Archive | May, 2012

JAARS

28 May

When you think of the word “missionary”, you probably see images of dedicated, hard-working pastors and evangelists who spend their time bringing the Gospel to people who have never heard the message of God’s love.  What you probably don’t see, however, are the many people without whom such endeavors would be impossible.  That’s why, this week, we’re featuring the work of JAARS, the part of the Wycliffe family of partners that is responsible for ensuring that the missionaries and Bible translators in the field receive the equipment and support necessary to get the job done.

Formed in 1948 with the express purpose of providing aviation support for Wycliffe missionaries, today JAARS provides a wide range of support services including (but not limited to) IT technology, education, vehicle and facility maintenance, creation of recruitment and evangelism materials, and more!

Visit the JAARS website and you’ll find some great ways to be involved.  Commit to pray daily for missions support workers, volunteer to serve as an advocate by helping to cultivate a passion for missions in others, or help finance a special project providing Audio Scripture Players for native speakers who have yet to learn to read or a ferry boat to help missionaries travel more safely to and from their destinations.  There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, so take a look and make a difference!

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The Two Minute Relationship: The Life of a Servant

25 May

Over the last few weeks, we’ve examined “What’s in a Name”, discussed the importance of taking the time to “Ask, Listen, and Observe”, and looked at the value of taking the time to “Relate” to those around us.  Before we dive into a discussion about how best to use these techniques as a springboard to a Gospel presentation, however, there is one more important element to discuss: the importance of living the life of a servant.

This falls into the silent witness category and, for many Christians, is the number one easiest way to begin a discussion.  While we can’t expect our actions alone to explain that Jesus saves, our actions can spark interest from the people around us.  And they may even cause them to ask us why we live the way we do!  Living the life of a servant isn’t always easy, so here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction:

Don’t be in a hurry.  It can be easy to get so caught up in finishing our grocery shopping or getting to that hot rock concert that we miss opportunities to be a Biblical servant.  Always be ready and willing to help someone in need, whether it’s the lady with three kids and a cart full of groceries who just can’t quite lift that bag of dog food or the boss who is crunched for a deadline.

Yes, this means that we need to carefully evaluate our own commitments.  It’s wonderful to be regularly involved in the life of your congregation, but it’s also easy to become so involved that we spend more time doing things for God than being available for Him to work through us!  And the same goes for every one of our other commitments.  Whenever something other than God begins to take over our lives, we need to stop and reevaluate.  Keep your schedule free and flexible and see what wonders God will perform!

Don’t wait to be asked.  If you see someone struggling to meet a need and you have the time and means to help, then do!  A single act of unsolicited kindness may be enough to form a relationship with someone who has experienced very little kindness in their life.  And repeated acts of kindness can help soften even the hardest of hearts.

Always be ready.  1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  And Colossians 3:23 commands, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  This may, perhaps, be the greatest witness of all.  Everything you do and every interest you have can bring glory to God, even if it does so indirectly.  No hobby, sport, club, association, or after school activity comes without opportunities to live a life of service towards others.

A friend of mine used to play his guitar in a bagel shop every Saturday.  I’m aware that some Christians would not have considered this appropriate since, for the hour that he was there, he never once sang a Gospel song.  The name of Christ never exited his mouth.  He could have been doing dozens of other things, but instead, he was serving others through his music. Afterwards, people would come up to him and ask him why he did what he did.  You can be sure that his answer was all about Jesus!

Not every interest or hobby we have is going to show a direct connection to sharing God’s message, but each one provides us with an opportunity to relate to our fellow human beings. Remember that God created you a unique person and your interests and skills give you an opportunity to reach out in service to those who otherwise might never see the Gospel message in action!

World Vision

21 May

What’s it like to be hungry?  This last week, the youth in my church found out as we participated in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine.  While our hunger was temporary, the absence of nourishing food is a way of life for over 925 million people worldwide, leading to the death of one child from hunger or hunger-related causes every 12 seconds.  To put that in perspective, at least one child lost their life in just the time that it took you to read this paragraph.

World Vision wants to see these statistics change and is teaming up with people like you and me to make it happen.  Check out the Advocacy Center to find out how you can make a difference by hosting a poverty meal or leading a campaign to fight hunger in your own community.  Join the college Activism Network and get involved by raising hunger awareness amongst your family and friends.  Or, if you have some spare change lying around, you may even consider funding a livestock gift, a clean water project, or even sponsoring a child.  There are plenty of ways to make a difference, so take the time to explore the site and discover which ones are right for you!

