Have you ever had a conversation that started out great only to take an immediate nose-dive? Even worse, those that ended with division, distrust, and harsh feelings? Not productive, especially when we’re sharing our faith. And when we’re there, in the moment, armed with truth and righteousness, it’s easy to give in to pride and turn what should be a gentle act of love into a verbal arsenal. We may even tell ourselves we’re doing the right thing. We’re speaking truth, after all. Taking a stand for Christ, only somewhere in the mix, we lost our focus–to build a bridge, and we’ve begun to build a barrier instead.

About eight years ago, while gathered with a dozen or so women, I began to teach some basics of the Christian faith. The women were excited, and asked countless questions about creation, the fall, and the flood. But one woman in particular wasn’t so enthralled, and soon popped off with questions of her own. I started to answer her questions, but my answers only seemed to add fuel to her fire, and she soon dominated the conversation. It took me a moment to clue in, but I realized how counter-productive things were becoming. Although her questions on the surface appeared legitimate, they were smoke-screens and stood in the way of my initial purpose, to lovingly share the gospel with the other women.

I believe this may be the type of situation Paul talked about in 2 Timothy 1:3-8 (NLT)

3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.

 5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.

 8 We know that the law is good when used correctly.

People in Macedonia taught false doctrine, and sucked others in endless discussions, thus robbing the others of learning and teaching time. These discussions had zero value because they failed to help people live a life of faith in God. I can sense Paul’s frustration in the above passage.

The whole purpose of his instruction was to help believers be “filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith.” But some people missed the point and got so focused on the argument–the facts and details and being right–they’d forgotten their purpose, to bring glory to God, demonstrate Christ’s love, and be an instrument of grace.

And that, I believe, should be the deciding factor in all our discussions: Does this conversation, article, or blog post help my listener/reader live a life of faith in God?

We know all Scripture is beneficial for teaching, correcting, and rebuking (2 Timothy 3:16), so, when talking of Scripture, it’s not the “what” but the “how.” As 1 Timothy 1:8 says, “We know the law is good, when used correctly.”

This is where it gets tricky, for knowledge puffs up–feeds our pride–but love builds up, which means, whatever is not spoken in genuine love has the potential to create barriers instead of bridges. Therefore, when sharing our faith, we need to do so prayerfully, with a steady eye on our listener. Our goal must never be to win an argument or fill the head, but instead, to reach the heart.

About a month ago, while prepping me for a root canal, the dental hygienist and I began talking about youth group mission trips. Our family had recently returned from El Salvador (you can read about our trip here) and were anxious to go back. After listening to me share all the things my daughter learned on our trip, things she couldn’t have learned any other way, the woman said, “I’d love for my daughter to go on a mission trip, but…” Then she went on to explain all the reasons she felt her child couldn’t go. Basically, she expanded on fears every parent feels before releasing their child into God’s hands.

While reading 2 Timothy, I reviewed our conversation and thought about my own parenting. Thinking of all the fears I have as a mom, of all the ways I try to shelter our daughter, I had to ask myself a difficult question: Am I teaching fear or faith? Because as I shared a while back in When is Helping Hurting, everything we do as parents forms attitudes and creates habits. We can tout the verses, verses like “offer your body as a living sacrifice…” and “carry your cross daily…” or “but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it…” But if our actions don’t mirror our words–if we create barriers instead of launching pads–they mean little.

In 2 Timothy chapter 1, Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father, demonstrated what it means to train faith, not fear. Writing from a prison cell, with scars, and perhaps even open wounds, marring his body, having been beaten again and again for his faith, he told Timothy to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave him. Not to hide out in fear and self-preservation, but to be bold and courageous, moving forward in the power, love, and self-discipline God provided.

Now take a moment to place yourself in Timothy’s position. You and Paul parted in tears, not knowing if Paul would be brutally murdered, beaten near death, or released. And now, during a time of extreme persecution, Christians are hiding in homes to avoid martyrdom and your leader, the man you’ve come to love as a dear father, sits in a dark, damp prison cell. And what does Paul tell you to do?

“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:8

Timothy, do not be ashamed. Don’t be afraid, but be prepared to suffer with me. Lay it all on the line, even your very life, for the sake of the gospel and the One who defeated death when He died on the cross.

And now I ask you, are you teaching fear or faith?

Join us at Living by Grace where we’re talking about tangible ways we can train faith, not fear, in our children.








