Do You Know Where You Are Leading Your Family?

When Sarai suggested that Abram marry her servant so he could have a son, Abram blew it. We can learn from Abram how NOT to be a leader.

This is a recording of a teaching from Genesis 16. We can trust God by leading with godly conviction and love. 

  1. Submit to God’s mission for you and your family.
  2. Take responsibility to lead your family.

Develop Better Relationships Faster

I have been re-reading Dr. Wayne McDill’s book, Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism. In another post, I mentioned the chapter about the simple and powerful act of listening to others. With the idea of making friends for Christ on my mind, I ran across this article from Business Insider called “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” The author provides seventeen “science backed” strategies for developing better relationships faster, based on “psychological research.”

Christians often shy away from such strategies. They somehow seem sneaky and manipulative to us. We usually associate such strategies with irritating salesmen or those trying to get something from us. Dr. McDill addresses this concern.

‘Well,’ you ask, ‘aren’t we cultivating friendships for a hidden reason? Aren’t we really aiming to influence these friends for Christ? If that’s our motive, how are we any different from that saleman?’ That’s a good question. But there are differences. For one thing, you seek nothing for yourself from the relationship—no sales, no commission, no bonus. You are cultivating the friendship, not for yourself, but for the eternal benefit of your friend. The friendship is not, in that sense, merely a means to an end. The relationship itself is filled with meaning. . . .

We have already discussed the miracle key to your influence in your friend’s life—your sincere interest in his personal concerns. We said that one way to show that interest is to listen sincerely to the personal concerns of your unbelieving friend. But let me stress this: listening is not just a gimmick to make the person think you care about him. You must really care.
— Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ, 84, 97

Let’s take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing better relationships faster. Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ.

The first strategy for developing better relationships faster is to copy them.

This strategy strikes me as inauthentic, especially if someone were trying to do it on purpose. However, I have noticed that I have a natural tendency to act and talk like the people I am with.

I live out in the country in the NC mountains. I don’t talk like my neighbors, since I have a non-accent left over from growing up in Oregon. But when I am visiting with them, I find myself drawing out my words and adding in mountain inflections by the end of the conversation. I also match the speaking pace of the person I am talking with. When my kids are with me, they grin and giggle at my change in speech.

Simply mimicking other people to get them to like you is superficial. But there is a true principle in meeting people where they are, acting in such a way that allows them to hear you better. Paul explains his own strategy:

For though I am free from all,
I have made myself a servant to all,
that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though not being myself under the law)
that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ)
that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

Next time we will discuss other strategies like “Spend more time around them” and “Compliment other people.”

Do you adjust your communication style to the person with whom you are talking? In what ways do you think it is appropriate to become like those you are trying to reach? Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you!

Which God Is the Real One?

As I wrote before, if our universe came into existence by chance, then we have no purpose in life (except for whatever we make up ourselves). However, I believe the most logical conclusion we can make, based on our observation of the universe, is that a powerful, intelligent being created everything. If so, then the creator determines our purpose. 

But how do we know who this creator is?

God has not only revealed himself in creation, he has revealed himself through the Bible. The Bible is God’s book to us. 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable
for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness, 
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16

But aren’t there other gods and bibles? How do we know the Christian Bible is the right one? The Bible is internally coherent and is confirmed by our experience in the world. A person can read the Bible and compare it with other Scriptures and decide for himself which one, if any, is from God. You should not take another person’s word for it. Read the Bible and decide for yourself.

Voddie Baucham explains why he believes the Bible is God’s Word: “I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.”

I am suggesting that these facts are obvious: God created everything, and the Bible is his Word. So, why are there so many other religions and worldviews? Are there really logical and scientific arguments against what the Bible teaches about God? In Romans 1 Paul explains why people reject God. He says that “by their unrighteousness” they “suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). He goes on,

“For although they knew God,
they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,
but they became futile in their thinking,
and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . .
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie
and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”

Romans 1:21, 25

Yes, there are difficult questions about God, the world, and the Bible. But there are many reasonable and satisfying answers for those with an open heart and mind. Yes, what scientists say often seems to contradict what the Bible says is true. But “scientific” conclusions have changed throughout history. Everyone has his own bias, even scientists. In addition, there are laws of nature and observations about the universe that point to the existence of God and his creation of everything.**

I know that some people are genuinely confused and want to know the truth. If they honestly seek the truth, they will find it. In the end, those who reject God do not do so based on scientific evidence or intelligent reasoning. They don’t believe in God because they don’t want to. They don’t want to believe in God because they don’t want to be accountable to him. They are not making a mental choice; they are making a moral choice.

** [Here are six scientific observations you can study more about and how they point to a Creator: 1. The order of the universe (the teleological argument); 2. The existence of DNA; 3. The impossibility of spontaneous generation; 4. The Second Law of Thermodynamics; 5. The gene pool and the limits to change; 6. Fossil gaps and intermediate forms.]

