Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).


"Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded" (2 John 3-4).


"Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the brothers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth" (3 John 2-4).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lessons from Nonna Maria

Nonna Maria, my maternal grandmother, is 91 years old. She and her husband, Nonno Ignazio, were married 44 years and 4 months. They emigrated from Sicily to Rochester, NY in 1956, over 50 years ago. Nonno passed into eternity in 1994.

Nonna worked as a seamstress for 20 years. She gets an $82.42 monthly pension because of her efforts. Most of her coworkers were Italian and her boss spoke Spanish, so they got along communicating without English. After decades in America, Nonna still speaks broken English. We speak Italian with her in our home. She loves to tell stories of her life in Italy.

Nonna’s mother, Giuseppina, was a generous woman of faith. When she cooked for her family, before they ate, she and her daughters would bring bowls of pasta and bread to those living on the streets in their village. One day, Nonna Giuseppina arrived home with only her slip on. When questioned about her appearance, she explained she had met a homeless woman. She knew she could buy or make herself a new dress, but that poor woman could not.

Nonna told of her mother faithfully attending church every weekend. When the children were young, she and her husband would attend mass at different hours, so one parent was home with the babies. When her husband traveled for business, Great-grandmother brought all her children to church with her. Nonna had nine siblings. At that time, two were still babies.

When the children grew noisy and restless. A woman sitting in the pew behind leaned forward to complain. Nonna’s mother told her, “I wanted to come to church. My husband’s on a business trip. If you don’t like the noise, go home.”

Nonna tells another story of her mother walking along the cobblestone street in their Sicilian town, warmly greeting everyone she passed. As they walked on, my Nonna, then a young girl, finally asked, “Do you know all these people?” Nonna Giuseppina answered, “No. But, the LORD knows all about them, and He wants me to greet them and give them His blessing.” Everywhere we go, we should be about the Father’s business. Everyplace you go, endeavor to bless it for Jesus. Be His witness, His ambassador, His representative.

As a boy, I’d often spend weekends at Nonna’s house. One weekend, I brought an empty notebook and asked Nonna if we could cook. Together we made everything from pasta sauce and chicken cutlets to chocolate cookies. I recorded these treasured recipes as best I could, trying to discern how Nonna’s “pinch” or “dash”  translated into standard measurements.

Once after Nonna came to live with us, she and I were watching a TV special about the persecuted church. A young Chinese girl refused to spit and step on an image of Jesus. Following her example, the rest of the children at her school stood firm in their faith. All the children were martyred. As the show was in English, Nonna did not understand. But looking up from her chair at my tears, she began to weep with me for our fallen brothers and sisters who laid down their very lives for the Lord Jesus.

Nonna says we are to live “tutto nel Signore,” meaning, “all in the LORD.” Nonna keeps it simple. When I ask her what she believes happens after we die, she says, “If you believe in Jesus, you go to Heaven; if not, you go to Hell.” She’s right.

I enjoy sharing these stories and lessons from Nonna. The Bible commands us to honor the aged. Proverbs teaches that gray hair is a crown of splendor for the old (16:31; 20:29). It’s good to be old. It means you’ve endured. If you’ve trusted your life to Christ, old age means you’re closer to Heaven.

While you’re alive, learn from those who have lived longer than you. Ask questions. Learn to be a wise listener. In those conversations, be bold in sharing the gospel of Jesus. It might be someone’s last day on earth. Redeem the time. The old have wisdom to share. Let’s listen.

Nonna has taught me to hold my life in an open hand and to seek the will of Jesus. She’s often said she would love to be at my wedding and to kiss my babies “se Dio vuole”—if God wills. Let’s flesh out our faith, seeking the will of Jesus that we might perform it and honor Him in all things until our last breath.
Nonna Maria, pictured at age 90
(photo by Joshua Harrison, http://www.jhspace.com)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bear much fruit

My Momma came bolting up the stairs nearly in tears. She was ecstatic. Something important had clearly transpired in her life. Why the excitement? Why the emotion? What was happening? She proceeded to explain in decibels that demonstrated the masterful design the LORD used in creating the human ear.

