Tag Archives: witnessing

Daniel 1-4; What’s The Big Deal?

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the Jewish young men held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They were being groomed to serve that pagan king in any way he saw fit. Their indoctrination included eating what they were told (although there is a great lesson in that fact. I hope you’ll read these chapters today),  wearing what they were given, and their names were even changed to wipe out any connection the Jews had with God. Now they were called by names honoring pagan gods.

The four young men had taken a stand early on to be true to God. They did not compromise their faith. And God blessed them.

So when Nebuchadnezzar had a gigantic statue erected in the middle of town, and ordered everyone to bow down and worship it, three of our boys stood tall. This did not go over well with the king.

The king confronted them, and gave them a second chance. “Either bow down and worship my statue like I told you, or be thrown into the furnace and die.” You probably know what they chose:

“We’re not about to bow to anything or anyone other than the One True God.”  So they were thrown into the fire. Read the rest of the story. It’s truly amazing.

As I was thinking about this this morning, it occurred to me that Nebuchadnezzar would not have been able to see the hearts of those men. What’s to say they couldn’t pray to God, worship Him in their hearts, and just look like they were worshiping the statue? What’s the big deal?

After all, just a few books earlier, in 2 Kings 5, didn’t we read about Naaman, the commander of the army of a pagan king, healed of leprosy through Elisha, and who became a believer as a result, take a different position?

In verses 17-18 in 2 Kings, Naaman asks Elisha not to judge him when, as a part of his job description, he helps the feeble pagan king into the temple of Rimmon, and then helps the king bow in worship of the pretend god. “God forgive me,” Naaman pleads.

And Elisha responds, “Go in peace.”

So if Naaman could bow and not worship, why couldn’t Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do the same thing? God judges the heart, right?

Today I’m asking myself, how much can I go along with the world before I need to stand tall? I can’t answer that for anyone but me.

Paul said he became all things to all men, Jesus hung out with sinners all the time. It didn’t effect their commitment to God. But the Bible also tells us to come out and be separate, to avoid even the appearance of sin. So which is it?

Do you go through the motions of blending in with the world, believing you can keep your heart right before God? Or do you take a stand and refuse to bend? I think that’s between you and God.

But be warned. God does see your heart. And the truth is, you can go through the motions, or not go through the motions, and still be disobedient if your heart isn’t right with the Lord.

What’s the big deal?

Eternity.

Ezekiel 1-5; Not A Suggestion

Ezekiel’s encounter with the Living God changed him. We find him sitting by a river with the rest of the exiles when “the Lord came expressly” to him. Awesome.

I will say Ezekiel’s encounter with God, with the vision of four creatures, and God Himself, was a bit more dramatic than my encounter with God. That’s why I’m glad God inspired Ezekiel to write it down for me to read. Because that same God who revealed Himself to Ezekiel in a fantastic, over-the-top vision, revealed Himself to me in the fantastic, over-the-top person of His Son Jesus Christ.

No, I haven’t seen His face yet, or heard what His voice sounds like. But that doesn’t mean He’s any less real to me than God was to Ezekiel after his vision.

But what stood out to me today wasn’t in the details of the vision. I understand the vision was to show Ezekiel (and me) that God is real, and we should hear Him. What stood out to me was God’s demand to be obeyed.

Here is the Truth, Ezekiel. Go and tell my people.

That’s what God is still telling us today.

3:17-21 is sobering. We who know the Truth do not have the option of keeping it to ourselves. God tells Ezekiel (and me) to tell the wicked they are wicked and need to turn from their wickedness. Sinners need to repent or die.

Don’t we know that already? If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for more than a minute, you probably know He commanded us to go and preach the Gospel. It wasn’t a suggestion. Here in Ezekiel we hear Him say if we don’t, and wicked people die in their wickedness, we’re to blame. God sounds pretty serious about us sharing the truth with lost souls.

But God pointed a verse out to me today that I wish he hadn’t. 3:20 tells me I have a responsibility to tell a righteous man who turns away from his righteousness to stop sinning, too. If I don’t, and this person dies in his sin, his blood will be on me every bit as much as the blood of the outright wicked man who I neglected to tell.

I think sometimes we think a brother or sister  in the Lord knows they are sinning and what to do about it, so I don’t need to say anything. They’ll figure it out, because you can’t lose your salvation, and if they don’t they were never saved in the first place.

3:20 has me questioning that. It makes me realize I shouldn’t assume anything.  Because if I don’t share what I know to be true with a non-believer OR a believer I will be held responsible if they die without confessing their sin. 

The point God is trying to get me to see is that I have a serious responsibility to share the Gospel with sinners. Sinners in the street and in the pews. We’ve begun to believe that people are entitled to believe what they want to believe and live like they want to live.

God seems to have a different view of that. And He tells us to do something about it.

It’s not a suggestion.

Jeremiah 46-52; When It’s Close To Home

God had given Jeremiah a word, and Jeremiah was faithful to relay the message as it was given. It started out with a prophecy against Egypt, then against the Philistines. God continued to give prophecies against Moab, then Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and the Arabians. These nations, these people had rejected God, had fought against God’s people, and God let them know the consequences they would pay for going up against Him.