Do your kids know you’re on their side? Before you answer this question, think about it from their perspective. If all they hear are rules and criticism, they may not. We have to discipline–kids need discipline, but there’s a way to train that communicates, “I’m for you. I’m on your team. I see you, and understand you.” Seeing and understanding our children means moving past the behavior to the cause. It means taking time to connect with them on an emotional level–finding out their fears, struggles, thoughts, and emotions regarding a subject. When we take time to connect, even while in the midst of training, I believe God allows us to catch a glimpse into our children’s heart. And when you start parenting from the heart, you’re more likely to invite cooperation from your kids. Why? Because they’ll know you’re for them, not against them. Today’s post by Laura Anderson Kurk evaluates Paul’s relationship to Titus, pointing out relationship building principles we can apply to our parenting.

Call me Titus please, by Laura Anderson Kurk

Not loner. Or wallflower. Or introverted or shy, even though I am. Just call me Titus.

Sitting in a Bible study last week, trying to become my chair as usual, I heard something that made me smile. Titus, of the tiny book, was “left” in Crete. I knew it already but hearing it that day made me chuckle. I pictured Paul sailing away from the island and then, however many nautical miles away, turning a quick circle on the deck and realizing Titus hadn’t made it onto the boat.

I wonder how often Paul had to look around for Titus, the quiet friend and faithful follower, just to make sure he was still there. Later Paul writes Titus and says, “Oh, by the way, the reason I left you there is because I want you to finish what we started, but, (and this is purely my speculation) maybe make some noise next time so we’ll know where you are.”

Now, you know I’m not serious. I know there was a divine plan that placed Titus in Crete. And, given Titus’s role in the early church, he might not have been a shy person at all. But we all need role models and I’ve chosen to project my personality onto Titus. For someone who has been “left” before because I’m quiet and, frankly, forgettable in social situations, it’s sort of delightful to think of Titus in this way.

I also love that Paul anticipated that there would be questions about Titus. “Who is this guy? Is he actually one of them?” Maybe Titus was one of those rarest of creatures who actually stood back and listened. Who wanted, more than anything, to understand before he spoke. Maybe he, like all wallflowers, got the heebie-jeebies if he had to talk about himself.

Paul knew Titus’s nature. He wrote, “If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ.” (2 Cor. 8:23, New Living Translation) His descriptions of Titus paint a relationship that was deep. He said things like: he is my partner; he has been my companion in travels, and my partner in preaching the Gospel; he is a fellow helper; he is a worker. Together, these two men had faced troubles and persecutions, and together they had communion and fellowship.

I like to think that Titus found comfort in the fact that Paul understood him and was prepared to back him up. In the same way, my one or two close friends prop me up, speak for me when I’m unable, and understand my heart.

It’s like a parent raising a child who needs propping up at times, who aches for someone to understand. I’m raising a couple of those kids right now, one of whom is so full of becoming a teenager that my heart aches when I see her changing. As a mother, I admire the respect Paul had for Titus. It was almost like a father who cares for a son and understands him completely. The happiest kids are those whose parents don’t try to fight the created self of the child. I had that as a child and, in turn, I’m trying to give that to my reticent children.

Jung said, “The shoe that fits one pinches another.” I believe that, and I also believe that a deeply introspective existence leads to greater understanding. Cut out the noise, and you hear simple truth.

So, picture with me, Titus on that island, suddenly alone and fully responsible. He had plans. He had goals. He had a list of things to get done for God. So what if he didn’t want to constantly define who he was. That was all fluff and Paul was perfectly willing to do it for him, if necessary. Now let’s, like Titus, get done what still needs to be done.


Laura Anderson Kurk lives in College Station, Texas with her husband and two children. She writes YA fiction and her first novel, Glass Girl, is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She blogs at Writing for Young Adults (www.laurakurk.com) and in the e-zine for teen girls, KatharosNow (www.katharosnow.com). Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/writerlaurakurk

Today’s post comes from a very dear forever friend of mine, Robin Prater. I love using the term “forever friend” because it reminds me not to take my relationships for granted. It reminds me to work at them, to make time for them, to hold tight to them. This is a strange idea in our independent, individualized society, but it is a biblical one. In fact, the Bible extends beyond friendship, uniting believers across the globe into one family.

