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Category Archives: Witnessing
My whole life, I’ve been told that Christians must witness to others. If you really love others, really care about their souls, you’ll do it. If you don’t do it, you’re not a good Christian. That’s what I’ve been told.
Well, in spite of loving the Lord and following Him to the best of my ability, I have always had trouble sharing my faith. I have suffered a great deal of guilt for this over the last 25 years or so. I guess I always figured that when I finally loved the Lord enough, or when I finally loved people enough, I’d do it.
Something has changed in me, but not for the reasons I expected. Lately, I have been absolutely fearless in sharing my faith. I don’t believe that I love people any more than I ever have. However, something did provide the catalyst I needed for change, and that was the realization that the whole Word of God is in complete harmony with itself. I’m talking Old and New Testaments. I’m talking about the Law and God’s grace.
This realization has worked two distinct changes in me. The first is obedience. The more I submit to His unchanging will, the more I realize that He only ever intended the Law for our good. I feel protected, counseled and disciplined by a perfect, loving Father. I have never felt so secure in my entire life. His Law works love in me. When lawlessness (iniquity) abounds in our lives, our love waxes cold (Matthew 24:12). Love is a direct result of obedience, and obedience is a direct result of love. Actually, there is no other way for us to show Him love outside of obedience. We can say we love Him, but words are meaningless without actions.
The second change is this: I have always felt unsure about expecting others to believe something just because I do. That is flat-out the number one reason I have found it so difficult to witness to others. If they were to ask me why I believed, I feared I wouldn’t have an answer for them outside of personal experience. Experience that I cannot pass on to the listener, no matter how sincere I am.
However, when the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw the beauty of the Law revealed in Jesus Christ, and realized that it perfectly foreshadowed His redemptive work on the cross, and that His work fulfilled every righteous requirement of the Father, I discovered that the entire Bible made perfect sense, and that anyone with an open heart could understand that something this perfect couldn’t have been faked. When the OT is understood in light of the New, and when the NT is understood in light of the Old, every supposed contradiction withers up and dies. Now, all that remains is to prove that His Word is perfect. That’s my mission.
All throughout the Law and prophets, the Father drops hundreds of hints concerning the work of the Messiah. These are the things I have been writing about. He guides history in such a way that every story points to Christ. He sets up seemingly impossible requirements for salvation. Then, in one man’s lifetime, He ties up every loose end with such precision that it could only have been by the hand of God. Coincidence can’t even begin to account for the harmony between the testaments. They were authored by the same God, and that God does not change.
This is what has emboldened me. I feel that I can prove that Jesus is who He says He is – our Messiah. Every time I find just a few more minutes to study, it seems I find another amazing proof – one I never saw coming. His amazing love, His great big plan, His holiness – everything about Him leaves me in astonishment. I have to share Him with you.
I have heard people say that God spoke to them audibly. I have never known exactly what to think of that, even though I am sure that God is quite capable of doing anything He feels like doing. A few years ago, however, I had an experience that made me wonder.
I was attending chapel at my college. It was probably the first or second time I had ever been to chapel there. Even though the university had a chapel-attendance policy, I was exempt; I was a commuting student and was rarely on campus during chapel sessions. I don’t remember what the message was about that day, but I remember sitting there in my own little world talking to God. I was asking Him what He wanted for my life. Normally, we see or hear words, but this was a completely different experience. While I didn’t hear an audible voice, I felt the very distinct impression of two specific words: Serve Me.
“Impression” is the only word I can think of that even comes close what I felt. Now as to whether these words came straight from heaven, or whether they were just the culmination of everything that I already knew, I have no idea. But as I was thinking about this experience later, more and more I got the impression that I should have already known the answer. It doesn’t really matter whether God spoke directly to me, or whether I just happened to figure it out in that instant. Either way, I’m absolutely sure what God wants me to do with the rest of my life: serve Him.
Serve Him. Am I being too simplistic? I don’t think so. I guess you could just brush it off as a phrase that you have heard one too many times. Maybe it has lost its meaning to you. But if you will take a moment to consider the implications, I think you will see that those two little words offer a life-changing experience. Taken literally, they have the power to change the life of everyone who comes into contact with you. Those words, acted upon, will function as a stone tossed into the middle of a sea of souls. Whether a large stone or a small one is entirely up to you.
How do I serve Him? One obvious way we can serve Him is by serving others. “…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40b.
Why do I think I should have already known the answer?
Because God has already told us to serve. It is not a suggestion, but a standing order. “…but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5:13c-14.
Because Jesus is our example. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.
