Posts Tagged ‘sharing your faith’

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12
How Do You Respond

There are essentially two ways to answer any question regarding Christianity. One is logical and matter-of-fact and the other is compelling and personal. One clearly sheds light on the what of Christianity and the other the Who of our faith. While both are fine and have a place in our witness, the latter is decisively better. I suspect this is likely the reason why the Apostle Paul opts here to share about Who he knows rather than what he knows.

“Whom I Believe”

I’m treading gently here, but nevertheless, our faith has less to do with what we believe and everything to do with Who we believe in, submit to, and rely upon. Therefore, our most effective witness occurs when our focus is kept on Jesus and our relationship. Similarly, if you were telling someone about marriage, the better account would come not from a dictionary, but in the sharing of your personal relationship you enjoy with your spouse. This of course in no way diminishes the importance and vitality and truth of Biblical data.

What vs. Who

Reflect on what you know about the Bible and chances are you fall into one of these two categories: a) You are not very knowledgeable and feel hindered by the fact that you do not know a lot, or b) You study the Bible a lot and have come to the realization that the more you learn the less you know.

Don’t fret…

This is a wonderful position to be in and Paul, the biblical scholar, would agree (although he would never counsel anyone to not study the Bible. That would be ludicrous). The formerly blind man would also agree — he knew very little (if anything) of God‘s word. However, he was more than willing and able to share about his relationship with his Savior Jesus.

Sometimes all you have is all you need.

“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25

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“Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.  A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength; For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 24:3-6)

In my last blog I shared how Mark Cahill, a full-time evangelist, and Christian author and teacher, encouraged me to step it up a notch in regard to sharing my faith more conversationally. As a result I Mall-of-America_1_0found myself heading off to the local mall with Bible, testimony, and tracts in hand. Long story short, (you can read yesterday’s blog here), it was an incredible blessing from the Lord.

Anyway, when I had listened to Mark speak, he had shared how New Jersey was one of only 3 states that allowed free speech in the mall. By that he meant that shopping malls are technically private property and therefore in most cases, they have the right to say what can or cannot be shared on their property, but New Jersey (praise be to God), was the exception to the rule!

Give That to Me in Writing

I suppose it’s the ex-cop in me, but I wanted to see the law. So I dropped Mark an email. He didn’t have the citation on hand, but he directed me to the Christian Law Association (CLA). As per their website, “CLA provides free legal assistance to Bible-believing churches and Christians who are experiencing difficulty in practicing their religious faith because of governmental regulation, intrusion, or prohibition in one form or another.” I wasn’t having any difficulties; I just had a question about the law and glory to God, they answered my question in less than 24 hours!

Here’s the response I received from CLA and I wanted to share it with you.  I hope you find it helpful — especially if you’re a Christian living in Jersey.

Here it is:

“Thank you for contacting the Christian Law Association regarding your right to witness and distribute literature in shopping malls in New JerseyOnly a few states have declared shopping malls to be a traditional public forum permitting free speech rights.  New Jersey is one of those few states.  This means that in New Jersey, your free speech rights are protected in shopping malls as well as in private universities and hallways in residential buildings.  (See State v. Schmid, 423 A.2d 615, 631 – 633 (N.J. 1980); Guttenberg Taxpayers & Rentpayers Ass’n v. Galaxy Towers Condominium Ass’n, 688 A.2d 156 (N.J. Super. Ct. Ch. Div. 1996), aff’d, 688 A.2d 108 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1996).

Please note that in most states no free speech activities are allowed in shopping malls without permission of the owner.  The law in most states categorizes malls as private property and permission must be obtained before conducting any witnessing activities.  This includes getting permission to place leaflets on cars parked in a store’s private parking lot.

Federal courts have held that the right of private property owners to control activities on their property outweighs the right of free speech.  This will likely continue to be the case with respect to privately owned businesses and their parking lot areas in states who have not declared shopping malls to be a “traditional public forum”.

 That’s great news (for New Jersey), isn’t it? I also found this little blurb about our ‘first amendment rights and NJ malls’ from a website called the First Amendment Center.

Question: Do individuals have First Amendment rights on others’ private property?

Answer: Generally no. The Bill of Rights provides protection for individual liberty from actions by government officials. This is called the state-action doctrine. Private property is not government-owned. Restrictions on individuals’ free-speech rights on private property do not involve state action.

