“By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
One of the easiest answers in the Bible is found when we pose the question, “How can I show others my faith?”
While there are a variety of characteristics a Christian might display—including the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)—there is one salient attribute the outside world will never overlook: Love for one another.
Jesus’ words in John 13:35 often wind up on our refrigerators, in memes on the internet and on tee shirts. But here’s a question: Do we really get it?
I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy digging around in scripture to find powerful truths and unique ways to highlight these thoughts. But in the middle of reading, studying and writing on these subjects, am I taking the time to love those who share this faith with me?
Am I making it the priority in my life to love my fellow believers so that others will know—without a doubt—we are all Christians, faithfully following Jesus Christ?
There are evangelism courses all over the place. There are writings on topics relating to defining our faith, sharing our faith and defending our faith. These are all good, and important. No question about it.
But I must ask the question of myself: Is living my faith by loving my fellow followers the key focus of my faith? Or is “the love thing” simply a sweet ditty of Jesus; a nice thing to hear, or a good subject for an occasional devotional?
Just before speaking the words above Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Do I take this command to heart so strongly that I truly believe our love for each other is all we need to identify ourselves to a hurting world?
Because if I believe “love for one another” will make everyone see the power and the impact of our faith, I also understand the first logical step in reaching more people with the message of Good News Jesus offered is . . . love.
“Love one another” is more than icing on the Christian cake. It is the nourishment which fuels a healthy body of Christ. When we love, we create a powerful, engaging incentive for those outside of the faith to say, “Can I join, too?”
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
The woman said to him, “I know that messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that one comes he will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:25-26
Before his interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus referred to himself as the “son of man” and as the son of God. While we understand the meaning and power of these terms today, if we read Jesus’ first references to himself, those listening might not have captured their importance.
For instance, God referred to the prophet Ezekiel as “son of man” on many occasions. And the Israelite people saw themselves as children of God, so “son of God” could have had multiple meanings without full context.
The point here is that early in his ministry, few if any fully realized who Jesus was. Except for a woman of Samaria; a woman with a checkered past, drawing water from a well outside of her city.
Remember, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting their messiah, the Christ. In their minds, this messiah would usher in a new kingdom. They were right that the messiah will rule a coming kingdom; they didn’t understand this kingdom would not come immediately.
Who would Jesus tell first that he was the messiah for whom all of Israel was waiting? Would he tell a religious leader? One of his disciples? A power broker in the Roman Empire?
None of the above.
In a quiet, one-on-one conversation, Jesus chose a woman who was likely called many names for her improprieties with men. With her, he spoke directly, saying, “I who speak to you am he.”
This woman didn’t have to answer carefully-crafted questions, or work through parables. Instead, Jesus was direct and forthright. And her entire life changed. Suddenly she was telling those in her community about this man who she believed to be sent from God to save the people.
The result? “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’” (John 4:39)
Those entering the door to a pregnancy help ministry appear—at least to most—to be the most unlikely to spread the gospel message. Sure, many applaud us for reaching out to these with checkered stories. But they don’t think much change will take place. Perhaps we don’t, either.
Yet we must keep in mind, this is who Jesus chose first. Because he did, the good news of the kingdom of God took off in a Samaritan city.
Apparently, Jesus gave hope to a Samaritan woman. We can do the same. And when we do, we never know how far that hope might spread.
“And grant that your bond servants may speak your word with all confidence.” Acts 4:29B
At many of our ministries we start the day with prayer. We may do so individually, or in a group as the early church in Acts 4. Few of us face the situation they confronted, but even today we would be wise to pray as they did.
Setting the context, the religious leadership arrested Peter and John for the “sin” of healing a lame beggar and following up the miracle by preaching the good news message. After a quick convocation amongst themselves, they ordered the two apostles to stop preaching—immediately.
Peter and John’s answer? “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Once released, the two reported to their friends that heavy persecution could be on the way.
The early church’s response was to pray.
Let’s note first what they did not pray for. They did not pray for the Lord to halt their enemies, nor did they pray for safety. Or even for positive responses to their message.
Are any of these reasons to pray somehow “wrong?” Not at all. There may be times to pray for each of these outcomes.
Yet in this situation the early church, knowing they would face beatings, imprisonment or death, asked of God, “Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, while you will extend your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”
They did not ask for escape, but for boldness and confidence.
