Tag Archives: witnessing

(2 Chronicles 7-9) Come to Jesus

We all know that Solomon was wise and rich. In fact, he was arguably the wisest and richest man who ever lived. But it occurred to me today that it was the people who flocked to him – ordinary people as well as kings – that is the message here.

And it was the man, Solomon, they came to see. It speaks to me about how the Gospel is presented these days. Do we invite people to come to God for the benefits of knowing Him? Things like health, wealth, peace, heaven?

Or do they hear an invitation to come to the Man, the person of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Lay aside the material blessings associated with knowing Him. Lay aside the feelings, even lay aside eternity. Don’t we want people – don’t I want you – to meet Jesus Himself?

I guess I want people drawn to Jesus when they observe my relationship with Him. Not necessarily my lifestyle, or my attitude, or my faith. I want them to see that I have a real relationship with the King, and then want a relationship with Him, too.

The Queen of Sheba remarked how blessed Solomon’s people must be just being in his presence. I’d like people to be able to recognize how blessed I must be as I live in the Presence of God.

And ultimately, I want them to want to live there, too.

(2 Kings 18-20) Generations To Come

I’m not a big fan of King Hezekiah. Yes, he did some good things, and Scripture says he did right in the eyes of God. His prayer is an example, and a challenge to me. But I’m not sure I like him.

Verse 20:19 seals the deal for me when Hezekiah said all he cared about was his own comfort and safety. Too bad about his kids.

But I’m reminded he isn’t the only one looking out for #1, or living for the moment. I’ve been guilty of that, too. And you know what? I’m not sure I like me either, during those times.

If I’m not concerned about what life will be like when the babies in my family are grown, or if I have no passion for the kids in my church or neighborhood, or the dear ones in the school down the street, what does that say about me? I might as well pull the covers over my head and eat bonbons all day, get fat on my blessings, and die.

Because I certainly am not serving God unless I’m working toward making the world more Christlike by actively inviting people to know the Savior. I don’t have to be good with kids, teach a Sunday School for first graders, or even volunteer at the schools. But I can pray. I can support Bible-based children’s ministries, I can encourage parents, teachers, and caregivers in the name of Jesus. I can be an example of someone who is devoted to Jesus and interested in the souls of the next generation.

Do you know the percentage of people who give their hearts to the Lord as adults compared to that of children? It’s shocking. Someone recently showed me a statistic that said 2/3 of Christians say they accepted Jesus as a child. Children need to hear about Jesus and be given the opportunity to surrender to Him while they are young. I am not saying reaching out to adults isn’t important. It is. God is not willing ANY should die without Him. But let’s not neglect the next generation while reaching out to the present one.

I do not want to entertain the same attitude Hezekiah had. I’m not ok thinking the children alive today may have to face persecution and suffer for the Name. I’m not ok thinking the Gospel may not be recognizable in years to come. Yes, I most likely will be gone.

But can I be ok knowing that young people around me might have to live through God’s judgment for my decisions? Or that the same young people might become so hardened to the Truth that they never receive God’s grace?

We all have a responsibility in reaching children for Christ who will reach children for Christ for generations to come.

(Leviticus 6-14) Speading Disease

If you think this is about COVID, you would be wrong.

God, through Moses, refers often to a place “outside the camp.” It was where the unclean parts of a sacrificed animal were burned, where unclean stones and plaster were thrown, and to where unclean people were banished.

We who live after the cross see thy symbolism as Jesus was crucified outside the city when our sins rendered Him who knew no sin, unclean.

But something else spoke to me today about these chapters. I, as a Christian, am commanded to be holy because God, whom I represent, is holy. That means I need to remove everything from my life that isn’t holy, and throw it away, burn it up, and never revisit it – ever.

My problem is I try to hold on to a bit of sin. Or I confess it, but don’t really repent of it. It might be an impure thought, a feeling of unforgiveness or resentment or hate, a habit, laziness, and sometimes flat-out disobedience. The list goes on. All of which prevents me from holiness and purity. Yet holiness and purity are God’s requirements.

