Archive for the ‘Witnessing Works!’ Category

The Love of Christ Constrains…!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

What motivates you to be a Christian? Blessings? Friends? Fear? Salvation? Love?

I just posted a chapter from Griffith John’s book, Voice From China where he considers the motives that drive us in serving Christ. After considering the various motives, he lists the ones that SHOULD drive us, particularly the love of Christ.

Griffith John was a missionary with the London Missionary Society who served in China and was a contemporary of Hudson Taylor. He isn’t very well known in our day, but what he shares is wonderful.

Here is one quote from the chapter:

“The love of Christ constraineth us.”

“The love of Christ to me-to me personally-constrains me to live to Him and for Him. He died for me; my life is His. He suffered for me; I will suffer for Him. He lives for me; I will live for Him. I will work for His sake; I will give for His sake; I will endure for His sake. There is nothing I would not do to please Him. He is my Lord and my Saviour. He loved me and gave Himself for me. I owe Him an infinite debt, a debt which is always due, and which I can never pay off. All I can do is to lay myself on the altar, and say: Lord Jesus take me, take me as I am, and use me as Thou wilt. This is a grand motive-the love of Christ to us, to each one of us personally. Let us come under the influence of this mighty motive, and we shall cease to find His service, whether in working or in giving, a burden. We shall serve the Lord with gladness, and day by day come before His presence with a song of joy. And there is Christ’s love for the whole world-for all men. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” “He died for all.” “He is the Saviour of all men.” All men are His. His love embraces all, and He desires the salvation of all. It may be hard sometimes to love the heathen, and to make a great sacrifice on their behalf. You may find it difficult to do it for their sakes merely. Do it then for His sake. “I would work for the slave for his own sake,” said Henry Ward Beecher on one occasion, “but I am sure that I would work ten times as earnestly for the slave for Christ’s sake.”

Click on the link to find all the Supreme Motive in Missions chapter.

Surrender Brings the Call

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Hudson Taylor 2
Surrender Brings the Call

Abstract: Hudson Taylor’s China venture began at the age of 17 when he offered to do anything God desired if God would only take his heart of stone and replace it with a sanctified heart of flesh.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people….’” Isaiah 6:8

“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32

I’ve heard from a number of you who took heart when you heard about the difficult situation Hudson Taylor faced when he first arrived in China at the age of 22, including a revolution where 15,000 rebels were defending the city of Shanghai against a 50,000 member contingent of the Imperial Army, food was selling at famine prices, the dollar was soaring, he couldn’t find lodging, nor could he afford it since his sending organization had not yet sent an all important letter of credit.

To make matters worse, when the letter finally came, he found his annual income was limited to 80, even though renting lodging in the foreign settlement was 120. Adding further difficulty and embarrassment was the sending organization’s decision to not honor bills exceeding 40 per quarter.

Taylor responded by writing and seeking more realistic support, but responses arrived with hardly any acknowledgment of his struggles, and one even spoke of additional missionaries coming to join him.

Not wanting to remain dependent on friends, he moved to a ramshackle place near the Chinese part of the city, outside the protection of the foreign settlement, where the bullets not only sounded in the distance, but struck his home at times—even cannon-balls.

Needless to say it wasn’t the kind of mission service he had dreamed of back in England, yet he continued determinedly learning the language and sharing his faith as possible. Why was he so committed? Where was his confidence coming from?

It came from a sense of his call to China and the preparatory work undertaken in England. One afternoon when he was 17 he wrote his beloved sister Amelia, requesting her to pray for him as he asked God to remove his heart of stone and give him a sanctified heart of flesh. He wanted to obtain “perfect holiness.”

That very day God responded, as he shared after the fact: “If God would only save me completely, then I would do ANYTHING in His cause He might direct. Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words can never describe it. I felt I was in the presence of God, entering into covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise but could not. Something seemed to say ‘Your prayer is answered, your conditions are accepted,’ and from that time the conviction never left me that I was called to China.”

God’s answer had come so quickly that Taylor was able to add a post script to the aforementioned letter to Amelia: “He has revealed Himself to me in an overflowing manner…. Glory, glory, glory, to His ever-blessed Name! I cannot write for joy. I open my letter to tell you.”

He immediately began preparing to serve God in China.

What was the secret of His confidence? He was willing to do ANYTHING in God’s cause that God might direct.

I wonder, are we as willing to do ANYTHING in God’s cause that He might direct our way?

I suspect this kind of surrender is also key in God using us as His witnesses on a day to day basis.

These words came home to me this morning in a special way:

“It is only through the surrendered life that God can work. God cannot use you in any special way if you are holding back part of your life from Him. If there is one little chamber of which you hold the key, and into which God has not fully entered, he cannot greatly use you. Your intellectuality may be great, your genius may be superb, your social standing may be beyond question. But God does not use people for these reasons. God uses them when he has all there is of them, and ONLY then.” Chapman, Power

I want to be a much-used vessel for God. I think you do too. Basic to His using us is our making a voluntary, unselfish and unequivocal surrender of all we are and all we have, to His service—which for many people has begun as a “willingness to become willing!”

