Top Ten Reasons It’s Cool to Be Christ-like

If you’re serious about being like Jesus, here you go with some great ways to follow his lead.

  1. Jesus lived a sinless life. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:19
  1. Jesus prayed for His friends–and some people He’d never met. John 17:6-26
  1. Jesus submitted to authority. John 12:49-50; Luke 22:42
  1. Jesus forgives everyone. Everyone, no matter what they did or do. Luke 23:34; 1 John 1:9
  1. Jesus never compromised the truth. Mark 8:34-35; John 8:10-11
  1. Jesus guided people into truth without hitting them over the head with it. Matthew 5-7; Luke 24:25-27
  1. Jesus is full of joy and peace–and shares it. John 14:27; John 15:11
  1. Jesus kept his priorities straight and was good at time management. Mark 1:35-39
  1. Jesus attended parties, enjoying fellowship with all types of people. Luke 7:36-38; Matthew 9:10; John 2:1,2

And the Number One Reason it’s cool to be Christ-like:

Jesus loves everyone, even those who don’t like Him and those who disagree with Him. Matthew 23:37

Sweet Tea and a Distasteful Flavor

“There’s a Fly in my Tea! The Importance of Maintaining a Christian Testimony;                By Crystal L. Ratcliff;  CrossLink Publishing 2016

A Book Review

Crystal Ratcliff, has presented a metaphor we can probably all relate to whether we drink our tea sweet or otherwise. Flies are pesky and dirty. We don’t want them crawling on the rim of our glass. The metaphor fits perfectly for the subject of this 11-session Bible study about our witness for Jesus. The cover design adds beautifully to the “ewwww” factor.

Maintaining a sweet, pure Christian testimony, says Ratcliff, means doing many things she believes we can learn from the life of the Apostle Peter. Her first lesson, however, gets someone off on the right foot before the study begins. She challenges her readers to examine their lives in light of their personal salvation and person relationship with the Lord. Since the book is meant to be studied with others, discussing these answers honestly can only be of benefit to each member and to the group itself.

Ratcliff’s style is relaxed and her tone is friendly. She expects the audience is women and that they share their stories within a group. However, the study could be done independently, if necessary.

The fact that Crystal takes the student right into scripture helps them to see how it relates to other scriptures. The lessons include just enough related verses to help the reader understand the lesson and how the lesson should be applied. An aspect of the study I appreciated was her openness regarding her own failings. Done in a safe environment, sharing what keeps us coming back to Jesus for help aids in discussion.

Subjects covered over the eleven-session study are trusting God totally; keeping my focus on God; walking in the Spirit in relation to how we spend our time; and believing who Jesus says he is versus the world’s view of him.

Ratcliff also mentions the tendency Christians have to witness about their church rather than being a sweet and pure witness for Christ alone. In her own way she says we would do better to point people to Jesus rather than a specific church body or denomination.

No church is perfect, she says, because no people are perfect. We all need to learn to pray more faithfully, forgive more quickly, and serve in love. But “our goal in studying this,” she says, “should be to protect ourselves from being an ‘offender.’”

To some readers, “There’s a Fly in my Tea” will seem like a course in Bible 101. If that’s the case, let me suggest you become the person Jesus commanded you to be and disciple others by leading them through this short study. Those new to the Christian faith will certainly get some of their questions answered. Recruit a couple of your more mature Christian friends to join in and they will help teach the younger women, which is a biblical principle taught by Paul.

The narrative sections are refreshing to anyone who even remotely understands the importance of a relationship with Jesus. The lists of questions at the end of each chapter (never more than 6-8) are just challenging enough to keep us teachable.

 

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

 

Using Good Grammar

As my children were growing up I often corrected their grammar. Naturally, they were annoyed, but a good parent doesn’t want his child to someday jeopardize his or her chances in life using the wrong tenses or double negatives. I believed it was for their own good. Even though I often didn’t get no satisfaction. (That double negative is on purpose, folks.)

God, the perfect parent, for my own good, showed me some poor grammar I was using and let me know I was in the wrong. I repeatedly used the double positive “Yeah, right,” which automatically becomes a negative, canceling the meaning it’s meant to convey.

