Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”
  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

____________________________________________

CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

“Keepers of the Aquarium”

Keepers of the Aquarium
Keepers of the Aquarium

A “FISHING” STORY:

Fishing season for the lakes open up every April  near my home in Washington State.  This year, I purchased a fishing license and headed towards a well-stocked lake nearby.  Since this was my first experience in lake fishing after 71 years, I decided to invite a neighbor who had some expertise in catching FISH.  I definitely needed some instructions from someone who was patient enough to teach me to bait my hook and cast the line out into the water. After a few miss-casts into the tree branches, I finally managed to get the rigging where Henry (my good neighbor) thought the fish might be.  I then was told to lay the fishing pole in a homemade fork looking device that Henry had brought along and then… wait.  I waited…and I waited…watching for the tip of the pole to begin twitching.  And then, it happened!  Henry yelled out, you got a fish on your line Mel.  Reel it in!  My eyes must have been as big as saucers and with a wide grin on my face I reeled in my FIRST FISH…ever.  Actually, when we decided it was time to leave our guarded fishing hole, while reeling in my fishing line…I caught another trout.  I yelled out in glee, somewhat surprising Henry I think, “Thank You Jesus”!  This does prove a point:  You can ‘teach old dogs new things.’

ANOTHER “FISHING” STORY TO TELL IN A MUCH LARGER LAKE:

Bigger Fish, bigger lake
Bigger Fish, bigger lake

There were men pulling in their fishing nets one morning.  The water from the wet nets broke the silence as two of the men stood up to stretch in their 20 Foot wooden boat.  They were eagerly searching for results from their labors of fishing all night long.  Although my experience was but a few hours on a small lake, I too eagerly waited for positive results.

But as the last of the empty nets pile into the boat bottom, they discouragingly reach for the boat’s oars as another wasted night is realized.

“How’s the fishing?” — a mans calls out from the shoreline.

“Nothing.  Absolutely NOTHING!” —they answered back.

“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat”,  orders the man from the nearby water’s edge.

“But we fished all night.”  

Frustration must have been heard in their voices.  I know my impatience would have certainly been with the fishermen’s; if I had been at Lake Padden and the results were…ZERO FISH!  But fishing in a much larger lake, the the Sea of Galilee…all night…fighting the surrounding elements…and coming home with NO RESULTS?

BUT, In Obedience–

After a long pause and the shaking of heads, a sense of authority in the voice coming from the beach is felt and the fisherman responds,  “All right, but only once more…”

456991202_47102379fbAfter a short time, letting out their nets in the same water, shouts of excitement ring out…calls for help sound from the boat.  The nets were so full, they were beginning to break!

You know this story from the conversations given in John 21:1-12.  What a moment that must have been!

The Nets Are FULL of FISH…now what?

Peter and his brother Andrew desperately brought in the catch with the nets breaking.  They must have thought silently to themselves, how did the stranger know where the fish were?  Was it a miracle?

Suddenly Peter remembered the words of Jesus,  “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

On that Post Easter Morning…

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus and the disciples shared together the “fish fry”, a new wind began to blow.  As the Father had sent Jesus into the world…now Jesus was sending them into the world:

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  (Matthew 28:19).

THE TEST:  The Acts of the Apostles 8:1, 4-5.

[1] “…On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

[4]  “Now those who were scattered abroad went about [through the land from place to place] preaching the glad tidings, the Word [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God].”

[5]  “Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ (the Messiah) to them [the people].”

PAUL HARVEY once said,  “Too many Christians no longer are fishermen but keepers of the aquarium.”   

Had the church in Jerusalem become a “fish aquarium”?  Have we in the church– in our communities, become a “fish aquarium too?

I don’t know.  But what I do know is…it wasn’t God’s plan.  Jesus had been very specific when He said,  “And you shall be My witnesses in JERUSALEM and all JUDEA and SAMARIA and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth”  (Acts 1:8 AMP).

But what about Judea and Samaria?

The Martyrdom of Stephen:

Stephen’s death was an important factor in the life of the Christian community in Jerusalem.  It ignited “a great persecution” which instead of destroying the church movement, it spread the gospel beyond the walls of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

In my study and investigation of the evidence given in Acts 8,   I noticed the 12 Apostles remained in Jerusalem.  “Why were they not scattered like everyone else?”  

The church leaders had been granted religious protection by Gamaliel:

[34] But a certain Pharisee in the council  (Sanhedrin)  named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, highly esteemed  by all the people, standing up, ordered that the apostles be taken outside for a little while.  [35] Then he addressed them [the council, saying]:  Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men.  (Acts 5:34-35).