Christ’s first miracle as a man occurred because there was a need to be met. John 2:1-11.
The question then, is how can we serve? Find a person with a need and fill it. Find an organization that helps people with needs and volunteer. No act of kindness is too small. The more spontaneous, unexpected, and undeserved it is, the greater impact it will have. If you have an abundance of time or money, start by offering these. If you don’t have either, find ways to consume less of what you do have so that you will have some left over to share with others. What do you think is more effective: knocking on doors and inviting complete strangers to church, or serving someone in the community, stranger or not, and following up with a conversation about Christ? They may even ask you why in the world you are offering your time, money, sweat, etc. This will open the door to explain how your actions are nothing compared to the love of God and the free, undeserved gift of salvation.
When can we serve? Start by cutting out as much television as you possibly can. Remember that everything in this world will be burned up, and that we could be taken off this earth at literally any moment. Get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later. Take a week or a month, and inventory how you spend your time. Try not to worry too much about loss of personal time. Time means nothing to those who have an eternity to look forward to. Any time lost to serving others and spreading the gospel will most certainly be redeemed after you are resurrected. You will be laying up treasure in heaven. Of course, you must still make time for your family: they are your responsibility, and serving them is just as important as serving others.
Do you ever feel like you can’t do anything else without direction from God? Do you feel you have been waiting for years, and you are just tired of waiting? Sometimes I fear that we Christians use “waiting on God” as an excuse. He has already given us direction for our lives. Why do we think we need to wait for a personal word from God, in addition to what He has given us in His Word? Are we waiting for Him to drop an opportunity into our laps? Are we waiting to be the leader of a ministry? Our own ministry? That’s our first mistake. Ministry is about everyone except us. Sometimes, we don’t recognize God’s will because it doesn’t line up with our own will. He wants us working, not sitting around waiting for Him to knock us over the head with an answer that we approve of. I’m not suggesting that we stop waiting on the Lord. He commands us to do that as well. I’m merely suggesting that we do both – obey His commandments, and wait, expecting Him to lead us to the next step.
Challenge: Still waiting on God? All well and good. But in the meantime, obey the call to service.
I know that everything in my life adds up. It all makes sense, like a puzzle coming together perfectly. Because of this, and because of the amazing things I read in the Word, and because of the wonderful things that science cannot explain (but the Word of God can), I find it easy to believe in God and to trust Him. Yet, somehow, I have difficulty explaining my belief to others.
I feel that salvation is not an argument to be won – as if I could somehow pass my belief along to others if I could only use the right words. Salvation – and by extension, Christianity – is not merely a philosophy or a way to live; it is something more. It is something that defines every aspect of the Christian’s life, informs every decision. It is a whole-hearted acceptance of the Creator-God and His authority, love, and forgiveness over your life.
I believe that those seeking Him will find Him, and those who choose to reject Him will overlook Him, even if He appears physically before them. (Let’s face it, it’s happened before.) However, I want my words, my actions, my very existence to be a testimony to the fact that He does indeed exist and take part in our lives. I want to be vocal and approachable for any potential seekers that come into contact with me or my writing.
Six months ago, I read a post about agenda-driven fiction. And I must say, I love what the author had to say.
As Christians, reaching others for Christ should be our only agenda. Our education, our career, our relationships, every decision we make should be weighed against what we are accomplishing for the kingdom. We don’t see many Christians today who are living a life exclusively for God. We get too wrapped up in ourselves, in our aspirations. A part of me envies the missionaries and others who are doing nothing but serving. I want to be a light in the darkness, but too many times, I want to do it on my own terms. Because I am only here for a short while, I want to meet my goals that I have laid out for myself. But since we do have such a short sojourn in this world, all the more reason we should be spending our time reaching others. How am I spending my time? What am I writing? Am I too busy writing what I imagine myself publishing in five or ten years? Something that I imagine will be admired by the world? Or should all of my writing material point to Christ? I agree with the writer of this post: if something that I write reaches just one person, the time I spent writing it will be worth more than anything I can earn writing a parade of best-sellers.
