Tag Archives: witnessing

November 12; Unschooled and Ordinary

Acts 3:1-5:16

Peter amazes me. The disciple had spent most of the three years he was with Jesus, with his foot firmly planted in his mouth. You can’t fault Peter’s enthusiasm for the Messiah. He just didn’t always think before he acted or said something. He seemed an unlikely leader.

But something happened to Peter. Acts 4:8 tells us what that something was:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…

Peter and John were known as “unschooled and ordinary men” to everyone in town. But, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter could stand before the same church officials who had crucified Jesus, and boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth!

Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t back down, was willing to go to jail rather than deny Jesus. But this same Peter had very publicly denied Jesus three times just a few weeks earlier.

Here’s the thing: God uses unschooled and ordinary people who are filled with His Spirit to boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth. You don’t need a seminary degree. You need to accept Jesus as your Savior. You need to be yielded to the Spirit. He’ll take hold of you like he took hold of Peter, and who knows where that will lead?

Do you feel God is prompting you to talk to a neighbor or friend about the Lord? Maybe you hesitate because you think you wouldn’t know what to say.

Good!

You are in a perfect place to be used by God on behalf of that person for whom He died, and in whom He is preparing a heart to receive Him. Let Him fill you with His Spirit. Let Him use your voice to speak His words to that soul. He will if you let Him.

You may be unschooled compared to your pastor, but you are anything but ordinary when the Spirit fills you. Peter said in verse 20:

For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

And neither will you be able to stop speaking about Jesus. When His Spirit fills you, it just naturally spills out, bubbles over, and touches everyone around you. Nothing ordinary about that!

 

October 26; Second Fiddle

John 11:17-57; Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 20:17-28

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, “Wow. This is totally opposite of the wisdom of the day?” That’s what happened to me today.

We in the 21st Century are told to look out for number one, to tell ourselves we are strong and powerful and capable and perfect just the way we are. And we are teaching our children to believe they are those things, too.

On the surface that might sound like wisdom. But in God’s economy, it’s foolishness. In the passages we read today, God explains His economy and you might not like what He says:

“The last will be first.”

“Whoever wants to become great, must be a slave to all.”

(I don’t see those slogans on many t-shirts these days)

I went to my cousin’s funeral yesterday, and heard the account of a servant, a woman who was a selfless friend, whose house was always open and throw-together meals were commonplace (and she often used her gold-trimmed china for impromptu entertaining). She could sit for hours with a hurting neighbor without thought for her own comfort.

She’d taught music for nearly 60 years, and especially loved teaching young children how to play the violin. We heard of incidents when Beth Joy would go out of her way to take a student home after lessons, or drive them to performances, or how she would provide violins for children who couldn’t afford one.

But what impressed me most about my cousin was something I hadn’t realized. I knew she played in two large symphony orchestras, one in Ohio then one in Charlotte, NC when she and her husband moved there. But what I didn’t realize is that for over 40 years, Beth Joy played second violin.

As a musician myself, that speaks to me. And I was reminded of it today as I read what Jesus said to His disciples about “number one.”

The great orchestral conductor, Leonard Bernstein when asked what the most difficult instrument was to play said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem, and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Beth Joy played second fiddle with enthusiasm. She was the harmony in the life of her family, friends, and students. Why? Because she was a tireless servant of her Lord, Jesus Christ. At 80 years of age, she was still teaching children how to play the violin up to six weeks before she died.

I am challenged today to enthusiastically play the position of second fiddle for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. One thing people kept saying yesterday was that Beth always pointed people to her Savior. It was never about her. It was always about Jesus.

What a privilege it is to play second fiddle in God’s economy, His orchestra called the Church. It’s not about me. It is always about Jesus.

October 21; Use It All

Luke 14:25-17:19

The guy was losing his job. He knew he was in big trouble. He was too weak to do manual labor, and too proud to beg. So he came up with a plan to make himself look good to people who were in positions to help him.

Whenever I read this parable in Luke 14, I am struck by the boss’ reaction to what the man did. It cost the boss money. But he commended the man for his ingenuity. I guess it’s true that evil really does see good in evil.

