Tag Archives: sharing the Gospel

Isaiah 54-59; The Truth Hurts

Before we get into these chapters in Isaiah, I want to share a few other verses with you.

Hebrews 4:12 –  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thought and attitude of the heart.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

James 1:17 and I John 1:5 are only two of many verses in the Bible that tell us that God never changes. Yesterday, today, and forever He is the same.

With that being said, I believe there is something vital for us in 2018 in the living words this unchanging God inspired men to put to paper thousands of years ago. So, dear Christian, have a seat. God’s got something to say to us today through his servant Isaiah. And it might hurt.

Read chapter 57 and see if you don’t think life in the USA in 2018 sounds very much like Israel in Isaiah’s day. I hear God say, “How dare you! Who do you think you are to do what you want, think what you want, believe what you want, then expect Me to be your servant. Ain’t gonna happen.”

Isaiah 58:4b says:

You cannot fast as you do today, and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Dear one, He’s talking to His children. He’s talking to you and me.

I often hear Christians lamenting over the state of the world, but I hear God say we need to clean up our own individual acts, and let the state of the world up to Him. Sometimes, when people observe how bad things are they seem to sit back and say, “Oh well. God told us this was going to happen.”

He did tell us what will happen, but He didn’t say it had to happen in 2018!

58:9 is one of many verses in the Bible with messages like this:

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer, you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I.

He goes on to tell us to get right with Him, then get out there and do what He’s told us to do, go and make disciples. He’ll guide us. He’ll give us what we need to get the job done. We’ll produce fruit which is what He planned for us to do all along.

Do not… I repeat: DO NOT throw your hands up in defeat because you think the world is too far gone. This same unchanging God is still not willing that any should perish. That includes your neighbor. YOUR neighbor. MY neighbor.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save. (59:1)

Do you believe that? Then get off the couch and get out there. Greater is He in you than that liar who is in the world. Let’s examine ourselves, confess sin, stand for the truth of Scripture, and be the Church God needs us to be to keep this thing going. We can’t honor God if we give up.

Father, I am convicted. I can get pretty discouraged reading the paper, and hearing how the insanity of the world is becoming truth for way too many people. But I am reminded that my mission field is here on this island where I live. It’s the people on this street, in the grocery, or as I walk on the beach. You’ve asked me to be faithful, but sometimes I think what little impact I actually have. Forgive me if I convince myself it’s not worth it, or not important. You promise that when your people call on You, and ask for Your help to accomplish Your will, You are right there. God, I’m asking.

 

 

 

 

 

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Isaiah 5-7; My Vineyard

Did you read these chapters and see what God has to say to you today about your walk with Him? I did. When I read chapters 5-7 I realized I am the vineyard Isaiah is talking about. As a Jesus follower, God established me on rich, fertile ground. He did all the work to clear that land when Jesus died on the cross.

What He offers me is pure, perfect, and prepared in advance for me to produce good fruit. (Ephesians 2:10) He gifted me with abilities to serve Him. He built a hedge of protection around me to guard my heart. He is the watchman who protects me from Satan’s arrows. He gave me everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then God turns over the vineyard to me, and waits for me to start producing good fruit. After all, He did all the hard work to get it ready for me so that I can go and make disciples, so that I can be a light to the world, so that I can share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls. The potential is endless!

But it didn’t take long for me to feel the sting of conviction today. Verse 2b: but it (me) yielded only bad fruit.

Then God asks, What more could I have done? The answer sadly is, Nothing.

Verses 4-7 are sobering when you consider yourself as the vineyard who isn’t producing fruit. God won’t stay where He’s not wanted.

I hope you read the “Woe to’s” in chapter 5 and let God speak to you about choices you make, attitudes you have, whether you tolerate sin in yourself and ignore it in others, whether or not you think you have all the answers apart from God.

When Isaiah came face to face with Jesus he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips…”

Now I don’t know what kinds of problems Isaiah had with what came out of his mouth, but this is what spoke to me this morning. Look at 8:6-7. When Isaiah confessed his sin of speech, God sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips! God met Isaiah at the point of his need. Isaiah confessed a sin. God forgave that sin.

