Equipped to Witness Where They Are

As I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:    Acts 17:23

I often write about how necessary it is to read and study our Bibles.  There are two reasons.  First, we need to be constantly reminded of God’s ways and will for us.  Our sinful nature too often leads us astray despite our true desire to be obedient children of God.  Without constant training and reminding of the lessons to be learned in Scripture, we will certainly forget what we should be doing and lose our way.  The struggle between our desire to do good and our sinful nature is all too real.  It’s something Paul struggled with too!

 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.    Romans 7:21-23

Second, we need to know what we believe and why, if we are to effectively share the Gospel with others who do not yet know Christ.  Peter tells us in his first letter…

…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;    1 Peter 3:15

But this second reason also involves being up on the world around us.  We need to witness to people where they are!

Paul did this as told in Acts 17 above.  He was in Athens where they loved a good debate and philosophical discussions.  Paul went to the Areopagus where they held discussions, had their government council and courts.  He was preaching the Gospel, but he hadn’t really started talking to them where they lived, where they were mentally.

They derided him, calling him a “babbler.”  He regrouped, paid attention to his surroundings, and found his opportunity in the form of their altar to the Unknown God.

The Greeks had a lot of Gods, and they were very keen to not upset any of them.  Just in case there was one they weren’t yet acquainted with, they put up an altar just to be on the safe side.  Paul saw this, realized that Yahweh was unknown to them, and found his “hook.”

This is the altar Paul saw

“I see that you have an altar to an unknown god there.”

“Yeah.  Can’t afford to tick off an almighty being of any kind.  You know how it goes.”

“Wellll…what if I could fill you in on who that unknown God is?”

And he was off to the races, as they say.

He transitioned from talking about God from his point of view to one they could identify with, one that resonated with them.

This is our challenge today.  We need to be extremely well-read in our Bibles, but we also need to be very aware of our surroundings.  We live in a post-Christian era when people have no familiarity with the Bible.  All they know is the secular world.  The age of Billy Graham going around the country preaching the Gospel to tens of thousands is past.  He worked in a society where people were still more or less Biblically literate.

Today we need to find other starting places.  We need to know how science supports the Bible, and that takes some digging.  The Answers Book 1-4 by Ken Ham are a great start, for example.

Listen!  What are people saying?  What do they think?  What is there that you can tag onto to talk about the Bible and God?

Those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior are saved.  But that is not to be the end of what following Jesus is about.  Hell is a horrid place.  We should shrink from that happening to anyone!  Out of sheer pity if not love, we should want to point anyone we meet toward salvation in Christ.  But first…

…we must be equipped to witness to them where they are!!

God’s Ambassadors

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.    Matthew 28:18-20

Billy GrahamThis has been a week, death being the headline whatever way you turn. Tomorrow I’ll write about the shooting in Florida, but today I want to talk about Billy Graham. And us.

I was born in the ‘50’s, so I grew up knowing who he was even if I was a bit young to fully appreciate his preaching. One of the many articles this week filled in some of the blanks I had missed in my childhood. Dr. Graham was every bit the preacher his reputation said he was. He had the ear of many world leaders; US presidents for generations, popes, kings, queens, as well as the many millions he inspired and led to faith in Jesus.

He was also a flawed man. He fell out with Martin Luther King Jr. over the Viet Nam war, siding with Nixon. Simply, he wasn’t always right. But then who of us is?

I recall reading St. Paul not always being a model Christian either. He writes a line desiring God’s justice, not mercy, against an enemy in his second letter to Timothy:

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.   2 Timothy 4:14

He called for God’s judgment, not God’s mercy and healing. After all the beatings, floggings, shipwrecks, and persecutions, by individuals, the Synagogues, and Rome itself, he wants a pound of flesh, as it were, from a coppersmith.

I would like to be as the Apostles were, as Billy Graham was; ambassadors from God. My faults, my sins tell me I’m not good enough. Satan whispers through them that I am not worthy of being God’s spokesman to the world…or even my small corner of it!

