How Do I Love Thee?

“Peter, do you love me more than anything, do you choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, of course you’re my best friend.”

“But Peter, do you love me more than anything and choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, I think the world of you.”

“Peter, do you really like me?”

That’s a paraphrase of the last conversation Jesus had with His once bold disciple, Peter. Repeatedly, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him using the word, “agape”. This Greek word refers to perfect love, like God has for us. But Peter hesitated, unsure if he was capable of agape love. So he responded to Jesus using the word “phileo”, the Greek word for the love of a close friendship.

Peter was having a crisis of faith. Just a month earlier he had told Jesus that he loved Him enough to die for Him. Then, everything had gone wrong. Not only had Peter been unable to save His Lord from crucifixion, he lost control of his emotions and actions and denied that he even knew Jesus.

How could he be sure that he really loved Jesus now? How could Jesus love him?

Finally, Peter burst out, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you!”

The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us. Jesus also commanded us to love others as He loves us. God knows us completely. He knows and loves us even when we doubt Him and even when we aren’t sure if our faith is real.

Jesus accepted Peter’s words and said, “Feed my sheep.” With this instruction, He gave Peter the responsibility of accepting that love and sharing it with others.

Do you believe God has agape love for you? Are you sharing it?

first published at http://www.swagga4christ.com

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The Long-term Effects of Evangelism

My husband grew up in Guatemala. He’s not verbose, but I love to hear my mother-in-law tell stories about his younger years.

When he was less than ten years old, he got see monkeys swinging from tree branches. He climbed barefoot up coconut trees and tossed the plump, hairy fruits to the ground. Then squeezing one between his feet, he learned to crack it open and suck out the refreshing milk.

It’s funny how our minds work. Quickly, my thoughts travel from her story to find similarities between it and Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of man.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus body was broken for us (Luke 22:19), just like that coconut. His death, the breaking of His body purchased new life for those who believe in Him. Believers take communion, eat the bread representing His body and drink the wine depicting His blood, and remember His death and resurrection. We receive life and nourishment through Him.

My husband’s family lived in Guatemala for the purpose of evangelism. His dad, a doctor, spent long hours caring for the physically sick. He delivered babies, treated parasites, closed wounds, cleaned infections, pulled teeth and more. My mother-in-law taught the children and ministered to village women through compassion and companionship.

These stories and their related truths came flooding back to me when I read this story from a distributor of The Pocket Testament League’s gospels.

“We recently returned from Guatemala where we used the Spanish version of the Gospel of John to spread the Gospel there. I believe our team distributed nearly 200. We were able to witness to many people using these as well as secure some eternities. It was awesome!”

Sharing the Gospel, evangelism, is so much more than categorical mission work. It’s more than visiting a strange land or learning a new language. It’s more than preaching. It’s even more than providing medical care and basic necessities. Sharing Jesus creates sisters and brothers; it demolishes cultural lines and physical differences.

Today, my husband’s family stays in touch with many of the people they served in Guatemala as well as some of the missionaries they served alongside. They made

life-time friends, and more than that, eternal friends.

Sometimes, a missionary or evangelist never gets to see the fruits of their labor. Also, many times, like my husband’s family, they have to move on and leave behind those they led to Jesus. But that’s what I love about Jesus: Everything He does is perfect and eternal.

The relationship that began with a Gospel from The Pocket Testament League, or the friendship that began over a shared, delicious coconut, or one that started when a doctor treated a broken arm – these relationships are eternal. They take the living water that Jesus gave and offer it to others, refreshing them too.

The love that Jesus showed to us is irresistible. We must, as believers, live intentionally to share that love with others, both practically and verbally. The reward is limitless. First, we receive the privilege of obedience to God.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

Second, sharing the Gospel creates deep, satisfying, lasting friendships, those who can be counted upon to pray for us, encourage us and hold us accountable. The apostle Paul said of Timothy, a young man whom he very likely led to Christ:

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” Phil. 2:19-22

Lastly, the more that we speak of Jesus, the closer we draw to Him and the more intimately we know Him and He will make our joy complete. (John 16:24)

Please visit The Pocket Testament League for resources to help you boldly share your faith.

Furry Evangelism, and a New Resource

Romans 10:17 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Believers must be courageous to tell everyone about our savior Jesus Christ. However, for most Christians, evangelism is arguably the most intimidating aspect of our faith.

Where to begin? How not to offend? 