I have a really grown-up vision of heaven. In my mind, it’s not a place where people sit around all day playing harps and walking along the riverfront in white robes. (Although, there may be some of that, if that’s what pleases you.) But in my mind, it’s a thriving, bustling community with things to do – things yet to learn – and our Heavenly Father at the center of everything. You see, after the old earth melts with a fervent heat, God is going to create a new one (II Peter 3:10-12, Revelation 21:1-2). Now as a child, I thought that we were all going to live up in the sky somewhere in a place called heaven for the rest of eternity – but I don’t believe that anymore. You see, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven to the earth. God is preparing that city as we speak (John 14:2-3, Revelation 21:2), but its final home will be on the new earth. People will inhabit the earth as it was originally meant to be inhabited. Now, imagine the world today as though Eve had never sinned. Imagine what society would be like. All of the creativity, all of the discovery, all of interesting ideas and inventions that have turned up in the past six thousand years, only without being corrupted by sin. No really – close your eyes for a moment and just think about it…Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. I used to be afraid that I would be bored, and not have anything to do or to learn. But then, as I came to know God better and understand Him more clearly, I realized that the desire to learn was created by Him and instilled in me. He knows it’s a good thing. And if, for some reason, he does take that away from us (in case we know everything already, which I don’t find desirable at all), He will replace that desire with something better, more compelling, more able to keep us entertained and interested throughout the eons of time.
For years now, I’ve looked at it this way: Say you’re at work. It’s your last day of work for the rest of your life. Tomorrow, when you wake up, you will be a healthy, retired citizen with a bankroll that would make a millionaire jealous. Sounds appealing, right? Well, that’s where I am right now. In fact, if you are a Christian, that’s where you are too. We just have a few more years to go, and then…well, the rest! Eternity, and our Best Friend, and all the rest forever. Whenever I have a really bad day (whether it’s dealing with confrontational people or the loss of a loved one, or whatever), I like to remind myself of this: the time it’s going to take me to live the rest of my life on earth (be it seventy years or seventy minutes) won’t amount to a drop of water in the ocean of my life. I’m getting ready to retire! I can handle anything life throws at me because of that fact.
This is probably my most popular post of all time:
Today, you can read many blogs and articles that discuss the issue of homeschooling in today’s world. And that’s natural; homeschooling is becoming the norm in many Christian circles (speaking from my own experience). The idea is hitting home with thousands of people across the nation as they consider their alternatives. Homeschoolers are out there. They need help. They need encouragement. But once in a while, they need a good kick in the pants.
People hate us.
I met a lot of strangers over the summer. One day, I conversed with a very personable woman at my son’s swimming lessons. We had been chatting for several minutes, when she asked my son what grade he would be going into. He responded with, “I’m in second already.” It was the middle of July. She looked at me kind of funny, so I said, “We homeschool, and he’s doing a few subjects over the summer.” She didn’t say anything at all. In fact, she immediately turned her entire body from me and started talking to the person sitting on the other side of her. She didn’t speak to me or look at me again for the rest of the week.
Why do some people treat homeschoolers that way? If we had been born into some other era, homeschooling would be normal. But in today’s world, it’s looked upon with disgust and mistrust. As I was writing yesterday’s post about the ability to conduct good conversations, I mentioned conversing about the topic of homeschooling. I began to honestly ask myself, “What causes people to respond to us with hatred?” I could give the obvious answers: we are the minority, people are afraid of things that are “different” or things they don’t understand, we live in an age that believes that the public education system is one of the crowning achievements of our society, some people are uncomfortable with the thought of families separating themselves for God, etc. All of those things are true, and there’s nothing we can do about them. We aren’t wrong to homeschool, so we do it anyway, and that’s that. It doesn’t matter what other people think. But people have another reason to hate us, you know. One that does matter. One that is our fault.
If you take the time to research, you can find a lifetime supply of “homeschooling-how-to” articles or “why-you-should-homeschool” articles. More and more, however, your search will also turn up very defensive material. You will find things like:
“The parents of public-schooled children are just jealous because homeschooled children perform better on tests.”
“Some families aren’t thrifty enough to live on a one-income budget, so they sacrifice their children instead of their stuff.”
“Many moms can’t stand to be around their children all day because they are just selfish.”
“Parents today have become too lazy to discipline and teach their own children because they know the school system will do it for them.”
And you know what? Those statements do apply to some people. But we’re missing a key point here. Here’s why they hate us:
Because we think we are better than them.
They stereotype us because we stereotype them. It seems that “we” are always flaunting our superiority over “them.” You know, we aren’t better people. Our sin is so disgusting in the sight of God as to make our righteousness indistingishable. We don’t deserve God’s love and grace anymore than anyone else on the face of the planet. God doesn’t love you more than he loves any other person.
It seems the more we try to obey God, the more “together” our lives are, the more we look down our noses at other people. Just one example (of many) from my own life: There have been a couple of long periods of time that I went without darkening the door of a church building. The strangest thing though: as soon as I started going back to church, I started looking around at all of the other people in my life and judging them for being out of church. Could my memory of my own sins be any shorter? Every time I make a positive change in my life, I struggle with this. I am not better than anyone else. I am not better than anyone else.
