Tag Archives: witnessing

April 5; The Past Is The Past

Judges 10-13

Today we read about two men who became leaders of Israel. Jephthah, described as a mighty warrior, led the people in some decisive victories in a civil war against their warring family. Samson, a man with super-natural physical strength, led Israel against the Philistines. They were both great leaders, albeit flawed individuals.

I am struck by their very different beginnings. Jephthah was the son of a man named Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. His brothers, as soon as they were old enough, drove Jephthah out of their lives. No son of a prostitute was going to get any of their inheritance! But Jephthah used his gifts and abilities, and eventually rose to a position of power in Gilead.

Samson, on the other hand, was born to a married, God-fearing couple whose goal was to raise their son exactly according to God’s plan. It would not have been easy to raise a Nazarite, even back then. But these godly parents were determined to do just that. We’ll read that Samson grew up to be a great leader in Israel.

Sometimes we might be tempted to use our own beginnings as a weight to hold us down. Maybe we weren’t born into a middle class Christian family. Maybe our parents never married, never went to church. Maybe we weren’t able to afford college. So we let our past dictate our present.

In contrast, maybe we were born with that proverbial silver spoon in our mouths, went to the best schools, wore the best clothes, drove the coolest cars. Maybe our parents made sure we were in church every time the doors were open, and we can quote Scripture like a Baptist preacher.

Does one past guarantee success in God’s kingdom while the other guarantees failure? Is how we were raised an indication of our ability to serve God? The answer, of course, is NO!

Your past is past. It’s your choices today that render you useful or useless in God’s plan. A privileged child needs to come to God in exactly the same way as a child who grows up on the streets.

Neither Jephthah nor Samson allowed their past to be a “thing.” Both men followed God and chose obedience.

Here’s something else God has laid on my heart. Sometimes we let our own past sins hold us back from serving God. We tell ourselves we have no room to talk about sin, being the filthy sinner we were. We tell ourselves no one would take us seriously, considering the bad choices we’ve made in our past. I think God would remind us that when He forgives sins, He buries them, washes them away, never to remember them ever again. The past, under the blood of Jesus, is the past.

You can’t control or change your past. But God has given you today – this minute – to choose Him.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14)

Choose God today. Then see what He can do with a yielded heart. I know that God can use even the likes of you and me.

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!

February 28; Get Out

Numbers 5-6

Let’s face it. Sometimes Scripture is hard to swallow. Sometimes what we read doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, and often what Scripture tells us to do seems impossible. Political correctness? Forget about it.

When I read this portion of Scripture telling the Jews to toss all the diseased people out of the camp, I get it. In order to keep the rest of them healthy, the infected ones had to be removed. It was black and white. Are you diseased? Get out.

I imagine there were tears as loved ones were separated. I imagine someone felt it wasn’t fair. But it had to be done to keep the rest of them undefiled.

That makes sense, until I remember that Scripture often likens disease to sin. Putting the spiritual spin on these verses isn’t as black and white, although I guess it should be.

I believe the modern day Church has gotten so far from what God intended. I see us becoming more concerned about people’s feelings instead of their souls. I wonder if we think that if we provide an inviting setting, an exciting experience, a laid back atmosphere, sinners will come into our midst. Do we think that’s a good thing?

Isn’t that the opposite of what we see here in Scripture? “Oh, you have leprosy? Come right in and make yourself comfortable. My healthy skin will just rub off on you.”

It burdens my heart to know the church has in some cases, not only turned a blind eye to sin, it’s welcomed sin into our midst. And don’t use the argument that we live under grace after the cross. Grace is not acceptance of sin. Grace is not even love. Grace is God dealing harshly with sin, forgiving sin through the blood of Jesus which He shed in a very, very painful way.

The New Testament writers continue to tell believers to come out from among the world, to flee sin, to brush the dust off our feet. Yes, God loves sinners. Yes, Jesus ate with sinners. But Jesus went to them. He didn’t bring them into the synagog first to tell them the Gospel.

