Why Did God …?

A Christian openly living his or her faith will eventually be asked, “Why did God _______?” One such Christian asked AnOldSinner how to respond to a question he was asked by someone he described as a skeptic. In this case, the question was, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?” Before sharing my response, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about questions like this.

First, there are some who believe many questions are simply statements in disguise. One self-appointed expert on television with quite a following is fond of saying 80-85 percent of questions are statements in disguise. He is often criticized by more academic types, but there is reason to believe, in many instances, questions are statements in disguise.

A second point to consider is why the question is being asked. Take the case of a new Christian. Many new Christians, and many long time church goers, have little if any knowledge of the Old Testament. Therefore a question such as “Why didn’t God stop slavery” may be a legitimate question, and not the opening gambit in an objection to the basic idea of God.

Finally, as far as questions are concerned, what is the purpose of the question. One should always be aware the person asking the question may be interested in more than a direct answer. Consider the question above concerning Pharaoh.

The person asking the question is seeking information, even if his question is really a thinly veiled accusation against God. It is possible the questioner is seeking a substantive reply.  It is also possible that is not the case. Rather, the person is likely attempting to gather information about the one being questioned.

How one responds to such a question helps the person asking the question in several ways. First, he, or she, will have a feeling for the respondent’s knowledge of the Bible. Second, he will gain some insight into the person’s level of faith, commitment, and ability to handle objections or challenges. In short, how one responds to such a question will tell the person asking the question a good deal about the Christian being questioned. Which brings us back to how one responds to questions such as the one posed above.

When asked how I would respond to the question about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, I had an immediate response. It is not one I recommend, as I will discuss later, but based on my own thoughts in this area it made sense. Also, it somewhat parallels God’s reasoning when He tells Moses He is hardening Pharaoh’s heart to show His power to the Egyptians, and so His story can be told to future generations of Israelites. (Exodus 10:1-2)

My response was He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to make a point and teach a lesson. I said God could have simply changed Pharaoh’s heart and commanded Pharaoh to free the Israelites. The problem is that would make us a race of puppets, not beings with free will. My answer made sense to my friend, but there could have been a problem if he had responded in that fashion to the person questioning him.

A more mature believer might accept, if not completely understand, that God was using the situation to teach a lesson. A nonbeliever or less mature believer might be appalled that God could be so cruel. In fact, at one time in AnOldSinner’s life I might have asked such a question, hoping someone would be foolish enough to answer that God was teaching mankind a lesson. You see, I would have been one of those people asking a question that was really a statement.

If I had asked the question about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, I would have been thinking you worship an evil god, if such a being actually exists. Additionally, I was fully prepared to dismantle any rationalization, explanation, or excuse for your god’s behavior that you made. Which brings us to the point of this piece.

Trying to answer a question such as why God hardened someone’s heart is usually a mistake. Certainly under some circumstances it isn’t a mistake, but in a conversation with a skeptic or atheist it probably is. It is likely a mistake for several reasons.

First, they are probably prepared for any answer you could make. Second, they are really not going to listen to your answer, as they are already formulating their reply to any answer you make. Third, it is likely you do not know their real reason for asking. It is possible they are really seeking understanding, they may simply be wanting to argue, or they may be trying to find out what kind of a religious nut you are.

Instead of answering their question, ask them one. For instance, I might say, “That is a great question. What makes you ask?” Another variation would be, “I’ve struggled with that question myself, do you have any thoughts on the matter?” The idea is to avoid being defensive or combative, and to get the other party to do the talking.1

I discussed this matter in more detail a few years ago in “A Defensive Position.” The bottom line is getting them to do the talking. As I was taught, and later taught my negotiation students, if you can keep the other party talking, he or she will tell you everything you need to know to settle the deal. Of course, you must be listening. If you are, you will discover the real reason they asked the question, and if there is any way to help them understand God’s Word.

In closing, it is important you have a response to their original question.  You may not need it at that moment, but you may need it later.  Accordingly, if AnOldSinner’s plan works out, my next piece will be an argument one can make in response to someone essentially accusing God of being evil or fostering evil.