I see, through the picture Moses paints here in Leviticus concerning disease and mold, the result of my disobedience. Even if I put on a hat to disguise my disease, or a coat of paint on a wall to cover up mold, it doesn’t render me clean. If I put a smile on my face and carry my Bible, it doesn’t cover up the fact my heart is diseased, unclean. And my infection can and does spread to others. I can call my sin a mistake, a choice, an accident, or convince myself it’s no big deal, but my unclean life touches the lives of others in my home, my church, my community, and I become responsible for my sin disease spreading to them.

It also reminds me of what is happening in God’s Church. We’ve convinced ourselves that sinners in our midst is a good thing. We should welcome them, embrace them, make them a part of our fellowships. But God, here in Leviticus, tells us to banish the diseased person to outside the camp until – not before -they are clean.

Sounds cruel. Sounds un-Christian. But the fact of the matter is, their disease can and does spread within the church. Their disease of sin can and does spread to holy people, who then themselves become unholy. It has nothing to do with loving or not loving our neighbor. It has everything to do with keeping the Church holy, protecting the holiness and purity God demands of us.

The Church is not pure, we are not holy as long as we tolerate unrepentant sinners in our midst. Should we be inviting our unsaved friends to church? Not if we want to keep God’s Church holy.

Jesus said, “Come to me…” He didn’t say come to the synagogue. He didn’t say come to church. Jesus told us to GO, make disciples. He didn’t say sit back and invite them into His House, hoping our holiness will rub off on them and make them clean. It doesn’t work that way.

We need to get off our couches and get out into our neighborhoods and introduce unsaved, unclean people to their Savior. Then, and not before, we should welcome them into our midst to worship God with clean hearts. God does not accept worship any other way.

Unrepentant hearts cannot worship God. And that bit of disease in our churches can and does spread. Don’t think it doesn’t.

(Genesis 20-25) Not Harsh Enough

We question Sarah’s treatment of Hagar and think she was too harsh when she sent Hagar and Ishmael away. We see Abraham having other children after Sarah died, and he sent those children away as well. What’s up with that?

Sarah’s words spoke to me today:

Drive out the slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a coheir with my son Isaac. (21:10)

Are we that protective of that which we hold dear, of the very promise of God?

I believe the Church has become a wishy-washy, bleeding hearts club where we are so concerned about offending, we’ve allowed anything and anyone into our midst. In fact, we have the idea we need to be inviting non-believers into our fellowship. We’ve been told to think we will rub off on them, but I wonder if the opposite isn’t true.

We’ve fashioned our worship service so it’s attractive to non-believers. We’ve watered down our sermons so as not to step on toes of non-believers, because we don’t want them to stop attending and giving to our worthless ministry.

Yes, worthless.

Because the Bible is clear. The purity of the Truth, the Gospel of Jesus and the Holiness of God must be protected. There are no co-heirs with God’s Promise. The Church must drive out any hint of compromise or threat of compromise in order to retain its purity.

You might think that’s harsh. I think it’s not harsh enough.

Last Days (2 Timothy)

Paul’s words to Timothy are still words to live by in 2020. There is no doubt we are in the “last days.” Paul told Timothy he was living in the last days, and we are 2000 years closer to the end than Timothy was.

The following verses describe life in Paul’s day. I believe he is describing 2020, too:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (3:2-5)

Sound familiar? I bet you saw most of those behaviors on the news last night. Maybe in your own family. Maybe when you look in the mirror.

Oh, there’s more:

(They are) always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (Verse 7)

It reminds me of the present day “Woke” movement. It reminds me of modern academia, our “cancel culture,” Bethel worship.

Here’s the thing. We can shake our heads, point fingers, even pray for Jesus’ quick return because things are so bad. Or we can do what Paul told Timothy to do:

I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (4:1b-2)

Paul goes on to tell Timothy and us that eventually people will not put up with sound doctrine. And the movement will be huge.

