Speaking the Gospel to each other

I love the reminder our High School classes gave to us a few weeks ago – that the Gospel is for everyone all the time.

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Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to this earth to die for us and to save us from our sin is the greatest news ever. And we must not get tired of sharing it with others. Even to those who already know.

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The Gospel is for everyone. Everyday. May we be in awe of the Good News even after we’ve been living in light of the Good News for years.

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May we be willing to sit down next to someone on a playground or at the break table and share with them the Good News. The life changing truth of God’s love.

So proud of our students for sharing the Gospel with the younger students at our Christian school. Have they heard the Gospel before? Indeed they have. But they heard it again this day from older students who are training to be disciple makers. And just because you attend a Christian school doesn’t mean you’ve engaged in a relationship with Jesus. And so hearing it in different ways, from different people is a good thing.

When’s the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

I’m asking myself that exact same question today.

May we go and tell.

31 Days: Day 31 – At the end of the day

Outreach involves so many aspects and I’ve only haphazardly addressed some of them. But really at the end of the day we’ve got to realize that our obedience to God is what matters. Hopefully it is our love for Jesus that moves us to want to obey him. If our obedience to God comes from any other source: guilt, fear of man, attempt to look good, etc. then it’s in vain and worthless. But when we obey God in love He will show us how to respond to people. He will show us how to love people and serve them. It is not up to us to produce results – only God can do that. We can’t change hearts and move people into complete freedom. Only God can do that but He uses us and at the end of the day when we obey Him we can trust He’s working it all out. We can relax and know that God loves people and His redemptive plan is in effect. It’s only by his grace that we get to be involved in reaching out to others. So friends, let’s rest in the fact that God is doing an amazing work inside of his people and he wants to do it in those around us too. Let’s be willing to be a tool in the hand of God for outreach purposes.

31 Days: Day 30 – Discernment in Outreach

Outreach will indeed call for the need to be wise and discerning. Typically I can discern a true need from the “I’m dressed up to look homeless and asking for money but really I’m just fine” kind of a person. I’ve seen enough of both to recognize the difference. Not every time but generally speaking.

Last night Sophie and I waited in the van while Randy ran into the store to grab something. While we waited a man came to the window and asked if I could “help a homeless man out” (his words).  I’m not sure what got into me – possibly it was being on day 29 of 31 days of writing on outreach or having just meditated on Isa. 58 the day before (all about helping the needy) or what – but I totally fell for this man’s plea. It went like this:

  1. Me: Well, what exactly do you need. Are you hungry?
  2. Man: Yes Ma’am that would be good.
  3. Me: How about Mc Donald’s down the way?
  4. Man: Well I really would rather have a loaf of bread, bologna and some cheese.
  5. Me: Okay, we can get all that inside this store right here. My HUSBAND is on his way out right now.
  6. Man: I really like a certain kind of bologna and they don’t sell it in there. They only sell it at the gas station at __________ (on the other side of the tracks in a bad area of town).
  7. Me: Ummm, well I really think the meat inside this store will be just fine.
  8. Man: I can’t go in there. They’ll think I’m soliciting and I’ll get in trouble. Can you just bring it out to me over there on those steps (in a dark alley).
  9. Me:  (still not clueing in to what was going on) Okay, sure, we can do that.
  10. **Randy comes back to the van.
  11. Me: We need to get that man over there some food. The one in that dark alley.
  12. Randy: What? Why? No, we don’t.
  13. Me: Yes, we really do. He needs it. (I tell him everything the man said)
  14. Randy: I can’t believe you’re falling for this. (Man walks over to van window)
  15. Me: Fine, you tell him we can’t get him any food.
  16. Man: Sir, can you take me to ________ to get a certain kind of bologna?
  17. Randy: No, but what about McDonalds next door?
  18. Man: Well……..ummm…..can you just get it and bring it to me.
  19. Randy: No I don’t think so.

Randy helped me see this dude really was fine. He was preying on suspecting people like ME. I’m usually the last to fall for something like that. Now that I look back on the whole thing I realize how bad the whole thing was. He couldn’t be seen by either store because he’d been there before and had been asked to leave. He wanted a ride to a certain place, in a bad section of town, for a certain kind of food that couldn’t be purchased at any of the normal grocery stores in town. HELLO!!! Wake up Melody.

I hugged and thanked Randy when we got home for helping me see and for protecting us. We’d probably all be dead right now….. with a bag of bologna next to us! Okay, not really.

