Friday, August 20, 2010

Yesterday I went to an evangelical Conference in Hershey PA put on by Joyce Meyer Ministries. Joyce Meyer spoke on temptation. This was not a conference about Jewish evangelism, but, I saw many things in her talk that I could apply to the Jews and why they stumble over Christianity. Joyce Meyer is a very real and down to earth speaker, who brings a lot of comedy and energy to her conferences. I found myself laughing often, and in the end, without being aware of it, I learned something. Primarily that no matter what kind of outward life a person leads, they are always imperfect in the inside. As a group, Christians tend to succumb to the temptations that we face. The most striking biblical reference to me is David. He succumbs to the temptations of the flesh, and is punished for it, but, he is called a man after God’s own heart. This shows that the outside and inside are not always showing the same thing. We are all too often tempted and, in falling to the temptation, we feed that tempter making it stronger. Joyce recounted quitting smoking. For a long time after she had kicked the habit, she was tempted to smoke whenever things went wrong, but, she refused to smoke, therefore that temptation eventually starved and died. I think that with the Jewish people, there is a lot of temptation to remain socially acceptable within their own culture, that there is temptation to be riveted to the law, that there is temptation to focus on being good people. There is a lot of temptation between a Jew and a personal relationship with Jesus. These road blocks make it hard to reach a Jew, not necessarily on the intellectual level, but, rather on a spiritual level. There are many Christians who feel as though they can attend themselves into heaven by being church-goers. There are a lot of Christians who believe that they can climb their way to heaven by being work-doers. These are not the worst things to do, but without the faith and the relationship, there is no growth, and they are dead in Christ. With the Jews it is the same, but, they have not only temptation to do good works, they have a cultural and social obligation to do so, therefore they are more likely to be tempted to avoid a relationship with Jesus in favor of “being good people”. This temptation is one of the harder ones to starve because Paul tells us that there are good works set up for each of us by God. So instead the temptation that we must starve is not the temptation to do good, but, the temptation not to believe on God and his gift to us. It is so very tempting to try to win our way into heaven. We must stop feeding that temptation by instead believing on God that He has given us good to do to spread His kingdom, and that we are not doing it for entry, but, for Him. We are not repaying Him, we are doing what he asks of us. We are not living this way because we need to, but because we trust God enough to provide us with a way to do it, and a way to allow him to work through us. We are not working then, God is working through us. That is how we must approach doing good works. We are not being good people, Christ is being good through us.

How challenging is it to find a way to balance these attitudes. Do you find yourself feeling as though you are doing something out of necessity? I do, it is still far more satisfying to find myself channeling Christ’s love through my body. Has anyone else felt this way?

Monday, August 16, 2010

I was approached last week while in a local eatery reading “To The Jew First, A Textbook on Jewish Evangelism” and asked about what I was reading. I was delighted to be approached! The gentleman was intrigued by the title of the book that I was reading, and I was eager to use some of the techniques outlined in the book itself. The first thing that I said was that I was reading a book by a Jew who accepted Jesus as Messiah. He understood that concept and called himself a “recovering Catholic”. I asked him if was attending any church, and he said that he was not interested in any dogma, Catholic, protestant or otherwise and classified himself as an agnostic. To clarify, I asked if he acknowledges that there is a God, and he said yes, but that he believes that there is no way of knowing what God is up to, and that “He’s too big for Human kind to really understand beyond his existence”. I asked him about his perception of Jesus and he replied that there was no way of truly knowing anything about Jesus, because he believes that the Bible was man-written, and therefore untrustworthy.
After we got the groundwork out of the way, he asked me why Christians evangelize Jewish people. He recalled from Catholic school that the Jews were God’s chosen and stated that he was under the impression that they were all guaranteed heaven.
This is a great question, so I immediately said a small prayer silently that God open my mind and heart and allow me to be a channel of his words to this man. Then I opened up a website called bible gateway and started reading scriptures that pertain to God’s choosing of Israel. I started at the beginning of my knowledge of where God proclaims Israel “chosen”. Genesis 12:2-3
“And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
This verse implies that the Jews are chosen so to be a blessing to others. And again in Deuteronomy 10:19
"Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."
In this verse God goes so far as to tell the Jews that he shows no partiality! This verse also says that they are to be a blessing to those around them. And another in Deuteronomy 9:6
"Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”
After looking at these verses I also went through some of the Psalms that proclaim the chosen people
"I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever And build up your throne to all generations." Psalm 89:3-4
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

