Cigarette Smoke Evangelism / By Tim Sweetman

“You are either a missionary or an imposter” – Charles Spurgeon

I most distinctly remember the smell of cigarettes.

I smelled it on the older man I met in the nursing home. A whiff from the neighbor lady who yelled a lot. That section of the restaurant we avoided. And John-John.

I met John-John the day our moving truck pulled up to our tiny mustard yellow house on the dead-end road a few hundred yards from Chesapeake Bay. You could always smell the brackish water full of blue crabs, just waiting to be drenched in some Old Bay seasoning. In the distance, the ghosts of the eastern shore rose slightly above the waterline.

It was another sticky summer day. But our new window air conditioner made my nose tingle when I pressed my face up against the vents. Life was good.

Word had spread rapidly among the local collection of children that a new family was unloading their earthly belongings. The little girls with blonde pigtails from next door ran over to see the new family with three brown-headed boys. A metal gate conveniently connected our back yards. The two boys with jet-black hair across the street grabbed their yo-yos, jumped on their new bikes and pulled up to our white picket fence and stared awkwardly, waiting for an invitation to test out our massive back yard, at least for six-year-old eyes.

Somehow John-John made his way to our house that day too.

I’ll never forget him.

He snorted in some snot, and told me his dad sold candy and ice cream, if I ever wanted some.

John-John smelled like cigarettes.

He was only seven, and a little chubby. He had his Mom’s face and his Dad’s eyes – firy and fierce.  He could pierce you with those eyes when he was steaming angry. That happened a lot.

[Read more...]

Exploring Community as the Core of Evangelism / By Greg Gibson

My Christian life has definitely gone through seasons of growth.  Some have been monumental in growth.  Some have been dry.  Some have been exciting and full of opportunity.  Some have been lonely.  Some have been me trying to conform to a certain set of values, whether legalistic or not.  And some have been “ah ha” moments.  And as I look back over my journey as a Christ follower, there have been 3 big “ah ha” moments that have changed the way I have looked at the Christian faith and my journey with Christ altogether.

THE NON-EVANGELISTIC CHRISTIAN BUBBLE:  My first “ah ha” moment came when I moved to Boyce College in Louisville, KY.  I learned that I didn’t have to wear Christian “share wear,” as I like to call it, to be a committed Christian.  Between ages 16-18, I found myself only wearing Christian T-shirts, WWJD bracelets, hanging out with other Christians, and rocking duck-tape Bible cases for my bumper-stickered covered bibles.  I realized at some point around the age of 19 that I didn’t have to dress like a Christian, only hang with Christians, and talk like a Christian… to be a Christian. [Read more...]

Endless Second Chances: Why I’ll Take Reincarnation

Returning to the U.S. after two years as a missionary in South America, I’ve embraced opportunities to share the gospel wherever I’m at. It has been an eye-opener to the broad spectrum of eclectic and contradictory worldviews. Among those I’ve witnessed to, a surprising and recurring theme has been the belief in reincarnation. I know what you’re thinking: “Of course, he’s out in California, what else did you expect from the land of fruits and nuts?”

I’m not going to run to the defense of my state or the misguided beliefs of some the populace. I will however, accept that reincarnation is what many non-Christians profess to hold to. So in order that I competently defend the faith, it follows that I know a little about this widely-held religious belief.

Hinduism among other non-Western religions posits the concept of Karma. You’ve heard it before, “what goes around comes around”. Sounds pretty accurate right? You get what you deserve. It even loosely parallels the golden rule: do to others as you would have them to do you. Of course, the implications of Karma are far deeper.

The “going and coming around” part is a major component of reincarnation. Do good deeds and when you die, you will become some form greater than your current one. Do bad and the opposite will happen. There is a never ending cycle of rebirth. Everything that dies becomes something different. There is ceaseless continuum of second chances.

Now I like that. Don’t get it right this time? There’s another chance to start over again and work my way up the ladder.