How to Find Your Purpose

One day when shopping at Trader Joe’s, I saw an employee wandering around carrying a sign, “Ask me!” So I walked up to the young man and asked him, “What is the meaning of life?” He looked at me, surprised and speechless. When I broke into a grin, he looked relieved and seemed to hope I didn’t actually expect him to answer the question. People often refer to this as the supremely difficult or unanswerable question. Is it really impossible to answer?

Like most people, you have probably asked yourself, “Why am I here?” Another way of putting it might be, “What is the purpose of my life?” Now you can make up your own answer to that question, and many people do. However, many sense that there is a greater purpose outside of themselves to discover. Who or what else might determine our purpose in life? This brings us to another question that most people ask, “Where did I come from?”

We might begin answering the question, “Where did I come from?” with “From my mother and father.” But where did they come from? Where did any of us come from? Where did the world come from? There are primarily two common answers to this question: We came from nothing (The Big Bang and Evolution) or we came from God (some intelligent, powerful being). If we came from nothing, then you get to make up your own purpose in life (because there really isn’t one). If we came from God, then we should ask God what his purpose is for us.

So, which explanation makes more sense to you? Have we come from nothing or from God? It seems obvious to me that a world full of beauty, freedom, design, love, morality, and order did not come from nothing. The other explanation is that God created everything. The Bible teaches that the existence of God is obvious to us because of creation.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them,
because God has shown it to them.
For his invisible attributes,
namely his eternal power and divine nature,
are clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:19-20

Next time we'll ask: "How do we know who this creator God is? Aren't there other gods and bibles?" 

The Miracle Key to Influencing Others for Christ

I have often been asked over the years how to talk to people who don’t know Christ. How do I shift the conversation to spiritual things? Some people seem so hard to talk to!

For some reason, we have made this task much more difficult than it really is. We are so focused on trying to influence people for Christ that we forget to be normal, caring people. We have also become overwhelmed and confused with various evangelism strategies we have heard about over the years. In fact, people feel so intimidated and insecure about talking with others about Christ that they avoid it altogether! 

I have been reading Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism by Wayne McDill (my Dad!). Dad suggests that the key to reaching people for Christ is (prepare yourself for a shock) . . . be a real friend.

I was particularly struck by the simplicity of Chapter 4: A Listening Ear. Here are a few highlights:

“If we are to take our responsibility for evangelism seriously we must upgrade these casual acquaintances to a level of real friendship. How do we break the ice? Where do we begin? . . . How do we awaken an awareness of Christ? How do we get inside their thinking with the gospel?”

“I want to give you a miracle key that unlocks another’s life to your influence for Christ. I guarantee it to work if you use it prayerfully and sincerely. . . . The key is simple: your sincere interest in your neighbor’s personal concerns. . . . Everyone needs someone who cares enough to listen to him.”

“Sincere listening says eloquently, ‘I care about you.’ It’s a matter of deliberately switching ‘channels’ to guide the conversation into the area of the other person’s interests. It means forfeiting the right to talk about yourself. It means cultivating listening skills—looking your friend in the eye, paying attention to what he says, asking pertinent questions, nodding, smiling, commenting briefly.”

“Two rather amazing things happen. For one thing, the Christian learns a lot about his friend—his attitudes, priorities, strengths, hurts, and fears. All this helps him know how to pray for him and relate to him. But a second things also happens: the listening Christian becomes very special to the unbeliever. He has found a friend!”

“As the relationship develops, the friends who has sensed your genuine interest will feel much freer to be himself. Only then will he share very personal needs and problems. He will also be more likely to listen to you.”

While listening:

  • “Make mental notes about what you hear. You must think about what you are hearing. . . . You will soon have a file on her in your own mind and in your prayer journal.”
  • “Strive for full empathy. Only in this way can [you] begin to make connections between the deepest need of the neighbor and the answer of the gospel.”

I recommend this book to you as a life changing resource for fulfilling Jesus’ call to make disciples. But don’t wait to read it before practicing these simple listening tips. What a natural, authentic way to love others!

Bible Reading Ideas

Based on what we believe the Bible teaches about itself, it makes perfect sense to make it a daily habit to read the Bible. This would be the bare minimum!

“Blessed is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”

(Psalm 1:1-2)

Bible reading should be a basic part of our daily time with God. So, what should we read? Anywhere in the Bible is great! Here are a few ideas and principles to keep in mind. 

Expose yourself to the entire Bible.

