Building Bridges

imageSincere followers of Jesus Christ can still struggle at times when it comes to sharing their faith, especially when we’re interacting with those holding different, or even divisive views. Thankfully, Scripture illustrates the components for effective communication & how they can be integrated to help maximize our efforts & proclamation of the gospel:

Identification: We all have opportunities to share Christ, but are we willing to seize them? For the needs are many, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). How can this be? Why do so many of us continue to hold back, blend in & concern ourselves with what others think of us? Instead of being the courageous children of the King of kings, we become cowardly cop-outs, victims to an intimidating world, rather than victors. However, when we realize God’s profound love for us, we grow more secure & less fearful. As a result, we begin seeing the needs of others with greater clarity & become motivated to help them, rather than avoid them.

Introduction: By meeting needs, we build connectivity & rapport, which also creates a powerful moment to introduce Jesus. It’s a time of sharing that’s personal & authentic. This is our testimony, forged by our deep experiences with Christ & how He was sent to offer the same healing, restoration & rescue to all who believe (Acts 16:31). We’re not seeking to condemn, or judge for we’re all sinners saved by the grace of God, but to share in love that God has a purpose for every person He created & that we were sent to share this good news with them.

Invitation: Who doesn’t appreciate a sincere invitation to a celebration? And we get to extend the greatest invitation there is! But do we see it this way? If we truly view Jesus as the greatest gift to mankind, we can confidently extend invitations on our Savior’s behalf without shame, or hesitation. Although some will choose to reject the promptings of the Spirit, they are not rejecting us, but our Lord; & although sad, we must remember as messengers, our role is to expose & proclaim the truth (Romans 10:14-15). Belief is God’s work (John 6:29).

Application: “Sent To Seek Out & Speak Out” – Acts 18:9 Why would we ever hold the preciousness of Jesus to ourselves? No doubt, we will face persecution, but we needn’t fear the world when God has promised to never leave, or forsake us. We don’t even have to be eloquent – only willing. Are we willing to go forth today? Who do we see wounded & blinded by sin? Let us share with them the only hope they have for healing & eternal life & let them know they’re special, created with purpose & deeply loved. Who doesn’t need to hear this? God knows, we all do.

“Hope Floats”

imageOur capacity to hope distinguishes us from all creation, but it also promotes our purpose in Christ. For without our hope in the gospel we are reduced to an anxious state of surviving, rather than raised to an abundant life that’s thriving (John 10:10).

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wisely stated, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Although loss & struggles will always reside this side of heaven, these same conflicts provide us the opportunities to be conquerers through Christ (Romans 8:37). Are circumstances currently testing your hope? The Gospel offers three reminders to help supply its restoration:

It Reassures: Do events in your life have you discouraged, pressed down & stressed out? The Word of God reassures us that our efforts are never in vain & that through Christ we can endure & even flourish (1 Corinthians 15:8)! Thankfully, all trials are temporary – our hope in God’s truth is everlasting.

It Sets Roots: The storms of life offer opportunities for our faith to be tested, tried & applied, and the gospel of Christ offers our only firm foundation. He empowers us to remain fruitful despite our circumstances which in turn provides encouragement to others, strengthens our faith & grows His church (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

It Rescues: God never abandons His children & nothing, not even death can separate us from His love. For He promises to never leave, or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is with us always & in every situation. Have we been trying to seek security, or rescue in our education, our careers, our relationships, or even our possessions? Nothing on earth can accomplish this – only Jesus.

Application: “Redeemed For Rescue” – Acts 20:24
Without faith & hope our struggles are without purpose, or meaning, and our cries are reduced to nothing more than the howls of an animal. Praise God that in Christ, we know we have an intercessor, who hears our cries & meets our needs (Psalm 34:17)! For we are never alone, or without hope. We are here for a reason & our purpose is not for ourselves, but to allow our lives to be used to expose as many as possible to the truth of Jesus & the miracle of His rescue in all we do. Who might we be able to share this hope with today?

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

Open To Opportunities?

imageI recently embarked on my first mission trip, and to be honest, I hadn’t planned on going anytime soon, but God literally removed any cause for me not to. So, I walked through the obvious open door set before me. Now, I realize this doesn’t sound like the deeply passionate call shared by many who go on missions, but none the less, this is how He called me. He removed my excuses and thankfully, despite the sacrifices, I was willing. As a result, I was blessed to witness God both strengthen and grow His church like never before (Acts 16:5).

Overall, I’d like to say I always accept the various opportunities God sends my way, but in reality, I have allowed way too many to pass me by during my lifetime. In doing so, I cheated myself and others from experiencing Him in deeper ways. Thankfully, three attributes can help us better seize the opportunities He sends us, whatever and wherever they may be:

Attentiveness: How observant are we to both the physical and spiritual needs of others and how quick are we to respond? It may be our neighbor, a work associate, a client, or even a stranger, but needs are everywhere. All we have to do is take off our blinders, look around and respond (Matthew 9:37).

Availability: How often have we passed on Godly opportunities by stating we don’t have the time? Or convincing ourselves to be silent rather than witnessing to others? Being available isn’t always convenient, or easy. Often times it’s just the opposite. However, divine adventures await the willing (Isaiah 1:19). We don’t have to accept our own excuses and settle for the sidelines, or let another opportunity pass us by.

