Can I Get a Witness?

I remember my first band camp experience as a freshman in high school at Briarcrest. I remember how badly I wanted to fit in and be accepted. In other words, I was very much a typical teenager.

There was a junior named Rhett who took me under his wing, so to speak, and who didn’t treat me like the awkward freshman I probably was at that point in my life. He talked to me about music and even introduced me to some of his favorite bands. He didn’t talk down to me or treat me as an inferior. He treated me like a friend. That’s what I needed.

Most of us go through at least one season in our lives where we feel unnoticed and unappreciated. We feel invisible and wonder if what we do matters (or if we matter). We wonder if the world would miss us if we were suddenly gone (or maybe even if the world wouldn’t be better off without us at all).

We need that one person who will see us, that one person who will say in essence, “Yes, I see you. Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will be a witness to it. No matter what you’re going through, I’m with you.”

Maybe we need to seek out one person so that we can be a witness to their life. Maybe you can’t change the world, but for one person you can make a world of difference.

I know for me Rhett make a world of difference. I lost touch with him after my freshman year, but I’ve never forgotten how much his acceptance and friendship meant to me in a time when I desperately needed it. I wish I could thank him for that.

Hopefully, someone will say that about me one day and then turn around and pay it forward.

 

The Legacy of Little Things

“A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of His fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race).

That’s it. Your seemingly insignificant little life could be the ripple in the pond that affects the world. Your small random acts of kindness might leave a legacy that will outlast you.

Mother Teresa once said that there are no great acts but only small acts done with great love. Even your sheer optimism and dogged determination in dealing with the daily drudgeries can have an impact on people that you may never meet in this lifetime.

People are watching. People notice. For better or worse, how you act and how you react will inform others on how much you really believe what you profess. Your life may be the only Bible that some will ever read.

While that could be daunting on one hand, on the other, it’s a reminder that no good deed done out of faith is ever in vain. Your life, small and trivial as it seems, matters.

One day, someone might just tell you. It will most likely be someone you never would have suspected even knew you existed. There could be ten others who you will never meet but whose lives will be just as changed by your faithfulness in the trivialities and details.

My cat snoring is a sign telling me I’d better wrap this up quickly. Ultimately, you being as true to who God made you to be and being faithful where God puts you is as powerful a testimony as any of the dramatic conversions out there.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

Witness to Your Life

Sometimes, the most powerful impact we can have over someone’s life is a silent one. There are no words necessary.

Sometimes there is nothing more meaningful than to look at someone as if to say, “I see you. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. I am a witness to the fact of your existence and your life is not in vain.”

So many are hungry for such a look. They so desperately need to know that somebody — anybody– sees them in all their hurt and despair. They want answers and a way out, but just as much they want at least one person to see their struggle. Even more than a kind word, a smile at just the right time can be the difference between life and death, pressing on and giving up.

I’m comforted to know that there is never a moment when God doesn’t see me. Not in the sense of waiting for my transgression to pounce on me in vengeful wrath, but in the sense of a loving Father who wants to guide His child safely through.

There is nothing I can experience that God in Jesus did not also live through. There is no temptation, no struggle, no pain that He isn’t familiar with, and thus there is no time and place where He won’t provide a way through or a way out.

Maybe this week take time to give a smile to someone you pass in the hall or on the street. Maybe offer a greeting. You never know the power of those kind words that come out of really seeing and acknowledging someone as one of God’s children.

Once you understand the Father’s heart toward you, you begin to live out of the overflow of unconditional love and acceptance and there is enough love to pass around to someone else who needs it as badly as you.

 

Keep On Walking

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing10 For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago” (Ephesians 2:8-10, The Voice).

At Room in the Inn, some guys from The Church at Station Hill led a Bible study for the homeless men on Ephesians 2. What caught my attention was the part in verse 10 where Paul states that we are God’s poem, created by God for good works, which He prepared ahead of time that we should walk in them.