Surrender is OUR part. If we do our part, God will be able to do His part. Won’t you join me in making sure God has ALL of us?

Happy witnessing!

Hudson Taylor | Pressing Forward

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Abstract: Hudson Taylor, one of the greatly blessed instruments of God in bringing the gospel to inland China, succeeded in spite of facing impossible circumstances at the outset. Upon arriving in Shanghai he discovered that rebels were in control of the city and were fighting a 50,000 man Imperial Army, food was selling at high famine prices, the dollar was soaring and out of control, he had no money and lodging couldn’t be found either. Yet he succeeded as he looked to God as the Great Circumstance in his life!

I want to share a quote from Hudson Taylor who was the instrument God used so marvelously to bring the gospel to China in the middle 1800s.

He set sail for China on the Dumfries on September 19, 1853, and voyaged for the next five and half months as the sole passenger. He arrived at Woosung on March 1, 1854, which was a short distance from Shanghai.

Conditions were far from ideal, for his home country was on the brink of the Crimean war, Shanghai was in the hands of rebels, the city was invested with an imperial army of 50,000 soldiers, food was at famine prices, the cost of the dollar had risen from four to seven shillings, and was soaring.

He was twenty-two and his courage was strong, and in his pocket were letters of introduction to three individuals. Seeking these people, he discovered the first was dead, the second had left, but the third was still there. In spite of sincere desires otherwise, as a result of the fighting in the area there were no lodging places available in the foreign compound and fighting was taking place on the outside.

Sadly he also lacked funds to get such lodging, for he had come with few funds, and was looking for a letter of credit that was to come from his sending organization. But there was no such letter for months, and he became dependent on the kindness of some missionaries who took him in as a paying guest.

As a result of the conflict going on, all he could do was pray and learn the Chinese language—a feat which he assured missionaries joining him later could be accomplished in six months!

He was not daunted by these circumstances, for he looked to God whom he had already learned was THE GREAT CIRCUMSTANCE in life.

Speaking of this he said the following:

“The believer does not need to wait until he sees the reason of God’s afflictive dealings with him ere he is satisfied; he knows that all things work together for good to them that love God; that all God’s dealings are those of a loving Father, who only permits that which for the time being is grievous in order to accomplish results that cannot be achieved in any less painful way. The wise and trustful child of God rejoices in tribulation… Our Heavenly Father delights to trust a trustworthy child with a trial in which he can bring glory to God, and through which he will receive permanent enlargement of heart and blessing for himself and others.”

I will share more from Taylor’s life in the days to come, but for now be encouraged knowing that the same God who was the great circumstance in Hudson Taylors’ life is still ruling the affairs of this world for the good and advancement of His kingdom and the good of His children, and is working ALL THINGS WELL for them!

Happy witnessing!

Dan

Living in a “Sola Scriptura” Bubble

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Abstract: We often assume that people share our confidence in the Scriptures and are open to our “proof” oriented methods of witnessing. The reality is quite different. The following essay discusses how Gnosticism entered into the church in the first couple of centuries and still impacts the world we find ourselves in, and suggests ways we might witness to individuals who no longer find authority in the Scriptures.

Living in a “Sola Scriptura” Bubble!

We Christians live in a “sola scriptura” bubble!

Wiki defines “sola scriptura” as “the assertion that the Bible as God’s written word is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter (“Scripture interprets Scripture”), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine”*

Now let me explain before you get upset with me.

We would like to believe that proving our beliefs from the Bible will bring witnessing success-of course with some finessing in reaching out and connecting to the people we are witnessing to, etc.. The truth is, many seekers no longer look for truth in the Bible in their quest for God. In fact, many don’t believe there is such a thing as objective truth. They are seeking God, but because they believe that God is transcendent-is beyond the grasp of the human mind-and ineffable-beyond being described in human language-they look for Him in ways that you and I would not be comfortable with, and are accordingly anything but convinced by our Bible “proof.” It doesn’t mean they won’t listen, but it won’t initially be on the basis of the Scriptures we hold so dear. Unfortunately we often forget this and assume that all, if not most, of the people we witness to will listen to our proofs from the Bible. Hence the “Sola Scriptura” bubble idea.

Paul came up against this very thing when he was witnessing to the people in Athens. He spoke to them of the “unknown” god they were worshipping (Acts 17:23). This “unknown” god was not only the result of their ignorance of the true god, but also the result of the transcendent ineffable underpinnings of their belief system-God couldn’t be understood, and if He were understood, human language would be inadequate to describe Him, which effectively negated anything Paul might have said-I think I hear the hiss of a serpent here.

