Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is There a Right Way to Share Jesus?

If you look around in churches today, you will see all sorts of cool programs and artistic expressions that have been implemented to teach and share the Truth of Jesus Christ.  Things like musicals, story telling, dramatic presentations, prison ministries, radio and television programs and so much more!  I have heard some people say that these programs are a waste - we should just preach the Word, like the Bible says!  Why waste money on programs?

Well, that has always bothered me.  Yes, I do think we should preach the Word! Everyday...not just in what we say, but also in what we do.  As I look through the Bible I see that God is truly the Initiator of these creative programs. Here are some examples I've come across in my reading...
  • Jeremiah - He preached through tears to the Israelites.  Some call him the "weeping prophet".  He was obedient to deliver the message, even though it wasn't what the people wanted to hear.  Today, he'd be known as "sensitive" and probably be told he was too emotional.  But God sure did use him!
  • Ezekiel - He was the prophet who was always acting things out.  Not because he wanted to, mind you.  Because God told him to.  I think God knew that creative expression would be one way the Israelites might actually listen.  God is really into drama!  He uses it as a tool to share truth with others.
  • David - David used his musical talent and wrote tons of songs that are still encouraging us today - you can find them in the Psalms.  This art form was a gift from God to us - and we are still being blessed by those who have this gift and use it to share truth with us today in our Music Ministries and radio stations.  Hey, some of them still use David's words!
  • Joshua - Now, Joshua was a true leader.  He was the Commanding Officer and people listened to him because he spoke with authority due to his faith and relationship with God.  I suppose he would be like someone who shares their faith through leading by example, whether in ministry, in the workplace or even on the battle fields at war.
  • Paul - Paul spent a huge portion of his ministry time in prison.  So, he was the first to implement a "prison ministry".  Just think of how many people were saved because he was in prison!  God used him right where he was to minister to prisoners and even guards.  And the people he shared Christ with were in a dire, hopeless state.  I can't think of a more effective witness for Christ than someone who will share, even while in chains, to people who are in a position of hopelessness and in desperate need of the hope that only Jesus can give.
  • Jesus Christ - Jesus usually spoke through story telling (better known as "parables").  He knew in order for folks to "get" the message, He would have to use His creativity and share in a way that would connect with the listeners - the ones who had ears to hear.  Story telling is still a very effective way to share the gospel.

There are so many more examples in the Word, but those were the few that came to my mind this morning.  I find that so encouraging!

So the question is...is there a right way to share the truth of Jesus Christ?  The answer is simple.  Yes.  There is a right way.  

It's the way God has gifted you to share Him with others.  

Our examples are woven throughout the Bible and they confirm that God can use drama, music, preaching, story telling, prison ministries, and even our workplace to share His truth!

So what are you waiting for?  Get creative and share His truth - after all, God is the Creator...and He is the one who gave you those creative gifts to use for His Glory!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A New Creation

"Mom, did you ever use one of these?"

Kennedy held up the cigarette lighter in the car and asked me that question this morning.  She'd never understood what those "things" were and asked why people used them.  When I explained they were cigarette lighters, she thought that was weird that car companies would put that in as an accessory.  I agreed.  And then the question came..."Mom, did you ever use one of these?"  I knew I had to be honest.

My kids know I used to smoke years ago.  I usually smoked only when I would drink alcohol (but I drank often).  Man, of all the lies I fell for in my life, this one is just incomprehensible.  What did I ever see in it?  It smells bad, it discolors teeth, it's a waste of money, it's bad for me and anyone who was around me...I can't honestly think of anything good about this habit but I was so blinded that I couldn't see it.  Thank God He opened my eyes! 

I'm honest with my kids about many of the things I used to do "B.C." (Before Christ).  Sometimes I hate talking about it because I'm a completely different person now.  It comes up occasionally, though.  I can't evade it, but I am learning to use these moments as a time to really teach my kids about God's amazing grace - and how we are all trophies of that amazing grace of His!

