Take Away Their Argument

Have you ever started a conversation about life and philosophy and it becomes apparent the other person is not listening? They seem to "talk through" or "talk around" your ideas, rather than thoughtfully considering them? I'm sure you have. The good news is, there are fantastic ways to steer a conversation back to the original topic.

Take away their argument.

Stimulating The Thought Process

We have described techniques such as staying on topic, setting the premise, asking questions, and others that are available for review at ITCZ 101. We use these techniques for clarity and to keep ourselves thinking through a complex conversion. Equally important, we are helping others to engage their thinking and remain thoughtful as well.

Another technique to add to our arsenal is to take away their argument. So, what does that mean? The idea is to grant the other person a point that is true, yet it is irrelevant to the point you are making.

In philosophical discussions we can quickly find ourselves down rabbit trails that may shed some light on what we want to express. Unfortunately, many times we get so far down those rabbit trails we are clearly off point. Let's head that off before we get there.

The Purpose

The purpose of taking away someone's argument is to take the focus off of what is irrelevant, so that the conversation can move forward with that which IS relevant. It is to reduce confusion. It is also extremely helpful for staying on topic and helping everyone involved remain thinking, rather than reacting.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him. - Proverbs 18:13 NKJV

It's difficult to predict when you will be able to use this technique. Just being aware of the technique could prove to be helpful. You will certainly find it valuable when delivering the Gospel.

He who is wise wins souls. - Proverbs 11:30 NASB

Rethink It: Repentance Revisited

Let's rethink repentance. Clarifying terms is a great tool for improving communication. It allows us to not only look closely at a word or phrase but also let's us come at it from many angles. Let's define and simplify the word, repent/repentance.

Those who repent will be revived by righteousness.

Repentance can be mistaken for sorrow or penance but that's not what it is. Repentance is not sorrow. Will sorrow lead you to repent? Sure it does. Yet it is a separate process.

Repenting is commonly understood, as to turn away from sin. When we dig a little deeper we find that repentance is specifically to change your mind.

It's that easy. When we fall into sin our Father tells us to change our mind about the sin we commited. Sin produces death and due to our new nature, we have a way to recover from it. We have the superpower to change our mind about following our old nature and set our thought process to think like the new person we are. We choose to think like Jesus thinks.

Our thinking process is where God is directly working in us.

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. - Romans 12:2 NLT

As a Christian repentance is the tool that helps us out of sin. The next step is to turn to God and have faith in Him and His ways.

Not Looking For Agreement

Can you remember an argument you had where a person you were trying to correct refused to agree that they had done the thing you said they did? Even though there was no disputing the details?

I have. In one particular encounter, when it happened, it took me by surprise. So much so, the entire encounter changed the way I think. Here's why: It didn't matter how clear the situation was, he was not going to agree that he had done anything wrong. Then the unexpected happened!

Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.

Let's do this in story format for fun. The names and some details have been changed to protect... everybody! :-)

Jack And Tom

Jack was the manager of our team. One day a member, we'll call him Tom, was in a tough situation with a client where it was appropriate to refuse our services. It was a common practice to refuse service under these particular conditions. However, when Jack came over to back Tom, he put Tom in a terrible position.

Instead of confirming the denial of service, he assisted the client with their request and enforced their bad behavior. After Jack left, the client even began to mock Tom directly to his face. All Tom could do was endure the humiliation.

Jack, the manager, wasn't there for the mocking that Tom was forced to endure. To make matters worse, there were questionable legal factors to offering our services under the odd conditions as well. There were others on the team that witnessed Jack reversing the correct decision of Tom and now there was confusion as to when we could or couldn't offer our services.

This was a serious problem as a bad decision in these matters could put the business in jeopardy for breaking the law.

An Encounter With Jack

I approached Jack after the incident and indicated to him that what he had done was illegal and also confused the other team members on how to deal with this type of client request. I recommended that he apologize to Tom in front of the entire team and enforce the correct decision making in this type of situation.

It was unclear to me what kind of response I was going to get and I ended up with one I didn't anticipate at all.

