Day 31: The Circle

Missions March couldn’t be complete without a final stop: a visit to the circle.

What is “the circle”?  The circle is the people you have the most contact with, know the best, and influence the most.

People’s lives are changed by strangers everyday.  The family of a child in Africa saved by a heart surgery donated by Christians in America through Samaritan’s Purse is not likely to forget the ministry of strangers.  The ministry of strangers has changed lives, saved lives, and, best of all, brought people to eternal life in Christ.

But more often, lives are changed by the ministry of those we most know.

Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, the people in your small group Bible study, your canasta club, your hunting buddies, your Tupperware party ‘girl friends’ . . these are the people God has given in your circle.

If you think of a circle drawn around your life, the people you are closest to are inside that circle, and they are not there by accident.  They have been providentially placed there by God, and they are your responsibility to reach.

That’s heavy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of being responsible for those in my circle who are, very often the hardest people to reach.  It is easier for me to go on a mission trip or talk to a stranger on an airplane about Christ than it is for me to talk to some of my friends about Him.

Why is this?  Probably because there’s more danger involved.  If somebody sitting on the plane next to me waves his hand at me in disgust when I share my testimony with him, not much is lost except maybe my comfort for the rest of the plane ride.  But if one of my closest friends, or a family member I have to see every holiday thereafter, despises me, or even just makes fun of me, I feel as though I can’t face it.

Satan knows about the circle.  And he will attack in any way he can to keep your light from shining consistently and brightly for the people you are most likely to have the most influence over.

And he will fight dirty.

He will try to get you to be so fearful, so distracted, so frightful, so forgetful, so reluctant, so busy, or so embarrassed that you never witness at all, or only weakly witness at best.  He will try to persuade you that you would be a fool to reach out to the people in your life who you have the most influence over.

We have a choice.  We can listen to Satan, and lose out on witnessing to those we have the most time and relationship to do so with, or we can listen to God, and start living a life of Christ everywhere–not just in church, not just on the mission field in a foreign land, but right here, right now.

You are not limited in your witnessing to non-Christians in your circle.  You can encourage, council, and, even (the hardest) confront believers in your life through God’s help.

The idea of “confronting” is not pleasant, but it is vital.  If you and I know that we have a brother or sister living in sin, and we say nothing about it–how can we really love them?  God never tolerates our sin.  He never allows a believer to stay there.  Conviction is something only God can do; but you can confront a friend and pray for God’s conviction in their life.

Why do that?  Why not just hope God does it without your help?  You could rescue them from looming disaster and grave consequences (Read Jude).  But can’t God forgive them without your help?  Yes.  But would you really let a friend drive drunk because you knew his father would forgive them?  That’s hardly the point, is it?  The point is, you friend may get in a serious accident and kill himself or others or both.  In the same way, we can’t let family (and believers are our true family) live in the peril of habitual sin without praying for them, warning them, and reaching out to help them.

Reaching out to believers in our circle isn’t second to reaching to unbelievers.  If anything, we should flip the priority.  When we in dear love encourage, council, and confront believers, we help them grow in the wisdom of Christ.  A growing believer is a phobia to Satan.  Imagine the unity in the church if we only reached out to believers!  If we took care of each others needs like family would, worked together to pay hospital bills, shared meals, had picnics and cook-outs together all the time, prayed for each other with devotion, traveled together, searched for strengths to encourage and weaknesses to strengthen, protected each others’ vulnerabilities, housed visiting believers so they wouldn’t go to hotels, called on each other in times of crisis, etc.  We would have the attention of the world.  (Note: There are certainly, certainly Christians who already do this.  But the rest of us need to get serious about living like belong together.)

Imagine what would happen if all the Christian parents in America only witnessed to their children–only their children, no one else.  If they spent their free time praying for their children, reading God’s Word to their children, sharing their faith, engaging in missions together, learning in church together, playing together, working together, etc.  If the Christian parents in America did only this and no more, we would have revival in twenty years.

