Category: <span>thoughts by Marilyn Ehle</span>

How do we move on when our spirits have been wounded, or our families disrupted?


“…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)

Theater critic, Brooks Atkinson, once said, “Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect.” Drop, let go, forget – that’s easier said than done. People, events, and circumstances of this past year—perhaps past years—continue to nag at us. Disappointments, betrayals, and losses creep into our minds to disturb the peace that God promises.

How do we move on when our spirits have been wounded, or our families disrupted?

Several words used by the apostle Paul give us clues about the process so necessary for forward movement. First there is the word “focus,” meaning to concentrate on. Instead of allowing our thoughts to meander into the morass of the past, we choose to deliberately think of the future. This in no way means denial, but rather a purposeful action involving looking ahead to what God may have in store.

What about “forget”? This word has within it the idea of neglect, e.g., giving less weight to what has happened in the past, refusing to dwell on those things that disturb our peace and threaten the future God has planned for us.

And then there is “press on.” Here I imagine a runner, surrounded by competitors, just about to cross the finish line. The race has been long, the runner is almost exhausted and she finally sees the ribbon extended across her path. Determined to win the race and knowing that any part of her body must cross that ribbon in order for victory to be declared, she stretches out her arms—she presses on.

This is not a once-a-year process, but rather a daily examination of the hours just past and the glorious future of the day ahead. The heavenly prize is definitely within reach. Let go. Press on.

Question: How has God helped you move beyond hurt and into forgiveness and freedom?

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•   A New Year Perspective

•   A Time to Dream

•  Salvation Explained


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“Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20

It was a fitting song for a New Year’s Eve service: “God of our life, through all the circling years, we trust in you.  In all the past, your hand we view.  God of the past, our times are in your hand.”*

We sang with a sense of gratitude and faith. In the beautiful sanctuary, surrounded by friends and in anticipation of the bread and wine we would soon share, the words slipped easily from our lips. We have seen his hand and we have trusted; we basked in his presence.

But then we came to the first line of the final stanza. ”God of the coming years, through paths unknown we follow you. The past is past, we cannot change any of its triumphs or losses. We now face the future and its sure challenges, its unknown paths.”

We dare not merely mouth the words; God hears every whisper of every song. Will we follow him as we promise in music? His part is to never leave or forsake us; our part is to follow through all the stanzas of our lives.

(*God of Our Life – by Hugh T Kerr)

Good Shepherd, it is so easy to sing the words and even to mean them to some degree. Help me carry the song into every moment of every day, singing to you.

By Marilyn Ehle
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More:  New Year Articles

Further Reading

•  Year End Reflections

•  On Whom Will You Rely in the Coming Year?

•  Is it Time for a Maintenance Check-up? – Spiritual maintenance

•  Salvation Explained

 


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“For me, to live is Christ…” Philippians 1:21


If you listened closely—and if you ever heard Billy Graham speak—you recognized the familiar and slightly southern accent that rang out over the auditorium:

“You can have all this world, Just give me Jesus…”

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, has lead an incredible ministry of worldwide evangelism and discipleship. Her love for and devotion to Jesus Christ has been evident to the multitudes who have known her through the years, heard her speak, learned from her Bible studies.

While Anne was quoting a familiar song,* more importantly she was affirming her personal belief in her Savior. When I heard those words, however, I was struck to the core. Could I honestly say, “Just give me Jesus”? What about my Christian community? Family? Books? Familiar worship? My culture? Career?

While most reading this devotional will never have to experience life with “just Jesus,” thousands throughout history have experienced “just-give-me-Jesus” lives. Many today are in similar circumstances. Some sit in solitary confinement because of political oppression. Others are physically unable to move from their beds. Some go through long dark nights of the soul. Has Jesus been “just enough” for them?

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to discard everything that had given him worth in the world’s eyes, to misunderstand—and be misunderstood by—others, to have his ministry plans thwarted and altered. But while imprisoned in Rome with the end of his life in sight, he said with confidence, “For me, to live is Christ…and to die is gain.” Were Paul with us today, he would say, “Just give me Jesus.”

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

How to Fall in Love with Jesus by Sylvia Gunter

Your Father’s Heart Longs for You by Sylvia Gunter

•  Salvation Explained


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Where do you most often think of God “residing”?


Shepherds in the field abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night


God with us is now residing . .
.
(James Montgomery)

Where do you most often think of God “residing? Quick answers might include “he’s in my heart“, or “I feel his presence in the church sanctuary” or perhaps even “I feel him near when surrounded by the beauty of nature“.