Set The Premise

It is appropriate that we are ready to answer questions from Believers and non-believers. However we do not need to accept the premise of a question.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. - 1 Peter 3:15 NLT

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

Here is a fantastic definition of what a premise is:

A premise is the assumption of an argument that is meant to justify the conclusion the one making the argument is hoping you’ll come to. If one fails to establish the premise to his argument, one almost always fails to convince others of his conclusion. On the other hand, if one establishes a premise one will more than likely get others to agree with his conclusion. - from the article, "Never Accept the Premise of Your Opponent’s Argument" by Steve Deace, Townhall.com

We want to do what Jesus did and change or correct the premise of questions we get asked, to what should have been asked to lead to salvation. Jesus did this many times. Let's become expert in delivering the gospel and become expert in rephrasing questions about life and give context to a topic so the truth can be established.

The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand. - Psalm 119:130 NLT

The premise in the questions we use to deliver the Gospel or teach the scriptures, should speak toward salvation and understanding the Lord. They should steer away from conversations that devolve into confusion.

This is an integral tool to delivering the gospel at every opportunity and creating an opportunities where it may not seem to exist.

The Antidote

There is far more that is assumed in a question than we may think. In an honest effort to create the appropriate context of seeking the truth and to bring understanding to a topic, we will always want to set the premise. In many cases we will need to reset the premise by presenting a new question.

Made For This Moment

You are a warrior! It is a part of your new nature in Christ. Whatever difficulties that lie before you, you are made for this moment. So let's take a daily approach where we are readying ourselves for the battles to come.

You were made for this.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. - James 1:2-4 NLT

Can you find this kind of fortitude right now? Maybe. For many of us we will need to grow into increasing levels of fortitude. This is the reason the Apostle Paul instructed us to put on the full armor of God. The first step is to think like Jesus thinks.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 NLT

You Were Made For This Moment

Let's no longer be surprised that life is not going to go the way that we think that it should go. Let's stop letting it throw us off of who we are in Christ. The way we do that, is to think like a warrior. Think like Jesus thinks! You can begin or continue your training regimen right now.
All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. - 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 NLT

You Are A Warrior

Can you remember a time when things were difficult? It's likely something or several things are happening right now that are terrible. Do you remember thinking that, "if I could just *fill in the blank* I would be set? Once this is over with, life will be better."

  • "If I could get that job or promotion, that's all I would need." 
  • "If I could get that bill paid then I would be doing great." 
  • "If I could just get some relief, I would be ok."

Stand Your Ground

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking sets us up for failure when the next challenge comes along. If we achieve a victory or good fortune overcoming a difficult situation, we want to make sure we do not disarm ourselves for the next encounter.

Celebrate The Wins, Develop Fortitude For The Next Challenge

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. - Ephesians 6:10 NLT

Certainly, we want to celebrate every win. It is an integral part of laying a foundation of fortitude. Yet, instead of letting down our guard and thinking it's all clear, understand that the next step is to ready yourself for the next battle... before it comes!
Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. - Ephesians 6:11 NLT

Let's change our mind about how we approach our day. We do this for the things that will inevitably come our way.
Put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. - Ephesians 6:13 NLT

We want to do this because we know that no matter what we achieve and no matter what we overcome, the battle of life is not going to stop. Let's not expect it to.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. - 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT

A Tall Order

Our daily fight is never going to end. Horrible things will never stop coming our way. Take a moment to get your mind wrapped around this idea. Then let's activate the superpower of love. We want to do this because our tendency is to work up fear. It's a tall order but we must take every opportunity to think like Jesus thinks.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. - 1 John 4:17-18 NLT

Ask Questions

Have you ever wondered why children learn so fast? We have all observed enough to know that children are quick studies. They have the power of curiosity! That curiosity produces a million questions. We also can use questions to spur our curiosity and the curiosity in others.

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

If I give you information that you are not interested in, you are going to forget it. Undesired information has little value. However, information that is provided in response to a question has ongoing value and activates our learning and reasoning.

Walking In The Spirit

You will find that questions are a powerful mechanism that God uses throughout the scriptures. Why? To activate our thinking. To reveal information that we would not otherwise discover or realize. Did you ever notice that Jesus answered questions with questions? It was to activate the other persons thinking.

The Holy Spirit works in a similar way. Here's how. Have you ever had a question come to mind about something in the scriptures or about God? Of course. We all have. Did you take the time to get that question answered? If not, you missed an opportunity to walk in the spirit.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. - Galatians 5:25 NLT

The Lord wants us to know Him and His ways and He is always moving us to learn of Him. However, He doesn't make us do anything. He draws us. So if we want more information we need to go get it.
For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. - John 6:44 NLT

An Expert Listener 2

Have you ever been in a discussion/argument/debate where you were right but felt like you lost the argument? Well that shouldn't happen!

