Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Insight Sometimes Comes From Unexpected Sources

Some of the ladies from our church took a get-away trip last weekend. Along for the ride was a woman who is not a member of our congregation. She is a member of another church. During their travels, it seems they got into a rather serious and deep discussion about predestination.

The details of that discussion are not important for this article. They did a pretty good job discussing the issue, and talking about why they believe what they believe. Let's just say, the lady who traveled along with them held a view that sees God predestining individuals to be saved or lost, regardless of a person's desire to be saved. In other words, she believes if God wants to save you, then he will, even if you live a wild life and don't believe. If he doesn't want to save you, then it doesn't matter how much you believe, or how badly you want to be saved, you'll still be lost.

The insight, however, happened about something very different. This friend said to our ladies, something like this: "If you don't believe that God predestines people to saved, then you ought to be out every day talking to everyone you know about Jesus."

Wow! She got it right on the money. We might not agree with her view on predestination, but she got the point about the great commission. Why else would Jesus have given the assignment to preach the gospel to every creature? And if we believe that God has given human beings freedom to choose and the responsibility to believe or not, then why are we not more serious about giving them the opportunity to do just that? Why are we not telling more people about Jesus?

In this case, insight came to at least a few of our ladies in an unexpected way. What I heard from a couple of them says that the question posed by their friend hit a nerve. It bothered them. Why? Well because our sweet, good-hearted ladies are very much like most Christians. The "great commission" is not a driving force or motivation. It's not that they are unconcerned. It's just that they haven't realized how important it is that we sow the seed of the gospel.

There is nothing we do as Christians that is as important as sharing the gospel with others. There are a lot of ways we might minister to people, and all of those ways might be very good. Nothing is as important as the saving of lost people. Period. Nothing.

That doesn't mean everyone ought to be conducting Bible studies, though somebody should. It means that all of us can, and should, be aware that our mission is to see that people are saved. Your part in that might be as simple as inviting a friend to church, or as involved as becoming a missionary in a far-away place. The point is that both people can be a viable part of putting people into contact with Jesus Christ so that they can be saved. They still must choose, but you will have helped them face a legitimate choice.

If we really believe that individuals must choose to believe in Jesus Christ, choose to put their faith in him as Savior and Lord, then we must also believe that we have a huge responsibility to them. Yes, we ought to be telling far more people about Jesus. Every day. Every where we go. To every person we can. We are to sow seed. God will then give the increase.

Monday, August 25, 2008

100% Natural Evangelism

We just finished viewing the video series 100% Natural Evangelism by Terry Rush. I was disappointed. It was too short. Only four sessions. Personally, I think Terry should have made this series at least 2 or 3 times as long.

I will say this is hardly vintage Rush. He's calm instead of overly animated. But it's also very, very good.

The four sessions take you through Terry's own personal journey in learning how to talk to people about Jesus. It's open, honest, and revealing. I related to the vignettes about feeling inadequate and scared to death as a novice preacher. I knew exactly what he was talking about when he shared about schools bringing in the experts to talk about how to do personal evangelism, only to produce more fear and guilt because you just couldn't do it like them. I think talking about failure was terrific. The truth is there is a lot of failure, even among those who are excellent at personal evangelism.

Terry's series is a great encouragement, and I would heartily endorse the videos to others. Do not think, however, that he is going to throw a method at you, or that he's going to hand you a program to follow. You'll be very disappointed. This is a series about learning how to love people, how to trust that God is working in you and through you, and how to see your job as sowing seed, not forcing the results. You won't learn verses to teach others, you won't learn an outline to follow, or the standard personal evangelism content. You will learn that you can let the Spirit of God work in you to produce fruit, and in the fruit is the potential of new life in Christ.

I suspect that a great many who view the series will miss the point. This is not a fault in the series or the presentations. It's a fault in people who will watch the videos and just not understand. I'm of the opinion, that some may need to see these videos more than once.

If you need help knowing exactly what to teach, let me encourage you to check out my little "Real Bible Study 4 Kids." Yes, it was written to help parents teach the gospel to their children. But I believe it would be of great help to anyone. Adults can certainly adapt it to their own use, and teens would find it extremely helpful. And, if you're looking to learn what to teach another person, it would provide you with a lot of guidance.

Terry Rush's, 100% Natural Evangelism, will serve to encourage and motivate a lot of Christians to reach out to people. That's really our job. Sow some seed. God will give the increase.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Some Things Just Crack Me Up!

OK, some things crack me up! I love funny stuff, I love to laugh, and people who can see the humor in life surely enjoy it more than cranks.

My new-found friend, Matt Dabbs, has a video on his blog that I just have to borrow. As a preacher, I depend on song leaders. A good song leader is priceless! They can get people into the moment, or they can kill things deader than dead. So this little video is just plain fun.

The only thing I'm waiting for is the new game, Preacher Revolution. Please, somebody create one. Everybody could take the pulpit, wow the crowd, expound the scriptures alongside the best theologians, and show all preachers how it ought to be done. Got to be a winner!

OK, enjoy and laugh along with me.

