Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Matthew Connection: The Flow of Faith

The Matthew Connection: The Flow of Faith: Many are familiar with the story of the woman with the issue of blood.  She

The Flow of Faith

Many are familiar with the story of the woman with the issue of blood.  She's the one who pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed.  But not as many may be familiar with another story where people touched the hem of Jesus' garment. I'm referring to Matthew 14:34-36:
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
The men of that region recognized a special guest had arrived in their region. Quickly word went out to other villages that Jesus had come.  The people's immediate response was to bring all the sick people they could to Jesus.  This is where it gets interesting.

It says that they specifically "begged" him to let the sick just touch the hem of his garment.

Maybe they had heard about the woman with the issue of blood being healed?  At any rate, they sent out the good news that Jesus had come so all the sick people should come and ask to touch the hem of his garment.  

Notice how Jesus went along with their request. Did Jesus plan on having them touch his gament for healing?  What is key here is seeing that Jesus will meet us at out point of faith and will work with us from there.  The people believed that in touching his garment they could be healed so that's where Jesus started with them.

I could see some ministers today saying, "Oh no, that's not how I do healing ministry.  I lay hands on people, now everyone who wants to be healed line up and wait for me to lay hands on you."  Maybe Jesus could have gone for the more spectacular effect by walking away to the closest mud puddle saying, "Everyone who desires to be made well follow me to the mud puddle."

I think Jesus was responding to the men's point of faith.  They put out the word to come to Jesus and touch the hem of his garment.  The faith of the men led the people to come and expect that if they touched his garment they would be healed.

And what's more, the men, acting on their faith, created an opportunity for the people to exercise their faith. There is a real "flow of faith" going on here.  Jesus has no set "program" but he will respond to faith wherever and in whomever he finds faith.  

This leads me to ask myself, "how often do I express my faith in a way that lets others have an opportunity to exercise their faith?"  Sometimes all someone needs is to hear us speak our faith out loud.  When we speak our faith out loud, that may be just the encouragement they need to step over the line of unbelief into their own place of trusting Jesus for the impossible; and we all know that with faith, nothing is impossible.

But what is this "touching the hem of Jesus' garment" all about?  Basically three things: God's Word, God's Authority and God's Power.

Jewish men typically wore an outer garment with tassels or "tzitziyot" tied to the four courners.  These tassels were made out of white and blue threads tied in 613 knots.  These knots constantly reminded them of the 613 commandments of Moses.  There were 365 prohibitions ("thou shalt not" laws) and 248 affirmations ("thou shalt" laws).  They reminded the man and everone else to walk according to the commandments of God's Word.

Only those with authority could afford these tassels.  The blue thread was very expensive since the source for blue dye came from a gland of a particular snail.  It took 12,000 snails to make up a thimble full of blue dye.  It cost the equivalent of $36,000 to make up one pound of cloth dyed blue in 200 BC. By 300 AD, this same one pound blue cloth would cost the equivalent of $96,000.  (By the way, Lydia in Acts 16:14 as a "seller of purple" would have been amoung some of the wealthiest women in the empire.)

Because of the expense, these tassels came to be seen as a sign of the man's authority. Remember David cut off the edge of Saul's garment and later repented of doing it.  Cutting off the tassel was taking a king's authority.

The power of God is signified in the most interesting way to me.  In Malachi 4:2, it is prophesied the Messiah as "the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings." The Hebrew word for "wings" refers to the outer fringe of a birds wing.  You have seen or seen pictures of an eagle or a hawk soaring in the sky.  You can plainly see the individual feathers on the edges of their wings.  These fringe feathers is what is specifically meant by "in his wings".  The picture is the Messiah will have healing power in the feathers on the fringe of his "wings" or his tassels.

Touching the hem of Jesus' garment is then an expression of faith in God's Word, God's authority and God's power to bring healing.  This simple act was a public sign of faith by the sick person.  Their faith in Jesus as Messiah with the Word of God exercising his authority through the power to heal is their response to Jesus.

But one last thought, it says that "all who touched were healed".  The implication is some sick people brought by friends to Jesus decided not to touch the hem of Jesus' garment?   What a lost opportunity by not following through with a simple act of faith.  

