Tag Archives: witnessing

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.

Finger Pointing (Luke 11)

Jesus was invited to dine in the home one of the Pharisees. It appears the man had also invited some of his colleagues because Jesus began addressing them. Jesus told the Pharisees they were hypocrites, that they were all show, like unmarked graves people trample over without even knowing they were there. I don’t think Jesus would get the World’s Best Dinner Guest Award. However, He wasn’t there to win friends. He was there to win souls.

Now here’s the part that makes me laugh: Another guest identified only as a teacher of the law addresses Jesus. I would imagine Jesus’ remarks to the Pharisees had to make for a very uncomfortable situation for everyone present at that dinner. I picture the teacher of the law sitting near enough to Jesus to be able to lean over and whisper in Jesus’ ear. Maybe the teacher patted Jesus on the back and winked at Him like a friend sharing a private joke.

The teacher said, “You know, Jesus, and I’m sure you don’t mean to, but when you are talking like that to the Pharisees – not that they don’t deserve it (wink, wink) – you’re kind of hurting our feelings, too.”

Now this what makes me laugh out loud: Jesus, after hearing this gentle hint, turns to the teachers of the law and instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sorry guys. I didn’t mean to offend,” He says “Woe to you!” Jesus then proceeds to reveal their sins, too.

I find it funny. And serious. That’s why I try not to read about “them” in Scripture. It’s tempting to read about the Jews, or the Pharisees, or the teachers of the law and overlook the fact God has something to say to me, too. When I read about the Pharisees being like cups that are clean on the outside and filthy on the inside, I want to check my own heart’s condition, my own witness. When Jesus accuses the teachers of the law of hindering people from knowing the truth, I have to ask myself if I am guilty, too.

I will read Scripture for what it is: profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in right living so that I will be fully equipped to be the woman God wants me to be to share Him with a world that needs Him.

You’ve heard it said that when you point to someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. I think we need to pay attention to the fingers pointing to us every time we spend time in God’s Word.

Let’s Do This (Luke 1; John 1:1-18)

The man we know as John the Baptist had a purpose even before he was born; before he was even conceived. His whole life would be about pointing people to Jesus. He alerted his mother when he was still in her womb, and pointed her to Jesus. John was a faithful witness his whole life. I want to be that, too.

As I begin reading the New Testament through the rest of 2020, I will rejoice! The Old Testament, as rich and meaningful as it is, and as much as I love reading about the history of God in Israel, is about the Law. The Apostle John says:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus. (John 1:17)

It’s like I’ve spent the past nine months with John the Baptist, getting ready to meet the Messiah. I’m excited. Are you ready to meet Jesus through the pages of Scripture written by people who actually walked with Him in the flesh?

Let’s do this!

Despite Their Fear (Ezra 1-3)

Have you ever considered the possibility that we in the US have become a nation of whiney, angry victims? We’ve become reactionaries, emotional cripples, entitled, tantrum-throwing thugs. And a world that once envied and admired us, now looks at us as people to be pitied, or at least as the biggest joke ever.

It’s hard to take a stand for the Truth when that stand could offend someone who lashes out verbally, or even physically. People have been killed for wearing a hat someone didn’t like. To disagree is to invite violence.

So what are we to do? The Truth we as Christians possess is an offensive message. If we are to share the Gospel, we are to show people their need of a Savior, point out sin in their lives, help them realize they are without hope unless they conform to the demands of God.

Them’s fighting words.

Some people, in light of the present climate, seem to think silence is the answer. Keep your faith to yourself, let others believe what they want to believe, stay under the radar. Other people appear to be going along with the crowd rather than ruffle feathers; be tolerant, be loving, be accepting of all beliefs, don’t offend by calling things like abortion or homosexuality sin.

But what does God want us to do? Jesus Himself warned that we would be hated for following Him, and reminded us that they hated Him first. Jesus didn’t tell us to change the message, or to keep the message to ourselves.

GO!

Make disciples.

The Jews had been commissioned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The only ones glad about that, however, were the Jews. The opposition tried to discourage, threaten, and intimidate the Jews out of completing their mission. But look at what God tells us in Ezra 3:3,

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The Jews didn’t fight back. They didn’t get into Tweet wars. They simply carried on with what they knew they were to do – and they did it openly and honestly. I think God would have us do the same.

