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Hey you,

God has given you everything you need, for right now.

His Presence is within you, for this moment.

He will never leave you or forsake you.  He will strengthen you inside out.  He has prepared you, equipped you, empowered you.

I often want to read between the lines of the lives of the people in the Bible.  What did they think?  How did the feel?  Did they doubt or fear?  What gave them hope and courage?

They are all like me.  Human.  Flawed.  Normal.

But God delights to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things.  He turns water into wine, loaves and fishes into a feast that feeds the multitudes.  He used a shepherd boy to fell a giant.  He used a silent army to knock down walls.

Today I take hope and courage in security that if God was with them, He will be with me.  This is His faithful promise.

Today I take hope that as I surrender and step out, that God steps in.

Today, He is with me.  For His purpose and His glory.

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You know, the bible is a little bit like the MCU.  In the MCU there are lots of big characters, your heroes, villians, people with great hair, plot twists, love stories, battles, victories, loses, and everything in between.  There are also the theories and the mythology and the easter eggs all the way through the 22 movies that belong in the MCU.

The bible is a lot like that.  Main players, heroes, villians, people with great hair, plot twists, love stories, battles, victories, loses, theories, themes and the all-important easter eggs all the way through the 66 books in the Bible.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Reblogged from:

The Answers: 30 Similarities between Abraham offering Isaac on Mt. Moriah and GOD offering Jesus on Mt. Calvary

In an earlier post that you can read HERE, I suggested that if you study the story of Abraham offering Isaac on Mt Moriah carefully, you could find as many as 30 similarities between that story and the story of God offering Jesus as a sacrifice on Mt Calvary. I posed this question to our Connect Group at Hebron Church on Sunday, and here are the 30 similarities that we found.

In both stories…

  1. The father leads his son to be sacrificed.
  2. A donkey is involved on the road to the sacrifice.
  3. They leave their “homeland” to go to the place of sacrifice (Abraham & Isaac travel to the mountain, Jesus leaves heaven to come to earth).
  4. To get from where they are to the place of sacrifice requires a journey.
  5. Each son is the “one and only son” of his father.
  6. The son is a descendant of Abraham.
  7. The son had been born with divine intervention.
  8. The sacrifices take place on the same mountain (called Mt. Moriah in the Old Testament, called Mt. Calvary in the New Testament — also known as Mt. Zion, by the way)
  9. The companions that were with them stayed behind (most likely on the hill across the valley, called the Mt. of Olives) when the son went with the father for the sacrifice.
  10. The son carried the wood/cross to the place of sacrifice.
  11. The son asked questions of the father.
  12. The father knew what he was called to do.
  13. The son was submissive to the will of the father.
  14. The father was willing to sacrifice his son, if necessary.
  15. The father believed in resurrection.
  16. The father loved the son.
  17. A resurrection was prophesied (Abraham said, “we’ll come back to you.” Jesus said, “I will rise on the third day.”)
  18. The son was laid upon the wood/cross.
  19. The son was bound to the wood/cross.
  20. Abraham had a knife to pierce his son, Jesus’ skin was pierced by whips laced with bones, glass and rocks.
  21. The Lord Himself provided the sacrifice (the ram, Jesus). [Note, the word order in the Hebrew text of Genesis 22:8 could read, “The Lord will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” A foreshadowing of Jesus]
  22. Blood was shed.
  23. The sacrifice was a substitute (ram a substitute for Isaac, Jesus a substitute for us).
  24. The sacrifice was a demonstration of love for God.
  25. Men of great faith in God who were committed obediently to the will of God.
  26. The ram was caught in the thorns, and Jesus had a crown of thorns on his head.
  27. Abundant blessings flow because of the sacrifice (abundant life).
  28. Abraham was tested, Jesus was tested.
  29. The son ultimately survived the sacrifice.
  30. The son was resurrected on the third day.

Number 30 requires a little explanation. Jesus was literally resurrected on the third day. As for Isaac: Abraham heard from the Lord that he was to sacrifice his son. As far as he was concerned, Isaac was as good as dead at that point. The journey from their home to the place of sacrifice took three days. On the third day, God provided the ram so that Isaac was spared his life, i.e., he was “resurrected” on the third day. The Bible tells us that Abraham had great faith all along, believing that even if God did call him to slay his son that God would bring his son back to life!

Not sure if we got all 30 of them right? Maybe you found other similarities? Let me know.

Keep studying, and keep trusting in the will of God, the ways of God, and the Word of God.

On Wednesday I celebrated my 26th born again day – the day I became a Christian.

