Weaving the message of Jesus into our words and work:
A. The issue of clarity of the facts...how much do you have to KNOW, in order to have FAITH?
B. Christian Buzzwords!!!! (Table of Correspondences)
C. Using scripture verses--modern paraphrases and translations
D. YOUR story:
E. Joe's story: "I haven't been in that situation before, but I have a friend Joe that actually ended up asking God into His life because of that...if I remember correctly, his situation was..."
F Getting them to think about and to consider the spiritual area:
· "Where would you say you are now, on your spiritual journey?"
· "Where would you say you are now, on the spiritual spectrum between knowing and enjoying God, on one hand, and being convinced that God doesn't even exist, on the other?"
· "What would you say are the biggest differences between what you believe about God now and what you were taught about God earlier in life?"
· "How much more or less would you say you think now about the 'big questions of life', such as your purpose on earth, what values are truly important, what a relationship with God is like, than you did ten years ago?
"from what I have come to learn, He was the perfect mix of personal ethical integrity and strength, and at the same time, of patience, compassion, and commitment to people's welfare--esp. in situations like this..."
"from what I have come to learn, He told us that He was the clearest expression of God's heart and character we could ever see..."
"from what I have come to learn, He somehow was God "wrapped up" in flesh...sent to clear the way for us to approach God in confidence and without embarrassment or fear..."
H. The issue of False Christs
1. If you reject a False Christ, have you rejected the real One?
2. Keeping the balance:
a. Soft and Strong
b. Forgiving and Rebuking
c. Human yet more-than-human
d. Tender yet truthful
3. "Most people that have positively rejected "Jesus"--did the right thing! They rejected the WRONG Jesus! In spite of religious opposition, they did the right and courageous thing...Let me encourage you to make sure you have the Jesus that is a balance of..."
I. God: the good-hearted, the Wise and Authoritative One, and the keeper of the 'consequence machine'
· "I have had a deeply rewarding relationship with God for over ten years now, and I STILL sometimes slip up and think of him as a distant, scowling judge, instead of the good-hearted, caring, and trustworthy parent He has shown himself to be in my life..."
· "I don't know about your religious background, but I somehow got the impression growing up that God was quite stern, rigid, judgmental, and distant. I never realized how much the life and message of His son Jesus, and his death for us on the Cross contradicted that impression of mine! If I had used some good sense and common logic, I would have seen earlier that God must be interested in our welfare and must have a good heart towards us!"
· "The older I get, the more it makes sense that God would know more about life, happiness, and significance than I...and the more it makes sense to include His input in my decisions and values..."
· "The farther along I get in life, the more I sense that God's directives on how we should treat each other need to be paid attention to...Our lives (and the news!) are filled with the hurtful consequences of our disregard--sometimes unintentional, of course--for the basics of love, loyalty, forgiveness, fairness, and justice..."
· "Sometimes I make a bad decision about some important value in my life and God, who normally ensures that "causes produce effects" (so we have a predictable world!), will soften those effects when I ask honestly for help in cleaning up the mess I made [smile]...Some He doesn't do, of course--if I shot my toe off in a fit of rage, He would forgive me, but He probably wouldn't grow my toe back!--but many consequences He can soften or even 'reverse', such as in personal relationships"
J. The problem with using Christian literature
· Watch for buzzwords
· Check the tone (Churchy? Condemnatory? Combative? Weak? Irrelevant? Wrong focus? Warm?)
· They may not reflect YOUR experience, unless it was instrumental in YOUR life (but watch out for the differences between you and the other person's life!)
· Must be 'casual' not conspiratorial (not like you were maneuvering them into 'The Pounce Zone'!)
· Never, never, never give them something to read that you have not read yourself, carefully and recently! [Best case is to highlight and annotate sections for them]
K. Don't make promises for God, other than biblical ones: engagement, acceptance, companionship, and interaction in their future!
L. When you finally get to tell your story (maybe at the 'someday lunch'):
First, get an update from them on any difficult situation they are in or give an update from you on the situation YOU are facing (if that is the background of the lunch).
If they are expecting you to tell the story, then a simple "Well, I promised you the pocket-sized version of how I came to my current religious convictions," [or, if you don't have to use a euphemism to keep their nervousness down: "how I came to ask God to take a larger role in my life" or "how I came to ask God for some kind of help in that situation" or "how I came to face up to who God was, what He had done for me through Jesus so long ago, and what kind of impact He wanted to have on my life"], "So let me start with the situation which started me thinking about this---"...and then you tell YOUR STORY.
If they are NOT expecting a 'sermon' from you, but you sense the time is right, you would use the "getting them to think about spiritual things" questions above to make sure:
"Matt, I know you've faced a couple of difficult situations over the past year, and I remember things like that having a big impact in the past on my perspectives on 'big picture' issues of life. Some of them made me reassess my views of life, values, and God, and actually prompted me to make same decisions and changes in my life.
"Are you seeing the same thing in your situation? Are these challenges causing you to think more about values and religion and people and God? Where would you say you are currently, in your thinking about values and God?
"Well, I have been thinking more about these things, but I am still confused and cannot see my way clear to do anything...It's all sort of fuzzy, but you're right--the issues are starting to bubble around in my head more...that accident involving Diane really shook me up..."
[The PIVOT paragraph]:
"Yeah, I know, friend...Those kinds of situations turn into 'wake up calls' for most of us...I know what you mean about the confusion and fuzziness of some of that stuff, too...I don't know if it would be of any value to you in your thought process about this, but I could share the two-minute version of my thought process and decisions twelve years ago, when I was in a similar situation. It's wasn't very weird or very religious-sounding of an experience, but it might be some additional input for your thinking. This is generally a rather private issue, but who knows--it might be of value. So, if you want to hear it, I could go through it now, or if you would rather do it later, that's fine--YOUR call, friend."
Variant A: "There's no time like the present..." you tell YOUR STORY.
Variant B: "I think I'd rather wait...I've got too much on my mind right now..."
"Certainly, friend, I know you do...just let me know if/when...and, if you need a cheap sounding board for your in-process thinking, I volunteer my services [smile]...I could have used one a couple of different times in my life, too..."