My Take on Proselytizing

I grew up in a Christian home and have attended church regularly all my life, yet I was not familiar with the term ‘proselytizing’ until I was in my thirties and then I only heard it used on rare occasions.  In recent years I have heard the term used more and more frequently, often as a criticism.  The term is bandied about so negatively that I found it hard to believe it was an action I could be guilty of committing, so I looked up its meaning.  Webster defines proselytize as ‘the attempt to convert’.

Christians are instructed by Christ to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19), which certainly results in an attempt to convert those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior to Christianity.  We don’t use the term ‘proselytizing’, however.  Rather we ‘share the gospel’ and ‘evangelize.’  In Christian circles, these are viewed as positive actions.  We are attempting to lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, because we are convinced that salvation through Jesus Christ is the only access to eternal life.

Of course, many people have a different and negative opinion of evangelism. The Atheist Revolution recently published an article entitle ‘The Condescending Nature of Proselytizing.’  The unidentified author discusses his disdain for those of any religion who proselytize.  He quotes Rick Levy who finds this practice “rude and condescending because of its implication that the adherent’s beliefs are superior to those of other people’s and thus they need to be saved from the error of their ways.”

Interesting.  I make no apologies for Christians believing that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.  Christ himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:60)  In Acts 4:12, Peter preached “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  There are no alternative beliefs for anyone who truly is a disciple of Christ.

What I object to is the assertion that sharing our faith makes Christians condescending.  We are not trying to present ourselves as superior, but rather as sinners saved by grace who want to give others the opportunity to share in this wonderful gift.  We desire that everyone would experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Recently quotes from an interview given by Penn Jillette in 2008 have been making the rounds on the Internet.  Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, is a very vocal atheist, yet he states “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”  When I saw the video of this interview, it reminded me of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine discovers that her boyfriend Putty is a Christian.  She gets upset that he would let her go to hell rather than try to convert her.

Proselytizing, from a Christian’s point of view, is the attempt to share the most precious, valuable gift ever given to man–the gift of eternal life.  Christianity is so wonderful that not sharing this good news is not an option.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to examine your heart.  Do you have true peace?  Do you know your sins are forgiven?  Are you confident that you will spend eternity in Heaven?  If not, you might want to open your heart and your mind the next time a Christian wants to share the gospel with you.  You have nothing to lose and eternity to gain.

Christ is Born Today!

Wishing blessings to all today as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  May you have joy and peace today and blessings in the New Year.  Praise God for sending his Son into the world that we might have peace, forgiveness, and salvation.  Merry Christmas!

Good Christian Men, Rejoice!
By John M. Neale
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today.
Man and beast before Him bow
And He is in the manger now;
Christ is born today,
Christ is born today!
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Now ye hear of endliss bless:
Jesus Christ was born for this.
He hath opened heaven’s door,
And man is bless forever more.
Christ was born for this,
Chris was born for this.
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save;
Calls you one, and calls you all,
To gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save,
Christ was born to save!
 
What Child Is This?
by William C. Dix
 
What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greeet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the Kind,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste, to bring Him Laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
 

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

At Christmastime particularly, we pray for peace on Earth and we do our part to promote peace by showing goodwill not only to our loved ones and our neighbors but also to those in need.  We put change in the Salvation Army kettles, drop off new toys at collection centers, pack shoe boxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, donate food to our local food banks, and try to spread love and good cheer to those we encounter.  We pray that wars will end and the heroic men and women who defend our nation will soon return home and be reunited with their families.

Yet, as we look around us, we do not find a world at peace.  Wars rage around the world from Africa to Asia to Latin and South America.  Violence is escalating.  Our news has been filled in the last few weeks with the tragic stories of the senseless murders of innocent children and holiday shoppers.  We wonder what has gone wrong with our world.

The wish for peace on earth is nothing new.  For as long as mankind has existed, there has been strife on earth.  The first murder is recorded in fourth chapter of Genesis when jealously provoked Cain to kill his brother Abel.  In Psalm 120:6 and 7, the psalmist writes, “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.  I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”   The poet Henry Longfellow addressed these themes in his poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  He recognized that God is still in control of this world and that one day He will set all things right.

