Monday, May 9, 2016

Disciples Not Decisions (May 2016 Newsletter)

The last month of ministry has contained many answers to prayer and work in the harvest field, including some of the most miraculous multiplication of disciples I’ve ever been a part of. God’s has mandated that we make disciples. This means connecting with those who are far from God and telling them God’s Good News about His Kingdom and forgiveness and the reign of Jesus as King. We throw the seed of the gospel into the soil of the heart. What happens next is a mystery. The interaction between the Spirit of God, the condition of the soil, and the process of encountering truth results in fruitfulness, the conception of faith, or barrenness and the rejection of the message. This rejection may not happen immediately, in the same way that many encounter the gospel many times before coming to Christ, some may initially receive the message only to reject it later, whether in word or in lifestyle.

 As a disciple maker these processes are part of the task. I proclaim the Gospel. I sow the Word of God. Sometimes the message begins to grow and sprout in someone’s life. Sometimes they receive the word—they understand and believe it, and sometimes they reject it. Sometimes they receive the message only to reject it later because of persecution, or sin, or trouble. Working with those from other religious backgrounds means that fear and persecution are very real. Sometimes they receive the message and are fruitful and the gospel multiplies through their lives.

 This month I shared with an Iraqi man in a coffee shop. I was very excited to learn that twenty years ago when he was in Iraq he read the New Testament on his own in secret. God had been working in this man’s life. I shared the story of God’s plan to provide salvation and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He rejected the message at first, but as we talked he came to understand and said that he believed that Jesus had died on the cross for the forgiveness of his sins. I explained how God made Jesus King of the Kingdom of God, and that he needed to obey Jesus as his King. He said that though he believed in forgiveness through Jesus, he wanted to believe in one God and live a good life. He “made a decision” to believe in Jesus’s death, but rejected Christ as his Lord. He rejected discipleship.

 This month I spent time doing a number of Bible studies with two brothers from a Muslim background. We studied Genesis and I helped them with their English homework. The older brother and I got along very well, and I began to consider him a friend. Both of them had heard my testimony when I first met them, including the message of the cross and resurrection, and they knew that I wanted them to be close to God because I told them that was one of the reasons I was helping them and what I was teaching them.

 My new friend wanted me to correct his homework for a college class. He was supposed to write about his life. He passed the paper over to me and I read:
"On the weekend I have no place specially to go. But generally I walk for blocks until I reach a little park with benches and trees and a little railing, giving it a feeling of privacy. I sit on a bench and think, "Better job. Better job. And a nice house with a porch on a street and a big yard.' When sun goes down. I go home."

I was sitting in a public place, and managed to compose myself enough to make corrections and pass the paper back to him. As he started rewriting it, I wiped tears out of my eyes. His words captured the loneliness and the need of the immigrant experience so well. I was moved by compassion.

 We continued studying the Bible, and two weeks later I received a text message saying that he and his brother would not meet with me anymore. They haven’t responded to any communication since. I think their father, who is strict, told them they could not continue, but this kind of rejection is normal even after I share my story and the gospel with them and they start discovery Bible study.

The gospel eventually reveals the nature of the heart.

 This week my friend L____ (Bangladeshi) shared the Two Kingdoms gospel presentation with I__ (Yemeni) and I__ confessed his faith in the Jesus's death on the Cross for his sins, the resurrection, and that Jesus is king of the Kingdom of God. I__ wants to follow both Jesus and Mohammed.

 L___ has been sharing faithfully, and is excited about how God is blessing his life. This month he passed a very difficult English exam. He was the only student who did well on the test. The other classmates asked him how he did so well, and he told them, “I read the Bible with my teacher.” He told them that they should read the Bible too. He was also excited that he received a two dollar raise at work without asking for it. He thanked me for praying for him and believes that God is answering our prayers.

 Please pray for L____ as he continues sowing in I__'s life and others. Please pray that God would give me wisdom in coaching and training L____, and please pray that we don't accidentally start multiplying syncretism, as I__ tries to sort out how the gospel fits within his worldview. Please pray that he would become a disciple and a disciple maker. The best is yet to come.

 Read the rest of the May 2016 Newsletter.
 Read previous Newsletters.