So with theses scriptures open I asked what the overall feeling of the scriptures is. He replied that it seemed like the Jews were chosen, not for themselves, but for the rest of the world. He was quite surprised by this revelation, and I feel as though he truly saw things a new way.
When I was a kid I had asked my youth pastor the same question, and he told me that the Jews were chosen to produce the Messiah, not chosen to be better than everyone else. In this short sentence, he inspired me to read up for myself, and I soon came to a similar conclusion. These scriptures helped greatly with that conclusion.
So, after being prepared for just this question, I felt very confident. I then went onto the blog and referenced the passage from Matthew chapter 10 that I had used in my first posting, Matthew 10:5-7 in the New Living Translation “Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel-God's lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the kingdom of Heaven is near." And then used the Great Commission to build upon it as I suggested in the blog and as the consensus from the commentary suggested.
The gentleman was quite impressed with my knowledge and even took the time to read my posting from July 21st about the new perspective on Paul. I could tell that the man was ready to part ways, so I asked him if there were any prayer requests that he had. He asked that I pray for his employment because the company that he works for is going through a big layoff procedure and he is worried. I assured him that I would pray for him later and asked if he would like to pray with me there. He respectfully declined the offer. I gave him my email address and the blog website. Since then I have prayed for his job situation and that he may not worry about tomorrow.
I have not heard from him, but, there is hope that I sewed some seeds and that he can again find comfort and strength in Jesus.
So now it’s your turn. Would you like to weigh in on the debate over the salvation of the Jews? Are there any other scriptures that you know of either in accordance with or that could refute my claims? Are there any other questions on the topic?
Please pray for the gentleman and his job as well.
And as always if there are any questions, comments, concerns or requests, feel free to share them!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Chapter 6 of Mitch Triestman’s book “To the Jew First” he discusses the tactics of evangelism. This is an important part of reaching people. There is nothing worse than bad evangelism. He mentions that there are essentially three ways Christians evangelize. There is the “witnessing-as-you-go” tactic where the situation determines the evangelism and one can find the opportunities to reach out in everyday life. The second is going out to witness. This type of evangelism generally involves groups of people working together in ministry to reach out to people. There is a lot of planning and organization involved, as well as a plan. The third way he mentions is not doing either. This is a failure of epic proportions. We as Christians have been given a light to share, not to hide. This type of evangelism is when a person sees the opportunity to reach out, and looks away. This is, in my opinion, one of the most deplorable things in the world. Ask anyone, saved or not, if they would save a person from a burning building if they could, and almost everyone would say yes. Why then would a Christian see a person that is in danger of being stuck in that burning building for eternity and not come to their aide? Triestman says that after so many years of so many Christians involving themselves in option three, the best thing to do is to be aggressive and to the other two simultaneously. There is a lot of work involved with either. The first thing that I thought of when looking at the costs of both was that, the witness as you go technique requires an extreme amount of accountability. There is no one telling you to do it, it’s your faith that allows you to feel it. You don’t really get any time off, since, you never know when there is someone watching and learning from your actions. As a Christian, it is important to always subject yourself to the will of God, but when you are an active witness, there is a completely different feeling about you. You are living the example of Christ…all the time. You can’t have a bumper sticker that says “Honk if you love Jesus” and then behave rudely when someone behind you honks. The same goes for a person who has defined themselves as Christian. Everyone will know it, especially in smaller towns where communities are tight-knit and everyone knows everyone else. If you are inconsistent in the roll of Christian, everyone will also know that. A Christian will need to respond to anger with love for their witness and that is also a demand on the mind and heart. Wherever God is, Satan wishes to be. If God’s working in your life, expect challenges and struggles to be produced for you by the deceiver and destroyer. If you are reaching a lot of people in your community with little tiny bits of witness, there is a strong possibility that you’ll have a bad day and be irritable the next time there is an opportunity. There is only one sure-fire defense against the enemy. Prayer must be constant. Pray for protection and vision. Pray for the right words to say and the right verses to read. Pray for the right prayers to pray. There is a never ending cycle of prayer for witnessing as you go. For the go and witness portion, there is also a long list of prayers and ways to witness. Everything from pamphlet and tract distribution, to meeting for prayer and phone ministry. In each of these there is a strong need for many different talents and passions. What is a good tract without a good person with an inviting personality to hand it out. What’s a good speaker without the right material, what use is the good material if there is only a limited supply? Every single ministry, outreach or encounter should start with prayer. There is no other way to be successful. If you are handing out tracts, pray for a receptive crowd, and protection while on the street corners and boardwalks. If you are visiting shops or homes, pray for safety and reception. Pray for a good voice and good weather. There is nothing that one should not pray for in the process and prayer should come easily in the field. At a prayer meeting, make sure to pray for a good crowd, a good message and pray for the words to say. At a meeting pray especially for everyone present that they can receive blessing from the prayer that they receive. Pray until you feel silly, then pray some more. I cannot stress the importance of prayer in my own life. Prayer has kept a roof over my head (Literally), has lead me through school thus far, has lead me into a successful relationship with my fiancĂ©e and kept me safe through surgery and travel and everything else imaginable. Never underestimate the power you can wield with a simple prayer. Triestman goes into a lot of the details of each of the different types of outreach and in order to do it justice, I would need to quote large swaths of his literature. If you are personally interested in anything from this chapter, or from any part of his book, I would be happy to arrange a copy for you!