1. The statements leading into the question in these examples are for rapport building purposes. If you don’t think it is a great question, or you’ve never struggled with that or some similar question, say something else. The idea is to build rapport, disarm, and encourage the other person to talk. Simply asking someone why they are asking the question might sound defensive or confrontational. If so, that ends any hope of a conversation.

© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in Faith | 1 Comment

Of Satisfaction and Yearning

Some might find it absurd if a pastor mentioned the Rolling Stones in a sermon. Unless of course, he needed an example of the wages of sin and excess. One look at Mick Jagger’s face is all one needs to know about the damage one can do to himself seeking worldly success and pleasures. That is why the Stones came to mind when AnOldSinner was contemplating what to share in this piece.

My home church just completed a sermon series titled, The Search for Satisfaction. One sermon was “Candle Smoke and Cotton Candy.” As usual the sermon was a good one, informative, touching and entertaining. It was also thought-provoking, but possibly not as the pastor intended.

Before going on, it seems appropriate to talk about the Stones for a moment. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger penned “Satisfaction” in 1965. It is unlikely either of them was thinking of King Solomon or the Book of Ecclesiastes when they wrote it. Yet, the basic theme of the song, the lack of satisfaction one finds in the world of man is simply echoing the thoughts of King Solomon.

The Stones made boatloads of money pointing out in song what the pastor was preaching. There is no true satisfaction in our earthly lives. Possibly without realizing it, the Stones were saying, looking for satisfaction in things and other people is little more than candle smoke and cotton candy as the pastor taught in his sermon.

AnOldSinner has no disagreement with the message in “Satisfaction” or the message in Ecclesiastes. There is nothing new under the sun, and there is no satisfaction to be found in things or other sinners. Still, one point made in the sermon, and later in discussions with other believers, raised a question.

The pastor listed a set of what were labeled Sad Facts at the end of his analysis. They were drawn from Ecclesiastes 1:1-18. Three were very clear, and easy to comprehend. No matter how hard one tries, nothing is permanent. No matter how long one seeks, not even our appetites, whatever they may be, can be permanently satisfied. No matter what one does, changing or stopping the aging process is not possible. The last sad fact is the one that gave me pause. It was, “You cannot fill the void within that yearns for meaning in life.”

The pastor wrapped up the sermon speaking of the substance of real satisfaction. He noted we cannot find satisfaction without being connected to God, and he drew from Solomon’s words to encourage us to live a life in which we do good for others, take time to smell the roses, gain satisfaction from our work, and give thanks to God for what He has given us.

I understand the sermon and what was intended. Yet I still question the sad fact about yearning. To me, there is a danger in not yearning. Yes, yearning for more money, more fame, more respect, more friends, more time, and fewer struggles is pointless in an eternal sense. It is also dangerous in an earthly sense. Again, take a look at Jagger’s face. He has paid a price for all the fame, fortune and other benefits those things bring, and all those will end with his last breath.

Does that mean one should never yearn? That is the point one could take from the sermon. It may not be the point the pastor intended, but that is the way some could interpret the sad fact statement about yearning.

I would argue one should yearn. The problem, which the pastor clearly identified, is we yearn for the wrong things. What we should yearn for is a closer walk with the Lord. What we should yearn for is more connection with and understanding of His Word. What we should yearn for is the opportunity to witness to others through our lives or our testimonies. Of course, the real problem is not whether or not we yearn for something. The real problem is we do not take action.

Yearning, whether one yearns for possessions or to be a light unto the world, is not enough. One must do something. AnOldSinner knows many people who yearn to be better Christians, better witnesses, better evangelists, better spouses, or better parents. The problem is too many people sit on their backsides waiting for Jesus to take them by the hand and show them what to do.

John 15:5 states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”(ESV) Some seem to read this verse and think it validates their decision to wait for Jesus to take them by the hand and lead them. Someone making such a decision might be right, but it seems hard to believe.

A story one of our pastors told to a Sunday School class years ago came to mind as I wrote that last paragraph. He thought it was hilarious, but it went over like a lead balloon in a classroom full of folks whose sense of humor died with Bob Hope. It does make my point however.