Some of us are at just such a point of recieving our healing.  We know Jesus is present as we hear the Word of God. We hear about Jesus' authority as God's Son and with it the power to heal.  But we stop just short of exercising our faith to recieve his healing touch.  

Others can bring us into an awareness of Jesus.  They can encourage us by their faith.  We are right at the point of making the connection for Jesus to do what He has promised.  But are we one of the ones who touch the hem of his garment or are we like the ones who hold back?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

“When is enough “enough”?   IS there ever an “enough”?

(Recently while subbing in a Christian high school, I passed a paper around the class with a voluntary assignment.  I asked students to write down their questions to this prompt:  “What question do you have about following Jesus right now?”  This is my response to the first of five questions that were asked by those high school students that day.)

Great question, isn't it?  We all can identify with the feeling “when is enough ‘enough’?” But this student's question goes deeper:  “IS there ever an 'enough'?”.   I know the pressure of trying to do or be enough as a follower of Jesus.  A nagging sense of hopelessness begins to emerge when we keep pressing on and on, only to discover that enough is never enough.  As we keep on trying to be or do enough, hopelessness turns to despair.  Then we wonder if there ever is such a place that we can reach called “enough”.

When I read this question, I was saddened by it.  Here was a teenage follower of Jesus who had reached the point of asking a question like this.  When we’re young, shouldn’t we feel optimistic, ready to tackle the world?

But there is another side to this question.  It’s actually a good thing if we come to this question early in our walk with Jesus.  Asking this question indicates arrival at a place to make a life-changing discovery.  If we discover that following Jesus out of the need for acceptance and approval, we will make the transition from living under the tyranny of works into the liberty of grace.  Let me explain.

The question “when is enough, enough” only makes sense out of a works or performance mentality.  A performance mentality grows out of this kind of thinking.  Jesus died for our sins.  If we believe he died for us and was raised from the dead, then we are forgiven.  This is grace.  Now that we are a follower of Jesus we are to show our commitment by following his commands.  Soon a relationship started by grace degenerates into maintaining our salvation by works. 

Unfortunately, performance mentality is reinforced by well-meaning people saying, “If you really are saved- you will pray more, read the Bible more, volunteer for the nursery more, spend less on yourself and give more...”

This can become very manipulative.  Trying to get young people to do “the right thing”, we tell our students “a Christian will...” then we fill in the blank with what we want them to do.

The power of a performance mentality many times is rooted by important people only giving us conditional love.  We are raised on messages of: “If you really loved me…”  “If you do this you will make me very proud of you…”  “Remember, people in our family don’t do …” 

But aren't there some things as followers of Jesus we are supposed to do?  And there are some things we are not supposed to do as followers of Jesus?  Well, yes and no.

“Yes”, there are behaviors that should be evident in a follower of Jesus.  And certainly there are some things we should stop or never do.

But the answer is “no”, if as followers of Jesus we attempt to get on the treadmill of life to earn or keep our relationship with Jesus.  There is no “enough” we can do to earn or keep our relationship with Jesus.

This is demonstrated in the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus comes to John the Baptist asking to be baptized by him.  John was baptizing people as a sign of their repentance from sin and cleansing to prepare for the soon coming Messiah or Christ.  When Jesus makes his request, John replies essentially, “No way.  I'm the one who should be baptized by you.”  But Jesus responds to John’s protests by saying he desires baptism to “fulfill all righteousness”.

What did Jesus mean?  The quick answer in his baptism Jesus was identifying with what God was doing through John.  Jesus was going to fulfill what the Father had started in John's ministry as the promised Messiah.  When John agreed and baptized Jesus, a Voice was heard saying, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”.

The affirmation of a father to a son or daughter is life-giving.  I remember a time riding in the car with my father.  It was during a time of some major disappointments in others and failures on my part.  He said to me, “John, you've been through some tough times.  But I want you to know your mother and I are proud of you.”  This word of blessing was powerful for me.  The power of this is demonstrated by the fact I can share this with you.   I have played the recording of it in my mind over and over.  When you father says he is pleased with you--it means something.

