Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sharing Our Faith

I'm no expert on sharing my faith, but I do know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news.   And I also know that I have not been very good at doing it.  The biggest challenge for me is knowing that it's very easy to push people further and further away from Christ while we are trying to share what has changed our lives.

It's a frequent battle - knowing I should be doing *something* but not knowing exactly what to do.   I know one thing - I am not comfortable walking up to a perfect stranger and asking them if they died today, where would they go?  And why would God accept them in heaven?  It might make some people think, but it would have left me feeling angry and not particularly good about Christians or Christianity in general.

In thinking about what pushed me away from God to begin with, I see things I want to be careful never to do to anyone else (if I haven't already).

     1) I don't want to threaten someone with hell because of their lifestyle, job, particular sin, etc.- that's not my job.

     2) Many people consider their beliefs to be a private thing.  I would have been extremely offended if a stranger, out of the blue, demanded to know what my beliefs were, and then insisted on making me justify them.  Having a discussion like that with me would have been extremely counter-productive for someone trying to win me over to Christ.

     3) I don't want to hit someone over the head with the wrath of God.  I've had that done to me, and I can tell you my reaction wasn't good - unfortunately, if you don't know God and think that's all there is to Him, you'd never want to learn more, and would miss out knowing the great love God has for us, and His desire to help us, not harm us.

In looking back over the events that brought me *to* God, I noticed that there were seeds planted by people along the way.  Others came along later and watered those seeds.  And God, in His time, made them sprout.  The "planting" and "watering" were such simple acts, but at the same time, with a profound effect. Based on my own experiences, I have come up with a list of things I can do, in hopes of planting and watering for someone else.

     1) Hurting people usually appreciate hearing from someone who has hurt in a similar way and come through it, and this is a great opportunity to let them know what God has done in my life during these dark times.  Christ is hope, even in a "hopeless" situation.

     2) We can tell our stories of salvation when we have a chance to do so.  We all have an interesting testimony about how we got from Point A to Point B.

     3) Our actions give a testimony to those who don't know Jesus, and particularly to those who are hostile toward Him.  At all times, we represent Christ, but we're all human.  When we make a mistake or behave badly, we need to rectify it promptly and to the best of our ability.

     4) We can be God's hands and feet.  When we see a need, we can try to meet it.  Take cookies to welcome new neighbors.  Refuse to speak badly about anyone.  Assume the best about someone's motives.  Be encouraging.

     5) We can support local outreach efforts, either financially or with our time and talents, to help spread the word to those who need to hear it.

     6) Most importantly - we can pray for those who haven't accepted Christ's gifts.  Pray that their hearts and minds be open to Him.

Many of these small actions may seem to go unnoticed, until trouble strikes.  If someone can remember that they once heard about the hope that is in Christ, or that they have a God who loves them dearly and wants to be called on in times of trouble, it can make a huge difference to them.  It has to me.

I don't believe sharing our faith needs to be scary nor offensive to the unbeliever.  I know there are many ways we can accomplish this.  Please share your own thoughts on this, and ideas you may have to spread the Good News about the love of Christ, and the hope we have in Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The State of Faith in our Difficulties

About the time I think I've got a good handle on this life and faith business, something comes along to remind me that I have a long way to go.  While we may feel our faith grow over the years and see how far we've come, there’s such a depth to our relationship with God that we can't "max out" on it, not ever.   There's always room for significant improvement in our faith in the Almighty.

No one likes to struggle with life's situations, especially the big ones.  One situation that frequently comes to my mind is when the apostle Paul took his request to God three times for deliverance from a debilitating malady.  And God told him "My grace is sufficient." [1] It is one thing to know it in your mind, but another to feel it in your heart when you can't see how God's grace can possibly be sufficient.  And given a choice, you'd be tempted to choose being healed over grace.  Ouch!  What a yardstick with which to measure our faith!  Our shortcomings are no surprise to God, but they can be to us.  

While it's not pleasant to see our spiritual deficiencies, it gives us the opportunity to work with God to deal with the situation and make appropriate changes.  Charles Stanley, in his “30 Life Principles,” states, “The dark moments in our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.”[2]  I suspect the difficult times may not be so much about the specific thing we struggle with as much as the state of our faith in general.  And the thing we struggle with is only there to shine a light on the real problem.

Perhaps we tend to ask God for the wrong blessings.  In addition to prayers of healing, maybe the better prayer after a certain point is to ask for understanding and faith: understanding what God is saying to you in this struggle, and faith in God’s promise that His grace really is sufficient.  I feel confident of one thing: there is a reason and a purpose for every struggle.  And on the other side of that struggle is a blessing; a blessing bigger and more significant than the difficulty.



[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians%2012&version=NIV
[2] http://www.intouch.org/read/life-principle-7-the-dark-moments-in-our-life

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Egg-Xactly!!

Today was a stressful, worrisome day.  It's been a stressful, worrisome last couple of weeks, actually. This afternoon I was going to cook some eggs, and as I opened the egg carton*, I saw something I had never seen before:


"This is the Day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24

Little things like this remind me that God has a handle on whatever is going on, and that He'll remind us of that when we need it.   And THAT is cause for rejoicing!  Even if He uses the inside of an egg carton to get our attention.


*By the way, I've been asked what brand of egg this was.  It was "Country Daybreak," and their website is www.goodegg.com

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Continuity Through the Ages

My great-uncle was a WWII Night Fighter, and in my quest to learn more about him, I discovered a group of similar veterans who had gotten together a few years back to share memories and fellowship.  A DVD of some of the speakers was given to me, and it was fascinating to listen to these men and what they went through.

