with Tanner about his faith, but I never knew quite how to start that conversation (a pretty common feeling for most of us, I think).

That night was different, though. I realized that my motivation for wanting to talk with him about faith was not because I should. I really wanted to know about his spiritual life.

In a word, I was curious.

“Do you have any spiritual beliefs? I’m a Christian, and I find that I’m really curious about other peoples’ faith journeys.”

He answered candidly about his past experiences in church, and talked at length about the reasons why he stopped being involved several years back.

As this conversation was happening, I realized that I had just stumbled across a breakthrough in my own ability to talk about spiritual things with people.

If I am genuinely curious about people, if I am interested in their lives, then naturally (since I am a spiritual person) that will mean I am curious about their spiritual lives.

That has led to some really great spiritual conversations with people.

Curiosity is powerful.

When I’m curious about something, I’m motivated to learn about it.

I’m willing to expend energy, or maybe even money, on it.

I spend time thinking about it.

I try to get other people thinking and talking about it.

I’ve found that when I’m curious about a person, that is a big motivator to encourage me to talk with them and figure out where they are in life and where they are spiritually.

So often we hear teaching that we should share our faith with other people, because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s what we’re supposed to do. Of course that’s true. But I’ve found that the most authentic and meaningful conversations I’ve had about faith were the result of me simply being curious about that person’s life and spirituality.

Most people like to talk about themselves, and a few honest questions about their life can really deepen a casual friendship and open the door to hear their spiritual story.

Who are you curious about?

Gas Station Attendant Receives Christ

Gas Station Accepts Christ

One Sunday morning I stopped for gas on the way to church. After filling the tank I chatted momentarily with the attendant. He was a new guy I had never met so I introduced myself and learned his name. I noted he couldn’t get to church since he worked Sunday morning. He agreed. I asked him carefully, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”

“I’ve been to church a few times with my mother,” Frank (name changed) replied.  I knew I had to make the gospel glorious for him, so I said, “I have some really good news for you: Jesus Christ died for your sins. He rose from the dead and has complete forgiveness for all our sins.  You can receive Jesus and his gift of salvation in simple trust like a child. Does this make sense to you?”  Frank nodded and said, “Yes, it does.”

I was suffering from a severe case of shingles at the time. The pain from shingles can be so great it’s hard to breathe. My pain was causing me to have greater compassion toward hurting people. I want more compassion because I’ve seen when I speak with deep and genuine love, people respond.  Spoken with heart-felt compassion, words of witness go deep into the soul.

How I came across to Brandon I don’t know.  In any case, He was showing genuine interest and humility so I asked, “Are you ready to receive Jesus Christ right now?  You can ask Him to come into your life either silently or aloud.”  Brandon, a young man is his twenties, bowed his head and prayed a brief child-like prayer of invitation and forgiveness–right in the gas station!  I followed with a prayer of my own and a few words about how Jesus Christ now lives inside him. I explained being a Christ-follower is not a matter of “does and don’ts” but of listening to Jesus and following Him.

I stopped by later and gave him a gospel of John. He readily received it and indicated he would read it.  Here was a young man whose name is now written in God’s big Book of Life, saved for all eternity! I was so happy. There’s no feeling in the world like leading a man to salvation in Christ.

The Best Compliment

Visitors generally like our church. We have inspirational music and singing led by sensitive worship leaders. Sermons are usually practical and helpful. (I’m no Charles Spurgeon, nor even a Joel Osteen, but I do preach the word of God from my heart.) We have a food table filled with goodies, not just the usual coffee and donuts. We have cheese, grapes, bananas and sometimes other fruits like strawberries. It’s yummy stuff like yogurt, bread, butter and jam. There’s something for every taste.

Best of all, the people of the Church of the Living Water tend to be very welcoming. One of our mottos is “No one sits alone.” Most members are good to talk with visitors both before and after meetings.

Guests are often impressed with a happy welcome and comment favorably. We hear, “I really liked the music!” or “This is wonderful church.”(Oh, yes, we get other comments too, mostly from ultra-conservatives who think God is angry with His children.)

Last Sunday I received the finest compliment ever from a first-time visitor. Here’s the background. In adult Bible Class which the visitor attended, we studied the Bereans of Acts 17:10. The Bible class leader encouraged us to be like the noble Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so,” rather than simply take whatever Paul dished out as divine truth.