So, what types of prayer are important to you in your witness? What is your specific request when preparing to evangelize? Are there any suggestions for starting a ministry? Do you need encouragement to start evangelizing? Post your questions or comments!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I’m sure that everyone is eager to hear about the fourth chapter of “To the Jew First”, so, here it is!
We covered the personal testimony in Chapter 3, so Chapter 4 seeks to illuminate the message. There is always a message in testimony, and that message is most effective when it is based on scripture. We should not, however, be too dry and there should be a hook at the beginning to draw in our listeners. It’s funny to listen to Tevye, in the musical “The Fiddler on the Roof”, start every wise quip with the phrase “The Good Book says…”, but for our purposes, we should be more interesting than that. We should always consider how truly amazing our salvation is, and therefore, we should be awe-inspiring ourselves. For instance Campus Crusade for Christ published a booklet called “The four Spiritual Laws”. In this booklet the first law is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This simple little passage has all kinds of intrigue behind it. What plan, and why does God love me? Starting with something that simple is a sure fire way to keep your listeners interested enough to listen to some scripture that can be life-changing.
In my opinion, the scripture is the most important part. The real living word of God is pretty tough to beat, so, it should take center stage. The most important part of picking a scripture is to make it personal. Don’t can your Bible and use the same one for every situation. God’s word is so diverse and has so many relevant passages (all of them to be exact) that it won’t be too hard to think of one that works with the situation at hand. Make sure that you have had a good experience with the scripture and that you find it inspiring. For instance, a woman at my church came to Christ while reading a King James version of the Bible and she came to the book of John. John 1:30 changed her life when she felt the excitement of the man who wandered the desert as he proclaimed “This is He of whom I said”. She was drawn in by the wondrous annunciation. For me personally, I was enamored by David and the story of his redemption. I knew that if an adulterous, murderer motivated by greed and lust could be “a man after God’s own heart” that I could be too! Remember to keep your options open. I would recommend study of The Word constantly in order to “stay in shape”.
Chapter 4 continues to give us a reason to evangelize. Triestman uses an example of a time when out at the ocean with his three sons aged 6, 4 and 3. They were all using a Styrofoam raft and, while not paying attention, Triestman recalls going too far out into the ocean where he could not stand. He was frightened and told his sons that he was in over his head and that they needed to aim the raft to shore and kick for all their worth to get back safely. His oldest understood the gravity of the situation and his middle child became more serious when his older brother did, but the youngest did not grasp the urgency and continued to play around. The youngest is like an unsaved Jew. They do not grasp how terrible the prospect of death without salvation is. Many Jews quip jokingly in response to the phrase “Jesus Saves” by replying “Moses invests”. They do not realize the horror of hell.
It is important then, that they know the bad news, not just the good. Genesis 6:5 says “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is a major bummer because many people see themselves as good at heart. Not so, in the Garden of Eden something terrible happened to that nature of man, and thus, we are fallen creations. We try to do good, but to no avail. Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Another major bummer. As I discussed in the posts on the new perspective on Paul, Judaism was not strictly works based, but, they did put a lot of pride and spent a lot of time being “good people”. Jews will not take to this news easily, so don’t bear down on them too hard.