But, dear one, it’s not enough to recognize our circumstances in God’s Word, in verses such as these that Paul wrote Timothy. Recognizing that our world is in serious trouble is important in so far as it motivates us to share Jesus with lost souls. If it is true that Jesus’ return is around the corner, then the window of opportunity for people to be saved is closing. Does that bother you?

Paul encourages us to be in the Word, but then to use what we’ve learned to evangelize:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16)

Do you believe we are in the last days? Then God is asking us to patiently correct, rebuke, encourage each other. We need to be training people in righteousness, not just right living. People need to know Jesus and accept His righteousness.

We are celebrating the birth of Jesus this week. What better time to start a conversation with our unsaved loved ones about what that birth means. Jesus was born to die for them!

These are no doubt the “last days.” What are you and I doing about that?

Our Conduct (Philippians)

I imagine we all can agree our world is changing. People live in constant fear. Tempers flair. Families are forced apart by government and even by political opinion. The US is imploding. It looks like we are on the brink of defeat, not from some outside military force, but from within ourselves.

Then I hear God say through Paul:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (1:27)

What does that mean? How are we who know the Savior supposed to conduct ourselves during these uncertain times? I want to share with you some verses Mom underlined in her Bible here in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It pretty much answers those questions.

2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.

So, does this mean we wear masks? Maybe. Do we speak truth instead of promoting hysteria? Probably. But I think more importantly this tells us that we should not merely be satisfied with our own ticket to heaven. I honestly think God is more interested in whether or not we share the Gospel, than whether or not we wear a mask. I think it’s more likely that God is telling us to reach out to lost people, even if it means we’ll be rejected, made fun of, mistreated, or worse. Telling people about Jesus isn’t always convenient. We should do it anyway.

2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Read verses 6-11 if you want to know more about that. Having a humble, servant’s attitude is so contrary to today’s Me First society. Yet that is what God requires of His children.

2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Just don’t miss the word, “everything.”

3:1 …rejoice in the Lord!

We can get so caught up in the climate of fear and anxiety we miss the real joy that comes from a relationship with God Himself. Our circumstances might not give us reason for joy. But the Lord does! Rejoice in the Lord!

3:13-14 …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.

Forget the past. Don’t hold grudges or try to even the score. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus. Focus. Focus. Press on by being that humble, obedient servant God intends for you to be. Jesus is ahead! Keep moving toward Him.

4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all.

Sadly, some people equate gentleness with weakness. There is a difference. Be strong in the Lord while you show love to one another. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Share Jesus with kindness and firmness. I’m pretty sure few people are saved by someone thumping them on the head with a Bible.

4:6 Do not be anxious about anything.

Yes, not even COVID. Not even socialism or communism or China or the stock market. Anything means anything. Do not allow anxiety to possess you.

Paul goes on to tell us:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:7)

Does the world witness the peace of God in you? Or are you wringing your hands like those who have no hope? God is telling us we can have His peace. Do you trust Him? Prove it.

Most of us Christians would say that our desire is to be the people God wants us to be. Most of us want to by used by God to win people to His saving grace. Most of us, I would think, want to live lives worthy of the precious Gospel we received through faith in Jesus.

Living that life isn’t easy nor convenient. Sometimes we get it right, other times we fail miserably. But Paul reminds us:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (4:13)

You can live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. You can do it all through your relationship with Him!

Then…

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Conduct worthy of the Gospel might not be easy or politically correct. But it comes with benefits, my friend. It comes with all the glorious riches in Jesus!

Doesn’t get better than that.

Wisdom and Understanding (Colossians)

In these days when lies are declared truth, and madness applauded as sanity, we need to be reminded of a few things.

Paul said:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (2:2-4)

I, too, want to encourage you in heart and unite with you in love so that we can have complete understanding. I pray that we will know the mystery of God – Jesus! Because only in Jesus will we discover real wisdom and understanding.

And I, with Paul, want us to be grounded in the truth which is Jesus, so that we’ll recognize – and reject – the deceptive arguments being touted by the world’s authorities today. They not only speak lies, but they would make us feel guilty, intolerant, bigoted, selfish, and deplorable if we dare not go along with them in their lies. Can you see it?

