As I grow in my faith in Jesus, I am trying more and more to turn my life over to God in all my decisions. That applies especially to big decisions that I am wrestling with in my life.
I want to share one of my experiences.
Like a lot of people, I want to make a difference in the world. Not a little one, but a big one. I believe I have a lot of good ideas, so I began praying for guidance on which path God wanted me to take. I have my personal favorites, so occasionally I would think God was telling me to “Go for it,” but I knew better. That was my inner voice, not His.
After about nine months of praying, I got a powerful feeling my prayer was answered, but it wasn’t what I expected. Or what I wanted to hear. I heard: Focus on yourself and become a living example for others!
I thought that surely that couldn’t be what God really wanted from me. Maybe he didn’t hear all my great ideas about a new company I could start that would tithe all its profits or tools I could create that would encourage other Christians to serve the poor or lead a charge of national revival on social media. I was willing to go big from the comfort of my home office, and I wanted His blessing, but I didn’t get the response I wanted.
Another nine months or so passed and I continued to pray for guidance on which “big” idea God thought was best for me. It was crickets again until I got that strong message again. This time, it was even clearer: Know the Bible well and be a living example of the love of Jesus!
I couldn’t ignore this one and this time, it made perfect sense to me. I’ve been wanting to “help” and “serve” by trying to fix other people, but I wasn’t doing all I could to show (not just say or Tweet) the love a single Christian can provide as a disciple of Jesus. For those of you that know the parable in Matthew 7, I was looking pluck the specs of wood from as many eyes as possible while knocking people over with the log in my own eye.
It’s a humbling experience to admit we have our personal sins, vices, quirks and issues that require us to turn inward before we can focus on helping (or fixing) others. I still have a lot of unanswered questions, but I do have a strong sense of clarity and direction now. I believe I can make a big difference by how I live every day and not just what I say or do at the opportune time. I read the Bible as often as possible and try to be a living example of the scriptures I read. It’s not easy, but I know what I am doing is making an impact although I may not see it every day.
Many in society are watching Christians very closely to see how we act and react to the darkness in the world. Some even take great pleasure when they see Christians fall and fail. However, as Christians, we can bring light to people that have never experienced the love of Jesus simply by how we act and how we love.
Trust in Jesus and let Him shine through you!
Is love an uncontrollable emotion or is love a conscious act or choice?
Jesus is love. It’s a phrase that I am happy to see popping up more and more on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and social media. It’s so simple, yet so accurate and powerful. Therefore, I decided to unpack that phrase a little further and look into the Biblical description of love. However, as I was researching this topic, it was almost impossible to ask myself “what is love” and not think of the 1993 Haddaway hit:
What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more…..
Once I was able to clear my mind of the 90’s classic , I soon realized (as if I didn’t already know) that defining love can be very complicated. Most dictionaries have multiple definitions of love as both a noun and a verb and it can mean very different things to people. I also came across dozens of passionate debates on what love is on various sites on the Internet.
According to Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, the Bible says love is an action.
Specifically, Pastor Warren says if you really love someone, then you show it by how you act toward that person. If love were just an emotion, then God couldn’t command it. But love is something you do. It can produce emotion, but love is an action.
The Bible says, “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18 NLT).
My conclusion: love is an action, not an emotion. Love is a verb.
This distinction is important because the Bible commands love in some pretty challenging situations. Loving your neighbors is hard enough but loving your enemy is practically impossible if love were simply an emotion or feeling. One cannot force him or herself to feel a certain way. Feelings are never wrong because they are simply a measurement of how we think or feel about something, regardless if it’s our intended feeling. However, we can demonstrate love to people we don’t know or like by our actions and those actions will communicate love to those people.
For example, (I will pick on the men in this case since I can relate) how many times have you seen on TV or in real life when a woman in a relationship feels she is not loved because the man never puts love in action? The man may be honest, kind and committed as well as a good parent and provider that goes to church every Sunday. He can tell his wife he loves her every day, but if he does not demonstrate the actions of love she may not fully know his love or believe he truly loves her. Simple acts that don’t show up in romance novels can go a long way in a relationship to demonstrate love for someone you are “in love” with. Cook his or her favorite dinner, clean up after a meal without being asked or simply turning off the TV or putting down the phone when they are speaking to give them your undivided attention are actions of love that are deeper than hollow words, cards or flowers.