The guy leading the study pointed out that walking denotes remaining steady and grounded. It means you aren’t flashy and don’t garner a lot of attention, but you are faithful in the little things and the daily chores. It’s a day-by-day thing, more of a marathon than a sprint.

Plus, it’s more than lip-service. It does no good to know all about the Bible if you live contrary to what it says. It does no good when you profess faith with your lips then deny it with your lifestyle (to borrow from the original Ragamuffin, Brennan Manning.

Walking in good works means that you make a habit of doing what God says to do, not in your own way, but in God’s way. It doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally falter and fail, but that you never stop striving for obedience and faithfulness to Jesus.

Rather than hearing us quote verses and spout doctrine, what those around us really need to see is a quiet life of committed faithfulness and staying true to the path of walking in what God commands. That in itself is the greatest witness a believer can have.

All that from one Bible study.

 

As You Go

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG).

I remembered something about this verse that somebody told me a long time ago.

The idea of this verse is this: as you’re going, make disciples of all the nations.

That means that wherever you go, whatever you do, wherever you are, make disciples.

To make a disciple you have to first be a disciple then live like one. It does no good to try to preach something that you’re not living (or worse living diametrically in opposition to).

Pastor Mike Glenn has said more than once that the reason the world hates Christians is not because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough. They’re too much like the people they’re trying to convert.

That’s where discipleship comes in. If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then I should start to look and act like Him. Then when I make disciples, they won’t look like me at all. They’ll look like the same Jesus that I look like.

That means you.

Too many of us expect people who make their living in the ministry, yet the Bible says that we are all ministers. Some of us will be able to reach people that paid ministers could never touch.

I do believe that making disciples involves speaking your witness (something I’ve never been very good at), yet the most important way to make disciples is to live what you preach as much as you speak it. I think it was D. L. Moody who said that for every person who reads the Bible, ten will read the Christian and his lifestyle.

That’s something to think about.

 

Long Journey Home

“We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God- which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in His grace” (Os Guinness, Long Journey Home).

That’s it.

It’s not that I found Jesus. As one pastor I know always puts it, it’s not Jesus who was lost. I was. Jesus found me.

It may sound like semantics to you, but I think it’s important to know the difference.

Salvation is all God. It’s not like I was smart enough to figure it out or brave enough to seek it out. If God hadn’t sought me out first, I never would have sought Him in the first place.

That’s humbling. I can take no credit whatsoever for my being saved. It is all of grace.

That’s also good news. It means that if it’s not up to human efforts or human goodness, then anyone can find it (or better yet, anyone can be found). There’s no such thing as too lost, too far gone, too out of reach for God.

That helps when you’re praying for a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father who seems hopelessly unreachable. It helps when you have a friend who seems bent on self-destructing and won’t let you help.

There are countless stories of those whom the world had basically given up on that God saved. The best example is the Apostle Paul. Maybe the next one will be someone you love. Maybe the next one will be you.

 

RIght Living and Right Speaking

Occasionally, the creative well runs dry and I end up “borrowing” from other great writers. One of my favorites that I’ve quoted many times in the past is Henri Nouwen (who along with Brennan Manning are probably my two favorite authors).

Here’s what he wrote that again struck me so powerfully:

“To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world.  What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking.   When we forgive our neighbours from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words.  When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.

When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages.  Giving double messages – one with our words and another with our actions – makes us hypocrites.   May our lives give us the right words and may our words lead us to the right life.”

Right speaking comes out of right living. People will sense the authenticity of your words when they see what you say lived out. Your faith will be more caught than taught, and if your words don’t match your actions, then people will dismiss the words and not the actions.

If I speak and act out of a need to be liked or thought well of, then what I say and do won’t be as effective as if I speak and act as one who knows who he is and who knows that he is the Beloved of God. My identity informs my authenticity.

I hope and pray that from this point on I will speak only what I live, and I will live only what God has already spoken about me.

