Tag Archives: witnessing

Job 26-28; Acts 11

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Acts 11:1-3, NLT.

I spent a few years living in a Christian bubble: Christian friends, Christian music, Christian books. These things aren’t bad … in fact, they a still a huge part of my life. One day, God pushed me out of the bubble. Suddenly I was hostess around a table to many who weren’t believers. So, I served them. I showed hospitality and inclusion to them (and their kids). I welcomed them. This was all God’s doing. He planned that party, so to speak.

When I read these verses in Acts today, I wonder what the world would have been like if these men had limited their influence.

17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts 11:17-18, NLT.

And:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21, NLT.

I read a heated thread of fury on a social media feed this week. One person said (of Christians) that the basis of (our) religion is to cram it down other people’s throats (then he referenced a scripture about spreading the gospel). I felt horrified and grieved. I didn’t comment for several reasons, one being that it was obviously a battle ground for attack, and not a forum for understanding. But I did wonder: how is it that they perceived Christians in this light? What experiences (or lack of) have others had with Christians to describe them in such a way? How does one go from being good/full of the Spirit/strong in the faith to throat crammer? In my daily interactions, what do people notice first: his love or an agenda? (I can think of times when all someone was interested in was sticking a tract in my hands rather than asking my name or about my story. At the time, it made me mad.)

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) Acts 11:24-26, NLT.

I take some cues from these scriptures today, about sitting across from someone (perhaps over a meal like Peter), and spending time with them (investing in their lives like Barnabas and Saul/Paul).

In what ways has God given you opportunities to invest in the life of another?

Lord, you’ve wired us all in unique ways. Show us opportunities to glorify your name. Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Ex. 25; John 4; Prov. 1; 2 Cor. 13

The Samaritan woman at the well. I had heard of her, and her midday walk to get water was one of rejection and loneliness. It was suggested that the other women would get their water early in the morning, not in the middle of the day’s heat. But this woman shows up after everyone had left, to avoid her peers. It’s in the exclusion and loneliness that Jesus shows up. Her life hints at wandering and indulgence–I love that Jesus crosses lines (political and social) and looks her in the eyes. I would have expected she’d feel shame, but he talks to her and she feels free–free enough to spread the words “He knows all about me.” Shame drops to the ground, replaced by joy. Actions that may have bound her reputation are freed through Christ, and she can share her story with joy.

Is that what harvest looks like? Lives lived in truth, worship, joy.

34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” 2 Corinthians 13:34-42 NLT.

I know I’m not alone. I know other people have stuff they want to tuck away from public knowledge. But I know freedom in Christ, that I can proclaim: He knows all about me.

My God accepted me, looked me in the eye, stood by my side when no one else would. On days when I would have walked in exclusion because of another’s judgment, he walked beside me.

Thank you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament

Proverbs 30, 31; Acts 5:22-42

I didn’t know the Bible very well at all. I thought of the Old Testament one way, the New Testament another–and the God in each completely different. But reading through it, it’s one God, one beautiful story.

“I therefore decided to give attention to the holy scriptures and to find out what they were like. And this is what met me: something neither open to the proud nor laid bare to mere children; a text lowly to the beginner but, on further reading, of mountainous difficulty and enveloped in mysteries.” Saint Augustine Confessions.

I’m in Proverbs, and Jesus is there too.

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?
What is his name—and his son’s name?
Tell me if you know! Proverbs 30:4 NLT

A former contributor here once said: If he came not to abolish but to fulfill, both sides of my Bible can attest to his character! (Thanks, Christian!)

Every word of God proves true.
He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Proverbs 30:5

In today’s reading, speaking out and speaking up stood out to me. By telling his name in Proverbs, these words that are true, to speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves …

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8-9

to an unquenchable desire and unstoppable mission to make his name known …

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32.

I love how the religious expert expressed:

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” Acts 5:38-39, 42:

42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

From first page to last page, enveloped in mysteries–yet the Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them, Saint Augustine Confessions.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Proverbs

Exodus 35, Proverbs 11, John 14, Ephesians 4

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  – John 14:5-6

It couldn’t be any clearer than that.  In our culture, it isn’t cool to make absolute, exclusive statements about religion.  But Jesus does not mince words.  All paths DO NOT lead to God.  If you wish to find God, you need to go through Jesus. 