The story went something like this:

During her prayers one day a lady says to God. ‘”Lord! I pray and pray to win the lotto so I don’t have to work so hard, and can use the money to help others. Why haven’t I won?” At this point she pauses expectantly and hears, “First, you need to buy a lotto ticket.”

Neither he nor I am encouraging anyone to buy a lottery ticket. Both he and I are trying to make a point. If one never takes action, it is unlikely one will be rewarded. Could God miraculously deliver a winning lottery ticket to a petitioner? Of course He could, but such an act would likely be a test more than a miracle. If one truly wants God to help him or her win the lottery, one must buy a ticket.

The lottery story is shared simply to make a point. The point is this. Someone praying to become a best-selling Christian author must actually write something. God might give a writer inspiration, but it is unlikely He will deliver a best-selling manuscript to a publisher in the name of the person praying for such fame and fortune. The same is true for someone who wants to be the next Charles Spurgeon. God might give one the gifts needed to achieve that goal, but it is unlikely He will simply pick them up and drop them in a pulpit fully prepared to lead thousands of congregants.

It would seem yearning, in and of itself, is not a sad fact. The sad fact is we let fear, complacency, and false humility keep us from achieving the goals we seek in His name.

© sinnerswalk.com – 2017

Posted in Faith, Religion, Spirituality, Testimony | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Of Good Intentions and False Teachers

In the interest of clarity, let me start with the following statement. AnOldSinner has a concern about the prevalence of false teachers in the world today. It is somewhat based on my experiences as a young Christian, experiences that drove me away from the church. I do recognize my spiritual immaturity played a role in the situation, but the shortcomings of the pastors and teachers involved played a larger role.

With that said, there is reason to be concerned about false teachers. Believers have been warned about those who speak and teach falsely since Old Testament times, and not much has changed over the centuries, with one exception.

False teachers in modern times can have a much wider and more immediate impact than those who traveled by foot and donkey. Of course, there are false teachers, and then there are FALSE teachers. The difference is false teachers are those who are well intentioned but misguided. The other kind may have less noble reasons for misleading believers.

Today, I want to discuss something taught by a person I believe falls into the well-intentioned but possibly misguided class of false teachers. These are the people who feel called to teach the Bible, but do so without any formal training, education or the support of a recognized ministry or church.1

The teacher in question taught on a topic causing someone who follows AnOldSinner’s writings to feel a bit of concern and distress.  Broadly stated, the topic was communicating or attempting to communicate with someone who is deceased.

More specifically, the lesson approached this topic by answering three questions. “Is it Okay to Visit the Cemetery To Talk or Pray for the Deceased?” “What does the Bible Say About Talking to the Dead?” And, “Is it OK to ask God to deliver a Message To a loved One Who has died?”

The distress arose from the fact this individual engaged in some of these activities at times. Now, she wondered if she had committed a sin. Second, the reasoning used to support the conclusions that these were unacceptable activities for a Christian seemed to be in conflict with what she heard in other studies and from some pastors.

Initially, I was not too interested in involving myself in this matter. I was not present during the study. I had not seen the study materials, and I knew that the way one hears a lesson sometimes depends on one’s underlying biases and point of view. I did however, agree to review the study materials, and see if there might be a problem.

Given the information provided up to this point you likely know what I felt about the lesson. I found several problems. I also had some concerns about comments the teacher reportedly made while explaining the materials. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss them in detail as I did not hear them. It does seem however they would have been consistent with points made in the printed material.

The two problems I can discuss are the amount of information the lesson attempted to cover and the source material. The teacher attempted to deal with the three questions in one session. The reference or source material provided to the participants, and my review of the questions, lead me to believe each question might have deserved a lesson of its own. Perhaps the topics could have been covered in two sessions, but squeezing them all into one because they seemed related may have been a mistake.

As for the lesson material, it was taken directly from an online source which purports to answer questions about the Bible, Christianity, God and other matters of religion. It is in fact a source I cited in past essays and papers.   The problem in this case, if there is one, is that the handouts did not make it clear the material is from an online source. Also, it does not seem any other sources were considered or reviewed.

