Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year, New Series

One thing I absolutely love about my church is that every Sunday I feel as though Manny (our pastor) is speaking directly to me. God seems to tug my heart each and every week. It is amazing to me at how God uses other people, circumstances, and situations to talk with us. Manny started a new series last week. This week's topic was "A Church on Purpose Across the Street" and is based on Acts 8:26-40. I found it inspiring and wanted to share the details with you. Manny's notes/outline will be in regular type and my thoughts/feelings will be italicized for easier reading :-) (Just as a side note, all scripture passages come from the NCV bible.)

Manny introduced the sermon with the ever-so-scary (at least to me) word of evangelism. When we read the New Testament, we should realize that God requires us to take the good news we have heard and experienced and share it with others.

  • C.S. Lewis wrote, "The church exists for nothing else but to draw men to Christ, to make them into little Christ's. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose."
The main priority of a New Testament Church is to make disciples and the first step of that is evangelism.

I don't know about you but that word definitely sends me into a panic attack. I'm not really sure why though. Maybe it's because I feel hypocritical because I know I sin or maybe it's because I'm not confident in my ability to share with others? Idk...

The english word "evangelism" means to "proclaim the good news." We looked at the deacon Phillip, specifically in Acts 8:26-40. The rest of the sermon focused on these passages and how God can use us to share the good news.

1. Be listening for God's directions--1 Peter 1:12

  • God speaks by His holy spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church. 
This is an incredibly true statement. Have you ever found yourself looking for a bible passage and have no idea where it's located but then you open your bible to that exact one? It always startles me when this happens. Another way God has used the bible in my life is when I'm praying or just browsing through the bible and I happen on a page where only a specific verse jumps out and it just happens to be on the topic I was just praying about! Again, amazing and startling all at the same time! 

  • He speaks to reveal His will and His ways to us.
Another really awesome point about this is how God reveals His will and ways to us. We have so much literature and knowledge in front us, yet many of us don't take advantage of the offerings (me included). My plan this year is to make time each and every day to spend with God. I think one reason I get so scared to share my faith is because I'm not confident. I know that I know the basics but second guess myself when I try to talk to others about it. Another thing striking my heart is that if I plan to live a life pleasing to God, then I need to know what it is He wants me to do. There is no other way for me to know those things unless I spend time reading His word and talking with Him. Speaking of talking with him... Something Manny said awhile back in another sermon that really struck a chord with me had to do with prayer. Sometimes when I pray, I feel stupid. I don't know what to say and the things I do say seem to trivial and unimportant. Manny said that when we pray we should just talk to God like He's our best friend. He wants to hear about our lives, what's going on in them, and how we're feeling. I honestly never thought of it that way and since then, it's been much easier for me to pray. 

  • John 8:47: "The person who belongs to God accepts what God says. But you don't accept what God says, because you don't belong to God." (NCV)
  • One reason we may not hear God is because we fill our lives with so much noise and activity that the static of a busy life drowns our God's voice.
We need to take time to sit and listen. This is such a hard thing for me because I'm so scattered brained. I think my main issue is that I don't prioritize what I need to do in a day and because of that, I flit from task to task without ever completely finishing a task. I need to take time to complete a task before moving to another and then take a few minutes in between to sit and listen to God's direction for me. I think something else that plagues us is that we have this incessant need to know now. We don't want to sit and wait patiently for God's guidance. We expect God to answer our prayers instantly and most times, at least in my experience, He doesn't. This is something with which I continue to struggle. 

Manny also said, "God can steer you in the right direction if you're already moving toward obeying him, but when you are an object at rest, remaining at rest, it's difficult for you to know God's direction."--Amazing!

Phillip showed patience by listening to what God said. God didn't tell Phillip where he was going to end his journey, only to go "26...south to the road that leads down to Gaza from Jerusalem--the desert road." As humans, we want to know the final destination before we leave on a journey. Phillip, however, never questioned God about this. He just listened and followed.  
  • 1 Kings 19
One thing Manny said this week struck me as an "Oh, I didn't know that." He said that angels are sent but do not spread the gospels because they have never been lost and then saved. I never really thought about that before so I found it interesting... 

2. As you go, look for divine appointments

  • A "divine appointment" is when a servant of the Lord (that's you) meets someone who is obviously demonstrating an interest in spiritual things. 
In verse 29, an angel told Phillip to go to the chariot and stay near it. Phillip obeyed. He heard the man in the chariot reading from the book of Isaiah and questioned whether the man understood what he was reading. The asked Isaiah to come sit with him and explain the readings, thus a divine appointment. 

3. Begin your conversation with questions.

  • There is no single way to lead someone to Christ.
  • The best way to start a conversation about salvation is to ask a question.
This makes perfect sense. How do we know where to start or what to say if we don't know where the other person is or already knows?

4. Obtain their permission to share with them. 

  • God can really use a witness who is positive, cheerful, and tactful. 
Have you ever talked to someone who just wouldn't leave well enough alone? I recently had an experience (and this is no way meant to be offensive towards anyone or religion in particular) after moving into our new house. Two ladies came to our door asking questions and wanting to give us the "Good News". I really don't mind that they wanted to share their faith; what set me back was the way in which the did. They asked if Andy and I were saved. I of course told them we were. I also told them that we were leaders for our junior church program, involved in our church choir, and went to Sunday school and worship every Sunday. I assumed after telling them this information, they would leave and be happy. Well, they continued to push and tell me everything I already knew to be true (and this conversation went on for like a 1/2 an hour). I was just really confused as to why they chose to continue talking to me about Christ and how He can save my life when I already told them I was saved and knew that information. 

  • Sometimes we face the risk of pushing someone away from Christ if we don't recognize where they are in being ready to receive Christ. 

Being pushy can ultimately turn someone off to hearing the Good News. We should always talk to a person in a kind and caring way and if that person isn't ready to hear the News, then we should leave it at that and continually pray for them. 

5. Use the scriptures.

  • John 3:16: "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believe in him may not be lost, but have eternal life."
  • Romans 6:23: "The payment for sin is death. But God give us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord."
  • You can lead a person to Christ using those two simple scriptures.
I think many times when we want to talk to someone about Christ, we get so fowled up on what to say. If we take a step back, pray, and realize that God gave us everything we need to say, it would be that much easier to speak to others. 

6. Help them follow through on their commitment.

  • Are you rejoicing today?
  • Have you trusted Jesus?
  • That's the only way to be happy in Jesus.
If someone has come to Christ, we should be rejoicing with them. It is the single most wonderful thing that could happen in anyone's life and is something to be celebrated. 

Until next time, much love and many blessings!


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