I was invited to youth by a friend in class who had never talked to me about God or youth group or anything before, she just turned to me and said do you wanna come to youth group.   I said yes.  Because God had been at work in my life way before then to draw me to him.

But sometimes we forget this.  We forget the power of invitation.  We forget about how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  We forget that God uses us to share the gospel and to invite people to church.

We get busy with life and family and work and doing, and we forget that Jesus Himself said that He came to seek and save the lost.  His priority mission was one of rescue.

I want to take Evangelism out of the too hard basket and help us see that this is something we can do in our everyday real lives, with everyday real people, being our everyday real selves.

It is not something for just special super spiritual people. It is not just something for pastors.  It is not even something just for extroverts.

It is the on earth mission that Jesus has given every single one of us if we are Christians.

Read the rest of this entry »

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In 1985 Clarence Duncan arrived in Africa as missionary to the solidly Muslim people called the Yao who live mainly in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. When he settled in his village, he called for a meeting with the elders. After the pleasantries the chief asked him his name. Clarence replied, “Mr. Clarence.”

The council looked at each other for a moment and then the chief asked, “Why are you here?”

Again Clarence simply said, “I want to tell your people about Isa Al Mahsi (Jesus the Messiah).”

A couple months later, when the chief decided he could trust Clarence, he said, “Do you know why we allowed you to stay?”

Clarence said, “I never thought about it.”

“Twenty-one years ago a very old Yao man came to our village and called for a meeting as you did. When we asked him his name, this Yao man said, ‘Mr. Clarence’—which isn’t an African name at all! When we asked him why he came, he said, ‘I want to tell your people about Isa Al Mahsi.’ These were your very words. Twenty-one years ago Mr. Clarence led four of our villagers to follow Jesus. So we ran them out of the village. And we killed Mr. Clarence. The reason we allowed you to stay was we were afraid.”

That was 1985. Two years ago on a January morning 24 Muslim elders approached Clarence Duncan’s house. After a meal the leader sat in the middle of the room and said that they had come to ask questions about Christianity. Clarence said fine but that he would only answer them by reading from the Bible so they would know he did not invent the answers. So he gave each of them a Bible in the trade language. The first question was, “Why do you Christians say that there are three gods?”

Clarence said the answer was found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and gave them the page: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is one!” And he mentioned that Isa (Jesus) said this very thing in Mark 12:29.

The questioning went on till five in the afternoon. When all had left, the leader, Sheik Abu Bakr, stayed and asked if he could see Clarence in a week.

When they met Abu asked if Clarence knew why they came to see him last week. Clarence said he assumed it was to ask questions. But Abu said, “No, it was because the Christian church is growing so fast we knew we had to kill you. We had consulted for three days and prepared our magic. You were to be struck dumb when we asked questions, then fall on the ground paralyzed and then die. But when you kept talking, and even stood up and moved around, we knew you had a stronger Spirit and gave up.”

Then Abu said, “I want to become a Christian.” And he told an amazing story.

“When I was a teenager, in our village we were not Muslim people and we were not Christian. We were Achewa people with our own religion. Behind our village was a hill where I would often go to pray.

“One day I was on that hill praying. Suddenly all around me was a blinding light. Out of this light I saw a big hand coming toward me holding an open book. I looked at the book and saw writing on the page. A Voice told me to read. I protested that I could not read, never having been to school. The Voice again told me to read. So I did. And suddenly the book and the hand disappeared.

“I ran back to my village and all the people were looking for me, thinking I had died on that hill! They asked about a fire they had seen up there. When I told them the story, they laughed at me saying, You can’t read!

“Someone got a book and I began to read! Then people came from all around to find out more about what happened and asked questions. The Muslim authorities found out about me and I was trained in the ways of Islam. Soon all or our village became Muslim. For 15 years I was the greatest debater against the Christians.”

He paused and then said, “You remember when I asked you the first question about why Christians believe in three gods? Your answer was Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 4.”

“That’s right,” Clarence said.

Sheik Abu Bakr looked Clarence Duncan in the eye and said, “That was the same passage that this Voice on the mountain showed me. At that moment I knew that the God you were talking about was the True God!”

“Then why did you keep asking me all those questions the whole day?”

“Because,” he smiled, “I wanted all these Muslim leaders to know what the Christians believe and I wanted them to hear it from you. The whole day I pretended unbelief so that I could ask more questions. Now I want to become a Christian.”

 

from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-leading-of-the-lord-in-personal-evangelism

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Francis of Assai said “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.”  Our whole lives are opportunities to demonstrate God and His power to save and transform.  But there are times when WORDS are necessary to communicate the message of salvation.  People usually don’t learn about the Good News by osmosis!