The Two Minute Relationship: Relate

18 May

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the question “What’s in a Name” and dealt with the importance of taking the time to “Ask, Listen, and Observe”.  This week, we’ll be taking the art of the Two Minute Relationship a step further as we consider the importance not only of showing an interest in those whom we meet, but in taking the time to relate to them, ourselves.

I have often speculated that one of the many reasons God does not make us perfect (at least our vision of perfect) upon our acceptance of Christ is that, in many cases, perfect people are entirely unrelatable.  Think about it for a minute – how often do you pick up a book, only to put it down again when you realize that the author (or his characters) have nothing in common with you – no similar experiences, no shared struggles or triumphs.  You may even feel that you were born on separate planets!  Unfortunately, Christians often try so hard to “have a good testimony” that they cover up the commonalities between their lives and the lives of those who surround them and, as a result, they fail to have any testimony at all.  While, ideally, we shouldn’t handle our life experiences the same way we did before we knew God, we still have the same types of experiences that everyone else does.  Want to see someone loosen up and open themselves to a great conversation?  Take the time to show them (not just tell them) that you have some common ground!

One of the best ways to do this is through telling a good, clean joke.  Humor spans every form of human condition and telling a joke is a quick way to dispel the misconception that Christians are all serious all the time – in other words, it’s an ice-breaker.  God didn’t create humans just so we could spend our lives suffering the effects of an unjust universe and not everyone claiming the name of Christ has a persecution complex.  Telling a joke lets the person you’re talking to know that you’re human too and can appreciate the lighter side of things.  And, once they know you’re not some extremist whacko planning to take over society and implant everyone with cow brains, folks will be far more willing to engage in honest discussion about other topics.  In the thirty-seconds it takes to make someone laugh, you’ve formed a relational connection upon which you can build.

There’s more to the art of “relating”, however, than just demonstrating your ability to walk on the bright side of life. The truth is, you’re life probably isn’t a dream, or at least it isn’t 100% of the time.  You probably live in a house with people who don’t always see eye-to-eye or have had a teacher who failed you no matter how hard you tried.  You just barely make enough money to pay the bills and you know what it’s like to have a bad day at work.  Just as humor connects us to our fellow men (and women), so do struggle and sorrow.  Sometimes, our willingness to admit this makes the difference between a continuing dialogue and one that gets cut short.  Remember that the appeal of Christianity is not that it changes our world, but that it changes the perspective from which we view that world!  When people see you reacting with peace and joy in circumstances that only drag them down, they’re going to want what you have!

Finally, take the time to pray.  How does this relate to… well… relating?  Think of it this way – if I know you and the two of us have something in common, and I have an absolutely fantastic friend who also understands that commonality, it’s only natural that I’ll want to introduce you.  And that’s exactly what happens when a Christian offers to pray for an unbeliever.  It may sound crazy, but offering to pray for someone is one of the easiest and most inoffensive ways to share the Gospel.  Most people are amazed that someone they’ve never met before would take an interest in bringing them before God.

For a long while, I would offer to pray for people only after they’d jokingly made some comment about it.  (You hear, “Say one for me while you’re down there, will you?” quite a lot when you’re stocking the bottom shelves of a department store!)

The first time that I made the offer on my own was to a lady whose husband was a soldier in an Army National Guard unit which had been called up to fight in Iraq.  We met at a business meeting and I could tell that she was struggling;  trying to take care of the kids on her own, maintain and fix things around the house, and worrying that life might continue to be this way forever.  It was wearing on her.  Afterwards, I asked if I could pray for her and her husband.  Her response was an amazed and grateful yes.

As you go through your week, take the time to ask yourself whether your words and actions express concern and interest.  Do those around you relate to your circumstances?  And when you relate to theirs, do you let them know?  It doesn’t take much to form a relationship, just a genuine, honest, intentional approach – a willingness to let others see you as you really are, not as you wish you were.

Share the Son Ministries

14 May

This week, we’re highlighting a ministry that is very near and dear to my own heart.  During 2010 and the early part of 2011, I had the honor of working as Educational Assistant for Share the Son Ministries, helping Christians learn the cross-cultural techniques necessary to more effectively share their faith with their LDS friends and neighbors.  While I’ve moved on to other opportunities, I’d like to take the opportunity to share this excellent ministry with you.