 

Another Kairos Challenge 


Tonight, Matt Pearson laid down a challenge at Kairos. He spoke about how so many North American believers have become inward-focused, as in “What’s in it for me?” and “How will this meet my needs?” He mentioned that the most inwardly-focused believers are usually the most miserable people who are always complaining about something.

I confess that I am one of those people sometimes. I crave comfort and ease at the expense of obedience and faithfulness. I definitely try to avoid any semblance of pain and suffering at all costs.

Jonah was a lot like that. God sent him to Nineveh to warn them of what was coming if they didn’t repent. You’d think after the whole city repented that Jonah would have been pleased, but he was peeved. He thought God’s love should be for the Israelites exclusively– or in other words, people like him. Jonah didn’t like the Assyrians and didn’t think they were worthy of God’s love. Not that any of us feel that way about any particular ethnic groups today, of course.

My takeaway from tonight is that any vision other than seeing God’s love displayed and proclaimed to all the people of all the nations is too small. What matters isn’t what songs we sing in worship or even what kind of songs. What matters isn’t if the church building is traditional or modern (or even if there’s a church building at all).

What matters is that God so loved all the sinners in the world (including you and me) that He sent Jesus to die for us and make true deliverance and salvation possible for anyone who trusts in Him.

That’s what I’ll be pondering and praying over for the next few days. At least I hope so. I don’t want to go back to the comfortable me-centered faith, and God willing, I won’t.

Why Get Married?

I was channel surfing on a night when there wasn’t much that caught my eye. I came across Shall We Dance,  the American remake of a Japanese movie, neither of which I’ve seen all the way through. But I did see one scene that caught my attention.

In it, the character played by Susan Sarandon is offering her own reason why people get married. You’d expect her to say for reasons of romance or passion or out of desperate need. In fact, that’s what most people would say. But her answer floored me.

I’d never thought about marriage in this context before, but it makes sense. At least to me. Here’s what she said:

Witness

It makes me want to watch both versions of the movie all the way through. I hope it will change the way you view marriage, whether you’re already married, engaged to be married, or just one of those hopeful romantics who haven’t met the right person yet.

 

My Take on Boycotts and Christmas and All That Jazz

boycott

First of all, let me throw out this disclaimer that these comments do not in any way reflect the opinions of WordPress, A&E, The Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel, Starbucks, ABC, or any other establishment. They are mine.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

I’m not in any way a fan of boycotts.

I’m not saying every boycott ever is wrong and everyone who prarticipates should get automatically put on Santa’s naughty list and get coal in their stockings. Here’s what I am saying.

I think boycotts communiate what we as believers are against, not what we are for. To me, that’s not what true Christianity is about. It’s not about what we don’t do anymore or what we’ve stopped doing, but what we do– love others and become more like Jesus– because of what Jesus has already done.

Also, if we boycott a particular place of business, what if one of the results is that people lose their jobs? What if one of these is a decent guy who’s only trying to provide for his family. A guy who didn’t get the luxury of choosing a job where the company’s beliefs line up exactly with his own?

Maybe it’s a guy who goes to my church. Or yours. Is that okay? He didn’t do anything wrong other than try to make a living, yet because the company he works for is “evil,” he is out of a job.

What if God had chosen to boycott humanity? What if God had looked down at Sodom and Gomorrah and all the other epic fails of humanity and decided to give up on the whole lot of us and shop elsewhere?

There would be an empty manger in Bethlehem.

There would be no Shepherds telling miraculous stories about angel choirs and teenage virgin mothers.

There would be no crown of thorns, no purple robe, no cross, no Golgatha.

We’d all be lost without any hope.

I’m just throwing out my own opinions. I think that we don’t have to endorse everything that a company does, but we do have to love the people who work there.

I still love what my pastor said. You don’t fight hate with more hate. That’s like going to a fire and fighting it by starting another fire. You don’t fight fire with fire; you fight it with water.

You don’t fight hate with more hate; you fight it with love, because nothing in the whole universe is as strong or lasting as love.

Especially the love of God as revealed in Jesus, born in a manger on Christmas Day.

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