Tag Archives: witnessing

You Can’t Have Children (Hosea)

When I started to read the book of Hosea today, my mind went immediately to the Church in 2020. It’s easy to see the connection between Israel and the Church; blessed yet unfaithful, ignoring God’s laws yet claiming to be His children.

But I didn’t get very far before I felt God nudge me. “I have something to say to you today, Connie, about your own walk with Me. This is not about “them.” I’m talking to you.”

Reading Hosea’s words is not fun when you look at it like that. It speaks to me about my own fickleness. It points out my tendency to listen to other voices besides God’s, to get along with the world rather than obeying Him. I remember times I sowed “the wind and reap(ed) the whirlwind.” There is a lot, sadly, in the lives of the Jews during Hosea’s time that I can see in me.

But what stood out to me this morning is found in 9:11-13. Verse 10 is such a tender expression of love. I hear God say that when He looks at me it’s like finding a grape in the desert, early fruit on a fig tree. It’s that “apple of His eye” thing. God adores me.

But then He challenges my commitment to Him. Israel flat out worshiped Baal. I don’t flat out deny God. Yet there are times when I don’t block out the call of the world, times when I might ignore a sin, or rationalize a sin (which are forms of idolatry and adultery in my relationship with Him).

And God tells me if that is the case, my glory will fly away. No births, no pregnancy, no conception.

No problem! I’m way beyond child-bearing years. But that’s not what He’s talking about. And what He is talking about should drive me to my knees.

God is speaking to me about spiritual children, those I could introduce to their Savior.  Read this chapter in that light and I think it will break your heart.

I have known women who long for children, who go to desperate measures to conceive. And I’ve seen the agony when time after time, their greatest desire is not realized. I’ve seen the crushing blow hit when they are told they will never have their own children. It’s a pain that is often inconsolable.

Now God is telling me I’ll never have children. If I allow my relationship with Him to weaken, my glory, my ability to shine the light of Jesus will fly away, and I will not have any part in the salvation of another soul. Does my reaction to that news mirror that of a woman unable to conceive a child? Am I inconsolably devastated at the idea of never leading someone to Jesus?

I should be. And so should you.

Do You, or Don’t You? (Proverbs 26)

Solomon has a lot to say about fools and what our response should be toward them. In Psalm 14, Solomon’s father King David described a fool as one who says there is no God. So, believing Solomon must have learned from his dad, I’m going with that definition of “fool” rather than merely someone who does stupid things.

If you are reading chapter 26 and get to verses 4-5, and if you are like me you’d probably have to stop and question what you see there. Do you, or don’t you, “answer a fool (one who denies God) according to his folly?”

This morning I’ve sat here and thought about these two seemingly contradictory verses, prayed that God would give me understanding, and dug through some commentaries to see what others have said about it. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer to the question, “Do you or don’t you?” is “Yes.”

The difference is the fool himself.

You know the person who loves to debate, finds a platform to expound an opinion every chance he gets, the person who loves to hear himself (or herself) speak. Most of the time it doesn’t take long to figure out if this person is genuinely interested in having a conversation, or is intent on having an argument. If the latter is true, that person is not ready to hear the Truth. Solomon would tell us to walk away if all he wants is to bait you into a war of words. Walk away rather than stooping to his level of meaningless dribble. He doesn’t even know how foolish he sounds. Don’t be like him.

However, if someone is expressing the foolish notion that there is no God, or that the Bible isn’t true, or that Jesus isn’t the Savior, and you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to speak up, you need to obey. If you ignore the nudge and stay silent, that person will walk away thinking his foolishness is true. If this person is sincerely seeking answers, and you don’t share what you know is true, you will have lost an opportunity to share the Gospel. You will have disobeyed.

I pray all of us are ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. I pray that the Gospel is never far from our thoughts and that we are eager to share the Good News with anyone and everyone. Our world needs Jesus. Let’s be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, let’s not get caught up in word wars or argumentative encounters. But let’s be quick to lead a sinner to his or her Savior as God gives us opportunity.

So, do you or don’t you share the Gospel? Yes! May God give us the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to remain silent. And may He be glorified in our response to the fool who says He doesn’t exist.

Come What May (2 Samuel 16-18)

Ahimaaz wanted to run and tell David the outcome of the battle between his men and Absalom’s. Joab said no. He would send someone else to David because, “You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

The news about the battle wasn’t all good news. David’s son Absalom had been killed in that battle, and that fact would destroy David. Or it would destroy the messenger like those who brought David word of Saul’s death. David had a history of killing the messengers of bad news, and Absalom’s death would have been the very worst kind of news.

Ahimaaz’s reply to Joab speaks to me:

Come what may, I want to run.

We have news to share with the world. It’s the best news ever in the history of the world. But with it comes some bad news, too.