“It’s my fig tree!” she exclaimed. “It’s finally produced figs—three of them!”

How long and patiently she had waited for her fig tree to produce figs. My godfather Padrino Gino, a Sicilian immigrant, had given her this treasure two years before in the late summer. Growing figs is a time-honored, Italian tradition. Mamina planted it in an elephantine plastic pot and watered regularly. It displayed nothing but leaves for several years.

You started to wonder, “Is fig season ever coming?” She explained that she told the tree it would be cursed if it didn’t produce. A few short weeks later, her efforts paid off in the form of three plump, tasty figs.

In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus approaches a fig tree, looking for fruit. He is hungry but finds only leaves. He curses it, saying, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately it withers. Mark 11:13 adds the detail that it was not fig season.

According to Evangelist Ray Comfort, there are only two proper times to preach Word: in season and out of season. Many, who stall, delaying for the exact proper moment to share the Gospel, neglect the Scriptural command to witness and preach the Word in and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). There is no excuse for neglecting the ministry of the Gospel. We are called to be prepared. We must love, know, and study the Gospel so deeply that it flows from our lips with ease. Believers will continue to discover the glorious depths of the Gospel in Heaven as we pursue knowing Jesus for all eternity. On earth, we must rely on His Holy Spirit to be ever prepared to share His good news.

Jesus taught that true and false prophets are discerned by their fruit. Those without good fruit are cast into the fire of Hell. This fruit is more than good deeds. Jesus explained that unless our works flow from a genuine, personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus, they are worthless (Mt. 7:15-23; Lk. 6:43-45; 13:5-8). Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” and does good in His Name will be in Heaven. The true believer has surrendered his life to Jesus, and his life, transformed by the Holy Spirit, evidences it.

Paul urges professing believers to examine themselves to ensure they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). John the Beloved’s first letter was written as a test we can use. He penned, “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). James reminds us that a fig tree doesn’t produce olives, and a pure heart doesn’t praise and curse (3:9-13). The way we speak and live evidences our true heart condition.

Momma has placed her fig tree in the garage now to protect it from the coming frost. Last season, she covered it with a cardboard box in the garage away from the draft of the door. Once a month, she gives it a cup of water. This year, it’s blossomed so large that she may wrap it with a box and then cover it with a blanket. The leaves will all fall and only the stem will remain.

For those who live in falseness and pretending, the Bible gives a solemn warning. When their lives are called upon to produce figs seemingly out of season when they don’t expect it, their disobedience will be brought into the light, and they will be accountable for their neglect and ultimate fruitlessness. Be connected to the True Vine (Jn. 15:1-5). Bear much fruit.

Two of Momma's first figs (7-12-10)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Laurie leads Chicago Harvest Crusade

Greg Laurie led the Chicago Harvest Crusade in Allstate Arena on Sept. 24-26. According to Harvest.org, 47, 600 attended the three days of free-admission meetings. 105, 773 participated via webcast, and 4,758 professed decisions to follow Christ. Among musical guests were the David Crowder Band, the Katinas, Kirk Franklin, and Skillet.

John Lee, sophomore pastoral ministries major, attended the Friday opening session. He said, “The event brought out a sense of unity in local church outreach.” Before the event, monthly prayer meetings were held at area churches, who partnered with Harvest Ministries.

Lee recalled, “Seeing old and young, ritzy and poor, and all ethnic groups coming publicly to take a first step of faith was breathtaking.” He added, “As churches put heart and effort into connecting disciple-makers with each one, the seed of life could still be cultivated and harvested. It's never a waste to go all out for the sake of the Gospel!”

Michelle Gesualdo, junior evangelism and discipleship major, attended one of the volunteer training sessions in late August and served as a follow-up decision worker during the altar call at the Saturday session. Laurie shared his testimony, interweaving a retelling of the prodigal son parable. Gesualdo commented, “There were a lot of appeals to emotion. He did talk about God’s love for us and sin, that we have violated God’s Law.”

She expressed concerns about aspects omitted from Laurie’s message, saying, “I’m confident he acted out of love for people and passion to see them come to Christ. But, our desperate state before a holy God was not clearly illustrated.” Gesualdo questioned, “How can we say the Gospel is being communicated accurately if essential elements like the gravity of sin, Hell, condemnation, and repentance are omitted?”