What a powerful example they set for us. When we pray before beginning our day, may the Lord give us the confidence to speak clearly, in love, to impart God’s truth to every situation. This is the boldness of the first followers, a boldness which literally changed the world.
When they finished praying together, “the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
God answered their prayer. When we pray for confidence, we can expect God to answer us as well.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
“For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” John 4:8
We all know the story of the woman at the well in Samaria; Jesus approached a woman, asking her for water. A conversation develops, Jesus reveals to her that he is the messiah and soon, she is telling all who will hear, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”
Later in the narrative we read (Jn. 4:39), “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman . . .”
But before this fascinating interaction with the woman at the well took place, something quite mundane is described. The disciples had to go buy food.
Interesting, isn’t it? Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus solves the food issue with miracles. But not this time. The disciples were sent out . . . to the “grocery store” of the day.
When the disciples were gone (Jn. 4:8), Jesus was alone—and thirsty. Without a group around him, Jesus could connect directly and uniquely with just one person; the woman at the well. Could you imagine the many conversations which might have taken place had Jesus and twelve disciples asked this woman for water?
Seeing thirteen men, would this woman have been so willing to ask Jesus probing questions? Would she have been as honest and transparent?
I’m guessing here, but if the disciples had been on the scene, maybe this story would not be in our Bible today. It’s not that the disciples would have done anything “wrong;” it’s just that the heartfelt interaction we see in this story is not nearly as likely in a group setting.
Yet on this occasion the disciples were elsewhere. Certainly, the disciples were vital to advancing the message Jesus taught. And we will see in the Book of Acts that these same men (absent Judas) learned from Jesus and spread his message like wildfire. Just not at the well.
Our role in this faith is not always to be out front. Sometimes, we go buy the food so another can take the lead.
In the story of the woman at the well, we see that through a one-on-one interaction, many came to believe in the message Jesus brought. This is an amazing and memorable moment, and should be.
But let’s not forget the disciples. The moment would come when they would “turn the world upside down” with the same message. But before this could take place, they had to go buy food. They had to do the mundane. They had to get out of the way.
The disciples only got a sentence in the Bible for their trip to find food. But what they did was important as well. They paved the way for a powerful message that day; a message that would change the course of history not only for the Samaritan woman, but for those in her city and the millions upon millions who learn from this same story even today.
Sometimes, we do the mundane. That’s important, too.
Just as Paul used a letter to expand support for those advancing the gospel message (II Corinthians 8 & 9 for example), in today’s world we have the web and any number of social media platforms to connect with those who have a heart for our work.
Through social media, we can multiply our own efforts to raise funds. What would it be like if one morning we opened our Facebook or other social media page to find 10, 25 or 50 friends of our ministry asking other friends to support our work?
Can we imagine 50 friends, each seeking to raise $1,000 in the next month toward saving lives and changing lives? That’s—you got it, math professionals—a $50,000 effort.
What’s fascinating here is that if we sat down to design a fundraising event or initiative to raise $50,000 we would need a lot of creativity, a lot of hands and this would take plenty of effort.
Yet by multiplying ourselves there is less effort, less stress and likely more funds.
One of the best avenues for multiplying our efforts is You Save Babies, a place where our supporters and would-be supporters can, in literally minutes, set up their own fundraising page. The page is user-friendly, gives ideas to those who might promote us and presents a positive, upbeat message for visitors.
There are two keys to success in this endeavor:
First, clearly explain how to use You Save Babies
We lay this out in our CEO Commentary, but it is important to leave nothing to chance. If we explain the concept first, our donors and friends will be more familiar with the idea once they connect with the actual You Save Babies site.
Second, remind our fundraisers to remind their friends
One post on a Facebook page is not enough in most cases. We need to be “lovingly vigilant,” reminding our friends on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and other sites a couple of times per week so that we are more likely to reach our goal.
We don’t need a Walk, or a similar event, in order to raise funds. Our friends can be helping us 365 days a year by asking on our behalf in honor of birthdays and other special events, or for particular needs we might have (“Help me raise $1,000 toward our center’s ultrasound machine”).