“Yeah, right” conveys disbelief. The phrase means “No” or “I disagree.” Or “Not true.” We often use it in a sarcastic manner.

At one time, I prided myself for the way I could come up with sarcastic remarks. Many of them were aimed at myself. Then I learned that the word sarcasm comes from a Greek verb, sarcazo, which means “to tear flesh.” Since then, I’m more aware of my sarcasm habit.

Sarcasm used against myself formerly had its place in my normal use of the language because it seemed to relieve me of part of the guilt I felt due to my lifestyle. Using it seemed to give me an out because I was admitting just how awful I was. That might sound like I was being honest, but–honestly–it was a weak self-defense.pleasing thoughts bubble

Self-putdowns now send up red flags. My use of them most often comes in the form of doubts about myself. Using put-downs, however, is a difficult habit to break.

Again, my perfect parent shows me how wrong I can be. When I sit in his presence and really listen to what he has to say, he speaks to me with unconditional love. Because he loves me, he will correct me. He shows me the difference between how I speak about myself and how he truly feels about me. He lets me know that “Yeah, right” leaves me with the wrong idea of who I am now that I belong to him.

God has a much higher opinion of me than I have of myself. When I remember that my identity is first of all related to being his child, the doubts go away. I’m certainly not perfect, but children usually want to please their parents. I’m sure “tearing flesh,” mine or that of someone else, doesn’t please him.

Do you always remember, when you’ve failed in some way, that he loves you with an everlasting love? Sometimes it can be difficult for us to accept, but we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is a treasure to him and he has ordained each day of our lives, expecting and enabling us to do great things.

Yes, that’s right. He does.

(Now that’s correct use of grammar and a fine affirmation.)

Father, thank you for always reminding me of my true identity. I count on you to show me how my negative thoughts can affect my words and my behavior. I pray that you will guide me into the truth every moment so that my actions will draw others to your truth as well.

Goin’ Fishing

“Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.”

Last week “Whatever” spoke to the importance of sharing with others our story of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This week, I’m offering a book review dealing with the same subject: evangelism.

Purple Fish
By Mark O. Wilson

The topic is evangelism. Or is it fishing? In Mark O. Wilson’s book, Purple Fish, both activities become his topic. The book is peppered with stories of Jesus–and everyday people–“fishing for men.” You’ll also find stories about fishing for…well…fish.

The title comes from a Greek word, kalchaino, meaning “to search for the purple fish.” The purple fish referred to is highly treasured because of the deep purple dye found in this particular shellfish. Therefore, the treasured purple fish became the metaphor for Mark’s book.

fish-cover-2The purple fish secret, according to Wilson, is “more about attitude and perspective than technique.” And that’s why he doesn’t use “techniques.” Naturally, Wilson has advice for going forward with evangelism efforts. At the top of the list is prayer. If he has any kind of technique, it comes from his acrostic for finding connecting points with people.

Discussing Family, Interests, Situations, and Hurts with people, he says, helps us to find our common humanity and opens the door to telling the Good News of Christ. Wilson contends, like many, that evangelism is a process. He also spends time encouraging those with ichthyophobia (fears associated with sharing the gospel.)

Purple Fish is a book with simple ideas for evangelism, patterned after Christ’s model of meeting people where they are and approaching in love. Jesus didn’t follow the same method with each encounter and Wilson says this is the key to being the “second witness” in witnessing. The first witness of course, he says, is the Holy Spirit.

With thirty-three chapters, the book might seem daunting, but each is a quick read with no chapter longer than seven pages. If you’re the type that gets caught up in a book and says, “I just have to get through this next chapter,” this book is a cinch for you.

Because the book is written so simply and can be downright entertaining at times, Purple Fish will work well with small groups as well as an adjunct to a sermon series. Rather than being a text book-style reading on how to win people to Jesus, the book seriously and cheerfully mixes stories of fishing for fish and fishing for…well…people.

Mark Wilson is a seasoned pastor when it comes to evangelism, having taught nontraditional ministerial students through the Wesleyan FLAME program. He’s developed and put into practice methods that take people into the mission field of their own cities and neighborhoods. From the examples–he calls them ‘treasure hunts’–noted in this book, if his charges aren’t convinced before they begin of God’s power to draw people to Himself, they are convinced at the end of the day.

