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Love thy airplane neighbor

Love thy airplane neighbor

Since long before TSA sucked all the fun out of air travel, airplanes have been my favorite form of commute.  My favorite thing about flying? Naps. There’s no TV, no dirty dishes, nothing to distract you or demand your attention.

Unless you get seated next to a talker. Nothing ruins a good nap like a talker. I’ve even had someone try to sell me insurance on a flight!

On my last trip, I had a very frustrating day of travel. One flight left late, the connecting flight left early, and I was stuck in the airport waiting for the next available flight. I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. The last thing I wanted was a “cattle car” experience to finish the trip. So I forked out the nominal fee and sprung for a First Class upgrade, hoping it would increase my odds of being seated alone or with someone who didn’t feel the need to share their life story.

The plane boarded and at first it looked like my hopes would be realized. My neighbor sat down with earbuds in and didn’t even make eye contact. I settled in with my book and prepared for a quiet trip home.

Then it was time to “turn off all electrical devices.” Out the earbuds came, and he dove into a two-hour long monologue about his childhood, marriage, career… As I listened to him talk, I couldn’t help think that I was being cheated out of my highly anticipated quiet time.

Commence guilt.

I recently finished a Bible study which included a brief discussion on the author’s view that airplane neighbors are divine appointments, God-ordained opportunities to share the Gospel to a captive audience. I appreciated her perspective, but decided that wasn’t for me. Plane time is my nap time.

Throughout the flight, that idea rolled around in my head, refusing to leave. Still, I said nothing. Partly that was because I didn’t know if I could get a word in edgewise. But also, I am shamefully out of practice when it comes to telling a complete stranger the Good News.

Finally we arrived at our destination and began to deplane. He started to leave and I said, “I really enjoyed talking to you. Every night, I like to pray for people I meet, is there something I could pray for you about today?”

And sure enough, after telling me all the wonderful things about his life, suddenly he confessed that there was an area that wasn’t as good as he originally presented it, and asked for prayer. We said goodbye and left.

It wasn’t the Roman Road, but I did pray for him that night, for his situation and the hope that someone taking an interest in him and offering to pray for him planted a seed that others would water.

Maybe next time I’ll be a little slower to curl up for my nap.

Stand out from the crowd

Stand out from the crowd

The life of a believer should look so much different than that of the world that you should “not fit in.”

I’ve heard the argument that you should try fit in so you can make new friends and lead them to Christ. Although this is partially true, in that you should love everyone you encounter with a passionate and welcoming love, you are not called to conform to the world around you in order to fit in.

Romans 12:2 says…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I think about modern day Christian music artists, and also ones I’ve seen in the past, who denounce their Christian title in order to reach a broader audience. While in a sense, I can’t judge where their hearts are, I am smart enough to realize many do this in order to broaden their success, not their audience. Because let’s face it, anything saturated in Christ isn’t popular in our sin-soaked society. When these talented artists “put away” some of their Christian title, they lose a severe amount of effectiveness.

Our lives are supposed to look like Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:12 tells us we are supposed to follow Christ. And if Christians are following Him, our lives should produce beautiful fruit.

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

So, the production of fruit in your life will show that you do indeed follow Christ.

Although you do not become a Christian by “moral goodness”, fruit WILL be evident if your heart is after the Lord.

Plain and simple, a believer cannot live in sin. While yes, you will struggle with it, you cannot live in it. That’s why Christ mentions repentance (which is a turning away from sin) so much in the Bible.

As a 17-year-old, I’ve struggled with sin enough to know that living in and loving it will pull you far away from where God wants you. When you are more concerned with self-satisfaction than with pursuing God’s plan for you, you begin to miss out on some beautiful blessings. I’m not saying that you MUST be completely innocent, because as humans, it is inevitable that will see fallible. But the important thing is that you’re seeking truth. Seeking truth will result in identity in Christ, the production of fruit, and the abstinence of indwelling sin. These are three critical attributes of an effective believer.

Make the most of your influence

Make the most of your influence

Do you know that you have influence?  If you call yourself a Christian, you have set yourself apart from the world.  Therefore, anyone who claims Christianity has influence.  But really it’s not a matter of if you have influence; it’s a matter of how you use your influence.  As Christians there is a standard of living set for us.  Throughout the Bible we see stories and example of how we should and shouldn’t live our lives, and as we all know, “actions speak louder than words.”

Second Chronicles 17 tell the story of Jehoshaphat and his reign over the land of Judah.  He was the King, and he definitely had influence.  Chapter 17 shows us how Jehoshaphat lived and the principals he lived by, making the most of his influence.  Can the same be said of you?

Verse 1, Strengthen yourself.  You must learn how to study and apply the Word of God to your life, job, family, marriage, relationships, struggles, etc. before you can have a positive influence on others.  How can you be light in a dark world if you don’t apply God’s Word to your life?

