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Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

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The full armor of God is a metaphor. And we must remember it’s for standing (like a palm tree), not advancing into battle. And, in my mind, it works from the inside out. And for the armor to work 100%, it requires me to embrace the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 6:14-17
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The first three aspects of the armor are truth, righteousness and peace.

Like a belt, truth holds the whole thing together. This means my speaking and thinking truth as well as adopting God’s truth. When truth is bent, then the protection has chinks.

The breastplate (not commonly worn in modern times) protects the heart, one of the most vulnerable parts of the body. And how do we protect this heart? With right actions with fairness, honor, justness, and devotion to the One who embodies these traits. This typifies the sowing and reaping principle: we receive back what we give out. And the converse if true. I cannot expect my heart to be protected if I am grieving the Holy Spirit.

The third essential is “gospel of peace.” Why isn’t it just peace? Because it’s the message of peace itself that has the power. It is foundational (like feet) and carries great weight. Peace is an outgrowth (the promise) out of the mysterious work of the Christ. When I walk in peace, I bring peace with me.

The last three pieces of the armor are faith, salvation and the word of God.

Faith is called a shield for good reason, it is literally held up to withstand direct attacks. What’s interesting to me is the use of the verb “extinguish.” This means that faith can actually neutralize or put out fires. This, next to right living & behaviors, is my strongest defense.

Salvation is the description of a state of being. This state comes from my acceptance of Christ as the “head” of my life, the captain, the tactical center. Thus, the helmet is an apt description. Salvation is not about my “doing” anything. I am not to be about head-butting. It’s security.

And lastly, the sword which has been interpreted as the Bible itself and as a result, people have used this understanding as a case for aggressively cutting others with it. People memorize verses and apply them to as many situations as they can, ostensibly to cut through the circumstances. But, I think it can interpreted as the word within that comes directly from the presence of the Holy Spirit. The sword works together with the shield. The sword does not have to be an offensive weapon, it can block and extinguish as well. The word of God is knowledge and wisdom and truth. The circle is complete.

Remember: the goal here is to stand!

So, here I am Lord. Forgive me for lashing out with the sword before the rest of my armor is in place. May standing in truth, righteousness, and peace be my first priority today.

(FD 16)

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Signs and wonders don’t just happen haphazardly. They are a huge responsibility: heady stuff to experience a miracle (either on the receiving end or the giving end). Can you imagine being the conduit for one? Or have we grown cavalier about it?

Romans 15:19
[Even as my preaching has been accompanied] with the power of signs and wonders, [and all of it] by the power of the Holy Spirit. [The result is] that starting from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel [faithfully executing, accomplishing, carrying out to the full the good news] of Christ (the Messiah) in its entirety.
[Amplified]

Fortunately, Paul understood and was intimately acquainted with the source of power. He knew and trusted the Holy Spirit to do what was needed for the sake of another every time. Every sign, every wonder, and every miracle was a focused expression of God. Paul was just the hands and feet to bring that miracle to the right moment in time.

I have often wondered what it would be like to be used in the healing ministry. Initially, it sounds fantastic, to lay hands or pray for someone and then witness that person’s healing or recovery. But a trap is in not respecting the full source of the power. Except for Jesus, a healer is nothing but a vessel that has learned to pour out pristine force. But how does one keep the pour untainted? How do I avoid tampering with the flow, adding my own hopes, desires, and interpretations? How do I keep myself from holding back a small trickle for myself? How do I avoid pride and uber-confidence?

In my earlier years, I would lay hands quickly, ready to give that miracle-working stuff a chance to operate. Looking back, I see it was too much about me and not enough about the other. I am not so quick today. I sense a greater responsibility in praying for another. There must be faithfulness to the moment and connection to the source. I must be transparent and authentic. I must be clear.

Prayer is serious business. Let me not be casual about it again Lord. Every prayer is an opportunity for signs and wonders. Every prayer can be direct contact with the greatest power of the universe.

And with that in mind, I think about Paul when he commands us to “pray without ceasing” [I Thessalonians 5:17]. Accordingly, we must have the ability to be in continual contact with the Source, not just saying a lot of prayers out loud or repeating affirmations, but a genuine unity of spirit, connection, mindfulness, and awareness.

That’s the first miracle . . . and it happens within.

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One thing really gets my goat at home: not being heard. The kids tune me out and apparently, they do the same thing at school (What test? What homework? etc.). My husband is in his own world and even the dogs tune me out. Is it the messenger?

Romans 10:17
So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself)
[Amplified]

These verses of Romans 10 are often used to support the need for missionaries around the world. After all, they say, someone must go to preach the message, the good news, to all those unbelievers.

But the hearing part is just as essential to the equation. Why don’t people hear? Are they unready to hear? Is the message unclear or poorly presented? Is the message given in love or draped in fear?

Over the years, the messengers (ministers, preachers, missionaries, evangelists) have wrapped the good news into a variety of packages. As a result, we now have the “four spiritual laws,” Evangelism Explosion, Billy Graham Crusade, Seeker-sensitivity, Christian infotainment, Veggie Tales, contemporary, rock, and even hip-hop music, along with movies and multi-media, to name a few. All of these were created to make the “message that came from the lips of Christ” accessible.

But is it really all necessary? Have we possibly diluted the message? Or, have we lost the simplicity of the message?

Jesus came with a story. He spoke it and they listened. We do a greater service to the message of God if we simply tell our story as well. The story of God touching my life cannot be argued. I lived it, I walked it, and it’s mine.

People don’t usually tune out story unless it sounds false.When speaking the story of Christ touching me, it is important to be truthful and transparent. Truth resonates.

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Each day has an abundance of bad choices, wrong steps, hurt feelings, and ill temper. If my sins were collected in bottles, I’d have a case of them in no time at all. This is why I am so grateful for a faith that offers an abundance of grace (unmerited favor, spiritual blessing, and mercy [Amplified]).

Acts 20:24b
“…if only I [Paul] may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

The people of Paul’s time were equally downtrodden with the burdens of their day. For the Jews, it was the codified law that had become a heavy weight around their necks. There was no way to follow and meet the standards of that law. For the non-Jews who believed in Yahweh (and thereby, one God), there was this overwhelming sense of being on the “outside” of the whole truth, stepchildren of the faithful. And for those who had walked away from God, there was no hope of redemption at all.

This was the message of grace that Paul offered to everyone he met: accept Jesus as the Messiah and find freedom in his rabbi’s yoke.

Some fear this emphasis on grace and have coined the appropriation of God’s Grace when applied everything and everyone as “cheap grace” particularly when a person calls on grace to cover ongoing and willful sins or bad behaviors. But, if grace belongs to God, then it is God who ultimately sorts out the application of His love to a person’s circumstances or human troubles.

My job, like Paul’s, is to tell the story of God’s Grace in my life. I cannot know how grace will feel or look in the life of another. But I do know, on the day that Grace covered me, I was made new. Where there had been no hope, there was hope. Where there had been disillusionment and fear, there was confidence and peace. Where there had been deep sorrows, there was a possibility for joy.

And so it goes each day, I pour out my bottle of sins and grievances into the hands of Christ and He has me drink instead from the cup of his mercy.

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