Matthew Henry reminded me that when Jesus returns He will “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.” In the new Jerusalem, nothing unclean will enter. (from Rev 11) (Commentary In One Volume; Zondervan Publishing; 1960; page 146) Will there be people who sit in our pews today who will be “gathered out,” fully expecting to be accepted just like they are in those pews?

The assembling of ourselves as a church body is intended to edify believers, strengthen believers, encourage and challenge believers to go into the world to share the Gospel. And, dear one, we must keep it pure, undefiled. It’s not a social club. The Church is an exclusive organization. Only believers in Jesus Christ can be included. You might not think that’s fair. And that might be the problem.

Sin should not be tolerated in the church. Period. But I thank God that, even those diseased Jews who were thrown out of the camp, were welcomed back once they were disease-free. But the healing came before the welcome.

I just think maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about growing our churches. The number of people attending your church is meaningless. However, the number of new believers who come as a result of someone from your fellowship leading them to the Savior is everything.

Keep the sin outside the camp.

 

 

February 11; Steps For Serving

Exodus 28-29

I love how the Jews we read about in the Old Testament actually lived out physically what we who live after the cross live out spiritually.

If you notice, the primary thing Aaron and his sons did was serve the Lord. (28:1,3,4,41) Serving God needs to be our number one priority, an umbrella over everything we do.  Paul emphasizes this in I Corinthians 10:31. Whatever we do, our purpose is to glorify God. I ask myself if that’s my motivation behind everything I have planned for today. It doesn’t matter if I’m mopping my kitchen floor, or teaching a Bible study, or taking food to a shut-in, or having lunch with a friend. Is what I’m doing glorifying God?

Aaron and his sons were to be sanctified to minister to the people In Exodus 29 we see them first of all dealing with their own sin, then being clothed in sacred garments. After that they were to deal with the sins of the people.

We Christians should follow this blueprint. It’s tempting to spend our efforts pointing out sin in others, and conveniently overlooking our own sin. Didn’t Jesus tell us to take the plank out of our own eye BEFORE we point out the splinter in our neighbor’s eye? Aaron and his sons demonstrated what that needs to look like in our lives.

I ask myself if I have removed the plank from my eye, if I have asked God to forgive my sins, if I am washed in the blood of Jesus, if I am clothed with His righteousness. Then when I have fulfilled those requirements, I can be about helping someone else deal with the sin in their heart, the splinter in their eye. The first step is as important as the second. And both are necessary in serving God.

I also notice in these chapters in Exodus that the priests stood together in ministry. I think that’s a picture of what our churches should look like: God’s kingdom of priests, standing shoulder to shoulder, each one doing what God has equipped us to do to reach a lost world…

For His glory.

January 11; Combating Lies

When Job wasn’t buying the advice his friends were giving, Eliphaz resorted to lies. Maybe he and his friends were hoping Job would confess to some great sin because, if Job was really not guilty and all this bad stuff was happening to him anyway, couldn’t the same thing happen to them?

Come on, Job Confess to something. Anything, to make me feel better.

Job’s response to Eliphaz’s lies spoke to me today.

He didn’t.

In the face of the blatant, defaming, attack on his character, the boldfaced lies being said about him, Job kept his focus on God. He acts as if Eliphaz hadn’t said any of those things.

I’m so tired of the war-of-words that is happening in our world. Not just that between our president and the media, or between our political parties, but with all of us with such fragile egos, and an overwhelming sense of entitlement. We’re almost to the point where you can’t have an opinion that’s different than someone else’s without hurting their feelings and causing a big controversy played out on social media.

Let’s be a little more like Job. In the middle of living the most devastating circumstances known to man, then having lies being said on top of it, he looked to God.

Christian, let’s do the same. Let’s set aside our egos, let’s put into perspective the opinions  people have about God and His Word, and hold on to God and His Word. Let’s answer the lies being said about us with the same response Job gave. Talk instead about our hope and confidence in the Lord rather than trying to offer empty words no-one hears anyway, and which usually only gives them ammunition for a counter-attack.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, worship God for who He is. Let’s love and pray for our enemies, and do good to those who mistreat us. Let’s be the Church God intends for us to be to share the Good News with a world that so desperately needs Him.

