“Do you want to see what’s inside?” my friend asked. I had just complimented her on the old-fashioned rag doll her daughter held in her small arms. Instantly curious, I replied that yes, I very much wanted to see what lay inside. She turned the doll face down and pulled open a discreet zipper sewn into its back. From within the cloth body, Emily gently removed a treasure: the rag doll she’d held and loved throughout the years of her own childhood more than two decades prior. The “outer” doll was merely a shell without this inner core to give it strength and form.
Paul describes the truth of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection as a treasure, carried about in the frail humanity of God’s people. That treasure enables those who trust in Him to bear up under unthinkable adversity and continue in their service. When they do, His light—His life—shines brightly through the “cracks” of their humanness. Paul encourages us all to not “lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) because God strengthens us to do His work.
Like the “inner” doll, the gospel-treasure within us lends both purpose and fortitude to our lives. When God’s strength shines through us, it invites others to ask, “What’s inside?” We can then unzip our hearts and reveal the life-giving promise of salvation in Christ.
My mother and her sisters engage in what is increasingly becoming a lost art form—writing letters. Each week they pen personal words to each other with such consistency that one of their mail-carriers worries when he doesn’t have something to deliver! Their letters brim with the stuff of life, the joys and heartaches along with the daily happenings of friends and family.
I love to reflect on this weekly exercise of the women in my family. It helps me appreciate even more the apostle Paul’s words that those who follow Jesus are “a letter from Christ,” who were “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3). In response to false teachers who wanted to discredit his message (see 2 Cor. 11), Paul encouraged the church in Corinth to keep on following the true and living God as he had previously taught. In doing so, he memorably described the believers as Christ’s letter, with their transformed lives a more powerful witness to the Spirit working through Paul’s ministry than any written letter could be.
How wonderful that God’s Spirit in us writes a story of grace and redemption! For as meaningful as written words can be, it is our lives that are the best witness to the truth of the gospel, for they speak volumes through our compassion, service, gratitude, and joy. Through our words and actions, the Lord spreads His life-giving love. What message might you send today?
I received a wonderful email from a woman who wrote, “Your mom was my first-grade teacher at Putnam City in 1958. She was a great teacher and very kind, but strict! She made us learn the 23rd psalm and say it in front of the class, and I was horrified. But it was the only contact I had with the Bible until 1997 when I became a Christian. And the memories of Mrs. McCasland came flooding back as I re-read it.”
Jesus told a large crowd a parable about the farmer who sowed his seed that fell on different types of ground—a hard path, rocky ground, clumps of thorns, and good soil (Matt. 13:1–9). While some seeds never grew, “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it” and “produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (v. 23).
During the twenty years my mother taught first grade in public schools, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic she scattered seeds of kindness and the message of God’s love.
Her former student’s email concluded, “I have had other influences in my Christian walk later in life, of course. But my heart always returns to [Psalm 23] and her gentle nature.”
A seed of God’s love sown today may produce a remarkable harvest.
During court proceedings, witnesses are more than onlookers or spectators. They are active participants who help determine the outcome of a case. The same should be true of the witnesses the Bible says we are to be. We are active participants in a matter of absolute importance—the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
When John the Baptist came to tell people about Jesus, the light of the world, he did so by declaring his knowledge of Jesus. And John the disciple, who recorded the events, testified of his experience with Jesus: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul would elaborate on this idea as he told young Timothy, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).
All Christians have been summoned before the courtroom of the world. The Bible says we are not mere spectators but active participants. We testify to the truth about Jesus’ death and resurrection. John the Baptist was the voice of one calling in the desert. Our voices can be heard in our workplace, neighborhood, church, and among our family and friends. We can be active witnesses, telling them about the reality of Jesus in our lives.
I stood before the gathering at a small Jamaican church and said in my best local dialect, “Wah Gwan, Jamaica?” The reaction was better than I expected, as smiles and applause greeted me.
In reality, all I had said was the standard greeting, “What’s going on?” in Patois [pa-twa], but to their ears I was saying, “I care enough to speak your language.” Of course I did not yet know enough Patois to continue, but a door had been opened.