When discussing Christianity and reincarnation with three men; all over 70 years old I addressed their syncretistic worldview. Whether they understood it at first, they were not living in accordance with Hindu teaching. They were doing what most people do, taking the parts of Christianity they like and omitting what they don’t. I proceeded to show them how.

I make no pretense of being an expert in eastern religion. I have studied them on a surface level, primarily for apologetic purposes. But what I do know was sufficient at the time.

If you hold to the view of reincarnation, then it follows that history is cyclical. Christianity, on the other hand, holds to a linear perspective. Everything that has happened in the past is final. Everything happening now matters. God has appointed a time when history will come to a close. This means your life, what you think, say and do is of eternal importance.

With reincarnation, history is not only meaningless, because it’s cyclical, but your life is as well. Think about it. So what if you decided to be a violent criminal for “this” particular life? Or maybe just a self-absorbed hedonist? When you come back as an ant, live the best life you can and you’ll advance to someone or something better. Interestingly enough, no one wants to live in a world with people who think like this.

When talking with the three men on why I disagree with the viability of reincarnation I pointed out the concept of justice. The caste system is predicated on the belief that an individual’s present life is a result of Karma. A lower-caste individual is where they are because of a punishment for sins in a past state. The rich are where they because of apparent good deeds done prior.

So when it comes to helping the poor, caring for the handicapped and afflicted, why would you interfere with Karma? They’re getting what they deserve! There exists no plausible reason to reach out and alleviate suffering.

Of course, when I pointed this out, the men animatedly agreed the downcast should be helped and it would be a gross error to say sickness of any sort is a punishment for past sins. But here we see a plagiarized Christian worldview. Jesus told his disciples who asked if a blind man was that way because of his or his parent’s sins that it was so the glory of God might be displayed in his life that he was born that way (John 9:3).

When I see the world, when I search my conscience and when I read scripture I find reincarnation unviable. I am thankful that I am under grace, not Karma. I deserve God’s wrath, not salvation. History has meaning and so do our lives. What you and I do has eternal implications.

There are no second chances. Every second matters. Now is the time to follow Christ.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” –Hebrews 9:27-28

Soularium Cards: An Excellent Conversation Starter for Evangelism

Recently a couple of organizational leaders introduced me to Soularium cards. In a planetarium, we would see pictures of the planets; with Soularium cards, however, we use pictures to view into someone’s soul.  From using these cards recently, I’ve noticed that they are an excellent conversation starter for evangelism.  Clearly, if we as Christians are to fulfill the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ, then we must share the gospel with people.  Yet, finding ways to start a conversation with a stranger is often difficult, or at least awkward because we might feel (and look!) like a desperate used-car salesman.  This method, however, allows the other person to do most of the talking; then, once they’re finished answering the questions, I have found they tend to listen to me because I spent time listening to them.   In this YouTube video, notice the ease with which these guys start a conversation with a complete stranger.  My hope in sharing this video is to encourage you to use these cards to start evangelistic conversations.

Tweeting for @Jesus: A few reasons why you should embrace #Twitter

The biggest objection I hear when I try to sell people on the merits of Twitter: “Twitter’s stupid. I don’t want to know what people had for lunch today.”

Some tweets — er, probably most tweets floating around the internet — are less than edifying, encouraging, or important. On the other hand, there are millions of other tweets every day that are educational, enlightening and inspired. Follow the right people, and you’ve created a personal news stream that keeps you up on the best news of the day and encourages you to live for Christ.

Twitter — like a book, a blog post, a pod cast or a film — is a medium. It has its 140-character constraints that limit it to sound bites and links. But those limitations are also its strength. People can follow and digest vastly more information when it comes in smaller bites. There is great breadth to Twitter. A Tweet can spread like wildfire with a few strategic retweets.

A blog post is better than a tweet for developing a thought. A book is better than a blog post for tying together a whole string of thoughts. But just because those mediums do certain things better, doesn’t mean “Twitter is stupid” and all you can do with it is comment about your PB&J.

We need Christians talking in all platforms. The message of the gospel can be just as powerful in a thoughtful tweet as it is in a 600-word blog post or a 400-page book. It can also spread further, too. Rather than disparaging it, Christians should seek ways they can capture the power in Twitter’s brevity by framing biblical truths in 140 characters.