Listening leads to thinking.

As Christians we have the words of life and yet when we get in a philosophical discussion it can get muddled and confusing where all parties get lost in the semantics. This doesn't need to happen.

If we learn to listen, we can become expert at planting and watering the Word of God.

When we engage folks when we are out and about, it's fun to get to know people and share our lives with them. These moments can provide fantastic opportunities to deliver the Gospel.

The scriptures tell us that we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Paul reminded us that time is short and Jesus directed us to deliver the Gospel and make disciples. This all seems like our Father is telling us to go in with a strategy!

Listening is a critical piece of our strategy for taking advantage of opportunities and creating opportunities where they may not seem to exist.

An Expert Listener 1

Listening is a superpower that you just cannot do without. We hear about it but we may not think about it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Listening is not a passive ability. Therefore, we have to actively engage it.

Listening requires focus and must be practiced for it to be developed. The power of listening requires a thoughtful approach and a strategy.

You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry

There is a reason we have trouble being good listeners. In much the same way that our curiosity has been stolen, our ability to be a good listener has been taken as well. Since our culture is designed to drive curiosity from us, it has also taken our ability to listen with it. You can't have one without the other.

The importance of being a good listener cannot be over emphasized. It is a core function of learning, reasoning and understanding. It is a superpower for knowing the Lord and a superpower for communicating.

Listening Is Commanded

Jesus insisted that we be expert listeners.

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Revelation 2, 3 NLT

Reverend Bob Griffith pointed out in the article, Salvation, Relationship, Testimony, that there is a blessing behind the Lord's commands. The command to be an expert listener has blessings as well.

Salvation, Relationship, Testimony 2

By Reverend Bob Griffith - Guest Writer

Faith in the Lord was a growing process for me and when I crossed over that line and started trusting the Lord I have to say it became second nature for me. Now everything I do is by faith in the Lord.

How I got In The Cool Zone.

Every situation now is automatic about listening to what the Lord is saying or what His Word says. I don't panic any more or get confused. I trust the Lord will get me through the storm or take it away. Either way I have faith in Him.

We all come to the Lord in different ways, some slower than others. Once I got God's Word in me I wanted to help others by showing them that reading God's Word and doing it is the quickest way to get where the Lord wants you and where you want to be.

I want to lead others to love Him and His ways, as I do. God is awesome and all powerful and He has great plans for you as He does me. Yeah, these steps are the way I came to my cool zone. It takes time but God is a redeemer of time and I hope these steps might help you in your walk toward the Lord.

Salvation, Relationship, Testimony 1

By Reverend Bob Griffith - Guest Writer

I'm the type of person who doesn't like doing things twice or doing things that turn out fruitless. If God was real and he actually has a purpose for why I'm here, I wanted to know. After reading the scriptures I knew I had to make a commitment to Him.

Why? Well first, I needed a Savior. That was clear to me.

Surprisingly, what I noticed in God's Word was that when He would tell me in scripture what I should do, there was a blessing behind the command as well.

When He would tell me in scripture what I should do, there was a blessing behind the command as well. - Bob Griffith

For instance…
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. - Psalm 37:5 KJV
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. - Proverbs 16:3 KJV

These blessings are awesome, because God is showing and telling us, if you do your part He will do His part and you will be blessed.

My relationship with the Lord began to change drastically. I was having a relationship with Him that was real. I no more felt like, he was up there, and I was down here. I would ask questions and He would answer.  God answers in many ways. You have to be in tune to Him and looking and expecting an answer. 

Prayer changes things.

Immersed Into Him

By the time I had read the Old Testament and finished the four Gospels I went and was baptized in water. After reading the first chapter of the Book of Acts, I was baptized with the laying on of hands. When I finished the Bible I found a church that taught God's Word. I was so blessed and on fire for the things of God and there was no turning back for me. After thirty years I'm still on fire to this day. Praise the Lord!

Yep! I had completely fallen in love with the Lord and His Word. What was that scripture? Yeah, here it is...
Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." - Matthew 22:37 KJV

Actively Stay On Topic

This one strategy will eliminate nearly every frustration and much of the confusion when discussing the scriptures.

Periodically we end up in philosophical discussions about life. When discussing or debating the merits of the Word of God, with other Christians or non-Christians, why is it difficult to get our point across? 

Be sure that everything is done properly and in order.