Lee stated, “I was reminded that these events are not pep rallies for Christians but a way for lost people to see God worshiped and love extended. If that doesn't happen, we might as well call it off.”

Gesualdo urged, “We must make sure we don’t just talk about the benefits of salvation. Jesus always talked about the cost of discipleship. May we seek to love this generation enough to communicate Scriptural truth in a way they comprehend, ensuring the truth is never compromised.”

She reported, “The place was packed with teenagers. When I surveyed the audience my heart was broken. It was when I was a teenager that people first talked with me about Jesus Christ.” She prayed with one teenage girl, who responded to the altar call.

Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel called the Sunday session, “the most full night yet” with “standing room only.” It was titled an “Evening of Hope,” during which Stephen Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp performed and together with Laurie spoke of experiencing death in their families.

The deaths of Chapman’s young daughter Maria, Camp’s first wife, and Laurie’s adult son were remembered. These men testified to the eternal hope they have in Jesus. Laurie explained everyone will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. He concluded, “Help has a Name, and it’s Jesus Christ.”


Hundreds flooded the floor in response to an altar call given by Greg Laurie during the Sunday session of the Chicago Harvest Crusade at Allstate Arena on Sept. 26 (photo by Marcus A. Constantine).

Awake, O sleeper!

It was Dec. 15th of last year. I was resting on my top bunk in our Chicago dorm during the earliest hours of the morning. It was cold out there. Suddenly, I was jolted awake by a loud pounding at our door.

An officer entered the room and shouted instructions: “Wake up! Out of bed!” We drifted sleepily out of bed. My exhausted roommate could only mutter, “I need pants. I need pants,” over and over again. The officer demanded we quickly evacuate our room.

I fumbled tiredly through my drawer. “What do I need to bring?” my numb mind wondered to no avail. Thankfully, I thought to put on my glasses. But that’s all I grabbed. I left behind my keys and ID. All the while, the soft reassuring music of my “Bedtime” iTunes playlist sang on the computer. My roommate and I had slept through the fire alarm. Most of the building had already evacuated.

The campus security officer wanted to know our names. He reported us into his walkie-talkie: “Marcus Constantine and Jordan Gilbert found asleep in their beds while the fire alarm rang.” I wondered if our sleepiness made us indirectly guilty of insubordination. Thankfully, there were no lasting repercussions for our slumber.

The officer again goaded us out of our warm room. We took off barreling at top speed down fourteen flights of stairs. Suddenly, the oddity of the situation hit me. There I was donning a pair of black dress shoes below my orange pajama pants and my heavy winter jacket. My roommate modeled a pair of old sweatpants and flip-flops. We were thoroughly unprepared.

Just when we reached the main lobby, security gave the okay to return to our rooms. We joined a crowd of chilled, groggy men, who had been evacuated from their comfy beds. My roommate and I hauled our confused bodies back up the fourteen flights. I used the railings to pull myself up, as my legs were thoroughly disoriented and went on strike for the night.

In the physical, I climbed back under my covers and drifted back to sleep. In the spiritual, I’d received a taste of what it’s like to be caught sleeping when an urgent call is made. Hear Ephesians 5:14, "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." The chapter urges hearers to imitate God, live as children of light, expose darkness, make the most of every opportunity, and submit out of reverence for Christ.

We must wake up from slumber, for the end of all things is near (1 Pet. 4:7). Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11-12). Jesus will return soon. Be ready, O unbeliever, and rise from the dead by surrendering your life to Jesus. Don’t be caught sleeping when the judgment bell tolls. Awaken, O believer!  The night is far spent; the day is at hand. 