Our family has moved frequently in the sixteen years Steve and I have been married, but through the moves, I’ve determined to hold tight to my friends from the past. This desire arose after reading a passage in Scripture where Paul named a number of believers, sending his greetings. Basically, throughout his travels, Paul took the time to stay connected with the people from his past.

I’ve also learned my efforts to stay connected with people from my past have nothing to do with their actions. Meaning, I am called to love and reach out, even if others don’t reciprocate because true love is not conditional–isn’t based on the actions of others.  God says, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This means God expects me to do all I can to follow the way of peace and stay united with His family. If they reciprocate, lovely! If not, I am to love anyway.

Standing Together in Faith and Friendship by Robin Prater

Okay, how blessed was Daniel? I mean really, he was surrounded by friends who were not only great examples, but stood by his side in faith. To have that circle of friends can give you the encouragement and inspiration you need to make it through any situation.

“Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me-a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:13

I was taking some time reading in Daniel and it was his relationship with his friends that stood out to me in the very first chapter. They all had a strong faith in God and they walked that faith. I mean, here they are together and all of a sudden they are thrown into a scary situation. All throughout the story of Daniel you see no fear from these young men. King Nebuchadnezzar would have scared the daylights out of me, but for these young men they stood firm in their faith. At no point were they even disrespectful or rude. They remained kind and compassionate even though their entire lives were changing before their eyes.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

They were selected because of their stature, strength and wisdom. These were good-looking men. Wise young men. Men with faith that is not wavering. I look at our world today and see how difficult it is for young adults trying to find their way in the world, but were things really all that different for these young men? I think the difference is they were focused on God. They were dedicated to Him and were ready to surrender all for their King of kings.

“Walk with the wise and become wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20

So, these young men are held captive. I wonder if they were even able to say good-bye to their families. They are now being trained to learn the Babylonian language and literature of this time. They were to be trained for three years then they would be ready for royal service. Can you imagine? This king wants to change everything about these young men. He even changes their names! Daniel is now called Belshazzar. Hananiah is now called Shadrach. Mishael is called Meshach and Azariah is now called Abednego. These Hebrew men are facing change of every kind. Nothing is the same, except one important aspect of who they are. They are children of God. Their faith remains therefore they are complete in Him and Him alone. Nothing else matters to them. They could have ended up anywhere. Their faith is so strong. I want a faith like that. I want that unwavering faith that remains even in times of fear and change. They had no idea what was facing them.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

I too look at Timothy. He had a wonderful friendship with Paul. Paul was his accountability partner. He was his teacher and example. They were friends who could talk, laugh and walk this road together, lifting one another up in encouragement. I love these words:

“Preach the Word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

“But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” 2 Timothy 4:5

That too is what, Daniel, did. He walked with his friends in faith, knowing that God had a plan and they were safe within His hand. Friends must love one another enough to correct each other when we are wrong and love them enough to give them your heart. These friendships were lasting because they took time for one another. They didn’t put each other off. They made themselves available.

These young men were great because of their faith in God, but also in the fact they had godly friendships. They had friends that were willing to stand with them and not cause them to stumble. Can you imagine the late night talks they had? The laughter and closeness that brought them through the days of struggle?

Look at David and Jonathon, Ruth and Naomi, and Elijah and Elisha. These were great and lasting friendships.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

We can look to these powerful friendships for our example. We must be the kind of friend we want to have. We are blessed with the most amazing friend of all, Jesus Christ. He gave His life for you and me. He will walk with us through every season of life. He is the Friend of all friends. The wonderful thing is, He chose us! He chooses us for a friend. That should make us feel overwhelmed in love. To be called His friend should be the greatest compliment of all.

“You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you.” John 15:14-16a

Robin Prater is a sinner saved by grace who knows the beauty of God’s redemption. She hopes her blog, the Robin’s Nest, brings glory and honor to Him who forever continues to bless this girl with His love. She would love to hear your story. She too would be humbled to hear how this artice has touched your heart. Leave a comment here or reach me at srprater@gmail.com. She loves how God brings His people together through experiences and passions. We can make a difference in the lives of others if we will make ourselves available and reachable to others. Like you she is a work in progress. Imperfect through her sins, but perfected through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ

This morning I read a post on another blog about the diverse ways God reaches man and it got me thinking about my writing and how it’s changed over the past year. Hyper-calvinism tells us all we need to do is share the gospel, share the gospel, share the gospel and zap, the Holy Spirit reaches down and brings man to salvation. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s some truth to that in that apart from the working of the Holy Spirit, man cannot come to salvation. However, this approach–what I like to term, gospel tract saturation–fails to take into account human reasoning, and a great deal of the Bible.