The bad news is that we are sinners. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. And sin comes with a death sentence. We all deserve to go to hell. We need someone outside ourselves to save us from that awful end. Some people get angry when faced with the truth about their sin.

The good news is, Jesus is the Savior we need. Jesus paid the death sentence that would have sent us to hell, and instead offers us eternity right next to Him in a place too amazing for words. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. Doesn’t get much better than that.

The thing is, you can’t share the good news without the bad. In order for someone to accept the Savior, they need to see their need of the Savior. And sometimes we might hesitate to share that message for fear of how it will be received.

Will I lose a friend? Will I be laughed at? Will people start treating me differently, unfairly, exclude me from things? Or as in some places in our world, will I lose my life?

Ahimaaz wanted to be the one to tell David, and he was willing to pay whatever price to share that message. He wasn’t concerned with his own safety. He wasn’t looking for some reward. It wasn’t about him. I believe, for Ahimaaz, it was about the message.

It’s still about the message. God is challenging me to take up Ahimaaz’s battle cry when given the opportunity to share His news with people He died to save.

“Come what may, God, let me be the one to tell someone about You today.”

The Power Of The Presence (I Samuel 4-8)

God’s Presence was in the ark of the covenant. That gold covered box was holy because God made His dwelling place there. The ark had to be handled very carefully. To mistreat it or dishonor it meant death.

70 men of Beth Shemesh died because they looked into the ark. When the Philistines captured the ark, a plague of tumors and rats infected any city that housed the ark. You couldn’t deny the power that accompanied the ark.

So the Philistines answer to that obvious power was, “Get rid of it! Send the ark back to the Jews.”

Now we Christians know God doesn’t dwell in a gold covered box these days. He doesn’t even dwell in churches (thankfully, since all the churches have closed their doors during this virus outbreak). God’s Presence is in all of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

There are a lot of lessons here in regard to God’s Presence. But today God is asking me what impact His Presence in me has on my town, on my neighbors, on my family.

Just the presence of the ark – no prophet preaching from the temple steps, no choir or musical instrument played – just the Presence of God caused non-believers to recognize God’s power. They saw the disease of their bodies and the filth of their surroundings just by being in God’s Presence.

And they didn’t like it. They rejected it. They could have bowed to the God whose power they’d come face to face with. But instead, they removed it from their presence.

Sometimes God can reveal Himself to a non-believer just by our association with them. Sometimes our choices to follow God speak to them about their choice not to. Sometimes God reveals sin to them, when they see us resisting sin for Jesus’ sake.

Now I’m not saying we have an excuse not to share the Gospel, not to talk to people about their need of a Savior. But I think God would have us be the “ark” so to speak. That vessel through which His power can be seen to everyone around us.

How are you handling this present crisis? Is God’s power revealed in you by your trust in Him? Or are you panicked like so many, worrying about the future as though you had no hope? God wants to reveal Himself through each of His children today.

May the power of His Presence in our hearts be seen, and may it draw people to a relationship with the Savior.

If You Build It… (Exodus 25-27)

Sometimes when I read the intricate details of God’s plan for the sanctuary, my eyes glaze over. That happened today, and I was finding it hard to hear what God would say to me about these chapters. As I was praying, I felt God nudge me to take a look at what Warren Wiersbe had to say (With The Word; Oliver Nelson Books; 1991). Here’s what struck me this morning page 61:

“God could have made the whole tabernacle in an instant of creative power, but instead He asked the people to bring Him their offerings. They were privileged to make a sanctuary for God.”

I hadn’t thought about that. If God was so insistent on having the tabernacle done in such specific details, why didn’t He just do it Himself? He certainly had the power. Well, maybe He wanted His children to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s House.

The same is true today. God could build His Church today by miraculously changing the hearts of men, by using His power to force people into believing. But instead, He has asked us to go and make disciples. We have the privilege to make a Church for God, to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s Church.

Now, I’m not saying we have any power on our own. But God is asking us to be a conduit for His power to change lives, to save souls. That’s His plan. Yes, it takes time, effort, inconvenience at times. But God’s plan for building His Church includes you!

And sometimes the building of God’s church (small “c”) includes you, too. For instance, our church is in the middle of a building project. We have the land, we have readied the land, but we are a few hundred thousand dollars short of being able to break ground. Now, some of us are praying that God would move in the heart of a rich benefactor, that by some miracle the money will come so He can build His church on this island. We would absolutely give God all the glory! That’s not a bad prayer. And God is certainly able to answer that prayer today.

But God is asking us to build that church. It might require sacrificial giving, effort, inconvenience in the lives of we who are part of this fellowship of believers. But we have the privilege of building a church for God.

