When it comes to witnessing, I’m thinking some wise, much-older-than-me person passionately and articulately explaining to those who don’t know, just what Jesus Christ is all about. And almost magically channeling God Himself as a crowd gathers round’ in awe. Over to the side in a dark corner, I watch, and I just know I could never be that guy, (Or girl). But witnessing can be evangelizing in the literal sense of the word. I’m begging to learn that I don’t have to be a savant genius christian that knows everything all the time to share God’s love.
“ . . . for My strength is made perfect in weakness,”
Literally through watching, observing, learning, and growing in faith, then sharing my experiences, and adhering to God’s word in action, I can be evangelizing without knowing it. Not that I don’t mess up. I do. A LOT. Still, I know that the same God that created the universe in six days can certainly use me if that’s what he wishes to do.
Now in full disclosure, I’m an adult who’s led a fairly ‘sheltered’ life and not had it all that hard; relatively. My parents loved and provided for me and my siblings to the best of their ability, and I cannot rightly complain about them.
At the same time, I have seen things that have shaped me as human being. I have heard stories and testimonies of others that, sometime later on, I may share with all of you. Terrible things. And I remind my children (in part because of these experiences) that they need to guard against what they see and hear. Those things cannot be unseen and unheard.
One of the things that I’ve seen I think I need to share now. It’s glued itself to my psyche. Bonded with my soul and vividly shows itself like a brightly preserved image painfully reminding me that this world needs good people and simultaneously echoing the anguish of a child that deserved better. I see a child staring at his adult authoritative figure, as innocent looking as a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet, he had just caused a huge ruckus on my bus which was now parked on the side of a dirt road.
He had just lashed out violently at anyone unlucky enough to be in his path. Pushing, hitting, kicking his way around. I had managed to keep him away from the others now that I was parked. I didn’t hurt him. I didn’t yell at him. I simply put my body between his and the others. I let him climb over the top of the bus seat a couple of times. I even let him hit me. I told him he could hit me all he wanted, but no one else. (He was small it didn’t hurt.) Soon, the school security guard arrived. Who was quite stern. And then my boss, also stern. And my boss is the taller-than-I female he was guiltily staring at. She told him she’d be taking him off the bus. And then I believe God guided me to inform him of something. “She’s not going to hurt you.” I said.
Here is where yet another image was burned into me leaving a permanent mark. I saw a frustrated, broken child break into tears, and put his small arms around my boss’s neck as if he was simply giving her a hug because he was glad to see her. His face now buried into her shoulder, she carried him off and drove him away.
I drove him to school one more time. This time in a suburban with no other passengers. We spoke as if nothing happened. And something I remember him saying, that I can’t unhear, was that, I wasn’t as angry as his mom. I didn’t understand, so wanting to encourage a relationship I told him that all moms got angry sometimes. After that he was silent. And I’ll never forget his thoughtful little face looking out the window.
I went back to his house one other time. They said he had an appointment so I didn’t get to drive him to school. Then, when asking my boss about picking him up again, I learned that I would not be doing that anymore. His parents were now in jail, and he and his brother were now in his grandmother’s custody. He and his brother were victims of physical abuse. I think about him almost daily. And he is the only student I’ve ever shed a tear for.
Yet here this memory stands, as a witness to me, and now you. And I believe my boss and I gave that boy a glimpse of what it meant to be loved. For a moment in time he saw kindness when my boss carried him like mother would. And he was witness to our patience and gentle examples. I pray that those things are what sticks with him. And even though I can’t tell you his name, I think sharing his story may cause someone else to have just a little more patience with that ‘difficult’ child in their life.
I don’t know how God is planning to use me. And I still say I’m not very good at witnessing in the traditional sense. But I do know I can type a little better than I can speak, and I can share in this way what I’ve seen as I try and set a good example.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, …” Colossians 3:12
Well, the yesterday didn’t start out very well…I overslept (yes, even retired people can do this). My husband and I had to jump up and rush around so that he could get to his breakfast meeting with another Pastor, and I would be ready to drive our granddaughter to school. I didn’t have time for breakfast and when Katelyn arrived, she was being a typical Monday morning teenager; rolling her eyes, shrugging instead of answering my questions, looking generally bored and unhappy. When we started out the door, I wasn’t in a good mood.
Then something happened. We got to her school and pulled up to the drop off area. It was a gusty day and one of the male teachers on duty came right up to the passenger door. He opened it saying, “It’s windy, so I want to make sure your door doesn’t get away from you and is closed tightly” and then “Hello Katelyn, have you got everything?” He gave me a little wave. I hadn’t said a word, but his kind and helpful manner changed the way I was feeling. Instead of feeling irritable and grouchy because of my growling stomach, I felt happy and thankful to be noticed and treated helpfully and personally. It turned my day and my attitude around.
