So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6

FRONT PAGE - here you will find the last 20 postings about recent conversations. Please pray for these people!

Smoke and Mirrors

3/25/17              Charlie, Gustavo              20's

Sometimes sharing the Gospel can be like entering a room full of smoke and mirrors!  When I show people how they look in the mirror of God's moral law, they often respond with smokescreens of various types to hide behind.  In two recent Gospel conversations, both Charlie and Gustavo responded with the same smokescreen when confronted with their sin - they immediately tried to switch the subject over to the increasing immorality in the world around us.  

But each used this smokescreen with a different strategy.  One seemed to be trying to give an excuse for his own moral failings, while the other seemed to be trying to make himself look better by comparison.  Either way, I reminded them that when we are held accountable before God, we can't point fingers or cast the blame on others for our own sinful choices and actions.

Paul wrote about this in Romans 2.  Just after he showed how the Gentiles are without excuse because all have a God-given conscience, he reminded his Jewish readers that they are no less guilty.  He said "You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?"
 
Conservatives often do this when they look down on others for particular sins while choosing to ignore the importance of others that they themselves commit.  Liberals often do this when they try to excuse the immoral behavior of others knowing that they are also trying to excuse themselves for the same immoral behavior.  Either way it's just smoke and mirrors.

Each of us need to take an honest look at ourselves in the mirror of God's word, comparing ourselves to God's standard rather than the standards of this world, and refusing to hide behind man-centered excuses, rationalizations, or any of the other smokescreens we love to hide behind. 

Zealous


3/15/17   Bob - about 60
         A friendly-looking older man was sitting at the coffee shop, looking like he would like someone to talk to in the midst of all the business-types and college students busily working on their computers around him.  I asked if we could talk about what he believes happens after this life, and he turned into a friendly and animated encyclopedia of information about the religions of the world.  Bob, about 60, wanted to tell me what many other religions believe before sharing his own personal beliefs.  I guess he wanted me to know he had considered all his options.  He also told about a near-death experience and some dreams of encounters with angels he claims to have had which have brought him to his present personal beliefs.  He believes basically that one must be sincere and faithful within whatever religion they find themselves in order to go to heaven, which for him is Catholicism.  He had a very roundabout way of explaining his beliefs and it took a lot of patient listening, but I wanted to keep my word because, after all, I had only asked to hear his beliefs and sharing mine hadn't been part of our original agreement.  In the end I feel it was worth it because he finally began to ask me about mine.
He wondered out loud "Did God send you to talk to me today so that you could learn something from me, or did He send you here to teach me something?"  When he found out I am pretty firm in my biblical Christian theology he realized that our beliefs were quite different from each other, and he asked if I was there to "convert" him to my way of thinking.  From his point of view, since all religions are equally valid then no one has the right to try to try to change anyone to their beliefs.  I told him that no, my goal for the conversation was not to convert him but to simply help him to think about things in a way that God might work through, and that I enjoy learning a lot in the process.
But I did say that ultimately, yes, I would like him and others to believe the Gospel as I do.  After all, I believe in it for myself so why wouldn't I want others to believe in it too?  I believe in a faith that is meant to be shared with others, yes, but it is also a faith in which the burden for converting the soul is a work that only God can accomplish.  I share my experiences, I share what I know from the Bible, I express godly love and concern for others, but I don’t need to "shove it down their throats".  Bob said he respected that I am sincere in sharing my beliefs without feeling the need to force others to believe the same way. 
We should be passionate about sharing our faith, and we need make no apologies for it even if many in the world look down on us for doing so.  But we don’t need to be so overly zealous that we try to do the life-giving and heart-changing work only God can do.

Stagnant



 3/13/17       Vaughn     early 20's
Feeling stagnant in your faith?  “Stagnant” is defined as “having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence.”  Does your faith give out a stench to others, or does it give the kind of “living water” that Jesus offers, referring to the Holy Spirit.  We aren’t meant to just be filled with this water.  It is meant to overflow into the lives of others. 
With that in mind, and aware of a fresh inpouring of the Holy Spirit in church yesterday morning, it was time to allow the Spirit to overflow so I headed to a local coffeeshop where I found a business student named Vaughn doing some homework.  Vaughn was more than happy to take a study break and talk about spiritual things.  He’s had some influences in his life toward Buddhism, Catholicism and Islam, and after I’d listened a while to the views on religion he’s cobbled together, he was ready to hear the Gospel, which I gladly shared and responded to his many questions. 
I left there feeling even more refreshed and alive in faith than even after our church service, and I think I know why.  Explaining the storyline of the Bible in general and the Gospel in particular for someone new reminds me of its many treasures for myself, and hearing and responding to Vaughn’s questions reminds me of the questions I once had when I was in his shoes.  Philemon 1:6 says “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  Want to find fresh joy in your faith?  Don’t let it become stagnant and a stench to others  – share it with others!

Red Pill Blue Pill

3/9/17               Anthony             Late 20’s
I couldn't understand it.  We'd had a long and interesting conversation about the gospel there on the sidewalk.  Anthony, a pharmacist in his twenties, had been very open to talking when I asked his beliefs about life after death.   He had not been to church since he was a young child, except for a funeral.  He does not know much about Christianity, nor has he read the Bible, yet he also showed no interest in refuting it either, such as the usual questions about its origins and inspired nature.  He seemed to easily accept that the Bible is God's word, and accepted the New Testament I offered to give him.  But he thought about it as we talked further and after a few minutes he decided to give it back.  He didn't want it.   Why?  "I'm just picturing it sitting there on my table and myself feeling guilty for not reading it." he said.  Fair enough, but I was still curious.  He said,  "To be honest, I'm just not interested.  Maybe it could benefit someone who is more interested in it than me."

We went on to talk about his apathy toward religion and the Bible in particular.  He seemed to be honestly unable to explain it.  But I should have figured it out.  It's sin.  Oh, he was a nice guy and all, honest about his apathy and respectful toward myself and others who read the Bible for themselves.  He claimed to believe that the Bible would be good for others, but obviously not enough to want to read it for himself.  Why?  I think it is because he believed that once one reads it, they are accountable to follow it.  If he read it, he would no longer be able to claim ignorance.  It makes me think of the "red pill, blue pill" choice on "The Matrix".

But the problem with claiming ignorance is that it is not a valid excuse.  We aren't as ignorant as we may pretend to be.  We all have a conscience.  It may not be as well trained as it could be under godly parenting and/or the specifics of God's Word, and some have become more hardened or calloused to it than others, but we will all be held accountable to our God-given sense of right and wrong.  There may indeed be pills or other drugs that help us forget it for a time, but that doesn't take away our guilt for not following it.  Ignorance is not bliss.  The root of ignorance is to "ignore".  If we have the truth but choose to ignore it, we will continue to be slaves to sin.  But Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Anthony chooses to avoid the Bible altogether, and this will have major implications on his life.  But what about those of us who have read it at one time and come into a faith relationship with Jesus?  What about all the smaller choices we make from day to day, when we avoid or neglect the Bible and the truth it might have for us?  Are we not, in smaller ways, choosing the red pill of "ignorance"?  Will not all those seemingly smaller choices also add up to slavery to sin?  Won't these choices also have consequences on those around us, the people we know and love?  Psalm 145 says "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."  Let's call on him in the truth of his word today.