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (verse 9)

I think I’ve shared that I have recently realized 99% of my relationships here on this island are with people from my church. I am blessed by them and treasure their friendships. It’s a blessing to serve God with them.

But God has been dealing with me about stepping out of my comfort zone and beginning to rub shoulders with people who don’t go to my church, may not go to any church.

Jesus said that if He can’t trust us with what we have, how can He trust us with more? Today I am wondering what kind of steward I am with the treasure that is mine through my Savior’s blood. Am I as creative in the way I serve my Master as the man in the parable was in serving his?

But I am also wondering what kind of impact I have on people who need Jesus, using the material blessing which are mine. Is my house open to my neighbors? I don’t even know most of their names. Is my car transportation for an unchurched friend? I can’t think of any unchurched person I consider my friend.

Jesus said we should use it all “so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I’m certainly not going to take any of my possessions with me. Why am I hoarding them?

If the world is so good at networking, at community, at charity, why aren’t I even better? What they offer is perishing. What I have is eternal. Jesus told us that where are hearts are, our treasures are.

I pray that I will be the kind of steward of God’s blessings who gives all I have. I want to step outside the walls of my church and make friends of people who need what I have. I want to use the material things that are mine to bless others for Jesus’ sake.

I want you to want that, too. I think God wants it of all of us.

 

October 13; You Talking’ To Me?

Mark 14:29-44; Matthew 14:1-21; Luke 9:7-17; John 6:1-15

What did Jesus mean by telling the disciples to feed the five thousand men (plus women and children) that day they were on that remote hill? The disciples suggested the people leave to go find food for themselves. There weren’t exactly Walmart stores around the corner. The people had been there all day, some had come from great distances. They were hungry. And Jesus said, “Feed them.”

You talkin’ to me, Lord?

The disciples found a few loaves of bread and some fish and brought it to Jesus. “This is all we have,” they told Him. And it was enough.

What did Jesus mean by telling us to go and make disciples?

You talkin’ to me, Lord? I didn’t go to seminary. I’m not great with words. I’m shy. I’m just a regular guy, no Billy Graham here. I wouldn’t know what to say. Send them to the preacher, or the Sunday School teacher. Or let them figure things out for themselves. I don’t have what it takes to make disciples.

In the feeding of the 5000 Jesus didn’t expect his disciples to scrounge up enough food for everyone. He asked them to give Him everything they had. They did, and the people were fed – with plenty of food left over!

Who is Jesus telling you to feed today? Are you going to let them fend for themselves, or will you expect them to go somewhere else to hear about the Savior because you are looking at your meager abilities?

Hear Jesus tell you to give Him what you have, and let Him take those meager abilities and turn you into a disciple-maker.

Yes. He’s talking to you!

August 13; Using or Abusing

Ezekiel 14-16

God likened the Jews to a prostitute. He’d saved her, protected her, nurtured her, and lavished her with amazing gifts. People should have been able to see God’s beauty in her, and been drawn to Him because of what they saw. But that’s not what happened.

God reminded me today that I can be like the ancient Jews God described as vile and disgusting. He saved me like he’d saved her. He’s protected and blessed me, too. And He has lavished me with things no amount of money can buy. What am I doing with what He’s given me?

I would venture to say you are blessed, too. If you are a child of God through the blood of Jesus, He has gifted you with things, with abilities that should be drawing people to Him. What are you doing with what He’s given you?

I would ask us all today if we are using the blessings and abilities that God thoughtfully and intentionally gave each of us, for His glory? Or are we using those blessings for personal gain and personal glory? Are we using those gifts or abusing them? The prostitute God described in Ezekiel was abusing what God had given her.

One of the gifts God gave us is His Word, the Bible. For the past ten days I have been reading and re-reading the daily passages and letting God speak to me without going through a commentary or study lesson. Just me and God, and I have loved it so much!

I don’t know if you took the challenge ten days ago, but let me encourage us all to consider God’s Word as a personal gift to each of us. Let’s let God reveal what He wants to say to us, rather than always reading what God said to someone else – including me. It’s great to read about what God is teaching others. But I don’t believe it can take the place of listening to what God would say to you when you read His Word for yourself.

