Archive | March, 2012

An Introduction to Gospel Tracts

30 Mar

I confess that my thoughts towards Gospel tracts have not always been… well, friendly. From the very beginning, I’d seen the little “salvation booklets” as being just a sword short of a Crusade: doing far more harm than good. My concern was that those who distributed them appeared to be more arrogant than loving, “I’ve only known you a few minutes, but I know that you have a problem and I have the answer!” In my mind, there was little difference between handing someone a Gospel tract and pitching an hand grenade at them.

Needless to say (though I shall say it anyway), I was more than a little surprised (and just a touch sickened) when a friend of mine confessed to using these very same devices to share the Gospel message with the sales clerks she encountered. When I questioned her about her tactics, she explained that she shops in at least three different places each day. If she hands out a tract to someone at each location, then there are three more people who have had the opportunity to hear about the free gift that God offers them.

Her testimony was sufficient to alleviate my concerns about motive, but I was still skeptical about using a tract in an actual encounter. Only a few days after our discussion, however, God revealed that another of my friends had also become engaged in these revolutionary activities. While sitting at a lunch table, my companion readily related the experiences which she had with her Grandmother’s tract distribution habit. After hearing the story of a young lady who had actually been excited about the tract left for her, I found myself forced to reconsider my views.

In Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who went out to sow some seed.

“…and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (vs. 4-8)

Jesus goes on to explain how the different soil types are like the hearts of people who hear the gospel and, as it turns out, there is actually a good comparison here between tracts and the farmer’s seed. Just the fact that the living Word of God is contained within their pages is enough to make them useful in sharing the Good News, but there is an even further comparison to be made and one worth noting!

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch a farmer prepare his fields you know that he begins by amending the soil. Then he plows the good new material into the old soil which last year’s crop depleted of nutrients. Then he sows his seed. Historians tell us, however, that the farmer Jesus spoke about probably didn’t do things in this ‘enlightened’ modern order. In fact, it was a typical practice for a farmer first to spread his seed and then prepare the soil. Perhaps this explains why the farmer “wasted” so much seed by throwing it on bad ground… but notice that the Bible doesn’t condemn him for this practice. Instead, it commends him for faithfully scattering the seed! Likewise, our only job is to scatter the seed and let God handle the soil.

It may take you a while to feel comfortable using tracts, but don’t worry. Until I saw for myself just how open most people are to these little Gospel messengers, I used to shake so badly and run so quickly that the poor sales clerks thought I’d handed them a time bomb!

Next week, we’ll take a look at some effective ways of handing out tracts, but for now, you can share your own experiences and ideas right here, just by adding a comment to the box below! Or, if you prefer, you can “friend” AC Gheen on Facebook and join the conversation there!

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation

26 Mar

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  A spiritual battle must be fought with spiritual weapons and one of the greatest which God has given us is prayer.  That’s why, this week, we’re featuring “Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.”

Available in print, on disk, or online at http://www.operationworld.org/country-lists, OW seeks to inform Christians about the spiritual state of countries throughout the world.  Check out the daily prayer calendar at http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar and you’ll find a wealth of information including  profiles of unreached people groups and detailed prayer concerns both for the country and for the Believers who live there.  You may even want to go a step further and get involved by joining the Prayer Movement at http://www.operationworld.org/join-prayer-movement.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on the sidelines!  Hit your knees and join the battle!

Why Me?