We often gravitate to those portions of Scripture that we find easier to understand or that mean a lot to us. This is fine, but it is important to read and understand the epic story of God’s relationship to man throughout history and across the Old and New Covenants. It is important to expose ourselves to all the truth principles of Scripture. It is a good idea to make it your goal to systematically and repeatedly read through the entire Bible. There are many methods and resources for doing this.

  • You can buy a one or two year Bible.
  • You can find a program or app that leads you through the Bible in a certain period of time.
  • You can decide not to put a  time limit on it. Read through the Bible as slowly as you want.
  • Instead of reading straight through, many people like to read different portions of the Scripture each day or week. For example, you might read a passage from the OT, from Psalms and Proverbs, and something from the NT. Most one year programs are designed this way.

Read entire Bible books.

The best way to understand the correct meaning of a sentence or verse is to understand how it fits into its paragraph, section, and book. You might decide to conduct a deep study of a particular book of the Bible.

Ask specific questions.

No matter what you are reading, be sure to make it personal and practical. This is not just a history lesson or an exploration of ideas. It is a personal encounter with God. It is an opportunity for God to speak to you with encouragement and direction. Here is a list of questions you might use as you read.

1. Summarize the story or teaching in 1 to 3 sentences.

2. What do I learn about the character and ways of God in these verses?

3. What example of obedience or faith do I find in these verses (or bad example)?

4. Do I have any questions that require further study?

5. How is God speaking to me through this Scripture?

6. What am I going to do in response to his leading?

7. Write or voice a prayer to God in response to what he has shown you.

Journal as you read the Bible.

Journaling is a wonderful activity and habit to develop, even when you are not reading the Bible. The main reason is that it helps you to develop, clarify, organize, and record your thoughts and experiences. It increases your awareness and intentionality in life. For these same reasons, it is helpful to journal as you are reading your Bible. You could use questions like those above to guide your journaling.  

Study a topic.

Sometimes you might want to read the Bible in light of a particular question or problem you have. I recently wanted to study about fasting. I simply did a search for the words “fast” and “fasting” on I read each verse that referred to fasting. I tried to find the main principle in each verse that related to fasting. Don’t forget how important it is to read the larger context of each verse in order to accurately understand it. Then I put all of these principles together to get an idea of what the Bible teaches on fasting in general.

Some topics will include several key words or ideas to find the relevant passages. For example, a study on prayer might include Matt 7:7-11, which does not include the word “prayer”! But the word “ask” appears five times.

Happy Bible reading!

What Do You Believe About the Bible?

The Bible is one of the most important foundations for our faith as believers in Christ. Let's not assume that we, or the people around us, have a strong, accurate understanding of what the Bible is and the role it should play in our lives. Here is a list of basic truths about Scripture. As you read them, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I understand what this is saying?
  2. Do I live like this is true?
  3. Am I teaching my children and those around me these truths? [Consider using this list and the Scripture references as a discussion starter for teaching your children.]

Here is what the Bible teaches about itself.

  • The Bible contains revelation that we would not know except that God has revealed it (Rom 1:2-4; Heb 1:1-2).

    There are many things we learn about God through observation of creation. But there are some things that he has told us about history, himself, and his plan that we could not know unless he told us about it in the Bible. For example, God has revealed important truths about creation, the coming of Christ, the gospel, and the coming judgment.
  • The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

    Although the books of the Bible were written by human authors, God is the true author. He used these authors to speak to us through the Bible.

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. . . .
No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man,
but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
(2 Peter 1:16, 20-21)

  • The Bible is trustworthy (inerrant) (Psalm 19:7-11; 2 Peter 1:19).

    Since the Bible was not created by man, but was given by God, we know that it is true.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
(Psalm 19:7-9)

  • The Bible is authoritative.

    Since the author of the Bible is God and it is a trustworthy presentation of truth and righteousness, then it is authoritative. Thus, all truth claims are to be tested by Scripture and the directions given in Scripture are to be obeyed.
  • The Bible is sufficient: it is the only source of revelation given or needed to understand the truth about God and his will for us (2 Tim 3:17).

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable
for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

           The Bible reveals the gospel for salvation and truth to equip believers for    
           righteousness (Psalm 19:7-11; Acts 20:32; 2 Tim 3:14-17).

  • God has given us his Spirit to help us understand and apply what he has revealed in Scripture (1 Cor 2:6-16; John 16:5-15).

The Bible also teaches us what role it should play in our lives:

  • The Bible should be read, preached and taught in the home and in the church (1 Tim 4:6, 13; 2 Tim 2:2; 3:14-17; 4:1; Titus 1:9; Deut 6:4-7).
  • The Bible should be used to establish sound doctrine and practice and refute wrong doctrine and practice (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9-11).
  • The Bible should be read, memorized, and meditated upon as a constant source of wisdom and strength (Col 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19; Psalm 19:7-8; Psalm 1:1-2; 119:9-16).