Verse 2, Always be ready for battle.  Notice the Bible doesn’t tell us that Judah is under attack, but Jehoshaphat still has his guard up.  It’s a lot easier to defend yourself if your defense is up before an attack comes.  This is why we train troops even when we aren’t in a time of war.  For example, whether you struggle with internet pornography or not, go ahead and put parental controls on your computer and phone.  That way you’ll be much less likely to run into a problem.

Verse 3, Learn from the best.  Don’t listen to just anyone. Go back a couple chapters and read about Jehoshaphat’s dad, Asa.  Jehoshaphat isn’t following his example for good reason.  Instead he looks to the early way of his relative King David, before David got into a bunch of sin.  Before you follow the advice of someone or follow their lead, do your homework and make sure he or she is someone you really need to be following.

Verse 4, Don’t let the world control your heart.  Jehoshaphat didn’t follow the practices of Israel or the world around him.  He was focused on God and the things of God.  Set yourself apart from your friends at school or work.  Romans 10:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Luke 16:15 says, “And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  Following the world will get you nowhere!

Verse 5, Let the scope of your influence come from the Lord.  Jehoshaphat wasn’t concerned about was following the world, making everyone happy or living like a celebrity. Jehoshaphat simply followed God.  And because of that, God blessed him abundantly.

Verses 7-9, Use your position and resources to spread the Gospel.  Jehoshaphat didn’t stop with his kingdom – he wanted everyone to hear about the Lord!  The most important thing we can do is share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others!  Jehoshaphat didn’t use his wealth on himself but used it to send out missionaries.

How do you live? And what does your influence look like?  Are you mission-minded? These principles can be applied at work, school, in your community and anywhere else you might be.  Jehoshaphat set a great example for us. Now take it, and use your influence to reach the world for Christ!

What love are you showing this Valentine’s Day?

What love are you showing this Valentine’s Day?

Here we are in the month of love and if you have not already bought flowers or chocolates for your Valentine… you should quit reading now and go buy some! Otherwise, read on.

During the month of February there is a lot of emphasis on love. This Valentine’s Day might be a good time to think about the love we should have for those around us who have not come to know Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross, not just our sweethearts back home. Most of us have friends or family members who need Jesus and the Gospel and there is nothing more loving than sharing the truth with them.

I am sure most of us have read the story of the paralytic man that Jesus healed. This may seem like an odd story to relate to Valentine’s Day, but it is a perfect example of love.

And when [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And He was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”Mark 2:1-5 (ESV)

Imagine going to your pastor’s house to hear him preach and seeing four guys drag a paralyzed man up onto the roof. They begin to pull shingles off and remove boards until they put a big hole in the roof of your pastor’s house.  I know I would probably think these guys were nuts. Think about the comments these men would have heard as they tried to help their friend. You know people must have laughed at them. It’s not like you can nonchalantly drag a paralyzed guy onto the roof while a big crowd of people are standing there watching. I’m sure it was a sight to see.

But these men knew one thing; their friend was crippled and Jesus could heal him. Unlike most of us, these men were willing to do whatever it took to get their friend before Christ Jesus. Jesus recognized that these men had faith and He blessed them for that. Is this the same kind of love we have for those people in our lives that are lost?

Take some time this month to do the most loving this you can possibly do, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost.

Building Relationships

Building Relationships

Cold call evangelism is valuable, and every Christian should know how to do it, but most of us don’t practice it very often. Why? Maybe it’s because we are super-spiritual and deeply concerned about leaving spiritual babies in our wake with no one to care for and nurture them.

Maybe. Probably not.

The truth is more likely that it just makes us uncomfortable. We don’t love to open the front door to white shirts, dark neckties, and bicycle helmets, so we try not to portray that image to other people.

We know deep down, even as we waste time staring into backlit screens, that life is about real relationships, namely our relationship with God and our relationships with others.  We know from experience that the Gospel is easier to believe and take hold of when introduced by a trusted friend.   So, how do we move past initial, superficial connections and build relationships that will bear the weight of God’s Truth when it comes time to share it? Here are some suggestions for you and your family.

1.     Choose your stomping grounds.  Become faithful patrons of one grocery store, one hair salon, one bank, one gym, one coffee shop, one department store, one restaurant, etc.  Get to know the people there.  Find those who seem receptive to your friendship and frequent their check-out line, their barber chair, their booth, their table, etc.

2.     Build margin into your schedule. As often as possible, arrive early to your destination and plan to stay later than you must so that you can engage more people in potentially meaningful conversation and build relationships.

3.     Invest intentionally. Look for ways to be of help. When you discover a need, do your best to meet that need. Give of your time, your energy, and your resources.

4.     Pray. Pray for your new friends and tell them that you pray for them.  Few will object, and most will begin to bring prayer requests to you, opening the door for spiritual conversation.  Offer to pray with them when they seem receptive.

In short, live out the gospel you profess by taking the time and making the effort to show love to the people around you.  Then, when Jesus knocks at the door of their hearts, they will be more likely to invite Him in.