23 Mar

If you’ve made it this far, you’re already doing well! You clearly feel the Spirit leading you to share your faith, but you may still feel hesitant. After all, we pay pastors and missionaries to preach the gospel and “evangelist” is one of those gifts mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 – a gift given only to some of God’s people.
The truth of the matter is that there is a big difference between being called as an “evangelist” and being called to “evangelize”. While God may not have commissioned you to go out looking for opportunities to share Christ, you have certainly been called to share Him with those who find you. In Matthew 28:19-20, the passage frequently referred to as “The Great Commission”, Jesus commands:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

The indication of the Greek text is that this wasn’t Christ’s command to that specific group of disciples, but to all of His disciples for all time. And, while you may not have been called into the mission field, unless you’ve secluded yourself in a compound in the Sahara, you’ve already fulfilled the “Go” part of the commission. You’re in the world day in and day out, encountering it through work, your hobbies, or your school. You “go” into the world to buy groceries and attend meetings. You “go” into the world when you attend a sporting event or take an aerobics class. You “go” into the world when you leave the house to see a movie, get to a doctor’s appointment, attend a class, or meet your friends at the mall.

Being in the world, however is just the beginning. Jesus, praying to His Father in John, chapter seventeen, says that once we belong to Him, though in the world, are no longer of the world. This is where the command to “teach” comes into play… and surprisingly enough, teaching doesn’t always involve words. The apostle admonishes us in 1 Peter 2:12 that we should:

“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Jesus told us that:

“Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.” (Luke 8:16)

While the Bible does not teach Salvation through works, it does teach that those who truly know Christ will serve Him. It is an act of love, our show of appreciation for the gift that He has already given us. (John 14:15) If you are a Christian, the life you live will reflect that and it is through this service that others will be attracted to Him. And those who are attracted are bound to ask questions. On such occasions, it is our charge to, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the

hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15) And this is evangelism. You’ve heard the call correctly. Now it’s time to act upon it!

Head in the Battle, Eyes on the Ball

16 Mar

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a good look at how Satan pits us, as Christians, against the wrong enemy. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only distraction that he uses. Take a moment to imagine yourself in a desert. Shells are exploding all around you and soldiers are running towards the battle. Cries pierce the hot air and the scream of rockets can be heard in the distance. In the midst of the chaos, the sulfur smoke, and the rata-tat-tat of machine gun fire, one officer stands alone. His rifle leaned casually against his leg, his attention is fully focused on his cell phone. You watch for a moment, wondering if he’s contacting command, only to suddenly realize that he’s fully absorbed in a game of “Raging Fowls”.

Change of scene. It’s the biggest game of the season. The stands are packed with spectators and, with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Central High is down by three points. Sneakers squeaking against the surface of the court, you dodge to your to your left and make an intercept at the foul line. Without thinking twice, you pass the ball to Dusty Hoffman, the team all-star. At six foot-two, with his well-toned muscles and short-cropped hair, he looks every bit the part. Dusty grabs the ball mid-air, dribbles twice, lines up the shot, then stands up straight, smiles, and waves to the cheerleader he’s been dating… and the buzzer sounds.

Ridiculous, right? Maybe not. When Satan can’t successfully pit us against the wrong enemy, he’s forced to rely on other means to try to draw our attention away from the battle altogether. Paul warns of this in 2 Timothy 2:1-4:

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”

Sadly, it is the “affairs of everyday life” that most frequently result in one of God’s soldiers being taken out of the battle. Just like the officer and his video game or Dusty and his girlfriend, Satan’s goal is to get us so tied up in the trivial that we simply don’t have the time to focus on the war raging around us. Contests for popularity at school or work, the fight for the best wardrobe, the newest car, the most amazing gaming system, or that coveted football scholarship can all be used to the enemy’s benefit.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, the apostle commands:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

A winning race is a focused one, so stay alert! Keep your head in the battle and your eyes on the ball!

It’s Still Like Driving a Car

9 Mar

No fear, no problem? Maybe not! The second way in which Christians frequently respond to unbiblical attitudes and actions is to attempt to correct the behaviors that are making us uncomfortable. Since these sinful habits make God “uncomfortable” as well, we stand with great boldness and proclaim to our unsaved audience how they ought not be getting drunk, sleeping around, or filching pens from the company cupboard. With great authority, we quote the Scripture which supports our position, forgetting that not everyone accepts the Bible as the perfect and infallible Word of God. And all in the hope that our unbelieving friends, classmates, and coworkers will clean up their acts just enough to make us comfortable sharing the message that God love us enough to forgive all of our sins.

