FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Fried Crabs, Part 1

In the little town where I currently reside (most of the time), it is common to see street side vendors and their hand painted signs advertising “Fried Crabs.”  While one or two have a food truck of sorts – old converted vans, others have a folding card table dressed with a vinyl cloth and accented with an electric deep fryer and all sorts of odd plastic containers.  One bears some kind of cornmeal mixture while others contain spices and sometimes mixtures of liquid ingredients.  I’ve never dared ask exactly what.  There is, too, the old ice chest which holds the crabs.

There are always small gatherings of people when I pass.  Some standing.  Some finding a seat on an array of odd furnishings – old metal folding chairs, worn wooden stool chairs and, the one that always makes me smile, the discarded seats from cars and buses.  While some customers grab their fried crabs and go, others sit, chat, swat flies and swap stories as they eat their crabs.

I’ve only viewed these vendors from what I’ve deemed a reasonable distance.  I’ve never tasted their wares and have no desire to.  Why?  I eat with my eyes first, and these sites are less than appealing to me.  I cannot get past the looks of the ice chests – blackened and smudged exteriors, the plastic containers – yellowed and stained and sometimes the vendors themselves – greasy aprons and unkempt hair.  I have looked for the health department rating certificates, but have yet to spot one.  I’m thinking there are none.

So, I take a pass.  Again, I eat with my eyes first.

Don’t we all?  Well, at least most.

Appearances are important.

Given the choice of a bright, shiny, well lit diner or a dimly lit fast food restaurant surrounded by a littered parking lot, most would choose the diner.  Given the choice of drinking a tall glass of clear, cool water or taking a swig of water from a chipped cup with remains of a previous meal encrusted around the rim, most would choose the glass.

Our sensory systems – taste, smell, vision, auditory and touch – are intertwined.  Research shows that our vision heavily influences our tasting, smelling and even our thinking.

First impressions are powerful.  In a matter of seconds we form impressions.  It is our human nature to quickly evaluate and move on – I will eat that.  I won’t eat that.  I will buy that.  I won’t buy that.  I will like this person.  I won’t like this person.  Good? Bad?  Right?  Wrong?  I cannot say unequivocally, but I can tell you it is how it is.

It is how we are.

Which makes me think again about the teachings in Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) –  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen…”

Not just those who travel to foreign lands or those who go door-to-door or those who engage in street evangelism – all Christians are witnesses.  Everyday, everywhere, all the time we are the Lord’s witnesses.

Many think of witnessing as something you do.  We equate it with certain acts and behaviors like passing out tracts, sharing testimonies during street revivals, ringing doorbells or praying the sinner’s prayer with someone after sharing an outline of faith.

But the truth is that we are witnesses all the time.  And note that Acts 1:8 says, “You shall be witnesses…” not You shall do witnessing.

So like it or not, you are a witness.

What kind of witness are you?

I once heard a minister say, “Your witness is only as good as your personal relationship with Jesus and the extent to which you submit to the power of His Holy Spirit allowing Him to work in and through you.”

What does it look like you are selling?  When people see you, are they drawn to Christ or do they turn the other way?

People are watching.  We are making impressions, and they are evaluating.  What kind of witness are you?

THIS WEEK reflect on your witness.  How are you presenting God’s truth?  Remembering that we eat with our eyes, consider first your appearance –  not just your dress or hairstyle, but how you carry yourself, your speech and your actions because, indeed, people will struggle to hear what you say when they are focused on watching what you are doing.  What might you need to change?  Is there something you need to stop doing (gossiping, telling off color jokes, lying, hanging out with a certain crowd…).  Is there something you need to begin doing (speaking truth in love, being on time for work, being more quiet, spending more time alone or with a different crowd…).  Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will whisper to you revealing actions you need to take to strengthen your witness.  Pray that the Holy Spirit opens your ears and your heart to hear, receive and act swiftly upon what He tells you.


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Who Have You Told Lately

LIfeWay Research (2012) indicates that “61 percent of evangelical Christians do not share their faith regularly” – even though they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Further, nearly half of those who responded to the LifeWay survey said they have not invited a non-Christian friend to church in the past six months.

Whoa!

That’s frightening, unsettling, distressing, disappointing, concerning, alarming… I’ve got a whole list of adjectives and adverbs that I could wrap around this one!  And when we butt this body of research up against a study by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in collaboration with LifeWay (2009), we find that “67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Another 63% say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be effective.  This same study reports that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are very or somewhat willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.”  A similar LifeWay study summarized in Discipleship Journal (2008) reported 75% would be wlling to listen to someone talk about his/her Christian beliefs and 78% would enjoy an honest conversations with a friend about spiritual beliefs even if they had other beliefs.

Enough of the numbers; let’s cut to the point best summarized by Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Research and Ministry Development, “[M]any of your unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to conversation.” THIS is clearly the point for the question raised in Romans 10:14 (NLT), “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?

Hello Someone!

Yes, you!

Who have YOU told lately?  With whom have YOU shared the good news of God’s Gospel?

Let me share another tidbit from the 2009 LifeWay data.  “Out of 13 approaches tested, personal invitations from family members or friends is the only method that a majority of Americans say would effectively draw them to church.”  Television, radio and newspaper all have an impact as do visits from congregational teams, but the most effective method is one-on-one personal communication with a family member or friend.  Church advertising and outreach methods clearly take a back seat to personal testimony and invitations.  And consider one final extract from LifeWay’s data, “At particular points in life, people are more open to considering matters of faith, the survey (2009) found. The Christmas season is the most common time for people to be open to spiritual matters. Nearly half (47 percent) are more open to considering matters of faith at Christmas. Americans are also open to matters of faith during the Easter season (38 percent).”

Hebrews 3:15 cautions us not to harden our hearts when we hear while James 1:22 admonishes us to be doers of the word.  And we know that Matthew 28:19 commands us to go, teach and make disciples.  I’m thinking perfect storm – THIS is the ideal time for you to hear this word just weeks before Easter, the season when many hearts are open and eager to hear God’s truth.  THIS is the ideal time for you to share!

THIS WEEK pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right opportunity and the right methodology to share your faith.  Unsure how to get started?  Explore the following resources.  Share your experiences as well as your encouragement for others using our blog’s comment feature!

RESOURCES

Share Your Faith Apphttp://shareyourfaithapp.com/

How to Share Your Faith (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association):  http://billygraham.org/grow-your-faith/how-to-share-your-faith/tools/

EvangeCUBE:  http://www.e3resources.org/downloads.php

Roman Road (Teen Mission International):  http://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/

FAITH Outlinehttp://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lifeway.com%2Fev%2Ffiles%2FevF_min_FAITH_VisitOutline.pdf&ei=4_AFVdywOoifNsXvg4gJ&usg=AFQjCNEgBlAI91LGBT5nxvukphTU6VdBdg&sig2=_vrcHO9_89NTcfsxCAfQtg