Paul tells us who have received Christ as Savior to:

,,,continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (2:6-7)

We have to grow our roots deep in Him! We need to read His Word, spend time in prayer, intentionally walk with Him every moment of the day. We need to believe and hold on to what He has revealed to us in Scripture.

Then listen to this word of warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (2:8)

Who are you listening to?

Paul goes on. We need to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (3:12-14)

We Christians should not be fighting amongst ourselves over petty grievances. The world needs to see what a difference Jesus makes in our lives. They don’t need to see us acting like them, or in some cases, worse than them!

Now why is this so important? Is it so you and I can get our ticket to heaven? Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (4:2)

What should we watch for? What do we have to be thankful for?

that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ... loudly and clearly! (from 4:2-4)

Paul encourages us to make the most out of every opportunity that comes our way to share Jesus with someone who is lost. Jesus is a mystery to those who don’t know Him. It’s up to us to help them solve the mystery by introducing them to the Savior.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (4:6)

People are believing the lies. Even some who call themselves Christians are falling for it. “A man is not a male unless he feels like a male.” “You can’t help who you love.” “Life begins with birth so that which is in the womb is not life.” “A woman should have say over what she does with her body.” “Truth is subjective.” “Faith is a crutch.” “All roads lead to heaven.” “God is love so He accepts everyone.”

LIES! But they are lies that have become a false truth to many. And woe to you who don’t agree with them.

I hope you’ll read Paul’s letter to the Colossians today. There is so much in here for us Christians in 2020. Let’s know what God has revealed in His Word, and let’s stand firm on that foundation. Let’s proclaim the Truth of Jesus loudly and clearly, and let’s never miss an opportunity to introduce a lost soul to their Savior.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (3:17)

Shouldn’t We All? (Acts 18)

I know we Christians believe in Jesus. We have faith that He is God, that He died on the cross as a substitution for us, taking on the penalty for our sin. We believe that He rose again and lives today. We believe that the Bible is true, and God is who He says He claims to be.

But are we ready to give an answer for the hope we have, in the faith we possess? Do we know WHY we believe, and can we defend what we know against someone who believes differently?

When Apollos went to Achaia, “he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (18:18, emphasis mine)

Shouldn’t we all be able to do the same?

Church (Acts 3)

That early Church is a model I think the Church in 2020 needs to revisit. Let’s see what the Church looked liked after Pentecost:

  1. They devoted themselves to studying God’s Word. They didn’t do book studies or use Bible helps. They devoted themselves to Scripture. Today we use videos and music, programs which are viewed as important as God’s Word, and sometimes more important. I remember disagreeing with a pastor of mine concerning his focus on the kind of music we were singing. I felt his focus was in the wrong place. His words, said with smirk, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think preaching is the most important part of a worship service.” I think the early Church thought that was the case, according to this chapter in Acts.
  2. They fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together. We Baptists are famous for our pot-luck dinner. But that’s been stopped in 2020. Have we lost an important aspect of being God’s Church?
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer. I learned to pray as a teenager by attending Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I started out with sentence prayers, then felt more comfortable praying aloud. Today, I doubt there are many teenagers attending prayer meetings. My own church schedules Youth Group during our prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t fun. Most churches don’t even offer them any more. I know there are prayer warriors among us. But would you say the Church is devoted to prayer in 2020? They were in the early Church.
  4. They were filled with awe. They saw answers to their prayers. I don’t think the emphasis here is on the miracles the early church saw. I think the emphasis is on the awe they had for God Himself. Yes they were no doubt in awe of the miracles, answered prayer, changed lives. But I wonder if we have lost our awe of God and replaced it with a friendship? Have we become so familiar with God we’ve ceased to bow before His holiness? When was the last time we have stood in awe of WHO God is, and not just because of what He does?
  5. They were together, like minded, and they cared for the physical needs of each other. Today’s Church is often involved in good causes outside the local church, while some of our own number are hurting. That’s not the example of the early Church. Yes, we are called to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, but not before we take care of those closest to home.
  6. They met together as a group of believers every day. Some people today find it hard to get to church for an hour a week, and woe to the preacher who preaches past that hour. We’ve eliminated Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, and offer online and alternative meeting times to make it “convenient” for people to go to church. People stay home and allow their kids to stay home if the service isn’t entertaining enough, or the music not rocking enough. Is that what we see here in the early Church?
  7. They were friends outside of the four walls of the local church. Here’s why that is important:
  8. They enjoyed the favor of all the people, not just church-goers. They took their love of God and love for each other into the community and demonstrated Christian relationships and joy. The result?:
  9. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! The example presented by those early believers drew lost people to God.