Are you snoozing through life? Do you enjoy your pillow and your blankie too much to rise, shine and be a bold witness of the Gospel? Are you sluggish to open your mouth and share Jesus? Are you too sleepy to make Him known to a dying world? Are you so busy that you have no time for God’s Word? Are you too tired to awaken, to be watchful and vigilant for your Lord? Will you not wait one hour with the Lord Jesus in the garden as He prays? He’s interceding for you (Jn. 17; Heb. 7:25). How much in your life is truly for the cause of Christ? How much is for yourself? Are you coasting through this life? Are you asleep? Rise.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free indeed

I was sitting by a pond in the Illinois suburb, where my sweetheart and I were visiting family. I had found a comfortable spot in the shade to read my Bible for my Daniel and Revelation distance learning class. All of a sudden, I noticed something flapping around wildly down by shore.

As I looked closer, I saw a bird with his foot tangled in a fishing line. This robin had been snagged by the line, which was now wrapped tightly around a small leafless bush by the water’s edge.

I continued watching, and it seemed with all the robin’s effort, he would soon be free. After a few moments, I realized that the more this little bird struggled, trying to free himself, the tighter the line was wrapping around his leg. His wings were catching on the sticks of the bush. He kept making crash landings into the dusty ground as the nylon thread yanked him down. He was bleeding and bruised.

I wondered if anyone would help the stuck little bird.  There were ducks swimming playfully nearby. Their loud quacks made them oblivious to their fellow bird’s predicament. A blue heron was strutting his stuff just a few feet away. He majestically lifted his spindly legs out of the water one after the other.  His long pointed beak had the power to rescue the perishing robin. Maybe he just wasn’t willing, or maybe he was so focused on his own fishing trip that he remained unaware of the captive robin’s suffering.

A tree near the shore was peppered with a flock of blackbirds, who had come to watch the show. The longer the robin wrestled, the more the tree above darkened as black feathers covered its branches. There were a few large crows in the mix, cawing piercingly. It seemed they led the blackbirds in taunting the robin: “Come on, little bird! What’s the matter? You stuck? You too weak? That bush got the best of you?” They cackled at their own jokes. They thought themselves so clever. I wondered if they were merely waiting for the robin to die of exhaustion, so they could feast on his remains.

When I moved in closer to help him, the robin thrashed around wildly, struggling even harder to escape. The tree above us squawked even louder at the spectacle, thinking I’d steal their lunch.

I spoke softly to the robin trying to convince him I wanted to save him. He refused to listen. Finally, using a bit of wood, I set the little bird free.

He was ungrateful. His first act as a free bird wasn’t to give thanks but to hobble away up the hill to hide in a large bush.

Do we act the same way when One bigger and wiser, who cares about us deeply, comes to our rescue? Do we kick, scream and fight away? As breakers of God’s Law, we are in bondage to sin that’s too strong for us to break. Only the Lord Jesus, who shed His Blood on the cross, is strong enough to save. He rose from the dead. He’s able, and He wants our good.

Are you an oblivious duck, a self-focused heron, a pliable blackbird or a mocking crow? Do you rescue those in bondage with the message of freedom in Jesus? Are we in the business of breaking chains? Are you still trapped? You’d be surprised. All it takes is surrendered stillness to the only One strong enough to break the line.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let the children come to Jesus

Sixty-two college students, 48 inner-city Chicago kids and I went to camp in Michigan. At the Big Brother Big Sister program camp, the opportunities to share Jesus with kids are worth losing sleep and getting dirty for. At camp, the Lord Jesus taught me, by full immersion, more of what it looks like to parent.

At camp when 10-year-old Jumar had to sit out from game time, I opened a window to teach about God’s mercy. Sitting on the sidelines, I asked him, “Jumar, do you know what mercy means?” He shook his head no. “When we give our lives to Jesus, God doesn’t give us what we deserve. For breaking His Law, we deserve Hell. Instead, He gives us life with Jesus here on earth and forever—that’s mercy.” I let Jumar get back in the game five minutes early. With eyes aglow, Jumar said, “That’s mercy.”

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Peter 5:8, we’re not to remain spiritual babes but to become self-controlled and alert. Yet Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:1-5 to be like children in the simplicity and unwavering nature of our faith. When you explain the Gospel to a child, you’re privileged to boil it down to its most basic truth. Jumar left me reveling anew in the marvelous beauty of the Gospel of God’s mercy toward us. Let the children come to Jesus. Be their guide to Him.