The same holds true for demonstrating love for others you are less familiar with. Simple acts such as acknowledging someone; patiently listening to someone share their story or opinion; quickly forgiving someone that has hurt you; helping someone without any expectations (including a thank you); putting yourself second to someone else; smiling and telling a stranger “hi” with the intent to brighten their day; doing a random act of kindness; sharing something you value, etc. are all small but important actions that convey love to the recipient.
Love is not easy and takes work, but committing to the effort and actions of love with friends, family, neighbors and even strangers is worth it!
I always leave the movie theater fired up to spread the Good News after watching so many of the great Christian-based films that have graced the big screen in recent years. The Kendrick Brothers have delivered inspirational movies with growing box office success like Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), Courageous (2011) and War Room (2015). Pure Flix Entertainment is responsible for the highly popular and successful films God’s Not Dead (2014), Do You Believe? (2015) and God’s Not Dead 2 (2016). Most recently, my family went to see Miracles from Heaven over Easter Weekend (for the record I did not cry, that was my allergies) and we all left entertained and fired up for the Lord.
There are many other outstanding movies I left out and I haven’t even touched on the music, TV shows, books, streaming programs, live theater, YouTube videos, etc. that promote the Jesus and the Good News while entertaining. Edutainment (entertaining while also educating) is clearly a part of Christianity, but I still read comments and personally hear resistance from some within the Christian community. They feel that scripture in its purest form is sufficient and everyone should take the time to read the Bible to understand its messages of love, redemption, hope, and grace. I agree 100%, but I think we can also agree that that the Bible can be a little confusing and hard to understand without help from others with more Biblical knowledge, especially when starting. A full and complete grasp of the Bible would be a challenge to an individual that attempts to know Jesus by simply reading from Genesis to Revelation by him or herself. That is why I believe both edutainment and scripture are needed.
For most, accepting Jesus is not a light switch, but ice cubes in a glass. Slowly adding cubes leads to a full glass of ice water!
The first ice cube for many is an unsolicited brush with Jesus during their normal daily lives. It may be a catchy Christian song they hear on the radio in a friend’s car or a TV series on the Bible following a Sunday football game. The next cube may be a group going to a Christian-themed movie because their favorite actor or actress is starring in it or a Christian fiction book that a friend recommended because it was “entertaining and fun to read.” More cubes may be added as they click on a Facebook or Twitter link that takes them to a YouTube video with the “spoken word” or a guest performer with the Worship team playing contemporary music at a Sunday service after a neighbor boldly invites them.
As the number of cubes in the glass grows, the need for fellowship with other Christians increases, as well as the direct reading of scriptures in the Bible. The need for genuine ice cubes from Scripture also grows. This is where edutainment passes the toroch to Bible-based teaching. Here, new believers add cubes by witnessing and observing others with more days under their belt immersed in the Good News. Attending church regularly, reading the Bible, serving, giving and participating in small groups as well as going outside the church and living as honest, generous and caring Christians with everybody we meet. Every one of these actions is observed by people that are carefully considering the next step in a relationship with Jesus. This is also where the biggest chunks of ice are added by people at all points in their journey.
My favorite thing about the ice cubes for Jesus analogy is that it applies to both new and current believers. Ice cubes in a glass eventually melt, so everyone needs to add cubes of Jesus and the Gospel into their glass on a regular basis. Therefore, as long as you keep adding ice, a refreshing and life-giving glass of ice cold water always awaits you!
I’m sure we can all agree that times are rapidly changing, so evangelism must also be flexible enough to incorporate new methods and tactics to reach the world today. Scripture is perfect and never needs to change or adapt, but the tools and tactics to reach people with the Good News must be flexible to be effective. I think Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
How can you be an ice cube in somebody’s glass of Good News?