However, a few states have interpreted their own state constitutions to provide even greater free-speech protection than the federal Constitution offers. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have free-speech rights at privately owned shopping malls. Most state supreme courts that have examined the issue have disagreed. In April 2002, the Iowa Supreme Court refused to extend its definition of public property to include large, privately owned shopping malls.

Here’s what I found…

I went to the mall yesterday without any of this data, and freely witnessed to a bunch of people and handed out Bible tracts. I passed several security guards (or they passed me) and they seemed quite indifferent to what I was doing. The truth be told, they probably had no idea what I was doing because I wasn’t just handing out Bible tracts willy-nilly, but was engaging folks in one-on-one conversations. The good news (pun intended) is that I could have stood there and handed out Bible tracts willy-nilly, because the NJ Supreme Court has ruled in favor of that issue as long as we don’t block  stores, and/or impede the general flow of traffic (which of course is a reminder to be good stewards of this privilege). I was excited to learn that we can do the same thing on college campuses!

Final Admonition

I hope you found this information to be as enlightening and encouraging as I did, but you might want to take advantage of the situation while the NJ law is still on your side, because I suspect in the not too distant future these laws will be repealed.

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

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“Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Faith That is Seen

ladderIf faith stands alone, it is entirely invisible. If I say, “I believe this ladder will support my weight,” but then don’t ever climb it, my faith is veiled by my own dormancy. The reality is that someone else will have to come along and scale the ladder in order to prove its worth. At this juncture the amount of faith I possess is of no consequence if I fail to act upon its smallest portion. Neutral or idle faith is transparent and serves no purpose.

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

The Apostle Peter is essentially saying the same thing as James, therefore we can conclude that invisible faith and dead faith are the same beast to be avoided. Those who exhibit invisible or dead faith are in fact obstacles towards both personal sanctification and societital evangelism. To that end, James would later proclaim in his epistle…

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:24)

Adding to Faith

My mom was clever. She tied a ribbon atop her antenna so she could easily spot her car as she exited the grocery store. My wife does a similar thing with our luggage. Since by itself there’s not much to distinguish it from the other baggage, she ties colorful ribbons to the handles. Peter is asserting that if we want others to see our faith (and we should), we need to apply something more than *bumper stickers, t-shirts, or refrigerator magnets.

Peter counsels us to add to our faith:

  1. Virtue: the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from sin. Virtue also lends itself to strength, valor, and bravery.
  2. Knowledge: a clear and certain perception of truth and facts. The lighting of the mind that aids discernment.
  3. Temperance: a habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions of our flesh. Simply put: self-control.
  4. Patience: to persevere through afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, with a calm, unruffled temper, without murmuring or complaining.
  5. Godliness: a purposeful and obedient observance of the laws of God and performance of religious duties, in love and reverence for our Father in Heaven.
  6. Kindness: the attitude and disposition of good will exercised cheerfully; that which delights in contributing to the happiness or basic needs of others.
  7. Charity: that disposition of the heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men. In a general sense, love.

These items should look vaguely familiar to us, for at least in part, they comprise the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s beneficial for us to meditate on the Galatians text in conjunction with Peter’s letter, for in so doing we learn that these attributes are given by the Holy Spirit and received by the faithful, not contrived in our minds or achieved in our flesh. Working at these traits in our own strength is an act of futility that will only serve to make us weary and discouraged.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Can your faith be seen?

Is there evidence to support your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? If not, first make sure you are on the feetnarrow path, and if so, make sure you are walking forward. In order to exercise your faith, there must be some degree of movement. Remember it’s okay (and even recommended) that your first step be upon your knees.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, your walk can begin today! If you’re not sure where to start, leave a comment and I’d be blessed to share with you.

(*Bumper stickers, t-shirts, and refrigerator magnets are wonderful things. I employ all three!)

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This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Is there a war on Christian values in the United States?

Some Christians say no. They maintain that since America is steeped in liberty and that God has granted everyone latitude of choice, believers are not experiencing a war on Christian values, but rather witnessing firsthand freedom of expression on its grandest scale. They assert that instead of being so thin-skinned, we should be more loving, and as we love, somehow, someway, someone will inquire about our faith.