But the words that Jesus heard are even more powerful than the ones spoken to me by my earthly father.  Jesus heard “you are my son” from the Father.  God was declaring that He was the Father and Jesus was His unique Son.  Then Jesus heard, “in whom I am well pleased”.  A relationship was affirmed.

Now I ask you, what had Jesus done to deserve hearing those words?  Why was the Father well pleased with him?  Jesus had performed no miracle.  Not one leper had been cleansed, no blind eyes opened and no lame person was dancing because for the first time they could walk.  Jesus had not told one parable, no sermon on the mount, no “verily, verily I say unto you”.  What had Jesus done that was enough to be called son and that the Father was well pleased with him? 

Nothing.   Jesus was a son and accepted by the Father because this relationship had existed from before creation.  Jesus said that before Abraham was, “I am”.  Jesus’ relationship with the Father was not earned nor did he remain as son by his efforts. 

But remember Jesus was also fully human.  And this Jesus heard from the Father that he had the identity as a son and what's more, the Father was well pleased with him.  God was well pleased not in what Jesus had done but in who Jesus was...a beloved son.

Following the baptism we see Jesus going into the wilderness, confronting Satan and coming out of the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Don't miss this.  Jesus was given an identity, and in that identity, Jesus had the full acceptance of the Father.  Jesus then lived, or “performed”, not in order to secure his identity or gain acceptance.  Jesus lived out of who he was, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, all given to him by the Father who had freely loved and accepted Jesus.

We do things just backward.  We don’t feel who we are in Jesus is enough.  We are desperate to be accepted.  We mistakenly believe acceptance is based on performance.  So we strive and work in order to do enough so someone will look at what we have done and accept us.  We hope when others think we have done enough to be accepted, they will give us the identity we grave. 

For example, we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We want others to accept us as “real Christians” and give us that identity.  So we perform in order to be accepted so that we will have the identity we desire.

Then we discover a problem.  First, we never know when we've done enough so we perpetually try to do more, do better and measure up.  Second, running after our illusive identity on the “gerbil wheel” of Christian activities we end up exhausted, discouraged and ultimately wondering if all this is really worth it.

The good news of Jesus is, as we surrender our lives to him, we receive the identity as a son or daughter of God.  As sons and daughters, we are accepted, not for what we have done or what we do not do.  We are accepted because God freely loves us unconditionally like he loves Jesus.  And what about our performance?  Jesus finished the performance for our identity and acceptance in his death on the cross.  Now, as we accept by faith our new identity and acceptance in Jesus Christ, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our actions are the fruit of our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ, not frantic attempts to obtain the Father’s acceptance.

At first when I became a follower of Jesus, I was so excited.  I wanted to please Jesus in everything I did.  Then, after a while, I discovered that following Jesus was really hard.  I wanted to love others but when certain people hurt me, I wanted revenge.  I tried thinking pure thoughts even while my mind immediately wandered to places it should not go.  Always trying harder, trying to “be good” and working to do my very best.  Still deep inside, I knew I was failing and there was always going to be something else I should have been doing while I was doing the other.  It was exhausting. 

Then came those points in my life where I got off the treadmill by giving myself permission to just do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it.  It brought relief at first.  But then as I began reaping what I had been sowing, I didn't like the harvest.  So, it was back to the treadmill of attempting to do enough and the cycle of performance began again.

Life turned into a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde experience flipping back and forth between the prodigal son and older brother in Jesus' parable.  Rebelling against all expectations, till the frustration of not getting what I wanted turned me back to do everything right.  Then I became the angry older brother, doing everything right, still feeling distant from the father and remaining outside the house.  Those bracelets so popular a few years ago- “WWJD- what would Jesus do”.  I would never wear one because it felt like the bracelet was mocking me in my futility.  I could not do what Jesus would do, even if I knew what Jesus would do.

Then I discovered following Jesus was not just hard—following Jesus by trying to do enough was impossible.  Ironically, by trying to be like Jesus, life became all about me.  Jesus says apart from him, we can do nothing.  I found by trying to do enough only put me and my performance front and center stage—and I could not perform. 

