Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
In yesterday's post, we looked at scriptures concerning gold, silver, and precious jewels, and how the highest of human qualities, wisdom, is even more valuable to Him. Proverbs 31:10(NLT) says that "a virtuous and capable wife is more precious than rubies." Proverbs 3:14-15 says of wisdom, "Her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain tham fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all things you may desire cannot compare with her."
So if we would value what God values, pray for wisdom for both immediate choices and upcoming decisions. The seeker of wisdom is assured by James 1:5 that God "gives (wisdom) to all liberally and without reproach..."
Did you know that God considers us His jewels? Listen to this passage in Malachi 3:16-17 about God's Book of Remembrance:
Monday, March 29, 2010
I will be opening each weekly class with a brief devotional, because I believe that God has called me to lead this ministry by inspiration of the Word of God. Heart to Home is a part of our women's ministry, based on Titus 2:3-5, that the older women "be teachers of good things," admonishing the younger women to be women of God. Even though our weekly format will look different from the past large annual event, our mission is the same!
Praying and pondering about Lisa's class, I thought about jewels and jewelry in scripture. In Genesis 24:53, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a bride for Isaac, and when Rebekah appeared in exact response to his prayer, he sent her to her father with "jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold," denoting the wealth of his master and his son.
In Exodus 3:21-22, God told Moses: "I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver and articles of gold...thus shall you plunder the Egyptians." Later, skilled craftsmen fashioned the wealth of Egypt into articles for the taberbacle in the wilderness, which the people offered so willingly that there was much more than could be used! The gold and silver of a pagan nation at enmity with God, ended up as sacred objects for the worship of God!
Every element found on earth, from grains of sand to diamonds and rubies, was created by God, and He delights in sharing His creation with us to use for His glory! All skills and abilities come from Him as well--we have only to prayerfully study and learn what we have been gifted for. Let the Holy Spirit show you what He would have you do to bless others! God "has given us all things richly to enjoy," I Timothy 6:17 says, and the satisfaction we receive from participating with God in creating beautiful and useful things is one of life's deepest pleasures.
Jewels are written of as highly prized and comparable to the highest of human qualities in scripture. Proverbs 20:15 says, "There is gold and a multitude of rubies" (ironically, as if they were plentiful and common), "but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." And Proverbs 24:3-4, the theme of our first Heart to Home event six years ago, says, "Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
Knowledge and wisdom, wisdom and knowledge! How frequently believers are admonished to gain and possess these bejeweled qualities. "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom," Proverbs 4:7 says.
According to Psalm 11:10 what is wisdom? "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom."
Wisdom--the learning that draws righteous and right conclusions from experience is, according to scripture, the crown jewel of human character-- character founded in knowing who God is!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Fickle, foolish, fatally flawed human beings--just like us! Our generation has had the benefit of the written record of Jesus, from His virgin birth to His miraculous earthly ministry, to His glorious resurrection from the tomb, for over 2,000 years. This historical record is known as the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel means, "good news." Jesus came to earth to live among people, ultimately to die for our sins, taking our place on the cross, that we might live forever forgiven, and be fit to live in the presence of God for eternity.
The most important figure in history brought the most important news with Him--fickle, foolish and fatally flawed people like you and me can have our sins forgiven, be right with God, and saved from damnation in hell! Romans 10: 9 tells us, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." And that means anybody! Romans 10:13 then adds, "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Yet we see hesitation, fear, and outright refusal to come to Christ, repent of sins, and be forgiven, born again, in so many of our friends and family members! Despite the written record of the Bible, where Jesus' coming is prophesied from Genesis to Malachi in the Old Testament; the vivid depiction of our Savior's life and teaching in the gospels; and the witness and instruction so abundantly provided for us in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters from those apostles; and the terrifying last days' warnings of Revelation, we experience struggle and rejection as we continue to invite our loved ones to be saved.
Be encouraged, believer! Continue to pray for that opening or event that the Holy Spirit will use to open the eyes of the one you are crying out to God for! 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
God was certainly longsuffering to me! At age 28, living in sin, doing just fine, thank you very much, I had absolutely no intention of getting saved when I went forward at an altar call! But I am sure that my parents had been praying for me and believers I was barely aware of, were praying, too.
As we go toward Easter Sunday, the most heavily attended church service of the year, by believers and unbelievers alike (if for no other reason than tradition), think of the one who invited you to church or to a crusade, thank them, pray for them, and in obedience to Jesus, "go and do likewise."