I wish I could say this “unable to know” problem was confined to people OUTSIDE of Christendom, but it entered the church in the early centuries after Christ, when Gnosticism first appeared, took root and remained under various guises, and still continues to challenge us in our day, only in a postmodern, post-Christian way.

Gnosticism, as one person put it, is not based on factual, intellectual, or rational knowledge that one would find in the sciences, rather it is based on an experientially-based pursuit and knowledge of god, and proponents of the religion believed they had a secret knowledge of god, human beings and the universe that other people did not have.

Though the idea came out of what some term classical mysticism, it entered the church, or at least was seriously introduced, in the apologist era when Christians were being persecuted by the pagan Romans, and Christian “apologists” were attempting to bring respectability to the Christian faith and end the persecuting that was going on, by using Greek philosophical concepts that explained Christianity in more pagan-friendly terms. Eventually Christianity became respected, but that respectability came at a price: a more pagan version of Christianity.

Gnostics believed themselves to possess a special, higher spiritual knowledge and wisdom than was possessed and taught by the bishops and other church leaders of the second century. They believed God was wholly transcendent and spiritual and far removed from the fallen, material universe which He did not create (they actually thought the physical universe was created by an evil, demented lesser God). They also believed that matter, including the body, was an inherently limiting prison or evil drag on the good soul or spirit of the human person and that the spirit was essentially divine-a ‘spark of God’ dwelling in the tomb of the body.” Salvation meant achieving a special kind of knowledge not generally known or even available to ordinary Christians, including an awareness of the true heavenly origin of the spirit within, and the idea of an essential divine nature as an offshoot of God’s own being. They looked to Christ as an immaterial, spiritual messenger sent down from the unknown and unknowable God to rescue and bring home the stray sparks of his own being that had been trapped in material bodies. Finally, salvation came through self-knowledge (Roger Olson, Story of Christian Theology). Needless to say these constructs were far removed from those espoused by the church back then, and were accordingly resisted.

The early church, in the person of Irenaeus, mounted a three-fold attack on Gnosticism, by showing that it was absurd and full of contradictions, that it had no basis from Christ and the apostles, and that Gnostic understandings of Scripture were neither plausible nor possible, and eventually succeeded, though Gnostic ideas remained.

But Gnosticism is returning in our day, but often in a post-Christian context that is exceedingly challenging to overcome, similar to what Paul encountered in Athens.

Remember, Gnosticism is based on many ideas, including God’s transcendence-the idea that God is beyond our understanding and can only be understood on the basis of an internal self-authenticating experience.

Irenaeus overcame Gnosticism by showing the absurdity of the idea, the utter lack of connection with Christ and Scripture, and the lack of plausibility. He even went so far as to mockingly suggest his own Gnostic-like description of the cosmos, based on a being that was called a gourd, which was associated with a melon, and eventually had a cucumber at work as well. He partially succeeded because people still looked to Scripture as the ultimate authority.

Paul failed with the Athenians, and came away convicted that only his personal testimony of the power of Christ and the cross in his own life would work.

I believe Paul’s method is still the preferred way to begin witnessing to many people in our day. We not only live in a postmodern world, we live in what is increasingly also becoming a post-Christian world. But post-Christian IS NOT post-spiritual; in fact people are VERY spiritual in our day-there is a great and growing hunger for a spiritually-fulfilling experience. And, as many are looking to a personally authenticated experience to find a higher being, sharing our own experience with God, in loving and authentic ways, will be a witness they can understand, and which they can neither gainsay nor refuse.

Now, returning to the “sola scriptura bubble” idea, we assume that everyone looks to Scripture the way we do. Unfortunately that isn’t true. Yes, there are some, in fact many people, who still do, but there is a growing majority who have written off the authority of the Scriptures.

Is there a place for Scripture? Absolutely. There are still many people who look to Scripture and are willing to dialog on the basis of Scripture. Traditional methods can still work for these people. But these methods won’t work for everyone.

However, regardless of how our witnessing begins, in due course ALL witnessing must return to the Scriptures, for it is in the Scriptures that we are personally informed, personally maintained, personally instructed, and personally empowered to live for Jesus, to witness, and to succeed in our ongoing relationship with Jesus-it is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK IN ALL THE WORLD. Eventually we must bring the Scriptures to the forefront if our witness to postmoderns is to endure.

Let’s be careful, then, in not assuming that everyone accepts the Scriptures as their basis of authority when we reach out to them. Your testimony of how God has delivered you from depression, your testimony of how He brought you happiness, your testimony of how God has personally intervened in your life, your testimony of how He has answered your prayers, will be the most powerful, irrefutable testimony you can share. Later you can perhaps follow Irenaeus’ example in dismantling the tenets of Gnosticism, but do so gently, remembering they are as suspicious and incredulous of our beliefs as we are of theirs.