I think God’s plan is a good one, not that He’s looking for my approval. And I love the example the Jewish people lived, as they gave, and worked, and obeyed God in the making of what must have been a beautiful sanctuary there in the desert. Their obedience must have spoken to the pagan people around them, it certainly speaks to me today.

May I buy into God’s plan, and be a faithful worker in the building of His beautiful Church in 2020. As I think about it, I want to be faithful in contributing to the building of His spiritual Church, AND the church building that will house Frederica Baptist Church on the north end of Saint Simons Island.

Because I believe if we are faithful, obedient workers in God’s Kingdom, if we build what He has asked us to build, people will notice. If we build it… they will come.

 

The Good Old, Bad Old Days (Job 29-31)

In Job’s final speech to his friends, he talked about the past, the days he enjoyed a prosperous life, when he was able to help the poor with his material wealth. He remembered the strangers who found shelter in his home, and the respect he received from everyone who knew him.

“How I long for the months gone by,” he said in 29:2, “for the days when God watched over me.” In verse 4 he said, “Oh for the days when I was in my prime…” (Well, actually I have said the same a time or two myself!)

Job looked at the past with longing. And many of us do that, too. We remember the good old days, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing…

  1. unless we allow our memories to paralyze us. The truth is, life was easier for me before my back problems. Life was more exciting when I had more energy and the future was promising. But today the days of my past outnumber the days of my future. The days of the past were innocent and full of new things to learn. Today my look at the world can be jaded. So, do I sit in my recliner and remember the good old days while ignoring my present and future? Do I find more comfort remembering the past than I do embracing the present and looking ahead to my future?  Isn’t it a waste of precious time to live in the past?
  2. unless our memories are not true. Our minds have a way of inflating the good while diminishing the reality of the ugliness that existed, too. The opposite can be true as well, and can be so destructive if all we remember is the bad. No past is all good, or all bad.

My dad loved being a dad. We five girls were his everything. That is, until we became teenagers, and then adults with minds of our own. That was hard for Dad. And I think he always longed to go back to the days when his little girls were still his little girls. I’m not saying we weren’t able to enjoy a good relationship with him once we got through those awkward teenage years. But I think he was always a bit disappointed we grew up. And I think that colored the relationships we had with him as adults.

Living in the past, whether real or imagined, is an act of futility. Life will never be the same as it was when we were kids. We can’t go back. Time marches on. And if I am honest, my past has been fun and blessed and amazing; but it has also been painful and lonely and hard. Would I really want to relive all of it?

Warren Wiersbe says this:

“The good old days are are often a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination.” (With The Word, Thomas Nelson Press; 1991; page 298)

Yep. That pretty much describes it, doesn’t it? But Wiresbe also said something that hit me this morning on page 297 of With The Word:

“The past must be more than a memory; it must be a ministry.”

I am thankful for the gift of memory, even though not all my memories make me happy. So, what am I doing with that gift of memory? Am I sitting on it in the privacy of my own home, wishing, longing, regretting, or obsessing? Or am I using my past experiences to help someone today, January 11, 2020? Am I remembering my blessings so to encourage others, my mistakes to challenge or to warn someone who needs a reality check?

The past is the past, there is no going back. But our past can also be a tool to be used on behalf of others, for their sakes and God’s glory. Let’s remember the good old, bad old days, and allow it to minister to someone who needs our wisdom and experience to help them along the way.

December 26; That’s Love

I John 4-5; 2 John; 3 John; Revelation 1

I remember Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God. Not just having a warm, fuzzy feeling toward Him, but to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds. That is total love, intentional love.

Then Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first; love your neighbor as yourself. John, in his letters, emphasizes what love of God and others looks like in the day to day.

The apostle goes so far as to say that if someone doesn’t love, that person doesn’t even know God The evidence of our love for God is in our love for one another. If you harbor hate toward someone, you can’t love God. It’s that clear.

John says we love because God loved us first. John also says our obedience is proof of our love for God, and that obedience will result in showing love for people. The disciple also says, the blessed truth of the matter is, God’s commands are not burdensome. It’s not impossible to obey God. In fact, I believe God’s commandments make sense, and would make the world a safer, happier, healthier place if people just obeyed them.

We just are coming out of a season of love. Many needy people received an expression of love as food banks were filled, as mitten trees, secret Santas, adopt-a-family efforts were filled by people showing love. You can hear reports of generous giving this time of year.

But let me remind us that Jesus’ demonstration of love did not just result in meeting people’s physical needs, although that was certainly a major part of the way Jesus’ loved. Jesus met people’s spiritual needs, often BEFORE he did anything about physical needs.

The greatest expression of love for God is sharing the Gospel with someone for whom Jesus died. There is nothing that says “I love God” more than standing in the gap between heaven and hell for the eternal soul of another, turning a sinner around, and introducing them to their Savior.

