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Who Said I Had a Choice

I read an article a few years ago.  A journalist was interviewing a successful author who made his living on writing horror.  Many of his books were made into movies, TV Teleplays and TV shows. One of the questions the journalist asked, “why did you choose horror as a genre?” I can envision the author staring right through this journalist as he answered, “who said I had a choice?” He didn’t expound on his answer neither did the journalist ask a follow-up question.

“Who said I had a choice” as though some unseen force was on his shoulder whispering words as his hand worked furiously putting pen to paper trying not to miss a word. Whether his answer was meant to be literal or metaphorical it had quite an effect on me  non the less.

A question I have been asked over the course of my christian life. Why did you choose to become a christian. That question confused me but  I had my stock answer at the ready. “When I was 22….and I went on like a kookaburra”. This was a gray area for many years. I never gave serious thought to the answer.

Growing up in the Jewish faith I was sheltered from the knowledge of Jesus and Christianity.  I had no idea what the the Christmas hype was all about or the billboard signs that read, repent or perish. As I got older the name of Jesus was quite popular in bars and pool halls and I could never figure why this guy Jesus was so popular with some of my girlfriends when they shouted out his name with delight.

I travelled across America from the east coast to the west coast  when I 21. Stopping in Los Angeles to visit my sister I felt like  I  was transported into a strange new world. Charles Manson was on trial for his gruesome murders. Girls walked around in flowing dresses that almost touched the ground. Young people my age wore jeans with patches and rips in them, not the kind that the young people  get in shops today. Hippies I believe they were called. To top it off I was walking down the street in short sleeves in January. Not at all like my eastern seaboard upbringing.

Meandering down Hollywood Blvd I could see two lone figures up ahead seemingly engrossed in conversation.  As I walked past I heard these words. “Jesus was Jewish”. I thought, Huh, so Jesus was a real person. I continued on without breaking stride.

Some time later as my friends and I were leaving California heading back to New Jersey I was sitting in the back seat watching the sun set over the pacific ocean. I had this peacefulness that came over me. The seed was planted.

Eight months later I was hitching across Canada with my dog Sunfish. A beautiful Shetland Sheepdog that some hippies gave me while camping in the Blue Ridge mountains in New Jersey just a few months prior. She was my best friend and greatest travel companion. No problems getting rides.

Pitching our tent at a free campground I  borrowed a bicycle from a fellow camper. Peddling  down the  country road with Sunfish jogging behind I heard a thud. Jumping off my bike and turning to see where the sound came from I saw Sunfish lying on the ground lifeless. She was hit by a car. My first and only dog was killed. I carried her back to the campgrounds and buried her in the woods. That would become the saddest day in my life.

Numb from my loss I packed up my belongings and headed towards the highway. I took a ride as far as the driver could take me. Dropping me off virtually in the middle of nowhere I walked aimlessly and took the first dirt path that lead off the highway. Open fields on both sides with cattle or sheep far in the distance grazing on the lush flat land. Up ahead a loan oak tree standing with its heavy branching almost touching the ground. Beyond the tree was nothing as far as the eye could see until rolling hills met with the skyline.

Dropping my pack at the base of the tree I slumped to the ground my back leaning up against the oaks trunk. My mind dull with the thoughts of not having my new best friend by my side.  The last thing I remember was tears sliding down the sides of my face as I fell asleep.

Waking the next morning the sun breaking through the boughs of the old oak I realized I hadn’t moved my position. Something was noticeably different. The sadness was gone,  replaced by a sensation I had never experienced before in my 22 years of living. I was overwhelmed with the an unmistakable feeling  of happiness. I recognized this feeling as love and it was so overwhelming I thought I would explode.

Grabbing my pack, with a smile that was starting to hurt, I hurried down the path to the highway to catch a ride to God knows where. All I understood at the time that I had this great feeling of joy, happiness and love that I somehow had to share it with others. To this day I cannot explain what happened to me during that night as I slept under that oak tree. What I do know is this, it changed my life forever and I knew right away it was Jesus.

Much later I learned that my experience was a phenomenon known as being born again.

