Monday, December 15, 2014

No Secret Agents for God

For 11 years I worked as Assistant to Georgi Vins. He was a Russian evangelist who spent 8 years in Russian prisons and labor camps before being exiled to America in a dramatic 1979 exchange.  (The U.S. swapped 2 captured Soviet spies for 5 well-known prisoners in the Soviet gulag--4 human rights activists and Vins, a Christian preacher.)

During those years of laboring alongside Georgi Vins, I often interpreted for him at church services and Christian conferences. He was always a popular speaker, who spoke out about the then-persecuted church in the USSR. During Q & A sessions with him, there was never a shortage of hands. I well recall how one man, after learning details of the persecution, asked, "Isn't there a way for believers to live peaceful lives and avoid the oppression and harassment?"

After the slightest pause, Georgi Vins replied, "If a Christian stayed home instead of going to church; if he didn't pray openly; if he didn't let others know about his faith in Christ; then yes, he could probably avoid persecution. But that's not the Christian life."

Mr. Vins died in 1998, but over the years, that answer has often resurfaced in my thoughts. In western nations, the ridicule and harassment Christians sometimes experience may not be as hard-hitting as it was in the USSR, yet certain forces sometimes try to suppress our outward expressions of faith. They  attempt to quash our Bible-based convictions. Some believers might be tempted to decide, "Enough already. I'll still be a Christian, but just a silent one." In other words, to avoid mockery or making waves, they try to be "secret agents" of faith. But that's not the Christian life.

Jesus was crucified. His apostles endured arrests, chains, prisons, sentences of death. How did they respond? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's name. In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul expresses gladness that other Christians were emboldened by his example: "And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear" (v. 14).

If you're ever tempted to go undercover with your faith, tempted to dim the source of light in your life so as to not "offend" someone, my encouragement to you is this: Don't. Jesus Himself says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). A dark, burned-out light bulb may still be a light bulb, but it's useless. Don't be a secret agent of the faith. Let your light shine!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

My grandfather has been with the Lord for many years, but I'll never forget one incident from his life. While driving down a straightaway on a tall hill in Alabama, Grandpa decided to enjoy some fun. He slipped the car into neutral, then turned off the engine! When the car reached the hill's bottom, he turned the key and restarted the engine.

"What would you have done if the steering wheel locked up?" someone asked.

Grandpa went pale. For most of his life, cars featured no steering-wheel lock. In his snap decision to coast for fun, he'd totally forgotten what would happen if he had adjusted the wheel more than a fraction in either direction. Coasting was still easy as in the old days, but it had also become dangerous.

I share that story to ask whether you are coasting in your life? Are you just going through the motions on the outside, but not actually the person you would like others to think you are on the inside? Or are you actually engaged with God, the greatest source of power? Are you reading His Word to know Him better? Engaging Biblical principles in your life to become more like Him? In John 10:10 Jesus explained why He had come to earth: so that we flawed and frail people might gain new life, and to enjoy it abundantly!

Friend, if you've been coasting through life, I encourage you to stop coasting and engage with God. Strengthen your soul by reading His Word. (If you've never read the Bible before, maybe start withe the Book of John.) Another Bible verse, James 4:8, promises that when we draw night to God, He will draw nigh to us. He won't force you to come to Him. But He does love you and invites you to come!

Or, if you were once closer to God than you are now, but somehow drifted away, you too can stop coasting. Re-engage with God. Share your heart in prayer to Him. Allow Him to be your Heavenly Father, and enjoy an abundant life with Him.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Been rejected? Tempted to Give Up?

Normally I don't use this space to direct you to another blog. Today will be an exception.

You have goals in life, but so often your efforts have been thwarted. You've been rejected. As a result, you've been tempted to give up.


Instead, do yourself a favor and read the following blog post, which is brimming with real-life examples of people who had plenty of reasons to give up -- but didn't. You'll be amazed and encouraged!