Saturday, March 27, 2010
3:45 p.m. Today's project was to take my grandson Xavier to Long Beach to see a community theater production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Steve and I were invited by my daughter-in-law Marisela and our son Kriss. Since I wouldn't be comfortable leaving Adrian and Xavier alone while we're so far away, and Xavier loves to act in school plays, Steve will stay behind with Adrian. It's a nice outing for me, too. As an English literature major, I've read all of Shakespeare with great enjoyment, many more times than once!
The scene where three witches stir their cauldron and chant, "Double, double, toil and trouble," makes me think of a truth of scripture, Job 14:1: "Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble."
We can all vouch for the myriad troubles that plague us: errant children, bodily aches and pains--not limited to arthritic middle-aged folk, because our Marisela is suffering from a bad toothache as I write this--financial worries, career demands, an uncertain economy, feelings of insecurity, fear, or loneliness. We are human, limited to relatively few years, not one of them characterized by 365 days of sunshine and peace!
In the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are murdering conspirators who face inevitable destruction--that's what you get for fooling around with witches and demonic forces! Plays and novels tend to wrap up with criminal usurpers punished and neat, morally satisfactory endings. The Bard's plot twists and ironies make him the greatest writer in the English language. Good triumphs over evil every time, framed in magnificent verse!
Our lives' plots don't always wrap up so neatly or within two and one-half hours, do they? I have prayed for the salvation of loved ones for years, sharing Christ continuously, with no evidence of interest on their part. A preschooler is murdered in gang crossfire through a window in his own home. A once-adorable grandson steals his grandpa's rifles, commits a series of crimes, and goes to prison. A most wonderful couple cannot have children, despite years of treatments. Alzheimers has instutionalized my brother-in-law, and robs my husband of mental ability daily. Why, Lord? Why aren't the godly and innocent rewarded and the wicked punished right now?
Our viewpoint is so limited, while God's viewpoint is infinite. " 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.' " (Isaiah 55:8-9) Sometimes I think, "Why do we even have free will? Wouldn't it be better if we couldn't act on our selfish desires? God could have had all men follow Him!"
God in his wisdom gave us the choice to follow Him. True to His promises, and to our delight, He guides, comforts and gives us abundant life through the Holy Spirit who indwells the born again believer. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Both joy and justice can be experienced in this world, but not perfect joy and justice. And certainly peace on this earth is a condition to be hoped and prayed for! The only perfect peace we will experience without any tinge of sorrow or unfairness will be in the arms of Jesus, for eternity.
That is the assurance possessed by believers in Jesus Christ! Do you have that assurance?
Friday, March 26, 2010
In Part IX, I shared ideas on starting a witnessing conversation, whether with strangers or with loved ones and friends. With strangers, we earn the right to be heard with kindness and genuine interest in their concerns; with loved ones and friends, we earn the right to be heard with kindness and genuine interest in their concerns! The only difference is the amount of time an unsaved person has had "to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven," as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:16.
Why do all of us experience fear in witnessing? Our message is true, and truly beautiful. Acceptance of Jesus as Savior means love, hope, acceptance and cleansing of a guilty conscience before God--blessings many people have never known. Our message is 100% good news!
Our witness is real and reflects God's character. In the case of loved ones, colleagues or friends, they have noticed a "different spirit" about us. They may have asked us how we remain cheerful in the daily grind, or don't hold grudges or backbite; they've noticed and commented on our honesty and discretion. It's obvious that the person likes and respects our ability to "agree to disagree agreeably" on issues that could cause enmity. We have been "up-front" about being a Christian. We've been a good witness, and more importantly, we have been praying for them! But we haven't actually shared the gospel in simple terms, offering them eternal life. Typically, our days are littered with missed--or avoided-- opportunities to open the conversation!
Then the moment arrives when the Holy Spirit has put all the ducks in a row: He has told you to share Christ with the person today; given you a desire to pray for them to be saved, forgiven and begin to "walk in newness of life" as Romans 6:4 describes it. And to take away any doubt, the Holy Spirit has arranged for you to talk to them alone, in the perfect time and place!! And though you may be fixated on your fear and what you are going to say, remember that the Spirit has been preparing them to have a listening ear and softened, receptive heart! They already want what you have--now offer it to them!