It was then I found there is only one place to find my ‘enough’.  Meditating on Jesus at his baptism, I got in touch again with the unconditional love of the Father.  My identity became grounded in who the Father says I am because of my union with Jesus.  I started trusting in what Jesus had already done for me and not in what I could do for him.

If Jesus needed to hear those words “you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” then I absolutely needed to hear them.  Those words empowered me to stop performing to be accepted and walk out a new identity.  I started being thankful that I am a beloved son in whom the Father is well pleased.  Then I discovered a fresh power of the Holy Spirit working through me, enabling me to do what I could not do.

Now don't get me wrong.  I still go back to the old performance mentality from time to time.  Then I will change my mind and start living out of my identity in Jesus, but that's okay.  I am working out my salvation as the Spirit leads me in every part of my life.  Whenever I sense the exhaustion of the performance treadmill, it's great to know I can jump off by a simple surrender of control to Jesus.  I even say sometimes, “I don't really want to yield control to you… but I want to want to”.  Jesus is willing to always meet me there, setting me free from trying to do enough and learning to rest in his enough.

When is enough, enough?  My story is there is a better question to ask.  The better question to ask ourselves is “when is Jesus' enough going to be enough”?  Then we can stop striving and start trusting.     

Friday, January 23, 2015

"So...What's in Your Bible"?

Recently, I was speaking on the phone with my older sister Kay.   She lives a two or three day drive away so talking on the phone is the best way for us to stay in touch.  When Kay and I talk on the phone, we usually get around to telling stories about our family.  Our sister, Carol, who was the middle child, died three years ago and our parents died some years before Carol.  We really miss them all and retelling the stories helps both of us. 

During this last phone conversation, Kay asked if I remembered the story mother used to tell about the man who left a $100 bill in a bible.  I asked her to repeat the story because, I sort of remembered, but wanted to make sure.

The story goes that a wealthy man gave his son a bible for his high school graduation present.  The son, who had his sights set on something more impressive and expensive was not impressed with the gift of just a bible.  The father told the son to be sure and read the bible when he went to college and offered no explanation for the meager gift.

The son goes away to college, forgets all about the bible and eventually graduates from college.  After some years go by, the son comes across the bible while going through some old things.  Life has not been going well for the young man and he decides to look through the bible.  When he turns to the back of the bible, he finds a $100 bill.  His father had placed it there for him before he left for college.  Now the point sunk into the young man’s mind that reading the bible was more “valuable” than just getting money as a graduation gift. 

I did remember the story and hearing mother tell it to encourage bible reading.  Kay asked if I knew the “rest of the story”.  She told me that one year mother gave Kay and Carol each a new bible for their Christmas presents.  Since they were in high school, they weren’t impressed with the gift much like the son in the story.  Not too long after Christmas though, Carol shared excitedly with Kay that she had found a $100 bill in her bible.  Kay, of course, started looking through her bible for her $100 bill.  Kay said she kept looking through hers but never found a $100 bill.  She always wondered why Carol got the $100 bill and she didn’t.

Fast forward several years after both our parents had died.  While going through the mobile home our parents had as a vacation getaway in south Texas, Kay found one of mother’s bibles.  She decided to place it in a prominent spot as decoration and in memory of mother.  Five years go by and Kay, and my brother-in-law Jerry, are at the mobile home.  Kay had been trying to read through the bible and hoped to get some reading done while they were down there.  But she was disappointed to discover she forgot to pack her bible.  Realizing her mistake, she looked over at mother’s bible on the table and thought to herself, “I’ll just read mother’s bible.”  

After doing some reading, Kay started to put the bible back on the table but it slips out of her hand, falling to the floor.  Bending over to pick it up, she sees something sticking out of the bible.  You guessed it, a $100 bill was stuck in the back of mother’s bible.

Kay said her reaction was to say out loud, “That stinker.”  (This was a phrase she usually didn’t use but it was one of mother’s favorites.)  “Mother, you knew someday after you were gone one of your kids would go through your bible and they would find that $100 bill.”  We both had a good laugh and she told me the $100 bill was still right there in the bible.