Then I read that Billy could be spectacularly wrong! I read what sounds like a desire for revenge from St. Paul, and I am encouraged by that!

Their failings tell me that it was never them that accomplished so much, but Jesus who strengthened them and equipped them to do His work! Despite my own sins, Jesus continues to forgive me and strengthen me to be His ambassador, if not to the world, to my small part of it.

He equips and strengthens you too. You, me, all of us are God’s Ambassadors to the world! St. Paul. Billy Graham, Dr. King and more were blessed to see their “home run” ministries blasting balls over the fences. You and I might not see the full effect of our ambassadorships, but by faith we know our efforts are not wasted. They are perpetuated well beyond our vision.

I am far from the most read blogger! My readership is not deep, but it is broad. My numbers might not be huge, but I am read by people from every continent on earth, excepting Antarctica; one here, two there, etc. Like pebbles dropped in ponds, like seed that grow and produce more seeds, I am confident that a single grain of my witness of Jesus will produce a plant and more seeds I’ll never see. Africa, Asia, Europe… I might only have an article read by one or two in India or Botswana or some other place, but that’s all it takes to get something started.

You are an Ambassador of God’s wherever you are. I encourage you not to despair of your “posting” as being too small or to remote to make a difference. Indeed, the more bare the field, the greater the opportunity!

Who’s Talking?

But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.    Matthew 10:33

Grant_crop_of_Cold_Harbor_photoI’m reading the memoirs and letters of General U.S. Grant, something I’ve meant to do for a long time.  I am struck how things are now as they ever were. The issues have changed, but the behavior of people is much the same.

There was a force at Camp Jackson just outside St. Louis whose command, at least, was sympathetic to the Southern States.  They were well-positioned to capture the United States Arsenal there, gaining much materiel for the Southern cause.  For reasons Grant himself couldn’t fathom, they never moved on that objective and were eventually captured and imprisoned.

What I found fascinating in all of this and more is how vocal those of the rebellion were against the silent voices of Unionists.  Following is a very short excerpt from the St. Louis affair.

Up to this time (their capture) the enemies of the government in St. Louis had been bold and defiant, while Union men were quiet and determined.  The enemies had their headquarters in a central and public position…from which the rebel flag was flaunted boldly.  The Union men had a place of meeting somewhere in the city, I do not know where, and I doubt whether they dared to enrage the enemies of the government by raising the national flag outside their headquarters.  As soon as the news of the capture of Camp Jackson reached the city the condition of affairs was changed.  Union men became rampant, aggressive, and, if you will, intolerant.  (emphasis added)

Civil War Georgia

How many lives lost because too many Unionists didn’t fight with words before bullets?

Elsewhere Grant relates how Missouri, for example, was a slave state, but failed to vote in favor of secession.  Still, they were represented in the South’s congress.  With the intent of the few thwarted, when the pro-south governor died, his lieutenant rightly assumed the governorship, but then simply issued executive orders declaring them part of the Southern secession, despite the will of the people by vote!

In the late 20th Century and on through the present day, the United States has been in the process of secession from God.  This is a movement that has been led by a vocal minority while Christians, afraid of a confrontation, have remained silent.  We find ourselves now at a point where homosexuality is not regarded as a sin, that evolution is accepted fact despite scientific proofs to the contrary, and so many minds have been swayed by the one-sided discussion that Christians find themselves on the outside looking in.

Scientist

How many souls lost because too many Christians didn’t fight back in Word & Deed?

Who’s doing all of the talking?  The atheists, who, by the way, believe in God and are simply angry at Him for some reason.  If there is no God, if what anyone believes makes no difference when we die, what in the world are they so up in arms about?  People with that much fervor have a lot of belief!

Meanwhile, we’ve sat in our pews all comfy with our hymns and orders of service and tried to just hope and pray this will all pass by.  Our opposition has more faith and commitment than we do!  Despite our familiarity with at least a few favorite Bible passages, we don’t ACT on them!  We all know is that we are to put on the armor and weapons of God’s Word, but only in an intellectual, ethereal way.  How many of us are willing to actually swing that sword and take a shot on the armor in real life?

