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So far Christina Fox has created 801 blog entries.

Cultivating a Heart for Evangelism

JANE STORY |GUEST The call of Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples” rings down through the centuries, spurring the church to share the gospel. Anyone who has read through Acts has felt the conviction of realizing that every Christian is entrusted with sharing the truth of Jesus. Yet evangelism is difficult. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable. We might fear how people respond to us. We may worry that we will look foolish if we don’t have all the answers, or that we will say something confusing or offensive. Despite the difficulty, sharing our faith with others doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. In fact, we can even be excited about sharing our faith with others. It all begins with cultivating the right attitude. A right understanding and practice of sharing the gospel is a crucial part of our sanctification. I was raised in a Christian home and came to faith at young age. As a child, I was regularly exposed to teachings about evangelism, and had moments where I inexpertly attempted to share my faith. But by the time I entered college, I had grown disillusioned. I believed that every person was a sinner in need of saving by Christ alone. Yet I had also become deeply uncomfortable with all but the mildest forms of evangelism. Years of listening to American culture lash out against awkward or inappropriately coercive Christians had dissuaded me from my former zeal. I came to a place where I would only share the gospel with my closest friendships or if I was asked about my faith directly. Otherwise, I would be “respectful” by keeping it to myself. In college I found Cru, a campus ministry known for their incredibly direct evangelism style. “Initiative evangelism,” which means walking up to strangers with the explicit purpose of sharing the gospel, is taught and practiced regularly. I joined the group but stayed far away from these activities, fearing we were scaring people away from Christ. However, as I encountered Scripture and the kind persuasion of other believers, my heart did a complete one-eighty. Here are some key passages and principles that altered my perspective:...

Cultivating a Heart for Evangelism2024-03-29T18:03:16+00:00

Making Space to Connect Across the Generations

KAREN HODGE | CONTRIBUTOR Miss Janey Bilderback was an eighty-year-old retired missionary from Africa. She gave her life away on the mission field and never married. This dear woman entered my life in junior high at the Southern Baptist Church I attended in West Palm Beach, Florida. Now looking back, you would think if you had served most of your life in rural Africa, that you might get a free pass for time well served when the youth pastor was recruiting Sunday School teachers. But she showed up week in and week out and opened the Bible with a bunch of insecure, clueless junior high girls. Miss Janey extended hospitality by opening our time with Dunkin Doughnut holes to get us talking. She saw past our small, awkward appearance and held up a vision of a big God who she believed could do abundantly more than we could ask or think. When we graduated from junior high school, she gave each girl in our class an embordered linen handkerchief. Even after we moved on to high school, she would write us notes and check in on us. I held onto that handkerchief long after Miss Janey went to be with the Lord. I asked the florist to include this priceless gift in the middle of my wedding bouquet. Miss Janey's intergenerational friendship impacted me more than I could have ever imagined. The Hospitality of the Gospel A definition our family likes to use for hospitality is “to make space.” Of course, you make space at a table for a guest to dine by setting another place setting. But the hospitality of the gospel makes space in a myriad of different and costly ways. We can make space in a conversation to listen to the questions underneath the questions. Creating margin in our calendar to be able to have space to respond to the need of people in our life extends grace and hospitality. We are often stretched when we make space in our lives for different kinds of people who may struggle in different stages of their faith journey. Miss Janey made space for young women who had nothing to offer and each Sunday morning at 10 a.m., we rehearsed the content of the gospel in the context of community over doughnut holes...

