Solutions are often simpler than we think (and a significant beard)

Impulse SoundsI’m a bit of a self-confessed radio freak. Love radio. Always have. Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” resonates, “I’d sit alone and watch your light, My only friend through teenage nights, And everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio.”

My car radio stopped working two months ago. It’s been a trying time. Podcasts are great, and live streaming more or less fits into my monthly tariff, but it’s not the same.  Yes, I took the radio out, checked the power, the cables and the aerial. No joy. I’ve been putting off finding a remedy for the simple reason that I assume the fix will be expensive. Finally I could stand it no more. I heid me off to “Impulse Sounds” in North Watford today.

The beard behind the counter (and what a beard!) seemed reluctant to take my money and suggested I try checking some settings on the radio menu. “I’ll try it”, I thought, but without much hope. Five minutes later I was back in the shop thanking the beard profusely and giving him a bottle of my home-brew lager I happened to have in the boot. Radio restored. DAB delight. I drove off with disproportionate joy. The moral of the story (apart from if you have a car stereo problem go to Impulse Sounds) is the value of going to the right source for answers. I assumed the solution would be complex and expensive, but someone with superior specialist knowledge was able to deliver me.

I might not be alone in making the Christian life more complex than it needs to be. It’s easy to forget that God has all the answers I’ll ever need (and more). He might not give me all the answers I want, but that’s his prerogative. For example, Paul writes this to Timothy, “…from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Salvation is found through the scriptures, not through my ideas or anyone else’s. Not through traditions or the writings of learned men (helpful as they can be at times). And there’s more, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV11) Not only salvation, but the rest of the Christian life is provided for.

When I’m tempted to take my eyes off the Bible ball, I’ll have a think about Impulse Sounds and ask God, through His word, for the wisdom I need. How’s your devotion to the Word at the moment? Is it getting pride of place as your prime source of wisdom and strength? Let’s follow the beard, and keep it simple.

Malcolm

Searching to Persuade

Search for God“The Search For God and the Path to Persuasion”

Peter May; md Publishing, 2016

Dr Peter May has written a reflective but practical book on rethinking how we persuade people to take the Gospel seriously. This topic matters because firstly, it is hard to engage people to take the Bible and its stories seriously in this increasingly sceptical era. Secondly, many of us do not know where to start, and find our faltering efforts rebuffed – thus diminishing our enthusiasm to try again. This book provides inspiration, motivation, material and methods to help us in our evangelism.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more flexible and effective in their sharing of the Gospel. Every Christian’s desire is to be “all things to all men” – and this is going to take both humility and skill.

Questions

Jesus used questions all the time (Jn 9.35; Matt 22.42; Lk 16.5.11; John 5.44; Luke 7.41-42; Mark 3.33-34; John 8.46; Mark 8.27,29 – to mention only a few of the many!  If Jesus didn’t make assumptions as to people’s desires, hopes, motivations or understanding, why should we?

Question styles include probing, provocative, closing, socratic, engaging, rhetorical and profound. Which are you better at? I’m guessing most of us are good at one or two – Jesus was adept at all. We can learn to vary our approach, and we need to if we are to reach all people.

Paul’s preaching

Peter makes the invaluable observation that Paul’s approach to sharing the Gospel was less ‘lecture’ and more ‘discussion’. This becomes clearer when we realise the word translated ‘reasoned’ (Acts 17.2; 17; 18.19; 19.8,9,10) is the Greek word dialegomai meaning ‘to converse, negotiate, discuss, dispute’.  In other words, these were two-way conversations. Dialogue, not  monologue.

Paul was persuasive (Acts 17.4; 18.4,13; 19.8,9,10,26; 26.28), which means he was not one to ram the message home and depart in a huff if no one responded. Add persuasion to dialogue, and you have a healthy cocktail of apologetic power.

Testimonies

The section on testimonies appears in the appendix, and I won’t say a great deal here since I have written on this elsewhere. Suffice to say that the personal message of the effect of the Gospel is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given. Let’s become skilful at sharing this gift persuasively.

Conclusion

“Search for God” contains some material that could be considered questionable in its apologetic value (inscriptions discovered in Pompeii, as an example). Yet there are vital lessons here if we want to be effective in communicating the Gospel. As a GP Peter has spent a lifetime synthesising the questioning methods of the doctor’s 10-minute consultation with the opportunities we all have to share the gospel with people. The chapters on Socrates, Paul’s approaches to preaching and testimonies are worth the price of the book alone.

Malcolm Cox

Footnote: click the links for my video and audio blogs on this book 

Tasty Testimonies

Ten Commandments for Terrific Testimonies

Here’s an excerpt from my recent article on how to give a tasty testimony.

“Testimonies also appear in the New Testament – most significantly in the Gospels and Acts. Take the man possessed by Legion: “Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38–39 NIV11). Or the Samaritan woman who, after having a transformative conversation with Jesus, went back to her village and invited the inhabitants to, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 NIV11). You can probably think of many more examples.

Acts is interesting. Paul is the prime example of a testimony teller. He tells his to a lynch mob, Felix and King Agrippa (Acts 22:6, 24.24; 26.14-15). These testimonies had a profound effect. So can ours. In his book, Peter May (“The Search for God”) offers eight thoughts to help us prepare a compelling testimony. Here are mine.”

Email me if you’d like the full article before it goes on-line.

Malcolm

Testimony Slide.001

“Grace is Sufficient”, 2 Corinthians 11-12

The Apostle Paul’s understanding of grace is one we desperately need. His acceptance of the thorn, and celebration of strength in weakness are fundamental to his effectiveness as an ambassador for the Gospel.

“Grace is sufficient”, 2 Cor 11 & 12

What did Paul mean when he talked about fools for Christ and the fact that God’s grace was sufficient to him?

The homeless Apostle Paul

If you meet homeless people, consider the fact that the apostle Paul was himself homeless. Have a look at first Corinthians chapter 4 verse 11.

A Little Bit Of Luke: Part 2

Luke was a loyal companion to Paul – right there near the end of his life when everyone else had left. How important do you think this relationship was? How might it have affected the Gospel and the book of Acts?

“A little bit of Luke”: Part 2

Luke was a loyal companion to Paul – right there near the end of his life when everyone else had left. How important do you think this relationship was? How might it have affected the Gospel and the book of Acts?

A Little Bit Of Luke: Part 1

Who was this “Luke”? What do we know about him? Why do we even think he wrote the book we call “Luke”? We’re teaching through the Gospel of Luke and this series (ALBOL) will accompany the lessons as we go.