That early Church was the Church within the walls of their meeting places, and outside them. They were devoted to God and obedient to His will. They worked together, worshiped together, grew together, and people noticed.

Makes me wonder what people are noticing about the Church in 2020.

Are You Listening? (Luke 8)

The parable of the Sower has something to say to all of here in 2020. Jesus says good seed was planted, and there were four results from the planting:

  1. Some seed fell along the path and were trampled, then eaten by birds.
  2. Some fell on rocky soil and didn’t take root.
  3. Some fell among weeds that choked the growth out of them.
  4. Some fell on good soil and yielded a harvest.

I have heard this passage interpreted to show how sinners receive the Gospel message. Some pay no attention, some hear it but don’t receive it, some allow the Gospel to take root but then the trials of life and the lust of the world smother it, but some receive the precious Gospel of Jesus with gladness and grow to maturity in the Truth.

I certainly can’t argue with that interpretation. And all of us, whether believers in Jesus or not, have or do fall into one of those categories.

But Jesus is talking to His disciples, His followers here in Luke 8 and, as always, I try not to apply God’s Word merely to any “them.” What does this parable have to do with my walk with Jesus today?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (verse 12)

Jesus said these words to His disciples after sharing the parable of the sower, and the parable of the lamp stand. Be careful how you listen, He warns.

Every time I open my Bible or hear a sermon preached or lesson taught, there will be a response similar to one of the “seeds” in Jesus’ parable. Think about it:

  1. Maybe I don’t like the preacher or the tone of voice of my teacher. Maybe when I open my Bible I am distracted by the TV or by thoughts about my plans for the day. I hear or read the words, but they fall on deaf ears. The devil comes and takes away the word from my heart. That is a sobering thought.
  2. Maybe I really do listen to the message and/or lesson and may even squeak out an “amen” if I agree with something that is being said. But I walk out the doors of the church and promptly forget. I go about my life as though I never heard the Truth at all. Maybe I read my obligatory Bible verses in the morning and, although I read every word, my mind is elsewhere and I get to the end of my “quiet time” without allowing it to take root. Jesus said that when the trials of life come, there is a danger that I could fall away. Another sobering thought.
  3. Maybe I’m trying to balance my love of God with my love of the world. I go to church, maybe serve on committees and sing in the choir. But I surround myself with ungodly people the other six days of the week, I blend in, compromise, compartmentalize my life into the church me and the worldly me. My “quiet time” takes a back seat to the busy-ness of my day. I read my Bible and listen to the lessons, but all of that has to fit into an already cluttered heart. Jesus said I’ll never mature if that’s the case. Is it possible to be comfortable among the weeds? Yet another sobering thought.
  4. Or maybe I’m that fourth seed. I listen AND obey. I dig my roots deep into Scripture, I trust the Gardner to water and nourish my soul, and I use what I learn to get out there and share Jesus with people in my world.

I have to ask myself if I am growing every day or am I stunted, ineffective, allowing Satan to steal what is mine? Do I hunger to know more about God, eager to grow and learn and be strengthened by the Truth of Scripture? Do I take it in and allow it establish root to become a fruitful disciple of my Lord?

Every time I hear a sermon, every time I read God’s Word, there will be a response by me. God is challenging me to be careful how I listen.