We’ve been quiet and let the minority sway the minds of our friends and our children!  OUR CHILDREN!!

Bull Halsey

General “Bull” Halsey, WWII hero and recipient of some dumb luck!

It seem good always gives evil a head start by standing by as if it’ll all be OK in time.  Always.  Every time evil gets a bigger head start before good finally decides it’s a real fight after all.  World War II was a lot closer than you might think, especially in the Pacific.  Our navy was saved from its own errors, even stupidity, but for dumb luck.  Providence, actually.  With a capital, “P.”

Lest I sound too preachy, I have to say I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone.  When, for example, was the last time I asked someone not to use Jesus’ name in vain while talking with me?  Memory fails.  And I’m ashamed that it does.  I’m resolving to change that on any number of issues.  When I hear something that isn’t right, I need to find a way to speak up and speak out in a loving, Christian way, but speak up all the same.

I invite you to pick an issue.  Just one.  Decide what you’re going to do or say about it.  Get armored up in advance and then do something about it the next time that issue comes up.  If you don’t, well…

…who’s doing the talking then?

Jesus Sad

Missionary Trip

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[e] This is the first commandment.[f] 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no other commandment greater than these.    Mark 12:30-31

Hard Rock_Haiti

Perhaps the only food they’ll get in 24 hours!  And they SMILE!

Last summer my church’s youth group went on a mission trip to Haiti with our youth minister and a couple chaperones.  We support a Christian school there, providing meals and more.  Last Sunday they spent the Bible class hour showing us pictures from the trip and telling us about their experiences.

I almost didn’t go.  Most high schoolers are not good speakers – thank you public education!  These kids did a great job, though.  They really got it, the “it” being that you get more than you give when you help others!

Glass of MilkOne young man spoke about how the children he worked with at their school took such good care of each other, especially a mentally retarded classmate. When one asked another for a glass of milk, the request was granted with a smile and urgency.

He admitted that if his sister would ask him to get her a glass of milk, he’d tell her God gave her legs; get it yourself. He started crying with his shame and said he learned he needs to be a whole lot nicer to his family.

A young lady choked up while talking about a young girl with Down’s Syndrome and had to collect herself before continuing.   She asked a mother what she might need. The mother replied with a smile that Jesus had already provided her with all she needs.

This from a woman who lives in a small cinderblock structure with one rom and a closet for food. Seven people rotate between two beds and the floor. They live on the edge of a dump. The river where they bathe contains the runoff from the dump.

Haitian Smiles

Showing US How it’s Done!

As each of the kids told their story, they all had the same basic message. The people they saw were always smiling, always happy, always positive. Our kids felt an overwhelming love for these people in addition to the shame of having so much and not living with their joy.

 

“We went there to minister to them. They were glad to see us and work with us, but in the end they ministered to us.”

Last Sunday I saw a group of high school students who had gained maturity.  I saw a group who’s view of their own lives took a drastic turn for the better. I saw teenagers who learned that, when you give from a place of love, you always Run a Surplus; you never run out.

St Paul

St. Paul Never Ran Out

St. Paul, who always ran a surplus, wrote, “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”   2 Corinthians 11:22-28

 

Fight…But in a Good Way

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Fight the Fights

The American President – “Fight the fights that need fighting!

“You only fight the fights you can win? You fight the fights that need fighting!” A.J. MacInerny to President Andrew Shepherd,  “The American President”

 

This is hard, because I don’t do this really well myself. I guess that’s why it’s a good post to write.  I’m doing it mostly for me.  Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful too.

St PaulSt. Paul definitely fought the good fight. He even went for it when he couldn’t win.  He’d been shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, left for dead, and more.  He was a smart guy, so I’m sure he saw a lot of those beatings coming.  He didn’t have to go to Rome.  When he was on trial in Jerusalem, he could have gotten off easily.  But, no, he appealed to the emperor and his Roman citizenship.  That pretty well sealed it for him.  Rome is where he was imprisoned for a long time and eventually executed.  He told the ship’s captain who was taking him to Rome not to sail according to plan.  Bad time of year, bad winds, bad storms.  Paul tried to warn him, but they shipwrecked.  Told you so.