Mother was always an avid reader, especially the bible and books about the bible.  She was well versed in bible history always enjoying learning more.  She trusted Jesus just a few years before I was born.  It was then she became a student of the bible.

And she didn’t just read the bible- she studied it.  Her bibles, and there were many,  are all marked up and underlined, notes in the margins, notes on the blank pages both front and back.  Most of her bibles include notes from bible preachers and teachers she listened to over the years.  She eventually became a bible teacher herself and a good one.  She taught as long as she was physically and mentally able to teach.  

I was always impressed by her hunger for the bible and her personal journey to continue to learn more.  She valued education and was a life-long learner.  Surprisingly mother was not a high school graduate.  I didn’t find this out until I was grown because she conveniently didn’t talk about it.  Few people who heard her teach the bible would have believed she had so little formal education.  She may not have had a diploma but she had a strong grasp of the scriptures and the gift of sharing that insight with others.

Remembering these stories rekindles the desire to read the bible myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I read and study the bible.  We all periodically need a renewed fresh hunger to spend time in the scriptures.

I want to encourage you to read your bible.  We hear a lot of talk today about “spirituality” and “self-development” but too many people are not investing time to read the bible for themselves.  Why?

Maybe it’s because we think:

  • "I don’t understand the bible.”  The bible includes sixty-six books written over hundreds of years by many different human authors.  We do need instruction and some understanding of the history behind the stories of the bible to get a grasp of what is being said.  It’s hard just to pick up the bible and start reading without some kind of background information.  But there are so many resources available today that a basic foundation is readily available.

  •      “I get more out of listening to someone talk about the bible.”  It’s true that good teaching can help open up the scriptures to us.  But nothing can replace going to the bible yourself, reading it and discovering God speaking directly to your heart.

  •      “I don’t have time to read the bible.”  That is an excuse but not a reason.  The problem is not a lack of time.  What would happen if I spent ten minutes every day this year reading something about butterflies?  After a week I would have learned some things but you might not be very impressed with my knowledge of butterflies at this point.  But after one month, I could tell you some things you had never heard about the little creatures.  After a year of me reading ten minutes a day, I bet you would begin avoiding me.  Who wants to hear all those details about butterflies?  The point is--reading a little bit each day makes a huge impact over time.  The problem is not the amount of time but our consistency of reading the scriptures.

Reminder from mother: “Be sure and read your bible”.  Does this reminder sound quaint or “old school”?  Yet reading the bible is not optional if we want to grow and mature as followers of Jesus.  We are bombarded continually with self-centered thinking and lies from much of what we hear and view.  If we don’t saturate our minds with the word of God, we will fall into self-deception and not even be aware of it.

It ultimately comes down to what we value.  How much do we value the bible?  Are you reading the bible regularly?  What if I told you there was a $100 bill tucked in your bible somewhere?  Getting the bible into our hearts and minds is so much more valuable than putting a $100 bill in our bank account.

Let me add this.  It’s one thing to challenge ourselves to get into the scriptures and another thing to know how to get started.  Here are some resources I have found helpful:

So what’s in your bible? Let’s find out.

Advancing the kingdom,

John P. Holsey

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God Chose You!

(A quick personal note:  You may have noticed a lack of postings.  The last three months have been a recovery time for Donna who had surgery on her foot.  Then we capped it off with a week of flu bug nonsense... so I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.)

I'm not a science guy by any means.  But when I saw the picture taken by the Hubble telescope of "The Pillars of Creation" I was mesmerized.  I kept staring at it..."googling" it and trying to understand what I was looking at and why it had got my eye.  Here's the picture below:

This picture shows three giant columns of interstellar gas and dust.  They are named "Pillars of Creation" because the gas and dust are in a process of creating new stars while also being eroded by scorching ultraviolet light from nearby stars that have recently formed. 

Got it?  Wait...there is more.  There are stars being born deep inside those columns.  Not just some stars but massive amount of stars.  They say that our sun was probably "born" in a similar mass of gas and dust.