Making Space to Connect Across the Generations2024-03-29T17:08:02+00:00

The Body of Christ Makes All the Difference

SHARON ROCKWELL | CONTRIBUTOR My friend was not handling life very well. Emotions overwhelmed her as she felt the disappointment and pain of an adult child who was making bad choices, grief for a parent in hospice, and the sting of anger when relatives inappropriately demanded a share of the inheritance. She was already battling cancer, exhausted from chemotherapy and frustrated that she could not deal with all that was on her plate. Darkness invaded her world more than was visible to the eye. She had Christian friends at church who were praying for her. She had good-intentioned family members always ready with words of advice. And she had plenty of books and podcast lectures on dealing with her specific issues. But it was a wise, older Christian woman who encouraged her and imparted truth without judgement that changed everything. This woman met with my friend twice a week for months. She told me the main premise of their discussions was that the only thing you can control is yourself. My friend kept a diary of their Bible searches for God’s truth about her life versus her own self-deception. Here are a few of the key take-aways that she recounted put her back on a healthy path. She learned to guard her heart. Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Guarding your heart means choosing godly thoughts (Col. 3:2; Phil. 4:8) as well as seeking wisdom and guidance from God. My friend had spent months in anger, self-pity, and dwelling on how life is unfair. She had raised her children with Christian values, only to watch a prodigal flaunt an ungodly lifestyle in her face. Why? She had always taken care of her body—good food and exercise—only to face a cancer diagnosis. Why? Betrayal had fractured her family over money issues. Why? It was a while before my friend would admit that her heart was bitter. Only she could control her thoughts, choosing godly thoughts over the evil that plagued her to the point of giving up on life. But once this realization became clear, it was a turning point...

The Body of Christ Makes All the Difference2024-03-19T13:29:44+00:00

How Can the Church Serve Families Touched by Autism?

CHRISTINE GORDON | CONTRIBUTOR According to Autism Speaks, the non-profit research and awareness organization, 2.7 percent of children and 2.2 percent of adults in the United States have autism. So, in a church of just 200, at least two children and two adults probably have autism. Your church probably has autistic brothers and sisters attending. Do you know their names? Autistic people can feel intimidating to neurotypical (non-autistic, having typical neurological patterns and makeup) people. Autistic children and adults may or may not be able to read social cues, may dress differently, speak differently or not speak at all. They may not easily fit into the usual Sunday school classes, youth groups, and adult community groups. They may need quiet spaces, breaks from worship or group meetings, and predictability. How can the rest of the church love these brothers and sisters? And how can the autistic community in the church love the neurotypicals?  We must begin by acknowledging a few basics. All humans are made to image God, and all do so differently. Neurotypical people are not morally better or of more value to God by design. They may navigate relationships more easily and assume more traditional roles in society, but those on the autism spectrum bring unique skills and abilities to the table that neurotypical people may benefit from.  Having said that, perhaps we can reframe the question. Families touched by autism do need help. And the church should be a part of serving those needs. But the church must also recognize the dignity and gifts of those who have what is now officially called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), especially those who are adults. Perhaps our question could be framed in this way: How can the church dignify, serve, and celebrate the gifts of those among her who have ASD?..

How Can the Church Serve Families Touched by Autism?2024-03-19T13:26:36+00:00

The Resurrection of Christ: The Hope of Glory and Hope for the Body

ELIZABETH TURNAGE | CONTRIBUTOR A 2017 study revealed that 25 percent of British people who identify as Christians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.[i] And yet, as pastor and theologian Stephen Um explains, even atheist scholars find weighty evidence for the resurrection. Um quotes atheist philosopher Anthony Flew: “The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion.”[ii] The resurrection is central to the gospel: if the resurrection didn’t happen, Paul tells the doubting Corinthians, our hope in Christ is pitiable (1 Cor. 15:19). On the first Good Friday long ago, Jesus spent his last breath. To confirm his death, a Roman soldier pierced his side with a spear. Joseph of Arimathea, with the permission of Pilate, took Christ’s body from the cross, wrapped it in a linen shroud, and buried it in his tomb (Mark 15:42–46). Christ’s followers were downcast and depressed the next day—the One they had thought would save them had died. How could it be? The disciples had never fully understood what Christ meant when he said, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt. 17:22–23). And then he appeared in a new body, a resurrected body. Many saw him: the women who went to the tomb to finish preparing the body for burial (Mark 16:1). Mary Magdalene, who mistook Jesus for the gardener (John 20:15). Thomas, who at Jesus’s command, touched Jesus’s nail-scarred hands (John 20:24–27). the disciples, who trembled together in a locked room when Jesus suddenly stood among them, greeting them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19)...