So let’s continue to take care of the physical and material needs of people around us in the name of Jesus. But let’s not neglect to encourage a sinner to repent.

That’s love.

December 21; A Charge

2 Timothy 2-4; Hebrews 1

I hope you will read Paul’s charge to Timothy and hear God speaking to you. The fact is, the time of Jesus’ return is 2,000 years closer than when Paul wrote these words. We may be 2,000 years before that blessed event yet today, but Scripture tells us to be prepared. It could be 2,000 years from now. It could be today.

This is Paul’s charge from chapter 4:

  1. Preach the Word
  2. be prepared in season and out of season
  3. correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction
  4. keep your head in all situations
  5. endure hardship
  6. do the work of the evangelist
  7. discharge all the duties of your ministry

Friend, our relationship with God has to be intentional. It cannot be mere emotion, or something we put on a shelf like a trophy. You and I need to be using our minds, keeping our heads in all situations.

In chapter 3 Paul talks about the evils of the last days and warns us about those who live lives of greed, pride, disobedience, slander… He tells us to have nothing to do with them. Why?

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires… 

Now before you men start to feeling smug here, I’ve known some pretty gullible men, too. I don’t think I’m going out of bounds to suggest this warning is for all of us. None of us are immune from the wiles of the devil.

And I can’t help but think evil is worming its way into our homes through the internet and cable TV. Be ware!

That’s why my prayer is that any who read this blog will be encouraged to be in the God’s Word every day. Reading. Studying. Praying about it. Memorizing it. Re-reading it. And obeying it. Please let God grow you and strengthen you through the pages of His precious Word. And take Paul’s charge to Timothy as your own.

 

 

December 19; Be Prepared

I Peter 2:13-5:14; Jude 1:1-6

When was the last time someone asked you to give the reason for the hope you have in Jesus? Some of you will answer that you had that opportunity yesterday. Others might have to confess it’s been a while – if ever. Why is that?

God is asking me today if people even know I’m a Christian without me saying anything. Do I stand out in a crowd by being joyful, content, kind, caring, willing to serve, truthful…? If the only thing people know about me is that I go to church, is that enough reason for them to ask me about the hope I have in Jesus? A lot of people go to church, and still have no hope.

Paul tells us to always be prepared for people to ask us about Jesus. I don’t think that just means reading your Bible and praying every morning – although I hope that is the first thing you do before stepping onto the battle field every day.

I’m thinking we prepare to share Jesus by the choices we make, the life we live, the words we say. If we wear His name, can people see Christ in us? Or do we look like everyone else in the crowd?

If people see Jesus in us, they’ll naturally want to know more about Him, because what we have with Jesus is so much better than what anyone has without Him. Do they see that in us? Are we an enigma in a world of distrust, anger, discontent, depression, and immorality? We should be.

If you call yourself a Christian I can guarantee someone is watching you to see if your hope is real. Let’s determine to prepare ourselves to show them it is, and to tell them how they can have the same hope in the Savior

 

December 18; Reputations

Titus; I Peter 1:1-2:12

Do you consider what kind of reputation you have among your friends and acquaintances? What about the school you went to? What are they known for? How about your workplace, your neighborhood, your church? What do people believe about people who work, live, and worship there?

Should we be concerned with our reputations? Or, like some would say, “What people think about me is not my problem.”

Paul, in Titus 1 quoted a prophet from the Island of Crete who said this:

Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons… 

Ouch.

But then Paul goes on to say “This testimony is true.” Double ouch.

I used to tell my students that anytime someone said, “always,” or “everybody,” or “all,” what followed was usually not true. But Paul seems to back up the idea that if you are from the Island of Crete you are a lazy, lying, glutton. I doubt that reputation did much for the tourist trade.

In his letters, Paul will often talk about how we should live. He uses words like servant, patient, kind, godly…

And he said something in Titus 2:19 that I believe sums up why our reputations should be stellar.

…so that in every way (we) will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

He goes on to tell us to say “No” to ungodliness, to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Why is that important? So that God will bless us with material comfort, health, and happiness? Or should we want the kind of reputation that will reveal Jesus in us, and encourage others to want Him for themselves?

If we have reputations for being liars, partiers, or having dirty minds, what about that would draw anyone to a Holy God? Using Paul’s example in his letter to Titus, what about the reputation of the Cretans would make anyone want to visit there, much less live there?

Let me suggest that your reputation is very important as you represent Jesus. Let’s determine to live lives that are genuine, that are patient, kind, grounded in Truth and consistent in our walk. Let’s have a reputation for being joyful, giving, honest, servants of the Savior so that others will want what we have through the blood of Jesus.

Have you considered your reputation? You should.