Day 07

A ready answer

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“Is this really happening?” Maybe it wasn’t the first question I should have been asking myself, but, there are no words to convey the panic and the excitement I felt the first time someone asked me why I do what I do. We had just started working in downtown Savannah and decided to participate in a work day with the church that owns our facility. About 30 minutes into painting a fence, I met Mac. Mac was cruising down the sidewalk with his walker and stopped in front of us. He found out about the project at church and, since he lived at an assisted living home just up the street, he wanted to help. After talking and painting for a bit, the conversation turned to our program. I explained some of what we did and he became interested in our GED program.  Shortly after that, he became quiet and told me, “You know, I would really love to get my GED. I left school when I was in 5th grade to help support my family and I never finished. The problem is; I don’t know how to read.” Moved by his story, I told him we would find him a coach to help him learn. At that moment, his eyes filled with tears and he asked the question; “Why would you do that?” Getting over my panic, I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Well Mac, God loves me, I love God, God loves people, so I try to love people.” “Wow, you people are great!” Mac said, the tears now visible on his cheeks. The only thing I could say to him was “I don’t know about that. But before Jesus I was a mess. I was angry and afraid. Now, I can’t help but love people the way he asks me to and I’m less afraid. He’s not done with me yet!” My answer was definitely not a complete answer. It wasn’t eloquent or theological, but Mac came back to hear more.

Discipleship Through the Eyes of Youth: Day 7

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My parents became followers of Christ when I was very young so for as long as I can remember I’ve grown up with Christian influence around me. I felt God calling me to follow him when I was 7 and I became a baptized believer. I don’t really have a big turn around point from what I was like before Christ to how I changed after Christ (because I honestly don’t remember much of my life before Christ). But, I do have several instances or circumstances in my life where I’ve seen God move. So for my testimony writing time today I thought of different times in my life where I may have doubted or thought a situation was hopeless in the beginning to but through seeing perseverance with Christ or the power of God my faith has been strengthened. I’ve decided to call these my “Mini Stories”. I’ve shared different ones at different times over the past few years but today I wrote down and outlined them all on the same document and created questions to ask after each of them.  This way I can be more familiar with and ready to share my different “Mini Stories” when their times come.

Day 7 – Preparing Your Testimony

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Again, in Taiwan, decisions to accept Christ were seldom made quickly.  Baptism was seen as a point of no return to the old way life; and the beginning of persecution for many new believers.  We would ask them to prepare their testimony and share it with the church on the day they gave their life to Christ.  Makes sense, since they were going to be defending their faith from the get-go!  And, it set a pattern, an expectation, for the believers to come.  When we were called to Memorial, they asked me to bring “my missions mind-set.”  My response was, “Are you sure about that?”  The leadership was, and we have — including, training everyone to prepare and share their testimony.  God can do amazing things when we faithfully share how God has rescued us!

Day 7: Stories are Powerful

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I love stories!  Stories of others inspire me and changed life stories of how God got a hold of someone really inspire me.  Something we don’t do enough is share our stories.  We have been practicing in our discipleship group being able to tell our stories in under 3 minutes.  It has been a fun game.  Well, tonight I listened to the video and read what to do quickly as I was running 100 mph today.  At 8:30 I was supposed to go to discipleship group but my 7 year old daughter would not let me leave as the babysitter came.  So I ended up staying home helping my 4 & 7 year old girls go to bed until my wife got back at 9:30 with my teenage boys from their track meet.  I left in a rush and showed up at discipleship group.  As I sat down they guys said “Your turn.  We just got done telling our stories and critiquing them and it is your turn.”  I chuckled, but they were serious.  So I gave my testimony leaving out some details they had heard before and changing my story line back and forth.  I didn’t come prepared(shame on me!)  When I got done a few of the guys were honest and graceful with me on how I could make it better.  They stated that maybe you should work on 3 testimonies with 3 story lines and you should write them all out.  This was great advice as I sometimes don’t finish things well or think through things well enough.  I am going to work on that and get them done this week….stay tuned.  The stories I connect with most are well thought out and have purpose.  One of the guys suggested that next time we split into pairs and share our story but whoever you are sharing your story with gets to tell you about the person you would be sharing with.  You could choose someone who has been hurt by the church, someone going through a death, a teenager, etc.  I thought this was a great idea!  It is good to practice and be ready for different situations.

Why do we not take evangelism seriously?  We think planning makes us feel rehearsed and not real but I feel like God gives us tools to use.  I listened to a local pastor recently share about evangelism.  He asked the group “In farming who grows the crops?”  Everyone responded well duh “God does.”  He then said “So, do you just throw the seed out and have it grow?”  They stated “No, of course not.”  He then went on to explain that you use the tools God has given you such as tractors and GPS and other technology to do it well.  He then challenged us that God has given us tools for evangelism and we don’t prepare at all.  He then stated that he asked most people in his church if a non-Christian came to your door and asked why you lived the way you do what would you say?  A majority of his church could not give a response.  He then challenged everyone and said we should all be able to do share our testimony, that is like someone setting the ball on the tee ready for you to hit it out of the park.

