For questions that were answered in worship, we tried to transcribe the answer as best we could, while making a few changes to ease the readability. You can listen to Jason answer most of these questions on our website at FirstTrinity.com/blog. For those we weren’t able to answer in worship, we have provided an answer below, but they will obviously not be found in the recording.
I don’t feel like I have a cupbearer kind of role in my life. Can you give more examples of what that might look like practically?
Here’s what it might look like for most people. Maybe it’s a family member who’s hurting right now. I can think of in my own life how there are family members who I have unique opportunity to speak those words of hope and grace in Jesus to, because I share a family situation. For example, my sister just had a second child and it’s a big transition going from one kid to two children. I have some experience and I have a relationship there. I have opportunity to speak about how God is working in the midst of this family and comforting in times of panic when there’s two kids and you’re like, I’m only one person at home. How am I going to do this?
Maybe it’s a relationship at work where somebody works closely with you. One of the things I love about working here is we have a great relationship with the people who come in to serve us in some way. Like our postal worker, UPS guy or the office supplies delivery guy. We get to know them and we have a chance to have conversation as they come and go. Maybe it’s something like that.
Maybe it’s somebody that you see all the time out in your daily path at the store. Maybe you have a routine where you always end up finding the same person at the register as you go through. You have a chance to speak to them. There’s a lady on my way as I ride my bike to work a couple of streets in. She’s an older lady. Every morning just about she’s out there doing yard work, she’s edging or doing the flowerbeds. It’s a beautiful yard. Maybe the way this looks is just stopping and saying, hey, I see you taking care of your yard every day. I just want you to know I think it’s really nice for our community that you do that. It’s speaking words of hope and grace. It doesn’t have to be in your face but it’s like, I have a chance to influence this person and I just ride my bike past her house. I’m always afraid she’s going to freak out. Why is this guy on a bike stopping? I don’t know if that helps, maybe that gives a better idea.
Nehemiah at the beginning cries and mourns but then he does something about it. Do you have any thoughts on when to pray and just keep praying or when to do something?
Yeah, I think too often we err on the side of “I’m just going to keep praying.” Knowing when the right time to act is versus the right time to just be praying, a lot of times for me it feels like a prompting that I ought to do something right now, and God makes that clear. It seems like He always does that when I’m on an airplane. When I go on a plane I like to just put my earbuds in and tune everybody else out and just get done with the flight. It always ends up, it feels like there’s somebody who wants to talk and I have to take my earbuds out and have a conversation with this person. I feel this prompting to do that.
It’s probably best to act sooner than you think. If you’re not sure, God’s probably saying just go do something and I’m going to go with you and I’ll be there working. If you end up doing the wrong thing, He’s going to nudge you in a different direction. I would err on the side of acting. Even if it’s like: I don’t even know what I’m supposed to say, maybe it’s just, how you doing? Just asking a question or just encouraging someone. Maybe it’s writing a note. Or it’s like a coincidence sometimes where things just align and you’re like, wow, it’s the perfect moment to do this. It’s not necessarily coincidence. God is orchestrating things to get to that point. Sometimes it’s just watching for the “coincidence” to happen and be like, this is my chance now to do something.
Nehemiah prayed and confessed on behalf of the whole nation. One piece of that would be if we pray and confess on behalf of our nation, does that mean that God forgives all of that? Then maybe more specifically if we pray for a family member’s salvation, will He forgive their sin just because we ask and save them because we prayed for it even if they’re not asking for it?
Yeah. God has forgiven everybody’s sin. It was a one-time act that brought forgiveness for everybody. The only people who experience and live in that forgiveness are those who come before God and confess and repent themselves. As I think about confessing sin collectively, there is something powerful about that. We do this in worship together. We confess our corporate collective sin. We confess together. There’s some value in that. Are we praying that God would forgive their sins? Not really because God has already forgiven. They’re just not experiencing that.
Maybe part of the prayer is as we confess these sins we ask that God would break us collectively, but also me personally so that I can submit to His authority and receive the benefits of that forgiveness. A part of that confession is also: “God, we ask that you would move in all of our hearts, and mine too. I have at times been stubborn and tried to resist you. Help me also, but help all of us to submit to your authority and turn from our wicked ways.”
Do you have suggestions on how we can train ourselves to look for where God is working? Do you have any ideas of how to be more aware?
Come to the all church book study in October. J Beyond that? I think it again maybe starts with prayer that asks God to give you eyes to see what’s going on. It starts with having conversations that aren’t spiritual in nature necessarily, just getting to know the people around you. In the book, he talks about how we all just come home and shut our doors and want to be in our little cocoon. He’ll talk in the book about being just out with people and having conversation. A lot of times it involves maybe food of some sort, having people over for dinner and listening to what’s going on. What are the things they are passionate about, what are the things they’re struggling with? That’s an opportunity maybe to see this person is frustrated with their work.
