Don’t be a Silent Witness for Christ

I’ve been thinking about the role of personal evangelism in the life of a Christian. 

In our current climate of hostility to Christianity, the most effective form of evangelism takes place within our relationships; witnessing in its most basic form is sharing one’s own faith story.

Do you have a personal faith narrative you share with others? Perhaps, like me, you console yourself with the thought that your life is your testimony of faith, along the lines of “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.” But is this enough?

I’ve been outspokenly critical of what I call “stealth churches” (those who downplay their denominational affiliation almost to the point of seeming ashamed of the association), but by failing to give words to the experiences and influences leading to our faith, are we in danger of becoming “stealth” Christians?

We must consciously prepare our personal narrative and be unashamed in sharing it when the opportunity arises and the Spirit leads.

My story is my personal piece of the Good News and therefore my responsibility to share in response to the Great Commission.

“Silent Witness” is the title of a British TV series and it refers to the forensic clues found on a murder victim that testify against the killer. In contrast, the body of Jesus Christ is alive. His followers are living, breathing evidence of His goodness and grace. We need to not only walk the walk, but we must also testify to everyone we meet just why we walk as we do, and what a difference Jesus has made in our lives.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15  NIV

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Gird your loins

Today I worked out to a video on-line. When the instructor was talking about tightening our stomach muscles during an activity, she commented that having that firm support from the transverse abdominal muscles made her feel powerful, confident, and strong.

When we read in the Bible of Elijah “girding his loins” it actually means he tightened his belt, but it sounds very much like a description of the sort of activity that might give us washboard abs. Wouldn’t Gird Your Loins be a terrific name for a Christian exercise club? People could work out to Scripture and tone their bodies while building up their faith.

Being a Christian in today’s culture requires strength: moral strength, strength in Bible knowledge, and physical strength, too, so that we do not falter or grow weary in doing good.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

In order to be powerful, confident, strong, and effective Christians, we must tighten our belts. Tighten our abs.

Gird ourselves for the days to come.

And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins…

1 Kings 18:46 (KJV)
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Debts vs Trespasses

Some denominations say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:4) with the phrase, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” while others say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is a minor difference, to be sure, but it made me wonder about the original text and what word could be translated as both “debts” and “trespasses.”

Everyone understands that a debt is something owed. We are legally bound to repay our debts. This gets to the very heart of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. We are asking God to forgive us this great debt we owe Him in the same measure we forgive people who owe something to us. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? We may consider ourselves fiscally debt-free, but what about the debts of gratitude we owe, or the debt of respect we owe to those we prejudge?

Trespassing is understood as overstepping boundaries into someone else’s territory without permission. We trespass against God when we ignore His Word and attempt to live our lives without regard to Him, stepping into His territory of lordship. When it comes to trespassing against our neighbors, we may avoid tromping through their rose bushes to honor their private property, but have we stepped thoughtlessly on their feelings?

Do we want Our Lord to only forgive us in the same measure we apply to the people in our lives? Have we forgiven those who treat us with disrespect or hurt our feelings?

While both versions of this prayer give us pause to consider how we treat our fellows, they each give a slightly different perspective.

The original word used by the Gospel writers is better translated “sins” and reminds us that God expects us to treat one another with the same mercy, grace, and forgiveness He extends to us.

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Resist, Adapt, or Transform

I like to think I’m pretty adaptable. Like most of us, I’ve faced challenges from time to time, but I’ve always prided myself on my ability to make the best of things. Whenever life has thrown me a curve ball I have tried to adjust to the new reality with as little fuss as possible.

I remember participating in a webinar of church leaders discussing the need for adaptive change in the organized church.  It was proposed that the only way for the church to thrive in modern culture is to adapt to it.

While some of the suggestions seemed valid, I was uneasy. Long after the meeting I was still considering the pros and cons of adapting to a situation as opposed to resisting or trying to transform the situation itself.

Is adapting to an unhealthy relationship better than resisting (leaving the relationship) or trying to change what isn’t working? I suppose it depends on the relationship and how valuable it is. What about your job? If it isn’t working out, do you adapt to circumstances, quit, or see what you can do to make it better?

