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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter scene in Lancaster County (photo by Nick Nichols)
Much of the Midwest and New England have been plastered with severe winter weather this season. However thus far here in Lancaster County we have had a mild winter with very little snow. I appreciated finding this photo in our friend Nick Nichols collection. We enjoy a scene like this when going about our travels throughout the County.

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"A Passion To Communicate"

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'" Paul replied, "Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains" (Acts 26:28,29). "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

Howard HendricksYesterday we shared a story about Howard Hendricks, a long-time, well-known teacher of teachers, who passed away last week. What I remembered most was not his teaching on methodology, which he is famous for, but his real life stories of ordinary people whom he met in the course of life who made an impact on his life. Today we will share the second story that powerfully illustrates our topic of having a passion to communicate. It's a second illustration of how ordinary people make a difference. These are his words:

Years ago I took part in a Sunday school convention at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. During a lunch break, three of us who were teaching at the convention walked across the street to a little hamburger shop. The place was filled, but soon a table for four opened up.

We saw an elderly lady whom we knew was attending the convention because of the bag she was carrying, and we asked her to join us. We learned she was eighty-three and from a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In a church with a Sunday school of only sixty-five people, she taught a class of thirteen junior-high boys. She had traveled by Greyhound bus all the way to Chicago the night before the convention.

"Why?" we asked. In her words, “To learn something that would make me a better teacher.”

I thought at the time, most people who had a class of thirteen junior-high boys in a Sunday school of only sixty-five would be breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back: “Who, me? Go to a Sunday school convention? I could teach it myself!”

But not this woman. Eighty-four boys who sat under her teaching are now young men in full-time vocational ministry. Twenty-two are graduates of the seminary where I teach.

If you were to ask me the secret to this woman’s impact, I’d give you a totally different answer today from what I would have said thirty years ago. Back then I’d have credited her methodology.

Now I believe it was because of her passion to communicate. My heart’s concern for you is that God will give you a passion like this and never let it die. And I hope you never get over the thrill that someone will actually listen to you and learn from you.

Hendricks really gets to the heart of effective ministry when he attributes the teacher's success to her, "passion to communicate".

By passion in this context we mean zeal and spiritual fervor, sharing with a deep conviction from the heart.

Paul before AgrippaThe first daily Scripture portion is an account of Paul's passion to communicate during a personal witnessing opportunity with King Agrippa. Paul had faithfully shared his testimony and sought to challenge Agrippa to believe and become a Christian. His message would also have been heard by Bernice, Agrippa's wife, the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city who were also present. Agrippa's response reminds us of many who respond to the Gospel, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Agrippa properly recognized that Paul was seeking to persuade him to be a Christian. That's significant. It wasn't a sneaky, back door approach that Paul used. Agrippa knew just what Paul was doing.

That is our mission as we seek to impact others for Christ and His Kingdom. His Kingdom is never to be advanced by physical force or tricky means, but rather by persuasion, as we demonstrate His love and care to a fallen world and present, as Paul did, the Gospel message. Paul's missionary heart and passion to communicate is so evident in the verse that follows: "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains."

Agrippa is never again mentioned in Scripture following this account. But what type of seed did Paul plant? How did this seed impact Agrippa in the days, months and years that followed? Who else had an opportunity to persuade him? Did he eventually become a Christian? What about others who were listening to Paul that day? 

Did Paul leave the palace hall discouraged at the king's response? Robert Louis Stevenson recommends that we "don't judge each day by the harvest we reap but by the seeds we plant." We'll have to wait till heaven to know how many seeds germinated that day or maybe even years later.  And that's really the way it is with so much of our attempted impact for Christ.

So let us persevere by faith with a passion in our hearts to persuade people to follow our Lord!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, help us as we share our testimony and Your message with the world around us. We find so many who are like Agrippa; uninterested, unpersuaded, and often times hardened. Help us to persevere and not give up or grow discouraged. We pray that you would soften the hearts of those we seek to reach for the Gospel. Just like You did for Lydia, the seller of purple, who responded to Paul's message along with all her household, we pray for open hearts to receive our message of hope and salvation.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

This brings to mind people in my life whose passion to communicate God's truth greatly impacted me.

Photo of Charles HarrisOne of my favorite professors in Bible College was Dr. Charles Harris who stressed the need for sound Biblical exposition along with preaching with zeal and passion. He was a real contender for the faith and remains so to this day. I came across the syllabus for a course he is teaching this summer and read this note from him, "Be assured that I have already been praying for you that your studies will be a meaningful experience for you."

Nearly 40 years later I still recall one of his sermons from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. This passage sums up Paul's approach when he established the church in Corinth and his passion for ministry.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"One Pure And Holy Passion"  Video  Candi Pearson
Give Me One Pure And Holy Passion
And Give Me One Magnificent Obsession
Give Me One Glorious Ambition For My Life
To Know And Follow Hard After You

"Almost Persuaded"
 Video  Josh Turner  This
is a hymn written in 1871 by Philip P. Bliss which was inspired by a sermon he heard. During the sermon the evangelist quoted Acts 26:28 and declared, "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost!"

"Freely, Freely"  Video  Maranatha Singers with a country flair

This video is someone reading a letter
written by Pastor Saeed Abedini from inside Iran's Evin Prison. Let us pray for this man and many, many like him who are being persecuted for righteousness' sake.

I just read an article by Al Mohler dealing with The Christian Leader in the Digital Age and I consider the ability of Pastor Saeed to get his message out in such a moving way.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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