Paul could have not kept his foot on the gas so hard. That might have meant he’d lived longer, made more missionary trips.  God, however, knew better.  Rome was the center of the world.  What better place to proclaim Christ than Rome?

To all appearances, Paul was going to lose. He knew it was coming.  Jesus told him that He would show Paul “…how much he must suffer for My sake.”  Paul didn’t fight the fights he could win in the body.  He fought the fights that needed fighting for souls.  Even when those souls rejected and tried to kill him.

cone_of_shameAs for me, I can’t tell you how many times I have not spoken about the Gospel with people I know. I couldn’t find a way to insert it in the conversation.  I couldn’t think of how to bring it up without – in my mind – making it a complete non-sequitor.  It might have been embarrassing.  It might have put them off.  But maybe I should just dive in.  Fight the fights that need fighting.  Get the message out and let the Holy Spirit worry about how the message is received.  Just go after it and do the best I can.

Paul had a lot to make up for in his mind. I’m sure he carried the shame of having persecuted Christ and killed so many innocent Christians.  He knew he was forgiven, but we don’t forget as well as God does.  God says, “I will remember their sins no more.”

I need to fight those fights. I need to wade in and do what needs to be done.  I might lose a friend.  I might tick someone off.  I could lose in any number of ways, but certainly not as much as Paul did.

That’s the real trick, isn’t it? That’s earthly loss.  Heavenly loss is something else.

What I’m really talking about is good works, right?

“20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” James 2:20-22

We need to fight the fights that need fighting, regardless of whether it looks like a winning position in this world. You see, faith saves.  And faith without works is dead.

Then what happens after we die? Well, my Lutheran upbringing tells me we go to heaven as believers.  Cool.  But I’ve also come to learn that we will face judgment.  For example:

woman-shouting“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:26

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Romans 14:10

But Jesus will step in and acknowledge us to His Father as we have acknowledged Him. I still don’t take this judgment lightly, because we will face it, and I believe it will be terrifying to see God’s wrath poised to strike us.  I’m pretty fearful of that time, because I know what I can remember.  Bad enough without all of the rest I can’t remember!

One other piece about heaven. There are levels of heaven.  Check out Matthew 11:11 – “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Or Matthew 5:19 – “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 6: 20 indicates that we can actually make heaven better by virtue of how hard we work for Christ in this world. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

There will be those who will sit in places of greater glory in heaven than others. Those who shirk the tasks God has given, those who are of minimal faith and works will occupy places of lesser glory.

Am I saying we need to start working the system? No!  We need to listen to everything Jesus told us.  He did so, because He wanted us to know and act.  He wants our actions as a loving response to our faith in Him.

Revelations and the letters to the seven church should also give us a chill. Each letter contains reprimands and warnings about the works they do and don’t do.

Charity

Charity

“And I will give to each of you according to your works…And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” Revelations 2:23b & 26.

 

“I know your works…I have not found your perfect before God…He who overcomes shall be clothes in white garments and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelations 3:1, 2b, & 5.

Aren’t we saved by faith? Yes.  Recall, however, the above passage from James, which tells us that faith without works is useless.  Why?

Simply put, we do what we believe we should do. If we don’t think that we should share God, help the downtrodden, and do all things Jesus told us to do, well, we have to question just what we really believe.

I use my works as a mirror, some sort of indicator as to whether I’m fighting the fights God wants fought. I must admit I do a lousy job.  I must do better.  Because I want to please God.  I don’t want my name blotted out of The Book of Life.  I want to see Jesus and everyone else in heaven.

Luke 14:7-11

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.      Philippians 4:8 [Full Chapter]

Book StoreI was browsing around the bookstore this evening and saw some new titles. One title was “You are a Badass; How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.”

First, language people! This was on the New Arrivals shelf maybe 20 feet inside the door.  Kids see this stuff!  Is this how we want them…EVERYONE talking all of the time?