But then God gave a prophecy against Babylon, and I have to think this message wasn’t as easy to deliver for Jeremiah. The Babylonians were enemies of Israel, just like Egypt and the rest of them. But Matthew Henry reminded me that the king of Babylon had been kind to Jeremiah. There was a personal connection between the prophet and the king.

This is what Henry says about Jeremiah 50:1ff:

“Here is a word spoken against Babylon. The king of Babylon had been very kind to Jeremiah, and yet he must foretell the ruin of that kingdom; for God’s prophets must not be governed by favor or affection. Whoever are our friends, if, notwithstanding, they are God’s enemies, we dare not speak peace to them.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible; Zondervan Publishing,1961; page 1018)

I don’t know about you, but as much as I appreciate Matthew Henry’s insight into God’s Word, sometimes reading him is like reading a foreign language. I guess, if you were born in 1662 like he was, his vocabulary wouldn’t sound so strange. But for those of us living in the 21st Century, here’s what I get out of Henry’s old world vocabulary:

It’s not always easy to talk to the people closest to us about sin, about their need of the Savior. It’s not always easy to tell someone they are wrong, especially if that person is a really nice, good, upstanding person. And it’s hard to speak the Truth when we know we might offend someone we have a personal relationship with.

But Henry reminds us that all unbelievers, everyone who rejects God or ignores Him, anyone who thinks they are ok on their own, are enemies of God. The Bible is clear; you are either for God or against Him. There is no category of “nice guy” that cancels out our guilt of sin, and our need of Jesus.

Did you get what Henry said? God’s prophets, those of us entrusted with the Truth must not let our affection for someone prevent us from sharing the Truth. And if our loved one, or our sweet friend, or our kind neighbor, has not confessed sin and accepted Jesus as their Savior, WE MUST NOT TELL THEM EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.

We must not say of someone who rejects Jesus and dies, that they are in a better place. They are in a horrible place. More horrible than we can imagine. We must not say of an unsaved person who suffers a painful death that, well at least they are not in pain any more. Because the reality is they are in more pain than they ever experienced in this life. If we say otherwise, what message are we giving to those of our friends and family who have yet to accept God’s grace?

We must not tell someone who is rejecting Jesus, ignoring Him, living in sin, that their choices aren’t carrying severe, eternal consequences. We must not speak peace to a non-believer because, no matter how nice they are in this life, they are without hope without Jesus. They have no promise of peace, so we must not pretend that they do.

It’s not easy sharing the Gospel when that lost person is close to home. But aren’t those the people we love the most, the people we care for above all people?

Do you believe lost people go to hell? Look into the eyes of that lost loved one and see their eternity. Can you be as faithful as Jeremiah to deliver the Truth in spite of your personal feelings for that person?

Can I?

 

Psalms 69-72; No Such Thing As A Retired Christian

I retired from public education in 2010. It was time. As much as I loved my job, I just couldn’t do it anymore with the same energy I’d had 37 years before. The kids deserved better than what I was able to give.

I attend a Sunday School class for adult women. And when I say “adult,” I’m talking about women in their 60’s and up. We’ve all retired from our jobs, children raised, grandchildren and great-grandkids abound. Some have buried husbands; some have outlived their children. Some are healthy and active, some struggle to walk to their seats.

So when I read Psalm 71, “A Prayer for Old Age,” I thought of us.

May I suggests there is never the right time to retire from serving God? The writer of this psalm seems to agree. Like the psalmist, so many of us have relied on God from birth. The Lord has been our hope and confidence since our youth. God has taught us since we were young, and we eagerly declare His wonderful deeds yet today.

We might not have the energy to teach the four-year-old Sunday School class every Sunday, or lead the youth group’s activities. But I hope your four-year-olds and your youth know who we are, and have heard our stories.

Please, Church, don’t attempt to put us on a shelf. (vs 9) Do not close your ears to the testimony of our years, do not make it “us against them.” In your attempt to be attractive to millennials, have you set aside the wisdom of the aged?

And to those of us gray-haired believers, let’s not allow our voices to be silenced. We have another generation to tell of God’s power and might. (vs 19). Let’s be faithful to do exactly that.

2 Chronicles 29-32; You Are Invited

King Hezekiah did some house cleaning. He not only rid the temple of any pagan worship, he re-established worship of the One True God. Many Jews tirelessly worked to restore what had been lost due to the disobedience of former kings, and the Jewish ancestors who followed them.

A couple of things stood out to me as I read these chapters this morning. One is the Passover feast was delayed because the priests had not done what they needed to do to consecrate themselves for the work of the Lord. The church leaders seem to have been dragging their feet. Why, when so many Jews were tearing down idols, and getting the temple ready for worship? Why didn’t the priests get ready, too?