Utilize You Save Babies in regular communications with friends and supporters. Over time, we may find dozens of “development directors” who are ready to ask on our behalf.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
A couple of years ago, while working on a capital campaign for a center, I made a commitment to walk in the center’s Walk for Life. Because I don’t live in the city where the center operates, I set up a personal fundraising page through MinistrySync, which took all of five minutes.
That evening I posted a link to my page on Facebook and met my goal within hours.
Today’s donors want giving to be quick and easy, so why don’t we help? For those of us who are involved in fundraising, we can use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to casually mention from time to time, “If you are interested in supporting the ministry where I serve, here is the link.” Then of course, we post the link!
We don’t have to wait for a Walk or any other event to ask our friends to kick in a gift. They already believe in us, so some will want to go the next step and support our work.
We can link to our donor page and if we use this method, ask friends to mention their connection to us so we can track gifts. For instance, “When you give, add the comment, ‘Kirk sent me!’
Or, we can use a funding page such as You Save Babies (more on that HERE!).
Set a Goal
“Would you mind giving?” is not nearly as powerful as, “I’m looking to raise $1,250 for . . .” A goal, and updating friends every few days, gives friends more connection and the ability to say, “I helped Kirk accomplish his mission.”
Give a Reason
“Support my work” is nice, but, “I want to raise $1250 so that this ministry can . . .” is better.
Start with a Gift
Asking is more effective when people see themselves as joining, instead of starting a process. Consider what we wish to be an average gift and make that gift to start the process: “I chipped in $25; please join me with a gift of any size.”
Giving needs to be simple today because fewer and fewer of us are willing to sit down and write a check. Let’s continue to look for ways to connect our friends to our work—as quickly as they can click a mouse.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:4
Like the Proverbs in the Old Testament, many see James’ letter as the New Testament’s letter of wisdom. Throughout James we see practical advice on how live out our faith (“faith without works is dead,” for example), and this counsel begins in the opening verses as James talks of trials and their role in our lives.
Trials, James tells us, produce endurance and perseverance in our character. This perseverance he concludes, makes us whole, mature and complete, “lacking in nothing.”
Honestly, I do not wish for trials. If I want good company in this view, I need look no farther than Jesus who, when facing crucifixion—the greatest trial of all—asked that “this cup pass from me.” Yet Jesus knew that unless he submitted to God’s will, even he would not be complete in fulfilling his mission to save humankind.
Jesus pushed forth through this unfathomable trial and was able to say with his final words, “It is finished.” This was his defining moment, when all could see Jesus was “mature and complete, lacking in nothing” just as James wishes for us in his letter.
We only get to completeness by trial. Apparently, this is the path. The trials may sometimes be small, asking us to persevere when someone treats us poorly. Or, the trial may be incredibly large, such as a physical or health challenge, the loss of a loved one, or rejection by others.
Our next trial could be financial, relational, physical or mental. We don’t know, and that’s the thing about trials. Rarely do we see them coming.
Trials are surprising, sometimes shocking. Many times we do not understand the “whys” of our trial. All we know is that it is our mission to persevere, and to count this trial as “joy.”
Why joy? Because we know that when we persevere, we grow in the character of Jesus Christ. As we follow Jesus, we prepare ourselves for entrance into his kingdom.
And we are reminded of Jesus who saw his greatest trial as one of joy. We are told in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus persevered. He endured. If anyone is “perfect and complete,” it is Jesus.
God offers us a similar opportunity. The path includes trial. It is not the easy way, but it is the only way.
Trials are coming. We will look at those trials not with happiness, but with joy. Because we know when we persevere, we will be everything God wants us to be.
He therefore answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25
The story of the blind man in John 9 is fascinating in so many ways. Here we find a stunning miracle, where a blind man receives his sight. Yet, the Pharisees vilify Jesus and toss the young man out of the temple for one of the silliest reasons imaginable: Jesus picked the “wrong” day—the Sabbath—to help a person in need.
But every time I look at this passage something new pops up. For instance, the once-blind man’s response to the Pharisees when they ask him to condemn Jesus as a sinner. “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know,” the man says. “One thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
Isn’t it fascinating to see that when a person’s life is dramatically changed, they are no longer interested in quibbling over non-issues? The blind man was confronted by the Pharisees regarding Jesus’ working on the Sabbath; he just doesn’t care. In his mind the Pharisees could argue over the Sabbath all they wanted; all he knew was he could do something now he could not do before: See!
