LIFT HIM UP

 

Once upon a time there was a man who believed the earth was flat. And because he believed the earth was flat, he never left his house. It was said his parents also believed the earth was flat and that they had never gone beyond the fenced yard of the house in which the man had been born. Because of his parents’ fear, they never allowed him to step beyond his front porch. After his parents died, the man had everything he needed delivered and left outside his door.
 
    Now the man was terribly lonely, but belief that the earth was flat kept him a prisoner in his own house. In fact his belief was so strong, he discounted as fiction and myths anything he heard on the radio, saw on TV, or read in the newspaper about the world outside his door. His parents had told him not to trust anyone or anything that might shake his belief in the flat-earth theory. They told him there were those who wanted to trap him into believing something that wasn't true. This was done they said in order to get him into trouble by causing him to fall off the edge of the earth. He didn't know the distance to this falling off place, but he believed what he had been taught. 
    One day there was a knock on his door. Although this was not the usual delivery time, he decided to answer the knock. After all, he thought, there might have been a mix-up at the grocery store.
    Standing on his porch was a man holding a large roll of thick papers under one arm and a large print covered ball under the other arm. 
    “Hello, I'm Mr. David, your neighbor,” he said. “A year ago I moved next door. I have watched many workers and delivery people come to your house and leave. I was curious and asked about you. Our neighbors told me that after your parents died you stopped coming out of your house. They explained what your parents believed.”
    “Have you come to call me crazy, too?”
    “No. I apologize for anyone who called you that. But I have something very important to tell you.”
    “What is it?” asked the man, curious now at seeing the thick roll of papers and color printed ball under Mr. David's arms.
    “I have good news for you. There is nothing to fear. The earth is not flat. It's round. You can come out of your house. If you will let me in, I can show you the earth is round like a ball and you won't fall off because of something called gravity. I can explain how the earth is round and rotates in space. I brought pictures of our solar system, the planets and galaxies. Here is a globe showing all the nations of the world. I even have some maps of our city, state and country,” said Mr. David. “Please let me in to show you what I have.”
    “All right,” said the man. “I'll let you in, but I'm not going to believe you until you prove to me the earth is not flat but round like a ball.”
    Soon the maps and pictures were spread on the kitchen table. After a number of hours of explaining how the earth could be a ball in the sky, how the earth revolved around the sun, and about the planets, Mr. David finally showed the man where his house was on their city map. When he finished, Mr. David asked his neighbor, “Have I at least brought some doubt into your mind about the earth being flat?”
    “No,” said the man, “For all you've shown me are flat maps, and a round ball which you carried in under your arm. How do you expect me to believe what I haven't really seen?”
    “Well,” said Mr. David, “Supposing I tell you I have been around this earth. I have traveled to all these nations and I have never fallen off. In fact I have circled the earth many times in my travels. I go around the earth without any fear of falling off. And I have seen many wonderful things you have never seen or even can imagine.”
    “That means nothing to me. Just because you say you’ve experienced something doesn't mean it's true. You could be lying to me. Besides, have you been out in space and really seen the earth hanging in the sky?”
    “Well, no, I can't say I've actually traveled into outer space. But you must have read the stories and seen the live TV pictures sent back from the astronauts when they were in orbit. You must have heard them being interviewed on radio and TV. You must have seen their pictures in the newspaper.”
    “Oh sure,” said the man. "But a lot of made up stories come through TV. And just because the newspapers print the same pictures, doesn’t mean they’re true. You can’t believe what you read in a newspaper. How do I know it's not a conspiracy against me to get me to fall off the earth?”
    It took a few moments for Mr. David to think of a reasonable reply. “The people who deliver merchandise to you, and those who take care of your property drive up in cars and trucks. They are not afraid. They come and go, and return again. Nothing happens to them.”
    “That’s not true. Some never come back. I’m told they are replaced by others. When they drive off, I watch them disappear. Maybe the ones who come back don’t go far enough to drop off.”
    “Have you ever asked someone who has delivered your groceries if he has ever come to the end of the earth?”
    The man nodded, “Yes. He came back with some of his friends to argue with me and tell me I’m crazy. Years ago some social worker came to try to get me into a hospital. I called the lawyer my parents used. Since I harmed no one, paid whatever I owed, the court judged no one had the right to tell me how to live my life.”
    Mr. David sighed. “Well, I know you don't believe what I've shown you with the maps and the globe. And you don't believe my testimony about my own experiences going around the world. And I can’t prove some of the people who didn’t return to your house, didn’t die. So tell me, what will convince you the earth is a round ball and not flat?”
    “If I can go out into space and see it for myself,” said the man.
    “I'll see what I can do,” said Mr. David.
    And sure enough, several days later, there were two men on the man's doorstep. Mr. David had brought an astronaut with him.
    “I want to introduce you to someone who has actually been in outer space. Someone who has actually seen the earth hanging in space,” said Mr. David.
    “It means nothing to me how many have been in outer space,” said the man. What I said I wanted was to see it for myself. I want to see the earth hanging in space for myself.”
    “Wonderful,” said the astronaut. “I'm prepared to take you on a journey by rocket ship. You can see the earth hanging in space for yourself.”
    The man got very excited. “Great,” he said, “What do I have to do?”
    “You have to step out of your house and come with me,” said the astronaut. “It's the only way I can take you to the rocket ship so you can make the trip.”
    “Oh, no,” said the man. “I'm not leaving this house. I'll never leave this house until you prove to me the earth isn't flat.”
 