I am not saying that every child would choose to be a Christian.  As Ravi Zacharias says, Christianity is not a religion where you can be born into it; you must choose it for yourself.  It is a personal and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus atones for sins for individuals, not for families.

Yet, many children would become believers, and not only would they become believers but–Hallelujah!–they would become strong, passionate, zealous believers, a group that has been a radical minority in America for years.

But there’s more.  What if Christians just loved their families?  Forget friends, coworkers, canasta club, etc.  Just family.  And not all family, but just immediate family.  What would happen?  We would draw our friends, and even strangers, like iron to a magnet.

If we truly engaged with our children, loved our spouses with passionate and devoted romance, treated our parents with respect from a core attitude of honor towards them, helped our siblings as though they were our best friends . . the world would be asking us, What is different about you?  Why do you treat your family like that?  How did you get that kind of love?

A critical problem with American Christians is that we do not spend time with God every day in His Word–I’m not talking about reading a verse in your Inbox or a page of your devotional calendar or the newest Christian bestseller–but the Word of God.  Our lack of care for God’s Word will be our nation’s downfall if we do not repent from this course.

If we spent time in God’s Word, we would see how important it is to God that we reach our family and our neighbors and everyone God gives us the chance to reach.  We would know that we are not to be casual or passive about our family or friends or world, but we are to fight for them.  And it starts with our family: physical and spiritual.

Would you want to listen to someone who always grips about their kids talk about the fatherly love of God to you?

Would you want to listen to someone always full of demeaning stories about their spouse talk about the great romance of God pursuing us?

Would you want to listen to someone always belittling their parents and avoiding visits with them talk about the respect they have for God?

Would you?  Neither would I.

THEN WHY DO WE DO WE TREAT OUR FAMILIES LIKE THIS?  WHY!?!?!?!?

We have got to wake up!  We have got to get in God’s Word and start fighting for our family (spiritual and physical), our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and everyone else in our circle.  We will never be able to reach the world with a consistent message until they see us treating our family, friends, coworkers, boss, and clients the way God commands us to treat them.  This is not an option.  And if we keep getting it wrong, we may find ourselves one day in the center of an empty circle, bringing no one with us to Heaven’s Gates.

. . each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, NIV)

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Note: I’ve heard The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson is very good.  His idea of making a circle prompted my thinking, though I only heard about it second-hand through my mom, who has read the book.  🙂

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The Greatest Event in History!

Why Easter? Read on!

Unshakable Hope

What would your answer be if you were asked to name thegreatestevent in the history of the world?

I suspect that your answer would depend on your overall worldview. A Christian, who fully understands the Gospel message, would say that the resurrection of Christ was the greatest event in history. But I don’t think any non-Christians would agree with that answer. Regardless of what their religious or ideological beliefs might be, all non-Christians have one thing in common; they don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ.

Lee Strobel has been a follower of Christ and a well-known Christian apologist for over 30 years. Before becoming a Christian, Lee was an award-winning investigative journalist and the legal editor for the ChicagoTribune. He was also a self-professed “drunk” and an “angry atheist.”  His wife, Leslie, was agnostic when they married, but later became a Christian. Leslie’s…

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Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The jeweled Path

This past week has been like all weeks since my new life in Christ.  When I look back on the Path I’ve walked, the debris of my sin litters what was, only 7 days before, a clean street.

Here and there, I see the glimmers of a jewel, sometimes plainly seen on the path, sometimes hidden almost entirely underneath my sin.  I see the moments where God got ahold of my heart, where I prayed out of love, where I sought His heart, where I did something that imitated my Savior and my God.  But when I look at my basket of righteousness to see what I have collected from those moments, I see only the wicker at the bottom.

Empty.

Empty!

On the path behind, I see not only the gemstones I missed, but even more so the trash I left behind.  I think about how, in honesty, I could not reconcile and set everything right I trashed even this past seven days, much less for the some 8,000 days I have been an influencer in the world, a journeyer responsible for what I carry and what I leave behind.