Christian, let’s continue to build God’s Church by revealing God to those around us, by sharing the Gospel no matter how afraid we are that it will offend. Let’s continue to worship God in spirit and truth, and to love our neighbors enough to talk about the hard things.

Despite our fears.

Understanding (Daniel 10-12)

Daniel was sad about the state of Israel. God had revealed to him that the day of judgment was imminent. After fasting from choice food for three weeks, the prophet stood at the riverbank. It was there he received his final vision.

The angel said something to Daniel that spoke to me today:

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (10:12)

Isn’t that amazing? God hears our prayers for understanding, then helps us understand. I see that same encouragement throughout Scripture. If we seek God, we will find Him.

…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:2-5)

Think over what I say for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7)

I think we should start out every morning humbling ourselves and confessing to God that we don’t understand everything. We don’t understand His mind or His ways. We don’t understand His plan for us. But we’d like to. So we set our minds to understand.

We read our Bibles to get to know God’s heart. We pray to bare our souls, to repent, to draw near to God. And when we do, God gives us the understanding we seek, and He wants us to have.

Why? Why is it important to God that we understand? Look at how the book of Daniel ends:

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. (12:13)

God wants us to have an understanding so that we can take it and use it to reveal God to a world that needs Him. We don’t gain understanding just so we know more facts than the next guy. We don’t study to show ourselves superior to others.

We gain an understanding for the purpose of sharing it, going about our way, making disciples until this life is over.

Do you understand Scripture? There’s more for you to understand.

Do you feel you can’t understand Scripture? That’s a lie from the enemy. Ask God for understanding. Ready your heart. Draw near to Him. Humbly repent of sin. Then know He hears you, and will be right there to give you understanding in response to your prayers.

Then may we all share what we know is true according to Scripture as God gives us understanding. Let’s be workmen who have no reason to be ashamed because we are rightly understanding God’s Word and sharing it with those who are lost without Him.

May our God-given understanding result in changed hearts for Jesus’ sake.

A Sign (Ezekiel 12)

The heading my NIV has given chapter 12 is “The Exile Symbolized.” God told Ezekiel to pack a travel bag during the daytime, and in front of the people, as though he was packing for exile. In the evening, again in front of the people, he was to dig a hole in the city wall with his bare hands, then take his travel bag and crawl through the hole to the other side.

Next, he was to strap his travel bag over his shoulder at dusk, and put a blindfold on so he couldn’t see. When asked by the people what he was doing, he was to answer, “I am a sign to you.”

The object lesson was not done. God told Ezekiel to “tremble” as he ate, to “shudder in fear” as he drank water, and warn the people they were going to live in fear and anxiety. “Then,” he said speaking God’s words, “you will know that I am the Lord.” (vs20b)

Makes me wonder what kind of “sign” I am to the people around me. The people watched Ezekiel, and people are watching me. Ezekiel’s actions revealed a God who judges sin, a God who demands obedience and harshly punishes disobedience. Is that the message people get from my life?

Or do they see a God who laughs at sin, a God who is more interested in my bank account and my physical comfort than my spiritual health and eternal soul? Does my life seem to draw a picture of a God who is comfortable on a shelf, or worse, irrelevant, outdated, and invisible? I pray that they recognize a God who is active in my life, directing my life, blessing me and growing me.

God was demonstrating through Ezekiel that there is a limit to His patience, that judgment follows disobedience, and the consequences for rejecting God are serious. I think He wants to demonstrate the same through me. Because if people don’t come to Him through His Son, their consequences are going to be worse than exile in Babylon for a few years.

I not only want people to recognize that God is serious about sin when they observe my life, I want them to see that God is merciful, forgiving, gracious, and good. I want them to see that following God is so much better than navigating this life without Him. I want them to look at me and want what I have in my relationship with Him.

God gave a sign to the Israelites through Ezekiel that warned them about their upcoming exile due to their rejection of God. I pray God will use me as a sign to people to warn them about what lies ahead as a result of their choices, too. But I pray He will give me the privilege of being an object lesson about what “saved by grace” looks like in real time.

May Jesus be seen in me, and may people be drawn to the Savior as a result.

God Has Our Backs (Ezekiel 1-4)

Ezekiel had a call on his life. God wanted him to speak Truth in a time when the Israelites had rejected the Truth. I believe we, as people who know the God of Truth, have the same calling on our lives. Here is what encouraged me today:

2:1-2 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” (emphasis mine)

God didn’t tell Ezekiel to get up, then sit back and watch Ezekiel struggle to stand. God gave him an order, then enabled Ezekiel to obey. Then when Ezekiel was on his feet, he was able to hear God speak. God was in this with Ezekiel, not an observer but an active participant in the calling on Ezekiel’s life.