Second, it’s a lousy message. We have no inherent greatness.  That’s the road that leads to self-worship and narcissism.  How about focusing on others and community, building the team?  If everyone starts talking themselves into how great they are, who’s going to be listening?  Who is going to care?

Rather, give up to God and your neighbor in humility. Tooting your own horn won’t get you nearly as far as someone else caring enough to toot it for you!

33 Then He (Jesus) came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”    Mark 9:33-35

Or one of Jesus’ parables:

humilitySo He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”    Luke 14:7-11

The other book I saw was even worse: “The Subtle Art of not giving a F****.” Except it was spelled out with a dirty ink splotch instead of the vowel.  Once more; language, people!

If that’s the best this clown can do with a title, what would make me trust there’s anything subtle anywhere in this book?

The basic premise is a good one. See the Bible passage at the top.  But this profane person wants you to buy his book for $20 or more.

Let me save you some time and money. Read my article Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys from 02/02/2016.

Here endeth the lesson.

Shaking the World

So Jesus said to them, “…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”     Matthew 17:20

MountainI remember the first time I heard the verse from Matthew 17 and wondering what would happen if everyone decided to give that a go. I mean, there aren’t enough mountains, right?  I was young, and tended to take things very literally.

BBBIn a recent online discussion with fellow blogger, BeautyBeyondBones, the idea of doing something earth shattering for someone came up.  Sometimes we do that without any real effort.  Sometimes we do it and never even know it!

I remember someone coming to me once and telling me that I said something that completely changed his life for the better. I couldn’t even remember the visit let alone what I said.  As a college instructor I changed a young woman’s life, and didn’t even know it till after the term.  She came to my office, changed from blond to brunette.  She finally felt like shewas really smart after all and decided to leave behind the “dumb blond” she had always thought she was.  See Smart Blond.

We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we, Wang?   Jack Burton: Big Trouble in Little Chinabig-trouble-little-china

When BeautyBeyondBones does something earth-shattering to help the followers of her blog – and she is very inspirational – she’s not sure she did that much.  I haven’t always known when I’ve made a contribution that made someone else’s life better, that “rocked their world.”  Or tossed their mountain into the sea.

Drink of water

Whoever gives a little one only a cup of cold water…  Matt 10:42

When you or I do something earth shattering for someone else, it isn’t always a Herculean effort on our part. When we live in faith, God works through us to help others.  God gives us spiritual gifts that we use to help those around us.  Just as a bird would find nothing amazing about flying or a fish about swimming, someone with a gift from God finds that changing someone else’s life can take little effort.

 

God can use anyone to accomplish His intended purpose, believers and unbelievers. God using Babylon and other wicked nations and people to accomplish His ends in the Bible are examples.  But here is the difference; when we perform good works through faith, when caring for others comes from acting on Jesus’ love to us, when it blooms as the fruit of the Spirit, we can do so much more than feed someone or give them money.  We can start to show them the way to God!

I am a board member of a Christian charity called Friends of Russian Orphans, F.O.R.O.  This is their mission statement: Friends of Russian Orphans (“FORO”) is an American mission organization, dedicated to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ to Russian orphans and their caregivers through practical assistance and friendship programs.

Bathroom-Stalls-CommercialWe’ve rewired orphanages that were in danger of burning down, replaced holes in the floor over sewage lines with REAL TOILETS, complete with stalls! We’ve paid for education programs to be introduced into some orphanages.  We’ve also introduced Jesus to them in places where we were allowed to.  Showing we did more than talk, we gained credibility and could begin to work with their souls in addition to bodies and minds.

One of our programs was hosting a group of orphans from a Russian orphanage here in the states for two weeks, ten kids or so, accompanied by a couple caregivers from the orphanage to chaperone their travels and help with communication. Each child stayed with a host family, had their own bedroom, went to Vacation Bible School, the zoo, swimming, all sorts of things.

Over half were adopted by their host families over the three years we could do this. The orphanages reported noticeably improved behavior from those who weren’t.  They had seen what a real family can be like, and tried to bring that back with them, buoyed with the hope that life CAN get better!