As you’re learning to parent, remember kids don’t need the company of another goofball who’s just like them. They need the companionship of Jesus. Don’t descend all the way to a childish level. Call children up to a higher level. Teach, train, and equip them. Make the most of every opportunity with them. For instance, during the camp scavenger hunt, big and little siblings paired up and walked around the grounds, and I talked with Jumar about his relationship with Jesus, what he believes, and what he’s living for.

At camp, I didn’t bounce off the walls, but I did compliment the children, encouraged their strengths, caught them doing right, urged them to be polite, disciplined them when disobedient, and talked about Jesus constantly. When camp buses dropped us back at Moody, one of the younger boys, named Robert, called, “I want Marcus to walk me home. He’s fun!”

I thought, “No, pal, Marcus isn’t particularly fun. He’s tired, but he is learning to love you from the deepest part of his heart with love that he’s first received from his Savior.” In teaching me to practice unconditional love, Jesus was showing me the heart of parenting.

I’ve been reminded that if you enter a romantic relationship, you must be prepared to become married. Acknowledge also that marriage usually produces children. It’s the Lord’s design. If God’s will for you includes a family, you may be a parent sooner than you think. If His will for you includes no biological kids, you’re in the company of men like Paul and Jesus (1 Th. 2:7; Jn. 13:33). Raise and nurture spiritual children by parenting those younger in the faith as evidenced in 1 Timothy 1:2 and Titus 1:4. Let’s ready ourselves now by studying biblical parenting and sharing the Gospel with children.

Mayor Daley will not run for reelection, was honored to serve Chicago

After 21 years and six terms of serving as Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley announced on Sept. 7th at a City Hall news conference that he will not be running for reelection in 2011. 68-year-old Daley said, "It's time…for me, it's time for Chicago to move on."

Daley gave little explanation calling this a “personal decision” that “just feels right.” He stated, “Improving Chicago has been the ongoing work of my life, and I have loved every minute of it. There has been no greater privilege or honor than serving as your mayor.”

After his speech, which lasted less than five minutes, Daley took no questions. His wife, Maggie, stood beside him, supporting herself with a crutch. Since 2002, Maggie has wrestled with metastatic breast cancer. Mayor Daley said, “I am ready with my family to begin the new phase of our lives.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five reasons we’re committed to purity

We wait for acceptance letters, job postings, and a baby’s first word. I’ve been waiting and trusting Jesus for a life partner. It was when I learned to rest that He brought me my Eve (Gn. 2:21-22). 

As we prepare for marriage, she and I have established physical boundaries for our purity. We want to share five reasons that we’re committed to upholding these. No matter where you find yourself in this journey of life and love, we pray these underpinning principles will help you.

First, the marriage covenant is the divinely designed context for sexual intimacy. The Lord Jesus created sex to deeply unite husband and wife and to produce children (Jn. 1:3). Children are a reward from the LORD (Ps. 127:3). The lifelong commitment of marriage liberates a couple to be utterly intimate and to make babies. Wedding vows promise future offspring the protection of a father and mother. Jesus commands we wait. His way is the best way.

Second, we are here on this earth to minister the Gospel to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus left His followers with a clear commission to make Him known. His pure Gospel flows most freely from a clean vessel. We preach in the open air that Jesus considers lust adultery in the heart (Mt. 5:28). We share in witnessing conversations that we must repent and trust Christ. Hence, we must also live unadulterated lives of repentance.

Third, our lifestyle sets an example for believers (1 Tim. 4:12). Over the course of our life together, we will influence multitudes. Some look up to us. I’m the oldest sibling of four. My sisters and brother expect me to model Biblical dating for them. Others just notice in passing. We want our example of pure love to point onlookers to Jesus.

Fourth, we refuse to show disdain for God’s grace and mercy. When we least expected it, Jesus graciously bound our hearts together. He’s mercifully protected us thus far. He has poured boundless favor on us through our relationship. He’s revealed to me afresh the passion He has for His Bride—His sacrificial love for the Church. Refusing to wait for intimacy would spit in the face of what He is doing.