Find more essays on witnessing at path2prayer.com in the Christian Witnessing Works section.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura

Witnessing In Our Not So Brave New World

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Abstract: Many of the new ideas espoused by society are based on untested suppositions, and it easily falls prey to the next faddish thing—often promoted AND accepted for self-serving reasons, only to discover, sometimes years later, that the latest fad was ONLY A FAD.

Our “Not So Brave” New World

I will be going on a mission trip to Cambodia in February to speak at their camp meeting. In preparation, I have been getting all the vaccinations required to hopefully inoculate me against catching diseases while traveling.

I wish there were a vaccine we could take AND share with others, against the many, often crazy, sometimes truly bizarre, ideas that abound about life and the future. Sadly, many of the new ideas espoused by the world are based on untested suppositions, and society easily falls prey to these faddish ideas—often promoted AND accepted for self-serving reasons, only to later discover that the latest fad was ONLY A FAD.

These varying world views, at least so far as the west is concerned, originated with the pagan and Hellenistically-influenced, pre-modern, obsession with appeasing the various gods which were disinterested in human beings; eventually transitioned to the modern rationalistic era when science was king and everyone looked for a rosy future; then on to the postmodern era when disappointed expectations brought a return to experience-based, self-centered, understandings that seemed devoid of former moorings, including an emerging deconstructionist phase when all past norms are being deconstructed in favor of new, highly individualistic, self-serving, norms—though it is hard to use the word “norm” in postmodern thinking. Please note there is a somewhat similar, but not identical, progression when it comes to spirituality.

All of this is symptomatic of humankind’s ongoing profound loss of hope, and the attendant vulnerability to the next “answer” promulgated by particularly skilled, well networked, communicators who strongly suggest their way is finally THE WAY.

It’s hard to give credence to some of these ideas, and we might laugh if so many thinking people did not buy into them. But since the suppositions can’t be tested, come with promises that strongly cater to human desires, are strongly defended, and must await the test of time, the ideas are being accepted.

Of course their acceptance requires what seems to me a mind boggling leap of faith—though one wonders if there is perhaps a tacit realization that they are empty promises, but MORE SATISFYING and self-serving in the short-term empty promises, and thus to be accepted to obtain the short-term objective regardless of what may seem absurd to some of us.

In dialoging with adherents, it accordingly often comes down to our opinion against their opinion on what is real for the time being—tough to predict what only time will reveal—and what is worthy of our hope, and we aren’t making much progress.

Now, I’m not gratuitously railing against what some modern thought leaders are propounding, only suggesting that our witnessing will undoubtedly have to take these new ways of thinking into account.

Neither am I questioning the sincerity of the adherents who have bought into the ideas in their own quest for something better—after all, we have all had our “moments” when thoughtful deliberation might have spared us pain and embarrassment.

How do we dialog with people who buy into these ideas?

For starters, respectful questions, asked in the context of caring relationships, might prove helpful. For example “What is truth?” “How does one discover truth?” “How does one evaluate truth?” Being more personal, “How did you come to believe this?” “Why did you come to believe this?” “How can your ideas be tested?” “If your ideas were not true, would you want to know?” Or “Do you know anything about the prior history of these ideas and the people promoting them?” These kind of questions could pave the way for meaningful interactions?

We live in a “not so brave” new—or was that old—and rapidly deteriorating world, and the answers being given are finding acceptance in the absence of BETTER answers, the truth of which will be proven in human experience—your experience and mine.

So what are we to do?

Believe and live out our faith in respectful, consistent and confident ways.

Learn enough about what is being embraced in the culture around us to enter into their conversations—what may seem absurd to our unexposed way of thinking, with knowledge, may seem less absurd, and will enable respectful interactions.

Learn how to respond. And then pray for God’s divine appointments to share our reasons for being hopeful.

Unfortunately, there is no easy vaccination to be found, but we have the opportunity to be God’s vaccinating agents, treasures in earthen vessels, conveying truth in human flesh—through Christ’s indwelling—much like Jesus did when He came to earth. I hope we will accept the challenge of our day.

We will consider living out our faith in this “not so brave” new world in the next couple of essays.

Happy witnessing!
Dan
12/23/2007

Thank you for remembering that the essays are not to be used commercially, asking permission for more than personal use. Join in the discussion at Christian Witnessing Works on facebook and find all the essays in the Christian Witnessing Works section of path2prayer.com

Witnessing Under Adverse Circumstances

Friday, December 21st, 2007

This witnessing testimony was shared in a discussion post in the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook, which you are invited to join! It demonstrates how God can turn the most adverse circumstances into witnessing opportunities. The post came in response to a reply that God cannot used depressed ambassadors. She responded and subsequently gave me permission to post here.

