All posts in Evangelism

A Crisis in Question, pt. 2

I remember the instant I knew I was in trouble. At church one evening before our trip, we had a team meeting. After I left, someone made the comment that we’d have to be ready to share our faith at a moments notice.

“I grew up doing that. I won’t have a problem.” My words dripped with arrogance.

It was true. Growing up as an OB (Officer’s Brat) in The Salvation Army, you get used to flexibility. I sang the alto part in my first duet at age 7. I stood kettles for the Army soon after that and each Sunday, we traipsed out to the street corner for what was called the “Open Air Meeting.” To a teenager, it was the “I’ll hide behind my horn in case my friends see me, Meeting.”

We’d march out with our instruments, gather in a circle and begin to play. The instruments were to attract attention. And it usually did. Both good and bad. Several times we listened to a drunk rant and rave. Sometimes, local children would make fun of us.

Then my dad would give a short gospel message, I might be called on to give my testimony or pray or even sing, and then we’d march back to the Army for the night meeting. If someone were interested, we’d invite them back to hear more about Jesus. It was impossible to be shy.

I also grew up giving gifts and time to poor people. I received a degree in Social Work at Asbury College. My whole life was filled up with service and testimony.

So when I heard we would visit people and share the gospel, secretly I thought, I’ll be good at that.

Fast forward to Sunday morning in Honduras. The building was to be dedicated. There would be many people attending and the place was packed. Again, the people worshipped and prayed with passion for a long time. Again, Lorenzo translated the message of the Lord for our pastor. It really was amazing.

After the service, the local ladies cooked for all of us. About 300. Over an open fire. The kids played, the adults ate together and talked. But, I couldn’t stop crying.

Why are we doing this? Why do we think we know anything? Are we really doing any good?

I retreated to my room. I flunked missions.

I tried to read a novel and couldn’t. I was drawn to God’s Word. David’s Psalms encouraged me. I asked the Lord to help me. “I flunked Missions 101, Lord. I know that you have answers. Please help me.”

I cried out to my Papa. And He answered with His Word.

Danielle Kreloff came into the room. We talked and I shared with her how weak I was. “I think the Lord wants me to share my weakness with the rest of the team,” I said.

That night on the porch, people shared one praise after another. I remained silent. There was a pause, like we were going to end. I knew that was my cue. So I shared my doubts and questions and that I’d flunked missions.

Mike Schadt encouraged me with God’s Word and then all of the team gathered round me to pray. Joe Tro led them. The scriptures he used were some of the very ones that the Lord had brought to mind. One of them was the father in Mark 9. He said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

Another passage the Lord brought to mind was in John 6. Currently, I’m writing a Bible study titled, “Bread of Life.” I’m stuck on day 10 that deals with the end of the bread of life discourse.

Jesus tells the people that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they will have no part of Him. Many who followed Jesus left at that point. Jesus turns to the tweleve and says, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”

Of course Peter responds. His response was my response. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

My crisis wasn’t over, but I knew where to look for answers.

More tomorrow.

Tag-Team-Testimonies

So I forgot that the first night in El Salvador, we dropped luggage off and ate dinner at La Esperanza. This is a church meaning planted by SOS missions. After that we travelled to a local village for an open air meeting. We set up plastic chairs on a narrow street lined with simple boxed homes. A man bought a rooster while we conducted our meeting, displayed it and entered his front door about ten feet from our meeting.

This was my first introduction to a worship service in Central America. I was struck by two things: their passion and their prayer. When we prayed, many fell to their knees and prayed aloud while the pastor also prayed. When they sang, everyone sang out,some on tune, some off, and the song lasted much longer than in America.

Joe Trofemuk spoke as a local man translated. Myriads of stars shone on our little meeting as the local man showed off his new rooster. It was a good night.

The next morning, I twisted my ankle, and we boarded a bus bound for Honduras. There was a caravan of two trucks and our bus. All together, we numbered about 30.

At first, it was your typical bus ride. People interacting, looking at the sites, getting to know each other. After a few hours, Rob Ozburn asked someone to share their testimony. Than we played testimony tag team. We told how the Lord reached into our lives and made us alive in Christ. Interspersed were songs like, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Mighty to Save,” and “Amazing Grace.”

One of the trucks broke down in a town. While the leaders figured out that situation, some of the team visited local people and gave out the gospel of John. A few team members witness to a 14-year-old-girl named Sarai. She goes home and brings her 18-year-old-sister, Alexandria. She asks what she should pray to God to be saved. They encourage her with scripture and KR prays out loud in Spanish.

They secure one truck to our other truck with A TREE BRANCH AND A JUMP ROPE. Then we continue along treacherous mountain roads. The testimonies and songs continue. After 30 minutes the trucks are pulled over since the branch-rope thing didn’t work. Eventually, we arrive in Honduras at about 8:30. A delicious dinner is waiting, and then it’s time for “the porch.”

I’ve been sick so sorry for the delay. I’ll cover the crisis soon. It began on Saturday as we visited remote villages. Today’s entry was from Friday.

A Crisis of Question

I rested at 35,000 feet. The plane was dark, quiet, and only half-full. Tom and I shared three seats. I leaned against the window. Covered with my faux-fur blanket from Costco, I was deep in thought.

Tom returned from the bathroom and leaned over. “I just looked into the mirror after a week.”

I knew what he meant. We’d travelled to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We visited villages that could have been in a National Geographic Magazine. Half-dressed, hungry children, along with their tired mothers, peeked out of mud and stick shacks as we passed out candy, inviting them to a Christmas party. Mirrors were few and far between. It wasn’t pretty.

Intense could not begin to describe it.