Have you ever shared the Gospel with someone like the man in the house? No matter what you say or do, he won’t believe, won’t change his mind about what you are presenting? You have prayed (still praying). You have shared your personal testimony. You have used the word of God. You have taken the time to know about him. You are a good neighbor, patient and kind.
    Even God will not impose Himself on those who will not receive Him. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He “knocks” on the hearts of men, but He never rams Himself through locked doors. The latch is always on the inside of the heart.
    Many years ago my husband Mack and I were on a down escalator to retrieve our luggage at an international airport. While we were descending I could see a young man dressed in jeans and a “Jesus” T-shirt handing out leaflets. As each person stepped off he said something. By the body language and speed in which people scattered as we moved down, I knew he was witnessing. Before I got to the bottom step, I decided to tell him I was saved. As I stepped off, I turned to him. He was surprised. Quickly, he offered me a leaflet. “Do you know Jesus?” he asked.
    I smiled, “Yes, I do. He is my Savior and Lord.”
    I expected a joyful, returning smile at my answer. Instead, he frowned in disappointment. Without saying a word he stepped up to Mack and asked the same question. When Mack nodded yes, he went to the next person and with leaflet in hand asked “Do you know Jesus?”
    Because of the young man’s crestfallen reaction to both of us, I decided to watch him for a few minutes while Mack went on to baggage claim.
    A couple of minutes went by. A woman stepped off and when he asked the question, she said, “No. I don’t believe in
Jesus.”
    Immediately, he opened the leaflet and began preaching about Jesus’ soon return, judgment and hell. She began to argue with her own philosophical questions and answers. Soon they were both talking over each other, neither listening to one another. We left for home.
    I was a sophomore or junior in high school when my girlfriend invited me for a Saturday sleepover and then to her church on Sunday to hear her sing a solo. As I waited for her outside the choir room after the service, the choir director came out into the hallway. 
    “So, young lady. Did you enjoy the service?” he asked.
    Of course I replied I did and proceeded to explain why I was waiting. I also told him the name of the church I attended and that my friend and I had met in our high school choir.
    Without hesitation he pulled out a pocket Bible. “I want to take you on a road trip,” he said.
    He proceeded to flip through the pages reading the scriptures aloud as he went. After he was finished, he looked me in the eye, “Now, young lady, what do you think?”
    I didn’t know what to say. My silence was definitely not the response he was looking for.
    “Look here, young lady, what   I   just
read to you clearly states the way to heaven.
Don’t you want to go to heaven?”
   I don’t remember what I replied. I do remember feeling trapped. And afterward I determined never to corner someone in the way he cornered me.
    There is nothing wrong with sharing the scriptures in a methodical way. The **Romans Road to salvation is one easily learned to give the witness confidence in using the Bible. The problem in that hallway was his aggressive tone. He didn’t ask me the questions needed to find out what I believed. He chose to make me his target for the day.
    Some of us do feel that the minister is the one who should speak about religion. After all, isn't she or he the one with the training? Isn't he used to speaking in front of groups? Hasn't she studied the scriptures? Isn't the official minister the spiritual one? Not always. Knowledge of the scriptures does not guarantee sensitivity to others.
 