I don’t agree with you about God can that cannot use a depressed ambassador .. think we must be careful .. there is a huge difference between being depressed because of attitude and because of chemicals .. and also God can use anything or any one no matter what, He is all powerful!

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 1 Peter3: 7-8

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.This was the LORD’s doing,And it is marvelous in our eyes’? Matthew 21:42

[ The Chosen Stone and His Chosen People ] Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 1 Peter 2:4

There is also a verse that state that even the stones will cry out.. can not find it right now

The point is, it matters not in what state we are (because we all are sinners), God can use us ~ we need to be willing though.

I was depressed chemically (still am, but thank you to medication I believe God provided and I’m doing well) and even in the worse levels of the chemical depression, God worked miracles to reach people through me. Because God knew my heart and understood what was going on in my body. But if I not been sick, I would have never have been in the clinic where I was, would never have met a young lady, only 15 (I was then 23) who refused to talk to anybody and kept on trying to end her life.

We had the same surname, but were not related at all. For some reason I was drawn to her and everyday would just go and sit by her and tell her” I wish I had a sister .. she could be my sister if she wanted to be even if she never talked….” After a few weeks she nodded her head and so we became none-speaking sisters. I would sit by her and show her pictures I had drawn or poems I’d written. Two months later she spoke all of a sudden and said I am going to tell you something you will never believe but that is okay I am going to tell you…. In short, she shared with me how she watched her dad drown when she was about 5 (she told me I would understand that as I had shared with her that I witnessed a murder at the age of 4/5) … Her mom re-married and her step dad had raped her on a daily basis (she also thought I would understand because I shared with her that at age 8 I was gang-raped)

But then she said .. the next part you will not believe and cannot relate too…. She told me how she walked in a park, how a beautiful man knew her name and talked with her and invited her to join his club .. She did .. and then discovered that he was Satan and she worshiped him .. did horrible things in the process .. At age 14 she wanted out .. he said it was fine, but they needed to punish her first … She told me what it was .. and it is too horrible to share here… but she then was free to go .. she thought God would never ever accept her back and she was finished with life …

I just cried and hugged her and then I heard myself speak, but like it was not me .. if He can love me who is this nuts then so much more can and does He love you! … it led up to her giving me permission to talk to her doctor and share with him what she shared with me .. She refused to talk to the doctors directly, but always through me ..

Six months from the day I was admitted I walked out, without any form of medication .. The doctors words were .. Willa this is a miracle as I was classified Article 60 (in SA it means that only a judge of the court and appointed doctor can release you). And they did.

I faced many traumatic experiences even after this … In 2003 I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder syndrome and the funny stuff that goes along with it … when I was the most sick, I even stated that there was no God!!! … But after a long and difficult road surrounded by positive friends and a great medical team and the grace of God, I am well. Yip, need to drink one tiny little tablet a day .. but doing well. And in spite of this God uses me to reach out to people …

I agree with you and Dan that thanksgiving and attitude! It is very important, even for the chemical depressed person!

However, be careful not to create a message that God cannot use depressed ambassadors or sinners or what ever!

First, with a message like that we limit God – He is all powerful! He will even use stones if He needs too!

Secondly people who are sick and feeling bad already feel depressed and like they cannot be of any worth. By saying God cannot use them, you are confirming their unfounded belief and therefore dooming them to nothing!

I hope that I did not create a message that depression (chemical or emotional) can be use as an excuse for bad behavior or choices as it is not!

Just as God is willing to use us the way we are as long as we are willing, He has also provided wisdom to deal with all matters wisely :-)

We also need to be careful for emotional uplifts .. very dangerous ..

Would rather say we need to have a inner peace … no matter what the circumstances …. Knowing that God is in control we can thank Him for all things!

I am thankful for the trials and traumas of my life, as it is these things that made me weak, but by God’s grace, a strong tool in Him :-)

Happy Witnessing, Willa

You can find links to my essays on witnessing at the Christian Witnessing Works page on this path2prayer.com web site.

Our Witnessing Tools

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Abstract: The vast majority of the people who have not accepted Christ either don’t know about the Bible, are prejudiced against the Bible, or resist having the Bible quoted to them. Witnessing to them necessitates seeking common ground and using something other than the Bible at the outset, and it is no denial of our faith to turn to other resources.

When seeking out the people of His day, Jesus skillfully and sensitively reached out to his hearers on the basis of their world view and their current relationship to God. His witnessing conversations often included asking for practical help, sharing life-changing truth in non-threatening ways, affirming them as we have mentioned before, and communicating in terms of the common every day things of life until they were prepared to hear more substantial spiritual truths.

To the women at the well, an implied social acceptance conveyed in a “give me a drink,” eventually became an invitation to seek God’s acceptance in the water that would well up to eternal life (John 4:14). The details of her life were messy and most people had written her off, but Jesus acceptance in spite of what He knew about her changed her life.

