The Gospel as a Story Part One

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One huge challenge to sharing the Gospel in todays culture is people lack a foundation of Biblical Truth. So instead of starting with the Book of Romans (their need of Christ) its necessary to start with page one of the Bible (there is a God).

One of the best ways to do this is telling the Gospel as a story because it allows us to focus on the major themes of Scripture which are

The Holiness of God (marked in Gold)
The Sinfulness of Man (marked in Blue)
And the coming Redeemer Jesus Christ (marked in red)

As a framework I use The Story of Hope evangelism material published by ABWE which uses major events in Scripture to explain the Gospel.

I particularly love the full color cards that they offer covering each event that can easily be used to share Christ, or small booklets that are easier to carry.

In part one of this series I will go from creation, to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. I pray it can encourage us all to tell the story of the Gospel beginning in Genesis 1:1.

1. God who existed in the beginning created the Heavens and the Earth

2. God Created Adam and Eve, and after putting them in the Garden of Eden, they are commanded not to eat the fruit from one tree.

3. An Angel of God rebelled against Him and tried to take His place. God responded by throwing him out of Heaven, and since that time Satan has tempted us to rebel.

4. Adam and Eve choose to eat the fruit and take the place of God instead of obeying Him

5. Because Adam and Eve sinned against God they felt shame and separation from Him for the first time

6. God promised a man would come and redeem all of us from our sins by crushing the head of Satan

7. Until the promised Redeemer arrived, Adam and Eve temporarily covered their sins with the blood of animal sacrifices.

8. They are forced to leave the Garden of Eden because of their sin. Since that time our sins have created a wall of separation between us and God

9. Instead of obeying God mankind became worse and worse so He warned them of a coming flood that would kill everyone

10. God called Noah to build an ark that would protect people from the flood, this is a picture of the coming Redeemer

11. God called a man named Abraham to leave his family and travel to a place were the Lord would make him a great nation.

12. God later asked Abraham to sacrifice his firstborn son Isaac, Abraham was about to do this when God provided a Ram to be sacrificed in his place

Come back on Saturday to read The Gospel as A Story Part Two.

How Volunteering Makes Us Heroes

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yes, stuffing envelopes is considered Ministry too.

About twenty minutes away  is a learning center for children with Autism where I volunteer at the front desk on Wednesdays.

The job consists of answering phones, opening the front door, and greeting visitors, but that doesn’t keep them from celebrating every time I come in and referring to me as their “hero.”

This actually has very little to do with how awesome I am, but is all about my approach to the volunteer ministry.

Now I am aware that not many people have time to give towards volunteering (it’s an exhausting ministry) but I also believe it’s one of the greatest ways we can reach the lost in our community.  If the Lord does allow you to get involved there is one very important thing to remember.

It must be done with excellence

There are many different tips on how to volunteer with excellence, but here are a few of my favorites

1. Be Cheerful-you would be AMAZED how powerful saying “good morning” with a smile on your face can be
2. Be Professional-Take the volunteering position seriously, as if it was a real job
3. Be Awesome-Doing the smallest job in a well organized and detailed manner will have them celebrating when you arrive

Allow me to illustrate these using an experience from last Wednesday with one of the teachers named Lizzie.

9:00-Lizzie asks me to measure and cut thirty strips of velcro (not very exciting)
9:20-After finding the strips cut and stacked in piles of ten, Lizzie spends the next fifteen minutes acting as if I climbed Mt Everest
11:00-Lizzie asks me to cut out pictures, glue them on a piece of paper, cut the pictures out again after being laminated, and stick Velcro on the back
11:15-Another one of the teachers Cindy hands me one more page of pictures that needs to go through the process
11:30-Lizzie comes out and after calling me her hero hands over three more pages of pictures of laminate.

The thing is I wasn’t doing superhuman work (it doesn’t take a genius to laminate and cut), what amazes the teachers is how much is put into a job I’m never going to be paid for.

There are many reasons for us to volunteer locally, but one of the most important is it allows people to see Christ in us.