How interesting that God chose shepherds as recipients of the “birth announcement” of the Savior.  Shepherds weren’t men who worshipped in sanctuaries with stained glass windows.  They lived most of the year outside, usually clothed in rough sheepskin pelts.  No shower stalls in the desert.  Sheep’s wool is dirty and oily, so those who handle them are the same.  The fact that they couldn’t bathe properly and were constantly dealing with blood of the birthing of lambs kept them ritually unclean.  There despised by the nicer folk.

When I hear this description, I think of the homeless people who walk the streets of our town . . .right past our church doors.  Their hair is straggly, their body odour is pungent, their clothing —–while not made of pelts—is equally as strange.  And it is to these blessed individuals the announcement is made:

Unto YOU a Savior is born . . .

What is my response?

by Marilyn Ehle
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Image Credit: Shepherds Abiding in the Fields is a piece of digital artwork by Mario Carini which was uploaded on September 22nd, 2018


Further Reading

•   Come Worship the King – One way to celebrate Christ’s birth as a family
•   A Mysterious Christmas Gift – a Man’s Reflection
•  Salvation Explained


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Faith would be foolish if what we hope for does not have basis in reality, but God offers us all the reality we need


Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

What an unbelievable statement! Who in this modern world of rational thinking would dare to stand in any public forum and spout such childish nonsense. Isn’t it only a child who actually believes that a parent will fulfill an impracticable but hoped-for Christmas or birthday wish? Only children, after all, believe that a wonderful, imagined gift will become reality? Who else would trust an adult, even a wise and loving adult, to this extent?

Maybe that’s one reason why Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Faith would be foolish if what we hope for does not have basis in reality, but God offers us all the reality we need, all the truth necessary to make an intelligent decision to follow Him. The very character of God cries out for such trust and, in addition, He sent His Son Jesus to display that character in the flesh and to provide the way to God.

Millions of people through the ages have risked all to believe that God is love and can be trusted. The Bible says, “This is what the ancients were commended for.” It does take faith to believe God and His Word, but we have the promise of Jesus, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Question: Are you willing to step out in faith and take God at His Word?

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

Forgiveness – Yourself and  Others
•  Fully Surrender to the Lord
•  Salvation Explained


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“When I am most afraid, I put my trust in you… “ Psalm 56:3


With the sun setting beyond a placid lake and the sky softly glowing, we see the silhouette of a tall young man walking hand in hand with his small daughter. It is a painting that some would say perfectly captures the essence of trust: the child is quietly confident in the presence of her protective parent.

Yet the psalmist would tell us that this scene pictures only the early stages of trust. Walking together with loving parent, friend, spouse (or God) in peaceful times is important and necessary for the process of developing the relationship. But the tough test of trust comes “when we are most afraid.” In his book Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning writes that the Old Testament patriarch Abraham “models the essence of trust…convinced (emphasis mine) of the reliability of God.” Further he writes, “without exception trust must be purified in the crucible of trial.

When we have walked hand in hand with the Savior in peaceful times, His presence will then be sure and constant when we are most afraid.

Thank You, loving Father, for those times when we have peacefully walked hand in hand. Thank You for those moments when I have learned to love You. Now, Lord, when times are tough, I want to step up to the next level of trust.

Question: Have you ever been “deeply afraid” – and  how did God help you in that situation?

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•   Up from Depression Story – Barbara Epp shares her journey with depression and the misconception that Christians shouldn’t get depressed.
•   Hope for the Hopeless
•  Salvation Explained


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What would it mean to “do good” to those whose religion or political views are so opposite my own that an uncross-able gulf exists?  Jesus was no mere theorist. While He didn’t always give a clear how-to regarding the ways to express His love


Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…bless.. pray… give generously.” Luke 6:27-30

Do to others as you would have them do to you” is supposedly the credo for Christians, but how often Jesus’ words are rapidly read and just as rapidly set aside as mere theory. Or perhaps an ideal to be put into effect at some imagined future “Kingdom time.

What would it mean to “do good” to those whose religion or political views are so opposite my own that an uncrossable gulf exists? When derisive remarks about my faith sting like a physical slap, do I retreat to a safe silence or continue a social relationship where more slaps are inevitable? Does my giving of time and money have strings attached? How do I balance the call to wise stewardship with joyful generosity?