Now if I am asked why I chose Jesus being a Jew I can say with complete confidence, “who said I had a choice”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No Fast Tracking Spiritual Maturity

My relationship with God is the most important factor in my life and my growth as a Christian and as a human being. I’m not sure God had a lot to work with when I came out kicking and screaming. I was determined from the git go to ‘do it my way’. So God had His work cut out for Him. Fortunately for me God got ahold of me early enough (twenty two yrs old) to try to make something out of nothing. The next forty-four years was always going to be a work in progress.

As in the physical realm it takes time, experience and lots of failures and hard knocks to form the type of person we are going to be. Fortunately most bad habits and defects in our physical makeup can be overcome as we try to better ourselves, especially when we get to an age of maturity when we realize that unless we make certain adjustments we could find ourselves in a place where it is very difficult to change.

It’s not easy to make these adjustments especially when bad habits become imbedded in our life, even addictions which as you may already know are very difficult to overcome.

There seems to be a million ways on the market to help us in our growth areas. Good diets, exercise programs,, coaching for success or being a better person. Therapy in all forms, even medication to help with our mental defects, pills to make us feel better, think clearly, to lose weight, to slow us down, to speed us up, to help us sleep.

Then there is God, a spanner in the works. Those of us who at some time in our lives, whether it be as a young child, an adolescent, teenager, middle age or senior citizen, something unexplainable overcame us. At the best of times is difficult to put into words for those who haven’t experienced it. Being born again is a term used and best describes what I consider a phenomenon.

An overpowering spiritual experience for some, for others a growth and learning process and even for others like the apostle Paul a good slap across the face.

At what ever age this occurs we must then learn how to live a spiritual life in a physical body and somehow try to keep both happy and walking hand in hand. Not an easy task.

I heard it said we are spiritual beings in a human body. That may be so but we need to give due respect to both sides and keep a good balance between the two.

Easier said than done when all you can think about is how you are going to pay the bills, find a girl or boy who likes you for who you are, staying up all hours of the night for a newborn who is intent on being number one in your life. At the same time trying to give due respect and  attention to God.

This new relationship with God in a spiritual realm is not always by choice, its something that grows in you whether you like it or not.

So how do we obtain  this spiritual maturity and how does it differ from the natural maturity we find from our normal human life.

To use king David in the bible as an example. Here was a man who was chosen as a young boy to be the king of Israel. He was given the power to take down a giant to save Israel from defeat in war. He led the armies of Saul so the people praised him as the greater warrior than the king himself. He pissed off Saul who was suffering from his own mental distresses and David had to run and flee for his life living in caves in the wilderness and mountains. He had to look non stop over his shoulder for those who would bring him harm and had to deal with his own personal demons. He constantly prayed to God for deliverance not only from his physical enemies but also from fear that overcame him to the point of near defeat and giving up. God helped him out of all this but in my opinion these trying times is not  what made David a great leader or spiritually mature.

We all know the story of David and Bathsheba, what David did to get his hands on the most beautiful women he ever saw. He had one of his most faithful soldiers and servants, the husband of Bathsheba sent purposely to the front lines to put his life in danger and hopefully killed so David could claim rights to the women he wanted for his own.

His plan worked, he got his woman, they married to live happily ever after and had a son.

Now it was God’s turn to help David grow in a way that he couldn’t possibly do on his own. God sent word to the prophet Nathan that David needed to be paid a visit and be confronted with the truth. God was not  happy with his anointed king. Nathan confronted David, told him a story about a man in his kingdom that did a very bad thing. David was furious and demanded to know his identity so he could bring this man to justice. When Nathan revealed that it was David himself who had done this wrong the king crumbled. Now facing his own demise David repented and God forgave him BUT, God wasn’t finished, he wanted to make sure David got the point. He wanted to make sure that David would not ever do it again but help him grow into spiritual maturity.

He took something very valuable from David (and Bathsheba), their only son.

It sent David over the edge and when he came out of his depressed state he became the man and king that God knew he could be from the beginning. He grew into spiritual maturity through broken-ness. Now God was ready to bless David, not as a the great warrior king but a man who now knew what it was like to lose something so valuable that for a time did not want to live on. This was the beginning of spiritual maturity on David’s part and from there it’s all history.

In the first thirty odd years of my spiritual walk with God I was blessed. Full of life, faith and trust in Him. Together we were a great team, but God knew that I needed to grow in a way that I was not willing or able to understand without the proper nudge.