To the fishermen disciples, a further call to become fishers of men began, at least for Peter, with an implied “I need you” in the practical request to use his boat to preach from, to the conveyed, “I know what I’m doing” in commanding further fishing in the middle of the day when one didn’t customarily find fish, was followed by practical “seeing is believing” outcomes when the nets were filled with fish, and thus opening the way for a marveling Peter to worship at Jesus’ feet and the latter’s: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10) By showing His ability in the common every day things of life, Peter was inspired to trust God to do spiritual miracles.

To Zacchaeus, who was little of stature in every way except in his ability to oppress the people and therefore did not seem to be a likely candidate for the kingdom, Jesus’ “make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house,” brought a joyful response and complete change of life (Luke 19:4-6). Zacchaeus was one of those “white for harvest” people waiting to be plucked by a skillful harvester.

Those kind of people are all around us. Sadly in many cases our good intentions AND the tools we use to reach them, often get in the way of their hearing our message.

You and I might we have seized the opportunity to offer at least a bit of a sermon or spiritual admonition at the outset in these situations—they had serious issues to overcome, or to package the plea in a pleasing presentation, but in all cases, the first appeal was a sensitive plea in the common every day things of the particular individual’s situation that conveyed disarming acceptance in non-threatening ways.

Recently books and discussions have been suggested which at least in the minds of those posting might be witnessing opportunities or resources. I appreciate the postings though group members come from various spiritual persuasions and we need to be sensitive to them, and I request that suggestions of books be conveyed in terms of personal testimonials and not slick marketing promotions. But I do want to remind that witnessing efforts need to be custom fit to the people being addressed with much sensitivity to their world view and past experiences. What works for one person won’t work for another, etc..

Which brings me to today’s point, and I am quoting Charles Trumbull again, “The Bible is the soul-winner’s indispensable equipment. But it is not necessarily his tool. Ninety-nine persons in a hundred, of those who have not yet come to Christ, are not deeply interested in the Bible…. If we would use bait that would attract them at the outset, and seek interests that are common to them and ourselves, we must, as a rule, begin with something else than a Bible quotation.” (Taking Men Alive)

He is specifically speaking here of situations where there is neither interest in, nor acceptance of, the Bible. It is NOT a denial of our faith to avoid antagonizing our hearers unnecessarily at the outset with a presentation of truth from the Book he or she may know nothing about, or is deeply prejudiced against. The point is getting into conversation and relationship with them, and we will have to do it on their terms instead of ours, of course without compromising our values.

In seeking common ground we mustn’t forget that our purpose in witnessing is bringing people to Jesus, which is most accomplished, eventually, through their personal reading of His word. The challenge of course is getting them to that point. Will they accept the verse we share because we share it, particularly if they have no prior relationship with us? Doubtfully? Hence the need to work on their ground, with resources they respect, and in Jesus’ affirming way.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not suggesting there won’t be conversations when the Bible is primary because of the person’s interest in and prior experiences with the Bible. In those cases by all means use the Bible from the outset.

And when it comes to suggesting books, some books work better than others and we need to pray for wisdom and discernment to suggest what will work for them.

Happy witnessing,
Dan 12/21/2007

You can find the rest of these essays on witnessing and join in the discussion at Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at path2prayer.com

Witnessing in Hopeless Situations

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Abstract: Sometimes our witnessing efforts apparently backfire on us. Does that mean we have failed? It depends on the attitude we take concerning those experiences. For all we know, their very failure may be sowing the seeds of future success. I continue to share ideas and stories in the hope of encouraging members (of the Christian Witnessing Works group on Facebook) to seek witnessing opportunities every day as part of their lifestyle, and equipping them for greater success.

I have learned that seasoning our witnessing experiences with ongoing gratitude helps considerably. I have this notion on good authority, for we find this attitude frequently highlighted in Scripture—Daniel giving thanks at his window (Daniel 6:10); Paul and Silas singing in prison (Acts 16:25). In both cases a wonderful witness was rendered and people’s lives were changed for the kingdom.

When it comes to witnessing, we sometimes find our best efforts backfiring and crumbling around us, sometimes becoming profoundly embarrassed by what goes on, such that we might be tempted to give up and stop, and believe all is lost. But the Scriptures indicate otherwise, and so has my experience.

Note the following.

I was traveling from Los Angeles to Auckland New Zealand. Sitting next to me was a casually dressed middle-aged man. Sitting next to him was a young woman. After we had taken off, eaten, slept, and begun to gree the new day being within a few hours of Auckland, I began conversing with my seatmate.

Inquiring about his purpose for traveling I learned he was from Australia and was returning home after calling on clients in San Francisco. He asked me about the purpose of my voyage and I shared that I was embarking on a six week speaking tour of churches-it usually brings a reaction of some kind. His was anything but positive, for he informed me that he had neither a relationship with God, nor did he have any respect for Christians.