God may have gifted you musically, socially, intellectually, with gifts of teaching, hospitality, knowledge, faith, wisdom, etc. If you are His child He has gifted you with His precious Son, His Spirit within you, and His Word in Scripture. He has gifted you with the Gospel of Jesus.

Are we using God’s gifts, or abusing them? I think you know how I’m praying.

 

August 7; Settled In And Busy

Jeremiah 29:1-32, 49:34-39, 50:1-46; 2 Kings 24:18-20

It’s fairly easy to read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon and see a parallel in present day America. It causes me great concern to see a large portion of Americans working so hard to see this administration fail. Doesn’t anyone get it? If the administration fails, the country suffers. (of course, then the socialist agenda can swoop in and save the day. And some of you already think that’s a good thing. Wake up, America.)

We should be praying for our country like Jeremiah told the Jews to do concerning Babylon. Because if the nation prospers, “you too will prosper.” Jeremiah warns them to turn a deaf ear to the liars. And for heaven’s sake, DON’T encourage them!

I think there is a parallel between Jeremiah’s letter and the modern church, too. Christians aren’t snapped up into heaven the moment we are saved. We live in this fallen world among sinful people, much like God’s people in Babylon. But Jeremiah tells us to settle in. Build houses, plant gardens, enjoy the fruit of you labor. Marry and have lots of babies so they can grow up and have lots of babies. “Do not decrease.”

Wasn’t Jesus’ message similar? He told us in Matthew 10:16 He was sending us out to the wolves, not taking us home. He told us to go, make disciples, be the light in this dark world. He wants the Church, like He wanted the Jews, to grow one person at a time. And again, He warns us about false prophets who claim to be sent from God, but are clearly not when you hold them up to the Truth of Scripture.

We need to be praying for God’s Church in 2019. Because if the Church prospers, we prosper, too. The world prospers when the Church is healthy and growing. That is simply God’s economy.

Today, God is asking me how I am doing. Have I settled in, planted seeds, led people to the Savior? Or have I put my feet up, secure in my salvation and looking forward to getting this life over so I can be in glory? Am I grounded in Scripture, standing firmly on the Truth as God has revealed it? Or have I listened to half-truths and out-right lies without discerning what is True in God’s Word?

I believe God is challenging me to settle in here on this island where I live. Then, get busy living the Christian life and talking about my Savior. I believe God is challenging my prayer life, to pray more for His Church, His children in the world. He has promised me that one day He’ll take me home. But unless it’s today, I’ve got to get busy.

 

August 2; Success and Failure

2 Kings 24:1-4; 2 Chronicles 36:6-7; Daniel 1:1-2; Jeremiah 26:1-32, 45:1-5, 25:1-38

Are you in ministry of some kind? Is there someone in your life for whom you’ve been praying and with whom you’ve been sharing the Gospel? How do you know if you are successful or not?

Most of us would say we are as successful in ministry as the number of converts we have influenced. But is the number of people you’ve led to the Lord the measure of  success for a servant of God?

If that’s the case, Jeremiah was a huge failure. He preached the truth for 23 years, and nobody even listened to him (25:3). 23 years he preached to deaf ears. Would you say he failed? Or did the people fail?

Here’s what I believe God says in His Word: obedience = success.

If we are doing what God is asking of us, we are successful servants in His sight. If we are obedient, we’ve done our duty and can expect Him to do His. The truth is, there are disobedient preachers filling thousands of seats in mega churches every week all over the world who are failures. One day they will look into the face of Jesus and hear Him say “I never knew you. Depart from me forever.”

Fail!

I think of Jonah, one of the most successful preachers on record. Yes, that Jonah who started out as a failure, disobeying God and winding up taking a swim inside a fish. But once Jonah decided to obey God, thousands of people repented and were saved. He may have been a reluctantly obedient servant, but his obedience was instrumental in saving an entire city.

Let me encourage you preachers, deacons, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, moms and dads with wayward children: Be obedient.

Don’t look at the numbers, large or small. Don’t look at the rejection, many or few. Keep your eyes on God, and be obedient. One day, if you were quietly doing what He asks of you, or if you were standing before a large congregation preaching the Truth from Scripture, you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Join me!”

Your obedience is success is God’s eyes.