Remember the age-old debate about who's responsible in a conversation? Is it the speaker or is it the listener? Who is responsible for a misunderstanding? There are reasons that both can contribute to any confusion. So let's talk about a solution.

There is a strategy we can follow to help both parties in a conversation. It is relatively simple but does require some focus and practice and it cannot be stated enough. It is this: Stay on topic!

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing. - Proverbs 15:2 NLT

Why Were We Talking About This?

Have you ever been caught up in a debate and before you knew it the topic shifted so many times, and you ran down so many rabbit trails, you couldn't even remember why the conversation started? 

Our culture has promoted a scattered type of thinking that makes it difficult to communicate even simple ideas. If a concept includes multiple ideas, the level of difficulty can increase exponentially. 

Actively staying on topic can help. Certainly there are other effective strategies to communicating, debating and persuading. However, forcing yourself to stay on topic fixes many of the miscommunication mistakes that can occur. 

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. - Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT

Not only can we begin to eliminate anxiety by staying on topic we will also increase retention of what was discussed.

Intelligent, thoughtful discussions can actually be a fun way to bond with others. If we consistently guide the conversation back to the initial topic, disagreements in thought or philosophy can be explored in a friendly, open dialogue. 

It's not necessarily a disagreement that causes problems in a discussion. It's confusion that generally will lead to anger and strife. Minimize confusion by staying on topic.

God is not a God of confusion but of peace. - 1 Corinthians 14:33 NASB

ITCZ 101 - An Attention Grabber

Have you ever wanted to share the Gospel or scriptural wisdom but couldn't come up with an ice breaker to segue into your topic? A great way to do this is to open with an attention grabbing statement or question.

They were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

So what kind of attention grabber is good to open with? It would depend on your topic. A good idea is to open with your conclusion. It can also be a statement or in the form of a question.
  • Have you ever wondered why there is no evidence for evolution and yet it is the only origin philosophy taught in public schools?
  • I think it's scary they teach evolution in public school even though there is no evidence to support it. 

Your Attention Please

For those of you who hold an evolutionary philosophy, I know that I now have your attention. For those who are unsure if there was a creation or an evolution or some combination of the two that explains our origins, I probably have your attention as well. I bet even a creationist would be wondering what I was going to say next.

The goal of the attention grabber is not to incense others. It's not to instigate or agitate. It's to get the attention of your target audience, raise their curiosity and guide them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you already have a hostile audience there's no reason to rile them any further. In this case your target is probably not willing to listen anyway. Move on to someone who has the potential to be curious and/or open minded. 

Paul Did It

Paul used attention grabbers and here's how one played out:
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: 'To an Unknown God.' This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about. - Acts 17:22-23 NLT

ITCZ 101 - A Place Of Power

Our goal in delivering the Gospel or the Word of God in any particular situation is not necessarily that we are heard, but that others are listening, curious and thinking. Let's take every opportunity to put folks in the best position we can so they can thoughtfully consider what we are sharing.

Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

When sharing your faith it's a good idea to do what you can to keep the other person engaged, curious and thoughtful. One way to do that is to let them have a place of power. Ok, now what does that mean?

The place of power is simply how you position yourself and the other person when engaging in a conversation.

Here are a couple of examples of the place of power.
  • Sit or stand lower than the other person. 
  • Open posture. 
  • Ask questions. 
  • Listen very closely.
  • Recap what you understand they said and meant.

Creating Opportunities To Connect

The purpose of letting someone be in the place of power helps them relax and keeps their thoughts out in front of their feelings. It's hard to be curious and thoughtful when one gets a jolt of emotions, feeling like they are going to end up in a debate or embarrassed.

Most people get uncomfortable real quick when they get the sense that they are "defending" their life philosophy. When they feel like they are simply sharing their ideas and have a captive audience, they will tell you everything they know.

ITCZ 101 - Body Language

Our body language is always speaking. People are listening... with their eyes. In the same way our emotions can get out in front of our thinking process, the body will try to speak before you think, and this can move others to the defensive. We want to avoid doing this.

If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

So when is it important to know when my body language is working against me? It's usually when we are in tough conversations with others. An example would be discussing things such as life, philosophy, politics, a misunderstanding or sharing the wisdom of God or the Gospel.

The idea is to keep ourselves thinking and helping the other person to continue to be thoughtful and thinking as well. When they are faced with new ideas, especially ones that challenge their preconceived ideas, it's a good idea to help them maintain a thoughtful demeanor. Our body language can hurt or help that process.