“Really,” I countered, thinking I was going to have a VERY interesting conversation.

“Absolutely,” he retorted, and began detailing a litany things that were presently wrong with churches, to say nothing of the egregious past activities the church had promoted—think inquisition, etc., and went on seemingly forever. To my “But that was in the past,” and “Those were people, not God,” protests, he retorted with, “Well, what is the church doing today? If there were anything to the church, the church would be doing something to correct today’s problems,” and listed Iraq as an example.

I have to give him credit for having many of his historical facts somewhat correct, at least as far as I could tell, and acknowledge his strength of conviction and his utter implacability against my efforts to dislodge him from his “don’t care, nor care to know” attitude!

This went on for a long time, and I was getting few words in edge wise, and he was obviously enjoying himself at my expense—he had a bit of an audience obviously eavesdropping. I began to regret my initiating the conversation. Was this what God had in mind when it came to witnessing? It seemed He was losing ground through my witnessing instead of gaining ground this time around.

But, having often counseled seminar attendees to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, having sought to practice what I preach in saying “yes” and “thank you” often—”Yes, you have allowed this and I accept it from you; thank you it is surely for my good somehow”—I started quietly reminding the Lord that I had started the conversation for Him and not me, and that if He wanted to do anything, He might start!

Encouraged apparently, I finally took the reins of the conversation and began asking my own set of questions.

“You have been telling me all the awful things the church has ever done. You have listed these in detail and been fairly accurate. You have refused to let me have a word in edgewise. Now tell me, what are you personally doing to make a difference? Surely you would not accuse me of something you are not doing. Tell me, what are YOU doing?” And I went on for a time.

It goes without saying that the conversation didn’t go much longer, for we quickly reached an impasse. He admitted he WASN’T doing anything, and quieted down.

Hm…not sure I accomplished anything, but at least I tried.

In parting, however, he said something curious that warmed my heart: “I’ve been stuck sitting between two Christians-the young woman was also a Christian-and I’ve had to endure the two of you. Neither of you have convinced me about Christianity, but I have to give you credit for something: I can’t go home and sit around doing nothing anymore! I have to go home and get involved, I have to personally do something that will make a difference in my community”

I hadn’t suggested that he change his life, nor suggested anything about spiritual deficiencies, I had only asked hard questions about how he was doing in terms of his own values, and somehow, he had come under conviction.

Did I succeed in my witnessing? I don’t know, nor probably will ever know this side of heaven. However, I believe He took another step towards the kingdom that day. And, I am accordingly glad I started that conversation. What if I would have complacently sat reading a book instead of making myself available for God to speak through.

Did my prayer of thanks for the situation make a difference? I believe so, for thanking God for what appeared to be a hopeless situation somehow freed God to work in a greater way, changed my attitude from discouraged weakness to one of courage and resolve, and brought about a series of questions that apparently awakened his conscience and jarred him out of his complacency.

IF we are on God’s mission, and we should CONTINUALLY be on God’s mission—remember, witnessing should be a LIFESTYLE, we can be confident that no matter what is going on, He WILL BE USING US AND HAVING HIS WAY!

I hope we hear some witnessing stories from some of the people traveling to GYC.

Happy witnessing, and don’t limit God out of your fear of potential outbursts, for in God’s hands they are ALL for good (Romans 8:28)!

Dan 12/19/2007

Thanks for not making commercial use of these essays and limiting them to personal use without my permission. Find more essays on witnessing at path2prayer.com at the Christian Witnessing Works link, and join us for discussions on witnessing at the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook.

Witnessing and Misleading Appearances

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Witnessing and Misleading Appearances

Abstract: Many a person witnessed to doesn’t appear to have potential for God’s kingdom, yet in some cases, these individuals who seem so hardened and opposed to God, become great champions for God’s cause.

I am sure Jesus’ “Neither do I condemn thee, Go sin no more” came as quite a shock to the people observing Him that day (John 8:11). After all, the woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and the people who had brought her knew for a fact that she was guilty-probably they had too much first hand knowledge and were also guilty! The same was probably true for the disciples as they returned from the village and found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman (John 4) who should have been off limits for a Jew and her coming to the well, alone, might have suggested to their minds that something was amiss. The religious intelligentsia of Jesus’ day were also often upset because He freely mingled with sinners who seemed to get a free pass so far as they were concerned. And let’s not forget that one of His closest companions was Matthew, a former tax collector, and everyone knew about the poor standing of tax collectors in the sight of God. Sinners seemed to revel in his company. To the established ways of thinking, Jesus was often off the mark so far as who He reached out to.

Here are some conclusions to be drawn from these experiences…

1. Jesus apparently looked at people differently than we do much of the time, and saw potential in the most unlikely prospects.