Jesus called His disciples to be “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19). I don’t know how many different species of fish there are. Just thinking about the variety of waters on this earth, let alone the vast numbers of fish species in them, boggles my mind. In addition to thinking about fish and water, I’m awed by the matter of the numerous rods, lures, bait and nets required to catch fish. Learning to cast, throw a net, bait a hook requires a teacher. One who cautions: “Never throw your shadow on the water. You’ll scare away the fish.” A string, a pole, and a worm might work for a child, but a fisherman who wants to feed his family must spend considerable time figuring how to fish and which kind is edible before he even begins to clean and cook it. If he turns professional he’ll need a boat and helpers. There is a lot more to fishing than having a pole, a string and a worm.
    Actually, I don’t really like eating fish all that well. I like chocolate. But I do eat fish because it is good for me. I know it’s healthy. Likewise, I don’t always feel like going out of my way to witness - to fish. However, my loving Christ requires that I go out, storm or not, to try to catch a fish. Christ made me a fisherman. It’s a part of my job as His disciple.
    While we know we are called to be witnesses, many of us are shy - tongue tied at the idea of talking to a stranger or even a friend about what we know. We have all had the experience of letting an opportunity slip by. We feel guilty. We promise to do better the next time. In our minds we prepare. We rehearse. Yet, we are unsure if the exact same circumstance will repeat itself. New situations arise and we are confronted again with our fears. We might be rejected. We feel inadequate because we can't put our finger on the scripture we want. We get nervous because we don't want to seem pushy. But we must remember, it is the Holy Spiritthat births a Christian. He is both our leader and teacher.
    Through forty years of ministry, from junior high deaconess to missionary and pastor, I have learned to distinguish between false guilt and true guilt about witnessing. Since I have heard countless sermons on the Great Commission at different stages in my life, too often I have suffered from the false belief: unless I witness to every person I meet with a well organized, scriptural presentationI am not pleasing God. While no preacher intends to oppress his or her listener, unfortunately it does happen.
 
In 1997 as Pastor of Rejoice! Christian Church, I conducted a seminar, Out of the
Saltshaker. I was not surprised when the participants expressed their guilt and many fears about witnessing. Their sense of failure at not being “ready in season and out of season”     (2 Timothy 4:2) underlined every expression of fear. Several believed that if every person who crossed their path was not confronted with the Gospel, that person’s blood was on their heads. Yes, I’ve heard the sermons based on Ezekiel 33:1-9. Ezekiel is an appointed watchman to warn the people of God’s wrath. But the context of those scriptures must be rightly understood by the rest of the verses and following chapters. Just as judgment comes, blessings will also come. There will be an invasion, but Israel will be saved because God will destroy the invading armies. Fortunately, the promise to Ezekiel of a true shepherd to rule Israel in place of the false ones has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And unlike Ezekiel, we who are in Christ have Christ abiding in us. Unlike Ezekiel, I can gladly preach the forgiveness of all our sins by the blood of Jesus.
 
At Pentecost (Acts 2) a glorious, extraordinary event happened to 120 people. The Holy Spirit filled them permanently. He did so in order to empower them to be “witnesses to Me [Christ] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). The fear factor was gone. Neither fear of God’s wrath, nor fear of man was evidenced any longer in their lives. They had absolute assurance they would know every word to speak and step to take, (John 14:26). This was the confidence the Holy Spirit imparted to those who were fearful of rejection. This is the confidence we can have whenever prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak to someone who crosses our path. However, this does not mean we are not to study to show ourselves “approved,” (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16). We are to spend quality time in prayer and quantity time in thinking how best to approach the unsaved person God has planted in our hearts.  
 
There are certain truths we all know about ourselves: we are born with a desire to be unconditionally loved. We cannot thrive unless we have an emotional connection to someone who can secure us with approval. We are born with a need to belong to family, country, cause and self. At some growth point after birth, our ability to reason and conceptualize our world and ourselves mature into our asking three basic questions: Why was I born? Why am I here? Where am I going? If we answer the first, why was I born? from a philosophical world view, we will live out our lives based on an I-centered belief system. Our faith in I will focus our lives on self gratification. In this I-ness, we will never move further to seek answers to the other two questions in any non-self serving way. Although some may settle for the answers the world view gives, most of us will still continually ask, why am I here?and where am I going? in one form or another during times of crises. But unless we have Christ as the center of our lives, the answers to these three questions can never be fully answered with any peaceful, hopeful, possible resolutions. Knowing Christ first and foremost plugs us into a permanent connection with the Holy Spirit. He directs us inwardly and outwardly with immediate and long-term continuing answers to these three questions.
    When we engage others in order to present Christ, unless our testimony is genuine in sharing our own struggles to answer these questions, we will come across as rude and presumptuous. Often, what we think of as evangelism is a “preach at” presentation, using the Bible to thump the person over the head into submission to Christ. However, while the receiver of a thumping presentation might respond positively, though usually not, the initial reception will not last because these three questions in the heart of the hearer will still remain unanswered. If avoiding hell is the only reason to accept Christ, the seeker is not rewarded with an inner conviction that life with Christ will give hopeful answers to life’s problems. Remember, the "Sinner's Prayer" doesn't save anyone. However, the gift of repentance and a knowledgeable, heartfelt acceptance of the Cross and resurrection does. The Christ centered witness must first know what he believes and how these three questions were answered in his own life before he can walk alongside a doubter.
 
