Monday, April 27, 2015

Which type of hunter are you?

I'm not much of a hunter. I've been dove and squirrel hunting and I've even taken my boys squirrel hunting. My only claim to hunting fame is killing 6 squirrels with a single shot 20 gauge shot gun in about a minute. My dad still says they were deaf squirrels, but at 14 years old I took no mercy on them! Personally, I prefer fishing. But I do enjoy seeing what my hunter friends have killed. Whether it's deer, turkey, or some other wildlife I like to see the pictures and talk to them about what they've killed. Recently I was checking out some pictures on Facebook where a couple of friends had killed turkeys. I started thinking about the different types of hunters and how they relate to our primary responsibility as Christians.

Its safe to say that your primary responsibility as a follower of Christ is to tell others about Jesus and what He's done in your life. Your own story is the greatest and most effective witness to the power of God and the life-changing redemption Christ has ushered into your life. That witness is what God uses to bring unbelievers to faith in Christ. No matter our age, socioeconomic status, race, gender, or education level, we are responsible to tell people of the change Jesus has made in our lives and ask them to do the same. Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 to be His witnesses and to do so by sharing the gospel and making disciples for Him. Whether you are good at it or not, its your responsibility. Whether you are currently practicing this or not, its still your responsibility. With that being said, we can look at our responsibility through the scope (sorry bad pun) of a hunters analogy.

The Sitter
When hunting most game the hunter will sit very still and wait for the game to come by so they can shoot it. Sometimes they're in a tree stand and other times they are in a blind. But they are sitting still waiting on the game to arrive.

I would dare say that nearly all Christians are "Sitters" when it comes to hunting down the lost to share the gospel. We sit in our lofty perch of a tree stand (the church) or we camouflage ourselves in the world and wait for the lost to come to us. We don't make a move when they are around for fear they may see that we want to talk to them about spiritual matters. We may even wait on them to climb into the tree stand with us and beg to be hunted. But In the end they often times walk right through our sights and we don't take the shot. We sit and watch people slip into eternity without taking the time to share with them about the One who can change their life.

The Stalker
Some hunters stalk their game. They have to quietly approach their game while trying to avoid scaring it off. It can be a challenge depending on the environment they are in. Some even hunt using dogs to track down raccoon or bear. Nevertheless, they are approaching their game and taking the initiative to track it down.

There are fewer Christians who hunt for the lost as a "Stalker." They have a desire and a tenacity that supersedes the fear of rejection. They bravely pursue unbelievers with a singular focus that impresses others. Sometimes they stealthily creep up on an unsuspecting unbeliever and other times they chase them down with the fervor of a dog that has treed a raccoon. Regardless, they have a determination to succeed at bagging the big game and that is a soul that is destined for hell.

It's pretty clear from the hunting analogy that we have two choices as to how we will approach unbelievers to share the gospel. We can sit as they go by or we can pursue them. It doesn't take much common sense to know that we should be pursuing the unbelievers in the hopes they will put their faith in Christ. If you find yourself letting the lost go right by you, what do you need to do differently to share the gospel with them? What do you need to change in and of yourself? Whatever it is seek God's help in making the change and He will help you succeed. Because in the end He wants you to bag as many souls for Him as you possibly can.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Directions for Giving Up on God

Over the past 10 years of ministry I have witnessed some fairly unbelievable things. I've seen God answer prayers in ways that seem impossible. Like the time we prayed for an approaching storm to bypass the church we were painting in Vermont and God parted the clouds like the Red Sea. I've seen widows, parents, and families in their deepest moments of grief and despair praising God for the life of the loved one that died. Like the time I walked into a room in the Emergency Department of a hospital with a family seconds after their loved one died. There are plenty of other things I've witnessed over that time, both good and bad, that causes one to reflect on different aspects of life. But the one thing that confounds me to this day, and probably will the rest of my life, is when someone gives up on God.