It helps me to remember my sins, how I’ve lived in the past, how I would live if I didn’t know Him, how I fail every day (even though I know better – even though I know how much it hurts God). Shouldn’t that make me worse than the rest, instead of better, since I am fully aware of how much my sin hurts Him? It’s a good thing God loves us all equally. In addition to lots of personal contemplation, I pray for humility all the time. It seems my prayers can’t keep up with my arrogance however, because I am always facing this issue.
Homeschoolers in general seem arrogant to me. Am I wrong? I’m sorry if I’m wrong. However, if there’s anyone out there who’s like me and needs help with this issue on a daily basis, here’s what I think we should do: Stop worrying about how other people live. Stop comparing yourself to them to make yourself feel better. Compare yourself to Christ, see how short you fall, repent every day, always do your best, and love everybody. A humble, righteous lifestyle speaks for itself, as does homeschooling. Maybe if we can change our arrogant attitudes, the fog of rage would dissipate from the eyes of onlookers, and they would be able to see us clearly.
You say you are training your children up to be witnesses? You be the witness. They will have a good example to follow. Love and respect people; it’s a great place to start.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Yesterday, I talked a little about making strangers feel comfortable. Sometimes, just talking a little can really help someone open up and feel at ease. If you are in a large group of people (at church especially), search out the person who looks the least comfortable or the most lonely, and strike up a good conversation with them.
What is a good conversation? Well, first of all, you want to pick a topic that the other person will be interested in. If crowds make you nervous too, say so! (I wouldn’t mention the fact that they look nervous, and that’s why you came to chat.) If you can find anything else in common with this person, talk about it. Think of your surroundings. Maybe you are at church or a seminar. What brought you there? What brought the other person there? If you don’t already know, ask. You probably already have something in common, as attested to by the mere fact that you are sharing the same space on the same day. If you just can’t think of anything, compliment jewelry or children – anything to get started. Talking about the weather is even acceptable, as long as you don’t leave it at that!
Try not to come across as superior. Maintain a humble attitude. Talk about your weaknesses (if you can do so without whining or complaining). Whatever you do, don’t one-up them! There are two ways to do that, by the way. You can either make your life look extremely better than theirs, or extremely worse. If you are truly concerned about the comfort level of the other person, you will steer clear of both extremes.
It’s difficult not to talk about our own children, cars, etc, especially if we are proud of them (or frustrated with them). But only mention your situation if it can help establish empathy for the other person. For instance, when people mention that their children aren’t doing well in school because they have a short attention span, I’ll say that my kid has a short attention span too. Sometimes I’ll add an illustration. I haven’t one-upped them; I’ve just established that I understand where they’re coming from. The last thing I would do is tell them that that’s one of the many reasons I homeschool, and then proceed to explain how well my kid is doing with his schoolwork. (I might, however, ask them if they have considered homeschooling. If they show an interest, I would of course answer any questions they might have. If they don’t show an interest, I wouldn’t push the benefits of homeschooling. Some people just aren’t in a position to homeschool, and others haven’t opened their minds to the idea. Just be friendly and humble.)
If you can be funny, go for it! Laughter is a great ice breaker. But more than finding the right responses, it’s important to just listen, as long as they feel like talking. If you can see that talking makes them even more uncomfortable, leave them alone, and find someone else to chat with.
Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.
During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.
So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.
So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.
Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.
In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
I wish I could put into words how this verse makes me feel. We’ve all heard John 3:16 so many times, that we tend to overlook its deep meaning. We’re desensitized. I think people get the feeling that God is trying to guilt them into serving Him.
But this verse in Zephaniah is fresh. It proves to me how much God really does love me. Enough to give His son, of course. But even more than that. Enough to sing over me. I am precious to Him. He enjoys my company; desires my fellowship.
It kind of reminds me of my relationship with my husband. I told someone the other day that I really like my husband, and they said, “Well, you love him!” But to me, liking my husband is even more important than loving him. I love a lot of people – I care intensely about them and what happens to them. But I really like my husband. I like being around him, talking to him, spending time with him. This is the way God feels about us! Not only does He love us, but He likes us too!
This verse does a couple of things for me: first, it makes me feel deeply loved (and liked!).
Second, it makes me really wanna hang out with my best friend, who also happens to be the Creator of the universe.
Third, it helps me forgive others because I realize that this verse can apply to anyone walking the face of the earth. Even those who aren’t saved yet still have the potential to get saved, and to bring this much joy into the heart of God. It helps me remember how precious each and every person is.