It was a good study, but at the end I felt something was missing. Why do some Christians have so much correct doctrine, yet are so far off that many people don’t want to be around them? Why did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day get so far off that Jesus had to oppose them more than any other group? After all, they were the conservatives, the most dedicated “Bible-believers” of their time. The Pharisees knew the Savior was to be born in Bethlehem, yet they missed the Messiah!

Something more than Bible truth is needed. Something more than accurate information is required.

I mentioned that we need humility. My comments went along this line, “None of us are perfect. I as a pastor could be wrong, and may well be wrong in some areas. No church or denomination has it all. We all need to learn and grow. We need to have confidence in what we believe, yet allow others to see some things differently. Grace and humility win the day. When we get to heaven, God will straighten us all out.”

After the Bible class, the visitor remarked, “Because of my husband’s job we have moved a lot. We have visited many churches in many cities. You are the first pastor I’ve ever heard who admitted he could be wrong!”

I took it as the best compliment I’ve ever heard from a first-time visitor.

The Real Secret to Praying for Unsaved People

The Real Secret to Praying for Unsaved People.

Whatcha Gonna Be Doin’ on Judgment Day? (Part 2)

I just came across another Scripture that shows God-fearing people will be judging wicked people on judgment day.  It’s graphic and would be rated R for violence.  You can read the whole thing for yourself in the last book of the Old Testament.  It’s Malachi 4:1-3.

Verse 3 goes like this: “And you (the ones who fear God) will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

On about January 1, 2011 the Lord impressed me to “Prepare the people for judgment.”  I never thought I’d be doing this on Facebook!  And I admit I had a different concept of judgment at that time.  I thought of judgment exclusively as something we would get, not give.

I don’t want to minimize the fact that God as a loving Father will discipline, reprove, correct, and “spank” us, if I can use that term.  Judgment is part of His nature and something we all need in order to grow and mature.  But there’s more to the story. . .

After we’ve been “shaped up” through God’s discipline (judgment), we are chosen to join with Him in judging the world.  Read Part One of this series and decide on which side of the great bar of justice you’re gonna be at the great judgment day.

What are you gonna be doin’ on Judgment Day?

Your thoughts?

Whatcha Gonna Be Doin’ on Judgment Day?

The Great White Throne Judgment  –What Will You Do There?

My friend Brian posed a thought-provoking question a few days ago: “Why do you think there are only unbelievers and no Christians on trial at the Great White Throne Judgment?  I’ve always heard everybody had to face judgment on the Last Day.”

Good question, I felt.  After all, Brian pointed out, the verses there in Revelation 20 don’t explicitly say there are no Christians at this judgment.  In response, I’ve investigated and dug a little deeper.  I could be wrong, but for several  reasons I believe that no Christians, only unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment.

In John 3:18 Jesus declares, “He who believes in Him (the Son of God) is not judged.“  In John 5:24 Jesus reiterates, ”Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  True believers don’t even come into a final “life verses death” judgment.  That decision has already been made. If Jesus is not referring to the Great White Throne Judgment, what judgment could he be referring to? (Now we do know that all believers will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10.  This is not a judgment about heaven or hell, but a decision about eternal rewards and place in heaven.)

In Revelation 20:10-15, the single Scripture that specifically names the Great White Throne Judgment, the only outcome is the lake of fire, the second death.  If true Christ-followers were present, the outcome would, of course, be eternal life with Christ in heaven.

The Bible speaks of two resurrections, a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked.  At the first resurrection, the righteous will come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)  This is called the resurrection of life in John 5:29 and the resurrection of the righteous in Luke 14:14.  “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)  In contrast, Revelation 20:5 states, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.”  And so we see there are 1000 years between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the unbelievers.

Several Scriptures indicate believers will give judgment, not get judgment at that great Day of the Lord.  St. Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit teaches, “The saints will judge the world.” (I Corinthians 6:2)  This is the same concept we discover in Revelation 20:4 and 5 where the saints are described as reigning with Christ.  Further, The Queen of the South shall rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them.” (Luke 11:31) “And the men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they (the Ninevites) repented.” (Luke 11:32)

It’s not good to be overly dogmatic about things of the end times.  As my friend Brian later laughed and pointed out, our opinion doesn’t really matter.  What we know for sure is believers go to heaven and Christ rejecters don’t.