I am just starting to understand the importance of spiritual maturity myself. Over the past years I have suffered some devastating losses. It broke me in so many pieces I thought there was no hope in every putting me back together again. But God did and He knew what He was doing with me and my life and used these times to help me mature in ways I never thought possible.

Spiritual maturity helps to redefine what is important in life, it helps to put priorities its proper place but most of all it keeps a more natural balance between the physical world we have to live in and the spiritual world that awaits us.

Proverbs 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  (KJV)  I have learned that being broken is not a weakness but a stepping stone for what is most important in life.

We live in a do it now generation and christians have fallen into that trap wanting God’s blessing now, get me to the mission field now, make me a leader now, wanting the trials to stop now, heal the hurt now. I have learned that there is no fast tracking spiritual maturity but when it does start to manifest itself in one’s life it brings  “a peace of God that passes all understanding.” (the Bible)

It’s Never Too Late To Say Yes To God

A few years ago my wife got the call that her mother was in the hospital and close to death. Her health at deteriorated to the point the doctors didn’t think she had very long to live and a call went out to all her children. Rhonda hopped on the next available flight and went to see her.

This is the account of her visit:

“The hospital room had a heavy feeling in it. Like death was lingering waiting for the right time to take my mum away. My sisters and brothers were none the better. My mum came in and out of consciousness during the course of my stay. I couldn’t help but see her internal struggle. When awake she was in such a negative state of mind, so unlike the woman I was accustomed to, that had such a positive outlook on life in spite of the hardships that surrounded her on a daily basis.A woman who raised 7 children, one handicapped from birth and performed her duties as a mother with grace and humility. She was a woman of God with out the religion or beliefs. She lived her life as God intended.

Now I had to watch her struggle in spirit as she was trying to make the transition from this life to the next. We could see that it was only a matter of time, my siblings seeing only the outward pain of a woman who internal organs were shutting down while I saw an inner struggle of a woman holding on to life either because she didn’t want to leave or was unsure of what lies ahead. Only God knows what goes on in these times. My impression was that she was struggling with her place in eternity.

Some stayed through the night some of us went home to get some sleep.

Arriving the next day my mother was sound asleep but this time there was no indication of struggle or pain. She was peaceful for the first time since I came to visit. As all her children gathered perhaps for the last time and we were preparing ourselves for the inevitable she awoke. She was different, she was lucid and at peace. She was her old self. One of my sisters decided to wear all black that day. My mother took one look at her and with a wry smile said, “hey, whats with the black, I’m not dead yet.” She was indeed alive and at peace with herself and perhaps with God too. No doubt in my mind. It was good to see her in such good spirits.

I left that evening as I had to get back to my work and family. I returned home knowing that this would be the  last time I saw my mother and I am thankful that she was in such a good state of mind.

Some time  later I got the call that she had indeed passed away. In her sleep.

Although the loss was not sudden or unexpected, I knew that my mother had lived an exceptional life. Loved by everyone that crossed her path. I miss her immensely but knowing that her struggle ended before she died and that what ever happened to her on her death bed brought her peace. I know my mother is now in the presence of dear Lord and Savior.”

It is never too late to say yes to God.

Pilgrims and Strangers Part 1

d6685d99a756c5372c4348e19cabe7dcAs a believer I talk about Heaven as my home. It is where I will go when I shed my human body, when my time is up, when God is finished with me here on earth and hopefully when I complete the mission that God has given me.

When I was young I knew absolutely nothing about Heaven. It wasn’t part of my upbringing. When I came to Jesus I learned that Heaven was indeed my home and when the time comes I will return.

Still being young in age and young in spirit Heaven was the furthest thing on my mind. There was too much living to do here on earth. Besides Heaven was for those old people whose life was lived and it was time for them to move on.

And  it was also for those who for reasons only God knew, left this earth, sometimes too early to comprehend, and those close to them not really understanding why.

So what does Heaven really mean to me? How much do I know about the place I will call home for eternity?

To be completely and brutally honest I know next to nothing about Heaven. At least not on a personal level.

Let me explain.

Heaven is relative to me, in other words it is something that only I can perceive to be real or unreal.

As the old saying goes, there is no argument when it comes to taste. Who is any one else to tell me what I like or dislike when it comes to food. Only I know what tastes good to me.

