Tag Archives: witnessing

I Corinthians 6-10; Life in a Nutshell

Paul gives us many examples of what life should be for the Christian. And his descriptions are so politically incorrect, it’s almost laughable.

In his letter to the Corinthians he tells us Christians ought not to sweat the small stuff. We shouldn’t be making mountains out of mole hills. We shouldn’t be blowing up over trivial matters. The world is watching how we handle the small stuff. Does our example convict them, or does it validate their own bad behavior?

The Christian life should be pure. Yes, I know that’s an old-fashioned word. But purity should describe we who serve a Holy God. Again, the world is watching us. Do they see us with self-control, with unwavering morality? Or do they see the same depravity in us they see in themselves?

Christians should be content, faithful in marriage, busy serving God. If they see us sleeping around, divorcing because we fall out of love, or neglecting our families or our ministries, what is different about us than what they have in their own homes?

Paul challenges us again today to stop looking out for “number one,” and step aside for the benefit of others. Who cares if the new sanctuary color isn’t to your liking? Or if that lady in your Sunday School took your favorite pyrex dish home after the last pot-luck dinner? Who cares if Suzie got the choir solo you wanted to sing, or if you weren’t asked to sit on the AdMin committee again this year.

Get over yourself.

The world tells us to stop being a door-mat. The apostle seems to be telling us being a door-mat has its purposes.

Paul said he gave up so many rights to take on his ministry. He said he became whatever was needed in order to win people to the Lord. That must have been exhausting. He did it anyway. He denied himself a spouse, he turned down wages, he gave up the comforts of home. For what?

Time is running out, he told the Corinthians 2,000 years ago. And, friend, if time was running out then, it’s closer yet today. Paul didn’t have time to be self-absorbed when there were people who still needed the Lord.

Do we? Paul tells us to be single minded. Focus. You can’t live with one foot in God’s kingdom and one foot in the world. Are you trying to make God mad? (10:22)

Life in a nutshell? Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor. (No mention of self-love, is there?) Paul tells us whatever we do, whether we are eating or drinking, “do it all for the glory of God.” (10:31)

Life in a nutshell is not about you.

Romans 10-16; I’ve Got My Rights

Our country is in trouble these days because many, many people are fighting for their “rights” at the expense of the “rights” of others. Personally, I think we’ve pushed it to the point of insanity.

Paul has something to say about “rights.” And I think it’s a timely word for us in 2018.

Paul says we all have rights. We have the right to eat meat or not eat meat. We have the right to treat one day holy, and we have the right to treat every day the same. We have the right to drink wine, and the right to abstain. I’d go so far as to say we have a right to wear dress clothes to church, and a right to worship in torn jeans and dirty sneakers. We have a right to prefer hymns, and a right to enjoy a rocking praise song.

Paul says this about our rights. “Let’s stop passing judgment on one another.” (14:13) But here’s the kicker: he goes on to say, “instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” He’ll go on to talk about why setting aside our right to do certain things is the right thing to do.

“But,” you might argue. “I have my rights. If someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem not mine.” I’d like you to show me a verse that supports that argument. I honestly don’t think you’ll find one. From what I read here in Romans, I think God is saying it’s very much our problem.

If you’re worried about your rights, you are focused inwardly. Remember, this life as a child of God is no longer about you. It’s about that unsaved person sitting in the cubicle next to you at work, or living next door. Before you exercise your rights, think about how that action will look to someone who doesn’t know your Savior. Think about that weak Christian who is struggling with sin in regard to what you  perceive as your “right.” Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is distressed because of your exercising your right to do something, “you are no longer acting in love.” (14:15) And doesn’t Jesus tell us love is what identifies us as His?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men…. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. (14:17-21)

I believe our churches, and our nation, would be healthier if we laid our rights at the feet of Jesus, and truly lived as servants of God, setting aside our “rights” for love of Him who gave Himself for us, and for our neighbor who needs Him.

Acts 22-28; What Would It Take?

I read about Paul’s life and think – could I have endured what he did and still stay faithful to the Truth? How many times would I have to be falsely accused before I quit proclaiming Jesus as God? How many friends would I have to lose, or towns I’d have to leave, or prison sentences I’d have to serve before I’d say, “Enough is enough?” Could I stand before kings and governors and boldy proclaim the Truth about Jesus?

But those aren’t the questions God is asking me today. His questions sound more like: “How many times are you going to ignore Me when I nudge you to speak to your neighbor about Me?” “How many conversations are you going to redirect when the subject turns to Me and you get uncomfortable?”

God’s not asking me to stand firm in front of kings. He’s asking me to stand firm in front of my family, and sometimes I can’t even do that. He’s not asking me to go to prison or be beaten because of my faith. He’s asking me to go to dinner with that person He’s laid on my heart.

