Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Random Updates

Well, I'm sitting here realizing that out of the few posts I've done this year, most of them have had a very serious note to them. So I decided to do something a little more lighthearted to end May. Here's a brief summary of my life lately to keep you updated.

I've been busy, but who isn't this time of year? A few weeks back I took the SAT. My family just completed making a twenty-five minute film of our highest production quality so far, but it took a tremendous amount of time. I haven't been reading much, but I've been writing a little bit more lately. The event I went to with intentions of evangelizing was quite an experience. It made me more aware of how lost so many people are without Christ. These next couple weeks promise to be filled with lots of school and attendance of multiple graduation events for friends. I'm eagerly looking forward to the beginning of July bringing my first camp of the summer. This is one I'll be counseling at for my third year in a row.

I've been listening to more music these last few months than I usually do, and I've been enjoying multiple Christian artists. The newest songs I've been introduced to is Josh Wilson's "Dream Small" and Riley Clemmon's "Better for It."

One of the things I've been doing lately when I'm feeling down is looking up Christian jokes.
Q1: What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
Q2: Who was the first tennis player in the Bible?
(answers at the end of the post)

I've been enjoying writing my "Defending the Faith" series, as it is a topic close to my heart and I'm grateful to have an audience to share it with. As for posts I'm planning, I suppose you'll just have to wait and see!

I haven't been taking too many pictures lately, but I thought the image of the flower I used for the title picture came out pretty well.

What sorts of things have you been up to lately? Any good songs or jokes you've heard?

A1: Ruthless.
A2: Joseph, because he served in Pharoah's court.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Defending the Faith 4: How Will I Know What to Say?

Ah yes, the age old question. "I want to talk to people about my faith, but I don't know what to say! They'll ask me questions that I won't know how to answer. How will I know what to say?" There's a few aspects to touch on regarding this topic.

First off, I want to point out God's response to this. In Exodus 4 when Moses is begging God not to send him back to Egypt to free God's people, one of his many excuses is that he doesn't speak well. God replies that He made Moses' mouth and "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (verse 12). I don't know about you, but that's a pretty amazing thought. God Himself will teach me what to say.

Secondly, Philippians 4:19 teaches that God will give us what we need to do what He asks of us. He knows that we need the words to speak, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Once again, God is telling us that He will take care of it.

Another case where God confirms He will handle this need comes from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The context to this is Paul explaining that He has asked God to remove some sort of "thorn" from his flesh. The Bible isn't clear whether this was a physical ailment, person causing him trouble, or something else entirely, but regardless, this "thorn" is something burdensome to Paul. Instead of removing it, God says that He will use this weakness to make His power even greater in Paul, ". . . For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 2:10). In our weakness, God reveals His strength. When you are uncomfortable speaking to people about your faith, that's when God will shine through all the more.

My personal favorite passage that directly relates to the worry of what to speak is recorded in three of the gospels. Each place is slightly different and adds even deeper meaning, so I'll share all three here:
Matthew 10:19 "When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour."
So far, we gather that when we are in situations where we have to defend our faith, we don't need to worry about how to do it, because at the time we need it, God will tell us what to say.
Luke 12:11-12 "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
Now we know that even when we are being brought before rulers, we still don't have to be concerned about defending ourselves or what to say because the Holy Spirit in us will teach us. We might not know what to say even sixty seconds before we have to speak, but when we open our mouths, He will provide.
Mark 13:11 "And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."
Finally, we gather that in addition to what we've learned above, it's not even us who are really speaking! It is the Holy Spirit doing the talking for us, and all we have to do is be the messenger and listen for what to say.
This is such a comforting thought to me. I really don't have to worry about what to say, because when I need to speak, the Holy Spirit will put the words in my mouth. These verses are what I'm holding to this weekend when I will be speaking with unbelievers.

Does this mean we will always have all the answers? Not at all. However, even when we don't have the right responses for someone, God has still given us what we need. He simply decided that we didn't need that answer at that time.

