Tag Archives: Evangelism

A Spiritual Bucket List.

Thousands of people created a bucket list following the release of the 2007 hit movie by the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. For those unfamiliar with the film, the bucket list represented a collection of activities and experiences two terminally ill characters wanted to enjoy before their pending deaths. Only the most extreme, adventurous, and extraordinary undertakings made the list; nothing was run-of-the-mill.

For example, they don’t just visit the Great Wall of China; they ride motorcycles on it. They don’t just visit historical sites of local significance; they travel to India and Egypt to admire the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids. They don’t settle for visiting a regional peak to climb; they journey to the base of Mount Everest. I could go on but you get the point.

Imagine how much we could impact our communities, nation, and world, if Christians pursued a similar exercise with our faith – a spiritual bucket list, if you will. Only distinctly Christian activities would qualify – those that draw us closer to Christ, advance His kingdom, or fulfill His will. Similar to activities on the secular bucket list, these undertakings would require a significant commitment of time and resources, and involve a degree of adventure, discipline, and courage. Such a process would certainly stretch our faith.

Of course, you should pray for God’s guidance as you create the list. In fact, this exercise might open your heart and eyes to an assignment (or two) God has communicated in the past but you were too busy or distracted to hear. Here are ten possibilities to stimulate your creative juices and ignite your imagination. No doubt readers will think of hundreds more.

1) Memorize an entire chapter of the Bible.

2) Worship with believers in an under-developed country.

3) Spend one summer of your retirement volunteering with an organization that fulfills the Great Commission or meets basic human needs.

4) Start an orphanage overseas.

5) Throw a lavish dinner for the homeless and destitute in your community. Make it an annual event.

6) Share the good news of Jesus with one thousand people and follow-up with them to answer questions and offer encouragement.

7) Fast one day a week on behalf of the persecuted church, an unreached people group, or for revival in this country.

8) Spend your vacation in an area hostile to Christianity and encourage local believers with your presence.

9) Donate twenty percent of your 401(k) this year to fund evangelism efforts in places where Christ’s love and sacrifice are unknown. Then travel to those places and participate in the sponsored activities.

10) Shift careers to work for a Christian or non-profit organization in desperate need of your God-given talents.

Take time this week to begin creating your spiritual bucket list. Add to the list as the Lord lays on your heart more extraordinary activities and assignments. Put the list in a conspicuous place to keep it top of mind. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Act with the same urgency the characters in the movie did to fulfill each item on their list. And don’t be afraid to include activities that seem too enormous, ridiculous, or farfetched. Those are exactly the types of undertakings God honors.

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Sharing Christ in Face of Opposition.

A friend recently shared the story of a local college coach having a profound impact on campus by sharing the gospel with many of the students he encounters each day. On hearing this, another friend expressed surprise the school’s administration hadn’t prohibited the man from sharing his faith with others or manufactured an excuse to terminate him, since their hostility to Christianity was well established. I couldn’t help recall a sequence of events in Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated why leadership at this college had failed to prevent the spread of the gospel.

The apostle John tells us that after Christ healed a crippled man, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. Then Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18, NKJV).

A short time later Jesus upbraids the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and declares Himself sent from God, infuriating the Pharisees so much “They sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him.” Despite their visceral hatred for Christ and desire to slaughter Him, the Pharisees do nothing, as if prevented by a hidden hand.

On another occasion these religious charlatans are enraged by the crowd’s reaction to Jesus who “believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (John 7:30-31). Their response prompted immediate action from Jewish leaders. John explains. “When the Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Christ, they and the chief priests sent officers to take Him” (verse 32). But nothing came of their effort. “The officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man’” (John 7:45-46).

After another encounter in which Jesus announced that “before Abraham was, I AM,” the Jews “took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:58b-59, NKJV).

A short time later Jewish leaders demand of Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In response, He informs them, “I give My followers eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-29, NKJV).

That He claimed to offer eternal life was bad enough for the Pharisees and priests, but His assertion that He and God were one was outright blasphemy. John notes that the Jews sought to seize and stone Him but He managed to evade their evil intentions. (See John 8:22-39).

Time and again this pattern is repeated throughout His ministry. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself, the Pharisees take offense and try to harm or detain Him, and Christ escapes unscathed. How is this possible? How could the chief priests constantly fail in their efforts to eliminate Jesus and end His burgeoning ministry?

