Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Always Be Ready

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Walking into the fire station’s immaculate garage, I’m surprised to find piles of clothing lying on the floor outside each truck’s open doors. The rest of the station is so orderly that the scene before me seems out of place. Turning to my brother, who is giving us a tour, I ask, “So, what’s with the clothes and boots on the floor? Were you guys in a hurry and just didn’t have time to hang up your stuff?”

He smiles wisely as he answers. “Nope. Everything is exactly as it should be. We do that to save time. When there’s an emergency, every second counts. During the day our wheels have to be rolling within sixty seconds of receiving a call. At night we have ninety seconds to get from our beds to the trucks.”

He begins showing me all of the different time saving measures the fire department takes to ensure a rapid departure: boots with zippers instead of laces, shirts with snaps (buttons are just for show on the outside), the fire pole that shaves forty-two seconds off the crew’s trip from their beds to the garage floor.   He explains that in health emergencies every second matters for averting brain or cardiac death. Rapid response is also crucial for fires, which double in size every minute.

The station’s garage no longer looks messy to me. Instead, I’m impressed realizing how attentive the department is to every detail. When calls for help come, the firefighters are always ready to respond.

Starting Focused Living’s new study on apologetics, that tour of my brother’s station makes the perfect example of the need for readiness in defending our faith. Author and  Bible teacher Mary Jo Sharp explains: “We shouldn’t need a crisis of doubt in order to learn to support our beliefs. Instead, we should begin to study the reasons for belief in God out of a love of truth.” (Why Do You Believe That? p.23) She points to the Apostle Peter’s teaching to substantiate her claim:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

The firefighters in my brother’s station are always ready because lives are at stake. Isn’t the same true for us? We need to spend time studying God’s word so that we can speak about it clearly when opportunities arise.

For some of us, the term “apologetics” is a little scary. We envision impassioned debates between highly knowledgeable and articulate opponents. For those of us who don’t find arguing to be a “fun” past time and who don’t enjoy confrontation, the thought of learning about apologetics might seem unappealing at best and excruciating at worst. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, please keep reading.

The first time I encountered a seasoned apologist was on the campus of my large, secular university. I heard his voice before I laid eyes on him. Rounding the corner, I saw a tall man standing on the main quad, surrounded by a large crowd of students. He spoke with a booming voice, sharing the good news of Jesus with a boldness and confidence that were truly inspiring. Hecklers in the crowd would occasionally interrupt to pose questions. He would stop speaking and look for the person who’d asked. Once he made eye contact, he would smile gently. “I’m glad you asked that,” he’d say, before giving a clear answer that made perfect sense. His Bible was in his hands as he paced back and forth in the small space the crowd gave him to move.

Standing on the fringes of the group, I was mesmerized by his words. Being a Christian at such a large university had often caused me to feel like I didn’t fit in. Hearing this man speak with conviction and confidence about Jesus out in public was like getting a pep talk from an inspiring coach. He wasn’t ashamed of the gospel, he was proud to share it, knowing he had something to offer his hearers that would change their lives for eternity.

Not all of us may be able to command a crowd like that apologist did on my college campus, but we all have opportunities to make an impact for Christ in our spheres of influence. So many times we get intimidated to share the hope we have because we don’t feel we know enough or we fear it might lead to conflict. I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed because I was too afraid of saying the wrong thing.

That is why I’m so excited to be doing Mary Jo Sharp’s study: Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation. In her first video teaching, she explains a few misperceptions that might hold us back from wanting to delve into apologetics.

First, she explains that apologetics has nothing to do with the word “apologize.” Apologetics means: “to make a case or present a defense.” She points out that giving a defense doesn’t mean we have to be defensive and that being able to argue doesn’t mean we have to be argumentative. On the contrary, studying apologetics will give us the confidence to speak clearly, putting our listeners and us at ease. That’s why the apologist at my college could say: “I’m glad you asked that,” and really mean it. He had an answer that would bless those hearing it.

Learning to speak clearly about what we believe and why we believe it will give us opportunities to engage people in meaningful conversations. We’ll have the chance to dispel misperceptions about Christians. Sometimes, we might even encourage fellow believers, as the apologist did for me when I was in college. Most importantly, we earn the right to be heard and get the chance to present a life-changing and soul-saving message to hurting people desperately in need of a Savior.

I look forward to sharing the adventure of this study with you over the next month and a half.  Mary Jo reminds us of Jesus’ words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, NIV) Will you join me in praying that God will prepare our minds to absorb all of the truth this study has to offer? It’s just one of the many ways we can show the Lord we love Him.

Click on the link to hear Lincoln Brewster’s song “Love the Lord” which combines Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37 with a similar command from Deuteronomy 6:5.

Sharp, Mary Jo; Why Do You Believe That?  A Faith Conversation; Lifeway Press; 2012 & 2014.

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

2 thoughts on “Always Be Ready

  1. Marybeth – You have a wonderful way of writing and bringing together words into stories that are a pleasure to read. Thank you! My Christian walk began as an exercise in my head long before it moved the long road down to my heart and as such, apologetics was an important topic for me. As children born in the 20th century, pretty much everything we read these days comes from material that was written post-enlightenment which means that material comes from a time in history where the authors were undoubtedly heavily influenced by the enlightenment period – including apologetics. When Peter asked his readers to always have a reason for the hope within them, he was saying it to a diaspora that was being persecuted in a variety of ways for their beliefs. These people were not necessarily being persecuted to the extent the Christians in Rome were, but like your friend on the university campus they were constantly being asked why they believed these strange things and were expected to defend their answers. And to do it without the benefit of what we call science and archaeology and etc. (now there’s an interesting thought, is our science actually a benefit or detriment to apologetics? Hmmm…).

    So my question is, what did these people in Peter’s day have to hang their hopes on? Maybe that is the wrong question. Maybe a better question is, “what was it they were hoping in?” 1 Corinthians 9:10 talks about the farmer and the thresher ‘hoping’ in receiving a share of the crops. This is the common form of hope whose basis is rooted in what we see or experience in everyday life. But Peter is talking about something else. Peter’s plea for ‘hope’ is not in these common things. He is asking his readers to have hope in God’s word, specifically in God’s promises, and more particularly in the promise of the resurrection.

    So I wonder, in the day when these Jewish converts to Christianity were surrounded by educated Greeks who loved to think about, talk about, and make apologies about philosophy, what is it that they relied on to bolster their hope in the resurrection? What was it that Peter expected them to say? I am reminded of the movie “Miracle” which is based on the 1980 US Men’s Olympic hockey team and how they won the Gold Medal. The man whom the movie was based on, Coach Herb Brooks, was killed in a car accident just before the movie was finished. At the end of ‘Miracle’ there is a credit that shows Herb’s picture and the words, “He never saw the movie, he lived it.”

    Similarly, Peter and those in the diaspora never read our New Testament, they lived it.

    Like

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