So yeah, we must be discerning in our responses to people when they ask for food, clothing and shelter. God tells us to provide these things for the needy and the poor but we must rely on His Spirit to help us know who the needy and poor are. Be wise! I’m preaching to the choir.

31 Days: Day 29 – The lady behind the counter

People are hurting all around us. Going through things we have no clue about. When God gives us a glimpse into hurting souls count it a privilege and ask for His guidance in showing His love even to a stranger. It might seem weird, awkward and uncomfortable but it’s worth it. Today I met a lady who was bawling and could hardly get herself together to check me out. I asked her if she was okay and she said she was just having a hard day. Not wanting to be nosey or weird by asking her what was wrong but at the same time feeling so heavy hearted for her I decided to tell her I would pray for her. She thanked me and I decided to shop some more and pray for God to help this woman with whatever she was upset about. About 10 minutes later I went back to the checkout line and she was bent down working on a lower shelf crying her eyes out still. I said, “I want to pray specifically for you if that’s okay. How can I pray for you today?” She said, “This job is so hard. I can’t do it.” I asked if she was new and she said she was. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Have you heard of the verse Phil. 4:13 that says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength? Looking down she shook her head yes. I said, “Look at me (pulled a bossy Mama move on this young girl) You CAN do this job with God’s strength. You’re right that YOU can’t do it on your own. But you CAN do it with Christ’s strength. You say this verse to yourself all day today and you ask God for his strength and He will give it to you.” It was a 45 second conversation that I believe was prompted from the Holy Spirit. I left and I will probably never know how God worked in this girls life today but I know He is. I texted my Mom’s In Prayer group and said I need you girls to pray for ___________ to know that she can do all things through Christ today. They’re all praying for her. God is interceding for her and I am reminded once again that we serve a God who cares about the details of our life.

31 Days: Day 28 – How outreach can provide the breakthrough we all need

I will never forget the night God woke me up to show me Isaiah 58. I still have written in the margin of my Bible, “I was awoken in the night for this.” Is ‘awoken’ even a word? It was on May 5th, 2006. Not sure the significance of the day I just know that God wanted me to see how serious He is about helping the poor and needy.

Isa. 58 contrasts man’s version of fasting with God’s version of fasting. Man is all like, “God, why haven’t you noticed and seen our fasting? We humbled ourselves and you’ve not noticed.” (vs. 3) And God is like, “You do as you please on your day of fasting and it all ends in quarreling and fighting. You can’t fast like that and expect to be heard. Fasting is not just a one day event.” (vs.4)

God explains his version of fasting (vs.6-7) 

  1. Loose the chains of injustice
  2. Set the oppressed free
  3. Share your food with the hungry
  4. Provide the poor wanderer with shelter
  5. Clothe the naked
  6. Don’t turn away from your own flesh and blood

I feel like God’s heart is bent towards the weak, vulnerable and marginalized. My theology tells me he loves us all the same. It also tells me we are all weak and in the same need of God. But somehow I can’t get away from seeing/feeling that there is a very tender place in the heart of God for those who are poor, needy, abused and vulnerable on this earth.

God turned the entire fasting system upside down by laying out his version of fasting which had nothing to do with prayer, food, memorizing or quoting scripture which is what we tend to think of with fasting. Of course there’s a place for that. But it’s extremely interesting that when God uses the term fasting he uses terms like feeding, clothing, sheltering, freeing.

God explains what happens when we participate in his version of fasting (vs. 8-11)

  1. Your light will break forth like the dawn
  2. Your healing will quickly appear
  3. Your righteousness will go before you
  4. The glory of the Lord is your rear guard
  5. You will call and the Lord will answer
  6. He will be there when you call for help
  7. Your light will rise in the darkness
  8. Your night becomes like the noonday

Wow, that’s some pretty powerful rewards for caring for the poor. For providing shelter for the wandering. For freeing those entrapped. For sharing your food. For clothing people. For remaining faithful to your family.

Are you needing a break through in your life? Do you need healing to appear quickly? Do you need to hear from the Lord? Are you longing for light to break up the darkness?

Then consider putting into practice true fasting – the version God lays out in Isaiah 58. It’s well worth the sacrifice. And let’s be honest – it will be a sacrifice. Suddenly giving up rich foods for a few days seems more palatable. But God never calls us to something he won’t equip us for.

Lord, show us how to take care of each other. Strengthen us to do your will. To fast the way you want us to. To love the way you love. We stand in need of you daily.