This week, as I look back over the street, I see the very tip of a large gemstone just visible on the path I walked, but–before my heart can soar in this moment of discovering the gem or faint in grief that I didn’t spend time uncovering it–I see the mounds of trash piled high beside that stone, desecrating the goodness God was showing me.

It’s especially wounding to realize that God was working with me on something, that I saw it, that I even began to experience in it . . and then that other trash of my life spilled over and I sinned so greatly I obscured even the sweetest moment of the week.

Lately, I have had an obsession with the year 30.  I will be 30 August 28, 2013.  I dream that, when I turn 30, I will hold my life all together, that there will be only a few sprinkles of trash here and there, and that the path will be paved with breathtaking gemstones, one after the other, turned over by God as He reveals His work to my closely following heart.

I’ve thought, I’ve hoped I will begin following Jesus nearly perfectly.  Jesus started His public ministry at 30, and–though I know the first 29 years of my life do not mirror Jesus’ whatsoever save for the dazzling intervention of His grace–I hope that the rest of the years of my life will be a symphony of imitating my Redeemer, without His help.  I want to show Him that I love Him, that I can live out what He’s taught me  That I, in some tiny way, understand what He’s done for me.

But do I really believe this will happen?  Do I think that, in a few short months, simply because I hear the song of another birthday, my life will be filled with holiness?

That when I look back as an old woman (should I by God’s grace live so long!) I will see from the year 30 onward, the Path behind me jeweled and radiant with gemstones God has overturned for my pure heart to see, gemstones I have no longer missed because I am no longer too busy throwing the trash of my chaos, my selfishness, and my foolishness down the glory street, gemstones I finally placed in my basket to bring to Him at the moment my soul meets eternity?

Do I really think I will gather sapphires of peace, mali garnets of integrity, almandine garnets of charity, amazonites of purpose, moonstones of reflection, ambers of passion, amethysts of hope, morganites of gentleness, ammolites of creativity, andalusites of generosity, aventurines of adventure, beryls of a noble heart, peridots of faith, carnelians of trust, rhodolite garnets of beauty, charorites of compassion, rubies of wisdom, chrysoprases of worship, citrines of holiness, seraphinites of purity, danburites of determination, smoky quartz of persistence, diamonds of truth, spessarite garnets of fear of the Lord, emeralds of thoughtfulness, fire agates of resolution, sphalerites of zeal, emeralds of patience, spodumenes of exalting Christ, star diopsides of mystery, gaspeites of wonder, ametrines of mercy, agate geodes of victory, star garnets of announcing the Kingdom of Christ, star diopsides of proclaiming Christ as the only resolution for sin, goshenites of following Him, star sunshines of devotion, hackmanites of surrender, tanzanites of battling on God’s side, moss opals of growth, obsidians of strength, axinites of warmth, cassiterites of understanding, hiddenites of listening to the whispers of God, imperial topazes of His atonement for me, topazes of the war against sin, jaspers of the hidden plan of God, tiger’s eyes of refusing defeat, kunzites of the romance of God for His people, turquoises of astonishment for His grace, kyanites of a clear conscience, lapis lazulis of a servant’s heart, zircons of strength for the battles ahead, tourmalines of endurance, sunstones of redemption, pyrope garnets of forgiveness, and rubellite tourmalines of His love . . simply because I have gotten a year older?

Even now, I know it won’t be so.  I already imagine the litter of my sin in the future.  Even the most precious moments of God in my life are piled over high with the smelly filth of unimaginable sins I have committed.

How do I go on?  How do I keep hoping I will live a perfect life?  How do I keep from missing the gemstones in my path like a child staring at her shoes during an Easter egg hunt?  How do I have any assurance I will live a holy life from this day forward?  How do I rely on myself when, to date, the basket of my self-righteousness is empty?  I am happy simply to look back and see gems that have not been totally buried in my trash; I never once have been able to touch one with my fingertips and place it in my basket.  And so my basket is hauntingly empty; the path of holiness is hauntingly fearful; I wonder how I can, with any sort of integrity, keep going down the path of Christianity and not resign in shame?