Jesus was no mere theorist. While He didn’t always give a clear how-to regarding the ways to express His love, we have enough stories that prick the soul with their drama. A young man insults his father and his culture, wastes his inheritance and defies his religion. With no strings attached, the father welcomes him home with riotous celebration. A seriously injured man needs help – religion and rights are set aside by a person despised by the “good” people as he sets the example of love and mercy while caring generously for the man in need.

Theory costs little. Practice costs my very life. Am I willing to pay the price?

Lord Jesus, you are my example for putting into practice what I say I believe. Help me not only look upon your life, but learn from the way you spent quiet time with your Father for daily strength and defeated the Enemy with the Word of God.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

Your Life is the Only Bible Some People Read

Come Alongside – what it looks like to come alongside of people while Jesus draws them closer.

•  Salvation Explained


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Lord, remind me to regularly bathe in your Word and allow your Spirit to cleanse me so that any aroma that lingers long after I’ve left the premises, will not only draw people to you, but will also be a “sweet scent rising” to you.


“Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” 2 Corinthians 2:15 (The Message)

Four doors lead from our condominium building into the entryway. Our neighbors range from young singles to more mature couples. We are a good group of neighbors who greet each other pleasantly, always willing to help with the mundane fix-it problems of suburban life. We have extremely different lifestyles but respect each other and generally live in harmony. One morning after bringing in the daily paper, I remarked to my husband, “Joe just left for his office.” Since I had barely reached out our door for the paper that lay on the mat, my husband, who knew I had not talked with anyone, was justifiably surprised. “What made you think he was on his way to work?”  “I smelled his aftershave lotion,” was my reply. Joe, always dressed in the most businesslike attire, always splashed on his aftershave lotion with what I considered a somewhat heavy hand. It wasn’t a particularly offensive aroma, it just lingered long after he left the premises. We who are Christ followers, if we regularly bathe in the love, mercy and grace of God will be giving off an aroma. True, that scent can be offensive to those who refuse to acknowledge the Christ we follow, but our responsibility is simply to be the bearers of fragrance.

Lord, remind me to regularly bathe in your Word and allow your Spirit to cleanse me so that any aroma that lingers long after I’ve left the premises, will not only draw people to you, but will also be a “sweet scent rising” to you.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•   Healing Oil
•   He Put a Song in My Heart
•  Salvation Explained


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“Be still and know that I am God..”   Psalm 46:10


Sit still! Don’t wiggle!” How often have you said those words to a squirmy child? How often have you whispered those words to yourself as you mentally fidget while reading the Bible or praying? Or—more likely—when disease or disaster looms?

Experts agree that the words of Psalm 46 probably weren’t written while God’s beloved children roamed green pastures or rested beside still waters. It is more likely that they were escaping advancing hordes and enraged tyrants. Even nature seemed to conspire against them with quaking mountains and roaring waters.

After describing these horrors, the writer extols the glory and power of God and finally slips in, “Be still!”, or more literally, “Cease, relax, quit striving, chill out!” How is this possible and how do I learn to live like this as a general rule?

The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians under similar conditions, gives encouraging advice: “Rejoice! Don’t be anxious! Pray with thanksgiving about everything!” And finally this promise: “Then the peace of God which is beyond human understanding will calm your fears and give you mental quiet” (Philippians 4:4-7).

It’s this practice of joy-filled living, intentional prayer, and increased understanding of the nature of God that leads to and feeds the practice of stillness. This doesn’t happen casually or overnight. It takes a daily surrender over the irritating minutiae of life, agreement with a loving God that He has purpose and plan for each of us.

Keep practicing!

It’s hard for me to sit still, Father. If I’m not squirming with impatience, I’m running ahead of you at my own favored pace. Remind me, please, of the benefit of stillness as I sit before you daily

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

Fast Of Words: A Different Kind of Fast

How to have a “Quiet Time”

•  Salvation Explained


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Wildfires roar across Europe and Western North America levelling homes, businesses, forests, and plains. Here where I live—hundreds of miles from the devastation—we awaken many mornings with throats dry and scratchy, lungs almost gasping for clear air because of smoke carried by air currents.

Yet in the middle of these disasters, we look into the sky each evening to discover spectacular sunsets, colors so vivid they seem painted by the most avant garde of artists. Out of the catastrophes has come beauty.

Looking for beauty in the midst of hardship is a challenge most of us either ignore or battle. What beauty could come from distress and affliction? The Apostle James writes that such suffering can produce beautiful perseverance in us (James 1:3)

I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

His friend Peter goes on to say that we can become beautifully effective and productive as we walk through the fires of trials

I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved“. (1 Peter 1:8).