Okay, there is some Biblical truth in there that we cannot deny. After all Jesus did say:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

But I want to go back to the Ephesians text, particularly God’s directive about no longer walking as the world walks (and so there is no confusion) examine the Lord’s precise reasoning. We are told that the secular world is alienated from the life of God, they’re ignorant and blind to understanding, and have devoted themselves to all things iniquitous. Looking at the world today one might even think that the narrow path that Christians walk is not that way by design, but rather because it’s being squeezed in from all sides ungodly, much like Israel today — We take notice that it is but a narrow strip of land surrounded by those who seek her demise. Similarly this is the thin path we trod.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

I submit to you that the war on Christian values is made evident when someone crosses the line, that is to say that they are no longer content to merely wallow in their sin, but feel compelled to interrupt our walk.  And yet some say this doesn’t exist; the world doesn’t care what we believe and nor do they desire to become intrusive to the point of interference. To that I say, “You must be blind.” How many of these headlines do we have to read before we realize Jesus and His doctrines are under attack:

I could go on and on. If this is not a war on Christian values, then I have been completely deceived by the enemy. And again, just so we’re clear, I’m not shocked that this is occurring; this war began in the Garden and will continue until Christ returns. What alarms me is that some Christians deny it’s existence when God, in His Word, told us it would happen. Do they not see that the world bears witness to His prophetic word?

So what do we do?

Everything a Christian does must begin with prayer. God has given us a specific protocol to follow, but yet every situation is unique. In other words, how a Christian responded to yesterday’s assault may not be how the Lord desires we respond today. The Father commands we check in with Him continually by means of prayer, reading the Bible, being in Christian fellowship, and being consistent in the other components of our faith, lest we respond in our flesh and do more harm than good. My sense is that  those Christians who falsely maintain that ‘extreme tolerance’  and love is the sole answer to the problem, are most likely opposed to those who operate outside of the will of God waving their ill-conceived banners of hate (a la the Westboro Baptist clan et el). Sadly these renegades do exist, but heaven forbid that they become the catalyst towards lethargy or apathy within the church.

Is there ever a time to be silent? Absolutely. And those who abide in the Vine will discern the time.

Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, And dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, And his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; None of his steps shall slide. (Psalm 37:27-31)

We must also remember that our primary goal is not to defeat the enemy, but to win him or her to Christ. The war in which we’re engaged is unique in that we desire to rescue our foes in the name of Jesus, rather than annihilate them. To this end we have been given the Gospel message and the Law. Why the Law? Because it is the road sign that points us to Jesus. To neglect the Law at this juncture is to wink at sin.

“Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians  3:22-24)

Here is the truth that very few people want to hear: individuals need to know that their illicit behavior is sinful and separates them from God. When the opportunity presents itself, and when guided by the Holy Spirit, God wants us to inform sinners that these habitual practices will lead them to hell. How they react is their business and how we anticipate their reactions should not dissuade us. And yes, I would be remiss if I neglected to say all this is driven by the love of Jesus, lest we become sounding brass or a clanging cymbals.

God’s directive should also be compelling…

“Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.” (Ezekiel 33:2-7)

When do we stop?

God will tell us when to start, what to say or do, and when it’s time to stop. When we don’t listen to Him is when we risk becoming hurtful to God.  It will serve us well to remember that God giveth the soapbox and God taketh away. As we stand boldly for Christ there will most assuredly come a time to either shake off the dust from our feet or to welcome another sinner home. In the meantime we should be mindful to walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful; but delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law meditate both day and night.

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Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

I’m hesitant to declare that Psalm 51 is my favorite Psalm, but it is right up there near the top. It speaks to the time when King David came before the Lord and confessed his wickedness regarding Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah and [David’s] subsequent redemption.  It also speaks directly to gratitude.

Today, as I poured through the Song once again, I selahed at verse 13:

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. 

I found myself asking the question, “What will it take for us to teach the LORD’s ways to the transgressor?  The following inquiry was gleaned (and personalized) from the text preceding that thirteenth verse:

  1. Have you acknowledged your transgressions?
  2. Have you been purged with hyssop?
  3. Are you now clean, washed, and whiter than snow?
  4. Are your sins now hidden and your iniquities blotted out?
  5. Has He created in you a clean heart? 
  6. Has He renewed a steadfast spirit within you?
  7. Are you welcome in His presence? 
  8. Has He given you His Holy Spirit?
  9. Do you possess the joy of salvation?
  10. Are you upheld by His generosity? 
Hopefully you responded in the affirmative to each of those queries. If you have, then guess what? It’s time for you to make known the riches of this glorious mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory. And remember, a lion is the happiest when it is let out of the cage.

“His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.”  (Jeremiah 20:9b)

If you do not know Jesus Christ as both God and Savior, then click HERE. And please know, God is not interested in making converts, He desires that we would willingly follow Him, not because He is needy, but because we are.

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