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5 People You Need to Be Friends With

Church is dismissed and the rustling starts. Do you quietly sneak out the back doors of the sanctuary? Or do you stick around, finding ways to soak up the richness of the diversity of the body of Christ?

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body,” Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 12:13a). As members of the body of Christ, we need one another (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).

Even so, we don’t always remember to interact with those different from us. Maybe it is time to reach out and see what wonders God will work in their lives and ours.

 

1. Get to know people in need

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

Part of our calling as Christians is to care for those in need—be it financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual. We can start by looking over the church prayer list, or remembering to ask, “how can I pray for you?” in conversations. Perhaps we can be a prayer partner for someone who is struggling at their new job, or offer to accompany someone to their medical appointments.

More important than a one-time offer of help, is the willingness to walk faithfully with our brother or sister in Christ, journeying together through what ups and downs may come our way.

 

 

2. Invest in the little ones

Jesus told his arguing disciples, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me” (Luke 9:48).

Do we welcome the children who come to our church? Do we even know their names? Or do we consider them noisy nuisances that need to be shuffled off to Sunday school so they don’t get in the way?

Maybe we could learn the names of two or three children at church, look out for them to say “hi” on Sundays, and ask how their week went.

As we build these relationships and get to know their families, we may even offer to take the children on a Saturday outing. And perhaps one day, we may be privileged to hear them share how God has worked in their hearts.

 

 

3. Relate to the elderly

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31)

It is often easier to surround ourselves with peers than to reach across age divides and befriend someone our parents’ or grandparents’ age. Try asking questions about their faith journey, or even what things were like when they were young.

For us, their rich experiences can offer us a surprising perspective. For older people, it can be meaningful to have a younger friend, especially if they don’t have family close by.

 

 

4. Connect with the family-less

“God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), and one of the ways He does so is through the church.

For those of us in a family—whether we live with parents, are married, or are raising children of our own—let’s invite others into our home.

Is anyone here on their own for work? Are there any students far from home? Do we have any single friends, young or old? Let’s invite them over for a family dinner. Get together for holidays. Ask them to join family outings.

While there can be wonderful freedom and flexibility for those living on their own, it’s important to be remembered and invited to the family table. It’s a simple way to ensure that everyone in the body is cared for.

 

 

5. Plug into growing families

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)

Whether you’re single, an empty nester, or married without children, it would be worthwhile getting to know a growing family. To parents, you might be able to offer a sympathetic ear and supporting prayers on those days when they’re going through challenges. To children, your strengths and passions can inspire and encourage them in unique ways.

In addition to getting involved with family ministries, we can start striking up conversations with families after church, or sitting by them during fellowship gatherings and potlucks.

 

God brought together diverse brothers and sisters to be a part of His church. We’re missing out if we only hang out with people like us. Let’s step out and begin building relationships with more of our brothers and sisters. We will find that they can enrich our lives in ways we never expected!

Are You Afraid of Halloween?

Written By Tyler Edwards, USA

Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He has served in full-time ministry since 2006. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is also the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ.

God has made us all in His image. And since all of us are His marvelously unique designs, we often see a difference in opinions—even among Christians. That can be a challenge, since the Bible does not clearly express how we should act in every situation. Instead, the Bible is focused on presenting the gospel. It gives us principles for how to live, but how we apply some of those principles may vary. Things get tricky when Christians come to different, often passionate, conclusions. Take for example, Halloween.

Halloween is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in America. People dress up in costumes, go to parties, and talk to neighbors they’d otherwise ignore. Kids run up to houses chanting “trick or treat,” expecting to receive plenty of candy.

But Halloween is often controversial in Christian circles because of its pagan origins. Should we embrace it or boycott it?

The truth is, many Christians come to totally different conclusions, and that’s why Halloween can actually be an opportunity for Christians—it challenges us to learn how to deal with disagreements.

Let’s turn to Romans 14:13-19 as a guide:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Some Christians want to celebrate the holiday and use it as a time to witness, share, connect, and build relationships with other people to create opportunity for sharing the gospel. That’s great. Others feel a strong conviction that they should not participate because they don’t feel right doing so. That’s great too. Hear this: neither choice is wrong.

What we get wrong is how we respond to the person who makes a different choice from us. Those of us who celebrate Halloween are wrong when we accuse those who abstain of being mindlessly legalistic, and those of us abstaining are in the wrong if we criticize those who celebrate without bothering to understand their intent.

Too often, we are quick to judge and slow to seek understanding. Jesus was the opposite. He calls us to be the opposite. If we don’t agree with what another Christian is doing, we have help. These five checks have helped me navigate, not just through the Halloween debate, but other disagreements with Christians also:

1. Examine Scripture. Before anything else, I should make sure my reason is supported by God’s Word and not just some tradition I grew up with.