One particular man, Bob, was a young lad of 21.  He was very sure he was going to be killed in the war, and was very distressed about it.  He tells how he opened his Bible, and the first verse he saw was Psalm 46:1 - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" and he knew instantly that whatever was going to happen, he was at peace with it.

What a feeling - the same God who sustained Moses, and David, and every other hero of the Bible was right there in a very personal way with Bob, and is right here with me, and you, in times of trouble as well.  What a deep feeling of continuity throughout all of time that we have - through the One who is, has been, and always will be.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Shooting, Shooting and More Shooting

It's no surprise to anyone that our society is becoming more and more agnostic/atheistic.  Some people see this as a good sign, others, not so much.  As I see it, there's a direct correlation with this tendency and the social situations we see now.

I never remember a time in the 1960s or 1970s where I feared getting shot at school.  I wasn't afraid to send my kids to school in the 1980s or 1990s, although the increasing disrespect showed to teachers, administrators and school employees in the later part of this time was disturbing.  Now, you can't even go to a movie or shopping mall without wondering if it'll be the last thing you do.  And if you do make it out of these events alive, will some person consumed with rage attack you on the way home?

We've had more and more children growing up without knowing God - what He commands from us as far as behavior and right thinking are concerned, and what He offers us in times of trouble and fear. Many parents are raising their children without the greatest asset they'll have in their young lives - a relationship with the God who is all-powerful and who loves them fiercely.  Let's face it, at some time or another we will all encounter really difficult or devastating situations in life that we can't do anything about - and sometimes things feel hopeless.  And ARE hopeless without God.  We've got kids growing up not knowing that the God who created the universe and every grain of sand in it, knows them intimately, loves them completely, and is intensely interested in every facet of their lives.  How can that not give a child a sense of self-worth unparalleled by anything the world has to offer?

I believe there are a lot of troubled youth and adults on this earth, who know no other way to deal with their unhappiness except taking their rage out on other people - whether its bullying, aggression on the roads or taking it to the ultimate extreme and taking lives.   Where there's less and less God, there's more and more evil.  And I hope it's not going to get worse before it gets better.

Friday, May 15, 2015

When the Answer You Need is not the Answer You Get

     I've been dealing with a chronic pain that has made my life miserable at times over the last year.  It has often impeded my ability to do the things I want to do, and after five months of striving for effective treatments, today I got the answer: the situation is likely permanent and there isn't anything the doctors can do about it.

     I am keeping this in perspective - I can think of a ton of things that doctors tell patients every day that are way worse than my situation.  But there are going to be some challenges ahead, and while thinking about dealing with them, I thought about Paul, asking the Lord to remove his thorn.  God said, "My grace is sufficient."

     Well, I'm glad and grateful to know that I follow a God who is all-powerful, and despite what any doctor tells me, if He wants to remove this thorn, He will.  The scary part for me is if He says, "My grace is sufficient."  I know, in my mind, that His grace WILL be sufficient.  My heart, however, is not fully on board yet.  I can't see the details of how His grace will be sufficient.  But maybe that's not necessary.

     I listened to the car radio on the way home, and a song came on.  I didn't catch the name, or the artist, but the song said to listen to the Voice of Truth, and no other voices.  And that the troubles we have will be used to bring glory to God.

    The thought of my troubles being used for the glory of God had not occurred to me.   Will God fix me, despite the depressing prognosis, and bring glory to Himself in that way, like the blind man in John 9 -

As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."*

Or is God going to ask me to bring glory to Him by trusting Him, even if He decides to leave me with the thorn?  Time will tell.



*NIV, from BibleGateway.com

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Odds vs. My God

"You have a 90% chance of getting past this with no further problems."  Those words from my doctor were quite reassuring! I suddenly envisioned 100 sick people lined up in front of me, and then 90% of them getting up and moving back to their regular lives like nothing ever happened.  It felt reassuring... until I realized there were still 10% of those sick people there, still having problems, and each of them had probably felt pretty good about their odds as well.  It was a very shallow reassurance after that.

It was during a recent hospitalization that I desperately wrestled with odds, looking for that elusive peace about my situation.  Needless to say, I didn't find it.  Looking back, I realized that I'd never find peace among probabilities and statistics.  Though I wasn't looking in the right place, the One Who Gives Peace redirected my efforts.

Did Christ give me a divine assurance that I would have a complete recovery?  No.  Did He whisper in my ear that things would improve?  Not at all.  He simply asked if I'd trust Him through this, one baby step at a time.  Yes, I can do that. 

In our ordeals, we are not simply thrown to the wolves of life, some of us victorious and some not.  There's a perfect plan, tailored for each one of us with our ultimate victories in mind; this plan will include elation, devastation, and everything in between.  And there are blessings in it all - and speaking from my own personal experiences, the blessings during the low points are far greater, richer, and deeper than they've been in the good times. 

I'm not concerned with odds and probabilities at this point.  In return for redirecting my trust from statistics to He Who Controls It All, I got peace.  I don't need to know what's going to happen, how it's going to happen, or when it's going to happen, because I know He Who Has The Perfect Plan, and He will sustain me through it all, and use it to my good.

When the bottom falls out of life, there are three things of vital importance to remember:


1) God knows it all.  He sees things you cannot.  He's got the whole package of information about your trouble; you don't.

2) God is powerful enough to do anything.  He doesn't play the odds - He makes the odds.  And there is no situation in which He is helpless.  If He doesn't wave His awesome hand and make your situation go away, there's a reason.

3) God loves us far more than we can understand or comprehend.  Sometimes in looking back at our past troubles, we see how God's love was manifested in allowing those unpleasant circumstances; some times, we'll have to wait to see it.  But His love is present through all of it.


Considering those three points together, when the Lord of All Life asks us to trust Him in our given situations, we have to have confidence that He knows what He's doing, and that He'll never ask us to walk through it alone.