Even if we are just laminating

Four Reasons Why I Should Talk Less, and Listen More

SAMSUNG CSCLast Monday one of the students who I mentor came into our session very excited and almost right away said “okay I have to tell you something.”

He proceeded to explain how the day before frustration about not being accepted by other students had resulted in an outburst of anger. So I spent the next half hour explaining ways to control his frustration.

Walking across the parking lot to my car I realized he simply wanted me to listen and allow him to vent isntead of sharing twenty ways to deal with anger. It was a not so gentle reminder of the need to listen more than I talk.

God has given us one mouth but two ears, so we should be listening twice as much as we talk. Kraft, Dave. Leaders Who Last (Re: Lit) (p. 108).

If your a talker like me it’s important to remember in many cases simply listening to a person can do more than all the words in the world.

* Because Listening allows us to learn about what the persons really struggling with
* Because Listening encourages them to talk more during a session instead of taking up 80% to 90% of the time ourselves
* Because Listening builds trust so that they are willing to share deeper struggles
* Because Listening focuses our mind on their need instead of finding the right words to say that can help

So how do we break the habit of trying to fix a problem right away instead of listening? Here are a few habits that have helped me become an active listener.

1. Allow the person to introduce the subject or idea that will be discussed: I prefer to start my mentoring sessions with the phrase “what do you want to talk about today?”
3. Make an effort not to deal with a problem the moment they share it: I usually create a lesson plan on that subject for the next week
4. Pray as they share their needs: this will give you something to do instead of actively speaking
5. Listen for the REAL PROBLEM: it usually isn’t the one you expect

In our fast paced culture there are thousands of voices giving answers to the challenges of those in need. The sad thing is the one voice that truly matters is drowned out…It’s our responsibility as Christians to make sure their own voice is heard.

Five Kinds of Gear You Need to run in the Winter

Most of you  know that I’m a runner, but till this year there has been a deep dark secret about my training.  The truths is I’m what’s known as a “warm weather runner.”

This means I faithfully run during warmer months, but there isn’t enough motivation to continue training in the winter.  The problem with this is once Spring comes and the weather gets nice I find myself completely out of shape.  So people who want to set a personal record for speed or distance in May must put the hard work in during December and January.

Becoming a cold weather runner takes more than determination though, your going to need the right running gear.  Since I’ve bought quite a bit of gear since January I thought it would be fun to share some of the items you would need to train twelve months out of the year.

IMG_04611.  Base Layer:  I’m aware that many people (men in particular) have a problem with wearing running tights since there is no way you can look cool running in them.  However having pair of pants or tights and a long sleeve running shirt is incredibly important because it keeps your body warm during the run..oh and don’t worry I did buy both of these items after taking this picture.

IMG_02582.  Reflection and Light:  Adding to the lack of coolness is the need to be seen by traffic or other people.  This is especially important in winter months since it gets dark earlier, and many of us can’t run till after work.  I prefer using a vest that has lights as well as reflectivity (note the flashing red light) and a headlamp to see whats in front of me.

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3.  Running Shoes or Insoles:  I do understand not everyone can purchase a pair of new running shoes, but if you can in the winter months it is a huge help.  If not then buying a pair of high quality running insoles from a company like Super Feet can make older shoes much more comfortable

SAMSUNG CSC4.  Gloves:  It’s been proven that your fingertips are the last things to get warm in cold weather so having a nice pair of gloves is extremely important.  My suggestion would to buy something that is made of synthetic or breathable material instead of wool because that material will absorb your sweat, and make the run uncomfortable.

5.  Hydration:  A common mistake for runners is not to drink water during winter training because they’re not training in hot weather.  However you still lose a lot through perspiration, and wearing layers of clothing will create the need for hydration.

There are a few ways to keep hydrated during a run, but I’ve fallen in love with hydration belts because they also allow me to carry things like my keys, and phone.