2. Examine Scripture again. This time, I’m not looking at it from my angle, but from the other person’s. Does their behavior go against Scripture, or are there verses that support what they are doing, too?

3. Approach people gently, humbly, and in love. I don’t, as a Christian, have the right to make judgments in my mind about another person if I’m not willing to talk with them. If I don’t like or agree with what someone is doing, I need to talk to the person about it. Ask questions. Try to understand it from their point of view.

4. Examine Scripture again. Now that I know the other person’s perspective, I re-examine God’s Word to see if there was something I previously missed or didn’t understand.

5. Go to them again, in love. At this point, I might gently and humbly share with them my view, the Scripture that I’ve found which gives direction, and why I think they should consider changing their behavior.

Notice that sharing my opinion is the last step. Until I’ve really gone through the first four steps, I have no right to do step five. If I skip to it, I’m likely handling things with a judgmental attitude.

What’s important is that we shouldn’t become so wrapped up in debates that we fail to see the gospel opportunities in front of us. Halloween can be one such opportunity, both for ministering to strangers, as well as in how we, as Christians, treat one another.

If we do choose to celebrate Halloween, let us use this opportunity to focus on building relationships and connecting with other people. We can reach those whom Jesus loves, but who are currently outside of His Kingdom, and initiate conversations with people we normally wouldn’t.

Every day we have opportunities to do what God has called us to do. As the people of God, let’s be open to see every part of our lives as an opportunity to glorify God by sharing His gospel with the world. Isn’t that the summation of our mission? To draw all men to the kingdom of God?

But even as we plan our celebrations, we should also be sensitive to the convictions of other Christians who might not feel comfortable with the idea, and be careful not to judge people for their choice (Romans 14). Ultimately, whether or not we participate in Halloween is a personal decision, and whichever side you are on concerning Halloween (or any other issue), let’s prioritize unity in the body of Christ, and be open to engaging with each other and learning more about how we can love each other.

Are You Ashamed of the Gospel?

Written By Grayson Pope, USA

Grayson Pope (M.A., Christian Studies) is a husband and father of three, and the Managing Web Editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He serves as a writer and editor with Prison Fellowship. For more of Grayson’s writing check out his website, or follow him on Twitter.

I share the gospel like it’s a gift card at a kid’s birthday party—an obligatory present I hope they don’t open in front of me. Know the feeling?

If so, then we’re in good company.

Timothy, the mentee of the Apostle Paul, was a young man in over his head and out on his own. He was being sent into the marketplace, the town square, and people’s homes to tell them that Jesus was crucified, buried, then rose from the dead after three days and that this was good news for them, who were sinners by nature and separated from God.

When the Culture “Doesn’t Need” the Good News

Timothy was known to be a reluctant leader who was often timid and fearful. We learn this because Paul specifically writes to remind him of the power we have in the Spirit of God to overcome timidity (1 Timothy 1:7). Timothy also seemed to be prone to sickness (1 Timothy 5:23), and was young for his position of influence (1 Timothy 4:12).

On top of all of that, Timothy was being asked to take the gospel of Jesus into a culture that didn’t want to hear about it. The people of Ephesus were living in one of the wealthiest places in the world. Many of them would have been living comfortable lives and were perfectly content to appease the gods so they could continue their pursuit of pleasure and happiness.

Things were going pretty well for the Ephesians, so who needed God? Who wants to hear about a suffering God that was killed on a cross then raised from the dead, and is now calling us to lay our lives down and follow him?

No wonder Timothy was timid and tempted to be ashamed of the gospel.

And no wonder we’re timid and tempted to be ashamed. Surely you see the parallels in his task and ours? Like Timothy, you and I are called to take the gospel to work and into people’s homes in a time where many are apathetic or hostile to what they think of as Christianity. They’re not quite sure what it is, but they know they don’t want anything to do with it because they’re doing just fine. After all, they’ve got a roof over their head, a job that pays, and a smartphone in their pocket. Why add God to the mix when things seem to be going okay? Why can’t they just keep pursuing the American Dream?

These cultural pressures make it seem so difficult to share Jesus with our neighbors and friends and family. When it feels hard, we must remember why it’s good news, because that will help us combat the lie that people are doing okay without the gospel.

 

We Must First Remember the Gospel

Fortunately, we have a record of Paul’s advice to Timothy. In his second letter to the young Timothy, Paul writes,

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8-10).

In this exhortation, Paul tells Timothy to remember the gospel. He was reminding Timothy of the gospel he believed, and he was calling Timothy to preach it to himself, for it is in remembering the gospel we believe that we receive the power to proclaim it.

Are you ashamed of the gospel? Are you afraid to tell people about Jesus? Then remind yourself of the God who saved you.

When I’m fearful of sharing the gospel, I must remind myself of what I was like before knowing Christ—I was dead in my sins in which I once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, carrying out the desires of my body and mind, and was by nature, a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me, even when I was dead in my trespasses, made me alive together with Christ—by grace I have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5)!