So who is anyone to tell me that Heaven is not real when I know it is to me. No one can physically or scientifically persuade me to the contrary because it is a matter of faith. Just the same as I can convince no one that is real because I can’t have faith for someone else. Plus I have never been there to claim its validity.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

To believe in Heaven takes faith because there is no other way to authenticate its existence.

I believe it and that good enough for me.

End of argument.

I certainly don’t believe in Heaven because of any physical evidence. There is none. Yes, there are (apparently) thousands of recorded near death experiences of those who have claimed to gone to Heaven and lived to tell their story.

I have no reason to disbelieve their accounts but what does it really mean to me?

Heaven is one of those subjects that is personal. You either believe in it or you don’t. I certainly don’t believe in heaven because of the account of someone who says they have been.

I think one of the reasons for this is because the human language doesn’t do the subject justice.

If you have never been sky diving, like myself, all the photos, videos or personal tales told of its incredible rush or feelings means nothing to the person who has never jumped out of a plane.  The only way I can understand the rush and feeling is to do it myself. Its personal.

(For the record, no, I will not)

Yes,  there is John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos who had the blessing of seeing the heavenly city and tries to make it as real as possible in his description. I think John would be the first to admit that human words just can’t do the subject justice.

The point I am trying to make is this. Although I believe that when I die I will go to heaven, how important is it really that I know what heaven is like?

None really, not from where I sit.

Through out my christian life there has been struggle and at my age I think I can safely say that struggle will always be there until I die.

Perhaps we are meant to have that struggle in our lives so that  we have to keep telling ourselves that this place called earth is not our home. That we are just passing through, we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth and we seek a better place. We will never be completely content here.

Our struggle keeps us moving forward (or it should) and to be a constant reminder that we are not to settle down and call this earth our home.

Our home is heaven. Maybe there is a reason most of us don’t know too much about it. Maybe we don’t have too, maybe its one of those mysteries of God that He keeps as a surprise for us when we do finally get to go.

I don’t know but it puts being a stranger and pilgrim on this earth in better perspective.

As for now?

Heaven can wait. But Lord I am on my way.

Did I Miss My Calling?

Photo from Google images

Photo from Google images

As a young man hitch hiking across Canada with my dog I was in search for the truth. I wasn’t sure what the truth was but I was hoping that when I found it, it would smack me in the face.

I was travelling light with my dog by my side, a small back pack and a shoulder satchel big enough to carry some books that I picked up along the way in second-hand shops.

I had a copy of  the Prophet, a book on Transcendental Meditation and  a few others I don’t remember plus a book I believe was called ‘The Man Who Went Everywhere Doing Good.’ It was a modern day story about a man whose sole purpose in life was to travel from place to place and do good to who ever he met  or  who needed a helping hand.

He was able to help  people when sick, feed the hungry, comfort the brokenhearted and had wisdom beyond his years.  He told stories that entertained  his audiences and in return those he helped, took care of his physical needs.

He was my new hero and I wanted to be just like him. For the first time in my life I had a desire to do something for others whose name was not Sammy.

Some might say a miracle was in progress because up until this time my life was pretty much self-centered. Everything revolved around me, my feelings, my desires, my way.

A short time later me and Jesus hooked up and have been together ever since. It didn’t take me long to realize that Jesus  was the man  in the book and by hell and high water I was going to be just like him.

I got off to a great start. With nothing holding me back, no other responsibilities other than myself, (sadly my dog left me as she was hit by a car not long before this time) I was able to fulfill my self-imposed promise to be like the man who went everywhere doing good.

As the years progressed I had my own hitch hikers join me.  A wife  and children came along for the ride and we continued my quest as a family.

But sometimes a mother and children need a nest and I  had to eventually sacrifice my calling to take care of business.  Although I never gave up trying to witness and help those in need the responsibilities of having a large family brought a new dimension to our lifestyle.

My family became my first priority but all the while always looking for ways to continue my calling . For many years as the dynamics of our way of life and priorities changed I spent  more time on all the things one needed to do to keep a family clothed, fed, schooled, healthy, safe and having fun.

This took up most of my time as you are well aware if you have a family, but my calling was always close at hand waiting for any opportunity to pounce when given the word. As each year passed and my calling gathering dust I started to feel bad about not being able to do what I believed  God wanted  me to do.