If the church adapts to our changing culture without watering down the Gospel message or compromising God’s word, it may open doors to evangelism. However, it must resist adapting to the point of becoming just another service club or social organization.

The church is to be salt and light. Our mission is to introduce the world to God’s love in order to transform the world, not to become indistinguishable from it.

I read somewhere that any organism requires stress in order to grow strong. Stress comes from effort. If I am adapting in order to avoid the effort of resistance or transformation, the situation will not result in my growing stronger. 

Sometimes adaptation looks just like capitulation. Perhaps, in the church as well as in life, the key is in knowing when to adapt to circumstances, when to resist them, and when to work to change them.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matthew 5:13
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The Great Adventure

While washing my face this morning I couldn’t help noticing the changes the years and gravity have made in my appearance. For just a moment, I felt as if I had let myself down by showing my age.

It’s too bad there is such pressure in our society to remain eternally young. If we fail to achieve this impossible goal we are made to feel ashamed of the evidence of our age. It is almost impossible not to buy into this foolishness.

When I first crossed the threshold of middle-age and began to feel the changes in my body, I wished for a guidebook or user’s manual, something like Aging for Dummies; something I could consult to know whether each new lump, bump, bag, sag, ache, or pain was a symptom to take to the doctor or just the natural progression from one life stage to the next.  If I had found such a book, I would have referred to it many times in the ensuing years.  Perhaps such a handbook wouldn’t be necessary if we weren’t ashamed to share and compare the signs of normal aging with one another openly.

Age certainly isn’t as pretty and doesn’t have as much energy, excitement, or physical strength as youth, but it does have experience, hard-earned wisdom, and for many, a new-found release from the fears that go hand-in-hand with immaturity and insecurity.

No matter what the media tell us, old age is not a sign of failure. It is proof of victory.  The senior citizens among us are the survivors.  I like to say that anyone can be young. Think about it, everyone who has ever been born has been young, but only the lucky few get to be really old. Shouldn’t they revel in that accomplishment?

If we reject the cult of youth, we can begin to accept every stage of life for the joy it brings and take pride in each year that passes.

As Mrs. Thistlethwaite, the mature character in my Christian fiction Tillamook Tillie series, likes to say, “Old age is both a privilege and an adventure!”

More importantly, the passage from youth to old age is part of God’s plan. It is totally natural. We can nip and tuck, inject, cover-up, gulp vitamins, and exercise to the point of exhaustion, but age will out

Our bodies weren’t meant to last forever. They are recyclable, biodegradable containers to carry our maturing character and spirit into the next great adventure.

They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

Psalm 92:14 (ESV)

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What’s a Mother to Do?

In many countries and cultures a special day is set aside to honor mothers and recognize the hard work and heavy responsibility mothers share as they bring forth, nurture, and mold new citizens.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. 

Genesis 3:16 (ESV)

In the midst of the flowers, gifts, and special meals, this day can be bittersweet for some mothers. The pain of childbirth is nothing compared to the loss of a child.

I’m thinking today of mothers with grown children who have become estranged,
gone astray, or have turned away from their mother’s values.

As children grow, it is expected that their mothers will correct, instruct, and advise; once those children become adults the relationship changes. Words of instruction can become unwelcome interference and mothers must stand by as each child walks his or her own path through dangerous and sometimes uncharted territory.

What can a mother do when she sees her grown child stepping in the wrong direction? In a recent study group, some of the women were sharing their heartache over this issue. After a few tears and some laughter, we agreed that the only solution is to simply love our wayward children, exactly as God loves us; to be there for them without grumbling, grateful for the gift they are, or have been, in our lives.

Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.
Welcome people into your home and don’t grumble about it.

1 Peter 4:8-9 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

If you are a mother or if you ever had a mother, I wish you a blessed Mothers Day!

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Happenstance or Answered Prayer?

Do you ever feel that your prayers are ineffective? Do you wonder if our Father in Heaven is listening? Does He even care? I suppose we’ve all had such thoughts from time to time, but when I stop and consider my experiences from the perspective of God’s fatherhood, my supposed unanswered prayers look completely different.