 

 

 

 

31 Days: Day 27 – Margaret Feinberg shares what NOT to say to someone with cancer.

I love Margaret Feinberg and her way with words, her wisdom and her willingness to share from the middle of where she is. Even when she’s walking through a scary and hard place. As such was her recent bought with breast cancer. Her study “Fight Back with Joy” was a timely and powerful study for me. It ministered to me during one of my most vulnerable times emotionally. I felt like God designed that week’s homework just for me because it so ministered to me. I literally found myself pulling out my homework book and re-reading passages from it. It looks like a highlighter exploded in my book.

Today I found this post she wrote called 5 Things You Should Never Ever Say to Someone with Cancer.  It’s worth the time to read. It fits right along with the things we’ve been talking about the last few days.

 

31 Days: Day 26 – Taking care of the needy

“…Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

There is so much in scripture about taking care of the needy. Sharing food, lending money and defending rights are ways we can show kindness to the needy. We bring honor to God when we do these things. But there’s also another side to taking care of the needy – there is incredible reward for those who obey God’s word in this area and the dividends are amazing. It reveals the heart of God so much because the fruit of taking care of the needy far outweighs the sacrifice that might be involved in it. We’ll look at that tomorrow. But for today let’s know that it is God’s will for us to take care of the needy around us. Let’s not look on them with contempt or judgment.

 

31 Days: Day 25 and I’m about to die – somebody reach out to me!!!!

Ha Ha! I’m half way kidding but not really. I’m about to die here with this daily writing gig but it’s been a good challenge for me personally. With two days notice for this challenge and it falling during an incredibly busy time I’ve had to prayerfully wing it. But thanks for hanging in there with me – all one of you. My hubs maybe. Ha! Ha!

I wanted to share a few pictures today of my brother who came through this weekend while on his way to visit a friend who had cancer surgery in Baltimore. He drove 12 hours (our house was half way) to sit in a waiting room for a few hours to be with the family, pray with them and then head back the next day. Now that’s a ministry of presence. The man he went to see is in his discipleship group from church and they are a close knit group.

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John was able to watch Sophie run in the fund run at school and made Mitchell a bike ramp. The kids love him so much. He’s a fun Uncle and we enjoyed the time with him.

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Love those hats guys!

31 Days: Day 24 – 5 Practical ways to comforting others

When it comes to knowing how to comfort others we can sometimes overthink things. We might be afraid we’ll say the wrong thing so we don’t say anything at all. Or we might draw the conclusion that hurting people need space more than anything and so we don’t show up. But I believe God wants us to be involved in each other’s lives. He wants us to bear each other’s burdens and accoreding to scripture he wants us to comfort others.

5 Practical ways to comforting others:

  1. Show Up.  Just be there.
  2. Don’t feel like you must quote Romans 8:28 to the person grieving. Yes, we know that God works all things out for good….but let’s be careful how we throw that verse out. Timing and tone make a difference. We don’t want to convey a flippant spirit of “Oh it’s all good. You’ll be fine.”
  3. Shut up and dance. Okay, not really but be okay with silence. And tears on your shoulder.
  4. It’s okay to laugh. In fact, timely humor can be a much needed relief.
  5. Pray – it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to others.

Of course there are a million tiny other ways we can comfort others but the things to remember is that God gives us the comfort to share with others.

31 Days: Day 23 – Comforting others as a means of outreach

II Corinthians 1:3-4  – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Isn’t this awesome? According to these verses God comforts us in our affliction. He does this because he loves us but he there’s also another specific reason why he comforts us. It’s in those little words “so that”. He comforts us so that “we can comfort those in any trouble…”

How are we qualified to give comfort to someone else? It’s because we’ve been given comfort from God himself. And so with that very comfort we receive from God we can in turn comfort others.

We can’t help but see God’s love for us as individuals but also for the church in these verses. We are designed to share the comfort we receive from God to others. It’s a way of reaching out and loving others the way God wants us to.

Have you been through a crisis or a painful season of life? Do you remember the comfort God gave you? He might have seemed distant or even absent in those initial moments of tragedy. Perhaps for weeks and months you felt this way. The truth is He was there all along. And as believers and followers of Christ we receive comfort from him in those times. We may feel and see God’s comfort right away and we may not but eventually we will. And when we do we have a beautiful gift to share with others.

Here’s a question for us to think about. How are we using the comfort God has given us to comfort others?

Tomorrow we’ll look at practical ways of comforting others.