As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we are reminded of its powers and God’s grace, and it gives us the strength to preach the gospel to our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.

 

We Must Remember Who Empowers Us to Share

There’s another piece to us shedding any shame that might weigh down our desire to share the Gospel. Later in 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy exactly where he gets his boldness from when he says, “…I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).

An important part of Paul sharing the gospel boldly was remembering that God was the one behind it. Paul knew the power and majesty of the One he believed in, and his faith convinced him that as he sought to transmit the gospel to the nations, God would guard his efforts to do so.

Just as Paul was, we too, are entrusted with reaching more people for God’s Kingdom. Our confidence can grow when we remember that as we walk out that incredible commission, it’s God’s power that is guarding our efforts to share the good news with others.

The courage to share the gospel comes from the gospel. God gives us the gospel, saves us by the gospel, then gives us the power to share the gospel.

Father, keep the taste of your grace always on my lips and let me not shrink from lavishing it on your children. Remind me of the grace and mercy you poured out on me as I go and pour it out for someone else.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel Centered Discipleship. This version has been edited by YMI.

3 Healthy Ways to Handle Conflict

Written by Madeline Twooney, Germany

A few Sundays ago, an acquaintance of mine from church pulled me aside before the morning service to talk to me about a weakness in my character. She thought that l was too occupied with accommodating other’s needs in church, that I neglected my own needs. In her opinion, l could do with standing up for myself more.

l smiled and muttered some vague thanks for her concern.

But in the back of my mind, l was fuming—absolutely fuming. I found her words condescending and her intervention inappropriate. I was not a frightened, insecure person. While I am fallen and flawed like everyone else, l believe that God has gifted me with a kind and generous heart that is always seeking to help others—I’ve always looked at that as an asset.

To this day, my acquaintance doesn’t know how l feel. I opted out of negatively responding to avoid an unnecessary storm.

And yet I wonder. . .was avoiding conflict by ignoring her confrontation the correct thing to do?

As the body of Christ, we need to be able to respond to conflict within the church and in our lives in a healthy way that does the following:

  • Gives us peace as individuals
  • Promotes love
  • Lifts us up as a body of believers that can serve God both in the church and out in the world

So, how do we do that?

The apostle Paul approaches this dilemma in his epistle to the Christians in Colossae. Because of false teachings, the church was suffering from severe division. In Colossians 3:13-15, Paul shows us three principles that we can use today to help us respond to conflict.

 

1. Forgive Others As God Forgives Us

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

The act of forgiveness is of such great importance to Paul, that the word is used three times in this Bible passage. Not only are we called to forgive others, we need to strive to forgive them in the same way God has forgiven us.

This means that whatever harm the other person might have caused us, we do not hold it against them. This also means blotting out any bitterness or anger we may feel towards them. Forgiving as the Lord forgives not only frees the person who wronged us—it liberates us as well.

My acquaintance has an impression of me that may be untrue. But that’s ok. I know who l am, and God knows who l am. Irrespective of what prompted her to push her opinion on me, l am practicing every day to forgive in a way that frees us both.

 

2. Put on Love

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

Jesus commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35). However, how do we love someone we have a conflict with? In that case, we need to make a conscious decision to love them—to accept them for who they are, warts and all, and recognize that they are a work in progress, just like we are. We need to put on love.

Loving someone with whom we are in conflict is easier when we understand the motives for their actions. My acquaintance had good intentions in mind, so showing her anything but love would only promote confusion and hurt in her heart.

That doesn’t mean that l shouldn’t talk to her openly about her actions and their effect on me—l can, and l might at some point in the future. However, if l confront her, l need to do it from a place of love, not from hurt or accusation.

God is love. When we were still His enemy, He loved us (Ephesians 2:4-5). If His love can unify us with Him, shouldn’t we be sharing this love with others?

 

3. Let Peace into Our Hearts

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace (Colossians 3:15)

Being in conflict is stressful and takes up a lot of our mental energy. Why would anyone choose to live that way, when we have the option to receive the peace Christ offers (John 14:27)?

Choosing to accept Jesus’ peace has been a great blessing for me in my situation. It isn’t always easy to apply, but it helps to think of how much inner turmoil and stress l am avoiding in my life by simply trusting Jesus to work things out in His perfect timing. With that in mind, choosing peace is a better option!

The church is of great importance to Jesus. For it to function well, He requires us to be at peace. So, if you are holding tightly to an issue or a conflict today, could you let it go for Jesus’ sake?

 

It would be nice to say that conflict is something that can be avoided. Unfortunately, we are imperfect people living in a broken world—a prime breeding ground for discord and strife.

How comforting it is, then, to know that we have a perfect God who loves us in our brokenness, and guides us to respond or deal with these conflicts in a Christlike manner, through His love and teachings!