Category Archives: Evangelism

It’s Not About Us!

Ship

For in this case the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the hard work, and now you have taken up their labor.”  John 7:27-29

Today’s red letter passage makes me think of my own efforts to share my faith.  If I’m not careful, I can make personal work all about me and my efforts. I think I need to find someone to share with.  Then, I need to actually talk to them.  Then, I need to say the right thing.  If they respond, I need to show them I care.  I need to serve them. I need to study the Bible with them in the right way.  And somehow, I need to get them over their obstacles so that they will come to a point of commitment.

Whew! When it’s all about me, it can feel heavy and intimidating.

But Jesus related a different concept in today’s red letter passage.  He told his disciples that others had already done the hard work.  They just needed to reap.  They just needed to pick up where the others left off.

Who are the hard workers that Jesus was referring to?  It was the prophets of the Old Testament, and also John the Baptist, who prepared hearts by communicating God’s word.

But I have to add that God did the hard work as well.  How much do we see that He’s always active, always arranging things so people will reach out to him, or respond to the gospel?

It’s crazy for me to think of the innumerable ways God worked to bring me to a point of commitment.  He put me in the right place to awaken my faith.  He put my future husband in my life.  When my heart was sad over my mom’s divorce, he drew me to him.  When my husband and I got married, he led us to a church that would change our lives

When I’ve studied the Bible with others, it’s sobering to realize how much of their conversion was not up to me.  One young woman said she was done, but then came to church one more time, and when she did, there was just the right sister visiting who talked to her for hours until she had a breakthrough.  Another woman hit a wall, and I thought it was over, but then she called me out of the blue while I was on vacation, walking on the beach, and said she wanted to be baptized.  Another started studying the Bible, and then disappeared for months.  At some point, one of her friends threw out an invitation for her to come back.  She came, made a commitment, and is still faithful today.

All of this reminds me that it’s NOT all about me and my efforts.  There are some great verses that back this up.

  • I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  I Cor. 3:6
  • As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isa 55:10-11

I think one of the best illustrations of what we are to do is given in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  One boy provided what he could, five loaves of bread and two fishes.  God made what the boy gave increase exponentially.  In the same way, we are to do what we can for God, and give him our best efforts.  But then we need to realize that he is creating the increase, not us.

And he will create the increase on his time table.

Or he might not create an increase at all.

I think that’s the hardest part for me to understand.   I have this bulldozer type of idealism, where I think, “I’ll just keep pushing forward and doing the good things for God, and he’s going to come through and work in amazing ways.”

But now I’ve realized that is actually telling God what he’s supposed to do.  Instead, I should say, “I’m going to put my efforts out there.  But what happens is up to God.  He may bless my efforts.  He may not.  But he’s always good.  I will trust him no matter what.”

The key is to put our efforts out there.  God wants to use us.  He wants to use the strengths and abilities he put in us.  But we don’t know how exactly he’s going to use us, or where he’s going with our efforts.  We want so badly to direct him, and tell him how to make our ventures successful.  In my case, I’m addicted to productivity, and I’m very motivated to see the fruit of everything I do.

It’s hard to, instead, do what I can, and trust God when things are quiet, and I feel unproductive.  It’s hard to be humble.  It’s hard to not think I am failing.

One verse that I love that helps with this is Ecclesiastes 11:1-2.  “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Put your investments in several places–many places even–because you never know what kind of bad luck you are going to have in this world.” (NIV, GNT) 

We just need to send our ships out.  We just need to invest in several places.  I know my husband and I don’t have all of our money for the future in one pot.  We have savings.  We have a 401K.  We have some money in Vanguard funds.  And even in the 401K, the money is in many different places.  We don’t know when the market might go down, so we diversify.

We need to diversify for God as well.  That’s another way of saying that we need to go about doing good and acting in faith in all sorts of ways.

Because, going back to the first point, our “investments” are just one piece of what’s happening.  God has been working, and continues to do so.  Others are contributing to the softening of hearts.  It’s not up to us.  We just do what we can, and give God something to work with.

One of our ships will return.  Jesus promises that there are people who are ready, and we will find them at some point.

But if we don’t, we keep on going.

We keep investing, using what we’ve been given — our abilities, our time, our knowledge.

We trust.

And we curl up, and find contentment in the Lord.

LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever!  (Ps. 131 GNT)

Leave a comment

Filed under Evangelism, Having the Right Heart, John, Perseverance

Finding the Rewards and Motivation

Already the reaper draws his wages and gathers a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.  John 4:36

Here’s my mash up translation of this verse: Even now, the one who is doing the harvesting is receiving his paycheck, and what he’s harvesting is people brought to eternal life, so that the one who plants the seed and the one who harvests the crop can rejoice together.

It’s a pretty cool passage when you break it down.  Jesus speaks of a harvest that’s already taking place. Wait, when did this happen?  We were just reading about Nicodemus.  Now suddenly, we realize that Jesus has brought souls to eternal life!  And what a surprise, they’re Samaritan souls!  The woman at the well believed in Jesus, and spread the good news to her whole town.  They came to believe as well.

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” . . . And many more believed because of His message. They said to the woman, “We now believe not only because of your words; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man truly is the Savior of the world.” John 4:39, 41

Jesus also says that the one who does the harvesting is receiving a wage.  We know he’s referring to his disciples as the harvesters, because later in the passage he tells them, “I sent you to reap.”  But what is this compensation he’s talking about?

We can look at some other places in the Bible to give us clues.  In Matthew 10:10, when Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the good news, he told them to not take money to buy food, because “those who work deserve to be fed.”  God would make sure that their needs were provided for by the people they ministered to. So it could be that Jesus was saying that the harvester would be sustained by the providence of God as he did the work, and that would be his reward.

The “pay” also could be an intrensic reward.  It could be the satisfaction of doing the will of God.  This certainly was true for Jesus, as he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

It could be the joy of bringing souls to eternal life. The verse goes on to say that the sower and reaper will rejoice together.  This is backed up when we look in Luke 10 at how the 72 disciples were sent out to minister. They returned with joy in their hearts.  Jesus told them, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Two initial takeaways from today’s reading.

What can we take away from today’s red letter passage?  First, will we be harvesters?  Jesus didn’t do much to set this harvest in motion.  He just cared about a woman. He just had a conversation.  We can do that too.

Second, will we see the harvesting process as rewarding?  There’s a reward we can experience now, because Jesus promises that those who seek the kingdom first will have their physical needs met.  (Matt. 6:33)  We can’t take it for granted if we have a place to live, clothes to wear, and food in our bellies!  These are perks we have because God is taking care of us.

But there’s also the reward of having a deep peace and satisfaction that comes from doing God’s will.  And there’s the reward of the joy we experience as our hearts burst in celebration when someone makes a decision for Christ.  Each new soul becomes dear to us, and we take the treasure of them into eternity.

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.  I Thes 2:20

Having the motivation to put this into practice.

How motivating are these rewards?  In life coaching, when someone wants to change a behavior, they have to have a proper incentive.  They can’t just say, “I’m think I’m going to start waking up early every day and exercizing.”  If they do, they’ll find themselves sleeping in!  Instead, they have to tell themselves, and believe that, “It’s so important to me to get into shape, that I will give up sleep for it.”

Sharing our faith has to become so important to us that we will push through and do it.  The rewards have to be a powerful incentive.  And for me, I admit, they haven’t been. I’m focused on too many other things that seem important to me.  And I don’t realize the magnitude of the reward.

I did a coaching workshop a few days ago, and I asked the participants, “At the end of your life, what would you regret not doing or spending more time on?”  When I asked myself that question, it was sobering.  One of the main things I would regret is not sharing the gospel with more people. That makes me realize that it truly is of top importance to me.  I just get distracted by day to day life.  Or I give into my fear of what people will think, or my love for comfort.

Just as I am trying to open my own eyes, I think that Jesus was trying to open his disciples’ eyes to the enormity of what they were doing.  After centuries of sowing, it was finally time to reap! God was bringing eternal life to souls, and the disciples were part of the process.  They needed to see that the labor of harvest was the best use of their time.  Everything else would fade away, but the work done in God’s field would last forever.

The real motivation and reward goes much deeper.

As I’ve thought of this over several days, I think that the real reward for being a harvester is much more than what I’ve written.  The real reward is that, as a follower of Christ, the harvesters were now living their new identity.

You know, if you don’t live out your identity, you feel unsettled.   You can pretend to be someone else, but sooner or later, you’re miserable.  But when you get your life in line with who you are, and what you value, you’re in the sweet spot.