When the apostle Paul stood before the people of Athens, he let them know that he knew their culture. He told them that he had noticed their altar to “an unknown god,” and he quoted one of their poets. Of course, not everyone believed Paul’s message about Jesus’s resurrection, but some said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:32).
As we interact with others about Jesus and the salvation He offers, the lessons of Scripture (see also 1 Cor. 9:20–23) show us to invest ourselves in others—to learn their language, as it were—as a way to open the door to telling them the Good News.
As we find out “Wah Gwan?” in others’ lives, it will be easier to share what God has done in ours.
The Viral Texts project at Northeastern University in Boston is studying how printed content in the 1800s spread through newspapers—the social media network of that day. If an article was reprinted 50 times or more, they considered that “viral” for the industrial age. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine, Britt Peterson noted that a nineteenth-century news article describing which followers of Jesus were executed for their faith appeared in at least 110 different publications.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their bold and joyful witness to Jesus. “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere” (1 Thess. 1:8). The message of the gospel went viral through these people whose lives had been transformed by Jesus Christ. In spite of difficulties and persecution, they could not remain silent.
We convey the story of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ through kind hearts, helping hands, and honest words from all of us who know the Lord. The gospel transforms us and the lives of those we meet.
May the message ring out from us for all to hear today!
The much-prayed-for film night at the church youth club had finally arrived. Posters had been displayed all around the village and pizzas were warming in the oven. Steve, the youth pastor, hoped that the film—about gang members in New York who were brought face-to-face with the claims of Jesus by a young pastor—would bring new recruits to the club.
But he hadn’t realized that a key football match was being shown on television that evening, so attendance was much smaller than he had hoped for. Sighing inwardly, he was about to dim the lights and begin the film when five leather-clad members of the local motorbike club came in. Steve went pale. The leader of the group, who was known as TDog, nodded in Steve’s direction. “It’s free and for everyone, right?” he said. Steve opened his mouth to say, “Youth club members only” when TDog bent down and picked up a bracelet with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) stamped on it. “This yours, mate?” he asked. Steve nodded, hot with embarrassment, and waited while the new guests found a seat.
Have you ever been in Steve’s situation? You long to share the good news about Jesus, but you have a mental list of the “right” people who would be acceptable? Jesus was often criticized by the religious authorities for the company He kept. But He welcomed those everyone else avoided, because He knew they needed Him most (Luke 5:31–32).
Charlie Sifford is an important name in American sports. He became the first African-American playing member of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour, joining a sport that, until 1961, had a “whites only” clause in its by-laws. Enduring racial injustice and harassment, Sifford earned his place at the game’s highest level, won two tournaments, and in 2004 was the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Charlie Sifford opened the doors of professional golf for players of all ethnicities.
Opening doors is also a theme at the heart of the gospel mission. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The word nations (v. 19) is from the Greek word ethnos, which is also the source of the word ethnic. In other words, “Go and make disciples of all ethnicities.” Jesus’ work on the cross opened the way to the Father for everyone.
Now we have the privilege of caring for others as God has cared for us. We can open the door for someone who never dreamed they’d be welcomed personally into the house and family of God.
Every time I get close to a rosebush or a bouquet of flowers, I’m unable to resist the temptation to pull a flower toward my nose to savor the fragrance. The sweet aroma lifts up my heart and triggers good feelings within me.
Writing to the Christians in Corinth centuries ago, the apostle Paul says that because we belong to Christ, God “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). Through His strength we can live a victorious life, exchanging our selfishness for His love and kindness and proclaiming the goodness of His salvation. When we do this, we are indeed a sweet fragrance to God.
Paul then switches to a second image, describing Christians as a “letter from Christ” (3:3). The letter of our lives is not written with ordinary ink, but by the Spirit of God. God changes us by writing His Word on our hearts for others to read.
Both word pictures encourage us to allow the beauty of Christ to be seen in us so we can point people to Him. He is the One who, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:2, “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”