Unfortunately you won’t look very cool wearing running tights, a hydration belt, and flashing red lights in the winter, but that’s okay.  You going to look really cool passing everyone else in the summer.

Six ways to get past the one word conversation phase with Teens

Image Purchased from www.fotolia.com
Image Purchased from http://www.fotolia.com

Last year I got involved in a program that connects individuals with High School Seniors in need of mentoring, and envisioned becoming close friends with my student as they shared all of their personal struggles with me.

It didn’t work out that way…In fact I never really got past the “one word conversation phrase” (I ask a question and they answer with “yes” or “no”)

This year I began mentoring again with very different results….

About five minutes into our session last week one of my students excitedly said “okay man I have to tell you something” and proceeded to share his frustration with not becoming part of the popular crowd at school.

What made the difference?  It was six simple changes that I made in my approach to mentoring

  1. First sessions will be pretty much 90% lecture  (you talking) and about 10% discussion
  2. You take the initiative in sharing struggles or challenges:
  3. Start each session with “what do you want to talk about today?” (if they say I don’t know thats okay, but I’ve been amazed how many times we spend an hour talking about something they bring up in the first five minutes)
  4. If they bring up a struggle listen first, don’t cut them off and try to “fix the situation”
  5. Create handouts for your sessions that deal directly with their struggles
  6. Give students space to share deeper or more personal problems

For the sake of illustration let me use some experiences I had with a student called James (not his real name)

  • I spend a few months earning his trust
  • Around Thanksgiving James brings up his frustration with always being stuck with his nieces and nephews on Thanksgiving and never spending time with the other adults
  • We discuss some ways to create boundaries, and how to say no when asked to do something
  • James returns after Thanksgiving excited because our ideas had worked
  • A few weeks later James towards the end of class asked me how to ask a girl out on a date
  • This week we spent a session discussing why he shouldn’t worry about not being one of the cool kids

It’s been a blessing in our sessions to see James begin sharing deeper and deeper struggles in his life.  It is very hard to gain the trust of a teenager (why most people don’t do it), but the good news is once that trust is earned, they will share their deeper needs.

Five Reasons Why I Don’t Get Homesick in Australia

wpid-3275963-2014-02-26-21-08.jpgOne of the reasons I’m a huge fan of technology is the way it helps me communicate with friends and family in the US while serving the Lord thousands of miles away in Australia.

A big challenge of living that far from home is there are days when homesickness will set in. In the past I would have to rely on pictures in those situations, but now its possible to contact loved ones instantly with the click of a button.

The Blessing of instant communication can also be a curse because there are so many different software applications to choose from. With that in mind I would like to share my five favorite tools for killing homesickness.

1. Skype: During my time in Australia it was always a Wilburn family tradition for me to Skype my parents after Church on Sunday and Wednesday. Being to see and talk to family at the same time meant all the world

2. Cloud Messaging: Its possible to send texts to people in different Countries using your Cell Phones messaging system

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First Cloud Text Message to my father in 2011

3. Facebook: On those homesick days Facebook gave me the opportunity to vent my frustrations (in a proper way) and get immediate feedback from friends or loved ones.

4. Dropbox: While Facebook is awesome for sending pictures, there are times when pics or documents will need to be sent privately, In those situations Dropbox works perfectly

5. Mailchimp: It used to take hours for me to create a ministry update and send it by email, now with the help of Mailchimp I am able to do so less than one.

Seven years on the mission field have taught me many needs are emotional instead of spiritual, or mental. Sadly I wasn’t very well prepared for emotional challenges like homesickness, frustration, discouragement, or lack of faith.

These and other online tools help me deal with those challenges.

In the past Missionaries were viewed as individuals who only worked on their own and never asked for help. Today we know true ministry can’t be accomplished without the help of other Believers as well as God…In other words ministry takes community.

It’s not always possible to have a community of Godly friends who live a few doors down. However technology ensures you can indeed have deeply connected relationships while living thousands of miles apart.

Know some other favorite tool for Online Communication? Leave it in the comments section below