2. Jesus apparently forgot that sinners needed correcting before they felt assurance.

3. Jesus chronically forgot to throw stones when it came to correcting people.

When we think of witnessing, one of our challenges is not being misled by the deceiving negative appearances of people who are actually good prospects. For that reason we often avoid talking with them since they have no potential, and out of our fear they may get angry and react and perhaps create an embarrassing situation-who wants to have someone get angry on an airplane for example. But from the examples cited, we see that these very people who seemed such unlikely candidates became the very people He reached out to, and sometimes became His ardent followers.

When you peer back into history, some of the people God used the most had unsavory beginnings. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace was so profane and ungodly-sometimes leading the sailors in raping the slaves in the hold, that he even shocked the sailors who were on his ship. He was able to write with knowledge and conviction about God saving wretches like him.

I think of John Bunyan who at one time sinned as rapidly as he possibly could. Fortunately he had a godly wife who was praying for him, and he eventually came to write many books that profoundly impacted Christianity such as Pilgrim’s Progress.

I could go on, but the point is, there is gold under the surface of ALL hearts, regardless of what appears on the outside, IF approached the right way-undoubtedly sympathetically and extending the gift of honest commendation in a non patronizing, affirming way. Failure to approach the right way, however, can only harden further, from which comes the term “gospel hardening.”

As I was reading this morning, I was reminded by Charles Trumbull in Taking Men Alive that fishermen never throw stones or thrash the water when pursuing fish, but study to allure. That might be a good thing to remember as we witness as well.

Happy witnessing!

Dan 12/17/2007

Find the rest of these short essays on witnessing at Christian Witness Works on facebook and at path2prayer.com in the Christian Witnessing Works section. Thank you for continuing to invite others to join our group.

Witnessing and Sympathetic Knowledge

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Witnessing and Sympathetic Knowledge

Abstract: Even a tiny bit of knowledge about another person, sympathetically responded to, can bring about wonderful witnessing opportunities.

“If we would take a man alive, we must first know something, be it ever so little, about that man and his present interests.” These are the words from a chapter entitled “Winning From the Start” from Taking Men Alive. Trumbull goes on to show that Jesus in calling Peter and the disciples, was FIRST concerned about helping them with their fishing—their PRESENT interest—prior to His calling them to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11).

He makes a good point when he reminds us that people fishing concentrate on the fish and not on themselves, and carefully prepare bait to attract and entice the fish to respond.

Here Trumbull offers witnessing encouragement in suggesting we don’t need extensive knowledge of the other person, just SOME knowledge—as he puts it, “be it ever so little.”

Sometime back when I was traveling home from a family meeting in Ohio, I stopped at a hotel for the night. Mom was with me and as usual she wanted to visit with the people around. At 87 she has lost her timidity and happily looks for people to talk with—perhaps I’ve become a little boring for her. She suggested, “Lets go for a walk around the hotel grounds.” Now I knew that her motive was to get near people to talk with them, and seeing it was the holiday season, and a hot day in the middle of the summer, the grounds—particularly the swimming pool area—was crowded with people. So we went. I confess to taking her by circuitous ways to avoid some of them, but she still succeeded in visiting with quite a few. Mom can be very gracious and people are not offended, but she is more persistent than most in seeking conversations. Finally we sat down in a “safe” place where we wouldn’t be disrupting too many people. But wouldn’t you know, someone came along and of course this attracted Mom’s attention. Now I don’t know what to say to perfect strangers, especially when they are in bathing suits and seeming to be quite preoccupied. But this didn’t faze mom, for she quickly called out, “That’s a pretty bathing suit.” Her words were simple, anything but profound, not terribly thought out, but she complemented the lady, the lady responded, and came over to chat. Good for you Mom, I thought to myself. But I was rather amazed as this lady began confiding to Mom about her coming to the hotel from the hospital where she had been admitted for a suicide attempt, in her desire to avoid going home to all the problems that awaited her there. Hm, that wasn’t hard, and what a significant conversation.

It isn’t how much we know, it’s that we know SOMETHING—for Mom it was noticing a pretty bathing suit—that will make all the difference.

In closing let me suggest another phrase to remember, not only “honest commendation,” but “sympathetic knowledge,” for some knowledge, even a tiny bit of knowledge, can bring more information that we can sympathetically respond to, and thus bring about a deeply meaningful conversation with the one we are seeking to reach.

I believe Jesus was speaking of this sympathetic knowledge when he told the disciples to pray for laborers—sympathetic laborers—to go into the fields which were already white for harvest (John 4:35). The world IS truly white for harvest, for it is full of people waiting for someone to care about them. Given the right approach many of these people will also became great witnesses, just like the woman at the well that Jesus had just witnessed to.

I hope this helps in your witnessing.

Dan 12/16/2007

Find the rest of these essays at the Christian Witnessing Works group on facebook or at path2prayer.com. Please share them for personal use only.