What if they reject me?

How do I explain the Gospel concisely and accurately?

What if they ask a question I cannot answer?

I know all of these fears often invade my mind and literally paralyze my tongue when the opportunity to share the love of Jesus is presented. A few of these opportunities have arisen when I take my therapy dog to visit the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.

Then, I read this story, “We provide these gospels of John to patients we visit as part of the Canines for Christ therapy dog ministry.”

I immediately sat down and ordered copies of Forever Faithful, through the Pocket Testament League.

My dog is a comforter to numerous hurting people. I hadn’t considered that he can act as a comforter and help to calm my own nerves as I share the Gospel.

Then I read this story, “I plan on reaching out to the people and children this Christmas season. There are children in my area that come to see my puppy Nemo. This dog alone is a key to ministering to the children in my area. Looking forward to doing this for my Lord.”

The story brought to mind my former neighbor’s young children who often came over to “borrow” my dog. He ran up and down the yard beside them as they played hide-n-seek, tag football or red rover. The next summer, the relationship that began withheir interest in my cute, little dog deepened and their parents allowed me to take them to vacation Bible school at my church. I had no idea that my dog was such a wonderful evangelism tool!

My husband is in the military and we move frequently. At our next duty station, I met my neighbor, Sally, when our dogs became buddies at the dog park. We sat on benches and talked while the dogs played.

Sally was an atheist. However, the simplicity of our canines’ friendship, seemed to give us enough common ground to continue the friendship. Slowly, we began to spend more and more time together and to share more intimate thoughts. By the time we moved, Sally had not accepted Jesus as her savior, but I know that the seeds were planted and that her heart was yearning for the deep relationship and security that only comes from knowing Him.

The Bible testifies that creation speaks the glory of God. “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next. No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; let their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 19:1-4

Even my dog is an instrument to share the truth of God’s word.

The prospect of sharing my faith still scares me. I still fumble for words at just the right time and wonder later if I said the right thing. But giving someone a gospel from the Pocket Testament League reminds me that God’s word will never return void. The reader will hear from the very lips of Jesus just how much He loves them and that He has offered them salvation through His death and resurrection.

I highly recommend checking out Pocket Testament League as a tool for sharing your faith.

2012-10-31 22.01.03

Good For Explaining the Good News

Foundational, mind-boggling principles becoming clear.

Have you ever found yourself in such a conundrum: Someone you dearly love and long to share eternity with has questioned your faith?

Well, um… I believe that Jesus died for my sins. He was buried and rose again. Now he lives eternally, and as my sins have been paid for, I can spend eternity with him in heaven.

“Well, that’s just great,” they rejoin, “but what is true faith? Why do you call God ‘Father’ and why does a God who loves me let bad things happen to me?”

I distinctly recall being in that position about seven years ago. I worked with one of my best friends. I’ll call her Kelly. Kelly was never hostile to my faith, in fact she was genuinely curious. But she never lobbed easy questions at me. Whenever work was slow, we’d be organizing and checking dates on millions of supplement bottles (we worked at GNC) and she would begin asking the tough questions. Kelly wanted to know all about the Trinity. She wanted to know why Jesus had to die. She wanted to know if God really listened to and answered prayer. She wanted to know if he offered peace of mind concerning her husband who was currently deployed. Kelly wondered what made Jesus of the Bible any different from the founders of other religions.

I did my best to answer her questions. I remember going home at night and calling my mom tearfully. “What if I don’t have the right answer? I know what I believe, but how do I explain it?” Praise our good and loving God. He had already marked Kelly with his name. Despite my bumbling answers, two years later, Kelly called me with explosive enthusiasm. “I’m getting baptized tomorrow! I accepted Jesus as my savior! I know I’m going to heaven.” Convictingly, since that day, I have had to humbly accept rebuke, training, teaching and affirmation from this once baby Christian. Kelly has found the Bible to be the living source of nourishment that God promises His word is. She as grown like a tree firmly planted by streams of water and has borne much fruit.

As I have slowly plowed through Kevin DeYoung’s book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot” I have unearthed a wonderful resource for sharing my faith. DeYoung is a compelling author, making even potentially dry subjects seem humorous and interesting. However, I don’t recommend simply handing the book to your questioning friends and expecting the proverbial lightbulb to blink above their head. As a historic Christian document, the catechism employees many terms specific to the Christian faith. The questions themselves are pretty heady.