The Resurrection of Christ: The Hope of Glory and Hope for the Body2024-04-01T20:51:42+00:00

Ordinary Women, Extravagant Gifts

JAMYE DOERFLER | CONTRIBUTOR A few days before his death, Jesus attended a dinner party with his disciples. A woman arrived with an alabaster jar of pure nard, an extremely expensive perfume, broke the jar and poured the oil on Jesus’ head. Most people in the room disapproved of the gift. Mark says the men were “indignant” and rebuked the woman harshly for not selling the nard and giving the money to the poor instead. Yet Jesus defended her: “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9). When the woman anointed Jesus with her precious oil, it showed that she understood that Jesus was worthy of such extravagance. Clearly, she grasped this better than even Jesus’ loyal disciples who condemned her gift. As James R. Edwards points out in his commentary on Mark, “The disciples’ condemnation of the gift demeans the woman and her gift, and also Jesus, whom they regard as unworthy of such extravagance.” The value of a gift Not everyone is able to give such an expensive gift, of course. A few chapters earlier, Jesus similarly commended another woman, even though her gift was of little monetary value: the widow who could only afford to put two copper coins into the temple treasury.   To his disciples, he said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). Though the phrasing is different, Jesus recognizes both women for the same motivation: “she has done what she could” and “she has put in everything she had.” As Edwards writes, “For Jesus, the value of a gift is not the amount given, but the cost to the giver.”...

Ordinary Women, Extravagant Gifts2024-03-19T13:46:10+00:00

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

STEPHANIE HUBACH | CONTRIBUTOR Does the Guinness Book of World Records have a category for “longest period of time for keeping the same item magnetized to a refrigerator?” I sincerely doubt it. However, since the first all-steel home refrigerator was introduced by General Electric in 1929, that’s only a 95-year record to contend with. So, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. My magnetized item is actually a piece of newsprint (stuck in a magnetic frame), that says in large letters, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” It’s been on my various refrigerators for 32 years. How do I know the exact amount of time? I know because my son Tim, who has Down syndrome, was born 32 years ago. 32 Years Ago—Jesus Loves Me, This I Know: My Sheer Act of Faith Five days after New Year’s Day of 1992, I gave birth to my second son. That evening, I heard the words that changed my family’s life forever. “We believe your son has a chromosomal abnormality.” As it turns out, a little piece of extra genetic material can influence a whole host of changes in a human body. Some of those changes create authentic challenges (to the point of being life-threatening, such as severe cardiac conditions). Some of those changes bring forth wonderful qualities in a “super-abundance” not as fully experienced by those of us with a typical collection of 46 chromosomes. In those early days, my heart was understandably caught up with the former: the weight of the authentic challenges and the practical nature of addressing those difficulties. By choice, we did not know in advance that Tim had Down syndrome. (That’s a conversation for another day.) Nor did we know that he would have a tumultuous ride of health issues in his first year, culminating in open heart surgery at seven months old. The tsunami of new responsibilities in terms of medical care and therapies, accompanied by grief at the loss of my expectations for what I thought Tim’s life (and ours) would look like, made our infant and toddler days with our oldest son, Freddy, feel other-worldly. Sometime, early in this journey, is when the newspaper clipping became attached to my refrigerator. “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Christmas vacation occurred the weeks just prior to Tim’s birth. We were all home together, as my husband had time off from work. And I specifically remember intentionally enjoying that time with Freddy—knowing (but not how much) it would change soon, with the addition of a new baby. I also distinctly recall singing a particular song with him—one that I remember God bringing to mind (from my own childhood) during that time. It was this: There is a name I love to hear I love to sing its worth It sounds like music in my ear The sweetest name on earth O how I love Jesus O how I love Jesus O how I love Jesus Because he first loved me...

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know2024-03-05T17:52:13+00:00

He Knows Our Every Trouble

CLAIRE STREBECK | GUEST Christ identifies with all our weaknesses.  Christ understands our every sorrow. Do you weep? Do you mourn? If there were one characteristic that marked Jesus' earthly ministry, it would be compassion. Over and over, he was moved with deep pity for those weeping, especially those who were disadvantaged: the widow from Nain; Mary at the death of Lazarus; the sinner-woman who wailed as she washed Christ's feet with her expensive perfume and her tears.  Yet, it was not only their circumstances that provoked Jesus' emotion. Certainly, any of their conditions could have been sufficient to prompt anyone to sympathy. Still, with Jesus, each emotional response included more than mere circumstantial pity. Every time Christ was moved in his emotions, it was in response to the battle he waged with death.  Jesus’ Emotional Response to Our Fallen World When Christ saw Mary and the other Jews weeping over Lazarus' death, he felt more than sorrow. John 11:33 tells us that He was "deeply moved." I was surprised to discover that the text signifies more than Jesus' sadness and sympathy–John also communicates Jesus' rage. The original Greek word used is embrimaomai, which literally translates to "being very angry or moved with indignation." Was Christ angry at Mary or those with her? Was he angry over their grief? Absolutely not. In fact, we see that he was stirred in response to their mourning, with his own shedding of tears only two verses later. It was death itself that prompted our Lord to anger. ...