John offers this insight: “His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). God had established a time for Jesus’ life to end and His earthly ministry to come to a close. Until that time arrived, nothing could prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose. No amount of scheming or intimidation could undermine His work. All efforts to arrest, incarcerate, or harm Him were destined to fail. Until, that is, His hour arrived. At that time the Jewish leaders would succeed in stopping His ministry and ending His life.

Have those antagonistic to the gospel ever threatened you harm? Ever encountered hostility when sharing Jesus’ good news with others? Do those in positions of power try to terrorize, bully, or shame you into silence about Christ’s love? Has vitriolic opposition to biblical truth paralyzed you from speaking boldly for Christ?

If so, take heart that such efforts will never come to fruition outside of God’s timing. God will prevent the wicked from undermining the fruitfulness of your obedience until your hour has come. Armed with that confidence, I encourage you to preach, proclaim, and share the truth and love of Christ with boldness and conviction.

Proudly Proclaiming Christ.

Have you ever been embarrassed to divulge a friendship, share your family heritage, or admit your affiliation with a group? If you’re like the majority of people, you probably haven’t. Most of us speak favorably of our lineage and those we associate with, and are unwilling to allow anyone to diminish that pride. We tend to be intensely loyal to those who share our bloodlines, our memories, and our confidences.

You might think Jesus enjoyed such fidelity from His followers; that they spoke of Him in glowing terms. But surprisingly some expressed shame towards Him, unwilling to admit publically their relationship. In his gospel narrative the apostle John recounts this dichotomy. “Among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43, NKJV).

A few verses earlier John notes that although Jesus performed many signs the crowds did not believe in Him. In contrast, many in the ruling class believed Him but refused to express that belief openly for fear of the Pharisees. They didn’t want to sully their status or ruin their reputation because they cherished others’ approval more than Christ’s. So they concealed their faith in Jesus.

This may not seem like a big deal but Jesus addresses such inconsistency using stark and troubling language. “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, NKJV). It is not enough to simply ‘believe’ in Jesus. He expects us to proudly proclaim Him and align ourselves with Him without compunction.

On a separate occasion Jesus declares, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33, NKJV).

With those powerful words as a backdrop, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you ashamed to confess Christ within your circle of friends?
  • Do you withhold your faith from those at work for fear it will cost you a promotion, compromise your career, or yield ridicule from colleagues?
  • Do you speak up for godliness and biblical standards when discussing cultural trends and pop culture with non-believers, or do you hold your tongue to avoid being labeled a religious radical?
  • Do you share your faith with those around you even when they indicate hostility toward the name of Jesus?

If your answers reveal an embarrassment for Christ or your faith, ask yourself why. What’s keeping you from openly and enthusiastically sharing the good news of Jesus with the people God has brought into your life?

  • Is it fear? Then take to heart this truth: “God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity but of power and boldness.”
  • Is it a feeling of inadequacy? Then embrace this advice from Christ: “Do not worry what you will say in that day. The Spirit will guide you and give you the words to speak.”
  • Is it because other priorities demand your silence? Then listen to this warning from Christ. “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

There are billions of people in the world today in desperate need of the Savior. But how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? (See Romans 10:15). They cannot unless we obey Jesus and fulfill the Great Commission by boldly teaching the message of Christ and unashamedly making disciples of others.

So let’s remember Jesus’ prescient message regarding the overwhelming spiritual needs that exist in the world today. “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest sends out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38, NKJV).

As you go into this weekend ask the Lord for an opportunity to share your faith with someone: family, friend, or stranger. Then be alert for opportunities to appear. As you capitalize on them you’ll develop the habit of proudly proclaiming your faith to people around you and join the ranks of those laboring in the fields for the Lord. What an awesome honor.

Faith Lessons from the NFL.

With the NFL Conference Championships now concluded and the Super Bowl only a week away, what an appropriate time to explore what Christians can learn from the NFL, in particular the Seattle Seahawks historical comeback against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. While any comparison between sport and faith is tenuous, the dramatic outcome of that game represents an ideal metaphor for understanding several truths from Scripture. Here are three important spiritual lessons gleaned from that memorable game.