It’s the same with us in the pregnancy help community. A salient example are the babies born because of our help; babies who otherwise would never receive their first breath of life.
As these babies grow into young men and women, they will no doubt be told they owe their very lives to their moms and possibly dads who made courageous decisions. And the same time, many are also reminded of a debt they owe to a pregnancy help center, clinic, maternity home or adoption agency.
Of course, there are the modern-day quibblers who will question or complain that we are somehow “anti-choice,” “anti-woman” or whatever “anti” they can come up with.
These who are alive today because of our work may be confronted by the false idea that we are somehow “sinners” in today’s society. When they are, I suspect their answer will be, “What their label is, I do not know. But one thing I do know; today I am alive for all to see.”
So take heart. Each day, our mission confounds many of the leaders of this world. But each day, we reach more and more who will one day tell the world our story. And our story of life is one this world truly wants to hear.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
John 10:10 is, as one of my friends says, “a refrigerator verse.” We post it online, in our homes (perhaps on our refrigerator!) and talk of it often. Almost all of us know these words in some context.
But do we believe it?
The other day I attended the funeral of an older friend; she was a gospel singer who performed all over the world and even at the White House. But as friends talked of her life, I realized something much greater about her than her singing voice: She lived abundantly.
At 21, she was a pastor’s wife, a mother of three (married at 17), was teaching herself how to play the organ so the small church could have music each week, and teaching Bible studies. She and her husband, trying to figure out life, were even counseling older, married couples.
She did it all. But through it all she loved others. She celebrated every single life that came in touch with hers. And, she loved God.
Beside her casket was a photo of her in later life, throwing her head back in laughter. I remember that laughter well. The last time we talked together, we talked of her brain cancer. “They say I’m losing my mind,” she said. “That’s been happening my whole life!” And through the challenges she would say often, “I’m not afraid.”
She was right. She was never afraid of the future. As a hospice nurse came into her room on one of her last days she could speak, she said to the nurse, “How can I pray for you, darling?” That’s the picture of an abundant life.
An abundant life is one where we are so focused on following Jesus Christ that we have less and less time to focus on the circumstances of the day. It is a life of adventure, of joy.
The abundant life takes us on fantastic journeys into another realm where pessimism is replaced with hope, where fear is replaced by faith. A life where sometimes God asks us to do what conventional wisdom would call unthinkable, crazy or silly.
But we follow anyway, with a mischievous smile and a thrill in our hearts—because we are living in another world, a world unseen by the conventional wisdom of the day.
As we enter a new year, let’s choose the journey of the abundant life. We don’t know where the path leads, but isn’t that the fun of living in the heart of God’s will?
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” I Timothy 1:15
Paul’s famous statement that he was the “foremost” of all sinners is not extraordinary because he is stating a fact. Instead, it is powerful because of Paul’s perspective, a point of view which exemplifies humility.
Was Paul really the number one sinner in the world at that point in history? Surely not. And this is the same Paul who encourages others to imitate him and his walk of faith (I Cor. 4:16) and who explains his past behavior by saying “Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim. 1:13).
What’s important here is Paul’s point of view. Just as Jesus told us to “first get the log out of your own eye” before correcting others (Matt. 7:3-5), Paul is using this foundational teaching to remind himself and his readers that neither he nor any of us is beyond the need for redemption.
This is, in every sense of the word, a “humble” perspective. We need this, every day.
In our mission, we see many who are struggling with various moral challenges. To effectively reach those we see, our first stop on this journey is to think of ourselves as Paul described, as “foremost of all sinners.” Without berating ourselves, this is a point of view which simply acknowledges that we too, have faults. They may not be the same faults of those we see, but they are shortcomings nonetheless.
Once we see ourselves as “foremost,” our point of view toward the person in front of us changes. Instead of “I need to tell you that . . .” we see this as a “Let’s walk this journey together” moment. From there, the conversation takes a new direction.
The good news is, Paul didn’t spend time dwelling on his sinfulness, and neither should we. He glanced at his standing as a sinner, but gazed on the grace of God and the road in front of him that would lead to glory.
So can we. When we choose the right focus from the right perspective, those who come in our door will be able to see the love of God within us. And this is where lives are changed.
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