Fifth, we honor one another’s convictions. We prayed and fasted together. We drafted physical boundaries separately. When we met to share, whoever had the higher standard set the bar. Guarding each other’s hearts and consciences is an utmost priority. We must be unhindered as we run this race (Heb. 12:1).

Before you enlist to hold us accountable, allow me to issue a challenge. As you wait upon the LORD, consider your personal standards. Have you defined what you will and won’t do? Do you know what foundation your convictions rest upon? Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). If we’ve been freed from sin, we live in it no longer (Rom. 6). I pray our reasons will embolden you in your pursuit of purity. Holiness is His way. As we surrender to Jesus, His Spirit empowers us to walk as He did.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Unintended curriculum

The speaker shuffled his notes and feet uneasily. Impressionable young eyes stared back at him—some clouded with pain, others glowing with life.

He cleared his throat and told a “funny” story from his youth of a time he’d been intoxicated. The speaker went on to present a well-polished sermon. At the end of this youth meeting, a gray-haired woman waited patiently to address the speaker.

When her turn arrived, she gently questioned, “Were you trying to teach the kids that being drunk is fun?”

“No!” he snapped. “I was teaching from the Book of James.”

Shaking her head sadly, she sighed, “What about your opening? You had ‘em laughing intensely about being drunk.”

“That was just my opening illustration! It was meant to be funny. Didn’t you hear me qualify afterward that being drunk is a sin?”

“Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should hide the fact that you’ve been drunk before, but that story was merely intended to make the kids laugh. It made light of a serious issue in the lives of those learners.”

The true rarity in the story above is the woman’s wise, gentle rebuke. Thoughtlessness on the part of speakers is widespread and can be deadly. 

As a young student, leading the Bible club at my public high school, I read an article on unintended curriculum that confronted my attitude toward using my words. The article questioned, what do you teach without meaning to? What do you lead hearers to infer and what conclusions do they draw from your words? Our curriculum includes both our content and our attitude.

To avoid any unintended curriculum here, let me clarify. I'm not saying we shouldn't share stories of past sin or present struggles. Growing to be wise and confident in self-disclosure is actually a mark of Christ-like maturity. However, always avoid speaking with an attitude that glorifies sin, sickness, or Satan. The shifty, shiny speaker in the story above neglected this for the sake of humor. As a result, his hearers were fed attitudes that may have led them into temptation and the very lap of evil. 

I have liberty to tell stories and to answer any sort of question. It's a matter of what I say and how I say it. I often ask myself, “What will listeners hear and learn from what I speak out?” In group settings, I tell stories that lift up Jesus and speak truth clearly. In one-to-one conversations, I aim to communicate with a respectful spirit.

Afterward, I ask the Holy Spirit to convict me of any sin. He is faithful to do so. That’s part of His mission (Jn. 16:7-11). And I'm grateful for it. In fulfilling His mission, the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill our great commission. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for convicting and holding us accountable. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for sending Your Spirit in power. 

The Lord judges teachers more strictly, because our words hold the power of life and death for listeners (Jm. 3:1; Prov. 18:21). Oh, let us speak boldly and wisely. Whether an aged saint is present to confront us or not, every time we speak, let us do so with knowledge that we are held accountable for what we teach both intentionally and unintentionally.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The art of asking questions

“If it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “Before you invited me to Truth Seekers, I was planning on killing myself.” It’s a story I share often because it exemplifies Jesus’ hand on our ministry in high school.

The Bible club started my freshman year and was called Truth Seekers for good reason. We met together weekly to seek the Truth (Jn. 14:6). At one of our meetings, a student shared the above testimony.

The story started when I asked her a simple question in the hall: “Will you join us at Truth Seekers?” She agreed. She heard the Gospel at our meeting. The Holy Spirit led her to Jesus, who did a saving work in her life. It started with one invitation, one question.

I’m grateful for questions. They enable me to engage in conversation and grow to better know those I love. Questions are an effective tool to use in witnessing (Acts 8). It’s through asking questions that we meet with answers. 

I asked many questions growing up. Momma was gracious: “Now, Marcus, you know the answer to that question. Think about it for a minute. It’ll come to you.” Dad, on the other hand: “Open your eyes and you shall see. If it was any more obvious, the answer’d bite you in the nose!”