A Calm, Cool Demeanor

We have discussed Conversations With Non-Christians and Conversations With Fellow Christians. Regardless of who you are engaged with, your body will be speaking volumes. A great way to help others stay engaged, especially when the content can be stressful, is to maintain a poised, calm, cool demeanor. 

First, we do this in our thought process. Then we want that demeanor to be reflected in our body as well.

Getting In The Cool Zone has many aspects to it. The mind, emotions, the body and our strategy for thinking are all helpful when they are complementary and cooperating.

The Priority Of Thinking

When we are delivering the Gospel or sharing our thoughts on life it doesn't take too long to get push back about God's wisdom. Especially, when we are stressed or in a difficult situation. When we make our attempt to share or give a defense of our faith we need a plan for our body.

A Convo With Fellow Christians

God's ways are extremely interactive. I love it and I hope you do too. We have discussed opportunities to share the Gospel with non-Christians in, A Convo With Non-Christians, but what about engaging other Christians?

Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace.

Be Of One Mind

The Lord wants us to be one. We have a lot to talk about. Unlike non-Christians we have the entire breadth of the scriptures to connect with. We have so much in common and to figure out what those things are requires some "we time."

You'll never see people on the same page unless they stragegize together. Look how many times the scriptures tell us to be of one mind. How can we do this if we barely know each other?
That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 15:6 NKJV
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, - Philippians 1:27 NKJV
Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. - Philippians 2:2 NKJV
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; - 1 Peter 3:8 NKJV
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. - Romans 12:16 NKJV

Strong Connections

The best way to be of one mind with fellow Christians is to spend some time together. Invest time in each other.

A Convo With Non-Christians

While we are going about our daily business we are going to have opportunity to engage fellow Christians and those who do not know the Lord. Those who are not in the Lord, or non-Christians, are inherently going to have difficulty with the things of God.

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.

The scriptural things we have available to engage non-Christians with, are limited in the sense of content that is effective.

Can we talk about the scriptures to non-Christians? Sure we can. Yet, if we do not bring the Gospel to the conversation at some point, we are not setting them up for success.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise. - Proverbs 11:30 NKJV

Before Understanding... Salvation

Topics such as the scriptures, history, current events, religion, politics, science, etc. are fantastic mechanisms for engaging and raising curiosity but until the Gospel is offered, there is no intimate engagement of the Spirit and the unsaved person.

Having read the bible or having general biblical knowledge is not what connects the unsaved with the living God of the bible. (Before I get into too much trouble here, reading the bible and having biblical knowledge is how we learn about the Lord but only after salvation. Moving on...) We even see Nicodemus, who was a bible scholar, not understanding salvation until given the Gospel.

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
... Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? - John 3:5, 9-10 NKJV

Until Nicodemus, the disciples, you, me and anyone else, confess and believe Jesus died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead, the ways of God are impossible to understand. Not hard to understand. Impossible!

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV

ITCZ 101 - Curious Unto Salvation

We know that presenting the Gospel is a primary objective. So how do we do that? As discussed in the article, Deliver The Gospel, we need to know what the Gospel is. In the article, The Holy Spirit Leads we find that we plant and water but it is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction.
So what's our strategy then for planting and watering? Curiosity!

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.

Part of being In The Cool Zone is having a healthy curiosity about the things of the Lord. We discussed in, Curiosity… The Hijacked Virtue, that we have had our curiosity taken from us. When we take it back and take it seriously we open up a whole new world that the Lord has been leading us to affect.

He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. ... whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. - 2 Corinthians 3:6, 16 NLT 

Stirring Up Curiosity In Others

Curiosity has also been stolen from those not in the Lord. Have you ever had an encounter with someone who argued a point but had no curiosity about input you contributed that clearly proved them wrong? Yet, stubbornly they held on to their presupposition in effort to "win" the argument rather than learn?

Stirring the curiosity of others is a fantastic way to help them move away from defensive, combative thinking to thoughtful thinking.

Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don't try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.
If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe.
They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 NLT 

ITCZ 101 - Developing Expertise

The Christian vocabulary doesn't often include the word, "expertise." It's common to think of developing expertise for work, games or hobbies and yet as Christians, there are also many skills that we have that can be developed and mastered.

Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Expertise - Definition
Noun - expert skill or knowledge; expertness; know-how.
Verb - to study or investigate as an expert.

