Thursday, September 15, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #12 September 17, 2015

Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Urban Ministry in the End Time
September 17, 2016
This week's lesson highlights the need to share the gospel in cities. Because we value country living, many Seventh-day Adventists have chosen to live in rural areas. To return to the cities to share the gospel would involve a sacrifice: 
"It is not always pleasant for our brethren to live where the people need help most; but their labors would often be productive of far more good if they would do so. They ought to come close to the people, sit with them at their tables, and lodge in their humble homes. The laborers may have to take their families to places not at all desirable; but they should remember that Jesus did not remain in the most desirable places. He came down to earth that He might help those who needed help" Evangelism, p. 424.
The entire book Evangelism is filled with counsel about winning souls to Christ, including a section on reaching people in the cities of both Europe and America. Clearly, there is still a work to be done. Further examples of the counsel given in Evangelism are listed here.
Insights from Evangelism
"In our large cities the medical missionary work must go hand in hand with the gospel ministry. It will open doors for the entrance of truth." p. 387
"The work that Christ did in our world is to be our example, as far as display is concerned. We are to keep as far from the theatrical and the extraordinary as Christ kept in His work. Sensation is not religion . . . " p. 396
"A terrible charge of neglect is brought against those who have been long in the work, in this very America, and yet have not entered the large cities." p. 401
With reference to difficult-to-reach areas: "How can the great work of the third angel's message be accomplished? It must be largely accomplished by persevering, individual effort; by visiting the people at their homes." p. 411
"The cities are to be worked, not merely preached to; there must be house-to-house labor." p. 430
"Wherever you can gain access to the people by the fireside, improve your opportunity. Take your Bible, and open before them its great truths. Your success will not depend so much upon your knowledge and accomplishments, as upon your ability to find your way to the heart. By being social and coming close the people, you may turn the current of their thoughts more readily than by the most able discourse. The presentation of Christ in the family, by the fireside, and in small gatherings in private houses, is often more successful in winning souls to Jesus than are sermons delivered in the open air, to the moving throng, or even in halls or churches." p. 437
"There should always be two and two of our brethren to go out together." p. 437
"Bear the truth to them in great tenderness and love, and returns will surely come." p. 437
"When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined." p. 469
Our motivation for sharing
The 1888 Message of Christ our Righteousness is a message that stirs the soul to its very depths. Having a theoretical knowledge of the message is no substitute for testing it, living it, and sharing it. To become effective witnesses for Christ, we may need to overcome our natural aversion to certain situations or people groups. Many people living in cities today suffer under great disadvantages. Addiction, trafficking, crime, unemployment, dismantled marriages and fatherless households have created a toxic mess of pain, misery, and hopelessness. Seventh-day Adventists have good news for these dear souls for whom Christ died, and the people need to hear it:
"It can never be repeated too often, that under the reign of grace it is just as easy to do right, as under the reign of sin it is easy to do wrong. 
"No man ever yet naturally found it difficult to do wrong. His great difficulty has always been to do right. But this is because man naturally is enslaved to a power--the power of sin that is absolute in its reign.  . . . But let a mightier power than that have sway, then is it not plain enough that it will be just as easy to serve the will of the mightier power, when it reigns, as it was to serve the will of the other power when it reigned?
"There is much more power in grace than there is in sin" Lessons on Faith, p. 71. 
We hold in our hands a message that sets the captives free!
The truth as it is in Jesus is the only true hope for our planet. The nearness of our sympathizing Savior, His initiative in our salvation, and the Cross of Christ are all themes that have the capacity of transforming the vilest of sinners.
But on a practical level, how does it work? What will it take to motivate us to action for Christ?
Something for everyone
God designed the church to be a powerhouse for good. Combining the varied talents and gifts of all, the church was intended to be a place of hope and healing; a place where people could meet Jesus, be mentored by others, and directed to a life of service. Your church community may not be such a place now, but service for others--living the gospel--will at least revitalize your own life, and your church will be blessed, too. 
Here are a few ways we have found that  are effective in reaching souls for Christ, and these methods work in the city as well as rural communities:
-- Invite (non-SDA) guests at church to begin in-home Bible studies--even the first time they attend church! You would be surprised how many will say yes 
-- Study the Bible with individuals and families in their homes
-- Be generally helpful in practical ways in the neighborhood, church and community
-- Show genuine interest in people's lives even if they aren't interested in attending church, receiving Bible studies, reading missionary books, or changing their lifestyle
-- Extend personal invitations for Bible studies to cooking school or health class attendees, door-to-door contacts, neighbors and friends
-- Go on "missionary walks." If you are accustomed to walking around your neighborhood anyway, try meeting up with a neighbor and ask the Lord to guide your conversation. This is not only evangelism but medical missionary work!
-- Take a fellow church member along with you on a home missionary visit or to follow up a Bible study interest (two by two)
-- Share a loaf of homemade bread or garden produce with a new neighbor
-- Move out of an Adventist community 
-- Look for opportunities to share Christ with people wherever you go 
-- Exercise the gift of hospitality
-- Carry tracts in your pocket or purse to share
-- Sing to patients or inmates in nursing homes, hospitals, homes, or prisons
There are so many ways. If you pray and ask God to give you wisdom, He will direct. Try something! You may feel like a failure, but try again. Jesus is longing to reveal His love to the cities of our world, one personal contact at a time. 
Space doesn't permit me to illustrate all of the above items with stories, but I would like to share one experience with you. 
A few months ago while driving to Southern California, my husband and I stopped for gas and food. He dropped me off at Chipotle to get burritos while he went to refuel the car. The line was long -- almost out the door -- so I resigned myself to a long wait. 
The couple in front of me had an adorable baby boy who reached out his hands  for me to hold him. I smiled at the parents, who appeared to be fit, 40ish and wealthy. I wondered if this might be their first child (turns out, it was). We struck up a conversation and I learned they were returning to their home in LA after vacationing for the weekend in San Francisco. Their baby ("Jaxson") continued begging for me to hold him, until, remarkably, his parents yielded to his begging and placed their curly blonde-headed treasure in my arms. As the conversation continued (remember, the line was very long), I began to pray that the Lord would open a door for me to share Jesus with them. We had almost reached the counter when I returned Jaxson to his mother. Holding him close, she said, "Jaxson saved my life." 
My opportunity had come. "It sounds like there's a story behind that."
"Yes," she said, pausing. "When I was going to the doctor for my pre-natal appointments with Jaxson, they discovered that I had ovarian cancer," she said. "If I hadn't had Jaxson, the diagnosis wouldn't have been made until perhaps it was too late."
She described the anguish of waiting for treatment until after Jaxson's birth, and how she had prayed fervently to God out there "whoever and wherever He is" to save her life. Now, she says, every day is a gift. We talked about working outside the home vs. staying home. She decided to be a stay at home mom and hasn't regretted it.
Between making selections for guacamole and salsa, I fumbled in my purse for the tracts I had put there for just in case. Sure enough, there was a colorful tract on "Foods that Fight Cancer." I put that one on top. Underneath I put a couple of other faith-filled tracts. "Here," I said, "after hearing what you've been through, I was thinking you might enjoy reading these." She grasped them eagerly from my hand, thanked me, and put them in her purse. We parted ways and I have continued to pray for this family whenever I think of them. I hope and pray to meet them in heaven someday. I can hardly imagine the thrill.
Sharing Jesus with others is among the most rewarding experiences of this life. As we behold Him, may the love of Christ constrain us, compel us, to be His helping hands, His willing feet, His caring voice, His encouraging smile, His listening ear, in every place (2 Corinthians 5:14).

~Patti Guthrie