As Christians everyday we encounter people who may need to know the Good News about God.  How do we go from “ordinary” conversation to talking about God?

And how do we go and talk to complete strangers about God?

People are hungry for encounter with the real God.  Within each person is a desire for forgiveness and innocence.   Salvation isn’t an optional extra for life, it is a necessary essential, just as a parachute is a necessary essential for people about to jump out of a plane.  As saved people we are called to tell others about the wonderful kindness and eternal rescue that we have experienced.  God didn’t give the job to the angels but He gave it those who live the Gospel to tell the Gospel.

“Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us.” Keith Wright

We are called and empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to GO but sometimes taking that first step can be the hardest obstacle to get over.

Here are a few simple things that we can do or know that can set us up for successful conversations about God with strangers.

Know what The Message is.

We don’t need to be Bible scholars, able to exegesis about the greater meaning of the third toe on the beasts left foot, but I think it is important to know your Bible – for personal reasons, you’re learning not just facts about God, but you are learning His promises and guidance for your own life, but also so that you have some answers to peoples questions.

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have

Some people have religious backgrounds, others have studied philosophy and in this postmodern age everyone has an opinion on spirituality but the Word of God reveals to us WHO God really is and WHAT He has really done.   The answers found in the Bible will challenge and convict and get all the way in because they are just not ordinary words but contain power from God.

Know WHAT the Gospel is.  What did Jesus do and why?  Prepare yourself to answer people’s questions.

And perhaps more importantly – believe it.  Know it and believe it.

Know who YOU are, and what your style is.

Really?  Yes really.  In a way we’re all tailor-made with keys and strategies that help communicate the Gospel.   I’m not talking about just personality and being an extravert, but about a way of connecting with people and communicating the Gospel.

For myself, if I am out talking to strangers along Eastern Beach I often start with the question “Are you interested in God?”  This was a question and strategy that God gave me one morning while I was praying that I have found very effective.  Most people ARE interested in spiritual things!

I asked some of my evangelistically wired friends what they do when talking to pre Christians, if they had a personal style in evangelism.  One friend replied that he likes to use creation and science to open peoples eyes to the reality of God.  Another likes to pray and introduce people to God through Holy Spirit encounter.  Ray Comfort, international evangelist, uses the 10 commandments and tracts to communicate the need for a Saviour.

Discover your own personal style and then flow with that.

Recognize conversation TRANSITIONS

This is especially important in everyday interactions and conversations with friends, workmates etc, but can also play an important part in talking to complete strangers in an evangelism context.   Learn to recognize the moments in a conversation where you can talk about God, or flow the conversation in another direction.   Learn how to ask open questions about what they believe and then reply with your own testimony.  It takes practice to learn how to do this, and often in hindsight you can more clearly identify something that could have springboarded into talking about God.

It’s a PROCESS

Revival is about as much of a miracle as a crop of wheat. If you don’t plow, sow, water and reap you will never see a revival. If you plant the seed God has given you and pray over the place where you live and partner with the Holy Spirit you will watch God move in your region this year.  Andrew Robertson

Remember – our job is to plant seeds and water seeds others have planted – it is God who grows the plant!  Every conversation you have is doing something!   Each time you talk to someone God is doing something.  He is doing a hidden work in their hearts to draw them to Himself.

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Just do it!  Just start.  Fight the fear and just do it.  When the opportunity arises to go to the beach with someone to invite people to church go along and join in.  Go and watch someone in action.   Some people are wired to love evangelism and talking to strangers, but most people aren’t.  There is no out clause on the Great Commission though.  It’s totally fine to feel nervous about stepping out.  But don’t let that restrict you.  Overcome the fear.   It’s easier than you expect.

Above all else, it goes almost without saying, be in love with Jesus and know His everlasting love for you.  Be always falling more in love with Him and be transformed by His power.  This will be communicated, without words, to those you talk to and are with each day.

Evangelism is simply sharing what you’ve been shown. Simple. Let’s not complicate it.  We are called to be witnesses and ambassadors of the Good News of salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.  Let’s get out there and do it – there is a whole world ready to hear!

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Would you like to come to church with me sometime?”

Few Christians would disagree with the principle of this question. We might even agree that inviting people to church is a key part of evangelism and central to the mission of any church body. And get this, people actually want to be invited to church, too: 9 out of 10 unchurched people say they would come to church if invited, according to researcher Thom Rainer.

The only problem is, we rarely ask the question.

This next stat is a tough pill to swallow: about 1 in 5 of us churchgoers invites anybody to church in the course of a year, per Rainer. We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don’t even get the words out of our mouths.