I can't tell you, of course, what topic of common ground you will open with, but you need to help them know that Jesus has made you the person you are today, much different from before you made a commitment to Christ. Share that you didn't know what would happen if you became born again, but you knew that every other path, program or plan had failed to straighten out your life (the "short version" of your testimony is important to have prepared in your mind ahead of time!) and that no matter what you tried, even if you'd achieved your goals and had success, something was missing. Actually, Some One was missing! It's often said that we are created with a God-shaped hole in our hearts, a hole only He can fill!
Whether the Spirit directs you to share the scripture Romans 10:13, "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved," or alternatively, to tell how you prayed to accept the Lord, asked forgiveness of your sins, and asked Jesus to save you, go for it! If they are receptive (as evidenced by thoughtful comments and questions) go ahead and ask them if they want to pray to accept the Lord!
No matter the outcome, you will have been obedient, shown your love for that person, and very possibly had a part in saving a soul from hell! Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise."
Remember the person who led you to the Lord, invited you to church, or went forward with you at an evangelistic crusade or altar call? Listen to the Holy Spirit as they did, and join them along with millions of other brothers and sisters in this "new community of faith, empowered by the Spirit to form a life of radical obedience." (Iain Duguid)
Thursday, March 25, 2010
In obedience to this divine appointment, I went to her, introduced myself and Steve who stood nearby. I listened to her tell about Matt, and shared about Christ making eternal life possible for her, and prayed comfort for her while holding her in my arms. I told her to come over any time to our home, and her friends and parents also--she and the deceased had gone to King High School with our kids. I really can't be sure how much she took in, being distraught as she was. But I trust the Holy Spirit to bring His words I was led to share to her remembrance, or even better, my love and offer of friendship. But it's His love I offer, for without Him, I can do nothing! We must remember that it is God who does the saving--we just have to be obedient to open our mouths and hearts to those in need of the Savior!
First impressions are critical to witnessing, but the far more difficult witness is living daily life with family, friends, fellow students or colleagues at work! Listen to how Jesus exhorts His followers, and the expectation He has for us from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16:
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on the top of a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Not only are people watching a Christian's behavior, but Jesus purposely sends His people out to be watched publicly every day! We are not to just muddle along, trying not to bother anybody, but to shine for Jesus, attracting others like moths to porch lights. I see no exceptions to my assignment--not bad traffic, bad news, bad health, bad finances, or even the bad behavior of others. We are to be noticeably different in our actions, reactions and interactions, from the nonbelievers around us. Look at I Timothy 6:1, about those who serve in the workplace: "Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine not be blasphemed." And blaspheme they will! Ever notice how savagely any prominent Christian who falls is attacked by the press? (Ever notice how savagely any commonplace Christian who falls is attacked when he or she falls, also?) Titus 2:5 tells us women that we are to be "discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." Who is blasphemed when we disgrace ourselves in front of the unsaved? God and his Word! How we need time in prayer and serious daily searching of scriptures to walk as He would have us walk!
A Christian needs to be pleasant and approachable, because we never know when a frightening or tragic issue will arise in a colleague, friend or family member's life, and we will be needed to counsel, comfort and console. Only Christians have a genuine word of hope, life-giving words, and the ability to see life in perspective to eternity. On more occasions than I can recount, heartbroken family members or friends, or even teachers down the hall, have sought me out for wisdom or a place to "vent," express their crushed spirits and feelings of defeat and failure--or having been abused by others. It's not me they see and are drawn to, it's Jesus in me. It is God who works in me "both to will and to do His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Sometimes the working of God in my life and our family's lives is compelling enough to draw others to come to church or to the Harvest Crusade. Some go forward to accept Christ, and others need more time. God knows their time to come to Him!
God spoke to Ezekiel of the change of heart the exiles would have when He returned them to Israel, in Chapter 11:19-20: "I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be My people and I will be their God."
Only God can perform a genuine heart transplant. But in obedience, we can lead our friends and loved ones to the Great Physician!
Part X: Personal obedience--powering past the fear.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Before we acknowledge that every word, sentence, phrase or tone of voice is of eternal significance, remember the promise Jesus made to His disciples before His departure, John 14:26: "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
Notice that Jesus said the Holy Spirit will teach you all things--like the deepest needs of the person you are sharing with. But take note of the second part of the verse: the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things Jesus said to them. The Holy Spirit can't "bring to remembrance" something you never heard or read, i.e., verses and concepts from the Bible! He certainly can bring new information to your mind any time, any place, and that could include scripture. What I am getting at is that you as a faithful witness for Christ need a storehouse of scripture at the ready for the appropriate spot in the conversation. If you are a new believer, you will have the basics; if you have walked with the Lord many years, you should have a real treasure trove of verses stored for the Holy Spirit to bring forward!
