What kind of witness are you?

As we approach Easter, our opportunity to share the Gospel to the world, I’ve been thinking about just how scary personal evangelism can be, especially in the current climate of hostility toward Christianity. 

We are called to be witnesses, no matter how difficult it may seem. 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 you sometimes console yourself for not speaking up 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?

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

While you may feel uncomfortable witnessing, either one-on-one or to a group, when the LORD presents you with an opportunity it is important to step up.

We must consciously prepare our personal narrative and be unashamed in sharing it whenever and wherever the situation arises and the Spirit leads. It isn’t enough to be a silent witness for Christ.

“Silent Witness” is a British TV series about the forensic clues found on a murder victim. 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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St. Patrick: The Man Behind the Myth

You sometimes hear it said there is a germ of truth in every legend. As with St. Valentine and St. Nicolas, the mythology we celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day was built upon the life and history of a real person. In honor of the day, I’m sharing the following article from Ligonier Ministries for our edification:

Who Was Saint Patrick?  By Stephen Nichols

  When it comes to Saint Patrick, the true story is even more exciting than the legend and the myth. The facts are far better than the fable. This day that belongs to St. Patrick has become about leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, and green—green everywhere. Famously, the City of Chicago dumps forty pounds of its top-secret dye into the river. A green racing stripe courses through the city. But long before there was the St. Patrick of myth, there was the Patrick of history. Who was Patrick? Patrick was born in 385 in Roman Britannia in the modern-day town of Dumbarton, Scotland. Patrick opens his autobiographical St. Patrick’s Confession with these opening lines:

“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers…”

Patrick skips over much of his first sixteen years. But who can blame him? At sixteen and being captured by barbarian Irish pirates is a pretty exciting place to begin a story. When the pirates landed on the Irish coast, they took Patrick about 200 miles inland where he was a shepherd and farm laborer. Six years passed and Patrick had either a vivid dream or a vision in which he was shown an escape route. Emboldened, Patrick made his break from his captors, traveling back over the 200 miles to the shoreline. As he approached the docks, a British ship stood waiting. The sails unfurled and Patrick was home. But he didn’t stay long.

 READ MORE by clicking the link or going online to https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/who-was-saint-patrick-and-should-christians-celebrate-st-patricks-day

Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Two Words to remember

In the original King James Version, the two words the New Testament records as repeated most often from the lips of Christ are, “Fear not.”  (While other translations say, “do not fear,” the command is the same.)

In the Hebrew language, emphasis was made by repetition. The fact that Jesus said these words so often lets us know how important they are, especially for us today.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:7

While modern Christians in the West have long feared the world’s ridicule and mockery, our persecution has moved beyond lack of respect and become fear of loss of our freedoms. In other countries Christians are actually being slaughtered for their faith.

Christ knew what we would be called upon to face and how frightening it would be. Now is the time to cling to our faith ever more boldly.

The words, “Fear not” don’t only apply to world situations and possible persecution, however. They are even more important when dealing with personal anxieties and painful situations.

When things seem to be spinning out of control and we see pain and loss coming into our lives, remembering God’s love and His promises can give us the courage and strength necessary to meet the challenges ahead.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

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Whose image do you see?

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Matthew 11:2-6

While studying the book of Matthew, I was struck by the author of the commentary’s emphasis on Christ’s compassion and understanding toward John the Baptist in answering his need for reassurance in the verses above. I am afraid that I always read this Scripture with an entirely different take on Christ’s response. I had read frustration with John into the words of Jesus, with the subtext of, “Don’t you remember when the Holy Spirit came down when you baptized me and we heard God clearly say I am His beloved Son?”

I must confess to having a wide streak of snideness in my nature. It would have been completely in my character to respond to John’s need for reassurance in an exasperated or condescending way. I’m not proud of this, and I recognize it as one of my many failings. I’m working on it.

But my great shock was to see that I had subconsciously imbued the Lord with my attitude. I was guilty of seeing Christ in my own flawed image.

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

We are told that many believers struggle with seeing God the Father through the lens of their earthly parent, especially when that parent was less than ideal. I had never considered that this same sort of distortion could infect our image of Christ.

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come![

2 Corinthians 5:17

This personal revelation is inspiring me to look more deeply into the nature of Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures, in order to suss out any other skewed ideas I may have.

As we are to be imitators of Christ, it is important to see Him clearly.

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1
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Too self-conscious to be meek?

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Some folks seem to confuse meekness with shyness. But shyness is usually the result of being self-conscious; being focused on one’s self and the impression one is making upon others. True meekness is other-consciousness; being focused on making others feel comfortable and secure.

When trying to identify the components of Biblical meekness, one of the first attributes I think of is humility. Genuine humility is a recognition of the self-hood of others, the awareness that each person is as worthy of love and respect as I am. True humility accepts the validity of another person’s thoughts and feelings as being as real as one’s own, whether we agree or not.

In today’s atmosphere, meekness and humility may be mistaken for weakness, but to be humble in the face of aggression requires great strength. Strength of faith and the recognition that even those who oppose us are precious to our Creator.

When meekness enters your heart, the awe and gratitude you feel when you try to wrap your brain around the magnitude of the love of God for you, becomes meekness and humility when extended to others.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

God loves the world and wants everyone, whoever, to know and love him. Christian humility may help those you meet want to know God more.

Meekness is not the absence of bold or courageous faith. True meekness is the absence of fear and competition in our relationships. It is trusting God to take care of justice and fairness.

Resting on faith in his word and his unchanging love, we are free to live as inheritors of this Earth and citizens of the next.

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Steadfast when shaken

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

The recent horrendous earthquake in Turkey with its thousands of deaths is too much for most of us to comprehend. We want to do something to help, but the enormity of the destruction and the distance that separates us from it can make us numb to the reality of the individual human cost.

