Time to Try Upside Down Evangelism

  Most of us Christians have realized that the culture we are living in is different than what it used to be.  The spiritual climate has changed.  Those that are open to spiritual things are open to any and all things that seem to connect with the other world.  Those that are closed are closed.  Minds won’t be changed – at least not quickly or easily.

We want to reach out, but many of us aren’t seeing the fruit we would hope to see.  It might be time for some upside down evangelism.  Upside down evangelism is learning to reach out to people in the opposite way we normally do.  Our preferred method of evangelism is this:  

1. We start by sharing the message of Jesus.  When they accept it by faith we include them in the club.  Then ministry kicks in.  

2. We love them, we pray for them.  We ask God to change their lives so they can experience his healing power.  

3. When people are sufficiently shaped up, we spend time with them.  We fellowship have them to our house and we go to theirs.  We build deep relationships.  

4. And we leave them each time, praying for God’s peace on them and their households!  After all, we want God’s best for them.

In most instances, this is working.  Many of us have seen that we need a new way.  Let’s try flipping this upside down.  I think it might have a more transformational impact.

1. Begin by bringing a blessing of peace to people.  If they are open to that peace, if they are receptive to connecting to a man/woman of peace, then we take the next step.  If we speak, we need to speak God’s best hope.

2. Remain with them.  Eat, drink, spend time in their homes and let them spend time in yours.  In other words, enter their world.  Let them be part of your life.

3. Give them God’s healing grace.  Support, encourage and pray for God to meet their needs!

4. Share the message of Jesus and His kingdom.  When they’ve seen God at work, through Christ, explain what has happened, who did it and how they can enjoy it forever.

But, this is not a new approach.  It’s what Jesus told His disciples to do.   Luke 10:5-9 reads, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son of peace is there, our peace will rest upon him… And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide… Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

Let’s begin dreaming about what God might do, if we flip this thing upside down!

Have you had experience with this kind of evangelism on your own, or through your church?

Who Will You Look Like?

Have you seen how some people look like their pets?  There are really some funny pictures online that seem to prove the point quite well.  I’ve owned bulldogs and boxers, hmmm.  That makes me take pause.

  
And then there is the observation that after years together, husbands and wives can begin to look more and more alike.  Some recent studies have even confirmed this.  Their physical features are sometimes very different.  But because they’ve shared a lifetime of joys and struggles, their facial expressions and mannerisms can begin to mirror each other.  All I can say is, “I’m sorry Kris!”

  
There is a warning and a promise in the Bible – we will end up being like the one we worship!
The Psalmist wrote of the people who reject the true God of heaven:

Their idols are silver and gold,

        the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak;

        eyes, but do not see.

They have ears, but do not hear;

        noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel;

        feet, but do not walk;

        and they do not make a sound in their throat.

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.  Psalm 115:4-8

The apostle John wrote of those who worship Christ:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  1 John 3:2

This makes me ask a couple of questions?

1. Who do I want to look like?  The dead idols of this world, or the Son of the Living God?

2. Who am I trusting in?  Am I trusting in idols?  The idols of this world come in many forms.  They can be literal statues and images, or superstitions, wealth, power, or self.  An idol is anyone or anything that supplants the rightful place of God in my life.  Or, am I learning to trust in Christ by listening, repenting, submitting and following?

We must choose our God well.  We will be like the one we worship!

Have I Got a Story for You!