AnOldSinner references online sources such as the one from which the study material was taken because they are readily available to anyone with access to the internet. Normally, they are only referenced if the information provided is consistent with more formal or academic sources used in developing an argument, or as a counterpoint of some sort. Occasionally, One will be referenced to point out differences in opinions about translations or interpretation of Scripture.

It would be of little value at this point to go into a detailed analysis of the material used in the lesson which triggered this essay. The essays or articles used to develop the lesson used multiple citations in making the argument for that particular question or topic. Discussing them in depth would need more time and space than is acceptable in a blog post. Accordingly, please consider the following.

The primary focus of the lesson and the support material was the question of someone communicating with the dead. There was secondary concern of asking God to be the messenger in one’s communication with a deceased person, but the primary question concerned communicating with someone who was deceased. Additionally, it was clear this was communication with a deceased loved one or friend.

The conclusion of the three different essays or articles used for the study material in this case was it is not Biblical to communicate with the dead. In fact, according to the materials, it was specifically prohibited by the Bible. The problem is the primary passages used to support this conclusion are Deuteronomy 18:11 and portions of 1 Samuel 28.

Deuteronomy is clearly speaking of someone who practices witchcraft of some sort. Likewise, the passages relating to this topic in 1 Samuel 28 deal with witchcraft. In cases of this nature, according to every commentary at my disposal, the sin was not simply trying to talk to the dead. Rather, it was the reason for the attempted communication.

For example Deuteronomy 18:11 is one verse in a passage about pagan practices that the Israelites were to avoid. It states one is to avoid, “… a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead.” In 1 Samuel 28 the Bible is relating the story of King Saul being cut off from God. The Philistines were preparing to attack Saul and his army. When he prayed to God about the matter, God was silent. (Verses 4-6)

Saul did not handle God’s silence well. He faced a serious situation and wanted to know what he should do. Instead of seeking forgiveness or repenting of his sins, Saul chose to engage the Witch of En-dor, convincing her to call forth the spirit of Samuel. His hope was Samuel would tell him what to do since God was silent.

On the surface, one might think these passages do condemn someone for speaking to or praying for a deceased loved one. The problem is both of these passages are dealing with people trying to get around God. Commentaries seem to agree the prohibition is against seeking secret information in an attempt to circumvent God. One could also argue the prohibition is more against dealing with witches, mediums or others who practice pagan rituals.

As for the question of speaking to the dead, the bottom line is this. AnOldSinner is not saying it is okay to ask God to carry a message to Aunt Minnie or your mom. Neither am I saying one should pray to a deceased friend or loved one, asking them for help, winning lotto numbers, or to send a sign to let one know Heaven is real. On the other hand, it is hard to see how simply trying to convey one’s thoughts of love and pain to mom, dad, Aunt Minnie or anyone else while visiting their grave is a sin. They may not be able to hear it, but that does not mean it is a worthless gesture or a sin.

So, if my conclusions are ambiguous, or based mostly on my understanding of the situation, what is the point of this piece. The point of this piece is simple. If someone claiming to be a Bible teacher, Bible scholar, pastor, minister, or prophet says something that does not seem right, seek a second opinion. Do not seek the opinion of a pagan, the Witch of En-dor, or the fellow standing on the street corner with a Bible in one hand and an “The End is Near” sign in the other. Seek the opinion of someone who might have a better grasp of the situation than a lay Bible study leader or a blogger one has never met (me included).

Remember the old saying about which road is paved with good intentions. That sentiment has more truth than one might want to accept. There is little doubt in my mind the person leading the Bible study that sparked this rather lengthy commentary is well-intentioned. That does not mean everything taught in that class is biblically accurate.

  1. I do not mean to imply a person cannot study the Bible on his or her own and reach an understanding that is within the range of possible interpretations.  That is certainly a possibility, but history and personal experience lead me to believe it is not likely.

© AnOldSinner -2017


Posted in Faith, Religion | Tagged , , , , , ,

In the Blood?

