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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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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Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Week 11: Give It All Away

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Week 11: Give It All Away

Give It All Away!

Have you heard that old adage about love? If you love something, let it go. If it returns to you, it is yours forever. If it doesn’t return to you, it was never really yours in the first place.

This week we’re going to look at what it means to “give it all away” in your small group.

Our small groups should be modeled after Jesus’ discipleship pattern. First He called them. And they came. They surrounded this person and had a thirst for the water He would give them.

Small group leaders are like that. They put out the call and those the Lord chooses for this time and place come. They are hungry and thirsty for the Word of life. They want to belong and to grow. That’s what small groups are for.

1 Corinthians 9:19 and 22 tells us: “For though I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ]….I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means [in any and every way] save some [by leading them to faith in Jesus Christ].”

Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, this poor widow put in [proportionally] more than all the contributors to the treasury. For they all contributed from their surplus, but she, from her poverty, put in all she had, all she had to live on (Mark 12:43-44 AMP).”

After Jesus made these few His disciples, He demonstrated how to minister as they followed Him around, learning by watching the Master. He taught them by showing them truth.

People in small groups learn how to lead by watching their small group leader, too. When she shows them love, they learn to love each other. When she shows them how to share, they learn to let go of their inhibitions.

Just as Jesus became an object lesson for His disciples to learn from, so will small group leaders provide tangible lessons for her group members.

Jesus explained to His disciples what He was doing, preparing them to be ready to do the same things. Then, He allowed these men who had become close friends to minister alongside Him, refining them as they began to minister under His watchful eyes.

Later on, He sent them out two by two, still supervising their ministry yet letting them move out and away from His immediate presence.

Finally, Jesus gave them the responsibility for ministering to and changing the entire world.

“Then He left the crowds and went into the house And His disciples came to Him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field’ (Matthew 13:36 NIV).”

As the disciples learned, they began to put into practice what He told them. However, they always could check back with Him to be sure they understood.

Small group leaders do this, too. They allow their group members more freedom to minister on their own, always willing to be a resource for them.

When the time was right, Jesus sent the twelve out into the world with the power to minister as He had done. It was time to change the world, but first Jesus had to let His disciples go.

At some point, small groups need to grow up into leaders to go out and minister. They will have the power of Christ to go with them, and the Holy Spirit will bring to their remembrance everything He has spoken to them.

It’s time to give it all away.

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority and power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness (Matthew 10:1 AMP).”

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).”

You’ve worked hard to develop community in your small group. So how do you maintain that community? Against all worldly wisdom, you do what Jesus did: give it all away. The members of your small group have been equipped, and it is just about time to send them out. And in the power of the Holy Spirit, you know what they will do?

 

They will change the world.

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