Another thing I see is, that cleansing hurt. Most of the time, it takes a broken heart to repent, turning from sin is not always easy. Sometimes it really does hurt to admit you’ve sinned, to humble yourself, to accept grace. And sometimes separating yourself from that sin means giving up some things and people you really like. Ouch.

I think God wants us to know that as we read His Word, asking Him to speak to us about our walk with Him, He’ll point out sin. He’ll reveal things to us about our hearts’ condition before Him. He’ll talk to us about our vineyard.

Don’t forget this: If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! (I John 1:9)

Every. Time.

So, read God Word and allow Him to put a finger on the problem. Confess. Repent. Allow Him to cleanse you. Then go back to the vineyard and get to work. Turn that precious property into something beautiful, and useful in God’s kingdom.

Isn’t God’s Word amazingly personal and relevant? I love it!

I Chronicles 14-16; The Things We Do For God

David was a man of action. Through his story, we can see that when he was obedient to God his actions were blessed. When David got ahead of God, or disobeyed Him, we see God remove Himself from the situation. There are no blessings there.

I appreciated Warren Wiersbe’s insight on the subject. (With The Word; Thomas Nelson 1991) I’m using his outline from chapter 15 as I share what God has laid on my heart today.

David had gotten excited about returning the ark of God to Jerusalem. He planned a big celebration, including a parade. He got a brand new cart to act as a parade float, and placed the ark up there for all to see. He assembled the band, and headed out with great fanfare (chapter 13).

But David learned doing things his way, even though he meant well, ends in disaster.

So now in chapter 15, David is determined to let God call the shots. “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God…” because those are God’s rules. There was still a joyful parade, but they had inquired of God first, and God blessed their work. Wiersbe reminds us to “Do God’s Work Biblically.” Sometimes it seems we in 2017 are more concerned about being politically correct than biblically correct. David would tell us that is a recipe for disaster.

Wiersbe also encourages us to “Do God’s Work Joyfully.” 15:16 says “David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps, and cymbals.” Who doesn’t love a parade?

Does what you are doing in God’s name bring you joy? Or is it a burden, done with a hint of resentment? If we are privileged to do the work for our great God, shouldn’t there be joy in the doing? If there isn’t, perhaps you are undertaking  a job meant for someone else. Your joy in the doing might be found in a different task. God loves a cheerful giver, of our money and our time.

Wiersbe looks at verses 25-26 and tell us to “Do God’s Work Sacrificially.” Seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed during the procession, which probably means the parade took a few steps, then stopped so a sacrifice could be offered. Not exactly convenient if you were a cymbal player wanting to get home in time to see the first pitch of the big game on TV.

Let’s face it, doing God’s work often takes sacrifice, and not just monetarily. I am reminded God’s work required the ultimate sacrifice for my Savior. I think I can afford to miss the first pitch or the whole game if there is something I can be doing for God, and do it without regret.

Dr. Wiersbe points out that we are to “Do God’s Will Fervently.” David and the people held nothing back, were not distracted, and did not care what others thought. They were focused on God, plus nothing. And they didn’t stop until that ark was safely home, work completed.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We’ve got things to do for God; to share the Gospel, to represent Him to lost souls, to care for the needy, to love our neighbors. The list goes on.

Let’s go about our tasks biblically, joyfully, sacrificially, and fervently for Jesus’ sake and for His glory!

Numbers 25-27; Leading By Example

When Moses found out he was about to die, he prayed that God would raise up a man to take his place. I was struck today about how he prayed:

Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (27:15-17)

Moses knew that, left to their own devices, the Jews would go astray like sheep without a shepherd. He prayed two things about the one who would come after him. And I can’t help but think we should be praying the same thing for our own leaders, those dear ones who accept the responsibility as pastors of our church fellowships.