John Mayer, like a number of other pop, blues or whatever singers, is testing the waters of country music.  According to billboard.com, his entry into the country music genre is a “folky1 single ‘In the Blood.’” AnOldSinner heard the song recently, and thought it was a decent effort. It did not sound particularly country, but it was pleasant and, in old man terms, folksy. One thing did strike a chord, the chorus or refrain, “Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”

Hearing the refrain brought forth an immediate chuckle. After all, it seemed Mayer was simply another pop singer trying to build an audience in country music with a song that sounds a bit spiritual. Later, I was working on a piece reminiscent of “Sins of the Father.” It was then the rest of the song came into focus.

“In the Blood” is a young man’s lament. He worries he may have too much family baggage to have the life he seeks. He wonders, if he can overcome what he learned from his mother and father about relationships and life. He wonders if he is destined to make the same mistakes, and he wonders if there is a way out through Jesus. At least that is the way it sounds to AnOldSinner.

The song is not a hymn. It is possible it is not even intended to be spiritual. Whatever it was meant to be, it spoke to me. The sin’s of the father question is one with which many struggle. I have written or spoken about it on more than one occasion.

The song clearly echoes the concerns many have in this area.  If that were not enough, the next Bible study lesson I attended covered 2 Samuel 12. In case you do not have 2 Samuel memorized, this is where God lets King David know “the sword shall never depart from your house.”

The reason this strikes a chord is my experience, personally and professionally. As a police officer I watched the children of people I handled regularly for one crime or another grow up to make the same mistakes. As a life coach and seminar speaker I met people of all ages making the same mistakes as their parents and facing the same demons. In my personal life I found myself and my siblings making the same mistakes our parents made, and my children were faced with similar challenges.

The question then is must we follow in the footsteps of those who sinned before us? Mayer sums it up in one line, “Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?” The answer of course is yes, one can rise above the flood.

One can, as the refrain suggests let the water of life wash away the blood of sin. Even then it is not easy. The world around us tempts us daily, and it is easy to step back onto the path others laid for us. Only by focusing on Jesus and His teachings can one have the hope God offered us through Christ.

I’m doing my best to keeping my focus on Him.  I pray you are as well.

  1. In case you wondered, folky is a word. It is a variant of folkie which means folk singer or instrumentalist.

© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in Faith, Religion, sin, Testimony | Tagged , , , , , ,

Of Curses and Euphemisms

One of this writer’s seminary professors covered euphemisms as part of his lecture on the Third Commandment.1 The commandment states, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”(Ex 20:7, ESV)

The professor argued certain words or phrases were adopted over time as euphemisms for God’s name. He further argued these terms were used as a way to circumvent the commandment.  Therefore, when one uses the word gosh as a cry of surprise, dismay, wonder or whatever, one is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

AnOldSinner does not necessarily disagree with the professor’s argument that some words became euphemisms for the word god over time. There seems to be ample evidence to believe many phrases used to express surprise, shock, revulsion or outrage may at times be used by people as a way to avoid directly referring to the God of Abraham. With that said, the question becomes, is every use of such terms taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Clearly, many phrases or terms have been adopted by those who would like to make a point without using words other people feel are crude at best. The word shoot was a common euphemism when AnOldSinner was younger. One could hear, “Well, shoot,” or “Oh, shoot” in classrooms locker rooms, and just about anywhere else one might be. Today, the use of the word shoot in this way has declined.  In this modern, oh so enlightened age, people simply use the word it once replaced.

That does not mean euphemisms have disappeared. Freaking or frigging are common euphemisms in the modern world for a word the comedian Lenny Bruce shocked audiences with during the 1950s and 60s. Of course, their popularity is waning as what was once called vulgar or obscene language becomes more and more mainstream.

The problem this writer has with the professor’s argument is that it seems a bit legalistic. That is, it seems to have no gray area. For instance, as the professor sees it, the good old southern term, “Oh! My goodness gracious!” is the same as exclaiming “Oh! My God!” As AnOldSinner understood it, the professor considered both as taking the Lord’s name in vain.