Song Leader Revolution

Some Things Crack Me Up!

OK, some things crack me up! I love funny stuff, I love to laugh, and people who can see the humor in life surely enjoy it more than cranks.

My new-found friend, Matt Dabbs, has a video on his blog that I just have to borrow. As a preacher, I depend on song leaders. A good song leader is priceless! They can get people into the moment, or they can kill things deader than dead. So this little video is just plain fun.

The only thing I'm waiting for is the new game for preachers. Please, somebody create one. Everybody could take the pulpit, wow the crowd, expound the scriptures alongside the best theologians, and show all preachers how it ought to be done. Got to be a winner!

OK, enjoy and laugh along with me.

A Small Challenge To Men

In our summer Wednesday night men's Bible class, we studied the topic of leadership. We weren't looking at "church" leadership. We were trying to dig into the topic of leadership in general. Focusing on a list of 26 characteristics of leaders found in John MacArthur's, The Book On Leadership, one of the main things we learned is that leadership is not based on position or power. Leadership, at least in this study, came down to influence.

When a man influences others by his words, his actions, and his character, he is providing a kind of leadership that trumps possession of office or authority. That's not to say that a man in a particular office or who holds some kind of official authority cannot also lead, but it is to say that the ability to influence others is not necessarily related to those things.

From a worldly point of view, Jesus was man without position or authority. Follow me here for a moment. I know he had both from a heavenly or spiritual point of view, but he had neither as a man from Nazareth in Galilee. What he had was the ability to influence people. He did that through words and actions, backed up by his character.

You could say the same about the apostles. None had position or power. Again, understand that this is said from a worldly point of view, not a spiritual point of view. But even if you want to grant them a position of "leader" in the early church, exercising a divinely granted "authority", you still might want to consider that position and power were not the keys to success. Paul had his detractors and opponents, within the church, who recognized neither his position or authority. It still came down to the ability to establish the credentials of character, and the exercise of influence on others through words and actions.

One of the reasons this is an important topic is that men tend to run in two directions on this topic and neither achieves real leadership. One direction is that of position and power. Give a guy a position and watch him become a power broker. That happens more often than you might think. I remember years ago when we were going through a process to select elders for the congregation for whom I served as a preacher. One of the men just seemed to be a head taller, spiritually, than all the other candidates. I truly believed that he would make a good elder. But almost from the day he was appointed to that position, he became obsessed with a sense of power that ran roughshod over the church. It ultimately led to his undoing as a leader. This has happened again and again. Even among secular leaders, it is often this heavy swing toward position and power that makes a man's leadership less than it could be, or a failure altogether.

The other direction is that of abdication of leadership. A lot of men simply do not lead. They give leadership of their families to their wives. Ask them to lead in their church and you'll get a "Moses" speech about how unqualified or unable they are to do anything. Many communities suffer ill effects of social, economic, and other problems because men simply do nothing. Ever wondered about the qulity of those who run for political office? Are there no better men (or women for that matter) than the candidates running? I think there might well be, but they are hidden away.

Motivating men to lead is a tough job. It requires some leadership! Somebody must influence men to lead. Men must hear words, see actions, and be touched by the character of other men who have already stepped up to the plate and are swinging away at the job.

In an effort to be practical, we focused on one, very specific opportunity. Here's the challenge that was put to our men: on Sundays, when we meet as a church, take the responsibility to insure that every person who walks through the doors of our church building knows that they are loved, appreciated, and that our church is a "safe" place. What's behind this small challenge to our men? We want them, through words and actions, bolstered by their character, to take advantage of one simple opportunity to influence other people.

Don't think this is important? Let me ask a question. What would you think if you went to church on Sunday and a group of 20 or 25 men all spoke to you, asked about how you doing, offered to help in some way, made you feel welcomed and comfortable, and convinced you that in this church people would respect you and care for you? I'm betting it would knock your socks off. I'm betting those men and that church would have a positive, lasting influence on you.

It's a small challenge. It just might have huge results. I'm hoping our men rise to the challenge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Start A Trend

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25, NASB95

In Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, Kathryn Greene-McCreight describes her tortured journey through ten years of extreme depression and bipolar disorder. Concerning the importance of Christian fellowship while in recovery, she writes:

This is why it is so important to worship in community—to ask your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for you … Sometimes you literally cannot make it on your own, and you need to borrow from the faith of those around you. . . . Companionship in the Lord Jesus is powerful. – Kathyrn Greene-McCreight, Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness (Brazos Press, 2006), p. 88
Kathryn Greene-McCreight said a mouthful. Sometimes you really can’t make it on your own. Sometimes you just need someone to lean on, to help you bear the load of garbage you’ve been carrying, to just listen to your pain, to cry with you, and even get mad with you. It’s not always important that the other person or persons have all the answers. At times, we might not be ready for answers, so they would fall on deaf ears anyway. Sometimes we just need the company of another human being, willing to be there for us.

I believe this is one of the powerful things about the church that often goes unnoticed until you need it. “Why do I have to go to church all the time? What’s the harm if I just show up when I want to?” That seems to be the question on the minds of many. The answer is to see that such questions betray a serious misunderstanding about church. It’s really a self-centered and selfish attitude. There is a much better reason to be an active, thriving, involved, attending member of a local church. It’s so you can help others.