Most parents strive to give their children the best gifts; we revel in the delight we see on our beloved child’s face when we give them that perfect gift. I must confess that over the years while raising my three sons I’ve seen my share of disappointment at the gifts I’ve given them. Sometimes the coveted toy or game was unavailable or beyond my budget at the time, but occasionally, I didn’t give them what they wanted because I felt it wasn’t good for them, or because I wanted to give them something I knew would be better in the long run.

Now, nothing is beyond God’s ability or means to give us, but many of our desires are not what is good for us, at least not then.

Giving a four-year-old a motorcycle might make him happy for the moment, but it would be irresponsible and dangerous, both to himself and others. Throughout my childhood, I begged my parents for a horse at every Christmas and birthday. However, we lived in a town, not on a farm, and I was woefully unprepared to take care of livestock. Similarly, God knows what gifts are best for us and when we are ready to receive them.

My sons were never exactly thrilled when I gave them exercise equipment to keep them healthy or educational games to help them learn and prepare for life, and I am not usually too happy when God answers my pray (including helpful detailed instructions, of course) with something else. However, almost inevitably, His “something else” turns out to be the greater blessing.

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

Matthew 7:7-11 (CEV)

We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure that our prayers have already been answered.

1 John 5:14-15 CEV

Next time you feel frustrated by seemingly unanswered prayer, try to look at your situation from a parent’s viewpoint and trust that your good gift is probably already on the way.

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What’s Your Sign?

one waySigns are wonderful things. They can convey all sorts of important information to anyone who can interpret the message.

When driving in Italy for the first time, traffic signs that were meaningful to the locals were unclear to me. It was an unnerving experience. In unfamiliar or confusing territory, directional signs take on critical importance. The same is true in our faith walk.

When dealing with knotty decisions it is not unusual to ask for a clear sign from God. However, if something happens that seems to point to one choice or the other, we wonder if this is truly God’s leading. Could it be wishful thinking, misinterpretation, or even random coincidence? We become frustrated and petition God for something bold; nothing less than “a hand writing on the wall” will do.

I truly believe that God does speak to us today; He speaks through the Bible, first of all. If our choice or situation is addressed in His word, we don’t need to ask for signs or wonders. The clearly recognizable signs such as Stop, Wait, and Yield are there for all to see. He speaks to us through that still small voice of conscience, as well.

While it is human nature to want a clear, unambiguous, unavoidable sign posted at each of life’s intersections, that is not God’s way.

Before He gave us the clear message of His Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God anointed prophets to interpret His signs to the people.

Those of us who are not prophets do not have the skills of interpretation to let us know if a leaf blown across our path is a sign from God to turn around, or a sign that it is a windy day. We must rely on our knowledge of God’s Word and sensitivity to His leading through the Holy Spirit.

If I am stymied by my options in a situation, perhaps I just need to get back to those basics and trust God to carry me through.

What’s my sign?  I think I’ll choose One Way: God’s way.

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
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Our passions and The Passion


The dramatic portrayal of the historical events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion are referred to as the Passion.

For centuries during Holy Week, Passion Plays such as the ones in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and in Oberammergau, Germany, have been performed around the world using Bible era costumes and settings.

A few years ago, on Palm Sunday, the Fox network aired a live musical Passion Play in the modern day city of New Orleans, using contemporary costumes and pop music. Tyler Perry provided narration to bridge the musical numbers and to explain, in simple terms, the series of events being portrayed.

I watched this program with my family. For some of us, the use of the pop music with its secular lyrics was jarring. We felt it trivialized this precious story from history.

A lively discussion followed the show and my daughter-in-law, an ordained minister, pointed out that this production wasn’t meant for Christians already steeped in the truth and meaning of these events. The program was aimed at a culture unfamiliar with Christ and the Bible. It was a palatable introduction which hoped to become a gateway to the truth. Newly born-again Christians are nourished on the milk of the Gospel before they are ready to digest more mature fare.

This contemporary Passion story which felt overly emotional and shallow to me, was meant for the non-believer, to be a sweet sample of what Christ has to offer.

In order to evangelize, or even to serve one another, we must meet people where they are, keying into the things they understand and are passionate about.

Although this production of the Passion story didn’t speak to me, it wasn’t trying to. The faces on the live crowds in New Orleans showed how very well it spoke to them.

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