We can only guess. Maybe they were working with the people, restoring the temple and just lost track of time. Maybe they were holding off to see how far this transformation would go before it got stopped in its tracks. Maybe they were reluctant to let go of their own idolatry. What we do know is, King Hezekiah was not fooling around. And he did not let the priests off the hook. They eventually went through the consecration requirements so the Passover could be held.

It makes me wonder if, on occasion, our church leaders might not be dragging their feet, too. Even pastors and elders get comfortable. Even pastors and elders can have sin in their lives they aren’t confessing. Could this be one of the reason so many churches in our country are closing their doors?

Now before we start pointing fingers and laying blame, the other thing I noticed is that when the invitation to come to celebrate the first Passover observed in years, some people blew it off and even made fun of the ones who brought the good news. Maybe they thought observing Passover was “old school”, or maybe someone used the word “tradition”, so they turned up their noses.

Once again it would seem the people had become comfortable in their sin, and weren’t about to change. Well, some of them felt that way.

But a large crowd did gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Sacrifices for sin were offered, and God was worshiped like He demands. Thousands of animals were slain, and the feast was extended an additional week. The peoples’ hearts were turned to God, and God blessed them for it.

I can’t help but think of the ones who refused the invitation. Did they care that they were missing God’s blessings? Did it occur to them that they were disobeying God? They received the same invitation everyone else received. They just didn’t accept.

I come away from reading these chapters today with a realization that I have the responsibility and the privilege to extend God’s invitation to the people in my world to come and worship Him. I must first ready myself for the work of the Lord. I need to address sin in my own life, I must allow God to clothe me with Jesus’ righteousness. And I must yield myself to His will, trusting that He will be my strength in the mission.

Then I need to get out there and deliver the invitation, regardless what people might think of me. Yes, I believe Jesus is God in human form, that God has established only one way in which we may come to Him, that Jesus died to pay what my sins demand, and that I am saved completely and eternally through the precious blood of Jesus. It is a gift of God, it’s grace, and it’s mine from a repentant heart.

You might think that’s old school, that you are enlightened so therefore have a more inclusive approach to God. You might snicker and roll your eyes when I tell you you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that your eternal soul will experience the worst possible pain beyond imagine if you refuse the invitation God is extending to you. You might even write me off as a lunatic when I tell you your decision concerning Christ is the single most important thing in your life now and forever.

But I’ll extend the invitation anyway. I pray you’ll join us in worshiping God as His child, saved by grace.

I Chronicles 1-9; Everyone Has A Story

It’s taken me a couple days to get through the genealogy listed in these chapters. Name after name of people I know nothing about. But, even though I am tempted to skim through this section, I read every hard-to-pronounce name, knowing that with it is a story known only to them and God. Each one with hopes and dreams, good times and bad, responsibilities, and temptations. Each one with a relationship with God… or needing one.

It’s kind of like walking through the mall. I walk past dozens of people I know nothing about. But I know each one has hopes and dreams, good times and bad, responsibilities, and temptations. Each person I pass has a relationship with God… or needs one.

I’m convicted that I can pass them by as easily as I can pass over the names in Chronicles.

God, help me see people – really see people – as eternal souls You love, for whom You died to save. Remind me that my smile, or greeting may be the only positive contact they get that day. Forgive me when I avoid eye contact, or dismiss someone because I don’t like how they look. How are they going to know I represent their Savior if I don’t let them see Jesus in me?

2 Kings 17-20; Cleaning House

When Hezekiah became king he did some housecleaning. He removed the idols the Jews had been worshiping, including the bronze serpent Moses had made while their ancestors were in the wilderness. Hezekiah didn’t want any trace of any false god in the land.

I never really thought about what that must have looked like to the neighboring nations. They were used to worshiping their “gods” at high places that were everywhere. Now here the Jews were demolishing their high places and limiting themselves to worship only one God, and only in one place. Ridiculous.

The Assyrian king interpreted this as vulnerability (chapter 18), and decided it gave him the means to defeat the Jewish nation. He didn’t understand the action taken by the Jews, because he was interpreting it though blind eyes.

The world is still judging God’s people through blind eyes. They see us obeying God as being judgmental, because they are judgmental. They see our stand against homosexuality as hateful because they are hateful. They see hypocrisy in us because they are hypocritical.

Christian, that’s why we have got to show them through our witness, both verbal and life-style, that they are wrong about us. If we hate homosexuals instead of loving them while hating the sin, we prove them right. If our language is as judgmental as theirs, they are right to call us judgmental. If our lifestyle doesn’t match our profession of faith, we deserve the label hypocrite.

When the Assyrian king tried to bully the Jews into surrender, they didn’t get caught up in a war of words. They didn’t return insult for insult. They kept their mouths shut. Then Hezekiah went to the Lord and allowed God to do His thing.

Non-Christians will continue to misunderstand us Christians until they become believers themselves. May we, as followers of the One True God, remove any visible signs of conformity to the world. May we worship God in Spirit and in Truth, and allow Him to do His thing in and through us. My we love people to the Savior at the same time we are standing on the Truth of Scripture.

In other words, may we do some spiritual housecleaning, and let God remove the world from us, so that the world can see Jesus through us.