Now I'm not talking about people who are atheist or agnostics who have denied the existence of God. I'm talking about a person who has come to the realization they are a poor, wretched sinner in need of God's grace, who has accepted that grace, enjoyed that grace, and then turned their back on that grace. It can easily confound a person when you think about it too much. Don't hear me speaking from a platform of judgment and condemnation. I have had those moments in my own walk with Christ where I pushed Him just to the tips of my reach where I could pull Him back at a moments notice. Yes, I can fully relate to the words of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing when it says "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love." But the thing that I do not understand is the person who completely abandons God altogether.

The reason a person might give up on God varies from person to person. For some it may be that they were disillusioned with God because they were mislead into thinking God was a genie to grant their wishes. Maybe God didn't answer a prayer they pleaded with Him over. Or maybe it was something else. I think the reason many people give up on God is simply because they wander from His path and forget about Him. They wander so far from God that when they need Him or think about Him they are embarrassed to throw themselves at His feet again. And like the song by Casting Crowns says "It's a slow fade" further and further from God.

So the directions for someone seeking to give up on God are simple. Ignore Him, turn your back on Him, do not read His Word, do not pray, do not think about God, and do not allow the Holy Spirit to stir your heart. Not that anyone would probably follow those directions but there they are.

More importantly, what are the directions for getting back to God when you've wandered so far you can't see Him anymore. The answer is this, run. Run back to God and seek His forgiveness. Throw yourself at the feet of Christ and seek the grace you've experienced before. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and lead you where you need to go. All you have to do is ask for His forgiveness. God even tells us in 1 John 1:9 that He will forgive us no matter what we've done. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (NIV). Whether it's a nearly inaudible whisper or an ear-splitting shout, all you have to do is ask. If that's you, why not take the first step back towards God today? You won't regret it.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Take Aways from the Tomb

Yesterday our message at church was similar to most every other message preached across the world on Easter. In some form or fashion most every sermon had something to do with the empty tomb (or should have). Without it there is no Christianity. Without Christ resurrecting from the dead Christianity is another world religion with a dead leader. But Christianity is different in that regard. We serve a risen and living Savior.

So what can we take away from the empty tomb found by Jesus' followers on that first Easter morning? There are in fact 3 things we can take away from the empty tomb. 

Take Away #1: The Power of God
What we see in the resurrection of Christ is the power of God on display. God shows us He has the power to overcome sin, death, and the grave. He shows us He is omnipotent, all-powerful, that He has power without limit. 

The power He used to resurrect Jesus from the dead is the same power He uses today to change the lives of men and women, boys and girls. That is the same power He wants to use in your life today to either bring salvation into your life or to free you from the grip of sin. The question isn't is God willing to do it or can God do it. But the real question is will you allow Him to work that miracle in your life?

Take Away #2: The Hope of God
The women, the disciples, and everyone else who knew Jesus had no hope on Saturday night when they went to bed. On Sunday morning that all changed. The resurrection of Christ brought joy and hope out of their pain and grief. 

Through the resurrection you and I have a hope for the future. The resurrection is a reminder to us of the fact that this world and all its trappings are temporary and fleeting. Simply put they are passing away. Through the resurrection we are reminded that we can have a relationship with Christ that brings hope for today and hope for eternity. 

Take Away #3: The Forgiveness of God
Two words in Mark 16:7 sum up the forgiveness we experience through the resurrection. Those 2 words are “and Peter.” The last words Peter spoke in the presence of Jesus was his 3rd and final denial of knowing Jesus. Peter above anyone would have had no hope for making his relationship with Jesus right again.

But Jesus shows us through those two little words that He will forgive us of even the worst of sins. If Jesus was willing to forgive Peter and restore their relationship what do you think He’s willing to do for you? Jesus is willing to forgive you no matter what kind of life you’ve lived or no matter how far you’ve wandered from Him…all you have to do is ask for it. 

Without the resurrection Jesus’ life would have came to a sad, grief-stricken end. But through the resurrection we are able to witness the power, hope, and forgiveness of God. Today you are able to do more than witness those things. Today you can experience it in your own life. Simply seek God's forgiveness and watch Him bring you hope as He exercises His power to change your life.

If you enjoyed today's post be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!