The last time we were able to do this, one of the chaperones just seemed to be an old sourpuss, some crusty, Russian government employee. We couldn’t help feeling a bit put off that we had paid for her travel along with the rest and she couldn’t show a little courtesy in return.

We would give the chaperones a treat every time of a shopping trip to Chicago for a couple days. FORO’s founder has a sister there, and she put the chaperones up at her house.

Old Crusty got one daughter’s bedroom. The daughter’s white confirmation Bible was on the bed stand.

BibleThe next morning the chaperone came to the kitchen looking like she’d been up all night. The white Bible was in her hand.  She had indeed been up all night, reading God’s Gospel.  All she could say was something along the lines that she had never known any of this.  She was devastated, but…changed.  She wanted to get her own Bible to take home with her, so they spent a good part of the day finding a white confirmation Bible just like the one she read.

They prayed with her, and she accepted Jesus as her Saviour.

Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.    Luke 15:10

It was just a shopping trip from Toledo to Chicago. It was a daughter letting a stranger sleep in her room.  It was a Bible just left where it always was.

But those things shattered her earth, rocked her world, changed her life, tossed her mountain into the sea, and shook the pillars of heaven with the joy of angels over one sinner who repented.

Not bad. For a shopping trip.

DIY Christianity

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.    1 John 1:7

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.    Acts 2:42

“I don’t need to go to church. I believe in God without it.”

“Church on Sunday is MORE than enough!”

“I worship in the beauty of nature…on the golf course.”

“I don’t talk to other people about my faith; it’s a personal thing between God and me.”

Christianity is not a solo act. Never has been. Jesus was in fellowship with His disciples, of which there were many more than just the core 12.  He modeled how to go about preaching, and then He sent them out.

What if any of them, especially the apostles, decided that this was a special, personal time in their lives; something just between them and Jesus? What if Paul never went to Rome?  That is the pivotal event in spreading the Gospel to the world!

We need to share, build each other up, carry each other’s burdens, learn from each other. We need that fellowship 7 days a week!  We need others’ strength when we are weak.  The devil is always looking for someone to pick off.  If you are trying to cross his territory alone, you aren’t likely to make it.  And that’s another thing people need to understand.  This his Satan’s world, not God’s.  It is his for a time before judgement.  God is as close as a prayer, but Satan holds sway right now.  Don’t believe me?  Read the news.

We need more than Sunday morning church and bible class. Those are both good things to do; worship God and learn.  But those things only scratch the surface when it comes to understanding God’s Word.  You can only learn so much in one hour or less per week.  Publisher-prepared materials led by someone without any real training or knowledge will not get you very far either.  You need to not just read, but study!  Find the resources, books, people that can help you increase understanding.

Daniel and Revelation are not easy reads. I used to just give up and head back to the Gospels.  I just couldn’t penetrate them.  God has blessed me in recent years with resources more or less just coming to me unbidden.  I’m learning about prophecy, interpreting the cryptic language that we encounter.  I’m reading a book by someone who knows both Greek and Hebrew and can explain translations and how to read them.

Those books aren’t included as filler material.  They contain things God would have us know.  Are they difficult?  Absolutely!  We aren’t nearly as smart as God; it takes work.  And God is looking for those who really want Him, who really seek Him; not someone who is looking for easy, armchair Christianity.  He wants the sort of commitment that will work at it!

Fellowship on Sunday. Fellowship all week in person.  Fellowship all week on line.  Fellowship in books.

None of us can do it alone. Don’t even try!  In addition to that, it’s more fun that way too!

I’m currently reading Agents of Babylon by Dr. David Jeremiah. It’s an excellent dissection of Daniel.

Words or Actions?

James 2:16

…and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

I have a story to tell you. It’s true.  It happened many years ago, before the ice age.  When I was in high school.

My best friend in high school, Rick, was a musical prodigy. He sang in the Berkshire boy choir, was hand-selected by Leonard Bernstein to sing the altar boy solo in the production of Mass, which opened the Kennedy Center, has perfect pitch down to quarter tones, and gives no one a clue as to just all of the very enviable things he has accomplished in his music career.