Did I miss my calling?

In hindsight, which is always a great teacher I realized that I didn’t miss my calling, but in fact my calling changed. I just didn’t recognize when the baton was passed on.

I pined for the old many a day, thinking, God had finally put me out to pasture. But as I have found out life goes through many cycles and after more than thirty years on as my family matured and left home I can feel the baton stating to change hands once again.

What ever it may be I know one thing is certain,  Its going to be one exciting ride even if it could be my  curtain call (ing).

Have you missed your calling?

Has the baton changed hands?

Make It Personal Part 5

BE A GOOD LISTENER

iStock_000004060935XSmall[1](2)When I first started witnessing on the streets of Vancouver, armed with only a bible in my first months as a Christian, I came out guns blazing and I didn’t stop until I was the last man standing. I left it for the more mature sensible elders to pick up the pieces.

I didn’t know any better and of course experience and time are the best teachers. With thousands of hours clocked up on the front lines ( streets, Universities, Colleges and where ever there was a heart beat) I learned  that one of the greatest tools we have as a believer is a listening ear.

When I go to the doctor, the first thing he will ask me is “what’s wrong, what’s the problem, what’s bothering you.” The doctor needs to hear it from me to explain to him what symptoms I have. From there he will invariably poke and prod and ask more questions. If the problem is not visible on the body. If its internal he needs to gather the most information he can from me the patient.

In other words he has to listen to what I am saying about myself by asking leading questions.

Personal one on one witnessing, for success is not much different. It’s not always easy as I  experienced, especially in my early years that my guns were loaded, the safety off and my finger on the trigger ready to fire.

In my overly zealous enthusiasm I thought I already had the answer and was just waiting for the right time to fire away not really understanding what a person needed in his or her life at the time.

It took me a long time, many, many years in fact, before I learned to listen by asking the right questions. Questions that would put me in a position to have to really listen to what a person is trying to convey.

By asking the right questions I became a good listener because I was hearing what I needed to hear about a person that would help me to know how give them Jesus in a way that would be easily understood by them. Given a chance people love to talk about themselves and will open up if they know they can trust you with their heart.

It’s our job as God’s Ambassadors  to lead them to Jesus, show them the way. If they are ready to pray there on the spot fine but sometimes they just need directions and sometimes all they need is a listening ear.  If we have asked the right questions,  listened well, and pointed them in the right direction we have done our job. All the rest is icing on the cake.

“…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.. James 1:19 (KJV) Now this may have been taken out of context and James may have meant it for something other than personal witnessing, but that is what is so great about God, He can apply HIS word any way he wants.

So if we want to be better witnesses let us use both our ears, first and then be very slow to speak. I

We may not know until we get to heaven to see all the souls that we influenced along the way. How great it will be when Jesus greets us with a “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord”

Make It Personal Part 4

All-Things-To-All-Men-TC-DI-to-L8

In personal witnessing I am a believer in what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:22 (KJV) “….I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  In other words he became one with those he was witnessing to. To the Jew as the Jew, to the weak as weak, he related parts of his life to become one with those he witnessed to so that he could win them to Jesus. He was willing to use anything in his arsenal  if it meant a better chance of having the truth of the gospel received.

When I came to Jesus I was a hippy in mind, body and spirit. I looked the part, I had an afro my black friends would have been proud of, torn jeans, flannel shirt, beard. So when I became a new creature in Christ I wanted to shed the looks of the old man. Shave my beard, cut my hair, change my clothes.

One of the elders of my new found church pulled me aside and asked me if I wouldn’t mind not changing my appearance for the time being. He went on to explain that the hippies who at that time in history were everywhere ripe for the picking as many (like myself) were in search of a new life. We were a very spiritually minded people.

He went on to explain that it would make it easier for my hippy compatriots  to relate to someone who not only came from their culture but looked the part hence helping to knock down any barriers that can arise when people don’t feel there is much in common with you.

If it would help I was willing and it was a good move. They came to me like bees on honey. I became ‘as all men that I might win some’  and there were many that came to the Lord because I stayed the same on the outside although my inside was brand new. They could relate to my appearance, drug taking experiences, music, philosophies that I was so familiar with as most of us hippies were in those days. Throw in being a Jew to a Jew and the Vietnam war I had quite a bit of territory covered and it bore fruit.