I’ve had both good and bad experiences boldly claiming this narrow truth.  The good experiences have invariably come when speaking to those who share my belief in Jesus.  On the other hand, when I have spoken to those who do not believe Jesus’ claims about himself, the results have frequently been disastrous.  Nonbelievers have often seen me as naïve, narrow-minded,  and intolerant.  Many are not the least bit persuaded by my words, no matter the eloquence or conviction attached to them.  I have learned that there is a better way to proclaim the Gospel to a lost world.  And it can be teased out of Jesus’ very next line.  John 14:7 says: 

“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

 Aha! The disciples saw God the Father because they saw Jesus.  They walked with Him, ate with Him, lived with Him.  They could know God because they could observe him in the flesh.  Our neighbors don’t have the same luxury – unless WE show them Jesus.  If we have a heart for the lost, then we need to BE Jesus to our neighbors.  That’s the ONLY way others will get to know the Father.  This puts a whole new spin on that narrow path that leads to God.  I used to read John 14:6 and only see acceptance of those who choose the path and condemnation for all those who fail to find the path.  But as I read through the rest of this passage, I am both convicted and motivated by the fact that I am being called to be that path.  When I do this well (which admittedly is more rare than I would like), I find that it then opens up opportunities to speak clearly about who Jesus is.

 Lord Jesus, live through me.  Help me to be a light in a dark world.  It is my sincerest desire to show people the way to our Heavenly Father. 

 Greg (gmd40187)

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Filed under John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament

Ezekiel 33-36

Scripture

When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

~Ezekiel 33:8,11

Observation

Old Testament prophets had a tough job to do. Preaching judgment, pointing out faults. But, they didn’t just share their own passing criticisms. They spoke God’s words, God’s thoughts, God’s condemnations. In this first part of Ezekiel 33, God gives Ezekiel a little pep talk, one with a little zing. He could not ignore his calling. He could not shirk his responsibility. The blood of a nation would fall to him if he walked around tight lipped. And, their continual walk in iniquity would be his own fault.

God spells out the many responses. Some will hear and ignore it, some will hear and follow, but those with the message must share it, so they at least have that choice. Unfortunately, at the end of this chapter, in verses 31-33 we see that many in Israel listened to Ezekiel for entertainment. Just another dinner theater to occupy the time. How many seats in our church are filled with people with similar agendas? I pray I would not fall into that category, ever. In the end, the message needs to go out, and the hearer bears responsibility for action and response.

Through this judgment we then see what God wants to offer us and the people of Israel. He didn’t go around calling down judgment because He found it entertaining. What He really desires is repentance. He wants the message to go out, because He wants to bless us. He wants people to repent and turn from their sins. He sent His Son to die, and doesn’t want that to have happened in vain. He goes on to share the blessings, the bounty, the plan to bring renewed hope. God does not speak lightly, and we can rely on His promises unreservedly.

Application

I need to share the gospel more often, with more people. Just as I cannot hold my breath, I should not hold in the gospel. It should ooze into my conversations, or their guilt  returns to me.

Church demands my active participation. The messages that I hear, I have a responsibility to put into practice. I’ve heard a lot of messages over the years, and that gives me a lot of responsibility!

God desires repentance. I need to reach out to others with that same sense  of compassion. Not getting something off my chest, or doing my duty, but sharing with a desire for response, for salvation from judgment.

God’s blessing is other worldly. I need to keep that perspective and motivation. It’s still coming, and I want to pour myself into His will until I get there.

Prayer

Lord, Help me to see You, to hear You, to follow You and You alone. I don’t want to be just a bench warmer. I want to be in the game, an active participant, an indispensable warrior, a vital link in Your kingdom. Lord, use me, and help me never become complacent to the urgency of the message even when the response doesn’t seem to penetrate the surface. ~Amen

~Erin

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Ezekiel 5-9

Scripture

Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how grieved I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for other gods. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their wickedness. They will know that  I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I predicted that all this would happen to them. Ezekiel 6:9-10 NLT

Observation

597 BC            Israel Won’t Own Up / God Goes Nonlinear

God told Israel what He expected. They refused to acknowledge him or their sin. He sent Jeremiah and Ezekiel to warn them of His coming wrath. Israel chose to disbelieve God’s word and to focus on their idols. God had enough. He unleashed his anger. The outcome was cruel hardship and exile for Israel.

Application

Israel wanted idols, not the one true God. God must be the main focus, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Confirming my belief sometimes isolates my thinking, creating a confirmation bias that makes me seem insensitive, condescending, or irrelevant to non-believers. If I ignore God I am lost, but if I look down on the world I effectively close communication and put myself and the message I bear in exile. God sent Christ to redeem everyone’s hearts, not just mine. He alone is God and I am not.

Prayer

Lord, You alone are righteous, holy, just and omniscient.  Lead and guide me in your ways. Keep me from molding me shaped idols. May I never stray so far from you, that you could use my life as a cautionary tale. I love you, Lord. May my actions be consistent with my belief and help me to overcome any unbelief. Thank you for sending your mercy and love through Jesus in whose name I pray. Amen.

yicareggie

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