As I have worked on my testimony in the last couple of years I have had many opportunities to share it.  I have got to share it with truck drivers at work, with sales people, with customers, with my son’s 6th grade basketball team I coached, and many other times.  If I would have not prepared I would have not been ready.

Another more seasoned gentleman in our group awhile made the emphasis that Jesus needs to be the hero and the main one in our story.  It is about what Jesus did in our life and not about what we did!

Discipleship When Life is Busy: Day 7

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Day 7:  Write your Story.  When I was in high school, I remember being challenged to write my testimony and I had no clue where to start.  I had grown up in a Christian home, and while my parents were divorced, my mother had made it a point that I have the opportunity to know Christ.  I remember looking back at my life and wishing that something bad had happened to me so that I would have something to share with other people.  I just didn’t feel like I had a story worth sharing.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved to talk with people and I have always been sort of an open book, I just didn’t really feel that I had anything that really showed the power of Christ in my life.  So, I never really shared what I felt like was a “testimony.”  What I did do though, was talk to people.  I loved getting to know other people and getting to know their stories.  As I would talk with them, we could usually find something that we related with each other on.  And then I could tell them some of my experiences.  It was just natural.  But I wasn’t sharing a “testimony,” I was just talking to them.  It took me a long time to realize that what I was doing was sharing my testimony.  I didn’t recognize it because I thought it had to be some big, thought out speech that I made that ended with “and you should know Christ too. What are you doing Sunday because I know a pool of water that is just calling your name to be baptized in.”  I thought that unless I had some big thing to share like being healed from cancer or turning around a life devoted to the use of drugs that I didn’t have anything worth sharing.  But the reality is that people relate to all sorts of different experiences.

Writing my story tonight, I realized just how much God has done in my life.  He has changed the way I view the world and how I view myself.  Because of Him I no longer feel empty, envious, and like I have no purpose (at least not most of the time.  This is not to say that I am perfect and that the devil doesn’t sometimes pull me down).  Because of Him I now feel fulfilled, that I can make a difference, and that there is a purpose for my life.

God has given me a story and He wants me to use it to reach people.  God has also given YOU a story that He wants to use.  We all have stories and they are all different.  God can use them to reach different people in different stages of life.  Our experiences help us to relate to other people.  It helps us to feel compassion and to long for their salvation.  Our stories connect us.  They help us make relationships, and out of relationships, discipleship is born.  Sharing your testimony doesn’t have to mean standing up in front of your church and spilling your guts about every single thing that has happened in your life.  It can mean chatting with a student in the youth group who’s parents are going through a divorce and you can relate to that.  You can share about how God helped you get through that time and how you learned to lean on Him and learned how to forgive through that experience.  The important thing is that you take opportunities to share your story (or parts of it) and use it to point other people to Christ.

Thinking About Them

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I had just finished filing the paperwork for my new passport at the courthouse when I spotted my friend from high school. Surprised and curious to see him, I asked a normal question “Hey, what are you doing here?”

He shared how he had to come to the courthouse to sign up for some training that was going to be offered soon. He didn’t want to do it, but it was required if he was going to stay married and stay connected with his kids.

As he shared the struggles that he was facing, my thought went to how Jesus could help him in so many ways. During a break in the conversation, I began to share with him some struggles that I had faced in my life, and how that had changed when I came to Jesus.

As I shared with my friend about Jesus, I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about him. I was thinking about how much Jesus loved him and wanted to rescue him.

If you find yourself self conscious or nervous about sharing, please know that the more you share, the more comfortable you can become at sharing, and the more that you can focus on the person hearing instead of yourself, the one sharing.

Writing your Testimony

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Need to see another example of what it sounds like to tell one’s story? Here’s another example:

Hi my name is__ , I’m from . I can still remember the pain in my heart when my wife and I learned that our baby girl due to be born in three weeks had died. It’s times like this when a person finds out if their faith has been placed in something real. I was born and raised by parents who loved Jesus and at a very young age I placed my life in His hands. As I grew up I never questioned my faith but I was often in situations when I found that Jesus did exactly what He promised. Rather than destroying my faith in Jesus the death of my daughter showed me the depth of God’s compassion and comfort. What I had learned in my Bible set me from depression, despair and bitterness. I knew that I could trust God with everything.

Throughout my life I have been blessed to help other people learn about Jesus. When someone decides to turn from believing in themselves and doing what they believe to be right to following Jesus, doing what He has commanded and trusting Jesus for their whole life I’ve seen the Kingdom of God come. I’ve seen families that were filled with anger transformed by Jesus to families filled with love. I’ve seen people who wanted to kill themselves transformed by Jesus into people who are filled with concern for others. I’ve seen people who only cared about getting rich for themselves changed by Jesus into people who find the greatest joy in loving others. Watching God heal people’s lives and filling them with joy and purpose is my greatest joy.

God continues to work in my life. I am continually amazed at God’s love, faithfulness, wisdom, power and care for me. I wonder if after hearing some of my story, you have any questions about God and your life.