UIOF- Week 18- Be the Invitation

UIOF- Week 18- Be the Invitation

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Jesus Christ

Luke 15:4

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messiah that would reward their supposed righteousness. They saw Jesus as a man who would eat with sinners, and that couldn’t be the Messiah they were expecting. They knew in their “holier than thou” thinking that God wouldn’t relate to someone who hadn’t cleaned up her life. But that’s not what Jesus said!

He showed a completely different paradigm of God’s love! He went to where the sinners were, eating and drinking with them before they changed their ways.

Unfortunately, the church today has acquired a superiority complex. Like the Pharisees, they believe they are holier than others. But are they holier than Christ?

When Christians develop loving relationships with unbelievers, they show themselves to be true disciples of Jesus. How about you? Are you critical of others, like the Pharisees, or do you wee the brokenness of the unbeliever prime real estate for God’s love?

What characterizes the Divine Love? Compassion! Not only compassion for lack of material things (although that also is good), but compassion for the lost sheep.

Have you ever “gone after the lost one,” even if it meant you had to for a time give up your fellowship with friends? Imagine how wonderful it is to hold out an invitation to dine with the Savior!

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Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Cooperate

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Cooperate

A Team Effort

W hat feelings come when you think about evangelism? Fear? Anxiety? Intimidation? When someone mentions sharing your faith, do you feel unbearable pressure, as though your actions will make the difference in a person’s eternal destiny? If this is how you feel, you’re in good company.

Especially in today’s “tolerant” atmosphere that doesn’t tolerate talking about anything that might offend someone, it truly is intimidating when you think about the former paradigm of evangelism. So if you feel burdened when the opportunity to share your faith comes, look to Paul. His perspective

1st Corinthians 3:6 says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

was completely different. He didn’t find evangelism burdensome, because he didn’t see the outcome as his responsibility. Sharing the joy of knowing Jesus was what he loved more than anything to do. Here’s why.

Paul recognized that sharing the faith is a team effort. He never felt like the Lone Ranger, solely responsible for reaching everyone with the Gospel. He didn’t work alone but partnered with others who knew and loved Jesus as well.

He knew that God was responsible for saving people, not him. He freely and joyfully told others about his Savior as he partnered with God as He drew people to Himself.

“Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]?  Romans 2:4 (AMP).”

When my husband and I were missionaries in Russia, we would see churches send over short-term missionaries with an agenda. They thought they had to make a set number of conversions in order to be “successful.” It filled us with sadness because after “saving” a bunch of orphans at summer camp, they would go home full of themselves and promptly forget the children with whom they had “shared their faith.” This pressure to evangelize was rooted in pride, as evidenced by their emphasis on numbers. (It actually had the completely opposite effect, as, after a while, the kids who had been “saved” at numerous camps and then spiritually abandoned didn’t see the benefit of saying the “magic words” that would change their lives.)

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: John 16:7-8 (MP)”

Though some Christians do the work of an evangelist out of pride, revelling more in the fact that they led someone to Christ than the fact that the person is now saved, others have different motivations. Some feel pressure to live up to an ideal that they have created in their minds based upon conference speakers or authors who speak about evangelism. Still, the focus is on themselves. They do not see themselves as part of a team that includes the Holy Spirit, to whom all credit is due.

The kind of evangelism that draws people to God is the kind that develops deep and longstanding relationships. That’s exactly how God draws people to Himself, and when we team up with God, people desire more of that kind of relationship.

What are your feelings about sharing your faith? Pray for God to give you the freedom to work as a team member with the Holy Spirit and with others.

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How to Know God

How to Know God

Are you certain you know God?

Belief and faith are extremely important in our life in God, but perhaps there is a deeper understanding to be had in order to know Him.

What does it mean “to know” the Lord?

Belief

that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. – John 3:15

 

Faith

But without faith it is impossible to please Him. – Hebrews 11:6a

 

Knowledge

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; – Deuteronomy 7:9a

What does it mean to believe?

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. – John 3:18

The Greek word used in this verse is πιστεύω, pronounced pisteuō. It is defined this way: to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in

Its Hebrew counterpart is אָמַן, which is where the word amen comes from. It means:to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

So our first step is to believe. We recognize that there is Someone who is behind all that is. We understand that this visible world is not all there is. It is the “aha!” moment when our perspective changes and we move from unbelief into believe.

However, this is only the first step. Remember, even the demons believe!  James 2:19 uses the exact same word for believe, pisteuō.

We cannot stay here. This believe drives us forward into the next step, faith.

We move from mere belief to faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

The Greek word used in this verse isπίστις, pronounced pē’-stēsIt is defined this way:a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we

obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

Its Hebrew counterpart is אֱמוּנָה, which means:literally firmness; figuratively security; morally fidelity.

Having believed that there is God in heaven, we begin to wrestle with what that means. As we seek God’s face, He promises that He will be found (Jeremiah 29:13). When He is found, we see that we are hopelessly lost from Him, but our hearts yearn toward Him, longing to be in relationship with Him.

That’s why Jesus came. Why He died. Why we can now live. We pledge our fidelity to Him and become children of God (John 1:12).

Like our own children, we must learn to know.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. – John 17:3

The Greek word used in this verse is γινώσκω, pronounced ginōskōIt is defined this way:to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel. As a Jewish idiom, to know is to have sexual intercourse.

