Bless: Begin with Prayer
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—————————–OPENING ILLUSTRATION: I came to Christ in high school and when I did, my whole life changed.  I tried to share Jesus with everyone I could.  I was regularly having spiritual conversations with people who didn’t know Jesus because it was all I thought about.  So, when I went to bible college at Manhattan Christian College, it was weird for me, because all of the sudden, everyone I knew was a Christian.  I didn’t know what to do.  The college I went to was across the street from Kansas State University.  I finally decided I would just try something.  It was a cold night.  I prayed before I left the dorm that night and asked God to send me someone who needed someone to share Jesus with them.  I walked around KStates campus and literally, there was no one.  You ever had one of those moments where you are like, “really God?”  and then I saw him.  There was this guy sitting outside this door sucking on a cigarette.  I was like, “this is it – God has cleared all the streets out so I can find this one guy!”  I awkwardly walked up to him.  He tried to ignore me because I was getting way too close.  I said, “can I sit here” – RIGHT NEXT to him.  This guy’s enjoying a cig and I’m invading his space. He said, “I guess”  and I sat next to him.  To be honest, I hadn’t thought much beyond finding someone.  I’m typically pretty good with people and thought this would just naturally flow into us finding a place to baptize him.  But instead, it went like this.  I said, “Have you ever heard of Jesus?”  What?  of all the ways I could have started a conversation, “have you ever heard of Jesus?”  He was like, “um… yeah…”  I was like, “uh, cool…” and then I sat there awkwardly for a few minutes, and then I was like, “well, have a good night.”  
Lol…This whole series came from a book Amber suggested I read called BLESS by Dave & Jon Ferguson.  One of the questions they asked in the book reminded me of that story:
Why does sharing the good news feel so bad sometimes? You’ve experienced this too, right?-some pastor shared some bible tracks with you and you’ve forced people to sit down and listen to you share – you wanted to puke your guts out and so did they-You tried praying really loud when you eat your lunch at your desk, so others will here, thinking it might lead to salvations-You’ve knocked on peoples doors and asked them where they will go when they die.  They said, “The funeral home,” and shut the door in your face
Literally, after that experience for me, for years I decided I would just “show people” my faith and it seemed to lead no one to Jesus.
Over the years, Jenni and I have developed a method of how we become friends with people and hopefully get the opportunity to share Jesus with them.  
But I’ve never had a super-easy way of explaining it to others until I read this book.
This is how our family lives out evangelism.  These BLESS Practices that we are going to be talking about over the next month and making a part of who we are as a church are 
The BLESS Practices are a simple, doable way to live out Advancing the Kingdom by living for God and loving people.
All of the sudden, sharing the Good News can feel good again
So, let me share what the 5 practices are.  Then we will look at the first one today.
The 5 BLESS Practices: [Dean, can we make the first letter of each practice bigger or something so it shows they spell out bless]Begin with PrayerListenEatServeShare
ILLUSTRATION: Years ago we moved into this house.  We had a fire pit and were gonna roast hot dogs.  We had been praying for our neighbors and we decided to invite them over to eat with us.  I’ll never forget this one couple that lived behind us coming over.  We start talking, I love it when people don’t know I’m a pastor – because they actually act like themselves around me.  He’s joking around and cussing and just having a good time.  Then it happened.  Someone asked what I do…  I told him.  He told me years later he was like, “Oh man, here it goes…”  But guess what.  That was about all I said about Jesus or church.  His wife had come to our church years ago but hadn’t for a long time.  I kept talking to him and we kept inviting them over.  We kept growing as friends.  I kept praying for him and listening to him. We would eat with them.  We would take cookies to their house and try and do nice things for them.  And then it happened.  His wife was pregnant and they had their baby prematurely.  She was in the hospital and he was at the Ronald McDonald house not know what to do.  There was a bible there and he had opened it up.  I saw on FB what was going on and reached out to let him know I was praying.   He asked me a question about a scripture.  I went over to the town they were in, about an hour away to see them and talk to him and pray with him.  We started talking about spiritual things and he ended up coming to Christ and becoming one of my best friends.  
But it all started because we just wanted to BLESS him and his family.
After Abraham went through this test from God to see the quality of his faith, God said this to him:Gen 22:17-1817 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
Through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed. Eventually, one of Abrahams’ offspring will bless all nations – His name will be Jesus-He will die to forgive all sin and draw us close to God and He will raise us from the dead to prove his authority to do so.
He is why I’m here and why you are here…and Can I just tell you something? As a Christian, you were blessed to be a blessing.
Paul says it this way in one of my favorite passages:2 Cor. 5:17 & 2017 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!  20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 
We are Christ’s ambassadors. His messengers and those who walk with His authority to deliver the Good News
but listen, this doesn’t begin with you going out and finding a smoking stranger to freak out…
It Begins with prayer. I did a quick study of times Jesus prayed in the gospels – do you know how many times it mentions him praying or shares a prayer of His? I thought, “oh, maybe 5 or 10 times…”  
There were 27 instances where the gospels show Jesus praying and several of those instances could be found in several of the gospels
Jesus prayed when he healed people when he had children with him before he ateBefore big moments when there was pressure when He was grieving when He had big decisions to make Jesus seems to pray about everything.
Jesus one time said: John 5:19Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. or John 12:49Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
I’m not sure exactly how Jesus’ divinity worked – it’s a mystery honestly.  But I know a huge part of it was that 
Jesus’ focus was on living for God and doing what He wanted
We begin with prayer because it focuses
us and our hearts on what God might want for our neighbors and friends…
so, what do you do?
We have created this journal – it’s a weekly journal – it’s created in a way that if you’ve never done this kind of thing – you can easily get started and be successful.  
Find your Circle of 8-8 people (neighbors, coworkers, family) who you will begin praying for by name, dailyWe want you to decide on a circle of 8 people that you can name by name
You will write their name down and pray for them daily. What are you praying for? -Pray for opportunities to get a chance to listen to their story and learn their life-Pray for opportunities to invite them over to eat and laugh together-Pray for opportunities to serve them-Pray for opportunities to eventually share your story of how God has worked in your life
Daily, take this journal – start setting aside time to be in the word with God, pray for your circle, and bring your journal with you to take sermon notes.
CLOSING ILLUSTRATION: When we left Oswego, our previous ministry to come to Harmony, one of the hardest persons to tell was my buddy Nic who had been my friend who came back to Jesus.  See, because my goal wasn’t to win a convert.  My goal was to bless a friend in a way that he wanted Jesus.  Nic is now a guy who loves Jesus like crazy, he’s leading men to follow Jesus and leading his family.  It all began with prayer. Who are you going to start praying for?