1] For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required. Jesus spoke these words about faithful stewards in a parable to His disciples (see Luke 12:48). In football, those players in whom the team invests the most resources (largest contract) ought to have the biggest impact on the game. In Sunday’s match-up Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback with the biggest team contract, was expected to be the playmaker who delivered a victory for his team. Instead, his lackluster performance contributed more to the team’s loss than any Packers player, evidenced by the abysmal six points off of five defensive turnovers.

Similarly, those believers whom God has given the most are expected to faithfully steward those resources for His Kingdom. Sadly, this truth has been lost on many of us – corporately as a church and individually as believers. Blessed with incredible wealth the church regularly chooses to direct a vast majority of God’s resources on beautiful buildings and programs that often have a tangential relationship to the gospel, all the while neglecting the biggest need of all: taking the gospel to the entire world. Most churches spend less than ten percent on global ministries and bringing the Good News to people who have never heard of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy.

Not surprisingly, many churchgoers adopt this model in their own lives and with their own resources, refusing to tithe or giving very little as a percentage of their income. Like the church, they direct nearly all their income on themselves, acquiring more and nicer stuff, and pampering themselves with luxury and comfort. That mindset has infected the church so severely it is destroying it from within and is representative of the unwise and unfaithful steward. We would do well to reevaluate how we employ God’s resources and make sure we use them to proclaim His message of hope, love, and forgiveness locally and abroad.

2] Everyone plays a role, so be ready. The play that turned everything around for the Seahawks was a fake field goal in the fourth quarter. The placeholder scrambled to his left and floated a wobbly pass twenty yards downfield to a wide-open third-string tight end who had not caught a pass all year. The two players perhaps least likely to connect on a passing touchdown had a tremendous impact on the game. Without them executing that play the comeback never begins.

Similarly, God has a plan for each of us no matter how insignificant we seem. He wants us involved in His game plan not sitting on the sidelines offering excuses for why we are not impacting the world. Are you sitting on the bench with regards to your faith? Do you remain silent about your faith when talking with friends, family, and work colleagues? Are you disengaged from sharing God’s love with the marginalized, destitute, and haters in your community? It’s time to get in the game and make a difference. Paul tells us to be prepared at all times to share the gospel with others (2 Tim 4:2). Are you prepared? Do you act on that preparation? You need not be a pastor, eloquent speaker, admired author, or engaging extrovert to have a substantive impact for Christ and His Kingdom. You need only have a servant’s heart, a willing spirit, and an authentic love for the Lord. Ask Him to reveal opportunities to serve, love, and teach others in His name. He’ll answer your prayer and soon you’ll be making a real contribution.

3] Don’t presume the outcome. This is, perhaps, the most critical lesson of all. With less than three minutes to play in the game nearly every Packers fan believed their team was headed to the Super Bowl. They led by twelve points, which meant the Seahawks needed to score two touchdowns in a game in which it had only managed one touchdown over the first fifty-seven minutes. Fans were probably already booking flights and making hotel reservations so they could see the Super Bowl in person two weeks later. After all, what could go wrong? Well, as Packers fans soon learned, just about everything could, and did, go wrong. The Seahawks pulled off arguably the most impressive last-minute comeback in NFL playoff history and defeated the Packers in overtime. Green Bay fans were devastated. How could something so certain end in such misery? Fortunately, their emotional turmoil will subside as life goes on.

Jesus informed His followers of a similar scenario playing out on the day of His second coming. He explained that many who claim they are Christians and profess Him as Lord will not join Him in heaven (see Matthew 7:21-23). This will come as an unbelievable shock to them. They will protest vigorously and insist He reconsider, reminding Him of all they have done to deserve heaven. However, the absence of a personal, robust, and healthy relationship with Him prevents them from enjoying eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans from last weekend, these men and women are devastated. They, too, were certain of the outcome – that they would spend eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans, they were wrong. Unlike Packers fans, their turmoil does not subside and life does not go on.

Are you a Christian? Do you consider Jesus, Lord? If so, take time to study the Bible regularly and understand His expectations for those who follow Him. Learn who He was, and is, and live according to the pattern He established. Most of all, cultivate a love for Him. Consistently carve out time in your schedule to worship, praise, and serve Him. In the process you will learn what it means to make Him Lord and develop a relationship that precludes you from getting shocked when He returns.