heart pillow
In some chapters of life, the pages just turn slowly from one season and circumstance to another.  Other chapters end with a cliffhanger that makes turning the page an urgent need.  On July 29, 2011 one chapter ended with these doctor’s words, “You can see your wife and kids if they get here in time, but we’re not waiting.”
I was on a gurney, a bit drugged and a little agitated.  I was headed to surgery with 100% blockage of my LAD (left anterior descending) artery.  They had put in a heart pump to take the pressure off my heart in order to get me to surgery without having a heart attack.
My life changed forever.  I was forced to change, if I wanted to live long enough to see two more kids graduate high school.  The doctor said, if I changed the way they told me, I may never need to see the inside of the heart hospital again.  With that as a motivation, I did change.  Heart healthy was my new mantra.  Exercise, watching sodium, fat, taking my medication as if each day depended on it.  I lost weight and 8 months later, made it to 50 years of age.  We celebrated big.
Fourteen months after surgery another chapter turned.  Back in the hospital, a graft failed and new blockage showed up.  They placed two new stents.  Nine months later another new blockage and a new stent.  Five months later we did it again.  In the heart catheterization lab, they called my name like “Norm” entering Cheers.
The people were great.  But the story I thought I was writing for my life was being destroyed page by page.  I felt grateful and hopeless.  I felt sad and frustrated.  I wanted to try and I wanted to stop trying.  I was hurt, disappointed and from time to time, angry.
There was a doctor who gave me some hope.  He had some good success with people who had chronic disease like I have.  I’ll share more of that detail in another blog.  But even trying something new didn’t really fix where I was.  I needed to hear from God.  After all, heart disease and dying before 52 is bad.  And God is good.  Disease isn’t beyond his power.  So, in his powerful goodness, why didn’t he do something different?
As a pastor I’ve been with people as they’ve walked these paths.  But this was my path.  This was my pain.  This was my life.  This was my relationship with God.  I needed God to come to me and reveal something to me.  And so, God turned the page again.  In prayer, pain, confusion, Scripture reading, study, reflection and even writing, God spoke.  He gave me a new understanding.
First, I was reminded God is writing my story. 
He is the author.  I am the lead character in Jim Renke’s story.  Like Job, it is easy to get a little demanding when I try to reverse the roles.  God is not a character in my life.  He’s the author.  And, as any author knows, the author has a right to do whatever he wants!  And if you’ve ever heard author’s speak, they really do love the characters in their stories – even the unlovable ones.
I’m not a robot.  I can choose to fight against the author.  But I can never become the author.  How much more joyful it is when the character recognizes his role and he plays it well.
Second, God is redeeming my story.
We often categorize things of life into bad things and good things.  Every story must to have conflict, tension, success and defeat.  Every chapter has to have twists and turns and unexpected opportunities.  These are the things that make a story good.  What God does with these things is he redeems them.  Think of how the cross, a symbol of death has become a symbol of life.  And even when life’s turns are hard, they are made good.
Over the past 4 years, God took me from the place of seeing my trials as a frustrating distraction to a huge blessing.  God has redeemed every pain, every hospital visit, every subsequent stent, every diet change.  He has made it good and beautiful. He has used it to shape me and the people around me.  He has woven my story together with people I would never have known.  And that is beautiful, gracious and kind.
Third, God is walking in my story.
He is an author who also shows up in the story he’s writing.  Not like Mel Brooks who often shows up as a bit player in his movies.  God steps into my story in a star role.  He’s not an observer, he’s active.  He’s not incidental, he’s pivotal.  He comforts and consoles.  He teaches and corrects.  He empowers and sacrifices.
There is no page of my story where he isn’t present.  He has come in answer to so many prayers in so many tangible ways.  And he promises to be there as each new page is turned.
Lastly, God is not done writing my story.
It’s been 19 months since my last stent.  But my story isn’t done.  All of our stories will be written throughout eternity.  There will be more mountains and valleys.  There will be more excursions through deserts and lush valleys.  There will be more people to love and people who hate me.  There will be more physical challenges and opportunities.  And as the main character of my story, I will learn, grow, struggle, rejoice, live and love.  That is what makes a story great.  That is what makes a story good.
What more could I want from my life than a good story?  Maybe, just maybe it will be a story worth telling.
“Have I got a story for you.”  That is what God said four years ago.  And he was right.  So, on this fourth anniversary of that glorious day, I thank God for giving me this story to live.  And I thank you for being part of it.  I pray you find hope and joy in your story.  I hope you know the author of your story.  He’s waiting to join you in the narrative of your life.
Just by reading you’ve become part of my story!  Do you want to be a bigger part of my story, then comment!  What part of your story can I share in?