Tragic events such as this can also make us look for explanations. We want to make sense of it all We want to know how to respond.

I believe that God is loving, just, and also in control, so even tragedies somehow fit into His plan.

I also believe that sometimes he uses individuals to bring about his will and that when we are not attuned to his leading we deny ourselves blessings. God’s Will most definitely will be done regardless of any human intervention, but he wants us to share in his perfect plan and experience every joy he has for us.

When I hear about tragedies with so much pain and loss, I wonder how to respond. How can God use me? How can he use you?

We can pray for comfort and strength for the survivors. We can donate to funds to help the victims and families. And we can take every opportunity to influence the people in our own life with kindness and respect.

I truly believe that God is in control in this world and I do not need to insist on understanding how everything works together for good in order to be used by him to fulfill his plans.

I cannot defeat evil and bring peace and justice to the whole world, but I can do whatever I am able to do. I can do the next right thing.

To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:3
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Do ALL things work together for good?

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Okay, so we know that eventually God ‘s perfect will is going to be done, sure, but how can we believe that the events of the past three years were for our own good?

God is all-powerful. That should go without saying as an absolute requirement to be God. This means that everything we encounter in this life, good and bad, has been allowed by Him. He could have stopped the difficult and the painful, but He chose not to. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because He does.

So, what good is supposed to come out of the chaos and insanity of these times? It took a little effort, but one good lesson I learned is expressed in Psalm 40:

How blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and does not seek help from the proud or from liars

Psalm 40:4

In all the national upheaval of pandemics and elections it is easy to get caught up in putting our faith in parties or people. The past three years have been a great example of that folly.

Do not resent God’s discipline

Struggles, hardships, and discipline are seldom enjoyable, but they are undeniably character building.

When our circumstances seem bad, we must look harder to find the good. Those times are when it is most important to cling to God’s promises.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
    a father’s delight is behind all this.

Proverbs 3:5-12 (MSG)
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The Value of Life

Earlier this week I read about an interview with controversial physician, Ezekiel Emanuel, regarding an essay he’d written in 2014, “Why I Hope to Die at 75“. Doctor Emanuel stated that older Americans live too long in a diminished state, raising the question of, as he put it, “whether our consumption is worth our contribution.”

I was shocked that a physician, a healer, would have such a stereotypical attitude to anyone over the arbitrary age of 75. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all lived vigorously into their late nineties, contributing to their families right up to the end. Despite naysayers like Dr. Emanuel, the elderly have much to offer in the way of experience, wisdom, courage, and compassion.

There is great pressure in our society to remain eternally young. When we don’t achieve this impossible goal, we are made to feel somehow ashamed of the evidence of our age. It is almost impossible not to buy into this foolishness, but as the elderly character Mrs. Thistlethwaite says in my Christian fiction books, “Old age is a privilege and an adventure.” Looking at aging from this perspective may help us enter old age with the gratitude and flair necessary to enjoy this rare privilege and adventure all the days God grants us.

Most of us adjust to aging with resignation. Society makes it difficult for us to embrace advancing age with any enthusiasm.

However, 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 proven 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? And be treated with respect, as well?

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

Most importantly, the passage from youth to old age is part of God’s plan. It is totally natural. We can nip and tuck, inject and cover-up, gulp vitamins and exercise to the point of exhaustion, but age will out. These bodies weren’t meant to last forever. They are recyclable, biodegradable containers to carry our maturing character and spirit into the next great adventure.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4 

Life, every life, is worthy of respect, from the womb to the last breath.

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It can’t hurt to ask

When my sons were small they believed there was nothing that I couldn’t do. When they asked for anything they were certain that I could provide it; not that I necessarily would, but that I could, if I were willing to. Their precious trust warmed my heart.

I thought about that one morning when I dared to ask God for something completely selfish. I began to wonder just how God looks at such a childishly self-centered prayer.

The Bible instructs us to pray at all times, and in John 14:13-14 Jesus reminds us that we are to ask for anything in his name.

When I remember how I felt about my sons’ complete trust in me, I imagine that God might be gratified by such faith, as well. When Christ says in Luke 18 that the Kingdom of God belongs to people who are like little children, he may well be referring to just such trust.

Is it possible that an honest prayer of self-interest is more pleasing to God than a hundred attempts to impress him with the “right sentiments”?

Praying my audacious prayer filled me with hope that God might decide to grant it. Unlike a mortal parent, God really can do anything. If he chooses not to, I know God loves me and wants what’s best for me. I don’t need to filter my requests.

God will decide what is best for his children. So, anytime, anywhere, and for anything, go ahead and pray.

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We all need hospice care

I heard an ad for a Hospice Care Provider the other day. The description of the care given to dying patients by this company sounded wonderful. The ad made dying sound like almost a pleasure with such care. As a flippant, “Gee, too bad I’m not dying…” flashed through my mind, it hit me that, of course, I am dying, We all are.

The dictionary gives two meanings to the word hospice. The first is a house of shelter or rest for pilgrims, strangers, etc., especially one kept by a religious order.

The second definition is a healthcare facility for the terminally ill that emphasizes pain control and emotional support for the patient and family, or a program of care and support for the terminally ill at home or in a nursing home.

Perhaps if we took the same care of one another’s comfort and dignity on a day-to-day basis as the hospice care people do for their clients this would be a much nicer world.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

In one respect the family of God is in the hospice care business, helping people live the most beautiful, fulfilling lives they can as they journey toward inevitable death…only we have an extra benefit to offer: eternal life with Jesus.

Christian churches are meant to be houses of shelter and rest for pilgrims, both friends and strangers, as we seek God on our way to the Eternal City. That’s why we call them sanctuaries.

Praise the Lord

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Psalm 150:1
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