After having them flogged and telling them not to speak in or about the name of Jesus…allowed them to go (verse 40).

Now personally, if that had happened to me, beaten with a whip and told you better not or else…I would have probably thought seriously, “Do I really want to be place in this same dilemma again?”  Maybe it would have been ‘safer’ if I would just mind my own business.  You know, go to church every week; help serve when I can; pray for the lost, the unsaved in the world; just be “low-key” in the larger scheme of things and keep on maintaining in the back row of the church I attend.

But reading further, we see how the 12 apostles reacted to the dilemma:

“Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah)”  (Acts 5:42 AMP).

“Pastor, that is easy for you to do and say but…”

The religious leaders had agreed but…ordinary believers; the everyday working man; the stay-at-home housewife and mother had no protection.

No Programs or Written Materials to Hand Out–

I also noticed the message was a simple one:  Jesus’ death and resurrection was carried on the lips of ordinary people.

The gospel message has not changed, nor has God’s plan for personal delivery.  We must depend on the Holy Spirit’s POWER–

It Takes Time to Make Disciples:

Time of paying personal attention to people’s needs around us and hours of prayer are part of what it takes.  There isn’t a Christian assembly line knocking out believers like new cars in 30 or 45 days.  No automatic robots welding spirits and souls together to be “functional participants” in the local church.  It takes patience to teach people How to Fish: How to read the Word of God; How to feed and nourish their souls and their applications to the teaching of Jesus in their behavior.

It is ALL of that and more!

I had many questions for my neighbor Henry the first time I went fishing.  After putting the bait on the fishing hook, I asked Henry, “What do I do next?”  And his short answer to the question…“Get the fishing line in the water.  You’re not going to get any fish just thinking about what might be.” 

“Becoming a Contagious Christian” and not just “Keepers of the Aquarium”:

Bill Hybels developed a mathematical formula for reaching those who are spiritually lost from Jesus:

MR + CP + CG = ND

— Meaningful relationships + Caring for people + Communicating the Gospel = New Disciples –

This is the same pattern that the Holy Spirit used with the believers who fled Jerusalem and it is still an effective plan today.

“Salt Without Savor”–

In Matthew 5:13  JESUS SAID:  “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.”

SALT WITHOUT SAVOR IS:

— Ineffective…

— Worthless…

— Lost its POWER…

— Won’t create thirst…

— Won’t add much spice…

— Won’t prevent decay.

Becky Pippert wrote:  “Unless salt gets poured out of the shaker, it remains a mere table ornament.”

Knowing What To Say When Opportunities Present Themselves; or how to have “savor” in the Church!

Don’t let the idea of being “salty with savor” overwhelm you.  When opportunities present themselves, just tell your story.  It really IS that simple!

Why do you believe in JESUS?

How did you come to know God’s love in your life?

How has JESUS made a difference in your life? 

JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES  “You will be My witnesses”–

In a courtroom, a witness is not expected to argue the case, prove the truth or press for a verdict.  That is the job of the attorney.  A witness just reports what happened.

The Holy Spirit is our attorney…just telling your story in sharing your testimony; it builds a relational bridge between your heart and the people you are sharing with and it lets JESUS cross over the bridge from your heart to theirs.

Here’s An Old, Old Story in Sharing Your Testimony:

I love old hymns and there is one in particular that came to my mind when telling your story or how you came to be who you are as a Christian and how they too can have the same story in their life:

Verse:  

I heard an old, old story,  how a Savior came from glory

How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.

I heard about His groaning,  of His precious blood’s atoning,

Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.

Chorus: 

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.

He loved me ere, I knew Him, and all my love is due Him–

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

Being a witness for Christ is that simple.  Just sharing an old, old story about your Victory in Jesus, a hymn written by Eugene M. Bartlett years ago.

“But how do I begin the conversation?”

I’ve learned over the years, asking questions in personal conversations… is a good place to begin.

One example might be, when someone asks you this often asked question “How’s it going?”  

Rather than giving the usual pat answer…“fine”, try this:

“Well, financially, okay; family wise, pretty well; and spiritually really great.  Which one do you want to talk about?”

What’s the Point?

GOD is already at work in people’s hearts…we learn to ask questions to see the Word seeds of the gospel.  The SEED needs to be planted, watered or harvested.

So do we really want to be Fishers of Men, as Jesus instructed us…or, are we just satisfied in being dedicated “Keepers of the Aquarium”?