Even as we pray for restoration and new life for the suffering people and land, may the sunsets remind us to look to the loving Creator who makes all things new, who brings beauty out of ashes.

Father, I don’t understand the pain of suffering nor do I see how you can bring beauty out of ashes but your promise is sure. Help me see beauty through the smoke of suffering,

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  A Prayer for When you Feel Like you have Failed
•  A Prayer for When You Need more Faith
•  Salvation Explained

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“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

“It’s your breath in our lungs...”* We frequently sing those words in Sunday worship but they carry far greater impact since my husband’s recent illness. His body was almost instantly weakened when a deadly bacterial attack resulted in organ damage. For two months, every minute of day and night, auxiliary oxygen continuously pumped into his lungs until they gradually strengthened sufficiently to work on their own.

When God created the first human, he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” And so it is for every follower of Jesus to this day. Without God’s very breath of life—his Holy Spirit—continually infusing life-giving power, we soon grow spiritually weak, even find ourselves fainting from the exhaustion of going it alone.

We are constantly bombarded by the “bacteria” of the world—doubt, selfishness, anger, anxiety—all causing us to stumble with weakness instead of firmly walking with confidence through life. In the Bible is written, “be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, constantly breathe in his life-sustaining power by walking intimately with him. Just as oxygen was pumped from a source, God’s breath is the source infusing us as we submit to his leading, spend time in reading and reflecting on his words from the Bible, and listening to his whispers in prayer. Strong spiritual lungs are as crucial as those residing in our bodies.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  How to be filled with the Holy Spirit

•  Spiritual Oxygen: Are You Getting Enough?

•  Salvation Explained

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“I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18

She was confused, grief-stricken and unutterably weary. Perhaps going to the garden tomb where Jesus’ body had been taken would ease some of the turmoil in her mind and heart, but finding it empty on that dark morning only increased her roiling emotions. She had run to her sorrowing faith community to relate the shattering news, but they didn’t believe her story – “her words seemed like nonsense.

She returns to the only place she knows, the place where she last saw Jesus if only his bleeding, broken body. With tears flowing she stoops to look inside the tomb. Maybe her first impression had been wrong. Maybe his body was still there and she could express her devotion with costly burial spices.

In the bleak, dim light of dawn, she glimpses two men dressed in white who ask what seems the most simplistic of questions: “Why are you crying?” Her answer reveals a heart broken beyond repair: “They have taken my Lord away.”

Surely words pronounced by seraphic figures should be enough to assuage her sorrow, but she needed more. Turning around, perhaps ready to leave this place of despair, she sees a man. He repeats the angels’ question but asks one more of his own, one that pierces to her soul: ”Who is it you are looking for?”

Down through the ages the same question is whispered to every human at one time or another. While we often try to silence its sound with the pursuit of self-fulfillment, activity or relationships, God relentlessly repeats the gentle words,

Who is it you are looking for?

The Bible says that it was when Mary turned to the man whose voice she heard that she recognized him as her loved and loving Savior. She now had no problem convincing her friends of her experience. Her testimony, “I have seen the Lord” activated their own response and rings down through the centuries.

Are you looking for something, for someone?

The simple act of turning finally to the one who loves you enough to understand your broken heart and see your flowing tears can be the beginning of new life. His words are the most profound ever spoken: “I am the good shepherd.  I have come to give you life. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  Once In My Lifetime
•  The Confession
•  Salvation Explained

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“faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. Hebrews 11:1-2

Many people know the hymn, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” The melody soothes, the words bring hope. But like many familiar pieces of verse, Louisa Stead’s words can easily slip like quicksilver off our lips without lodging in our hearts and minds.

We may be tempted to think that Louisa wrote the words while gazing at a beautiful sunset with a light breeze rippling through her hair. In fact, however, it was while living in a culture far from her own and after experiencing deep sorrow that the poem was written.  She had planned to be a missionary in China but hopes were dashed when her health failed. Later her husband drowned in a tragic accident after a picnic on the beach. Shortly after the death of her husband, Louisa took their young daughter and moved to the African continent where she served as a missionary, later remarrying, raising her daughter, and faithfully ministering to others.

Easily overlooked in the familiar poetry is one line: “I’m so glad I learned to trust you, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend.” Louise learned to trust God not through the easy spaces of life, but through the dark nights when all seemed bleak and dark. Many of us plaintively cry out for more faith but too often we want that faith handed to us without going through the process that God chooses.