January 4; Gibberish

Genesis 10-11:26; I Chronicles 1:5-7,17-27

When my mom stepped into her first grade classroom on the first day of school, she couldn’t speak English. Her German-born parents spoke only German in their home. Her siblings were her best friends. I’m sure she picked up some English words from the neighborhood and church. But she was a German-speaking six-year-old in an English speaking school.

I have a friend who was telling several of us about her granddaughter’s Spanish immersion school. Grandma was extolling the virtues of such a progressive education. Her granddaughter was coloring at the kitchen table. So to make her point, Grandma asked the six-year-old, “Sara Beth, do you understand your teacher?” Sara Beth simply answered, “No.”

The language barrier is real.

I think about Mom when I read the Tower of Babel account in Genesis. How confusing it must have been to be that little girl plopped in a situation where no one speaks or even thinks in the same language you do, and then expect you to follow directions. How confusing it must have been for those building the tower to be talking to their co-worker one minute, then all of a sudden realize you have no idea what he is saying. Some people seem to understand. But you have no clue what that gibberish is supposed to mean.

I’m convinced that sometimes our communication breaks down for the same reason when we are sharing the Gospel. Those of us who know Jesus speak a different language than those who don’t. We understand and speak the language of the Holy Spirit.

We understand what sin is, what repentance involves. We get that Satan is a created being, a real fallen angel, and hell is a reality. We take for granted that everybody knows that Jesus died on a cross to pay for sin, and that Jesus is part of the Trinity which is God. We get that this world is not all there is.

What we forget is that the majority of the world – maybe the majority of the people in your world – have no idea what we are saying when we share any of that. It sounds like gibberish to them.

My Mom slowly learned to speak English. She learned the basic words first, then was able to put together sentences, and understand simple instructions from her teacher. Before long the was having conversations in English, then it dawned on her she was actually thinking and dreaming in English. She got it!

If you are sharing Jesus with someone and find yourself frustrated because you can’t understand why they don’t get it, remember they don’t understand the language. It might take time, repetition, patience. But don’t give up. To them, it may sound like gibberish at first, but once they get it, it will change their lives. Before long they will be speaking, thinking, and understanding the language of the Spirit.

It just occurred to me that after Mom learned English, she stopped speaking German. (being anything German was not a popular thing here in the States during the 1940’s) Eventually she even lost her ability to speak German. (The old passed away, all things became new; from 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Not only that, Mom taught her siblings how to speak English. She helped her mother learn to speak English. She shared with them what she finally understood for herself. Isn’t that what often happens when someone finally understands what Jesus did for them, and accepts His forgiveness? They get it. And they share it!

That’s my prayer for all of us. May we never grow tired of sharing Jesus with that one who is slow to understand. And may we be so immersed in the language of the Holy Spirit, that we recognize the world’s language is gibberish to us.

January 2; No Questions Asked

Genesis 4-6

“Noah, build an ark.”

“Ok.”

But had Noah ever even seen an ark? Did he even know what a flood looked like? He might not even have known what rain looked like. But God said it. And Noah obeyed.

If you are like me, sometimes I ask too many questions. God might be prompting me to do something as easy as walking across the street to talk to a neighbor about Him, or to befriend that irritating coworker, or up my financial giving at church. And instead of obeying, I start asking questions:

“Why?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“What can I say to them?”

“What will people think?”

“Am I hearing you right?”

And I think it to death, my time is wasted, and my opportunity is past. What if Noah had done that? What if he started asking questions and put off building the ark?

The Bible would be a much shorter book. There’d be no one to read it anyway.

But Noah obeyed and built that ark that saved him and his family, and us. God is not asking me to do anything as unimaginable or difficult as building an ark. Why do I make such a big production out of obeying what He does ask of me?

This year, in 2019, I want to be obedient. Period. I want to trust Him without having to know the details first. As I continue to read His Word and pray, I want His voice to be clear and my obedience immediate.

Like Noah building an ark, I want to take that step of faith and obey God just because He asks me to. No questions asked.