My New Perspective

Crusoe teaching Friday  1 Years ago when I was…years old, I read Robinson Crusoe. Like most people, the first thing I would think of thereafter when I thought of the story was “Friday.” Friday, was the name given to the man Crusoe met on the island who became, not just his servant, but also his dear companion.

Crusoe had been shipwrecked on his island for over twenty-five years when Friday showed up. On my re-reading of this, I was surprised since I’d always thought it happened immediately after he saw that footprint. To my recollection, the appearance of that footprint had happened earlier in the story as well.

Going into the details of how Crusoe and Friday came together might be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there.

Well, here I am reading and re-reading some of what are called children’s classics and discovering content of which I don’t believe a child would take any notice. Unless they were the most astute of children. Numerous ideas of what it would be like “stranded on a desert island” come to light in the story.

But as a Christ follower, I also picked up ideas for living my own life and carrying the message of the Kingdom.

I have to admit that, since I knew a “Friday” was coming, I was impatient for his appearance. Then again, in the meantime, I was learning just how stressful and difficult a life Crusoe led in the couple of decades he lived alone. He learned how to build a home for himself against the elements, find sources of food, and invent ways to cook and preserve his food. Even keeping busy with the basics of maintaining food and shelter, doesn’t negate his loneliness and despair.

Aside from his own, he never heard another voice speak until he caught and tamed a parrot–Poll–and taught it to repeat his name and a few sentences.

So far, I fear I haven’t presented much of a defense for reading this old classic written in a style some would call difficult to read. “I’ll watch the movie,” some will say. “That’s good enough, right?”

Maybe.

But last night as I was reading, Crusoe’s faith in God, which had previously been as dashed to bits as the ship he was wrecked in, comes to the forefront. Friday is one of a tribe of cannibals and doesn’t understand fully what Crusoe is trying to teach him about God, the devil and evil. Crusoe believes he can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, help Friday to see Jesus as the redeemer and, as he puts it, “receive the light of the knowledge of God in Christ.”

Their conversations seem comical. However, when seen from Friday’s point of view, one understands. These ideas are foreign to him.

‘Well,’ says Friday, ‘but you say God is so strong, so great; is He not much strong, much might as the devil?’ ‘Yes, yes,’ says I, ‘Friday, God is stronger than the devil; God is above the devil, and therefore we pray to God to tread him down under our feet, and enable us to resist his temptation, and quench his fiery darts.’ ‘But,’ says he again, ‘if God much strong, much might as the devil, why God no kill the devil, so make him no more do wicked?’

Crusoe had been fortunate to find a Bible on board the wrecked ship right away and studied it regularly after some time had passed on the island. With time, through sharing the gospel and his personal studies, Crusoe was able to explain in a way Friday could understand. He soon became what Crusoe called a Christian ‘much better than I.’

My point in telling this (wondered if I had a point, eh?) is that I became acutely aware of the process of evangelism with a person who’s never heard of the one true God and Jesus Christ. One would have to start from scratch, so to speak. Most of us have an advantage in that the people we come into contact with have at least heard of God and Jesus.

Crusoe and Friday formed a relationship of trust first. Certainly, Friday saw himself in a position of servitude because the other had saved his life. But over time, the two became companions. That gave Crusoe an opportunity to be open with Friday about God’s truth and his own beliefs.

Seeing Friday’s simple and unguarded questions, I can understand how Christianity might seem difficult to believe. Indeed, as Crusoe knew, it would take the help of the Holy Spirit to bring Friday to a point of receiving Christ as his redeemer.

Friday’s questions about evil and the devil echo some of the same questions we have, i.e., “If God is all-powerful, why is there evil at all?”

I like to think that, in reading fiction, a book has at least one redeeming feature. I have not always found it to be true. Sometimes I finish a book and cannot for the life of me, even a month later, tell you the basic premise of the story.

But with this one, I’m glad I returned to this so-called children’s classic. I have a greater appreciation for missions work performed in all areas of the world. What experience or knowledge had the author, Daniel Defoe, with spreading the gospel? Did he have friends or people in his church who were missionaries? What spurred him to include this aspect of the relationship between a castaway and a savage?

For whatever reasons, these little discoveries are why I continue to read fiction. Currently I’m on an adventure on a deserted island–with two men and their animals–and enjoying it immensely.