The condition of man is separate from God. We are no longer in his presence to walk with Him in the cool of the day. Our job then is to continually grow closer to Him until such a time as he calls us home. So, even though we must all be saved by our belief in Jesus as Messiah, and we must all have faith, we should continually try to be Godly. Godly, not goodly. So while we are apart, we have every responsibility to help lead others to him, and on his path. Christianity does not emphasize works to gain entry to Heaven, it inspires us to help lead others there with us.
So, why should one be prepared to meet every situation with relevant and appropriate scripture? Also, are there any scriptures that you find truly inspiring and life changing? Share them with us, you never know, you may help to be a light in the darkness!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is Jesus? This has been a question for many, many centuries. There is a lot of ambiguity, even in the Bible about who Jesus was as a mortal and is as the Son of God. There are many answers too. There is a poster in the office at my church that has a long list of names for Jesus. There was always one name in the list that confused me. There was one which stood out as unusual, and it seemed to me contradictory. The Son of Man seems to me to imply that Jesus was indeed born of man, and like many kids I was told that it was just a figure of speech, or, that he meant something else by it. I let it go and forgot about it, only really remembering the question had ever arisen when it again came to mind. I have been looking at a book called “The Jews in the time of Jesus” by Stephen M. Wylen and there is actually some research on the term “the son of man” or, in the Aramaic, bar nash. The research tends to give us three main answers for what the term can be used for. The rough translation of the most common usage of it is, I, or myself, or me. The term is used to indicate speaking about oneself. The second term is human being, person, and the last is divine, Lord, and God. All of these different definitions make the gospel no less confusing. I looked through some of the scriptures in which the term, “the son of man” could be found and was struck by the passage in Mark chapter 2:23-28:

Lord of the Sabbath

23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

25He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."

27Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

In this passage it seems very easy to read the phrase in three different ways and therefore read the entire story in two different ways. The first way, and the way I read it in church when I was informed that The Son of Man is a term for Jesus, is to interpret Jesus as the lord of the Sabbath because he is divine. This means that Jesus sets up his authority over all people, and even makes his own rule above that of the law scholars and priests. The second way to read it is to read it as I, or me. This way creates a more strict line of authority to Jesus personally. He would therefore be the lord of the Sabbath and that would make him God and since He is God, then he is the truest authority on the matter and the Pharisees better watch out. The third reading of the is that Jesus used the term bar nash to refer to humankind, thus giving all men lordship over the Sabbath for all time.

So, after my reading, the term, it seems to me, was intended to be somewhat ambiguous. Jesus did speak in parables to his Disciples and he was known to make a scene in public places.

But, enough of my assumptions and conjecture.

What is your take on it? How do you view the term “The son of Man” in this passage? Is Jesus proclaiming himself lord of the Sabbath? Is he granting people the power to create their own set of rules for the Sabbath, or, is he taking the personal rout making himself the mortal lord of Sabbath to be treated as though it were a day dedicated to him?