In today’s service, we hear a message called “Have a Heart!” from Matthew 5.13-16, in which we learn about how important it is for followers of Jesus to have a heart for evangelism. The message begins at 21:19.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity, quite often, that I can walk to work. It’s a privilege not everybody receives. I don’t have to fight traffic, losing hours from family time just trying to get to and from work. Being able to walk to work enriches my life, both for the physical activity and for the enhancement of family life.
But it has another side benefit, too, that I experienced recently.
I was walking to work, taking my usual route, and a young neighbour, to whom I would wave when I’d see him, called me over to where he was sitting outside his front door.
Perceiving that I worked “at that church over there”, he proceeded to start a most interesting conversation about the life of faith. We chatted for perhaps 10 minutes about similarities and differences between denominations, and he seemed genuinely intrigued with my subtle presentation of the good news of Jesus.
I invited him to our “Bring A Friend” Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on September 22, and he gladly accepted; I will pray for him, and hope that he comes! (If you’re in the area and don’t have a church family to call your own, please come as my guest – that Sunday, or any Sunday at 10:00 a.m.!)
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to walk to work, you do have the opportunity to take walks through your neighbourhood. Consider whether the Lord is inviting you to do so – for exercise, yes, but also for sowing seeds of new relationships with important conversations that can lead to spiritual discussions…and possibly spiritual transformation.
“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord” (Romans 15.2, NLT).
One of the delights of being on a pilgrimage that includes some people you don’t know is that you have the opportunity to get to know them while travelling. So one day, when someone I didn’t know was sitting across the aisle on the bus from me, I said, “Tell me a story.”
Among the things this young woman told me was how she got involved in the congregation in which she participates. Much to my delight, it was through the gentle influence of a mutual friend.
This friend would care for her children, and would invite the kids to sing Bible songs and learn Bible stories while in her care. And as time went on, and it seemed appropriate, she would make soft invitations – to church events, to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, to come to Christmas services, then Easter services, and then, well, she got involved whole-hog!
A whole family came to know Jesus because of the kind words and simple invitations of a Christian who cared.
Think of the gentle influence you may have…and think of the people over whom you might have it!
“…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).
Because we get most of our bills sent electronically, and not many people share handwritten correspondence anymore, except on special occasions, we find that we don’t need to retrieve our mail from the post office more than once or twice a week.
Lately, though, our mailbox has been fuller than usual. My wife is getting a lot of unsolicited mail – asking for money, of course – from unusual sources.
Yesterday, there was a letter for her from an organization, and when she got home, she looked at it and said, “Someone is selling their mailing list.”
This happens to everybody who has a fixed address, though perhaps less often than usual, because direct mail campaigns seem to be less effective than they once were.
It got me thinking, though. Because of privacy laws, fewer and fewer organizations are free to sell their mailing lists, but when they do, other groups will buy them because they hope, and maybe even expect, that they will recoup their investment through new donors. In other words, the cost involved in gaining more names will be exceeded by the results they will get from sending a campaign to those names.
When we share our faith, there is no money exchanged – I don’t think, anyway! – but there is a ‘return on investment’ side to it. For many of us, talking about our relationship with God has a cost: uncomfortabliity. Many of us find ourselves outside our comfort zones when we talk about Jesus with others. That’s why we don’t do it.
But consider the return on that investment: if we share our faith with others, and even one person says ‘yes’ to Jesus, what is gained from that act far exceeds the uncomfortability we may have had in sharing.
Think about that the next time you have the opportunity to open a door of faith for another person. What you’re feeling is nothing when compared with the changed eternity for that person who may come to the Lord as a result.
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).
If you walked by someone’s home and saw flames shooting up through the roof, what would be the first thing you’d do? You’d call 911, and pound on the door until you made sure that people inside knew about the fire and could get out safely.
If you’re a follower of Jesus and you meet someone who is not, what’s your normal reaction? Most people’s response would be to be polite and say nothing.
Theologian Michael Green said, many years ago, that too often, Christians are like people going through customs at the airport: nothing to declare.
You and I have something to declare – something of eternal importance.
If you’re a follower of Jesus who believes the Bible is true, then every person you know who is not a follower of Jesus is the equivalent of a house on fire. We have a responsibility to find creative ways to encourage them to follow Jesus, because eternity rests in the balance. We’ve got the best news in the world to share.
If you don’t tell them, how will they know?
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son” (John 3.16-18, NLT).
Recently, I received a bunch of papers from one of my favourite subscribers to Encouragement From The Word: my mother. Slowly but surely, she is starting to get rid of unnecessary things. She has a difficult time throwing them away, so she gives to me things that she thinks might be of interest, because she knows that when I’m done with them, I can throw them away.
This bunch of papers came from my grandmother; they were notes in her handwriting.
There were some that cited Bible verses, some were prayers, some were notions.
One of them was some advice from my grandmother on how to pray, particularly for me. (Apparently, at that time, I wasn’t the easiest person in the world to deal with.)
I will throw out those papers, but having read them, the memory, which takes up no room in a box, will stay with me. My grandmother’s legacy of faith remains in some of these little notes, simple means by which she could impart the wisdom of years of faith and faithfulness to my mother, and to me.