  1. Moses prayed that his successor would “go out and come in before them.” This seems to be speaking of the kind of example our leaders should present. Does your pastor (or do you if you are a pastor) demonstrate how to share the Gospel, and not just talk about it on Sunday mornings? Is he (or she) a presence in your community, does he talk about Jesus over coffee at McDonalds? Are people coming to your church on Sunday because of the contact your pastor has made? I knew a pastor one time who said that visitation wasn’t his gift. I’m sorry, but I question his calling. I don’t think a pastor should be making excuses for not “going out and coming in” before the people he is called to shepherd. We sheep learn by example. Moses knew that, and he prayed for a leader that would be that example.
  2. Now before you get too hard on your pastor for not being the perfect example, Moses didn’t let us off the hook. He prayed that his successor would “lead THEM out and bring them in” as well. I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t just speaking to preachers when He commanded that we get out there and make disciples. We aren’t to sit comfortably in our sheep pen while the shepherd is out there knocking on doors. We are all to be sharing our faith, calling on people God puts on our hearts, striking up conversation with people in the grocery line if God prompts us to do that. Are people coming to church because you have made the effort to invite them? It’s not just the pastor’s job to share the Gospel.

But it is his job. I will say that both of my pastors, the one in my Ohio church and the one here in Georgia, are men who are leading by this example. Going to school board meetings, or Rotary Club, or striking up a conversation with the waiter who brings coffee, or helping a neighbor pull weeds, finding opportunities to share Jesus… and taking those opportunities, these dear men aren’t just preachers on Sunday mornings. They live their faith openly every day. And they challenge us to do the same. I think this is what Moses had in mind when he prayed like he did.

Yes, our pastors have a grave responsibility to lead by example. Pray for yours. His is a very difficult job, and Satan would love nothing more than to shackle him to his desk.

And pray that God will prompt each of us to get busy, too. May we be people who eagerly put ourselves out there and lead people into our fold.

For Jesus’ sake. May He find us faithful.

Numbers 13-14; Turn Down The Volume

When I was a middle school teacher I found that, when the kids in my classroom started to get noisy, the louder I spoke, the louder they got. If I tried to teach over their chatter, the noise level rose (and so did my frustration level).

It’s like that with arguments, isn’t it? Voice level rises, and anger escalates.

Ten spies came back from checking out the Promised Land, and threw fear into the people. I can almost see the Jews getting caught up in the frenzy. So rather than trying to out-shout them, Moses and Aaron fell to the ground, face down in front of the people gathered there. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, a sign of distress and grief.

That got the people’s attention.

Several of my closest friends at the middle school and I had our breaks scheduled at the same time. Usually, unless there were papers to grade, lessons to tweak, or parents to talk to, we would meet in the teacher’s lounge for a cup of coffee and a few laughs. Most of the time five or six of us would sit around the table and talk about recipes, husbands, and TV shows, for twenty minutes. It was a much needed break from our day.

Two of the women were friends in school and out. They socialized together with their husbands, and enjoyed a special friendship. Most of the time, they would join the rest of us. But occasionally, they would sit together on the couch, heads together, and whisper about something they didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

What do you do when someone whispers? Do your ears perk up, your senses heighten? Well, mine did. I could be in the middle of a conversation with another teacher at the table, but as soon as my friends on the couch began to whisper, I found myself trying to listen to them, too.

I couldn’t help myself. The whispering got my attention, even if I really didn’t care what they are saying.

I got to thinking about how I share Christ with others. Do I stand on a street corner and shout “Repent! The end is near!”? Do I take my Bible and hit them over the head with it? Do I talk about Jesus, or do I live His love? Do I listen to my friend, instead of rushing in with answers? Do I argue? Debate? Lecture?

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, rather than trying to out-shout the crowd. I think I can learn a lesson from this. Oh, if you read on you’ll find out that some of the people didn’t heed what Moses had to say. They ended up facing God’s judgment in spite of his warning.

But at least Moses got their attention, and was faithful to say what God wanted him to say. I want that to be true about me, too.

So, maybe I should learn to turn down the volume. Someone said, “if you want people to hear you… whisper.” I want my life to whisper, “Jesus.”