What would it take for me to deny Jesus, to go along with the crowd, to convince myself what someone believes is not my business?

I’m ashamed to say.

Acts 9-14; Catch the Fever

I love reading about the birth of the Church. I love Saul’s conversion, Peter’s vision and Cornelius’ faith. I love reading how Peter followed an angel out of prison right under the noses of all those guards. I love the accounts of healings, of the Holy Spirit poured out on new believers.

But what spoke to me today as I read was the effect the Word of Truth had on so many people. Peter spoke so plainly of Jesus, as one who had been an eye-witness. Peter used Scripture to back up what he was saying, and I believe many people finally understood what their Old Testament Scriptures were about for the very first time.

Lives were changed. And the Good News spread like wildfire. People were excited to share what they believed with people they loved.

Sometimes I assume everybody knows Bible stories, everyone has heard Jesus died on the cross for sin. I think everyone knows there’s a heaven and a hell. But I am wrong to think those things. There are people right here on this island who have no clue.

We have the Truth. We have the best news ever. We have the answer to every longing, and we hold the keys to heaven. Does that excite you? Does that make you want to get out there and share what you have? I think it should.

At least that’s where I’m convicted today. Am I excited about Jesus, the cross, grace, eternal life, freedom from sin? Or do I take those things for granted? Ouch.

I’m thinking if I went back to my roots, like Peter directed the early church to go back to theirs, and if I remember what it was like to find my Savior, I could get excited about sharing that experience with someone else. And maybe, my excitement will be contagious. Maybe you’ll catch the fever, too. And maybe others will catch it from us!

 

Acts 1-4; Don’t Give Up

Are there people who hold a special place in your heart, but who don’t know the Lord? You are burdened for them, and pray for them constantly. Maybe you’ve shared your love of Jesus with them, only to have them shut you down. Maybe this has gone on for years, and you just don ‘t see any sign that they will ever accept the grace of God through His Son Jesus.

There is something here in Acts I want you to notice. The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ siblings didn’t accept him as anything other than their crazy big brother. (Matthew 13, Mark 6) Even from the cross, Jesus asked his friend to care for His mother. Where were his brothers?

But something must have happened between the cross and Acts 1:14. Jesus had spent about 40 days teaching and performing miracles after He rose from the dead. Many people watched as He went home, ascending into heaven as they were looking intently up into the sky.

Now they waited. Jesus had said He was going to send the Holy Spirit to them. So they returned to Jerusalem like the Savior had instructed them. Scripture tells us who were present in that upper room as they waited:

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James Alphaeus, Simon, and the other Judas. These were Jesus’ closest disciples while He was on earth. But that’s not all who were there. Verse 14 tells us:

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 

Did you catch that? Read it again. Who joined those in the upper room? Who were constantly in prayer? The disciples, some women, Jesus’ mother, AND HIS BROTHERS!

We don’t know the details of their conversions. But we can rejoice in the fact that at some point they believed. It doesn’t appear they believed before Jesus died on the cross. But here they are, with the disciples, obeying what Jesus had told them to do, praying, and waiting.

Don’t give up on that loved one who seems to think you are crazy because you are a follower of Jesus. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop living outloud. Don’t stop finding opportunities to talk about your Savior. Don’t stop loving them.

Many of us can share testimonies of people we prayed for for years, maybe with a bit of doubt they’d ever really humble themselves and accept the Savior. But they did. God loves answering that prayer. And as long as they have breath, Jesus is willing to save.

Don’t give up.

Luke 18-21; Like Muscle Memory

I took a gun safety class a few months back. Something the instructor said came to mind as I read God’s word today. He said that our brains are capable of processing hundreds of bits of information every second. Google suggests that number could be as high as 20,000,000 bits of information every second (thanks Mary Jo). I have no idea how anyone could calculate that. Let’s just say our brains can handle a lot of information all at once.

Sit still for a minute. Take in your surroundings. Make a conscious effort to notice the colors, the sounds, the smells. I’m sitting on my porch. The sky is grey, the wind is rustling the leaves on the tops of trees. I see them moving, and I hear them, too. The house behind me is yellow, with white trim. Next door is a tabby house with a new tan roof. I hear two birds talking to each other in the distance, and I just noticed a squirrel sitting on my fence. I have a window open and I feel a gentle, warm breeze on my face. I could go on.

I happen to be making a conscious effort to notice these things. But science tells me my brain would be taking it all in regardless of whether or not I’m paying attention. Remember, they say our brains are capable of processing hundreds, if not thousands of bits of information every second.