To a point, AnOldSinner can agree with the professor. Every source found on the euphemisms commonly used in this manner agrees on their origin.  The terms were coined or coopted so the speaker could express a thought such as this without actually using words such as god, lord, creator, or father. The problem this writer has with the professor’s argument was it seemed very dogmatic.  There was no gray area.

A review of commentaries and other sources on the meaning of this commandment indicates things are not as clear cut as the professor’s argument would make them. Certainly, the commandment is clear. One is not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and if one does, God will punish that person in some manner. Still, it is not clear that all uses of a term, word or name used to refer to God outside of worship, prayer or educational settings are a violation of the commandment.

The sources this writer studied in the past and reviewed for this piece start with the most basic meaning of the concept of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Everyone seems to agree swearing in God’s name untruthfully, cursing someone in God’s name, or other ways of using His name that misrepresent Him or tarnishes His image is a sin. Beyond these concepts, there is a bit of disagreement.

Some theologians do believe the commandment should be considered in broad terms, but one must wonder if someone saying my gosh or my goodness should be lumped together with blasphemers and pagans.   If that is the case, someone crying out “My God, this cannot be happening” might be sinning.  That is certainly the impression one might get from the professor’s lecture.

This writer would think it is totally appropriate to ask God to hear a prayer or plea. If not, David might be committing a sin in Psalm 17:1 which says in part, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! …” (ESV) Certainly, this is not exactly the same language as, “My God, this cannot be happening.”  Still, without context, both might be considered a cry to be heard, or a misuse of the Lord’s name.  Luckily, the remainder of the verse clarifies the situation.  The verse ends with the phrase  “…. from lips free of deceit!”

The Psalmist seems to be saying it is okay to cry out to God in this manner under the right circumstances. On the other hand, if one is lying or attempting to deceive this would likely be a problem. Examples of this might be if one is a false prophet, or is crying out in this manner in an attempt to impress others, as in the case of the Pharisees.

To AnOldSinner asking God to damn someone in anger and crying out one of His names in a different moment of emotion are not the same.  The first action, regardless of how one phrases it, seems to be demonstrably wrong for a Christian.  The other action might be more like the cry in Psalm 17:1.

I do not know if the professor in question is 1oo percent correct in his understanding of euphemisms as they relate to the commandment.  He may well be, and I may be bordering on blasphemy.  If I am, I will be judged accordingly.  Still, I find it hard to believe that the kid I was many decades ago sinned everytime he said, good god, golly gee, gosh almighty, and any number of other words one might feel were attempts to circumvent the commandment. Those were just phrases of puzzlement, amazement, befuddlement, and wonder.

With that said, I try not to use those phrases today. I fully agree with a completely secular reason the professor gave for dropping the terms from one’s vocabulary.  There are words in the English language that will express those emotions, much more succinctly or colorfully if one simply expands his or her vocabulary.

  1.  In some Christian traditions this is the Second Commandment.

© AnOldSinner -2017



Posted in Faith, Religion, sin, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Question of Courage

One of my favorite non-Christian talk radio hosts is Dennis Prager.  Dennis, for those who are not familiar with him, is what some might call an observant Jew.  That is he keeps Jewish traditions, is a recognized Jewish scholar and is not the least bit worried about what others might think of his faith.  He might classify himself differently, but I hope you get the point.

Today during the Ultimate Issues Hour, Dennis was discussing courage. I did not hear the entire hour, but the part I did hear seemed to focus on people not having the courage of their convictions.  Specifically, he mentioned how people of faith were hesitant to express their faith to others.  Dennis’s point was that people, all of us, tend to let our fear keep us from sharing our hearts, our faith, and beliefs.  His point was that we should not let our fear control us, especially when it comes to spreading God’s word.

This is something near and dear to my heart.  I know many believers who become petrified at the thought of admitting their faith to a non believer or anyone they do not know well. I have written on this in the past, and felt moved to write something new, or resurrect an essay from the past.  Then one of those coincidences that seem to pop up in a believer’s life occurred.