God did not abandon mankind after creating us.  However, He has given us free will and, unfortunately, many people exercise their free will in ways that lead to violence.  God has promised that Jesus will return to Earth one day to rule and reign over it in peace.  Until that time, however, we will only experience true peace on Earth when we turn our lives over to God and allow Him to give us the ‘peace that passes understanding.’

In these last few days before Christmas, I urge you to remember the true reason for the season, to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, who would die for our sins.  Invite Him into your heart and allow Him to give you inner peace and true joy.  Merry Christmas and may God bless you.

 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Lyrics by Henry W. Longfellow
Music by  J. Baptiste Calkin
 
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
 
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
 
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
 
Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead: nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
 
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

Achieving Balance by Satisficing

When I was a graduate student working on my MBA, the professors worked to ingrain in us the principle of satisficing.  Satisficing, a combination of the word ‘satisfy’ and ‘suffice,’ is the process of finding a solution which will sufficiently satisfy the requirements, without necessarily finding the best solution.  It requires a balance between the needs and the time and/or resources allocated to meet those needs.  It is a principle that applies in everyday life and the workplace just as much as it did in graduate school.

The process by which our professors endeavored to teach this principle was to assign more work than could be done in the allotted time if a student was continuously striving to complete each assignment to the best of his/her ability.   If a student worked diligently, however, it was possible to complete all of the assignments satisfactorily.  The professors recognized that most MBA students will work in very demanding careers and that they will need to learn to balance their work loads to achieve all that is asked of them.  This will require some compromise–everything will not be able to be done perfectly, but everything can be done well enough to meet the needs. Those of us who learned this lesson early found ourselves graduating at the top of our class.  Those who didn’t struggled to complete the program.

The principle of satisficing works well in many areas of life, although I’m certain there are some areas in which the best solutions must be found.  I personally employed this principle in my home as the very busy mother of three young sons. My oldest son was only 19 months old when my twin sons were born.    I was determined to be the best mother that I could be and so I worked furiously to keep my house in order, cook healthy meals from scratch, and volunteer in my church while caring for these three very busy little boys.  Consequently, I was stressed and exhausted most of the time.  It didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t do everything to the highest standard and maintain my sanity. 

I had to lower my standards to levels that would meet the needs sufficiently and satisfactorily rather than perfectly.  My house was not ‘company ready’ all the time, but it was cleaned regularly and the boys always had clean clothes to wear.  Sometimes I bought canned spaghetti sauce and boxed cake mixes rather than making them from scratch.  Occasionally I rearranged the furniture to hide a stain I couldn’t get out of the carpet. 

Satisficing is a good principle to employ at Christmas time.  The holidays can be a time of great stress for those who become overly focused on doing everything perfectly.  We can never achieve the perfect holiday and striving to do so generally results in creating stress and chaos.  For many years I resisted sending out a newsy Christmas letter in my cards because I felt it lacked the personal touch.  I spent countlesss hours each December writing long, handwritten notes to each Christmas card recipient.  The process took so much time that I would get behind on my shopping and gift wrapping.  I would find myself rushing through the mall madly scrambling for gifts, rather than enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas. When I found myself  dreading sending out Christmas cards, I knew I had to make a change.  Since I began typing a Christmas letter, the cards get done faster and are no longer a source of irritation and I have more time to enjoy other aspects of the holidays.

HolidayStress

This year I would encourage each of you to examine your holiday traditions.  If something no longer fits your family or is causing too much stress, let it go. You can have a wonderful Christmas even if your house does not boast the best decorations on your street.  Your holiday meal can be delicious and memorable even if you serve store-bought pies.  No one will notice if your gingerbread house is slightly misshapen, or if you skip the gingerbread house altogether this year. You will likely never achieve the ‘perfect’ Christmas holiday but you may very well find a balance that will allow you to have a holiday that is sufficiently close to your ideal for you to feel a great deal of satisfaction.

Preparing to Celebrate the Birth of our Savior

In the hecticness of Christmas, it is good to slow down and reflect on the true reason for this season, celebrating the birth of our Savior.  The birth of Jesus Christ in a manger 2,000 years ago was the most significant event in the history of mankind.  It is so easy to get caught up in shopping, baking, decorating, and the many other activities that go into our Christmas celebrations.  One of the ways I focus my attention on Christ is to sing Christmas hymns as I go about my holiday chores.  The traditional hymns reflect on the wonder of Christ’s virgin birth and it’s significance to mankind.