And then, suddenly, instantly, a hand slips into mind.  I recognize the scar in the middle of the palm; I look up and see a head that has borne the crown of thorns I deserve as my reward for how I have journeyed on this path.

My eyes fill with tears, because I look on His majesty and see I have nothing to give Him.  I am like a servant walking in a kingdom to find that it is the king’s birthday and I have no present.  This is far more than a birthday; this is Resurrection Day–and what do I have to give Him?

I look down at my empty basket and the shame of how I’ve walked the Path brings me to my knees.  I cover my face in my hands and hope He does not see me, that He walks on by to receive jewels from others who have earned them for Him.

He still holds my hand, and He moves my hand in His to reach for something I cannot see with my head bent down.  He withdraws His hand from my trembling one, and my hand rests on the hard warmth of the inside of a basket filled with jewels, loaded down so that not another can fit.

I raise my hand, stand in surprise, look in the basket held out before me.  Inside is everything I have ever tried to give Jesus; everything jewel God has ever shown me on the path that I either missed or failed to pick up; and ones I have never seen or imagined even existed that await on my future path–I see clearly that I will fail to pick up them, too.

The jewels of righteousness are too beautiful for my unholy eyes, and I jerk my gaze away.  I try to pull my hand from His basket, but He grasps my wrist and lays my hand back over the gemstones.

“I cannot . .” I weep.  “I cannot take your gemstones.  You’ve worked so hard for them.  It’s not fair!  I’m the one who should be giving to you!”

I should have collected jewels to give to Him! He is the one who carried me from the path of destruction!  I owe Him everything!  should be the one bringing the gifts!

He is the One who undug my grave while nails were in His palms.  He is the One who kissed my dead heart to life while He was kissed with my betrayal of HimHe is the One who lifted me out of the grave while the consequences of my actions shredded His skin. He is the One who crowned my head with life while He wore the crown of my curse.  He is the one who carried me on His back while I lifted a cross to His.

I was His cross.

As He tasted the vinegar of my death, He cupped His hands full of the Living Water to quench my thirst.  As He took His last breath, He breathed into me my first breath.  And when He woke from the tomb, it was me who He carried out with Him.

How can I possibly take His jewels?

I start to refuse.  I start to flee, but He holds my hand once more.  I hear a tearing, like a Great Curtain ripping a path from earth to Heaven, and I see in front of the path a still stone cave.

The world is utterly quiet.  I look at the stone beside the mouth of the cave.  It would have been impossible for me to move; but Someone has already moved it.  I know what this place is; I wonder if it is really okay to go inside.

But He leads me in.  I look around in what would have been the darkness of the place, but He is standing beside me.

I see the inside is not the small space of a tomb, but the infinite trove of a sea of jewels.  As far as I can look, I can see gemstones flooding the cavern.  My eyes would go blind from looking at them, were it not that He shields me with His hand.  I cannot in my falleness withstand seeing the infinite holiness of this vault.  He leads me out and I stumble in a daze.

Once again, He lays my hand on His basket.  I look again, and I see the gemstones of everything I have ever wanted to give Him, all the jewels I have seen along the way, and many more I missed seeing altogether, and even more that have not yet been unturned on the Path ahead.

And now I see.

My life is fulfilled in Christ.

It is He who holds everything together.

If you know Him, you do not go through life with an empty basket, but a full one.

My life is not to be spent trying to collect gemstones.

He has already picked them up for me.

My life is to be spent marveling Him, holding His jewels in my basket, sharing His jewels with the jewel-less world.

I come to the Jesus of Easter, and I throw my empty basket of self-righteousness aside.  It tumbles away somewhere in the wastelands adjacent to the Path.  I hold out my hands and Jesus gives me a gemstone to hold.

And then we keep walking.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 2:21, NIV)

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Gemstone ideas and pictures found at http://www.gemselect.com/other-info/gemstone-list.php