Starting the conversation is definitely the hardest part, I find, of witnessing, especially to strangers! After the Lord has led you to the right person to speak with (it's best if they are by themselves; but, if you both are parents watching your kids play, you can pray for an extended time of peace!) You might begin with a somewhat neutral comment on the location, event or activity you are both engaged in. "Love the sunny days we've been having!" "I think this line is moving, finally!" "I've always liked watching the planes come in while I wait for my flight." "That'a cool laptop!" "Have you read anything else by that author?" You get the picture. Offer help, a compliment, be friendly. Maintain an open, calm and pleasant expression that actually draws others to you. I don't mean smiling for no reason, but look like the person you are--a joyful believer in Christ!
If no actual conversation develops, continue to be positive in the silence. But don't give up! Pray! I've had strangers just start talking to me! That's what we call a "divine appointment." God is bringing you a person who needs what you have, who sees something they desperately want--true joy and peace. Enjoy your conversation, have fun, but don't forget your purpose, His purpose. You might gently steer the conversation with a remark like, "Have you noticed...?" about something currently happening. When they express a concern, or even fear, you then have an opening to say, "You know, I used to feel that way before I became a Christian." Now you can explain what happened to change your thinking, gave you hope and confidence instead of dread, or whatever the other person is expressing. Because you have listened to them with genuine concern, you have earned the right to be heard yourself. You may insert some of your testimony, because we all have one. Moving from death to life is no small event! Some of us were people no one ever thought would get saved and almost didn't bother witnessing to. We may have looked too "down-and-out," or even looked like we "had it all together!" But EVERYONE needs Jesus! They just don't know it, and that's why we share our faith.
Just don't forget to ask them, after they give a thoughtful, positive, or even at least a neutral response to your sharing, if they have any questions; then, if they would like to pray to accept Christ. Explain that Jesus came to give them life in heaven with Him forever, and a life of peace and hope today. Tell them that when they repent, they can be forgiven of every sin they've ever committed, in a clear and confident voice. After all, you are telling pure, unadulterated truth!! They may choose to accept Christ then and there, or, they may not. Acts 2:47 says, "The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." God knows when the person will be ready. He is the one who will send unrelenting conviction by the Holy Spirit, and will draw them to Himself. But you have the joy of having been obedient!
Jesus said, in John 12:32, predicting His death on the cross, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." Jesus' death and resurrection has drawn multiplied millions of sinners to Him for salvation. Let's "lift" His name up, in witness, to all we come into contact with!
Part IX: Under the microscope--your daily testimony.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that in past times God spoke to the forefathers of the Jews through prophets like Ezekiel, who brought messages to a "rebellious nation," (2:3) and "impudent and stubborn children" (2:4) most of the time. Mankind is still in rebellion against God, individually and corporately! But our loving Father has spoken in these days by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He walked as one of us, a person, and He "knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14, one of my favorite verses).
Yet the Lord, the almighty God of all of the universe, gives us rebellious and impudent children free will! He offers a choice of following and worshiping Him, or following humans around and worshiping ourselves! As a parent, I gave my infants almost no choices, toddlers precious few, preschoolers a few more, and school age and teens a progressive schedule of decision making, subject to my approval and to be rescinded at any time they proved incapable of using good judgment. Hebrews 12:10 compares human parental discipline with God's: we do what we think best, according to the information we are given, but even the most conscientious parent has no way of knowing how each child is going to turn out! But God, who knows the end from the beginning, also knows who will accept Christ, love and serve Him, who won't even consider the claims of Christ, and who will walk away--and He STILL gives us a choice!
A tiny bit of God's knowledge that we, by praying diligently and seeking His scriptures can discover, is what will motivate the unsaved person He has spoken to us about, and how to conduct a conversation with them about eternal life. Psalm 44:21b says, "He knows the secrets of the heart." God delights in our obedience, our willingness to "put it all out there,'" reputation, belongings, sensitivity, safety, all that we are, for His glory and the advancement of the kingdom of God! Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things. (John 14:26)
Is your friend, family member, acquaintance or neighbor fearful? Care-free? Confident? Trusting in riches? About to lose everything? Abandoned by a spouse? Struggling with secret sin? Lift them up to God! He knows everything about every one of us, and His Holy Spirit will reveal to you just what you need to know, if He has found you faithful, trustworthy, gentle, and discreet. At times, I have been informed by the Spirit of the "real issue" that a counselee was not mentioning, and to my shock, the Holy Spirit led me to confront her. Life and godliness are no light matters here on this earth, even for our short lifespan--think of the impact people's choices will have on their eternity!