An Open Letter to Mr. Donald Trump

July 27, 2015
Dear Mr. Trump,
As I’ve watched and read a bit of the news coverage of your campaign this week, I came across a headline that disturbed me to my core.  On CNNPolitics.com, it read  “Trump believes in God, but hasn’t sought forgiveness.”
Later in the brief article it said, “Frank Luntz asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.  ‘I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.'”
This doesn’t trouble me because I’m a pastor and I am busy keeping a list of your sins.  It troubles me because I’m a sinner in need of God’s grace of forgiveness and I believe you’re missing out.
Mr. Trump, at this point, I could point out all the things that every human does that puts us in need of forgiveness, but deep down I believe we all know that we constantly miss the holiness mark.  Instead what I would rather focus on is what we miss out on if we aren’t forgiven by God.
First, we miss out on seeing the holiness of God.  If we don’t need forgiveness, God is no better than us.  But he is.  God has not; does not; will not wrangle in the mud of mixed motives, impure thoughts, flashpoint anger and selfish ambition.  He is other-than.  He is pure.  He is true.  He is love.  Not seeing the holiness of God is like never smelling the life-affirming freshness of a newborn baby.
Second, we miss out on experiencing the grace of God.  If we don’t need forgiveness, then our goodness or rightness before God must be earned.  God becomes a task-master.  He is about rules and regulations and effort; rather than being about acceptance, giving and grace.  Not knowing the grace of God is like not knowing the gift of a perfect sunrise – something we had no role in producing, but rather just had to wake up and receive it.
Third, we miss out on knowing God.  If forgiveness offers no deeper connection to God, then knowing God is merely trying to know about Him.  There is no relationship.  There is no intimacy.  There is only weariness and striving.  There is only guessing about what he may be like.  Knowing about God and knowing God is like the difference between knowing a name on our birth certificate and going to the ballgame with our father who lives with us and loves us.
Fourth, we miss out on having a Savior.  If we don’t need forgiveness, we don’t need Jesus.  He was only a great man whose life ended very badly.  If that’s the case, we may find temporary comfort in his memorable sayings, but there is no power them.  There is no hope for transformation.  There is no guarantee of a future.  And that “little cup of wine and cracker” becomes a measly snack of sentimentality.  Not knowing a Savior is never knowing the knee-bending love of the most powerful Being, taking notice of me and making a way for me to be whole – now and forever!
When I confess my sins and sinfulness, God promises forgiveness.  He promises freedom.  He promises a lightening of our load.  And being forgiven, I have a Savior who died and rose from the dead.  I have a relationship with my eternal Dad.  I enjoy gifts that only God can give.  And I appreciate with worship, a perfect and powerful God who is unlike me.  Now, if you ask me, that’s living!
Mr. Trump, I don’t know if you’ll ever be the President of the United States.  But my hope is that one day, you will be my forgiven brother in Christ.  I hope you will find the freedom available in knowing we can’t produce a worthy life on our own.
Your friend and fellow sinner,
Jim Renke

How to find that quote you read, but can’t remember.

“All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt.”  C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Quotes add power to writing.  They grab attention.  They add authority.  They reinforce the message with timeless words.  This quote was from a book I read  18 months ago.  How did I find it again?

An important part of effective writing is being able to recapture thoughts and information you’ve read before.  This method of storing and finding those quotes, illustrations, ideas and outlines is easy and effective.  It uses two programs that many of you may be using already.  And they are free!  It also makes all your reading quotes available for use anywhere you have a wireless connection, from any device.

  

Step 1:  Read a book in Kindle.  Now,  I know many of us prefer to read “real” books.  One of my biggest concerns is that if I invest in a book, I want the material to be accessable – forever!  And that has made me a little leery of electronic versions. But for me, I read faster in Kindle.  I like having my library with me wherever I go.  This simple strategy will address the need to keep the information and make it available whenever I need it.

Step 2:  When reading, highlight!  I like to highlight the headings and important quotes, or ideas, which will make more sense a little later.