Visit their website and you’ll find a multitude of resources designed to help you more clearly differentiate between orthodox Christian beliefs and those which are espoused by the LDS Church.  Their “Contrast Brings Clarity” handout compares the two in an easy-to-use, side-by-side manner while the “Rocks” displayed across the top of the page offer a more in depth look.  Want to do some research, yourself?  STS makes that possible, providing you with LDS Doctrine Study Tools direct from the source.  Each link is designed to help Christians gain both confidence and understanding, so the next time the missionaries come knocking at your door, you’ll be ready to give them an answer that demonstrates both gentleness and respect!

The Two Minute Relationship: Ask, Listen, Observe

11 May

Last week, we discussed the question, “What’s in a Name?” One thing can be certain, if you’re looking to develop a meaningful relational connection, taking note of a person’s name is vital – but your efforts shouldn’t end there! If we are to live lives obedient to Christ’s command to “go into the world and preach the Gospel”, we need to be able to address others on a personal level, not a general one. Asking questions (and listening to and remembering a person’s responses) is one of the easiest ways to acquire the information necessary to do so.

This should be reassuring for those of us who find it nerve-wracking even thinking about starting a conversation with a stranger. If there is one thing people enjoy talking about more than other people, it’s themselves. Most people are eager to share their thoughts and feelings and will jump right in if you show even the slightest hint of interest. So here are some suggestions to get the conversation moving:

Try an icebreaker question. “How are you doing today?” is a great start, but keep in mind that this is one of the most misused questions in the English language. Most people can tell from your tone, body language, and your willingness to make eye-contact whether your interest in their day is passing or genuine, so be prepared. If you start with a question like this and it’s clear that you’re genuine, some people will be dead honest and launch right into an explanation of how their wife just left them and they’re living on SpaghettiO’s. In such cases, you’ve achieved exactly the relational connection that you’re seeking right off the bat. Your duty now is to listen carefully and, when appropriate, ask further questions. Don’t neglect this step and resort to repeatedly nodding your head or saying, “uh-huh”, since these habits are good cues that your eyes are about to glaze over! Express continued interest and then wait to see if God opens a door.

At the same time, recognize that some people may not see your overture as a caring question, but as a formality. If this is the case, try asking questions that require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Then listen to what the other person has to say. Sometimes their response to “What do you think of all this rain we’ve had lately?” can give you great insights into their character and outlook on life and will lead to an unexpected opportunity to share the Gospel!

Be open and friendly. Sometimes a simple observation like, “It looks like you’re getting ready for a party” can lead a fellow shopper into a long explanation of how they’re cramming for the holiday because their husband’s family phoned yesterday and told them they would be here this afternoon. An understanding nod and sympathetic smile may go a long way towards a deeper conversation – and with all that stuff in her cart, you can bet she’ll welcome someone to chat with while she waits to be rung out!

Try the same technique with other students in study hall or customers in line at the bank. You’ll find that most people are willing to welcome small (or not so small) talk just about anywhere there’s a queue. It gives us a sense of community and makes the time pass more quickly for all involved.

Don’t push or pry. While most people readily open up when asked to share their personal views, some people don’t. If for some reason you try to start a conversation and the other person just isn’t interested in engaging in a dialogue, don’t push or pry. They might just be having a bad day or they may have noticed your cross and be recalling some negative experiences from the past. Your willingness to let them be might open the door for you or someone else to develop the right sort of relationship with that person at a later date. Not all evangelism is the result of the spoken word!

Showing an interest in another person is a great way to establish a quick relationship and can open up a multitude of opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Give it a try and see how it works. Then, take a moment to share your experiences in the comment box below!

The Gideons International

7 May

Just how much of an effect can the Bible have on individual lives?  Oft times, far more than we imagine!  Since 1899, The Gideons International has been faithfully providing copies of the Scriptures to those who might not otherwise have given God’s Word a second look.  Working in 190 countries around the world, this group of Christian businessmen has distributed more than 1.6 billion copies of the Bible in over 90 languages, influencing the lives of others who, like themselves, often spend as much time in an hotel room as they do at home.  Their Bibles and New Testaments have influenced those in schools, convalescent homes, and prisons; and, with your help, will continue to do so far into the future.

Like most Christian ministries, the work of The Gideons would be impossible if not for the support of ordinary Church members like yourself.  So this week, we encourage you to get involved with bringing God’s Word to people around the world.  Even a few dollars can make a difference between a life with God (and His Word) and a life without Him.  Don’t have any spare cash laying around?  Then commit to pray, both for the men who distribute these Scriptures and for the hearts of those who receive them.  You can make a difference!

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