Authenticity: Many times our lack of confidence may prevent us from seizing opportunities. We may worry about not knowing the right things to say, or do, but this bases our decisioning on self-sufficiency, not Christ. Yet, when we abandon this idea and rely completely upon Jesus, we discover He supplies our every need and word and uses us just as we are for His glory (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).

Application: “Here I Am! Send Me!” – Isaiah 6:8
Jesus often met spiritual needs by first meeting physical needs, and we share this same opportunity today! Yet, He did everything, even facing a horrendous death, out of His deep love for each of us (John 3:16). Do we share this love? Or are we limited by our self-evaluations and motivations? Opportunities to love and share the gospel abound when we realize our circumstances can serve as our platform and our pain can be for others’ gain (Luke 22:32). God provides the opportunities, but are we willing to speak & go forth?

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

Prodigal Pursuits

imageThen I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat & hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke & spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.” These words were written thousands of years ago by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:11 (MSG). Yet, how many of us ignore its warning & continue to blindly chase goals that promise the same dire consequence? Sadly, it’s so easy to do. I know, for I once placed my health, my family & my walk with God in great jeopardy for such fool’s gold. They are the prodigal pursuits many of us fall for:

Position: As a competitive person, I lived out Lombardi’s declaration that “there is no room for 2nd place” & would wear-out myself & others in the process. Although I remain highly driven to deliver my absolute best, today my motivation is very different. Consider – does the fear of failure propel us? Do we covet successes & crave approval & recognition from others? Are we so insecure & prideful that we neglect God & family for hollow trophies? When our accomplishments point to self they are in vain, but if they point to the cross & strengthen others in Christ they are always a great gain (1Corinthians 9:24).

Possessions: There’s nothing wrong with owning nice things – if they don’t “own” us. We endanger ourselves & others when our pursuits lead us away from God, our family & the wise stewardship practices of tithing, saving & reducing/avoiding debt. Our income may cover a desired lifestyle today, but what if we lose our job, or face unforeseen costs? Do those same possessions suddenly magnify our burdens? Through Christ we learn the power of contentment without complacency (1 Timothy 6:6).

Prosperity: When our position & possessions increase, we might be perceived as prosperous – an alluring priority for many of us. Yet, is this a true measuring stick for success? As Christians, we know it’s not, but it still so easily seduces us. Like fish lured by a dressed hook, we can get distracted from our true nourishment & refuge. True prosperity is found in Christ & how fruitful we allow Him to make us for His Kingdom – and He does this through His princes & paupers (John 15:8).

Application: “Pursuing Precious Priorities” – John 10:10
Would all the world’s pleasures & treasures be worth forfeiting inner peace & joy despite circumstances, loving relationships & even the eternal condition of our soul? Of course not! May we never forget, our only lasting pleasure rests in our “reckless reliance” in Christ & in sharing the precious treasure(s) of the gospel entrusted to us all.

Daring To Go Deeper

imageMy family relishes going to the beach & all the benefits the sun, sand & surf have to offer. Yet, no matter how much we may love wading in the water, there’s a limit to how far we’re willing to swim out. This is where the ocean depths begin triggering our minds to the potential dangers of undertow & of creatures lurking below. Many times our responses to God are similar as He works to draw us out to deeper levels of faith (Mark 4:19):

Surface Level: This level is similar to when a child encounters the surf for the first time. It’s an exhilarating moment filled with curiosity & exploration that allows confidence to grow. Yet, eventually, we are urged to go deeper. We then face the opportunity to remain safely in the environment we know, or take the loving hand of our Father & trust Him as He leads us deeper (2Corinthians 5:7). Like a child on shore, do we stubbornly refuse, or are we willing to step out from our comfort zone?

Shallow Level: At this level, we’re waste deep & the waves begin to crash against our chest as we’re held by the hand we trust. Slowly, our uncertainties & fears are replaced with renewed excitement as we begin to realize the joys these new depths offer under our Father’s protection (2Corinthians 4:18). We may even be so bold to go neck deep, but over time, we’ll again be prompted to go even farther. Are we facing any situations requiring new depths of faith? Do we dare go deeper, or simply settle for where we are?

Submerged Level: At this level fears of the unknown & unseen swarm our minds. The thought of going out farther seems ridiculous & impossible! Yet, our Father’s hand is still there & we must decide if we’re going to continue to trust Him for all necessary provisions & protection if we dare to go under. This is our point of complete surrender & abandonment. For life can no longer depend upon ourselves, or others (Galatians 2:20). However, for the willing, anxieties once again fade as we rediscover the Father possesses all the equipment necessary for us to flourish as deep sea divers & bring light into this new frontier.

Application:Move Forward!” – Exodus 14:15
With Pharaoh rapidly pursuing, God instructed Moses to move forward despite being blocked by the Red Sea & what once was impossible by sight, was soon possible by faith. The same holds true for us today. Is our faith being tested by adversities, adversaries and/or addictions to the point of despair? Let us step forward into deeper faith, knowing He who lives in us is greater than any pressures this world may bring (1John 4:4).