In the parable of the sower, only one quarter of the ground is soft and moist enough to take in the seed and mature it to fruitfulness, (Matthew 13:1-23). This is a reality check parable. If God is not discouraged with a 25 percent rate of success, we should not be either. Therefore, whenever, wherever we endeavor to share the gospel we must remember the 4 SWs: Some will. Some won’t. So what. Some will! If we are easily offended by the some won’ts we will not pursue the some wills. And the purpose of God is always to offer saving grace to the some won’ts as well as to the some wills. Saving grace, like the seed, is thrown over all the ground. The purpose of the sower is to throw the seed and give opportunity for it to take root. And we can’t possibly predict that a some won’t might not be a some will in the future because of another’s witness. Quickly moving on from the some won’ts will help us keep our witnessing in the perspective of the Holy Spirit’s point of view. He uses us to lift Jesus higher in order to draw all men to Him. But if all men are not drawn, He will still be lifted up. Of the 4 SWs, the somewills are our evangel call to keep on, keeping on in Christ. The next person might be a some will. Eventually, the some wills in our ministry will outweigh the some won’ts.
Our attitudes can cast big shadows that scare away the fish. Besides prayerlessness, lack of spending quality time in the scriptures, and a loss of desire for intimacy with Christ, there are many other dark shadows to effective witnessing. Sometimes our negative attitudes are far more easily read by others then we would like to admit. Here are five attitudes which will send the fish swimming away from you. Please consider them. You might not even be aware you are casting these    shadows.
 
    1. Prejudice: assuming that because a person has no knowledge of the truth, he or she is uninterested in spiritual things. Dismissing non-believers, "they, them, those," as inferior persons incapable of understanding what you know to be true.
    2. Self-righteousness: preaching at    another from a different denomination or at a non-believer without trying to understand how the person arrived at the way he or she thinks. Don’t have time to hear sad stories. Just want to make your points and be on your way.
    3. Religious self-centeredness:           assuming the only road to Christ is to experience Him in exactly the same way you came to know Him. Anyone who does not worship Christ in the same manner, style and structure as the church you attend can't be a true Christian.
    4. "Birds of a feather" mentality:       deciding that those in certain religious (cults) groups are so hardened against Christianity that it's a waste of time to try to talk to any of "them." Deciding that their organization’s propaganda is what all the members believe.
    5. Telemarketing: selling Christ as a product by a scripted, spiel approach. Manipulating the person with pressure and forcing yes or no answers to programed questions. This never leads the person to a genuine, heartfelt acceptance of Christ. Many become Gospel hardened by this kind of presentation.
 
In a 1961 golden oldie song, Bob Merrill wrote the lyrics: Love makes the world go round, love makes the world go round. Somebody soon will love you, if no one loves you now. High in some silent sky, love sings a silver song, making the earth whirl softly, love makes the world go round.
    There are all kinds of loving - each other - things. But the truth is, the world revolves not because of love, but because of God’s creative order in placing this round world in a solar system hanging in a vast, star filled universe. In that creative Genesis order, God made man and woman because He is   perfect love. We are birthed into that infinite love by Christ. In this absolute truth we can know we are loved. And it is a love like no other. Perfect love spreads the seed; perfect love throws the net. That’s the Gospel worth talking about.
 
  
  
Dear Lord, I pray for the reader and myself,
 
  Help us to understand, to recognize the desperate soul when his desperation does not show outwardly. Help us Holy Spirit, lead us today, this week to someone who needs you to bring him or her into your life of love. Teach us to be your mid-wives, sensitive to know who is kicking, ready to be born. Keep us from casting our shadow over those who are swimming toward you. Thank you Jesus for using us to be your hands and feet, your tongue to share our love for you. Enlarge our hearts to love as you loved us. Make our lives a soul winning, holy praise to you. Amen.
  
                           **The Romans Road**
 
Romans 3:10, 12, 23 - Man’s need. “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who does good, there is not even one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
 
Romans 6:23 - Sin’s Penalty. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 - God’s Provision. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 10:9, 10, 13 - Man’s Response. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to
salvation. For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
If you have never asked the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart, I invite you to do so now:
    Dear Heavenly Father,
In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, I want you to change my life. I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done. Please save me and put your Spirit into my heart. Make me your child. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for all my sins. Thank you Jesus for loving me into heaven. Help me to live for you. I promise to do my very best to follow you all my life. Thank you for making me brand new. In Jesus name. Amen
 
 
 
Our first birth is natural; our new birth is spiritual.  Our first birth is from below (earthly); our second birth is from above (heavenly). Our first birth gives us a perverse nature; our second birth gives us a sanctified nature. Our first birth brings condemnation; our second birth brings forgiveness. Our first birth makes us citizens of the world; our second birth makes us citizens of heaven. Our first birth brings fear of death; our second birth brings joy of life. Our first birth brings human love; our second birth brings eternal love.
 
 
  
Quotations from: New American Standard Bible; Thomas Nelson Publisher.