3:1-2 Again he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.” (emphasis mine)

Again God gives an order, then gives Ezekiel what he needs to obey the order. Ezekiel didn’t have to go searching for the scroll. He didn’t have to write his own scroll. God gave the scroll to Ezekiel.

After Ezekiel had ingested the scroll God told him to go to the Israelites and “speak my words to them.” I am reminded that God has given us His Words in the pages of Scripture and tells us to do the same: Speak God’s Words to our world. But first we must ingest His Words just like Ezekiel did. How much time do we spend in God’s Word every day? Have we devoured it, tasted it, ingested it so that it becomes a part of us? God has given us His Word, like he gave Ezekiel the scroll, and with it the command to tell others what His Word says.

Yes, Ezekiel was commanded to go to people and tell them about God. But never forget God gave Ezekiel the words.

3:10-12,14 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” Then the Spirit lifted me up…The Spirit then lifted me up and took me way…” (emphasis mine)

Once Ezekiel had ingested the Words of God, God told Him to take it to his countryman and tell them the words Ezekiel had taken to heart, the words of God. But again, Ezekiel didn’t have to find his own way. God lifted him up and took him to the exact spot where the exiles lived.

We are called to go and make disciples, to be a light in the darkness, to speak Truth, to be prepared to give an answer for our hope in the Lord. But it is getting increasingly difficult to do.

We know people are being attacked verbally and physically, some are dying for offending someone, or disagreeing with someone, or speaking Truth when the lies are becoming accepted as truth.

But Ezekiel’s experience encourages me. I only need to be obedient. God will take it from there. He will give me the words to speak, open doors and put me in the middle of people who need Him. He will raise me up and be everything He needs me to be in order to be obedient.

I am reminded of Isaiah 30:21 which says:

Whether you go to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

That voice behind you is God. He’s got your back.

We have a calling. It’s not a popular calling. Our message might be rejected. But take heart, dear one. If we obey what God commands, He will raise us up, give us the words, and show us the way.

Be encouraged today.

Becoming Me (Jeremiah 18-22)

I’ve never tried to use a potter’s wheel. It must take practice to know the exact touch, the right pressure to use to turn a lump of damp clay into a beautiful and useful vessel. The potter’s hands touch every fraction of an inch inside and out, as the pliable clay is molded into the finished product. If the clay begins to harden, the potter adds just enough water to make the clay soft and pliable again, so that he can continue to fashion something beautiful. He works, and re-works the clay until it is exactly the way He intends it to be.

The potter’s wheel is one picture of our relationship to God. The clay has no say, no control, no opinion. It is totally at the mercy of the potter.

That’s right where I want to be. I want to be molded and fashioned after God’s will, and if I begin to try to take control of my life, or if I start to become hardened to sin in my life, I want the Potter to intervene, to soften me so that He can continue to work His magic in my life.

I love the analogy of clay in the potter’s hand. But I also love the picture of being that vessel God can use. In Scripture we see examples of empty pots being filled by God, as in Elisha and the widow, and Jesus at the wedding. We see pots that are clean on the outside, but filthy inside as in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. We see a woman at a well ready to fill her pot with water when Jesus offers her Living Water. We see a broken pot no one wants, here in 22:28.

Today, I want to be both pliable clay in the hands of the Potter, and an empty vessel that only wants to be filled by God Himself. I want Him to mold, push and pull me and never stop until I meet Him face to face. I want to be that vessel filled to overflowing by the Holy Spirit so that I, like Jeremiah will be compelled to speak of God every chance I get.

Jeremiah said this:

But if I say, “I will not mention (God) or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” (20:9)

I want to be a vessel not satisfied with keeping God to myself, but one used for exactly the reason I was created: to know God AND to make Him known.

As old as I am, I am still becoming me. And honestly, I don’t want the responsibility. I’ve never heard of a lump of clay creating a pot of itself, anyway. I want to put my self in the hands of the Potter, and trust Him to create a beautiful vessel He can use for His Name.

There is an old hymn that keeps running through my mind this morning. The first verse speaks about me being the clay, the last verse about being that vessel. I want to leave you with these beautiful words:

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD: by Adelaide Pollard

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay!
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

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.