That is, until we are in crisis mode, or are faced with a threat. The gun safety instructor said our brains go from handling hundreds of bits of information at once, to being able to handle… TWO! He said that’s why eye witnesses to a crime or tragedy never see exactly the same thing. That’s why some people freeze instead of using their weapon. And he said that’s why it’s important to develop muscle memory in self defense.

So, what does this have to do with the Gospel of Luke? You might think I’m totally taking a verse out of context, but hang with me for a second. In 21:2-19 Jesus is warning the disciples and believers about the persecution that is coming to them. Then in verse 14 He says this:

But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.

Make up your mind beforehand. Be prepared to defend yourselves.

I know most of us are not being persecuted as such, but I hope we are all being questioned about our faith, to give an answer for the hope we have. When was the last time you were put on the spot in the cafeteria, or around the office water cooler, or while sitting with your neighbor at the local coffee shop, and asked why you don’t support abortion, or don’t drink, or don’t believe the pop-religion theology that’s popular these days? When was the last time you were cornered about your stand on homosexuality, or Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God?

You do realize that, when forced into an uncomfortable situation, your brain almost completely quits working, don’t you? Then what? I know I have often walked away from a confrontation thinking, “Why didn’t I say this…” or “Why on earth did I say that?”

Well, it’s because I wasn’t prepared.

So, how do we prepare for those times when we are suddenly defending ourselves without 100 percent of our brain function? I think memorizing Scripture is right there at the top of our defense. Most of us can spit out John 3:16 without racking our brains. Do you have other verses in your arsenal? I think we need to be so familiar with God’s Word we don’t have to even think about it, it’s just right there on the tip of our tongues.

Do you pray about opportunities to share Jesus before you leave your house each day? That’s a prayer I’m sure God loves answering, and verse 15 says:

For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Doesn’t that give you confidence? Are you in-tuned to God’s voice? He promises He’ll give you the words, and I believe most often it will be in the form of a Bible verse. Have you practiced listening?

Do you even know what you believe about hot topics like homosexuality, abortion, tolerance, legalism, and the like? Have you taken time to look up Scripture that addresses what you believe? Do you practice your defense by asking yourself the hard questions you might be faced with on these topics? Don’t think you’ll be able to define your position for yourself at the moment you are being questioned by someone who has a different view. It’s too late then.

The gun instructor told us how important it was for those who own guns to hold it, aim it, practice the stance and draw, to become so familiar with the weapon it becomes a natural extension of our bodies. Because if faced with a crisis, you won’t be able to think or reason. Your defense should come automatically and most likely will, if the muscle memory is there.

I said I took this verse out of context because Jesus is talking about a persecution. But the Bible tells us in other places to be prepared, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it tell us to put on armor, to fight the good fight, to train like an athlete?

We might not be persecuted for our faith today. But we may be called to defend it anyway. Are you prepared? Have you made up your mind beforehand how you’ll defend what you know to be true according to Scripture? Is the plan of Salvation, the defense of your faith so ingrained in you it’s like muscle memory?

God, help us to be prepared! Then may He give us opportunity to defend His Truth to someone who needs the Savior.

Luke 14-17; Sharks in Heaven

Well, I got tripped up on a verse today I’m sure wasn’t there the last time I read Luke’s Gospel. Ok – it probably was there But once again I’m blown away at how alive God’s Word is. It speaks to me every time!

The verse is 16:9. Jesus is speaking:

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

I read this verse, then re-read it. Did Jesus just say we are to buy friends so we can get into heaven? Surely not.

Of course not!

Matthew Henry helped me understand it better. Then, after looking more closely at God’s Word, I got to thinking about the TV show “Shark Tank.” Those rich people are wise and shrewd with their money. They spend it to gain more. Sometimes they take chances and you think they are throwing their money away. Sometimes they pass on what I think would be a great investment. But every dollar they spend is done with calculated intentionality. And they usually end up with a big payoff.

Jesus, in summing up the parable of the house-manager, is telling us to use what is ours to invest in eternity, in eternal souls. I am reminded that everything we have is God’s – entrusted to us to benefit the kingdom.

God is asking, do I use my house, my car, my bank account, my “worldly wealth” as a means of reaching out to lost and needy people for whom Christ died? Am I spending what God has given me to gain more eternal souls for Him?

So much of what I read in Luke today seems to be calling me to take inventory, then to start investing in people for Jesus’ sake. We are given to give, blessed to bless, saved to tell others.

Read these chapters and see if God doesn’t challenge you to be the faithful son, the competent manager, the obedient servant, and to use what you are given for the glory of God.

You’ve heard “you can’t take it with you,” right? You know when you stand before God you will not be wearing that diamond ring or driving that Mercedes. Jesus says “WHEN it is gone,” not IF it goes. The only thing you will take into heaven with you are the people you have lead to the Lord. That’s it. So let me ask you this…

What kind of shark are you?