But don’t take my word for it. John Piper wrote a great blog post Monday explaining why he tweets, in addition to writing books, recording lectures and blogging. The gist: “Tweeting is to preaching as Proverbs is to Romans.”

One uses complex argumentation, another uses the medium of epigrams. But both books are the inspired, life-changing message of God.

There’s hope for Twitter yet.

P.S.: Be sure to follow @Live4Veritas on Twitter for links to Veritas posts, daily encouragement, interesting news and other great stuff. Promise you won’t hear anything about my lunch.

Calif. passes law requiring lessons on gay history in public schools. What’s a Christian to do?

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill into law Wednesday that requires public schools to teach kids about the historical contributions of gays and lesbians. Local school districts will be adopting new social studies curriculum as early as the 2013-14 school year.

Supporters say it’s a triumph that makes history books “more honest” and will help curb bullying by making kids more understanding of their classmates.

Opponents equate it with brainwashing, saying it will sanction, normalize and exalt an immoral lifestyle.

So what’s a Christian parent to do? Is it time for a mass exodus toward home schooling?

I’d argue that it’s a time for parents to sit down and think hard about their children’s education — specifically, how they as parents are going to teach gay history.

Christians shouldn’t simply retreat from the topic of the gay rights movement, in the same way we shouldn’t retreat from sex education. While my parents didn’t pull me out of my 9th grade health, public school health class during lessons about birth control and STDs, they also made sure I got a much more comprehensive lesson on the issues from them and my church.

I remember annual True Love Waits all-nighters in the church gym. There were hours of frank — sometimes cringe-worthy — discussions about sex so we teenagers understood about this wonderful, God-given gift and the pitfalls of abusing it.

Combine it with regular Wednesday night youth group sermons on the topic, and it was almost to the point of overkill. But I began to recognize the church as an honest, open source of information on the scientific and biblical facts about sex. The church just covered the issue so much better than the awkward, one-hour lesson in my freshman health class, and I felt equipped to discuss my perspective on sex with people who felt differently about it.

Churches should look at this new California law as an opportunity to do one better. Rather than ignoring history, Christian parents should educate themselves about the key developments in the gay rights movement so we’re not blindly lashing out at a nebulous “cultural shift.” They should be prepared to take the lessons their children are learning, and parlay them into meaningful discussions about the biblical perspective on homosexuality.

Perhaps churches can teach gay history, in the same way churches host lectures about Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses — so important developments aren’t missing.

But before that, parents should take an active role in how this curriculum takes shape. Local districts will be deciding over the next year or two which textbooks end up in classrooms. Parents should talk to teachers, school board members and administrators and take an active role in reviewing the curriculum. How will the lessons be framed? In which grade will they be introduced? What dates are the lessons taking place? All these are still open questions under the new law.

I think pulling kids out of public school should be a last resort, not a first resort. The first resort should be preparing kids who can respond to the mixed messages they’ll face for the rest of their life from peers and the media. Some parents might decide one or all of their children aren’t mature enough to sort out those mixed messages just yet; I respect their choice to keep their children in a private school or at home until that changes.

I hope Christians seize this new law as an opportunity to better understand and biblically, graciously respond to the cultural changes of the gay rights movement. I hope it doesn’t become a public school exodus, because Christian parents and students have something vital to add to this conversation. They have relationships to build within school communities; they have the Gospel to share with fellow moms, dads and classmates.

They have lights to shine.

Singles and Evangelism: Several Examples of How to Do It

Often when I speak with Christian singles about evangelism I get faced with the response of “Well, I don’t know how to do it.”  With the following video I want to provide singles – and all other types of Christians, for that matter – with several good example of how to share the gospel about Jesus Christ with someone.

All Christians are called by Jesus Christ to share the gospel.  Learning how to do it well is, therefore, of the highest level of importance.  Click on the link below to find several examples.

http://www.wayofthemaster.com/watchwitnessing.shtml

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