Tom leaned over again. “I don’t want to be like the man in James who looked at himself in the mirror and then walked away and forgot what he looked like.” (James 1:23)

I understood that, too. I prayed that spending a week in Central America would change us forever. I know that life takes over and the urgent sometimes conquers the important and maybe we could forget. But I didn’t want to.

Here’s the trouble —I’m still not sure what I learned. I’m not sure what I shouldn’t forget.

So for the next several days, I’m going to write myself through it. It was so painful, I need to explore it, pray about it, and ask for God’s wisdom. I know that He will answer. James 1:5 states, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously an without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

So mine is not a crisis of faith because it is not me that holds on. It is God. John 10: 27, 28 states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Romans 8: 35 states, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword?” It’s a rhetorical question since verse 38 goes on to state, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God’s got the love rope tied securely around me, but I have questions. And there was definitely a crisis. So I’m going to tell you about it, not because I think I’m smarter or even important. I haven’t written any theological books nor do I plan to.

I’m going to write about my struggles so I won’t forget. I’m going to write about it to make discoveries on my own. So maybe you can discover with me. Maybe you have some of the same questions.

Sometimes in America, I think we keep busy so we can avoid difficult questions. Or perhaps we think to question God jeopardizes our salvation. It doesn’t.

I’m not demanding any answers from God. I don’t want Him to ask me where I was when He created the world like He did to Job. Instead, I’m humbly asking questions of my Papa.

Just this morning I prayed, “Lord, I have a quarter mustard seed of faith. Please increase it. Like the man with a demon-possessed son I ask you, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.’ I even have 1/100ths of a seed of intelligence and I am asking difficult questions of you, Lord. Help me.”

And just like a Father, the Lord God will tell me what I need to know. I know that I won’t understand everything, but maybe I will understand some things better. And for what I cannot understand, my prayer is that He will give me the faith to trust.

I am weak. He is strong.

I will be transparent. I will be real.

Join me, will you?

The Treasure

Confrontation is never fun. It’s usually uncomfortable. But often, it makes a difference.

In the life of the one doing the confronting. In the life of the one being confronted. Seldom does a record of it make the pages of a book that has been a best seller for 2000 years. That is exactly what happened when the Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter concerning something he did.

My pastor spoke from Galatians 2: 11-16. Story goes something like this. Peter knew that the Jewish laws were part of the old way of obeying and worshiping God. He knew that a man didn’t have to be circumcised to have a relationship with God. He knew that he had fellowship with everyone. He could eat with them, hang with them, worship with them. But Peter was intimidated when some ‘muckety-mucks’ who still held to the law came to visit. He dropped the Gentiles like a hot potato.

Paul noticed. In front of everyone, Paul tells him he’s off base. He’s wrong. The gospel isn’t about what you do or what you don’t do. It’s by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Period.

When Jesus came, He established a new way of coming to God—through His sacrificial death. Paul knew that. Peter knew that but he got a little side-tracked. Started worrying more about what other people thought than what God thought. He needed a friend to tell him he was wrong.

So when Paul corrected Peter, he corrected all of us for all time. The gospel is a treasure. Not something to be watered down. Not something to be added to.

I need to be reminded of that. I tend to want to agree with all people when they mention Christ’s name. I don’t want to rock the proverbial Christian boat. But Paul didn’t care. He knew what was important. I need to be concerned about what God thinks rather than what man thinks.

I’d like to finish todays’ blog with a verse. One we can sink our teeth into and hold onto. A verse we pass on to others. It’s Galatians 2: 16,

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because of the works of the law no one will be justified.” (ESV)

Hold on to that treasure friend. And don’t add water.

Monday’s Musings

I huffed at level nine on the elliptical machine. The ex-NFL, personal trainer stood next to me. I continued our conversation as I breathed in and out. “It’s like this, if we were standing on Clearwater Beach and decided to see who could swim to Texas, you might get a little farther than I would, but neither of us would make it. That is the same with earning our way to heaven. No one can make it.”

“Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that if a man lusts in his heart, he’s committed that sin in God’s eyes. If he has an angry thought, he’s guilty of murder. We’re born in sin.”

Zack nodded.

“We need to be prepared. We will either meet Jesus with open arms, or we will meet Him as the righteous judge.” I wiped my face with the edge of my damp shirt. The machine-made elliptical hill grew steeper.

” Just this week my good friend from college found her 17-year-old son dead.” He looked shocked. I continued.

“I can’t imagine what that is like. As horrible as that must have been, she knew that her son was in heaven because he trusted Christ for his salvation.”

“If God is calling you, don’t put it off. You don’t know when your time on earth is up.”

Zack looked pensive. “Maybe I should spend more time talking to you while you do cardio.”

We laughed.

My gym time finished. I retrieved some information about eternal life for my new friend. I didn’t put off getting the Good News to him, because if he doesn’t believe the Good News of Jesus, he will have horrific news when he dies.

Then it will be too late.

There’s been a lot of good news-bad news lately. Within the last four weeks, I’ve been to three weddings and about the same number of funerals. I put my senior-citizen-dog down. Celebrated my birthday and remembered my dad’s birthday, even though he’s been in heaven three years now.

I just finished studying the book of Ecclesiastes. Not exactly a book that brings great comfort. It was written by the richest and wisest man that ever lived. He tried everything. And I mean everything. And he had the resources to do it. Yet, he describes almost everything as ‘futile, striving after wind.’

He does say that there are seasons to our lives and they will be mixtures of both joy and pain. Joy in the birth of a baby. Pain in sickness. Celebration at a wedding. Weeping at a funeral.

We’ve all experienced those—are experiencing those.

But his conclusion is astonishing. “The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, whether it is good or evil.” Ec. 12: 13, 14.

We never know what a day may bring. But we can count on an eternal reckoning. We can also count on the Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is what we are celebrating this week. His death and resurrection. Life and death.

Be ready.