Step 3:  Go to your Kindle account at https:kindle.amazon.com.  If you didn’t know it, like modern-day hocus pocus, any highlights and notes you have made in Kindle are saved there for you.  Open the tab “Your Highlights.”  There you will find highlights and notes from every Kindle book you own, read and highlighted.

Step 4:  Select the notes and copy them, all of them, for a given book.  Include the title and author.  You may have to do this in steps, depending on how long the book is, or how much text you’re copying.

  
Step 5:  Open your Evernote and create a note.  Use the title of the book and author’s name as the title for your note.  You can also add some keywords, or tags that relate to the books topic.

Step 6:  Paste the highlights to the evernote note.  As you will see, if you’ve highlighted the headings too, it gives you an outline, with the quotes you appreciated in their context.

Step 7:  Save your note.  Now you have a searchable note.  In Evernote, you can search for you note by author, key words, book title, or any word in the text, etc.  Type in anything you can remember to bring up that information for use in your next article, sermon, or teaching outline.

You could also paste these highights to a Word document.  If you do that, most likely, you would only be able to access that document when you are on that computer.  For me, Evernote has worked famously.  If  you want to paste it to a Word document and store that document on Evernote, you will need a paid version of Evernote to make the document searchable.  If you paste it directly into a note, you can use the Evernote free version.

For me, this has been great for writing papers, articles or sermons.  I can imagine it would also give you a great way to write a book or reading report.  It makes your notes retrievable.  It creates an outline of the book that also puts all those great quotes in context.  And it keeps the location of the quote, to aid you in returning to the book and reading that part again.

I hope this helps you communicate, remembering and utilizing all the thoughts and ideas that you’ve discovered along the way.

5 Steps to Taking the High Road in Conflict

How do we face threats when they arise? David faced opposition from someone, who in God’s plan, should have been an ally.

Saul was out to get David.  He was hunting him down like an animal.  And when David could have killed Saul and put an end to the conflict, David chose another way.  How easy would it have been for David to justify himself and say, “I’ve been anointed King. Saul has been rejected. Just finish it. Kill this guy and let’s get on with it.”

But David determined to do this with honor. And in that he protected his own heart. He protected the nation from a division that would have lasted generations. Let me tell you, when your future is being threatened by someone who should be working for your success, it is tough to take the high road. But that’s exactly what David did.

1 Samuel 24:11-17  “See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is not wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancient says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After a dead dog! After a flea! “May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.” 

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.”  

How can we face opposition in a way that honors God, His purposes and His ways?

1. Show honor. David gave deference to the king.  We need to show deference to one another. In times of change and conflict people will deal with it many different ways. And sometimes, not meaning to make things difficult, they will. We need to show honor even to the ones who seem to be making it hard.

2. Show love. David loved Saul. He loved the nation. He loved God. We need to love God. We need to love the Body of Christ. And we need to love the people around us.  Even when they’re making life hard.

3. Speak the truth. You could almost hear David saying, “Saul, look at what you’re doing.” We do need to be honest with one another. If someone’s comments are inappropriate or damaging we need to say that.  There are times we must say, “Right now, you’re not helping the cause of Christ.”

4. Rest in God’s judgments. Know that ultimately, God will direct. He will move and the results are his.  No battle on this earth is ours.  They all belong to God.  We need to let him work the way he sees fit and be okay with that.

David didn’t allow himself to be killed. But he also didn’t allow the purposes of God to be thwarted by his own actions.  He refused to destroy the other, even though he became an enemy.  He left the end results to God.  Even thought it hurt, he refused to take it personally.

Many years ago a pastor friend of mine once said, “We can’t always choose whether or not we’re going to offend someone. But we can always choose whether or not we’ll be offended.”  We can choose how we will handle the hurts and difficulty caused by others.  Let’s choose to go through it trusting in God to redeem it and resolve it.  That’s taking the high road.

One last step?

5. Keep praising God.  David was hurt. But he focused on praising. Psalm 59:16-17 “But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sin praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.”

What kind of conflict are you facing?  How can you take the high road?