So my question is, why don’t we all do this more often? Why don’t we take the time to see the people around us as people and realize that our behavior may make or break their day? It doesn’t really take much effort to be courteous; to say thank you; to be patient when someone is struggling or new on the job; to address someone by their name if we know it or see it on a nametag; to offer help or hold a door or just say “have a blessed day.”
Did someone make your day today? Thank them and thank God.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
You’ve probably heard these verses many times before. 1 Corinthians is known as the “love chapter” (my Bible titles it The Way of Love) and it is often read at weddings. However, placed in its context, Paul is speaking these words to the Christian community and it follows a description of spiritual gifts.
It is certainly good advice about how to behave towards our spouse, but it is much more than that. These verses tell us how we should behave as part of the church. Love is the “greatest” gift and the one that will remain when all our works have ceased. Love is not just what we do, it is who we are. Notice that love also encompasses the fruit of the spirit: patience, kindness, self-control, joy.
Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians at the end of chapter 13 and in chapter 14 that love is an indication of spiritual maturity. He advises us to put away childish things (13:11) and be mature in our thinking (14: 20).
So “pursue love” (14:1) and “strive to excel in building up the church.”(14:12). The fruit of the spirit will follow and will be a blessing to you and to others.
God loves you and so do I!
Advent is a time of waiting, which requires patience. It is a difficult fruit for me to cultivate. I like to have a plan and get things worked out in advance. I like to arrive early and be prepared. I want to know I have things under control. It’s hard for me to surrender to God’s timing.
However, the Bible tells us over and over again to “wait for the Lord” who does things “at just the right time.” You see, it’s all about trust. When we truly trust God, we don’t have to obsess about whether we’ve done enough or worry and fret about what might happen next. We can be patient, and endure whatever is going on around us, knowing that God is in control and will act in the right way and at the right time.
The prophet Isaiah predicted the birth of the Messiah:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Isaiah proclaimed God’s plan, but he never saw it’s final fulfillment. Jesus was not born for over 700 years! We have the benefit of Scripture which shows us again and again that God keeps His promises. Our role is to relax in God’s grace and wait … patiently.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:23
One of our authors was interested in having some sort of “free for all” month when we could write on any topic. After discussion we decided to select “fruit of the spirit” as our theme for December. Although we are limited to the nine qualities above, this still allows us a wide range of verses and ideas for blogging.
The fruit of the spirit also seems especially appropriate for the Christmas season. This is a time when we should experience this fruit as we eagerly await Christ’s birth. But do we? Sometimes this season of joy and peace becomes filled with stress and discord. Our patience is tried as we attempt to do it all: shopping, baking, entertaining. Instead of being kind, gentle and loving, we become tired, irritable and whiney. Self control is lost as we participate in the gluttony of eating, drinking and gift-giving.
Surely this is not what Christmas is about. So join into our blog discussions and let us know how this Holy Season is affecting you. Is the fruit of the spirit evident in your life? How can you cultivate this fruit? Let us know what you think.
God loves you and so do I!
Love has been on my mind lately. No, not because of Valentine’s Day or my wedding anniversary, it’s just been coming up again and again in the weekly epistle readings. That really isn’t surprising since love is at the heart of the Christian life. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and Jesus Himself teaches that the greatest commandments are “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind …And … love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Church tradition says that when the apostle John was very old he would be carried into church where his entire sermon consisted of the statement: “Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4:7) Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit poured out into us (Galations 5:22) and the identifying mark of all Christians (John 3:35). The New Testament commands us to love more than fifty times!
So why do we find it hard to love certain people? I think the answer lies in the way we define love. For most of us, love means certain feelings: tenderness, affection and attachment which we expect (or at least hope) to have reciprocated. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people, even in our own churches and families, for whom we cannot muster up those feelings. We struggle to “love” people who have qualities that annoy us, who have hurt us or treated us badly, who disagree with us. How can we love people we don’t even like? How can we love people who don’t like us?
A careful reading has convinced me that Biblical love is not about feelings, but actions. We can’t control our emotions, but we can control what we do in response to them. We are to love others in the way we behave toward them. The apostle John, in his first epistle tells us to love “not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” The love verses in the Bible are filled with action words: “serve one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2); “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); “spur one another on to love” (Hebrews 10:24); “pursue love” (1 Timothy 2:22) and if fact “do everything in love” ( 1 Corinthians 16: 14). In some verses, the instructions are even more specific: “… outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10); “if you enemy is hungry, feed him (Romans 12:20); bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14); “ …pray for those who abuse you(Luke 6:28).
Next time (and it will be soon) I am confronted with a person I find difficult to love, I plan to ask the Holy Spirit to help me behave in accordance with the love qualities described in Colossians 3:12-17: “ …compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.” The apostle Paul calls this “walking by the spirit” (Galatians 5:16) Loving actions lead to freedom and peace; and as Paul adds, “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23).
This article was previously published in The Ambassador Facebook Page, an AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches) magazine