Today, I’ve been singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” most of the day.  This beautiful hymn summarizes the entirety of Christ’s mission as “God and sinners reconciled.”  Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection were God’s plan to allow us a means to find forgiveness and be reconciled to him.  Without Christ leaving His heavenly home and coming to Earth to live among us, we would be without hope.  But, Jesus did come and offers to us atonement and eternal life if we only accept His free gift.  And that is truly a gift to celebrate.

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Lyrics by Charles Wesley
Music by Felix Mendelssohn
 
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem,”
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!
 
Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb,
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity!
Please as man with ment to appear, Jesus our Immanuel here.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!
 
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by, Born the man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth; Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!
 
Come, Desire of nations, come!  Fix in us They humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in They love.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!

Sharing Christ’s Love Through Christmas Generosity

At this time of year, most people are in a generous mood.  The Christmas spirit inspires us to share with those in need and we are bombarded with opportunities to give.  From the Salvation Army’s red kettles to Toys for Tots drop boxes to food drives, there are ample choices for everyone to give to those needs that are most dear to their hearts.  There are so many worthy charities that it is hard to decide which ones to support.  Each year I struggle to balance the desire to give to every great cause while staying within my budget. So I want to share some steps that have helped me in making these tough decisions.

1) Ask God for wisdom in determining which charities to support each year.  If we all followed God’s guidance with our giving, all the needs would be met.

2) Decide how much money you can afford to give and stick to your budget.  I once read a definition of debt as “misguided charity.”  Being overly generous can lead to financial difficulties just as surely as greed and selfish spending.

3) Support charities whose values line up with your own.  As a Christian, I support charities sponsored by Christian organizations.  While I recognize that the beneficiaries of charitable giving appreciate the assistance regardless of the source, I want to share the message of Christ’s love while blessing others.

The following are some of the charities that I have supported over the years.

1) Angel Tree–This ministry of Prison Fellowship provides gifts to children of prison inmates.  They desire to reconcile prisoners with their families by delivering gifts to the children in the name of the incarcerated parent.

2) Operation Christmas Child–A ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child has delivered nearly 100 million Christmas gifts in shoeboxes to children all over the world.  Each box contains materials that share Christ’s love and plan of salvation with the recipient.

3) Salvation Army–Through their red buckets and their Angel gifts, the Salvation Army blesses needy children and senior citizens.  The Salvation Army’s mission is to reach the lost, the last, and the least with the message of Christ’s love.

4) Toys for Tots–This toy drive is sponsored by the Marine Corps and Marine Corps reserves and provides toys to disadvantaged children.  The mission of Toys for Tots is to provide a message of hope that will assist children in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. 

5)  Food banks.  I donate to my church’s food ministry and our local food bank.  It’s hard to share Christ’s love with people who are hungry.  When we feed people, they know we care about them and it makes it easier for them to believe that Christ loves them.

That’s my list of favorite charitable organizations. What are some of yours?  What other ways to you share Christ’s love at Christmas?

Christmas celebrates the beginning of Christ’s earthly journey and the hope that He brought to the world.  As we give Christmas gifts to those less fortunate than us, we have an opportunity to share Christ’s love and the infinitely valuable gift He gave us when He left his home in Heaven to live among man and ultimately pay the price for our sins. Please pray and ask God to direct your giving this year.  If we all give as God leads us, many needs will be met and many lives will be changed.  The true message of Christmas is that Christ came to Earth to change lives.

 

Hymns of Thanksgiving

As we gather with family and friends today to remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year, let us remember to thank the One who made these blessings possible.  Without God’s help, none of us would enjoy the blessings of good health, family, liberty, and and freedom.  America was formed as a nation under God, and we need to remember to thank Him for his mercy and favor on our great nation.

I’d like to share two old hymns that I grew up singing during the Thanksgiving season.  They are reminders to me that all good things come from God.  Let’s offer up grateful prayers of thanksgiving to God today and everyday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Come, Ye Thankful People
 Henry Alford
 
Come, ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide, For our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.
 
We Gather Together
 Theodore Baker
 
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing cease them from distressing.
Sing praises to His names, He forgets not His own.
 
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side,all glory be Thine!
 
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader in battle,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
Thy name be ever praised!  O Lord, make us free!