Since then, I’ve grown immensely in decisiveness, but I will always ask questions. Questions are important for nearly everything I do as a follower of Jesus. When I share the gospel and preach in the open air, I often begin my message with questions to draw a crowd, seeking to engage those walking by. The Holy Spirit electrifies simple questions and uses them to capture attention and draw hearts unto Jesus with a seemingly magnetic pull.

I’ve been so thankful for the ministries of the Way of the Master and Mark Cahill and their emphases on using questions to engage people in witnessing conversations. Using questions, I bring people through the Ten Commandments to an understanding of their sin, preparing the soil of their hearts to hear the glorious message of the Savior. 

Let’s ask questions and listen intently to responses, because we love people deeply as Christ has first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). When you discover where someone is, you can meet her there and lead her to where Jesus is.

Another week at Truth Seekers, a friend submitted an “anonymous” suggestion card, which read, “Can we have more discussion?” In other words, “Will you ask more questions, so we have opportunity to speak out more?” That suggestion shaped the rest of my ministry. 

Ask questions. What a remarkable idea! Draw the truth out of your listeners. Always submit to the Bible as the absolute measuring rod to evaluate every truth claim. Help others exegete His truth by asking questions.

Ultimately, genuine questions can lead to an encounter with the Living Truth. It’s only the truth of Jesus that sets captives free. When we ask questions, seeking truth, we will find Him. For, He is the Truth, and He is not far from any one who will seek and ask Him (Acts 17:26-31).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Head & Heart - Soulmates

"Would you quiet your whimpering?!? I'm trying to think," Mind growled with an intellectual indifference.
"I can't help it. This is just so moving!" His companion, Heart, emotionally retorted, wiping away tears.

I promise you, my head and heart do not have audible conversations within my soul; however, I’ve learned there must be peaceful balance between them. As a follower of Christ, I’m called to think and feel as the Lord Jesus does.

The first week of this semester, I learned more about the balance between head and heart. In music class, my professor taught that the arts diverge into two braches: classic, which is orderly and logical, and romantic, which is free and more emotional. Head and heart have arm-wrestled throughout music history.

In preaching class, my professor taught that ministering the Word is both a science, involving mental discipline, and an art, requiring the Holy Spirit’s influence on the preacher’s heart. Head and heart must cooperate under the unction of the Holy Spirit to deliver an effective message.

John 1:12 speaks of both receiving Jesus and believing in His Name. The LORD, through John, explains there’s an experiential and an intellectual component to becoming born again as a child of God through Jesus Christ (Jn. 3). We believe the truth of the Gospel and turn from lawbreaking to follow Christ.

I was baptized as an infant and grew up in a church where I learned about the Bible. My head was full of knowledge, but I hadn’t encountered the Risen Christ. He hadn’t yet pricked my heart with a godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). When I heard the Gospel call to repent and be saved, the Holy Spirit brought conviction of sin and my need for Jesus. I received and believed.

I heard Apologist Josh McDowell explain on the radio that it was not just intellectual doubt that kept him from faith. Deep emotional wounds from his earthly father hindered his heart from believing in the Heavenly Father. He was convinced an Almighty Father would only cause him more pain. The Holy Spirit used both the love and the intellectual evidence of those who witnessed to McDowell to draw him to Jesus.

Everything done well in this life must involve a redeemed head and heart. When we act only from the head, we cause pain. When we’re simply moved by the heart, we cause trouble. The unregenerate “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” and the mind must be renewed (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 12:2).

Neither emotion nor reason is inherently evil. They are gifts of God, evidence that people are handcrafted in His Image. There’s an element of reason and emotion required for every wise decision, drawing from learned Scriptural principles and listening for the Holy Spirit's still, small voice.

This balance between head and heart is not something I dwell on or am introspective about. I listen to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to convict me. When I act unwisely or uncaringly, He convicts. When He puts His finger on the specific sin, I turn from the sin to Jesus and move forward.

Will head and heart ever get along? Through the cleansing Blood of Jesus, they sure can. We must eagerly desire both Christ-like thinking and feeling. The head and the heart are, after all, soulmates.