Expertise - Synonyms
ability, competence, facility, judgment, know-how, proficiency, prowess, savvy, skill

Admonitions To Actively Train

Paul instructs Timothy to, "train yourself to be godly." The word "train", from Strongs G3958, means "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind." We are instructed many times throughout the scriptures to develop our expertise in the Lord:

Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. - Hebrews 5:14 NLT 
Be transformed by the renewal of your mind - Romans 12:2 NLT
Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. - Ephesians 5:17 NLT
If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. - 1 Peter 3:15-16 NLT
But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken! - Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

ITCZ 101 - Your Elevator Pitch

Question: What is your elevator pitch for the Gospel?

Answer: "What's an elevator pitch?" :-/

Ok, let's start there! An elevator pitch (EP) is a quick overview of a topic that expresses a thought or idea in a quick and concise manner. The pitch only takes about 20-30 seconds. So even the tightest window of opportunity to deliver the Gospel becomes easy to do.

If someone asks about our Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

The EP does require a little planning and practice. However, just like doing mental reps to galvanize your heart, the EP becomes a faith boost because the preparation builds confidence.

Mind Tools has an excellent piece on Crafting an Elevator Pitch. This should give you a pretty thorough introduction. Thank you, Mind Tools!

Review, ITCZ 101 - Deliver The Gospel to nail down exactly what the Gospel is. Then craft your pitch. Practice it and get it down to approximately 30 seconds and you have yourself a powerful witnessing tool.

Preparation Meets Opportunity

When an opportunity presents itself you will be able to "quick draw" the Gospel in moments you previously would miss. In most cases, you won't even need to seek out opportunities. They will present themselves and you'll be ready.

ITCZ 101 - Deliver The Gospel

When we are going about our day it's not too hard to get caught up in the daily events that consume our time. It's just normal life but let's not let the work of the day take away from opportunities to share the Gospel.

For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

The Abundance Of The Heart

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. This is the foundation for being ready to deliver the gospel at a moment's notice. When the opportunity presents itself the heart, when full, must speak. A heart full of the scriptures does not fear to speak the Gospel. It craves every opportunity.

Delivering The Gospel

We were instructed by Jesus to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Let's develop a strategy of delivering the Gospel and teaching the scriptures that can accomplish both of these goals and master it.

First know what the Gospel is. The entire chapter of 1st Corinthians 15 is a great start and deserves a read through. Be sure to keep verses three and four locked and loaded for a concise and powerful presentation of the Gospel.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. - 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NLT

Tell All, Reach Some

Not everyone is going to receive the Gospel. In fact, most people will require a life changing event and/or a few encounters with individuals sharing the Gospel before they truly consider receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Required: Daily Prayer List

Do you have a prayer list? Are you hitting it every single day?

We have to. There is no way around it. If we feel like we are under duress we are moved to pray. When a great need arises, it's relatively easy to stop what we are doing and cry out to the Lord.

When they call on Me, I will answer.

Unfortunately, we do not carry with us a moment by moment realization that we are always susceptible to the enemy without a close connection to the Lord. When things are going well we lose our edge and we can't let this happen.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 NLT

Motivation For Daily Prayer

God wants to walk with us. Switch it around and it's still true... He wants us, to walk with Him. There are good reasons for this. The first is His love for us. Secondly, He knows that when we are not keeping Him at the forefront of our minds we forget about Him. We forget who we are in Christ. We forget about our enemy.

Knowing God

  • The Lord desires a close and personal relationship.
  • Communication is vital.
  • We have open access to the throne room of heaven.

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. ... When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. - John 15:5, 8 NLT

It's A Real War

  • We are at war.
  • The war is in the unseen world.
  • It is focused on our mind. 

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12 NLT

Overcome Indifference

  • Ignoring the war does not stop the effects of the war.
  • Prayer time is forged through love and sacrifice.
  • The enemy makes slaves of the passive mind.

ITCZ 101 - Harmless As A Dove

Let's continue our review in Matthew where Jesus was sending out the 12 disciples to deliver the message that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. He gave them a detailed plan and summarized with the following scripture.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. - Matthew 10:16 KJV

Let's take the second half of this scripture and go at this in a similar way as before. We'll take a quick look at the word "harmless."

Harmless - The same word is innocent, meaning unmixed, pure as in wines or metals. Of the mind, without a mixture of evil, free from guile. Figuratively, innocent: harmless, simple.

I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.

So pretty easy stuff here. It is true that we should be harmless but let's think of that as the ability to help others engage in friendly conversation and keep them engaged for as long as possible i.e. a friendly conversation about the Gospel.

ITCZ 101 - Wise As A Serpent

When Jesus was sending out the 12 disciples to deliver the message that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand to the people in the surrounding regions, He gave them a detailed plan. The plan was summarized with the following scripture.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. - Matthew 10:16 KJV
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom.

We'll tackle the phrase, "be wise as serpents," first. We'll follow up with a post on being harmless as a dove. So let's kick off with a quick word study, looking closely at the word "wise" and "serpent."

Wise - ThoughtfulSagacious (Having or showing acute mental discernment and keen practical sense; shrewd), Discreet.
Serpent - From a word meaning, through the idea of sharpness of vision; a snake, figuratively, as a type of sly cunning or specifically Satan. From G3700, G3708

What's In Your Tool Box?

It probably doesn't take a lot of convincing for us to buy that God is working in our world to save humanity. The Lord, rightfully so, is understood to be powerful, faithful and active. You could say he has every tool at His disposal to bring His will to bear. I'm good with that.

A workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Now how do we get in on the action? We have been charged with building ourselves up in the Lord and building up others as well.

The work consists of having our mind renewed to think like Jesus thinks so we can deliver the Gospel, serve our brothers and sisters and teach others how to do the same. So this begs the question, "if we are builders, what's in our tool box?"

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. - Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT

Work Hard, Work Smart

Goal number one, once we believe in Jesus as our Savior, is to know Him. The second is to do the works that accompany salvation.

We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. - Hebrews 6:9-10 NLT

This process entails us becoming like Him and doing the things He does. As we get closer to Him and understand what the Lord is doing and how he does it, our mind is transformed and we become imitators of God.

Just like there is armor to protect us as described in the book of Ephesians, there are tools to perform the work God has charged us with.

ITCZ 101 - Willing To Learn

There are always going to be challenges to growing in the Lord. The first step is to be willing. The next step is to learn what the Lord is doing. Renewing how we think requires a new knowledge base. New to us, I guess I should say, not to God.

A wise man will hear and increase learning.

Have you ever wondered why we have to ask for wisdom? How about, why do we have to seek knowledge? It's because we clearly do not have it. If we haven't sought it out... we do not have it!

Our Opportunity To Participate

So how do we get to a state where we are willing to learn?

Curiosity! Yet, there is a good chance that our culture has turned yours off. Curiosity is a superpower driving our willingness to learn. It's high time to stir your curiosity about the Lord and who you are in Christ.

Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. ... "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. - Isaiah 55:6, 8 NKJV

Curiosity is not only an antidote to fear it leads to thinking and learning. Let's not lose our motivation to learn about what the Lord is doing. He has a plan and you can learn it. You can be a major contributor if you are interested in participating.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. - Matthew 6:33 NKJV

Is Your Mind Under Your Control?

If you prayerfully think this question through you may discover you are not thinking for yourself. It's being done for you. It's the reason our scriptures tell us in various and creative ways to keep God's Word in front of our eyes at all times. Pray always, is not a mere platitude.

ITCZ 101 - Seek The Truth

Truth can be elusive. It's not something we learn by stumbling over it. It has to be learned. It has to be sought. Unfortunately, we sometimes don't realize we do not have the truth, until we find ourselves trying to articulate what we know.

Have you ever found yourself in a discussion or debate where you became unsure of your argument? Was your belief system challenged? Did you get knocked off base and realize you didn't have as much information as you thought and felt you had to now "win" the argument to save face?

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

How many times have you been in a discussion with someone who initially, you thought was being honest and thoughtful about the conversation, only to realize they were arguing to be "right," regardless of the facts or the truth?

ITCZ 101 - Forgive, Forget - Part 4

Academically it's not too hard to see that forgiveness is a core idea in knowing the Lord and walking in the Spirit. Can it still hurt after we forgive? Yes, it sure can. And still, we have a much greater hope.

He will place you on a firm foundation.

We are not trying to make what happened right. We are forgiving because we have been forgiven. We are tenaciously forgiving so we can keep our relationship with the Lord on track and full of life. We are keeping our other extremely valuable relationships full of life as well.

We need you in the game and focused on the greater things the Lord has put in your charge and we know our Father is all in with us!

Developing Our Capacity For Forgiveness

Is there a way to develop our ability to forgive? There is indeed. When our core values are centered around the purposes of God, forgiveness is much more accessible. Conversely, the more one's core values are based on our own purposes, forgiveness is very difficult to find. So let's line up our core beliefs and the things we value with the things God values.

ITCZ 101 - Forgive, Forget - Part 3

Do you recall the saying, "time heals all wounds?" It does seem like there is some truth to it. I would submit that time gives us the opportunity to put things into perspective. Yet, there is another powerful force at work on our behalf. It's not necessarily time, but forgetfulness that closes the door on hurtful offenses.

Forgiveness is the mechanism that allows us to forget.
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins. - Isaiah 43:25 NKJV

Take a moment to think that through. Our Father has a plan to never remember our sins again. That's not for our benefit. It's for God's benefit! The Creator of Heaven and Earth will not remember our sins ever again... for His own sake!

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

Imitators Of God

So let's be like God. Is it a tall order? Uh-huh. Yet, according to our new nature, it is part of what are.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. - Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV

ITCZ 101 - Forgive, Forget - Part 2

Let's continue our discussion on forgiveness. It's time to ease our way out to the deep end. That's where in our weakness we are made strong.

Clearly, none of this is easy. We must understand who we are in Christ to access forgiveness and begin to grasp its power. We must understand our purpose in Christ. We must galvanize our heart, because offenses and sins against us hurt. They can dig in and continue to do harm. Yet, forgiveness on our part is not contingent on our feelings.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of the past and allows us to look forward, just as the scriptures say we should. Holding onto a grudge, holding on to a hurt, holding on to a slight keeps us in the past. It takes us off the purpose the Lord has for us.

I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Do we still hurt when we forgive? Most likely the answer is yes. So let's begin to see the two processes of hurting/healing and of forgiving, independently at work.

Hurts need time to heal. Why? Because we need to put them into perspective. We need a chance to refocus ourselves on the important things in life. Forgiveness, as a separate process from experiencing the harm done, gives us a powerful tool to turn our mind and heart toward the things that give life.

As we are consumed by the greater things that God has in our lives, the hurts and sore feeling have a chance to run their coarse and heal.

ITCZ 101 - Forgive, Forget - Part 1

There is a simplicity in forgiveness and yet there is also a depth of intimacy, if not heart wrenching engagement, to it that this series certainly would not be considered an exhaustive work. It is intended to be a foundation for further, ongoing review and discovery in your relationship with the Lord.

With that said, let's be as attentive to forgiveness as we are to our salvation. We cannot have one without the other.

Be kind to each other, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

There are different types of offenses that will inevitably come our way. It's going to happen. Let's develop our thought process to rebound from offenses and recover ourselves from being confounded and demoralized.

The first order of business is to note that forgiveness is not dependent on restitution. Forgiveness is dependent on our relationship with the Lord.

It is a superpower of liberty. The act of forgiving is for you, not for the offender.

This can be a challenging subject for our faith and we are all going to need help with this one. So let's look at the Word of God and take an opportunity to build our faith.

What am I? Who am I? - Part 2

By Britton Zirkle - Guest Writer

Let's continue with, how I came to know what I am and who I am.

These are questions that everyone wants to answer and many people struggle with the difference between these two questions, but there is a difference and it’s important. Now let's define, "who" we are and more precisely, who we choose to be.

Who am I?

This is a very simple question of accountability and measurement, but it can be profoundly difficult to answer in honesty. God made you what you are for His purpose. It is our job to identify both the attributes and gifts that each of us has in Christ and the ones that make us unique. It is also our responsibility to give ourselves over to what God designed us to be.

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.

Asking yourself who you are is the yardstick. Are you, at any given moment, being what God made you to be?  The answer to this question is who you are. Are you, through faith, producing the fruit of the Spirit, by the unique traits and gifts God created in you?

What am I? Who am I? - Part 1

By Britton Zirkle - Guest Writer

How I came to know what I am and who I am.

These are questions that everyone wants to answer and many people struggle with the difference between these two questions, but there is a difference and it’s important. In order to know the difference and really begin to make progress with the answers, we have to redefine the questions.

If you do what is says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

What am I?

This is a question of attributes, calling, talents, abilities, and things that are unique to us.  First and foremost I am a Christian. Whatever I was before I came to Christ, I no longer am. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here.”