That’s how, in high school, he attracted the attention of a lady in her early thirties to be a duo with her. They billed themselves as Sugar and Spice, both singing, Jenny her on guitar, and Rick on piano.  I went to the restaurant and lounge they played at every weekend.  We all became good friends.

Sugar & Spice eventually had to break up when Rick decided to leave town and attend the Interlochen arts academy in Michigan. Jenny moved on as well.

Rick and I have remained close to this day. I’d say about 15 years ago Jenny came back to town to visit family, and we all met up again.  It was great to see her again.  In the intervening years, she had become a Christian, giving her life to Jesus.

She looked at me after sharing this and asked me a question.

“Jeff, have you been a Christian since I first knew you?” I told her I have.

“I knew it!” She said.  “There was always something different about you that I just couldn’t put my finger on.  That was it.”

At this point you might be thinking how good that made me feel, that someone saw my “light shine.” And it did for just seconds, because she had one more question.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

Not a proud moment for me by any stretch.

Some people just preach, thinking that a great witness or a great sermon will win the day. Others – like me in this story – think that living their life as Godly as possible is their witness.

Doing just one of those might get you somewhere, but I think we be shocked at just how ineffective they are when done singly.

To put it another way, you need to walk it and talk it!

Caralyn is…The Beauty Beyond The Bones

2 Corinthians 12:9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.      St. Paul

If you haven’t heard of BeautyBeyondBones, well you’re missing something special. She’s a survivor of anorexia.  Barely.  Her first night at inpatient recovery was spent trying to sleep in the nurses’ station.  Why?  They were afraid she might die in her sleep from her self-imposed starvation.

She was about as far gone as you could get without needing a coroner.

She anonymously started writing her blog about her successful recovery February 2015. In that time her followers have grown to 16,000+.  She definitely has something to say, and she definitely resonates with a real need in people’s hearts and souls.  What started as a cathartic hobby to hopefully help just one other sufferer has exploded.  She’s created a beautiful beast that must now be fed!

She worked up the courage to let go of her anonymity, to claim her name and face to her readers by way of a video. She continues to spread the Good News that it was God’s Spirit and strength that allowed her to recover and live again.

Over the course of 2016 she has broadened her scope of topics while staying mindful of her foundation topic: Eating Disorders (ED). Now she has broadened her reach by developing a site on Patreon.  This is a great two-for-one strategy for her.

When you publish an article twice a week and regularly get hundreds of likes and comments within hours of posting, a lot of time is spent responding to your readership. A young single in New York, she can either let it whither or find a way to afford to take the time to keep it going.

She also has felt the need to get back to her roots – eating disorders. Instead of written blogs, she’s started making short videos to publish at Patreon as she goes through her old journal from her inpatient days.  This is powerful stuff.  You can see this healthy, adjusted young lady telling her tale.  At the same time, you see her eyes change as she remembers things she might rather leave buried.  True to her Christian mission, she tells us, “If I can help just one person…”

Patreon is a site that asks for sponsors. You can offer $1 per month or however much the site seems worth to you.  This helps her with income so she can take the time to keep her mission going instead of having to take another job.

Let me be clear at this point; I have no horse in this race. Nothing.  NADA.  As a Christian blogger, I’m committed to helping someone else who is doing her best and is successfully doing God’s work.  How many of us would LOVE to have 16,000+ followers inside of two years?!?  God is blessing her ministry.  I think that’s worthy of support!!

Here’s my first article introducing and supporting her ministry early this year: https://jeffreyhking.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/beauty-and-the-ed-beast/

Where I started reading her blog: https://beautybeyondbones.com/read-this-first/

And where to find out about supporting her on Patreon if you find something worthwhile in the first two links: https://beautybeyondbones.com/support-bbb-on-patreon/

I hope 3 things:

  • That her message enriches your life
  • That you know someone who could use her inspiration
  • That you will see your way to support her ministry at Patreon

As always,

Jeff