I’m thinking that, if I want someone to hear my testimony, I should get together with them in a quiet place. I should demonstrate my love for God by quietly serving, by reaching out to them in friendship.

Then, I want to be ready to give an answer for the hope I have in my Savior. I just need to get their attention first so that they’ll ask me to.

 

 

 

Numbers 7-9; Whose Responsibility Is This, Anyway?

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter for the older ladies of our church. Our ages range from 60-80something. These women bless me and challenge me every week.

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ last days on earth in human form, and have been impressed with the Savior’s urgency in preparing his disciples for what was to come. Jesus was going to die, then come back to life, and there would be work for them to do amid hardship, persecution, and blessing.

Our lesson book is challenging us to get busy ourselves in sharing the Gospel, reminding us that there are people out there going to hell without Jesus.

I was praying Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. Standing in front of the mirror with hair drier humming, I prayed, “God, these women have walked with you for decades. They are prayer warriors. They continue to use their gifts to serve you. Many have health issues. Some are widows the church should care for. They’ve put in their time, and this lesson is telling them to get busy. What can I possibly say to these dear women who are at the end of their service?”

The thought came to me, “Do you think I’m done with them, that they are of no use to Me?”

Point taken. I taught the lesson, and reminded them God does have something for them to do, someone they need to share the Gospel with, some whose lives God wants them to touch for eternity.

This thought was reinforced today as I read 8:23-26. Priests had mandatory retirement at age 50. After serving in the temple for 20 years, their responsibilities were passed on to younger men.

But here’s the good news for us old geezers: “They may assist their brothers in performing their duties…”

God doesn’t want us to turn in our union cards just because the pages of our calendars show more days behind us than ahead.

There’s a flip side to this coin. My Ohio church family does amazing things in the community. It’s a small congregation of people who love the Lord, and who work hard. And the bulk of the work is done by the dear ones who are in their 70’s and 80’s.

They work with backaches, arthritis, hernias. They work with hearing loss, and fatigue. But whenever there is a job to be done, these amazing people are the first in line. I love them so much.

But, young people – where are you? God’s footprint for an effective church includes you. It’s easy to let someone else do a job if that job is a bit inconvenient. They’re retired. I’m working. They’ve got experience. I don’t. Their kids are grown. Mine demand my attention.

Lets’ be honest here. We all find the time to do things that are important to us.

So whose responsibility is the work of the church? It’s all of us who know the Lord. It’s yours. It’s mine. There is something for all of us to do.

Let’s be faithful.

Genesis 42-43 Trust Me

Reuben was Jacob’s first born son. So it’s not surprising that Reuben would be the one to take charge, go to his father, and promise to protect Benjamin if only Jacob would let him take the young man back to Egypt. Reuben even swore that if anything happened to Jacob’s precious son, Jacob had permission to kill two of Reuben’s sons.

“We need food, Dad, or all of us will die. Trust me.”

But Jacob refused to let Reuben take Benjamin into Egypt. Even after Reuben made such a demonstrative offer. Could it be that Reuben’s trustworthiness was in doubt, especially after his encounter with Bilhah, Jacob’s wife? Just saying.

Later, when the grain was gone and Jacob’s family was facing starvation, Judah stepped up. His promise to his dad to care for his youngest brother wasn’t dramatic, it wasn’t laced with promises he couldn’t keep. Judah went sincerely and humbly and said, “Dad, I’ll be responsible. If I don’t bring Benjamin back to you, it’s on me.”

What is it that elicits trust in someone? Obviously we look at past behavior. We probably consider the situation and hear what the other person is saying. We weigh what we know about that person’s character, with our need to trust them in the moment.

So today I’m asking myself if God can trust me. Have I been trustworthy in the past? Am I sincere about wanting to follow Him and obey Him? Is my character like that of Jesus, the ultimate example of being worthy of trust?

Or am I all talk? All show? No follow-through? Good intentions that go nowhere?

God wants to entrust me with the eternal souls of people He loves more than Jacob loved Benjamin. Am I up to the challenge? Can I say, “Trust me” and mean it?