When I became a Christian, I became a new creation because of Jesus Christ. That's such an important lesson to learn as a believer and it's one I want my girls to understand.  And the earlier the better!  So I explained to them that I refer to my "old self" as Fleshlie (smile).  Fleshlie made some bad choices and still tries to get me to make bad choices, but she doesn't have power over me.  Jesus does now (that's what being Lord means!) Kennedy said her "old self" must have been named Sinnidy.  Peyton said she must have been Hate'in.  We laugh, but it's a powerful picture of our old vs. new creation.

Why is this such a big deal to me?  Well, let's just say the person I used to be, although I was a friendly person, was not exactly a picture of morality.  I was actually quite insecure and the fact that I made some horrific life choices made that matter so much worse.  Maybe you can relate to this?  I had absolutely no respect for myself because I was living two lives.  My friends probably didn't respect me much, either, because I was a chameleon.  I was a different person at church than I was when I was with my friends.  I was straddling the fence - big time - and I was getting splinters.  If I went to a high school or college reunion, many of the people there would have a hard time seeing me as anyone else other than that person I used to be...but God sees so much more!

I'm not proud of who I was, but I'm so very excited to say that in spite of all of that, God loves me and uses me to share His truth with others.  He uses my past sins and mistakes to refine me and they no longer have the power to define me.  As a result of what I've been through from the consequences of some of my choices, I can totally relate to others who are struggling with the same things.  I get it.  I've been there.

So...back to my story.  How did I respond to my daughter's innocent question, "Mom, did you ever use one of these?"  I simply said: "Yes, the person I used to be - Fleshlie - used one of those before.  But not the person I am now!" She smiled big.

I think she gets it.

Do you get it?  Are you still allowing past sins to define you or will you allow God to use them to refine you?  Walk in the truth of who you are and don't believe the lie that your past defines you!  Beth Moore said it best, "You cannot amputate your past to step into your destiny."  It's true...we cannot hide our past.  But why would we want to?  How, then, would people be able to see the amazing miracle of God in your life?  Only He can take something the world would consider unworthy and make it a trophy of His grace.

2 Cor. 5:17....Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are We Lifting or Pointing a Finger?

Do we really want to have an impact on the world?  As a believer, I sure do.  But I wonder if some of the things that we sometimes do as Christians are as effective as we think they are.

In Matthew 23:4, here is what Jesus had to say about the religious people who imposed the law on others: "They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden." (NLT)  So, the question is: Are we lifting a finger or pointing one?

I will admit, it's a lot easier to point a finger than to lift one!  I'm absolutely the first to admit I find it much easier and often find myself falling into this trap.  But nowhere in the Bible does God condone pointing fingers at others.  Also, nowhere in the Bible have I ever seen a commandment to Christians to impose our rules on those outside of the church.  In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are not to judge those outside of the church - he says that's God's job.

We often spend so much time pointing out the sins of society...but why are we so surprised when people sin?  Isn't that what people do?  Can we change them without the power of the Holy Spirit?  No, we cannot.  But we can show them a better way by lifting a finger to help them - not pointing a finger of condemnation.  After all, we're crazy if we think they don't notice that the church struggles with the same sins that they do!  I believe it's easier to point out others' sins than it is to deal with our own.

I'll give you a couple of examples of those who are lifting a finger - people who get it and are actually making a huge impact on the world for Christ:
  • Crisis pregnancy centers.  Instead of standing outside of the abortion clinic and shouting at the people coming out or putting them on a guilt trip, they are lifting a finger to help those who are facing an unplanned pregnancy by offering support, encouragement and most important, unconditional love and the message of Hope in Jesus Christ to those who come into their office for help.  That, to me, is a beautiful picture of someone lifting a finger - and the fruit of this?  Life. 
  • Mission agencies who send people out to assist and help those who have been hurt by disaster or calamity all over the world.  They offer help, support, encouragement, truth and love.  This is also a beautiful picture of someone lifting a finger - and the fruit of this?  Life. 
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:20 "For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk, it is living by God's power. Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?"  Am I living by God's power?  Am I approaching others with love and a gentle spirit?  Or am I trying to "crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden?" (Matt. 23:4)

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."  Am I being kind or quarrelsome?  Am I patiently enduring evil and correcting in gentleness or am I being forceful and unyielding?