Maybe that’s the doorway into talking about God. Asking “how’s that going?” and talking to them as a person and getting to see more of their heart and then having an opportunity to maybe pray with them or pray for them privately, and then have some more conversation. I think it starts with looking for really small things that God is doing. We do God sightings at VBS and at Workcamp and all these other things where it might be a little thing. The more you look for little things the more you start to see big things that God is doing. It starts by for looking for what are even little things that God is doing. Maybe it’s just that my neighbor even talked to me, maybe that’s God working and prompting that conversation. It’s something small. It doesn’t seem like God working but that’s Him moving behind the scenes.
How can we help those who have lost loved ones or are convicted and in prison?
I know one thing is to just to be with people who are mourning. The Bible says to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Sometimes that’s just let them know that you’re present. You don’t even have to say anything, you’re just there. Maybe it’s a note of encouragement that says I know you’re going through a lot and I’m with you. I’m praying with you. There is some physical comfort in the presence of other people. Not just the words but the words themselves can also be a comfort. You can also invite them to our Grief Support Group on the third Wednesday of each month.
I think for those who are in prison there is also going and visiting in prison. We have opportunity to bring the gospel and bring that comfort to people in person at a prison. Also, you can write letters and keep up the conversation that way.
Since the US is becoming less of a Christian nation, should we expect maybe those who don’t believe what we believe to believe where our moral direction comes from, why would they care? Along with that, what of Jesus statement we are not to judge, but only God can do that?
The first part of that, should we expect non-Christian people to adhere to the same moral standard as us? I believe no. It grieves me that we move farther and farther away from God’s Word, but the truth is we can’t really blame the darkness for being dark. When we see corrective moral teaching in the Scriptures, it’s usually aimed—almost exclusively aimed—at God’s people, those who know Christ is where the moral corrective teaching goes. You don’t see it immediately, but you’ll notice it if you read the book of Acts through this lens. The book of Acts is largely about the disciples out in the world that does not know Jesus. Very rarely will you see the disciples condemning acts of moral decay. If you think about it, they were living in a time even worse than us in the Roman Empire. It was terrible morally and what people did to one another. It was awful.
You don’t see them condemning all of that. They come into contact with that they actually use that as an opportunity to have a conversation. My favorite story is in Acts when the disciples are in an area with all these temples and altars and Paul talks about how he sees they are religious people and you’ve got this altar to an unknown god. Let me tell you about the God that I know. He has a conversation with them. I don’t think we can expect them to hold to the same moral authority because that Word is really directed at God’s people. It’s true for them whether we expect them to meet that standard or not, it’s still true. We can’t expect them to hold to that standard because they aren’t God’s people.
Regarding Jesus’ words about not judging others… We can’t judge people’s eternal salvation. I think that’s what Jesus is really talking about is judging people’s eternal salvation. We can certainly judge right and wrong based on God’s Word but going into a conversation with someone, it’s usually not helpful to start out with telling them why they’re wrong morally, especially if we aren’t holding them to that same standard. A better approach is to just have some conversation around just who they are. Finding out who they are, trying to build a relationship with them. Then as we have opportunity to share what we know about our God that loves us and forgives us, then you can get to the moral corrective teaching a little bit later. You don’t have to judge the person’s morals in order to have a relationship with them.
The more we withdraw from people who are morally opposed to us, the less light there is in the darkness. If we isolate ourselves from those who disagree with our morals we never have opportunity to have conversation. We need to find ways to build that relationship without condemning their moral position. Then over time we have opportunity to share why we believe God has forgiven us and how great Jesus is. Then as they come to know Jesus we can be more concerned about corrective teachings because that’s where those moral corrections in the Scriptures are aimed there, at those who believe in Jesus.
You said Jesus was working all around. I’ve envisioned God as working. Was Jesus’ job done at ascension?
No, I don’t think Jesus’ job was done at ascension. He told the disciples in Matthew 28 at the end, He gives them the great commission to go and make disciples. He says, “I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Jesus is outside of time and space. He is present and working. When we describe the work of God, we often talk about the Holy Spirit being the one that’s doing the working. It’s hard to distinguish sometimes between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. I think they are working in unison. When I say Jesus is already at work, if you think about Jesus as God’s Word and God’s Word is what brings conversion, the Holy Spirit is working using Jesus, God’s Word, as part of that process. Because it’s God’s Word that works faith that leads to salvation. When we say God is working, the truth is it’s probably all three. The Father is sending the Son and the Spirit is ministering as well and they’re all working together.
I thought that when you prayed you should pray for something specifically so that you can see God at work. If we’re praying for the nation which is so large, how do we know if God is answering our prayers?
If we think about the confession piece, the confession of sins for the nation as more on a general basis. When we talk about ourselves we can be a little bit more specific. You can see God working in you. Then as far as responding and acting and changing our nation, if we focus our prayers, we’re praying that our nation would come back to God but God, use me as cupbearer. Use me where I have unique relationship and opportunity to impact others. We can look at that progress in our specifics around what we’re doing, not necessarily the progress of the entire nation. Maybe it’s better to focus on the my life, how God is working in me, even though I’m praying for the country collectively, but how is He changing me and how is He using me in that greater picture of trying to bring our country back to Him.