Perhaps the best use of the book is personal. A Christian (speaking to myself) has no business attempting to explain the good news of the Gospel, if he has lost its wonder in his own heart and mind. Read to remember. Remember that…

True faith is not only knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in Scripture is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world.

That I am not my own, but belong –  body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

These are just snippets of answers offered in the catechism and expounded upon my DeYoung. Additionally, the catechism addresses the 10 Commandments, one at a time, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each is afforded useful answers.

The Heidelberg Catechism is not an infallible document. And DeYoung does not profess to be a new source of truth. The Catechism is based fully and unashamedly on the infallible truth of the Bible. It is a trustworthy source of instruction and useful for training in righteousness – and for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News We Almost Forgot, takes this ancient resource and repackages it in a less-intimidating paperback. Don’t miss this. 

P.S. To make sure you don’t miss it, I’m giving away a copy at the end of this week. Make sure to comment and repost the link for a chance to win your copy!

About me: Chicken Christian?

I am not confrontational.  I am a hyperactive, people-loving, tail-tucking golden retriever.  I am the first person to notice when you’re sad; I will happily kiss your tears away, try to make you laugh or just be quiet and listen.  I will also be the one running along behind you, eating your dust if you ignore me.  And, if you kick me on your way out the door, I’m likely to be waiting in the same spot to greet you when you come home.

That said, I’m pretty good at loving people.  Let other Christians be bold as lions.

That said, I have been convicted lately of my good-girl testimony.  Everyday, as I go out into the world, I hope that my lifestyle declares Jesus Christ.  This is good, we are told to live as Christ.  But it is not enough.  It has been a comfortable lie to live with – just let them SEE Jesus in me.

I was talking to my dear friend Chrissy the other day, whom I regard as one of the boldest evangelists I know.  She humbly told me that she is disappointed in herself when she goes into Target, does her thing, and leaves.  “I don’t make the very most of every opportunity to proclaim the gospel.”  OUCH!  If she’s concerned that she doesn’t make Target into an evangelistic opportunity, what have I to boast of in my quiet, good-girl lifestyle?

I listened quietly to the Lord this morning as I prayed.  He told me, “Abby, if good behavior is not sufficient to earn salvation, then how is it sufficient to share and explain so great a salvation?”

Today, as I was doing research for Predatory Lies, I was assaulted by a volley lies.  These two stung me:

Love lets everyone be and do just who and what they want to be and do.  Preach love.  Make no judgements – we are all OK!  

There is no need to fear death.  It is not the end of anything, which ever deity(ies) you choose will happily give you your expected reward. 

CHRISTIAN!  These lies will not be refuted by our good behavior.  Love will not stand for the flagrant disregard of God’s moral law.

“Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel.  Be strong and courageous.  Fear not; do not be dismayed.” 1 Chron. 22:13

2 Chron. 32:7 “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.”

At the exact same time, God commands us, “…to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:2

I will be honest.  I haven’t replied to either post yet.  When I do, I will be a part of the tiniest minority.

This is so hard!  I have myriad friends who do not believe as I do.  I care deeply for several Muslim people and spend time with them every week.  I have had long conversations and shared drinks with women who don’t believe there is a God at all.  I have worked with homosexuals and laughed with them and cried with them and had sushi with them.  They are wonderful people!

So how to reconcile this in my heart?

Love doesn’t keep the best news to itself.  Love doesn’t watch the object of its affection destroy itself or walk off a cliff unknowingly.  I am convinced that love must declare the truth.

When I was sick and starving myself to death, the last thing I wanted to hear was my family or counselor constantly reminding me that I was wrong and I needed to change.  But would they have loved me if they allowed me to continue deadly behaviors?

How can I keep silent?

Borrowing from another convicted believer, Mike Riley at: The Preacher Files

Conclusion

Yes, preaching God’s truth can, will, and most times offend people. When you offend someone you cause that person discomfort. What more can you ask for? Should we not want to preach that which causes someone to be uncomfortable with their lifestyle of sin? Are we not in the wrong when we allow someone to think that they are okay living the sinful life that they are living (Acts 20:26-27; Romans 6:1,15)?

The Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Those who reject the words of our Lord do so out of offense not from the teacher, but out of being offended by the Lord. God commands us to teach and preach nothing more than His word (2 Timothy 4:2). Brethren, if we become the enemy of someone because we adhered to the word of God, so be it!