I believe the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the intellect, penetrating through the darkness that keeps man in rebellion against God while illuminating truth. Belief is assent at a heart and intellectual level. Taking both aspects into account strengthens our message.

Effective evangelism occurs in relationship.

Dropping a gospel tract at countless doorsteps won’t cut it. Oh, sure, perhaps five percent of those visited will probably make a confession of faith, but likely becaue someone else already laid the groundwork and you just happened to be there to reap the harvest.

Notice Jesus’ instructions to the disciples when He sent them out in Luke 9:1-6

1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

When they reached a new village, they were to stay in one house. I believe this was to establish community. The age old saying is so true–people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Perhaps we need to spend as much time relationship building as we do proclaiming.

Effective evangelism adapts their approach to the listener

One of my favorite examples of this is in Acts 17. When speaking to the Romans, Paul reasoned with them, displaying the coherency of God.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

And notice what God says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Throughout Scripture their appears to be a pattern of the Holy Spirit working through human logic. This is not to say the gospel message is adapted, but instead, how we present it. The person sharing the message takes time to learn the unique barriers to faith held by each individual.

Effective Evangelism Takes the Time to Understand Their Audience

Notice the passage in Acts. When Paul entered the city, he observed the culture of the people around Him. He noticed their idols–their barriers to faith–then addressed those barriers in his message, demonstrating the superiority of the gospel message.

Have you ever talked with someone and felt like they didn’t hear a word you said? Or asked a question only to have them provide an irrelevant answer? A few nights ago, as I gathered among other believers, we talked of this very thing–how people came to Christ, and one man in our group asked an interesting question. The leader began to address the question, but never did, because he was too focused on 1) the information he wanted to convey and 2) how he interpreted the question based on number 1. The problem with this was, although the speaker reached his goal, he failed to reach his audience.

Effective Evangelism Addresses the Barriers to Faith

 Why is it so hard to reach this generation for Christ? Because they have years of contradicting information filling their brains. Some may not even know Creator God. That sounds ironic to us and I have heard countless sermons on how every American understands Christianity. Do they really? And if so, what version? The tidbits they see on billboards? The Christianity presented through universities, which devote texts upon texts attempting to demonstrate why the Bible is a myth and the resurrection a fable? Unless someone clearly laid out the truth to them, there is a good chance they may not know it. And in absence of a clear presentation of truth, they likely have formed an explanation of their own making.

“Let’s say we approach a twenty-four-year-old person with the intent of proclaiming the gospel to him. He has spent twenty-four-years doing what he wanted to do, establishing habits, and developing his own value system. Almost everything fed to him is contrary to the words of God. Let’s say we spend an hour with him, during which we clearly explain the Christian faith. Now what do we expect to happen? We expect him to conclude that the direction he is taking in life is wrong…Getting substantial results from proclamation presupposes some advance preparation of the hearers (planting and watering).” (pg. 72, Petersen, Living Proof.)

What about the examples in Scripture–those who heard the gospel and instantly converted? According to Petersen, they’d already been prepared. Time and time again, as you read the conversion accounts provided in Scripture, you’ll notice these people were often called, “God-fearing Jews from every nation” (Acts 2:5), or they were “a worshiper of God.” (Acts 16:14) Most often, those who made instant conversions already had a foundation upon which to build. When Paul spoke to Gentiles, who didn’t have a foundation for Creator God, he took the time to build it.

Effective evangelism speaks with humility

No one wants to feel stupid. No one wants to be cajoled into faith. Truly, most people want to feel as if they’ve arrived at the conclusion themselves. Our goal then is to gently guide our listener or reader into discovery, asking thought provoking questions and pointing them to the truth of Scripture.

So how does this apply to writers? As we write, we must always be alert to our reader, praying for wisdom, anticipating possible objections to faith, and addressing those barriers with God’s truth, found in His Word.