Life or death, heaven or hell--will you help your friend to make the right choice, and thus participate with God in His gracious work of saving souls?
Part VII next time: the conversation.
Monday, March 22, 2010
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3:16 tells us, and all humanity until the end of time...but how does this square with the picture of the Lord God in the first few chapters of Ezekiel that we've reviewed, where nothing but judgment is spoken of?
A quick review of the nation of Israel's history with the Lord: He called Abraham in Genesis 15, and again in 17, telling him, Genesis 17:7-9, that He would establish an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants, with all the land of Canaan for their possession. "And I will be their God." From the books of Exodus through Joshua, God led His people to the promised land. Listen to the great love God has for the Jews, Deuteronomy 7:7-11:
The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people. But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath under which He had sworn to your fathers, has the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh of Egypt.
Know therefore, that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
And He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them: He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.
Therefore you shall keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command you this day, to observe them.
The Lord's love for His people is absolute. The same cannot be said for the people's love for God. Down through the generations, whether ruled by judges, prophets, or kings, the Israelites slipped in and out of idolatry, defying the Lord to His face, until, by Ezekiel's time, their wicked, degraded idol worship surpassed that of the surrounding nations!
Ezekiel wrote during the captivity that God had warned of for generations. God is like a loving, devoted parent who watches as warning after warning goes unheeded until he finds himself absolutely obligated to discipline his child. Israel's choice to flagrantly disobey earned an entirely just judgment.
Yet, God returned His people to their land, by decree of Persian King CyrusWorship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as temple and synagogue worship, was restored.
God's ultimate act of love then took place, as Galatians 4:4 states:
When the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
The good news about God that we have to share is valid, balanced, and convincing! Millions of us are living proof that Jesus saves!
Next: Prayerfully crafting a message for each individual.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
We have an earth-shattering, life-changing message to give, but do we feel the power of it enough to PLEAD with the unsaved? Would we risk the embarassment of a heartfelt appeal given with all of our strength and Holy Spirit-graced eloquence, delivered with longing for their souls?
In Ezekiel 3:17-21, the prophet is appointed "a watchman for Israel," and warned that if he fails to deliver the message, he will be held accountable for the deaths of the unrepentant! Do we accept accountability for those we could be sharing with, and are even given "divine apppointments" to share with, but refuse to do so? I have dropped the ball more than a few times in my 30 years as a believer, but the Holy Spirit and my conscience compel me to make another opportunity to speak to the person, to be obedient the next time. Should I worry as to whether it's God's will for me to seek a sharing oportunity? Not when God already told me to witness to them! My efforts or yours don't always result in an immediate conversion, and maybe our timing isn't always perfect, but are you ever doing wrong by doing right? We are commanded to evangelize!
Ezekiel is then directed by God to perform several "prophetic sign acts" to get the exiled idol-worshiping Jews' attention. He is told by the Lord to be tied with ropes and speechless until time to speak; to map out the siege of Jerusalem; bear the sins of Israel on his body while lying on his side for 390 days, then turn onto the other side for 40 days signifying Judah's sin, while eating extremely small portions of food; shave his head with a sword and divide the hair into lots to be destroyed in different ways, all to demonstrate the disease, famine, slaughter and scattering of the Jews. (Chapters 3,4 and 5)
Only after these graphic public illustrations does Ezekiel pronounce the message from God of utter destruction: Chapter 5:15b, NLT: "You will be a warning to all the nations around you. They will see what happens when the LORD punishes a nation in anger and rebukes it, says the LORD."
We have a message of dire warning to give as well--eternity in hell! But can we deliver a message showing God's love that far outweighs His righteous obligation to mete out just judgment? II Peter 3:9 says, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." That's why he sent His beloved Son Jesus to die in our place!
In Part V, we will craft a balanced message from balanced motives.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The Holy Spirit convicts a believer of sin and God adds those that He wills to the church (Acts 2:47), so what part do we play in reaching the lost? God could prepare a Damascus Road experience (Acts Chapter Nine, where Jesus Himself appears to Saul of Tarsus) for every unsaved person if He chose to--our triune God is certinly omnipresent! Instead, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, "it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (I Corinthians 1:21, NKJV). The NLT puts it this way: :"Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe." Our message of repentance and profession of faith is indeed a simple one in the eyes of the wordly wise!!