So we are seeing a snapshot of massive amount of stars being born.  This is happening a long, long, long way off...about 6500 light years away.  How long is a light year? One light year is 5.88 trillion miles long.  Multiply 5.88 trillion by 6500 and...well, let's just say it's a long way off.  

And how's this for size.  That first column on the left. is four light years in length.  4 X 5.88 trillion miles.  That's really long.  

You may be wondering about the title of this post "God Chose You!" and what this has to do with this picture and gigantic numbers that make your head spin just trying to think about it.
When God created the universe and this planet He could have chosen something this
massive and powerful to reflect his image.  The "Pillars of Creation" are huge beyond imagination and God is bigger and more magnificent.

God did not choose anything else in all creation to reflect His image other than people. When I saw this picture I remembered Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." 

There is something unique about you because God chose you to be a reflection of His image and not some massive, powerful display of interstellar gas and dust.  When God wants to display His exceeding riches of grace in His universe--God shows what He did in us through Jesus Christ.

Don't believe it?  Ephesians 2:4-7 says,

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." 

"The Pillars of Creation" are sure something to behold.  But they are nothing compared to what God sees in you as His chosen in Christ Jesus.

Wow...God chose you and me.

I would love to hear any of your responses to this.  Looking forward to a great year.

John P. Holsey

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are We Looking For God In All The Wrong Places?

If you thought this blog would be about how we shouldn't be in ungodly places you are right...and wrong.  Of course, we're not supposed to be in some places and situations but that's not what I'm getting at with the idea of looking for God in all the wrong places.

Last week when reviewing a workbook on kingdom ministry, I came across an interesting statement. It said, "...of the sixty-nine divine interventions in the book of Acts, sixty-eight of them happened in the marketplace."  I confess I have not gone through the book of Acts to verify these figures, but the basic point is beyond doubt.  God shows up in so many places except the "religious" ones in Acts.  The streets of Jerusalem, in the houses of believers, at the stoning of Stephen, a desert road, jails, ships, Roman centurion's houses...just to name a few.

Where do we look for God to show up?  It is easy to get excited in gatherings of believers when we sense the presence of God.  But if Acts is any indicator, maybe we aren't seeing God showing up because we don't look for him in certain places like the marketplace.

The marketplace can be challenging for those Jesus followers trying to be faithful in their conversations and ethics.  Just the frantic pace of most workplaces tends to numb our senses to anything except doing the next task, taking the next order or making that last phone call.  But in the book of Acts, sixty-eight times out of sixty-nine....

Let me ask a series of "what if" questions:

  • What if God is showing up and we miss him because we aren't looking for him except on Sundays?
  • What if we started expecting God to show up when we entered the marketplace?
  • What if we developed "eyes to see" and "ears to hear" for those times God is ready to move through a co-workers challenging project or problem at home?
  • What if God is not showing up in our religious gatherings because he knows if he does, we will want to build tabernacles and camp in our religious clubs leaving the marketplaces out?

A familiar verse to most of us is John 3:16.  "For God so loved the world..."  Wait, God so loved the world?  Before we read about God sending his son or anything about eternal life we need to get this down, God so loves the world.  God's focus is on the world before he focuses on the church, not that the church is unimportant.  Christ loved the church and died for the church.  We need to see God's focus on the church is because his ultimate focus is on loving, reaching and redeeming the world.

God's people have always struggled with God's priorities and agenda.  The story of Jonah is all over this.  All through the story, people are turning to God.  Pagan sailors, foreign kings, ungodly gentiles and even the animals repent.  The only one God has trouble with is his own prophet.  Jonah does not want to go to Nineveh.  He only goes after spending three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish.  (I always said after being in the belly of a great fish I would probably hear the call to be a missionary too.)  In the end of the story, God puts the question to Jonah like this:

"And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left--and also many animals?" Jonah 4:11 NIV

Shouldn't God have concern for our marketplace?  Try going to work with the expectation of walking into situations where God is already present and ready to show up.  Expect God to do the most surprising things through you in the lives of your coworkers.