Let me give an example. Joanne Sher and I are working on a biblical fiction tween devo. As we write each story, we think of the unique challenges and obstacles our readers, students between the ages of 9-13, likely face, and make sure our main characters encounter the same struggles. For example, if I’m writing a story on obedience, it won’t help my reader if my main character instantly obeys. To truly be effective, my character must struggle with obedience as my  reader would, then reach a catalyst that moves them from disobedience to obedience. In doing so, my goal is to help my reader reach the same catalyst.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree or disagree? What are some effective ways you believe to reach others for Christ?

I’m not sure when this started or where it came from, but somehow, over the years, my view of obedience has become tainted. I’ve heard so much about open and closed doors and letting go and letting God that I’ve developed this idea that obedience is going to be easy. And successful. But when I read the Bible, that’s not what I see. Look at how many doors Moses had slammed in his face. His own people opposed him, Pharaoh ridiculed him, and the harder Moses pushed, the worse things became. At least initially. And what about Joshua and his encounter with Jericho? He didn’t just have a closed door. He had an entire, seemingly impenetrable, wall standing in his way. Then there’s the prophet Elijah. His life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. At times, he even thought his work was pointless. But he kept on. As did Isaiah, John the Baptist, Stephen, and Paul, just to name a few.

Paul has become the super hero of Christianity. We like to talk about all the great things he did for Christ, about all the churches he planted, and how faithfully he suffered for God. But if we really stop and study his life, we won’t see very many open doors. That’s not to say his work didn’t produce amazing results. What I’m saying is his road to obedience wasn’t this peaceful, well-paved, flower-lined path we’d like to see in our own lives. It was fraught with intense, life-threatening obstacles at every turn. Hop on over to Acts and tell me you don’t see all the heavily fastened dead bolts–prison, beating, slander, ridicule. (Pay special attention to Acts 20:22-28) Paul didn’t wait for a nice, wide, open door. He looked for those tiny cracks then worked, with God’s leading, to wiggle himself in. Not because he was forging his own way with single-minded stubbornness, but because he knew-knew-knew God’s will and focused on obedience with unwavering determination. Walking with intentional blinders on, he kept his eyes on his Savior and not the obstacles all around him.

About ten years ago the church my husband and I belonged to held a vision summit and I was invited. I don’t remember what it was called, but basically, it was a time to listen to God, determine your unique calling, and zero in on the barriers you allowed to get in the way of obedience. The seminar’s focus Bible passage was the story of Joshua and Jericho. The question they asked: What is your Jericho?

It was an amazing experience! And while I was there, I grew increasingly excited about the idea of doing a community Easter event. It struck me as odd that we had a halloween event (as a community outreach) but did nothing community oriented for the biggest holiday in the Christian faith–the one time of year where people actually expect to hear the gospel. So I went to the children’s staff bubbling with excitement. And I had a plan. A big plan, but a plan. What if we had an Easter egg hunt, along with a drama, at a local park.

Slam went the door. “No, that won’t work. We’ve never done that before.”

Woah, wait a minute. You just invited me to an event focused on identifying my Jericho, and you’re adding another brick to the wall?

So I kept talking, and nudging, and praying. (I was way too spiritually immature to see the initial no as a closed door. grin.)

The result? That first year, we had our Easter party at one of the busiest parks in Rancho Cucamonga, California. If I remember correctly, 150 children participated, and many more meandered towards the side-lines. Other adults sat along the outer edges of the stage area to watch the youth perform a drama then later, listen to an easter bunny tell the gospel. And I was swamped with help. We had a craft team, a game team, live music and oodles of bright-eyed, giggling children connecting the name Jesus with love, fun, and community. It was so successful, we did it again the following year.

I’m not saying that closed doors don’t exist or that we shouldn’t pause for re-evaluation every once in awhile. What I am saying is if you know in your heart of hearts God is calling you to do something, don’t let anything get in they way. And don’t expect the obedience journey to be easy. When doubts and obstacles arise, put your blinders on and withdraw within, closing off everything else until that still, small voice shines through. Then, once God has confirmed or perhaps reaffirmed your route, walk forward in confidence.

Some questions to ponder:

1) What’s your Jericho?

2) How determined are you to fulfilling God’s plan for your life?

3) When in the past have you been quick to jump on the “closed door” bandwagon and what was the result?

And now listen to this song and remember, God’s not asking you to change the world. He’s just asking you to obey. The results are up to Him.

Ginny Owens–I am (By the way, Ginny Owens is blind. Imagine all the obstacles and closed doors she had to overcome through out her life to create this beautiful song.)