Yes, I did eventually shave my beard, cut my hair and found some pants that didn’t have rips in them plus shoes with the same color shoe laces but not until my ministry to the hippies finished.

I believe Paul himself was talking from experience when he addressed the Corinthians. Now I confess that I am not a bible scholar, expert or biblical historian. Nor do I pretend to know how the bible should be interpreted or applied in many situations, what to take literal or what is historical etc. All I know is that when I come across something that speaks to me I get excited.

So in relating to Paul’s goings on as brought out in the Book of Acts I may get a some details out of place or misinterpret his actions but I am sure if he were here he wouldn’t hold it against me because he would see that I am just as passionate about living for Jesus as he was.

Now Paul and another brother decide to take a big road trip to visit the already established churches in other parts of the world to encourage the brethren. Somewhere along the line they get into some strife because Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut because when ever he had opportunity to tell his amazing personal testimony of how Jesus smacked him down, turned him around and made a believer out of the him who just that day was going to find some of these here Christian savages to persecute.

The Jews just couldn’t comprehend this Jesus fella so they took Paul and wanted beat him to a pulp. Paul decided to address the matter with his full version of His salvation story. This enraged the Jews even more and were intent on putting an end to this heresy. They passed him along to the next in charge and Paul talked those that had him bound into addressing yet another crowd. He spoke in Hebrew, right away those that understand stopped and listened.  He got these Jews onside, at least temporarily.

I am starting to understand Paul’s thinking now. He was certainly out to save some and one of the some, was himself.  After playing pass the parcel they then pawned Paul off to the next ruler to have him incarcerated. Again Paul tried to become one with the crowd. You see Paul was of the  of the pharisees in his old life who were in opposition with the Sadducee’s.  I don’t really understand who was what and why but Paul used this to get his once fellow pharisees onside. It worked as he caused a division between the two religious  opponents. Sounded like there could have been a riot developing.

He was then passed on to a Roman centurion, Paul being a Roman and knowing Roman law he knew that he could stall for time to keep himself alive and not be thrown to the wolves by telling his captor that indeed he, Paul, was a Roman too. Knowing good and well that there was then another process to adhere too it bought him more time and hopefully a happy end to this ordeal.

Well it worked and Paul got to see the world as he was sent from place to place until eventually he was set free to fight another day.

How many believers he influenced on that trip I don’t really know but because Paul was willing to be made all things to all men he not only stayed alive but able to preach the gospel.

I guess what I am trying to say is this. If you want to soften a stranger’s heart, find what you have in common and use it. To the Jew as a Jew. It doesn’t mean instant success but it gives you more opportunity to get out the message.

It worked for Paul, it worked for me and I am sure it could work for you.

All things to all men.

Make It Personal – Part 3

Never under-estimate the powerful influence that our personal testimony has when witnessing to others.

I have been reading through the Book of Acts and it jumped out at me the times Paul  used his personal account of how Jesus stopped him in his tracks and revealed himself. Paul was never the same and no matter what other teachings he tried to persuade in his preaching his personal story was the most powerful. (In my humble opinion of course)

I thought about it and just as my physical birth into this world was more of a story for my parents to tell, my rebirth into the spirit world is my own story, I was there and I experienced it in full.

I understand the argument unbelievers put to us about the validity of faith and what we as Christians believe even though we can’t see it. The whole bible is taken by faith in that we believe in what is written not because we were there or knew anyone who was but because we believe those who wrote the stories were anointed of God.

It’s all a matter of faith and although there are numerous interpretations according to what church or religion you belong to it still takes our personal belief that those things actually happened the way they were portrayed.

We won’t really know until we leave this world and go on to the other side because it is all a matter of what we believe and although our faith gives us the ability to know these things it is still conjecture as far as unbelievers see it.

Talking of all the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 verses 13 & 16 says (KJV);

These all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them and professed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Now they desire a better country that is an heavenly wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God and He hath prepared for them a city.

Most of us haven’t seen it but we believe it by faith.

In saying that the only thing we can be certain of with faith is our own personal experience in how each one of us came to know Jesus. And with that our most powerful witness.

That in itself is our spiritual birth certificate. When we were reborn into a world that takes faith to believe.