He Knows Our Every Trouble2024-03-05T18:10:48+00:00

Why Talk About Covenant Theology

SARAH IVILL | CONTRIBUTOR Our family attends Christ Covenant Church. The school that meets on our campus, and is a ministry of the church, is Covenant Day School. Our denomination’s college, as well as the seminary, is named Covenant. And the most recent women’s ministry leadership training conference was titled: A Covenantal Framework for Life & Ministry. Yet many of us do not understand the meaning of Covenant Theology, and therefore, do not understand why it is important to talk about it. So, I want to suggest five reasons why we should talk more about covenant theology. What Covenant Theology Reminds Us First, Covenant Theology reminds us of a perfect promise. There is no way that we could have reached out to have a relationship with the creator God. But amazingly, He has reached out to us by way of His covenant. He has promised, “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12). Second, Covenant Theology reminds us that the Bible is better than any other book. It reveals the bigger picture of who God is and who we are. Through His Word, He reveals our need of salvation and of His perfect solution in the Savior. Third, Covenant Theology reminds us that Christ is the center of our story, as well as the bigger story of redemption. In fulfillment of the covenant of grace, which is founded upon the covenant of redemption, Christ accomplished the redemption that God the Father appointed, and the Holy Spirit applies (see John 17:1-26; Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 13:20). Fourth, Covenant Theology reminds us of the implications of God’s free grace. Justification and adoption are acts of God’s free grace, and sanctification is the work of God’s free grace. Everyone deserves God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). But God is “rich in mercy” and love and saves His people by grace (vv. 4-5). This salvation is not a possibility, but a certainty (vv. 6-7)...

Why Talk About Covenant Theology2024-03-05T17:59:03+00:00

Welcome Younger Women into Your Life

CHRISTINE GORDON | CONTRIBUTOR The first time we met, she was hosting tea in two different rooms of her African home. Tea is a big deal in Malawi, along with the relationships and conversations that surround it. At that point she was probably in her 40s, had one grown son back in the States and a middle school-aged daughter with her while she and her husband served at the African Bible College (ABC) in Lilongwe. She had been a Christian most of her life, grew up in the rural Midwest, loved marriage and children and cooking. After her husband’s army career and her many years as a nurse, they answered a call to Sub-Saharan Africa. There I met them while on a mission trip with a local church during the summer after my senior year of college. I immediately put Barbara into a small box in my mind that included 1950s moms who baked and waited for their children to come home so they could pour them glasses of milk. Of course, there was nothing wrong with women like this, but I knew I didn’t want to be one. I wanted a career, was unsure of marriage, and had decided I didn’t want children. I had been a Christian just over two years when I walked into Barbara’s living room that summer. I never would have expected how our lives would intertwine, or how much I would want to be like her. While on the ABC campus those first two weeks, I watched Barbara serve meals, ask questions, and listen to our group of about 20 students. She smiled, laughed, and patiently explained life in Africa to us. She obviously loved and enjoyed Bruce, a large teddy bear of a man who taught classes at the school. I learned that she walked around the gym on campus every day for exercise and asked if I could join her. She graciously allowed me to come for the first of what would become many shared walks. Barbara was just beginning to become to me what felt like an anchor in the changing and sometimes confusing sea that was Africa. Meanwhile, our team from the US visited villages, shared the gospel, and spent time with students. As I saw more and more of the poverty around me, (Malawi was the 4th poorest country in the world at the time), I struggled. The questions I had in the back of my mind about a good God and pain in the world were suddenly front and center. Bruce and Barbara had a meeting in their house to discuss what we had seen and felt. She moved among us offering tea, a listening ear, and comfort...

Welcome Younger Women into Your Life2024-02-17T18:12:21+00:00
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