If you are a seasoned follower of Jesus, how are you leaving your legacy of faith? And if you are a newer believer, are you inviting wiser Christians to build into your life? Many don’t want to inflict themselves on you, but they are just waiting to be asked.
After all, faith is as much caught as it is taught. Whose faith are you catching?
“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1.5, NLT).
Last week, the Toronto Blue Jays clinched Major League Baseball’s American League East Division title for the first time in 22 years. There was, as you might imagine, much rejoicing at this, from both players and fans alike.
But did you notice what happened immediately after the game they won that clinched the title? They lost the next couple of games – games that, arguably, they should have been able to win (especially the first one). Granted, that first one saw a number of second-string players getting field time, but one might have thought they’d play better than they did.
It was as if the Blue Jays had gained a title, and then let their guard down, forgetting what was at stake (which, in this case, was home field advantage). There are more series yet to play!
Sometimes, we can be like that in the life of faith, can’t we? We come to faith in Christ, with all the excitement that comes with that, and maybe we serve for a season, but then we decide it’s time for someone else to take over. We let our guard down.
Yet there’s a whole world to be won.
Trusting Jesus for our eternal salvation is important, but it’s not the end of the road. We don’t believe and then start spraying the proverbial champagne. No – when we come to faith, that’s when the real work of being followers of Jesus begins. Jesus told us to pray that God’s Kingdom would come on earth, just as it is in heaven. And for that to happen, Christ-followers have to work.
So celebrate your faith, but don’t rest on your laurels. There’s a whole world to be won!
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9.37b-38, NLT).
The telephone in my home office has a digital display. Lately, though, it’s been playing tricks on me, as you’ll see in the photo. Normally, it will tell me the time, the month and date, the number I’m dialing, and how many new calls I’ve had. (I suppose it would tell me who was calling, too, if I paid for that option.) But right now, if it’s displaying anything legible, it might as well be in Klingon, because I can’t read it at all. I’m not sure what it takes to fix it; sometimes, it has come back to ‘normal’ all by itself. But over the past few days, it has just been a backlit mess.
There are times that we can be that way, aren’t there? Just a backlit mess?
Walking as followers of Jesus is not an easy thing to do in our world today, because to live as disciples is to live counter-culturally: while society is going in one direction, we are travelling in the opposite direction. That makes it difficult to be vigilant all the time, and at times, people may look at us and not be sure what they’re seeing – just like my phone display.
Someone – I think it might have been the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody – said that the Christian is the only Bible some people will ever read. That places a heavy responsibility on us to live lives that are clear in their demonstration of following Jesus. We won’t live perfect lives, because we can’t, but when we live with greater clarity of faith than not, we become winsome beacons of light, drawing people out of darkness.
If we will live positive, godly, authentic and faithful Christian lives, making what we believe practical in day-to-day functioning, we might be amazed at the number of ‘yes’ responses we get when we say to a friend, “Hey, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?”
Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed. And the Holy Spirit, who lives within each believer, will give you the strength to do it.
“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5.14-16, NLT).
Stompin’ Tom Connors, a popular Canadian musician, died earlier this week. His style was not popular with everyone, but most Canadians know who he was, and the outpouring of sympathy was significant.
It was said of Stompin’ Tom that he made a point of writing songs about Canada and Canadians, and that in one sense, he gave us permission to celebrate being Canadian. Whether he was singing about “Bud the spud from the bright red mud” of Prince Edward Island, or “The good ol’ hockey game” that is so near and dear to our hearts, or the sundry things one could undertake “On a Sudbury Saturday night”, there was never any doubt that Stompin’ Tom Connors was Canadian and loved Canada. He may have been one of the first, perhaps alongside Gordon Lightfoot with his Canadian Railroad Trilogy, to open the floodgate of popular Canadian song.
Thanks to the likes of Stompin’ Tom, it became acceptable, and even popular, to sing the praises of Canada.
While it’s by no means unheard of to sing the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ, it can be seen as somewhat unpopular to do so, especially in a public forum – even in simple ways. I have twice heard Burton Cummings sing the national anthem at a public event, and both times he hummed through the part that says, “God keep our land glorious and free”. (He doesn’t have to believe in God if he doesn’t want to, but the national anthem is the national anthem. End of rant.) My point is that just as we are often reluctant to toot our own horn as Canadians, perhaps too, are we often reluctant to toot our own horn as followers of Christ.
Our open-minded society doesn’t want to offend, and there is a sense in which that is a good thing. However, “pluralism”, which is essentially Canada’s stand on religion, does not mean either (a) anything but Christian is okay, or (b) we must water down our proclamation to the point of meaninglessness. No, pluralism means that all religious traditions are to be treated with equal respect, and that each should be reviewed on its own merits. We do not ask a Hindu to water down her faith, nor a Muslim his – so why ask the Christian to do so?
In fact, it is mostly the ardent secularists who are asking Christians to water down their faith – not the adherents of other religious traditions. And along with the ardent secularists are some Christians who are afraid to offend. But you know what? We don’t need to be fearful. If anything, we need to be proud of the faith we profess, and not fear sharing it with others. Just like Stompin’ Tom, who proudly sang the praises of Canada and Canadians, we can proudly sing the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ, wearing our faith joyfully.
After all, the chances are good that your friends wonder about your walk with God. Why not tell them about it?
“[I]f someone asks you about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).