Paul used his personal testimony so many times in his witness and with good cause. It was powerful, he was there (and some witnesses) and it couldn’t be denied unless he was called a liar.

I was amused at how Paul when incarcerated as is told in the Book of Acts when he was in strife he used his personal testimony. When all else fails testify.

I am reminded of the time when on a mission field in South East Asia, from time to time a few of us would go on a road trip to a small village to see what God would do. On this particular trip I went with a christian brother and one of my sons who was only about seven years old at the time.

We found our way to the only store in this particular village and when entering for early morning breakfast found ourselves in the middle of a gang of young people either still drinking from the night before or getting an early start.

We had two choices; turn and run or trust God we were there for a reason. We chose the latter.

White people in this part of the country was obviously not a regular occurrence and along with the stares and occasional obscenity thrown our way we were starting to wonder if we had made the right decision.

One man stood out in the crowd. Wearing a vest with no shirt I saw tucked into his pants a gun. It all of a sudden got very hot, I knew this because sweat was starting to pour down my face.

Leaving the pack he sauntered over and asked what we were doing there his vest swaying making his accessory stand out even more.

He, for some reason walked right over to me and confronted me of why we were in his town. I told him in no uncertain terms that we were there to tell other about Jesus.

He pulled me away from my “pack” and told me to sit down and tell me about it. Now I can’t remember all I said but I thought if I talk and he listens we were safe.

I started by telling how Jesus found me, I gave him in detail my personal testimony and he listened attentively to every word.

When I finally ran out of words and waited for the judgement I noticed that his eyes had softened and he was speechless. He then asked respectfully if we wouldn’t mind coming to his house to talk more privately.

It was a big decision and conferring with my team we thought it would be OK.  To our surprise and relief he left his gang and went alone.

Longer story short. When we arrived at his place and he showed us pictures of his time as a merchant marine working out of Germany he confessed that when he returned to his home country he got involved with bad things. He became a gun for hire (he used a word to describe it in his local dialect but I can’t remember it).

He killed people for a living.

It was a good visit and we spent a few hours with this man. I can’t say that he at that moment received Jesus but we did a good job of sowing some seed and watering the ground. We left the rest up to God.

God saved us from a potentially serious situation and I believe that he used my personal testimony to do it.

I of course have used my conversion hundreds of times since and none so dramatic but I am convinced to this day that it still remains my most powerful tool in telling others about Jesus.

Not all of us have dramatic Hollywood movie type conversions like Paul but we all have a story that is just as powerful as if we are not afraid to tell it like it is. Each one of us has a unique story to tell.

Tell it with passion and conviction.

Make It Personal Part 2

preach_the_gospel_at_all_times

Jesus was actually the first person to personally witness to me. Of course at the time I didn’t realize it was Jesus and only in retrospect can I fully appreciate his personal touch on that unscheduled stroll down Hollywood Blvd in 1972.

The country was being invaded by the Hippie Generation which I embraced with open arms. Peace, love, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

At the same time there was a phenomenon dubbed as the Jesus Revolution rising up.

Walking past two men on the middle of a sidewalk having a discussion all I heard were these words. “Jesus was a Jew”.

Those seemingly innocuous four words stuck with me. It may be hard to believe that a twenty two year old Jewish boy never even heard of Jesus.

Its true, my only contact with the man’s name was when I was either in a bar or pool room where the name Jesus was thrown around like a Frisbee on a Sunday afternoon in a crowded park.

Jesus was the master of personal witnessing. He found common ground with me that I couldn’t argue or disrepute. He was telling me, “hey buddy, I was Jewish just like you are. We have something in common.”  Eight months later Jesus was firmly embedded in my heart and the rest is history.

I wanted to use this example because finding common ground with those we witness to or come into contact with plays such a big part in helping a stranger feel like there is a connection between him or her and you.

When someone sees that you too are struggling with your toddler trying to keep her contained and not reeking havoc on the supermarket you have found common ground. We can think of many such instances that confront us each day.

It’s a starting point. And how do we use this common ground to make our witness heard?  We take the first step open our mouth say something and then trust the Lord that what happens after that is going to be just what is supposed to happen.

