|Acts 17:15, 22--18:1
Psalms 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
Today's scriptures are about influence, praise and guidance. How we influence people in their path to Christ, praising God and how we receive guidance from God. In Acts, Paul tries a new approach to bringing others to Christ. I would call it the "used car salesman" approach. And it doesn't work. Normally Paul is direct, to the point of being a wild-eyed zealot. Usually Paul says "here's the Gospel of Jesus Christ, take it or leave it." People then either are converted and invite Paul into their homes or they cover their ears and start throwing rocks at Paul. In Athens Paul becomes a smooth talker and waits to the very end to spring the "R" word on his audience. Resurrection! Paul's new approach is met with sneers and indifference. I'm betting he would have preferred rocks. Every day we meet people who cover a broad spectrum in their relation to Christ. Some don't know him at all, some only vaguely and some quite well. How we present Christ to others is important. Direct or indirect. Words or actions. As Christians, I do believe that we are called to be ambassadors and are held to a higher standard.
Sometimes we don't even know we are being ambassadors. Several years ago a young man stopped in my office to say his good-byes. He had gotten a new job and was moving on. He told me he had admired how I treated and interacted with others and he wanted to do the same. I thought he was teasing me. He was not. He also knew that I was a Christian. I had been an influence without even realizing it. I'm a coward when it comes to witnessing for my faith, but sometimes opportunities to witness arise and we don't even recognize that we've been a witness. The psalmist tells us simply to praise the Lord. And in John, Christ tries to explain to the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be coming to guide them when he is gone. His love and concern for them is evident. His desire to encourage and guide them comes through clearly. The disciples never do get it until the resurrection.
As Christians today we are lucky. We have God's word and the Holy Spirit to guide us. I've been coaching under-eight boy's soccer for several years now. Some of the boys have never played soccer before. My job as their coach is simply to encourage, to make it fun and to try to guide them. I spend time in practice on what I think are the true fundamentals. In Shane's first game he was a little timid. Despite my words of encouragement, he trailed the pack through much of the game. Finally the ball squirted out and came to rest at Shane's feet. "Go, Shane, go!" I shouted. Shane focused on the ball, prepared to deliver a huge kick and then looked at me and shouted "which way?" I laughed for days over that one. In my life, I'm a lot like Shane. Always asking which way.
My prayer would be for guidance for each of us in our spiritual journey.
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