Giants of the faith” known in history and lauded in scripture are those who deeply believed God even when they could not see His love or plan. In spite of pain and discouragement, Louise Stead could end her hymn with the words, “And I know that you are with me, will be with me to the end.”

Father, your promise to be with me gives so much comfort, but I confess that I too often want that presence without any pain. Teach me more about your love and help me trust you in all circumstances.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

The Trust Factor
The Only Totally Fair Judge!
Salvation Explained

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In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land…” Ruth 1:1

On every side we are faced with world hunger. Many people reading these words think about hunger only in personal terms. For example, “What will we prepare for dinner?” or “This diet is making me hungry” or “Next week I’ll contribute canned goods to the local food pantry.” But we cringe when we see pictures of babies with bloated stomachs, babies too weak to nurse from their mother’s breast and we open our wallets to help meet the staggering needs. When tragedy strikes, the universal need for food and support is recognized.

But we are also faced with other kinds of hunger – hunger that cannot be satisfied with another shipment of grain or rice. The words in the beginning of the narrative about Naomi and Ruth are stark in their simplicity: In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. There was no alternative except to leave all that was familiar, comfortable, and predictable and search for a place where food could be found.

Many of us experience famine even though we may never have to leave our homeland to search for food. The word is not limited to lack of food; its broad meaning includes deprivation, shortage and want. We may be deprived of the kind of love we were led to believe marriage would supply. We may be short of affirmation from our peers or superiors. We may fall short of believing in ourselves, lacking in hope, comfort or joy. We may think that God Himself is absent.

If you know the story, you know that when these women heard that the famine was over in Naomi’s homeland, they decided to travel back to a place of familiarity. Although Naomi and Ruth eventually found food, they were otherwise left without any visible means of physical or emotional support when their husbands died. This was not short-term deprivation; the biblical text indicates that they lived well over ten years in the midst of loss.

Ultimately God worked wonders that would trickle down to affect the lives of both Jews and Christians. (King David and our Savior Jesus Christ find Ruth in their lineage.)

But it did not happen quickly or without pain. They experienced profound loss in their journey. The God who walked with them through the famine brought them finally to the feast of fullness. He promises to do the same for us but the timing might not be what we expect. Just like in the lives of Naomi and Ruth, God’s answers may come in surprising ways.

Lord, I am going through a famine in (name area of your life). Would You help me to lean into You and trust that You will bring me into a feast of fullness? Thank You for your never ending love. Amen.

Questions: What strikes you the most in the story of Naomi and Ruth? How does it apply to your life?

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  How to Experience God’s Love and Forgiveness (3 parts)
•  Dealing with Despair
•  Salvation Explained

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We are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We are Christ’s personal representatives…2 Corinthians 5:20 (Amplified Bible)

I attended a conference with representatives from several countries. Presentations were in English and translated into the language spoken by most in the audience. Each day we sat together discussing the assigned topic and since the ideas were interesting to everyone, conversations often became lively. Each table had a translator but when a particular topic sparked heartfelt interest, the majority language people quickly became too animated for the interpreter to keep up.

As I sat there not understanding but hungry for explanation, I began to wonder if this is how a non-Christian feels when conversations in church or Bible studies leave her feeling insignificant. Does she feel as though she’s on the outside looking in? Does he wish people would just stop talking and listen to him?

We are Christ’s ambassadors.” By definition, ambassadors represent their own country to another government and the very best ambassadors learn the language of the country to which they are assigned. This exhibits honor and humility and places the ambassador in a unique position to deeply understand the ethos of the assignment. A wise ambassador knows how to ask questions to elicit understanding and encourages listeners to express their own views on a vast variety of subjects.

To be influential ambassadors, ones who adequately translate God’s loving appeal, we must learn to speak the language of our culture. We must learn how to talk about subjects important to our listeners, not just our own most recent spiritual discoveries. Am I as ready to listen as I am to speak? It’s a long and often slow process, but it’s the way things happen in the Kingdom of God as we seek to invite new citizens into the conversation. And into the Kingdom.

Father, I admit that too often I race ahead to “explain the gospel” before listening to the hearts of people. And because I disapprove of so much of the culture around me, I neglect to learn the language of my neighbors and I lose the opportunity to speak wisely and well. Forgive me, Lord. Please teach me.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  Are You Still a Fighter?
•  Do What You Can!
•  Salvation Explained

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