Its Hebrew counterpart is יָדַע,  which means: to perceive and see, find out and discern, be revealed, to join together.

Like children, we progressively come to know God through the work of His Holy Spirit, whom He sent.

We start by acquiring knowledge, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In the Bible, knowing always involves relationship and commitment. It is a “joining together” of two to become one. You see a temporal illustration in marriage, where physical intimacy is described as “knowing” (Genesis 4:1). But it is so much more than that! It implies taking something (or someone) to oneself to possess it.

Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5 wanted to “know” good and evil. Knowledge in itself is not bad, but in the biblical sense, it means to become one with it. What we take unto ourselves becomes a part of who we are, and separation requires as it were a “ripping apart,” a “tearing asunder” (Mark 10:9). This is one reason that God forbids sex before marriage. A bond is formed that renders real, permanent harm to both parties when the relationship is broken.

In Amos chapter 3 God declares “you only have I known.” Naturally, He knows every person on earth, not just one family, but He had created a relationship between Himself and Israel. It was a deep, physicla, mental, emotional, and spiritual knowing that set Israel apart as God’s own.

So returning to John 17:3, do we know God in the biblical sense? Have we joined together with Him and have we created a relationship that will last through eternity with Him?

What God has joined together… God does the joining in our relationship with Him. We become His own.

Do you truly know God… in the biblical sense?

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UIOF: Week Thirteen-Praying for Relationship

UIOF: Week Thirteen-Praying for Relationship

praying for relationship

H ow did Jesus “do evangelism”? Most Christians who consider evangelization think of it as “doing something” to someone else. It’s not something most people look forward to, but in reality, we are being evangelists every time we step outside our doors and into the everyday world.

Perhaps you’re not called to go to the foreign mission field (I was), but that doesn’t mean you don’t do the work of a missionary. Your mission field is your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers. We are all surrounded by the lost who are going into eternity completely unprepared.

Are you content to leave them there?

Rebecca Manley Pippert wrote in her book Out of the Saltshaker Into the World that “Christians and non-Christians have one thing in common: They hate evangelism.”

That’s really sad because evangelism is simply loving people enough to tell them who Jesus is. It doesn’t require you to beat someone over the head with a Bible or to push sinners away from your presence. Evangelism is meant for sinners.

Think about it. Who were you when someone introduced you to Christ? You were a sinner. But that person cared enough to share the Gospel and introduce you to the Son who died because you were a sinner.

Mark 2:14-15 says: “ As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.”

Jesus didn’t come to get more people into the Kingdom, His own personal club where the insiders were welcome but the rest were left out. He came to save people from the consequences of who they were. Or are, since He’s still doing it today.

When we look at the passage above in Mark, we see that Jesus loved everyone equally. He loved the sinners despite their sins and He ate with them in their homes. Religious Jews didn’t set foot inside the home of a sinner, lest they become defiled. But that’s not what Jesus did. He went where the people were hurting and loved them there.

What kind of Christianity do you show the lost in your own life? Do they see compassion for them? Or do they avoid you because your attitude says you are “holier than they”?

John 4:37-38 says: “Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

When you meet someone new or talk to someone you’ve known for a long time, do you want to know their spiritual condition? If not, why not?

In the movies Schindler’s List, Schindler realizes at the end that he is wearing a ring that had he sold it could have provided money to save even one more. Of course, the movie doesn’t accurately portray Oskar Schindler and

I doubt that the scene depicting this is real. Nevertheless, the point is well made that we all have something that could save someone else.

That something is the love of God. When you share it, people get saved.

So have you prayed about it?

Have you asked God to show you people through His eyes? Have you asked that the love that Jesus shared be evident in your life? Spend some time this week asking God to lead you into deeper relationships with the lost so that you can share the most precious thing you have with them.

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Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Week Twelve — The Caring Paradigm

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Week Twelve — The Caring Paradigm

The Caring Paradigm

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is known as “the love chapter.” It described what love is—and what it is not—in detail. If you wanted to reduce it to a simple paradigm, it would say something like “love cares more for others than itself.”  Paul recognized that without love, no matter how great his revelations were, he would be useless to himself and to others. Then he went out and lived that paradigm.

What do you struggle with from that list? I know for me, it’s “love is not easily provoked.” The words “easily provoked” come from terms that mean ‘to irritate, provoke, arouse to anger, despise, scorn, make angry, exasperate and burn with anger.” Yet today it seems that everything we think, do, or say has those precise effects on others. Just having an opinion is enough to spark violence from an “offended” party.

When I was in high school, there was a classmate that I loved running into, even though we were more acquaintances than friends. And that was because she always made me feel like I truly mattered. Her demeanor, her words, her kind actions made me want to be more like her.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

In the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious Jews–who should have been setting a good example–had more important things to do than stop and help a hapless stranger.

Yet the God of the universe didn’t have anything more important to do than die for our sins. And you know what? He would have done it if you had been the only person left in the world! Do you know why? Not because He has love for us, but because He is love.

He set the example. Are we following it?

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7-8).”

Jesus always put others’ needs before His own. And by setting us an example, He intended that we would love each other with a love so intense that outsiders would want to know about this great love that insiders had for each other.

So where do we get this kind of love? It can’t be manufactured. You can’t buy it. For this incredible kind of love, you have to go to the Source of love. Find time this week to invest in prayer. Ask God to make you an example of His great love so that others will be drawn to what you have.

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