But keep in mind we don’t have to be like Forrest Gump sitting at the bus stop bench telling his whole life story. Neither will starting at Genesis and finishing with John on the island of Patmos in Revelation work either.

Planting or watering a seed doesn’t take much time. A word, a thought, a kindness, a smile or an understanding look is sometimes all it takes.

But for the most part we may only have a few minutes to spend with a stranger. Don’t feel that unless you deliver the whole sermon on the mount that you haven’t done your job as a witness.  That is not the case. If you  have shown yourself friendly and can visually relate to a person that you have something in common it is a great starting point and ice breaker.

Because we usually only have a few minutes with someone and you really want to solidify this chance meeting, you can always reach into your top pocket or your handbag and pull out that gospel tract you have been carrying around for just such an occasion.

It’s about being in the right place at the right time and being prepared with a sack of seed or a watering can.

I would like to leave you with these thoughts from Brennan Manning from his book  The Ragamuffin Gospel.

“The ministry of evangelization is an extraordinary opportunity of showing gratitude to Jesus by passing on His gospel of grace to others. However, the “conversion by concussion” method, with one sledgehammer blow of the Bible after another, betrays a basic disrespect for the dignity of the other and is utterly alien to the gospel imperative to bear witness. To evangelize a person is to say to him or her, You, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus. And not only to say it but to really think it and relate it to the man or woman so they can sense it. This is what it means to announce the Good News. But that becomes possible only by offering the person your friendship—a friendship that is real, unselfish, without condescension, full of confidence, and profound esteem.”

When all is said and done at the end of the day and you reflect on the days activities Jesus could very well say to you,  “well done thou good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)

Make It Personal Part 1

imagesI am enjoying reading the blog posts under the Faith section of  WordPress Reader. Thousands of my brothers and sisters around the world are making noise professing Jesus and pouring out their hearts making themselves heard.

Topics such as obedience, salvation, disciples, christian, faith, belief, hope, missions, missionaries, trusting God, bible, gospel, courage, angels, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, bible stories, God,trust,  love, encouragement, Satan  religion, prayer, spirit etc.

There must be thousands of posts daily just on WordPress alone,  Christians professing their love for God, preaching the gospel, sharing their stories of faith, opening their hearts as many are clinging to His Word one day at a time.

Neither time or stamina allows me to read them all but those I have read there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus has a special hold on those who know him personally and so it should be.

In saying that there is one topic that I find almost non-existent. Outreach and witnessing.

Outreach for the most part is witnessing. Sharing the Lord’s love and mercy in all ways possible and from what I can see from where I stand most churches and religious groups and christian organizations do a pretty good job on this one.

What I would like to talk about is something I fear may be a lost art.

Personal witnessing.

I am not sure if it’s a term used any more as I myself am not a church goer.  Maybe it has a new name that I am not aware of. I also am not talking about the organized going out two by two door knocking or standing on the street corner handing out gospel tracts.

What I am talking about is going about our business during the course of the day and looking for opportunity to talk to people about our faith. I bring this up because although I am sure someone must have had some stories to tell along this line, I haven’t seen them.

Personal witnessing or one on one, face to face with another person usually a stranger have been some of the most  exhilarating and rewarding experiences that I have had over the years during my time in the Lord’s service.

It is not only a powerful way to reach those who are searching and looking for Jesus but it is nothing less than supernatural to see someone transform right in front of your eyes. Walking away from someone who was uplifted by not just your words of love but your whole demeanor because all of us as Christians should be God’s representatives in shoe leather.

Personal witnessing is not ripping the pages out of your bible and stuffing them down the throat of  the person God put in your path neither is it being smacked over the head with the bible that is weighing down your handbag.

It is being in the right place at the right time always on the ready to share God’s love with someone one on a personal level.

So if you need a pick me up make it a habit or part of your daily routine like having that cup of coffee or walking the dog etc by praying that God will bring someone your way during the course of your daily activities so you can share the love of God face to face.

When personally witnessing to someone I think I Corinthians 3:6-8 (KJV) sums it up beautifully. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

So it doesn’t matter if we are the planter of the seed, or we water the seed its God that does the increasing or growing but each one of us receives a reward and to me that is always seeing someone touched by the love of God.

Stay tuned for Part II of Make It Personal

In the meantime if you have personal witnessing stories, please share as I would love to hear them.