Can you share some practical techniques on sharing the gospel.
In confirmation we have our eighth grade students write a personal faith story. We share personal faith stories at Lent during the service. What I like about that is it’s an opportunity to talk about what God has been doing in your life. If there were just the right Bible passages that we could throw at people to convert them to follow Jesus, that would be awesome. God’s Word is what works conversion in people. There’s no doubt about that. It’s God’s Word, not my words, that create faith in a person. Sometimes you can think about slinging Bible verses back and forth like playing Bible ping-pong and you’re just going back and forth with these verses. Sometimes throwing verses at people as a form of evangelism can turn them off.
I think a practical way of sharing the gospel is to, in the context of a relationship with someone where you are cupbearer, talk about how God is working in your life. Maybe there’s a shared experience that you both have and you’ve dealt with it differently because of God in your life. Or maybe it’s a part of your history that was difficult that you overcame with God’s help. You can talk about how God is working in your life. That prepares them to ask questions and hear those Bible passages. You can get to the Bible, but we start with the conversation and what God is doing, because they can’t really argue with what God is doing in your life because it’s your story. It’s God working in you. They can choose to say they’re not going to believe you, but they can’t really argue with it because it’s your story. It prepares them then to ask some questions and hear the truth of God’s Word as opposed to entering in with their defenses up and just slinging those Bible verses back at you.
How can we be sure that God exists and can make miracles happen?
He’s able to make miracles happen. I think no one can believe in God on their own. I think maybe the first step in understanding, in knowing that God exists and that He’s able to perform miracles is asking God to help us trust Him and express faith in Him. We as sinful people cannot choose God but God in the Holy Spirit has chosen us. Now we can respond to what God is doing. I would say if you’re at the point where you’re not really sure if you even believe God exists or you’re at the point where you’re not sure if God can do miraculous things in your life, then it’s time to read the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you.
When you do that, when you’re honestly seeking and reading His Word, He will be found. He says you will find me when you seek. That’s what Greg Finke’s quote was, he was talking about finding Jesus at work all around us. When Jesus is talking about that, it’s about if you look for me you will find me. He’s narrowing it to the context of people at work, but when we seek God he will be found because he wants to be found. It starts with prayerfully searching and asking God to reveal truth through His word.
Do you have any thoughts of how the church can respond as Christians who love people no matter what our opinion is on the issue? How do other churches interpret the Bible to address the issue that accept it and how do we respond to changes in our country? How do we sin in not judging other people?
I think there’s two different conversations that need to happen. The first is with nonbelievers. Our reaction too often is judging people for believing differently than we do. If we’re talking to nonbelievers, we can’t really hold non-Christians to the same standard that we are held to. God’s Word is true no matter what you believe about God. It’s always true. To say that people who don’t know God aren’t following God’s law and you’re telling them God’s law and that’s the reason for why they should think the way you think, they’re like, “I don’t care about your God. I don’t care about his word.” There’s a different conversation and it starts with the relationship and just loving on them. It means we don’t go into a conversation immediately telling them why they’re wrong about an issue, why they’re dumb for thinking this or why this movement is dumb and how it’s against God’s will. We don’t focus on that. We just have conversation and get to know them as a person and really look for the opportunity to talk about how God is working on us and working in our lives with the goal of helping someone come to know Jesus.
The first goal is, let’s just talk about how Jesus loves people. Then there’s another conversation with a different group which is Christians, because when you think about all of the teachings, the moral corrective teachings in the Scriptures, almost all of them are targeted at Christians. They’re targeting God’s people. We have a relationship with God, therefore let’s follow God’s law and now we can have the conversation around what is God say about these particular issues. Nonbelievers we want to focus on a relationship with Jesus, then we can get into the corrective teaching and what the Bible really says with other Christians. That’s a different conversation because there are some churches that read the same Bible and interpret it differently.
It’s really too long to get into how do lots of different churches get to their understanding, except to say that we are all flawed individuals and we can read God’s Word and understand it differently. Even in this room, we don’t all the think the same thing. We don’t all believe the same thing about God’s Word and what it says. As we go through this process of talking with other Christians, we need to remember to do it in love so that we are not, again, it’s not in-your-face condemnation for people because they think differently. It’s done in love.
That means listening to what the other side thinks. Here’s what I think. What do you think? Here’s some Bible verses that led me to this. What Bible verses let you to that? Let’s have some back-and-forth conversation. Asking God’s Spirit to be present, because the truth is as much as I love the Lutheran Church and think we have a really good explanation of the Scriptures, that it’s right and true, it’s possible Lutherans were wrong about some stuff. I know God can bring us to that truth. We stay in that conversation and we keep going and asking God’s Spirit to reign and helping us see what He meant in that text. We’re flawed, we’re not going to be perfect at it but we do the best we can to seek God’s Spirit in understanding and interpreting Scripture.