However, I see another side to this whole topic as well. Someone could interpret these verses to mean that they don't need to do any preparation, because God will just tell them what to say. I don't believe this is what the Bible is teaching at all. If my Dad never prepared a sermon and said "Oh, God will just tell me what to say when I get to the pulpit, I don't need to worry about preparation," . . . I think he would be very embarrassed when he stands up front without a clue of what to say and has to admit that he doesn't have anything because he failed to prepare. That being said, there have been times when he prepares all week but something about his planned sermon doesn't feel right, so he walks to the pulpit unprepared, but God always shows up and gives him the perfect words for that day. God honors his attentiveness and efforts. First Corinthians instructs us: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Do your best to prepare, but don't worry. Make an effort, but rely on God in your hour of need. Study the Bible so you have verses that God can bring to your mind. Remain attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so you hear His quiet whispers. Do all to the glory of God. Be on the lookout for "God moments" and trust Him to give you the words to speak.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Defending the Faith 3: Where Should I Go?

Maybe this isn't a post best suited to be a "defending the faith" post, however, even before you defend your faith, you need to know where to start.

To share your faith, you don't have to be a missionary to Africa. You don't even have to go with your youth group to Mexico or downtown Los Angeles. You don't need to stand on street corners or in front of Planned Parenthood clinics. Yet . . . the Bible tells Christians to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19) So where do we do this if we're not traveling to Africa, Mexico, or L.A?

True, God does call some people to go forth as a missionary to foreign nations and preach the message of the Kingdom of God. But He doesn't ask everyone to travel to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I'm sure you've heard it said that the biggest mission field is the streets of America, and there's never been a truer statement. For example, my family lives in a rural area about an hour away from a town, and my dad is the pastor of the local church. Years ago a church in the local town decided to help support my family as missionaries. We were surprised when they informed us of this. Were we traveling to share the gospel? Were we dwelling among people who speak a different language? No. Yet this church considered us missionaries. God has given us a local mission field, reaching out to our friends and neighbors in this little community.

Any Christian could be supported as a missionary in this sense. You don't have to be a pastor in order to have your own special mission field God has given you. Are you attending school? Shine your light with your fellow students and tell them about your best friend, Jesus. (Yes, students do still have the Constitutional right to talk about Jesus Christ in schools.) Do you work long hours every day? Even if your workplace doesn't permit you to discuss Jesus with coworkers, you can show Him to them in the manner that you handle situations and your work ethic. Are you standing in line at the grocery store? Maybe in that moment, your mission field is the cashier or person standing behind you. Sitting in a restaurant, do you see a girl walk in with a broken arm? Perhaps God is calling you to go pray for her.

Always be on the lookout for "God moments" and people that He puts in your life. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit living in you and watch for opportunities. Get involved in outreach events your church hosts. Volunteer with a local food bank or Samaritan's Purse. This summer a few of my friends and I will be staffing at summer camps for youth and teaching them about Jesus.There are so many places and chances to share your faith with others. Always be on the lookout.

Don't let your life fall into a monotonous pattern; find people God wants you to pray for and bless. There's always someone whose life could be changed by you listening to the Holy Spirit prompting you to start a conversation with and pray for them. Maybe you are one of the people God has asked to go to New Zealand as a missionary, but more often than not, God has called you to be a minister to those around you right now. God has put everyone in your path for a reason. Whether it's a friend, family member, or coworker who you see every day, or whether it's the person in line at Disneyland you might never see again, be watchful for opportunities God places before you and listen for His voice.

Some of Jesus' last words here on earth were instructions to the disciples (and to all followers):
". . . you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Be a missionary to your family, in your hometown, and in every place God puts you. (As a side note, Christians are not always called to defend their faith, but they are always commanded to share their faith. This verse says to be a witness—to tell people about their faith, but not force conversions.)

So where should you go to share the Kingdom of Heaven with people? Maybe to a foreign land, but also consider your next door neighbor.
P.S. This post is inspired by plans to go into a local event this weekend as part of a team seeking God encounters where we will witness for Christ. Prayers for God to soften people's hearts are much appreciated!