However, we know that there are components of an effective witness, and one must wait on the Lord for the opportunity to speak and the particular person to speak or preach to. We must pray and study the Bible, because the Gospel is presented throughout.
Ezekiel had a seven day waiting period before received his message, including a vsion of the beings, after the Spirit lifted him up. Note Ezekiel 3:14:
Friday, March 19, 2010
My portion of scripture for this morning was chapter three in the New Living Translation (NLT). In verses 1-3, the prophet is given the message for the people of Israel on a scroll that "tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth." The pure, delicious joy of God's Word is described for us in Psalm 119:103: "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" I pray that I might love and treasure God's word each day!
Ezekiel is warned that the hardhearted exiles will not listen, but God has made him as obstinate and hardhearted as they are! God says, v. 9, "I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don't be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels." Being hard-headed is rarely a compliment, as I well know from my own parents' resigned comments! But to be hardheaded in a righteous cause, a cause given to you by God Himself, even speaking in His behalf, is a sublime privilege; none higher!
Verse 10 is what became inprinted on my mind this morning, however:
When we have been born again, transformed by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit , we can take in God's word with understanding. We are prepared to witness for Him!
Ezekiel 3:11 says, "Then go to your people in exile and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says!' Do this whether they listen to you or not."
Unsaved people are a people in exile, in exile from the presence of the Living God. Their destiny, their chosen path, is the road to hell. Are we committed to practicing the "radical obedience" of Ezekiel?
I'll be considering the way that our gospel message is received from God and our preparation for delivering it next time!!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
It had been a quirky late morning after church and grocery shopping. We had set up the Freedom Alert system base unit up in our bedroom last night. I put it on "Test Mode" to check the range this morning as we drove up to the house. The end of the driveway is out of range, but my daily hangout, the garden, is in. Cool! Not leaving well enough alone, I thought I would clip the tiny unit to my belt loop to keep it from swinging from my neck, and that worked okay until I decided to move the clip. Suddenly the red light flashed and it started dialing 911!! I quickly shut it off, but not quickly enough. Within the next few seconds, there was a call on my cell. I was embarassed to pick it up, but realized that if I didn't, the police would come over--and I'd probably get a lecture and a false alarm fine..."Hello," I answered. "Riverside Police Department. Is there a problem there, ma'am?" the dispatcher asked. For some reason, I felt compelled to gave her my full name, then told her my issue. I silently wondered if I sounded realistic enough, or was I a lying hostage? She muttered "okay," as I apologized profusely in utter humiliation for having caused trouble for the police department. As James 4:6 says, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." And boy, did I need grace right then! (You better believe the alert pendant is now back on my neck!)
Steve and I went out to the garden to root out the flowers and water all of the rows. It's amazing how just a few days of sun can dry out the soil. How like us believers, so in need of a daily drink of the Word, that daily time of cleansing by the Living Water of the Holy Spirit! Yesterday's portion isn't good enough, seeing all of the events that concern each of us, and the inner changes even adults experience daily! Our perspective on people and issues ebbs and flows depending on new facts that come to light on even small matters! I need daily wisdom and guidance from God's Word and time spent in prayer to reveal both His heart and mine!
As He often does, the Lord had a little "sweetener" for us as we finished our work . Underneath the tall flower stems were some weak, stretched-out plants that looked an awful lot like lettuce!Since these were mixed wildflowers I couldn't be sure, but on further inspection, the plants were not only the right shape and color, but spaced exactly a foot apart! What undoubtedly happened was that this lettuce type germinated so slowly that I just went ahead and broadcast my flower seed, figuring that if the lettuce came up at all, it would stand out from the flowers. But the flowers ran amuck, allowing precious little light to reach down to the lettuce plants.
Now the lettuce will get the light it needs to thrive!!
You and I can find ourselves so busy doing the next thing, rushing to cover up seeming deficiencies in our lives, that we don't wait for the in-depth work God wants to do in our character! We are planting fast-growing deeds and accomplishments while He is slowly and carefully constructing a life from the ground up, from that "dust" to which we will all return one day. "And the LORD God formed man out of the dust of the ground..." (Genesis 2:7a)
I'll be a lot better person if I allow God to do the planting, watering, germinating and growing that I need to be my best, fit for the Master's use!!