A couple weeks ago while at work I had to cut a bearing off of a shaft with a torch. When doing so, I had to be very careful not to cut into the shaft doing more damage. If you take your time and cut slowly you can actually watch the bearing melt away from the shaft and cause no damage. It’s kind of cool to see when it's happening at that perfect moment. It's not a good thing to see if you cut into the shaft, you will have a sad feeling.
So, for some reason, this made me think of when people used to approach me about Christ. I guess it is the precision and timing that we must sometimes have with our words to reach people. One strong word and they may never listen, but also the time in their life when they are open to hear. I did not grow up in the church but always believed that God existed just from what I had learned as a child. I had people invite me to church functions for many years as a young adult and would go on occasion but never seriously searched out any more about God’s word. A time came in our lives when our children were little we felt a need for more knowledge about God for our children. We wanted them to at least know the Bible stories that we had heard. Meanwhile, it caused us to find our own need for God in our lives and we began our own search. We went to many places but we were in search of the truth in which we could follow in God’s word and that search brought us here. It is sad to see someone that you talked to decide to turn away from God’s words because they don't like what they find and how it may affect them or someone they know. It just breaks your heart but you can't change the truth.
The message that I wish to send in all this, is that the careful choice of the precise word is very important to anyone's search and our helping them find it. But also, the timing of it is important. When we talk to people about Jesus we need to be careful with our words. Plant seeds without being pushy or making people think that we believe Christians are better than them. You may talk to a lot of people that may not be looking at the time of your conversation. We must be careful not to push them away but to be patient and loving and someday God will supply the increase not us. Just be careful with your words and lovingly spread the seeds and people will ask questions when they are ready to seek God out. Just be ready with the answers they seek. It can be rewarding to watch someone grow in faith and follow Christ and serve Him in truth. It will lift your own heart and spirits. If you plant seeds, and hopefully someone else will too, then when they are ready and in God’s time as the song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus” will be their words.
In the late 1990’s the Church in Ripon donated $50,000 to build a preacher training school and a school for destitute children in Nekempt, Ethiopia. The Nekempt School of Preaching is one of 5 training schools in Ethiopia. Each year 100 to 150 graduate from these schools. This current session will bring the number of men trained at this school to 350. It isn’t possible to know by the way these men look, their age or by the scores on their tests who will become an effective soul winner and Church planter. One of the most effective Church planters in the 49 year history of training preachers in Ethiopia was an almost illiterate man who could not graduate because he could not pass the tests even when given orally. He had a burning passion and a committed heart to preach the word and leave the rest to God. He later established many congregations and converted scores to God’s Church.
The Nejo congregation
The town of Nejo is 122 miles west and north of Nekempt. It has a population of 20,000 and is growing. Brother Abeyot Onaba is from Nejo and was taught the Gospel by Brother Zelalem Dunfa. Recently he was accepted to attend the Preacher training school in Nekempt. After his graduation he returned to Nejo and established a congregation. The Nejo Church now has 34 members and averages 40 in attendance. The congregation in Nejo is a perfect example of how Christianity spreads. There are now tens of thousands of Christians in Ethiopia, thanks to dedicated Christians teaching others the Love of God. Next week-The rest of the story.
According to Mr. Webster, a hero is anyone “admired for courage, nobility, or exploits, especially in war.” My brother-in-law, Norman Stone, was stationed in Germany three years while serving in the army. One day as he was driving down the freeway, he noticed a car along the side of the road with fire coming out of it and a woman trapped inside. He immediately pulled over, ran to the burning car, jerked the jammed door open, and pulled the woman to safety. A newspaper printed a story about the incident and Norman was called a hero, which he was. Without regard for his own safety, he saw a desperate need and met it, thus saving the woman’s life. Often in war, soldiers will throw themselves on explosives to save the lives of fellow soldiers or civilians. These acts are indeed heroic and often save the physical lives of people who go on to live 30, 40, or even 50 more years. They are honored and sometimes even memorials are erected so others will remember.
About 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to this earth, lived a perfect and sinless life, and was cruelly crucified for the sins of the entire human race. Jesus knew our desperate need to be redeemed, so without regard to his own comfort, He gave up heaven and a life with God to save us from our sin. Unlike human heroes who lose their lives, Jesus rose from the grave, returned to the Father, and is waiting for us to join Him after this life is over. He doesn’t just offer us 30, 40, or 50 more years of life if we dedicate ourselves to Him in obedience, He offers us eternal life. The memorial that Christians partake in to remember history’s most momentous heroic deed, we call the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate this selfless act of our Savior each first day of the week. It is too special to only observe once or twice a year.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11
Oh, what a Hero!
We have all heard this said about us and sometimes we might even think it about ourselves. I know it does not shock us to learn that we are not perfect. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Christ died for us to take care of that. We still need to think about how we act and what we say to the people that we are in contact with every day.
A Christian having sin in their life does not make them a hypocrite. The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word meaning a play actor or someone pretending to be someone they are not. I am sure there are some Christians who want to think of themselves as sinless and are striving to convince you of their holiness and purity. Matthew 23:27-28 calls them “whitewashed tombs.” Having sin in your life does not make you a hypocrite, it makes you human and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ.
There are two reasons why unbelievers hurl that accusation at Christians. First, they do not know much about God, Jesus or the church. They just know enough to expect that Christians will be different from them. They expect us to be somewhat Christ like, loving and understanding of other’s failures. Sometimes they do not get that loving, caring or understanding attitude. Second, they have been in contact with some Christians in the past that have made them feel inferior. Like they were somehow less human because they were sinners, when the Christian who made them feel like that was no better than them. They walked away from their encounter feeling worse about themselves and about the church.
Church, we cannot control how someone feels about Christians or the church but we can work hard to ensure that they don’t feel that way about us. Jesus made people feel comfortable. People felt like they could talk to Him and He was a person they thought they could spend time with. That should be us.
Church, let’s make sure that when unbelievers encounter us it is a beneficial and meaningful encounter. Let’s make sure they see Christ living in us instead of ours sins shining brightly. We cannot be perfect but we can make sure that they walk away with a good view of the church and Christianity.
Roman 12:12 “Rejoicing in hope, preserving in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” We as Christians must be faithful in tribulation knowing that God will be with us. We need to continue in our trust in God and keep on obeying the will of God. God will be there for us, to give us the strength to overcome all the adversities that we face without fear. We need to continue in prayer knowing we cannot do it alone, we need God. God does answer our prayers, not only when we think we need them, but every day of our lives.
Romans 12:13 says “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” Christians are to help other Christians who are in need. We are family, we need to take care of each other. Also, we need to remember what Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:1-16. Relatives ought to take care of their own and not charge the church. Also in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man does not work do not let him eat.” But we need to remember that there are many cases of genuine need among us and we must take care of these. At the end of verse 12 is says “practicing hospitality,” The idea is that Christians must be active in the pursuit of hospitality. It must be done or given in a cheerful and loving manner.
Verse 14 continues with more applied Christianity. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Implied in persecution is unjust and malicious maltreatment. It is because one is a Christian, not because he or she has done wrong (1 Peter 3:13-17). When one is persecuted unjustly, there is a temptation to want to get revenge, but this is forbidden for a Christian because he or she is to act right, because of who he or she is, not to react to what people do to him or her. He is to return good for evil, and that implies that he or she will pray for the one who is persecuting him or her. It is not always easy to practice applied Christianity, but that is who we are. We must be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving.