Tag Archives: sharing Jesus

June 3; Train Up A Child

Proverbs 22-24

We as Christians have a serious charge. We know the truth. We have had an encounter with the living Jesus. And we can know for sure that we will see Him face to face when this life is over. Life – eternal life – is ours.

However, we Christians also know that people without that encounter with Jesus have no hope. Their eternity promises to be more awful than any of us can imagine. Solomon tells us we need to rescue those being led away to death. (23:11)

In other words, share what you know. Introduce people to their only Savior. None of us can say we didn’t know the seriousness of their choice to reject God. The question is, what are we going to do about that knowledge?

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (22:6)

Our church is having Bible School this week. Starting today, about 80 kids will come and sing songs, play games, make crafts, and hear about Jesus. (and this from a church that has about 5 total kids who regularly attend Sunday School with us.) Will you pray with me?

We take this responsibility very seriously. There may be children who have never heard that Jesus died to save them from the penalty their sin deserves. There may be children who will make a decision this week to follow Jesus, or reject Him. We are praying that as we train up these kids in the truth of Scripture they will accept it, and cling to it the rest of their lives.

May Proverbs 22:6 be true for every boy and girls who hears the Word this week as we look at “The Incredible Race.”

May 15; A Bucket List

2 Samuel 20; I Chronicles 22; Psalms 30 & 140

It’s a popular concept these days to have a “Bucket List.” It sounds fun, fulfilling, to check off all the things you’ve always wanted to do before you die. Skydiving? Check. River Cruise in Europe? Check. Broadway play? Check. Meeting a famous person? Check. Whatever you’ve dreamed about doing, do it before it’s too late.

Having a Bucket List is especially appealing to people who believe this life is all there is. Enjoy it before you turn into nothingness. It also seems to appeal to people who are their own priority. Me first, you know.

David had a different kind of Bucket List. We read that David wanted to build a temple for God. It was a longing, a passion of his to create a place worthy of God’s Presence. But God told him, “No.” Solomon would be the one to built the temple.

So David got busy. He drew up plans, hired workers, purchased materials, mentored Solomon. David’s Bucket List was full of ways to assure that temple would be built, even if his name wasn’t going to be on it. David’s Bucket List was about furthering God’s work.

I don’t read where he took even one trip to Disney. David’s Bucket List was all about God.

So I’m asking myself what it is I want to do before I die? Do I want my final push to be about me? Or do I want a Bucket List that looks like David’s, one that is full of things I can do for God before I meet Him?

I’d like my Bucket List to include the names of people I’ve influenced toward having a relationship with God through Jesus, rather than a lot of things I did for myself. I want my Bucket List to include things that glorify God – not me.

If I have the means to travel Europe on a luxury cruise ship, I have the means to take the Gospel to children in Haiti, or to build a well in Africa in Jesus’ name, or buy Bibles for Chinese Christians, or support a missionary in Romania, or give school supplies to kids in poverty in my home town. If I can put effort into meeting my sports hero or music icon, I can put effort into sharing Jesus with a homeless person, or my neighbor.

Now, please. I am not condemning anyone who goes on a European river cruise. I’d love to do that myself. And I’m not telling anyone how they should be spending their money. I’m just suggesting we take a look at our priorities and find out how God can be honored in our lives while we still are able.

Having a Bucket List might be a good thing. I think what is in our Bucket Lists are between us and God. Whatever we do, let’s do it to the glory of God while we still have time.

 

March 30; A Candle In The Window

Joshua 19:32-21:45; I Chronicles 6:54-81

Joshua instructed the tribes to assign cities for the Levites. Remember, the Levites did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan. God Himself was their portion. But they had to live somewhere.

As a result, sprinkled throughout the Promised Land, there were forty-eight cities designated as Levitical towns. The Levites were the sanctuary protectors, the priests, the Truth authorities. And God made sure they were accessible to everyone in the country.

Matthew Henry says this about the Levitical cities we read about here in Joshua:

“Thus God set up a candle in every room of his house, to give light to all his family.” (Commentary In One Volume; Zondervan; 1991; page 235)

I like that analogy. I’m reminded Jesus called Himself the Light of the world. (John 8:12) And in Matthew 5 He tells us WE are the light of the world and should never hide our light under a bowl. Before He went back to heaven, Jesus told us to go into all the world, to share the Gospel and make disciples. In other words, to shine our light!

I think God would have us consider our spiritual wattage. Are we, as children of God through the blood of Jesus, shining His light into a world that desperately needs Him? If not, why not?

May we each be that candle through the window that bids people come to the Light which is Jesus Christ.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Colossians; Chains and Open Doors

Paul is in prison. Although he is afforded some privileges, he is still chained to a wall, guarded 24/7. This letter to Colossi was written from that prison.

Paul speaks of Jesus, and points to the fact that our salvation, our redemption comes through Jesus only. He warns about mystical thinking, legalism, and the very real temptation to fall for religious sounding teaching that, in reality, is false religion. He encourages us to stand firm. I love 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We need not only to know Christ, but to grow in Him through reading His Word and in prayer. Our roots need to grow deep in the Truth.

Colossians is a quick read. But I hope you’ll read it twice, let the words sink in, let your roots grow deep.

Something struck me today. I guess I’m still thinking about this season of year that can be so hard for some. Family drama, financial woes, a fearful diagnosis has some people wanting a fast-forward button. Just get me through the next few weeks, Lord.

But here Paul, in chains, asks the Colossians to pray for him. And how does he ask them to pray?

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (4:3-4)

He doesn’t ask them to pray that he’d get out of jail. He didn’t ask them to pray that his troubles would cease. He asked them to pray that God would give him an open door for ministry – not an open door to the outside.

I wonder if that couldn’t be our prayer this Christmas, too. Instead of asking God to fix our circumstances, what if we asked Him to open a door to share the true meaning of the season while our circumstances are holding us captive? What if we asked God to help us look for ways to serve Him in spite of what is going on in our lives at the moment? What if we asked God to change our sorrow to joy so that people will see the supernatural power of God in us?

Christmas holds such an amazing truth I don’t want us to forget. God Himself became a human, a baby born about as poor as a church mouse. God Himself left heaven, and chained Himself to a flesh and blood body so that He could die for sinners. God so loved the world that He came, He grew up and shared His heart with us, He died, and rose again so that we can know Him now and in eternity.

Let’s pray that God will give us opportunities to share this wonderful truth with people during the next few weeks. Instead of focusing on our chains, let’s pray for open doors.

I Corinthians 6-10; Life in a Nutshell

Paul gives us many examples of what life should be for the Christian. And his descriptions are so politically incorrect, it’s almost laughable.

In his letter to the Corinthians he tells us Christians ought not to sweat the small stuff. We shouldn’t be making mountains out of mole hills. We shouldn’t be blowing up over trivial matters. The world is watching how we handle the small stuff. Does our example convict them, or does it validate their own bad behavior?

The Christian life should be pure. Yes, I know that’s an old-fashioned word. But purity should describe we who serve a Holy God. Again, the world is watching us. Do they see us with self-control, with unwavering morality? Or do they see the same depravity in us they see in themselves?

Christians should be content, faithful in marriage, busy serving God. If they see us sleeping around, divorcing because we fall out of love, or neglecting our families or our ministries, what is different about us than what they have in their own homes?

Paul challenges us again today to stop looking out for “number one,” and step aside for the benefit of others. Who cares if the new sanctuary color isn’t to your liking? Or if that lady in your Sunday School took your favorite pyrex dish home after the last pot-luck dinner? Who cares if Suzie got the choir solo you wanted to sing, or if you weren’t asked to sit on the AdMin committee again this year.

Get over yourself.

The world tells us to stop being a door-mat. The apostle seems to be telling us being a door-mat has its purposes.

Paul said he gave up so many rights to take on his ministry. He said he became whatever was needed in order to win people to the Lord. That must have been exhausting. He did it anyway. He denied himself a spouse, he turned down wages, he gave up the comforts of home. For what?

Time is running out, he told the Corinthians 2,000 years ago. And, friend, if time was running out then, it’s closer yet today. Paul didn’t have time to be self-absorbed when there were people who still needed the Lord.

Do we? Paul tells us to be single minded. Focus. You can’t live with one foot in God’s kingdom and one foot in the world. Are you trying to make God mad? (10:22)

Life in a nutshell? Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor. (No mention of self-love, is there?) Paul tells us whatever we do, whether we are eating or drinking, “do it all for the glory of God.” (10:31)

Life in a nutshell is not about you.

Matthew 13-18; The Kingdom of God

I have a burden for the Church, we who are God’s Kingdom through the blood of Jesus. I’m concerned because it seems we are looking more and more like the world, and less and less like the Kingdom described in Scripture. I’ve been encouraged, and convicted as I’ve spent some time these past couple of days looking at what Jesus said about His Kingdom. I’d like to pass on to you what God has laid on my heart.

William Barclay says, “To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; page 87;Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1975) God’s Kingdom isn’t some future phenomenon. It’s us today in 2018. And our King has drawn pictures about how He expects His Kingdom to look.

Matthew recored seven parables that Jesus taught in the chapters I’ve been looking at. Each one begins, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” As we look at these I pray we will consider our own standing in God’s Kingdom, that we will consider how our church fellowships are doing, and what we can do to make the Church, God’s Kingdom, be exactly who He told us to be.

The first three parables Jesus spoke in these chapters concern something small growing to something big. The good seed (13:24), the mustard seed (vs 31), and the yeast (vs 33). I’ve looked at this a couple of ways. One, when we first come to know Jesus as our Savior (the Sower of the good seed),  our faith is often as small as a mustard seed, our knowledge limited. But as we spend time with our Savior, as we read His Word and fellowship with other believers, that faith grows. Or it should. I wonder if there are people in our churches who are satisfied with their seed-faith. What good is that? There can be no harvest of stunted seeds. That can’t be good for the Kingdom.

The other way I see this is in the common misconception: “What can one person do?” We are tempted to focus on the weeds growing all around us. God is telling us not to worry about that. He’s got it covered. We are asked to do is grow, stay connected to Him, the source of all we need to be healthy Christians. Yes, there is a force of evil out there that intends on choking the life out of us. But if we are growing, those weeds have no power over us. And God is the One who will weed out the evil. He wins.

And, like the yeast, if we are faithfully doing what God is asking of us, it will spread. You might think you are insignificant in light of the Billy Grahams of the world. Your contributions to the Kingdom might be done behind the scenes, your efforts quietly transforming your surroundings and the lives of people you touch for Jesus’ sake.

What can one person do? There is no limit if Jesus in it! Dear one, nothing done in Jesus’ name is insignificant! And it all works together to produce the Kingdom of God Jesus is describing.

Jesus said the field in which He is sowing good seed is the world! Oh that the world, our world, our homes and neighborhoods, would be germinated with the Gospel… and thrive!

The next two parables are about treasure. (13:44-45) What is that treasure other than Jesus Himself? The world is desperately searching for Him. They keep turning over rocks and finding fools gold and glass pearls. But the truly valuable treasure, the real thing they are looking for is Jesus only. And those of us who know Him know He’s worth everything.

But God is asking me if I’m content to hoard the treasure I hold, when I can look all around me and see people who are still looking under rocks, who are parading around their fools gold and glass pearls and trying to pass them off as the real thing. Is it ok for me to say, “They can believe what they want to believe. If they want to think that glass is a real pearl, who am I to say it’s not?”

It’s not! And you know it.

It’s not enough to be in possession of this priceless treasure. There are people in your life, and in mine, who are searching. But is the Kingdom (are we) failing because we aren’t showing those people where they can find the real thing?

The sixth parable (13:47-50) is about the fisherman who throws out the net and brings in ALL the fish, good and bad. As the Church, we are told to go into ALL the world and share the Gospel. Sometimes I think we can get comfortable writing our check out to missions and feel we are obeying that commission. But is that how Jesus is describing His Kingdom?

All of us need to be faithful to throw out those nets in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, in the streets, wherever there are people who don’t know Jesus. It’s not up to us to decide who will be responsive. We don’t pick and choose who we think deserves God’s grace. We aren’t told to be judges. We are called to be fishers of men. I wonder if God’s Kingdom (you and me) doesn’t need to repair some nets and get busy throwing those nets out there.

The music minister at my church is an amazing fisherman. Recently he stopped at a gas station, and went inside to pay for his gas. The only person in the store was a young man behind the counter, tattooed, pierced, and sporting a spiked purple hair-do. Paul, whose teenaged son was waiting in the car,  didn’t throw his money on the counter and run. He stopped and started talking to the young man. And as Paul often does, he steered the conversation to Jesus.

He asked the young man if he knew Jesus. The boy said, No. Paul asked if the boy would like to know more about Him. The boy said, Yes. Right there and then Paul shared the Gospel with a weird looking young man who’d been searching for that treasure. Paul asked him if he’d like to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The young man said, “Yes!”

But just then, another customer came into the store. Then another, and another. Paul went out to his car and sat with his son for awhile. They had somewhere to go, but there was a young man in that store who was more important.

Finally, the store cleared. Paul went back into the store and prayed with that young man to receive Christ. Paul threw out a net, and Jesus reeled him in.

I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying to us through these parables. When we are faithfully doing what He’s asked us to do, He does the rest. And His Kingdom grows one soul at a time.

The last parable is found a few chapters later. (18:23ff) It’s so easy to recognize other people’s faults. Not so much when recognizing our own. And sometimes, we don’t forgive like we have been forgiven.

It always hurts me when I hear Christians say about someone who has hurt them, that they hope God will give them what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I think that attitude is hurting God’s Kingdom.

We should never NEVER forget what God has forgiven of us. When Jesus taught us to pray He told us we should ask God to help us forgive others the same way He forgives us. That, my friend, is undeserved forgiveness, complete forgiveness, self-sacrificing forgiveness. And that’s the forgiveness we are to extend to others.

We as the Church of God are under attack. The Kingdom of God is being criticized for things that we should be criticized for, and for things that are outright lies. We, as members of God’s Kingdom are walking around with targets on our backs.

But we need to remember how Jesus told us to deal with our enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek in Jesus’ name. If we get caught up with the social media frenzy, if we think we have to have a response to every stupid thing people say, we aren’t representing the Kingdom of God very well. Because Jesus died for every one of those people.

Every one. Including people with purple hair and nose rings. Including people who have treated us unfairly. Including the Muslim who just moved in down the street, or the homosexual who delivers your mail.

As I look at the Kingdom of God as described in these verses I am encouraged. I do see people who are farmers sowing seed, people who are sharing their gold mine, fishermen who are casting out their nets with abandon. May God bless each of you and grow His Church as you are yielded to Him.

But I also have a concern. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we making God’s Kingdom stand out because we are being faithful, are we sharing the amazing treasure we have in Jesus, are we that yeast that is transforming the world by our presence? And are we casting out the Gospel net, and drawing people in?

May each of us consider our role in the Kingdom of God. And may we all be the people God can use to sow the seed, transform the dough, direct people to the treasure, cast the nets, and demonstrate what His forgiveness looks like.

For Jesus’ sake. And for His glory, may the Kingdom of God stand, and grow, until He comes.

 

 

 

 

 

Zephaniah; Complacent

I don’t think we fully understand the length to which God goes to address sin in our individual lives, and in the world. This God, who is not willing that anyone die without Him, who went to the cross so no one has to, is actively working in all our lives to get our attention, to draw us to Himself, to hear us confess our sin so He can shower us with His amazing grace. But some of us are so stubborn.

Chapter 3 talks about the lack of morality, how brazen people can be in their depravity. Verses 6-7 tells us God disciplines sin with the intent people will recognize their need of Him and repent, so that He can remove His hand of judgment, and bless them. “But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.” (Emphasis mine)

Now, before we get too comfortable thinking, “I’m not committing any brazen acts of disobedience, or living a sinful lifestyle,” let’s back up to Chapter 1:12. God says He will punish complacency, those who think, “God won’t do anything either good or bad, so I’ll just sit here in the comfort of my pew.”

Look at 2:15.

This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.”

Does that sound like 21st Century USA? I think it does. But the bigger question is: does that sound like any of us? Are we banking on that day when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, thinking we’ve got it made-in-the-shade because well, once saved always saved. But we don’t make an attempt to “grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus,” and we don’t live lives that look different from the world, and we certainly don’t share Jesus with anyone else for whatever reason. Oh, we go to church most of the time. And we even keep our Bible on the table next to our beds. We pray before we eat when we remember to. And we recognized how blessed we are to live where we live, to be able to pay our bills, and see the doctor only at our yearly exam. Life is good. And we’re a bit smug about it all. Isn’t that the definition of “complacency?”

Dear one, Zephaniah tells us God punishes “complacency.” If you think you can be described as “complacent,” ask God to forgive you. It is a sin. Then get out there and get busy making disciples.

I am reminded, through Zephaniah, that God does and will continue to punish sin (including complacency), until we repent or He comes again. And His discipline will only continue to hurt more and more as long as people continue to act corruptly. I’m also reminded God WANTS to stop the hand of judgment, and He will, if we turn to Him.

“But they were still eager to act (complacently) in all they did.” (paraphrase mine)

May no one ever have a reason to call you or me complacent. May we be busy doing the will of God, growing in our relationship with Him by studying His Word and praying. May we be actively leading people to their Savior, so that God can forgive and bless us, our land, and the world for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.