The difficulty with this approach (aside from the clear logical disconnect between our efforts to “clean up” the behavior of others and the message that God, Alone, is equipped to deal with sin) is that it sees the Believer’s comfort as being more important than the unbeliever’s soul. Again, Satan has successfully drawn our attention away from Christ’s objective.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that:

“… we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:3-5)

Indeed, though it is sometimes difficult or uncomfortable to spend time with those whose lifestyle and upbringing differ from our own, sin is sin. It always has been. It always will be. By permitting Satan to magnify the sins of others and by actively minimizing our own sin, we lose our perspective, our focus, and the opportunity to share the Good News of the Gospel. In short, we lose the battle. And that isn’t what God put us here to do!

I eventually learned to keep my eyes on the road. Today, my driving skill is sufficient to prevent me from causing an accident by unintentionally wandering into the mailboxes which line my path. Likewise, by following the Apostle’s advice to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus” we are guaranteed that both our lives and our Gospel dialogues will stay on track. And that puts us well on our way to accomplishing God’s purpose for us in our homes, our schools, and our places of employment!

6 Mar

CNN Belief Blog

Editor’s note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation and author of “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.” You can follow him on Twitter @larrytaunton.

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN) — Jesus isn’t up for re-election this year. He’s an uncontested incumbent of sorts.

But that hasn’t stopped presidential candidates from claiming his endorsement and hoping to ride his royal robe into the White House. They invoke his name to summon votes the way his Apostles once used it to make the lame walk and the blind see. They try to, anyway.

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It’s Like Driving a Car

2 Mar

I’ll never forget my first “Driver’s Ed” experience. Barreling down the street at an excessive 20 mph, my knuckles white with fear as I attempted (just barely) to keep the car on the road. Images of my early years on a bicycle flashed through my mind, leaving me to wince every time the vehicle passed a mailbox. These menaces of the pavement seemed no less a threat now that I was surrounded by half a ton of metal and, in my head, I could see myself careening headlong into them, leaving a trail of destruction in my wake.

“What are you looking at?” my instructor asked, grabbing the wheel and steering me back towards the road.

“The mailboxes,” I replied, sheepishly avoiding his gaze.

He pointed, drawing my attention back towards the road. “Don’t. The car will go wherever your eyes focus. So focus on where you want the car to go.”

The advice was sound and applies as readily to the Christian walk as it does to driving a vehicle: our lives (and our Gospel dialogues) will always head in the direction of our focus. If our focus mirrors Paul’s instruction to the Hebrews to, “[fix] our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), we’ll do just fine. But if it doesn’t… watch out!!

It shouldn’t surprise us that one of Satan’s favorite “distraction” tactics is to repeatedly draw our attention away from Christ by shifting our focus to the evil which surrounds us. And, like the mailboxes lining the road, that evil often lies very near to the path which we ought to be traveling.

You’ve probably already experienced this particular distraction at least once or twice when dealing with someone who’s behavioral patterns are very visibly in contradiction to Scripture. Perhaps they boast of their sexual conquests, swear every third word, or participate in the occult. For most Christians, consistent exposure to sin is distinctly uncomfortable and it is easy for us to begin focusing so much on the sin that we lose sight of both the sinner and the Christ who offers them Salvation! The results are almost inevitably disastrous!

In order to eliminate their discomfort, many Believers will simply run from the awkward person or situation. We generally justify this as “fleeing sin”, however, if fleeing sin means that we have nothing to do with anything that is tainted by it, we’d better flee from ourselves as well! Sin is a part of the world we live in and will be until the end of time, so running from anything and everything that displays this unfortunate reality won’t do us much good… and it definitely won’t result in opportunities to share the Good News with lost souls! Paul’s reminder to Timothy is just as valid for us as it was for him:

“…God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The truth is, we have no reason to fear, even when those whom we encounter seem to be very directly within Satan’s clutches.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

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