Lord, help us to lift a finger to help!
Am I focusing on God or law?  Am I living in His power or my own desire to be right or in control?  I hope I'm not so busy trying to change the world through religious laws that I completely miss the mark. Our purpose is not to make a moral society.  Our purpose is to glorify God and become more like Christ.  Are we doing that?  "The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing." (John 6:63)

Forcing others to obey the law and Christian morality is absolutely useless.  It must be a heart change, brought on by the power of God in someone's life.  No one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law anyway.  It is by grace through faith - not of ourselves.  So why do we focus on making people moral before we focus on grace and truth? (Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:8-9)

In Jesus' last prayer before His crucifixion, He did not pray that we would have a moral society.  He did not pray that we would be empowered to pass laws forbidding sinners to sin.  He was more concerned with our unity.  "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - as you are in me, Father and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." John 17:21  Passing laws and imposing morality on the world does not convince anyone that Christ is who He said He was.  Christian unity shows them that He is who He said He was.  As hearts change, so do people.  It never works in reverse.

Look around, my friends. Can we honestly say the church is unified?  Maybe that is what needs to be addressed.  When we are unified, we represent Him well.  When we are unified, we can worship Him freely as Lord of our lives.  When we worship Him as Lord of our lives, people notice and then they want to know about the Hope that we have, so they ask us.  And we answer them with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15-17)  I'm not trying to point a finger at those who point fingers (smile)...I'm just asking the question and openly admitting I struggle with this, too.

Father God, help us to represent You well!  Give us insight to lift and not point a finger so that we can become more like You.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Caring for Orphans in Zimbabwe - A Call to Action!

It's hard to imagine how difficult it would be to have both of your parents pass away at young ages due to the AIDS virus.  Yet, that is what thousands of children are facing today in Zimbabwe.  It's heart breaking to imagine the hardships these precious young people face daily - some of them knowing they, too, have been infected with such a vicious and unyielding disease.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Misheck Mlambo, who works with HOPE for AIDS in Zimbabwe.  He gave me instance after instance of how God is using this program to spread the Hope that Christ brings to a very hurting population of people who are in desperate need. (www.hopeforaids.org) I was inspired and encouraged - and also burdened.  I asked how I could help.  He said the need for children's clothes for these orphans is very great.  So that is why I decided to have this clothing drive to help meet this need for these precious children!

As you go through your children's clothes and sort out the ones they have outgrown, please consider donating them to this cause.  Before you donate them, please make sure they are clean (the least we can do!).

We are in the process of working out various drop off locations throughout the Charlotte, NC/Fort Mill, SC area.  I will update this blog and the Facebook page as these locations are solidified.


**SIM INTERNATIONAL, 1838 Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill, SC
Drop off times: M-F 10:00am-5:00pm

**REMEDY CHURCH, 249 E. Main Street, Rock Hill, SC
Drop off times: SUNDAY MORNINGS ONLY - come join them for worship when you drop off your kids clothing donation!

13901 Providence Road
Weddington, NC 28104
Drop off times: On Sundays in Helms Hall, or M-F at the office
Note: Please put "Kendra Wallace" on the bag so she can collect them for us! Thanks!

**ABUNDANT HOPE CHURCH, 13501 Dorman Road, Pineville, NC. Between the hours of 10 & 1 on Sundays only - leave the bags of clothes outside of the white shed near the building - if it is raining, they will leave the shed unlocked!

**TRANSFORMATION CHURCH, 9030 Northfield Dr # A, Fort Mill, SC Please drop off your donations during the services ONLY during the weekend of August 20-21! The bin will be in the lobby! 

If you do not have clothing to donate but would like to help, we invite you to help in any way you can!  The cost for postage will be very expensive, so if you are interested in helping out with that, please contact me directly at lnease@leslienease.com.  We also need volunteers to sort, fold and package the clothing near the end of this month.  I would like to have the clothes mailed out to them by September 1!

If your church would like to be a drop off location, please email me at lnease@leslienease.com.  We are so excited about what God will do through this effort and know He is completely in control!  Thank you for helping!

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  -James 1:27

Got Questions?