I was recently introduced to the work of  J. Warner Wallace, a Christian apologist.  One of my professors suggested I check him out, as he too is a retired cop.  For some reason, I checked his blog to see what he’d written recently, and guess what I found! Yep.  He’d written on the very same topic, coming at it from a different perspective.  So, instead of trying to recycle something or not comment until I had time to write a new piece, I thought I’d share his. I hope you find it interesting. Check out his other work as you have time.

The Frustrating Fallacy of Friendship Evangelism


© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in Faith, Religion, Spirituality, Testimony | Tagged , , , , ,

Noticeable Change?

People complain. Some complain a lot, and some complain a little. No matter the frequency, everyone complains. Even those shaking their heads as they read this muttering, “I never complain,” complain at times. It is part of the human condition, complaining. Another aspect of the human condition is that many do nothing about their complaints. They simply complain.

Complaining is not always a problem. It can be a legitimate way of venting a little frustration, ask for a little sympathy, or get someone’s attention. Certainly, someone who complains constantly can be annoying. Yet, it is likely everyone has chronic complainers in their lives, and they don’t do anything about them, except complain.

As much fun as it was to write the preceding paragraphs, this piece is not about complaining in general. It is about one complaint in particular. It is a complaint AnOldSinner hears regularly, and it is a complaint that deserves attention.

Many Christians complain about their inability to share the gospel effectively. One version of the complaint is, “I never know what to say.” Or, “I am afraid I’ll say something wrong.” Another version is, “I told them why I believe, but my testimony did not move them.” There are other variations on this theme, but the bottom line is many Christians know they should share the Good News, but they don’t, can’t, or won’t.

Some of these complaints, or fears, cannot be discussed in a few hundred words. People must grow in their faith, and they must overcome their fears through prayer, planning and persistence. With that said, there is an underlying issue in many of these cases that can be addressed in a few paragraphs. At least, this writer’s hubris seems to feel it can be addressed in that space.

This writer’s experience and training lead to the belief that there are a couple of underlying problems to be addressed. One is beyond the control of this writer or any human. Only God knows when one is truly ready to share his or her testimony and the Gospel with a seeker or unbeliever. Only God can prepare the heart of a person to hear the Gospel and respond to it.

Each believer needs to trust that God will use him or her in His time. However, that truth should not be used as an excuse to avoid an opportunity to share one’s faith with another. Sometimes, He may want one to share and be rebuffed. Sometimes, He may want the seeker to hear from several believers before He opens the seeker’s or unbeliever’s heart. Whatever the reason, not every opportunity to share Christ will be productive and fulfilling. Instead, it may be God’s way of stretching and strengthening one’s faith.

That does not mean one can sit on his or her hands waiting for the call. It may be that one has work to do to prepare for the day God asks a believer to witness to someone. Preparation can take several forms. One is to write out and practice one’s testimony. This does not mean one should memorize one’s testimony and reel it off like lines in a movie. It simply means a believer should be comfortable with what he or she is going to share.

Knowing and being comfortable with one’s testimony is important. However, that testimony must be believable. By that, this writer is not saying it must be provable or not contain elements that an unbeliever might see as mystical. The very idea of believing in something one cannot see, touch, taste or hear is something many find troubling. Still, if one’s testimony involves a vision, a dream, or what some call a God tap the mystical or supernatural element is part of the testimony.

The believability must come from the person giving the testimony. What the believer is saying must match what the unbeliever or seeker sees in the one testifying. For example, in a piece entitled “Seeking … an Excuse” this writer spoke to the issue of actions not matching rhetoric, and how that sort of hypocrisy can be used by those wishing to avoid a relationship with Christ.

One’s Christianity should be apparent to others. One way it can be apparent is through changes in the way one behaves. Change is a big part of one’s salvation or rebirth into Christianity. Change is a constant message from the Bible and the pulpit. The New Testament makes this clear.

If you consider yourself a Christian, have you changed since being saved? Could someone tell you might be a Christian by the way you live and act? When you look in the mirror or think back over your life, can you see any differences between the old you and the Christian you? If your answer to this question is, I go to church, I read the Bible, I pray regularly, or a combination of these you may need to rethink your answer.

© AnOldSinner – 2017

Posted in Faith, Religion, Spirituality, Testimony | Tagged , , , , , ,