We need to:

  1. PRAY YOU’D HAVE GOD’S HEART FOR THE LOST
  2. PRAY FOR COURAGE
  3. PRAY FOR SPECIFIC PEOPLE
  4. REMEMBER YOUR OWN CALLING
  5. REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
  6. TRUST IN THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO SAVE
  7. KNOW THAT SHARING THE HOPE OF ETERNITY IS LOVING
  8. KNOW THAT IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

Then we need to JUST DO IT.

Let’s get our brave on and do it afraid and see the awesome things that God will do through us as we step out.

 

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“There is no thing as secular employment for the believer. Once we are born again, everything about us is redeemed for Kingdom purposes. It is all spiritual. It is either a legitimate Kingdom expression, or we shouldn’t be involved at all.

Every believer is in full time ministry – only a few have pulpits in sanctuaries. The rest have their pulpit in their areas of expertise and favour in the world system.

The call of God is important, not because of the title it carries, or doesn’t carry. Its valuable because of the One who called us. An assignment to be in business is as valuable in the Kingdom as is the call to be an evangelist. The privilege to be a stay at home wife and mother is equal in importance to being a missionary. Embrace your call with the faithfulness and thankfulness worthy of the One who has called you.” Bill Johnson – Dreaming With God

Thirty years ago, Mary Lou Retton vaulted into stardom at the 1984 Olympic Games, becoming the first American to win gold in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition. She wowed the world with her amazing mix of grace, power, and dexterity. Her Olympic triumph, combined with her buoyant, bubbly personality made her an instant media sensation.

The speed with which Retton attained celebrity masked the years of sacrifice, dedication, and determined effort during which the little girl from West Virginia had developed into a world-class athlete. In the words of Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, May Lou Retton had “worked a lifetime to become a darling overnight.” Her Olympic victory had come at a tremendous cost. It caused her to move halfway across the country from her parents, required her to miss our on a normal childhood, and exacted a significant toll on her body.

Mary Lou Retton’s dream took shape when she was eight years old. Glued to the television set, the young girl watched in awe as Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, won gold at the 1976 Olympics. Inspired by the performance, Retton practiced the splits in her living room and declared, “I’m going to go to the Olympics one day. I’m going to win the Olympics!”

Over the next few years, the energetic Retton excelled at gymnastics, winning several local meets. It became apparent that she had special talent, but the training options in her hometown were limited. To go to the next level, Retton knew she needed professional coaching. She begged her parents to let her train with Bela Karolyi, the man who had taught her role model, Nadia Comaneci. At first her parents refused, believing their daughter—only 13—was too young to move Karolyi’s training facility in Houston. Yet Retton continued to plead for the opportunity, and after a year her parents relented. They scraped together the funds to send their daughter to Texas.

Barely a teenager, Retton experienced intense homesickness upon arrival to Houston, but the separation from her parents was “all worth it. If I hadn’t gone, I would never be where I am today.” Despite missing her family, Retton quickly settled into her new life of rigorous training. She went to the gym from 7:00 to 11:00 in the morning, spent the afternoon taking educational courses by correspondence, and then returned to the gym from 5:00 to 9:00 at night. She kept up the demanding regimen for two years. “You give up your childhood,” Retton said of the experience. “You miss proms and games and high school events, and people say it’s awful…[but] I say it was a good trade. You miss something, but I think I gained more than I lost.”

Through the constant leaping and bounding of gymnastics, the body takes a pounding. Even as teenagers, gymnasts feel arthritic symptoms and suffer all manner of aches and pains in their joints. As a 15-year old, Retton missed the World Championships with a wrist injury. Six months prior to the Olympics in 1984 she suffered a knee injury that put her participation in jeopardy. She underwent arthroscopic surgery and then “did three months of rehabilitation in two weeks” to get herself back on track. Long after her career was over, Retton was still paying the price physically: she needed a hip replacement before her 40th birthday.

Looking back on her life, Mary Lou Retton acknowledges that the sacrifices she made along the way were incredible—not only for herself but for her family. But she knows every one of them was worth the pain. “I view sacrifice as a kind of ‘moral investment,’ where what you give up now in the way of immediate gratification will eventually pay you tremendous dividends down the line.”

Thought to Ponder

The dream is free, but the journey isn’t. At some point, you have to make a transition from believer of the dream to buyer of the dream. No dream comes true without somebody paying for it. If you want to achieve the dream, you have to be willing to do more than just imagine the outcome. You have to sacrifice your comfort, money, time, and energy. Over the next year, what sacrifices do you anticipate needing to make in order to move closer to your dream?

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“the invisible kingdom inside a person ultimately becomes the visible kingdom around them” – kris vallotton

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