Let's start looking for God in all the wrong places and expecting him to show up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

3 Important Things I Learned On A Job Interview

Recently I went on a job interview for a holiday help position at Barnes and Noble.  The job posting looked interesting to me and who wouldn't want to be surrounded by books. Before going on the interview, I did my due diligence researching the company and browsing LinkedIn and for tips on interviewing.

The interview followed the typical interview format.  When the interviewer got to the end of his questions he asked, "Do you have any questions for me?"  Well, being well prepared, I popped out with the following question, "If I get this job, what are the three most important things for me to learn during my first week?"  You can see this is a great question to ask on an interview.  I imagined the interviewer thinking to himself, "This guy is a go-getter... He's really looking to improve his productivity...I've got to use this on my next job interview" and other such good things.

His response to my question was surprisingly quick and to the point.  He didn't miss a beat and said, "First, learn how to greet a customer and find out what they are looking for or need.  Second, you need to know how to operate our book finding system so you can find that book and put it in their hand.  Third, learn how to operate the register and sell them the book."

What stayed with me though is his following comment.  He said, "These three things are what everyone working here has to know first and do well."  He went on to let me know training is available to any employee for anything in the business.  First, they learn these three things and after that, it's up to the individual employee to initiate what they want to learn for their own advancement.

It struck me how this simple concept is focused, powerful and effective.  Talk to customers, assist them in finding what they need and then show them how to get it for themselves.  Simple.

Driving home from the interview I went over in my mind what had just been said.  It occured to me this kind of simple, effective approach could be applied to Jesus followers.  Here's what I mean:

Every person coming into a personal relationship with Jesus needs to know three important things.

1.  How to engage in conversation with people who do not know Jesus.

When I say engage in conversation, I am including listening first to hear the heart needs of people. We don't need to artificially stear every conversation around to Jesus.  I've done this and found I was focusing more on relieving my own percieved pressure to "witness" than anything else.  The other person was just a prop for me to feel better about myself.  We just need listen to people with an ear to hear the heart-level need that comes out.

2.  How to share our story of finding Jesus.

You will be amazed how God will bring people into your life with needs connecting with your story of finding Jesus.  In fact, we should expect this to happen because this is how God works.  We have heart-felt needs.  God meets them.  Then someone else comes into our life with whom we can share how we were comforted by God.

3.  How to lead someone in prayer starting their relationship with Jesus.

There is nothing like praying with another person and hearing them commit their lives to Jesus.  It can be as simple as asking them to pray after you a simple prayer:

Jesus, I realize that you died for me on the cross.  I believe that by your death I am forgiven.  I believe that you were raised from the dead and you are Lord over all.  Today I am surrendering my life to you and ask you to become my Lord and Savior.  Help me to become the person you want me to be.  Amen.

This may all sound simplistic.  I think one reason we do not see more people coming into a relationship with Jesus is because we miss the important simple stuff.  A comment was made by a conference speaker about a problem we have in the church.  He pointed out that in the church we think we are supposed to help people be good. The problem with this is they can get "gooder and gooder" and still miss the vital thing that will actually transform their lives.

Talking about Jesus and sharing your story is not just for the spiritually hyperactive.  It is part of normally following Jesus as a disciple.  When we begin to follow Jesus we become partners with him in his mission of saving the lost.

Some may say leading others to Christ is not their gift. Spiritual gifts are how the Holy Spirit works through us to help others in the body of Christ grow in spiritual maturity.  There is a gift of evangelism but  that gift includes not only effectively bringing people to Jesus but also stimulating more believers to share with others.  Sharing our story is the natural outflow of our love relationship with Jesus.

Doing these three things well is not just for those who are naturally outgoing.  For example, look at Andrew in the gospels.  Andrew is not known for anything he said or wrote. Andrew is known for one thing- introducing people to Jesus.  He introduced his brother Peter to Jesus.  He brought the boy with the small lunch to Jesus.  When some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus came to Andrew and Phillip, he introduced them to Jesus.  That's just about it--he introduced others to Jesus.

Let me ask you, "How are you doing with these three important things?"  Don't get sidetracked from keeping the main thing the main thing.  I challenge you to focus on these three things over the next thirty days.

Blessings on you.

John P. Holsey