For the second time.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Claim Your Religion

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15

Many Christians, members of the religious group to which I belong, have been trashing the word ‘religion’ for a long time. They shouldn’t, in my opinion, especially when referring to their own Church. A follower of Christ may be called upon to answer someday whether he or she claims this religion.

News sources all over the world openly reported countless incidents when this was true during 2014.

Taking a word for its literal meaning gives us one reason for accepting ‘religion’ into our vocabulary without prejudice. The basic definition my dictionary offers for the word and what most people, if pressed, understand it to mean is simple and direct.

“a personal set or institutional system of attitudes, beliefs and practices”

Our world is made up of people who practice a multitude of religions. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Confucians and more. For some reason, Christians have no problem with saying, for instance, “The Islamic religion.” They may even study a course in college comparing world religions.

But they don’t want to be called ‘religious’ themselves.

A Creed

Many Christians throughout the world regularly recite either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed in their church services. Other creeds exist, but these two are most well-known. The Creeds are statements of faith. The words describe the belief system of a Christian. It’s important for a believer of any religion to know and understand his or her personal faith and remember that a creed isn’t synonymous with “rules.”

Followers of Christ tend these days to emphasize their relationship with God, and a relationship is important. We revel in the fact that we can call God our Father and that Jesus is not only our brother but our friend. However, doctrine–one’s belief system–is also important. Here are a couple of good reasons why.

Witness and Discipleship

Anyone hoping to share their faith with another must be able to communicate their beliefs. We can talk all day about our personal relationship with Jesus, but when the rubber meets the road, it comes down to “What do you believe in?” How can we help win someone to the faith without telling them who Jesus is and that he died to save them? Our core beliefs are the essence of the Gospel.Jesus Is ---

Christ himself had a conversation with a man named Nicodemus and witnessed to him with the words quoted in John 3:16-17, among others. Jesus told this Pharisee that he came to save the world. Christians today use these words of Christ more than any others to witness to people. I dare say there hasn’t been a professional football game played since the 1960s that hasn’t had some guy holding up a huge sign with that scripture. If those words were good for Jesus, they’re good enough for us. Nicodemus became a follower, after all.

Jesus talked about his relationship with his followers, but most of all, he said, “Believe in the Father; believe also in me.” Over and over again people Jesus encountered for healing were restored because of their faith. Their belief in who he is. Likewise, spiritual healing comes as a result of our belief. It means a lot to God and to his Son that we believe.

Our belief is what allows us into the relationship we talk about with such fervor.

Furthermore, we can’t help people in their walk with Christ (Jesus calls it making disciples) if we can’t speak about our own faith in Christ. It’s that simple. Again, we can talk all day about our relationship, but another Christ follower has to find his or her own way into that unique communion with the Lord.

What’s In a Word?

I understand when people say things like, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Or “Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about relationship.” Or “Lose your religion.” They usually say those things because other Christians were sometimes less than helpful when they tried to enter the kingdom. The approach was hard, judgemental, or downright scary. So they blame ‘religion.’

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s not ‘religion’ (by definition) that’s to blame; it’s people. Ever since Moses received the law from God, we’ve been guilty of misinterpreting and manipulating God’s word to suit ourselves. Then we want to make others follow those rules too. For people who do that now, as then, Jesus had fiery words.

“Woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).

I speak from personal experience that it’s still true. It was part of my upbringing and I’ve had some ‘spiritual’ folks bang me over the head with their ‘spirituality’. In fact, I confess that at one time, I too was a spiritual bully.

Still…

As I said, any believer of any religion may one day be asked to give answers about what they believe.

We Americans often think we’re being persecuted if the government, our bosses or some organization take actions we disagree with. We can be more vocal about what we are against than what we’re for. Many of us take issue with the smallest slights, when Christians in foreign lands are truly suffering because of their beliefs. These people don’t pass under our daily radar. If ever. Maybe when there’s something in the news. I don’t speak about all Christians, because many are really trying to make a difference.

But what’s inspiring is that those truly persecuted Christians consider it a privilege to “claim their religion.” So that’s what they do.