I’ve said for years that if everybody takes the view that they’re only going to get involved or attend church when they need to go, or when they want to get something out of it, then it’s impossible for anybody to benefit. Only when each member understands that the primary reason for church attendance and involvement is to provide something for another person will any of us ever find what we need.

It’s the self-less, others-centered, approach that sets the stage for any or all of us to benefit when we need it the most. When you’re doing fine, go to church and let your faith and strength be a crutch for somebody who is crumpling under the burdens of life. One day, you may be in their shoes and when you need the help, that very same person just might provide what you need.

Wouldn’t church be great if everybody there took a personal responsibility to make you feel loved, worthwhile, and blessed? Wouldn’t church be great if every time you went, the whole bunch took pains to find out how you’re doing and showed a sincere interest in you as a person? You want that to happen? Great, then the next time you go to church, you do that for everybody you see. If you keep waiting for the others to start, then you’re never going to have such a church experience. Praying is a good start. Go hug some necks and find out what’s going on. Love and appreciate people. You might start a trend. Wouldn’t that be great?

This is a CrossTies Devotional article
(C) Copyright 2008, Dr. Bill Denton

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thinking About People

I've been thinking about people. Part of that concerns some specific people, and some relates to people in general. I think it's because as I get older, I get more sentimental. Even that is more hereditary than you might think. My male relatives on my mother's side of the family are notorious for edgy emotions and the ability to cry at emotionally sensitive times. I have a cousin who heads up our annual family reunion who can't get through the fun stuff of welcoming everyone and dispensing the door prizes without crying at least once. We love him for doing that. But that sentimentality is part of what makes me think about people.

I make no apologies for claiming It's A Wonderful Life as my all-time favorite movie (go ahead and click the link and watch the movie!). Then again, just about all my favorite movies and books are those about people, where characters are the life of the work. Among my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy, whose books are a tangle of characters much like real life. Read her books and you've become part of an Irish village, part of a family, friends with lovable people. Or, if you've never watched the movie, King's Row, you've missed a great movie. But I digress.

Want to know why I think It's A Wonderful Life is so great? Because the premise of the movie is that every person makes an impact on the world of which he or she is a part. George Bailey gets the opportunity to see what would have happened had he never lived. George, quite without knowing it, had made a significantly positive impact on the lives of many people. Without him, things would have been very bad indeed. He never knew, until his personal angel arrived to show him, that his life mattered at all.

Now, there are at least two basic ways to think about this premise. The most obvious is to consider the impact of one's own life on the world. What would the world have been without you? That's pretty heavy, but it's worth considering. The other way to think about this idea is not so obvious. What would your life have been without the other people in it? Yes, you impact your world, but other people impact you.

No wonder God has a habit of working in and through people. Again and again in the Bible, we're introduced to people through whom God worked to impact the world in positive ways. All you have to do is name a few and you see this truth vividly. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Mary, Paul. You get the idea. Not everybody is chosen to be a key player in some great work of God, but all of us are part of God's work. But do you have to have a starring role or do even background actors have a role to play?

If other people impact your life, then it's good not only to know that, but know that the impact might either be good or bad, positive or negative. We should want to magnify the impact of some people and minimize the impact of others. Of course, if you know that you are impacting other people, you might want to consider the kind of impact you're having.

What difference have you made in another person's life? Do you know? Do you care? Here's what I believe: you and I are here for the specific purpose of impacting the people around us. That's a great responsibility. It's also something for which to be very thankful.

(C) 2008, Dr. Bill Denton

Changes Coming in Dr. Bill's Random Thoughts

It has occurred to me that I picked a dead-on title for this blog. The key word seems to be "random!" I knew when I started that this was going to be one of those random things. I already write articles. I've got lots of irons in the fires (yes plural). But it has also occurred to me that I'm not taking advantage of the blog like I should. So, changes are coming.

First, at some point in the past, I tried posting my CrossTies articles to the blog. I thought this was duplicating things, so I stopped doing that. I wish I had not done that. Those articles are very appropriate posts. So, one change is that I will soon begin posting the new CrossTies articles to the blog.

Second, between CrossTies articles, there is ample opportunity to post different kinds of articles, some like the ones already found on this blog, and others that are in keeping with the "random" idea I started with.

Some of my blog readers may already subscribe to the CrossTies Devotional Article email list. If you do, and don't want two copies of the same article, you will have to choose which format you want to stay with. Personally, I encourage the blog over the email list. Mainly, it's because you will get more than just the CT articles. But you pick.

I think it will also be easier to promote the blog over the email list. Email lists were (and still are to some extent) the rage in the past, but it's obvious that blogging has taken over. Friends! You can help promote this blog, get us a larger readership, and make the CrossTies ministry bigger yet.

I still think it's amazing that we can communicate globally, so quickly, and with such ease. Thanks to all who take the time to read my articles, blog, and books. Be sure to post a comment when you read something that triggers a thought.