In most of these countries true persecution begins when a Christian claims his or her religion. At baptism–the public statement of belief–that person will become estranged or ostracized from the family and the community. If that country is in the very least accepting of Christianity, believers may worship according to the government’s standards. If there’s no tolerance at all, those Christians worship in secret.

Many times they don’t have it that good. Their lives are at risk. The opposition to Christianity in those countries won’t ask, “Do you have a relationship with Jesus?” They’ll ask something more like, “Do you believe in this Jesus?” “Are you a Christian?”

Not a friendly environment.

Name It, Claim It

We don’t need to be afraid of the word religion in referring to Christianity. Knowing the security we have in our relationship with God will encourage us to boldly claim our religion instead of “losing” it.

Talk about your relationship with God. It’s okay because that relationship is what sets us apart from other religions. But spreading the Gospel message begins with doing what Jesus did: preaching the good news of the kingdom. The Good News starts with talking about Jesus. Tell people what he did and why he did it. Tell them about some of those beliefs in your creed. He rose again as he said he would. He’s coming back to claim his own.

If you can get that message across, you may have helped win someone over just as the Spirit led you.

Mom Was Mission Minded

Prior to the estate sale, Dad told each of his eight children to select one thing we wanted. He’d also selected one thing for us that he wanted us to have. The rest was up for auction.

My “one thing” was my Mother’s entire written materials. I had no idea what would be in that package, but I remembered Mom writing, always writing.

The package contained calendar type diaries, notes from stories she wanted to write and letters from our distant cousin, Mr. Lehman. This cousin’s letters offered a great deal about past generations and members of the family still alive. I remember Mom finding encouragement from the stories of relatives who emigrated from Germany. These were missionaries who’d been persecuted for their faith. He’d even been able to find their name, Christophel, which means “Christ carrier.”

Mom had a mission mindset and it was in her thick three-ring binder full of poetry where I discovered how serious missions was to her. There I found evidence that she’d hoped God would send she and Dad somewhere faraway to work as missionaries.

It wasn’t to be. God’s plan for her was to spread the gospel closer to home. As I remember it, and as the evidence shows, that’s what she did.

While I was growing up, my friends would come over to play and of course, she’d bring up her favorite topic: Jesus. Asking my friends if they were saved came as naturally to her as doling out cookies. She’d talk about the importance of having a relationship with Him. As long as they wanted the treats, she had a captive audience.

Once outside, my friends chided me. I was embarrassed, but I shouldn’t have been. After all, they were my friends. If I cared about them, I should have been telling them about Jesus.

Mom had opportunities to make an impact on children in other ways too. She always taught Sunday school; all grade levels. In the box of papers I also found a summer camp brochure where she’d been a counselor for a week.

As well as being a homemaker, Mom chose nursing as a career. She worked until she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when my youngest siblings (twins) were almost two years old. I still lived in my hometown at that time and it wasn’t unusual for someone to approach me and reminisce about my mother’s bedside manner.

They’d say things like, “You know, when I was in the hospital, your mother was the best nurse I had.” These comments pleased me, but didn’t surprise me. She loved taking care of people. That was another way God chose to use her and though people never said so, I’m guessing Mom prayed with a few of her patients. She was a prayer warrior. Her favorite phrase was “Prayer changes things.”

It’s impossible to tell how many lives Mom touched as a “Christ-carrier.” Most of the clues came from observing her over the years and then making discoveries in that packet containing her papers and journals.

She kept track of her witnessing efforts with one person in particular–her oncologist. Notes made in the margins of her cancer journal revealed that she had witnessed to him and given him a “smiley face tract.” I suppose it was a last ditch effort to plant some seeds, because Mom had decided to stop having treatments.

While at a party a couple years ago, I was introduced to a woman who had known my mother. “What a striking resemblance,” she said. “And when I saw you go across the room just a few minutes ago, I noticed you even walk like her.”

I laughed at that. But thinking of it now, I realize my spiritual walk isn’t much like hers. I get a little hard of hearing when it comes to heeding the Lord’s instructions for me.

Not Mom; she heard the call of God on her life and got in step with the Holy Spirit immediately. Though her desire was to travel to distant lands, she was satisfied with a small town and the people God placed in her path. She focused on what mattered and wasn’t ashamed of the gospel.

I can hear the Savior saying to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”