So I think that living the life they were called to live was the greatest reward of the disciples.   Harvesting was their new groove, and they would feel most alive when they participated in it.  They had an exciting knowledge that was bubbling inside, waiting to be shared with others.  They had a light that was meant to shine, not be hidden under a basket. (Matt. 5:16) And shining for God would feel like the best thing ever.

It will feel like the best thing ever for us as well, if we can push through and live out our identity.  Let’s open our eyes to what’s really important to us.   Let’s realize and be motivated by the amazing rewards that are ours when we do the work.

And one day, we will have the greatest reward of all.  We will have treasures in heaven.  (Matt. 6:19-21) We will rejoice with the sowers over each soul from the field in which we labored.  It will be utterly sweet.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)  

Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life.  John 6:27b

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Evangelism, John, Red Letter, Uncategorized

The Eyes of Anticipation

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ripe for harvest.  John 4:35

Are the fields ripe for harvest?  Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t believe this much for the city of Auburn.  We moved here 10 years ago, gung ho about helping the small church planting grow, and, although we’ve impacted many people, the church is still small.  It seems like most everyone isn’t really interested.

But yesterday, I watched a video about how one of the scenes in the TV series, “The Chosen” was made.  This series about Jesus and the people around him is one of my favorite shows regarding Jesus!

But back to the video.  In it, the director talks about how they made the scene where Peter and Andrew have been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything, but then cast their nets onto the water on the other side of their boat when Jesus tells them to, and they haul in a heavy, miraculous load of fish.

The director tells a super inspiring story of how, when it came time to film, all of the sources for fish to use in the scene had fallen through.   The only thing left to do was to film a large green mass in the nets, and later rely on the special effects team to create fish where the green mass was.  The director really had to step out on faith.  This was one of the most important scenes in the series, and it needed to have an impact.  He said that even though he would start to freak out, he kept coming back to a feeling of peace, that God would provide.

It turns out that even though the special effects guys assured the director they could do it, they’d never done created this kind of animation before, and everything they tried didn’t work.  It was a case where the film crew had to rely on God to provide the fish, so they could film the scene about how he provided the fish!  At the last minute, one of the tech guys woke up in the middle of the night with an idea how the effect could be generated.  It worked, and the scene is amazing.

What’s wild, is that I’ve experienced the same thing as they did in the video.  I also worked for a Christian TV show, and we often had to rely on prayer when we had no idea how something was going to work out.  We would be a couple days away from deadline, and have no one to film.  We would be set up for a film shoot, and then find out that they’d taken away permission for us to film at a crucial location.  We would have 100% rain forecast on the day that we’d scheduled to shoot. In each of these cases, the executive producer and I would pray, and then go forward believing that God was going to supply what we needed.  And it always came together.

So since I’ve experienced this, why am I not doing it more now?  I’ve forgotten.  I’ve been beaten down by disappointments.

But now I’m excited and energized to get back to practicing this kind of faith.   I want to do what I can, and then trust that God will to provide what I can’t.  I want to give my best to each situation, but also see more that prayer is crucial.

So much of what we do in our days needs God to help it come together.

Jesus told his disciples to open their eyes and see that there were people ready to respond to the message, just as the woman at the well did.  The disciples would have thought that no one was open in Samaria.  They were wrong.

And I’ve been wrong, too.  There are open people in Auburn.  God wants me to open my eyes, pray, and go forward with the anticipating of seeing them.

This is only the beginning.  There are other areas in my life where I can apply this principle.  I’m buidling my coaching business.  I have a health situation that needs to be resolved.  And more.

I want to go forward in anticipation that God will supply in these areas as well.

I pray that you will be inspired to do the same.

“At daybreak I lay my plea before You and wait in expectation.” Ps 5:3

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Evangelism, Faith, John, Red Letter

Do I Really Hear?

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.’” (Is 6:8-10)

This passage seems crazy!  Why would our patient, long suffering God tell Isaiah to preach this message?  It’s a total downer.  It’s like God didn’t want his people to repent.

I think this only makes sense if we realize that God doesn’t have unlimited patience.  We so much get this idea in our heads that no matter how long someone ignores the Lord, they can repent in the end and it will be okay.

And one one hand, this is true.  Jesus told a parable (Matthew 20) about workers in a vineyard, and how some began working in the beginning of the day, some in the middle, and some at the very end.  They all got the same pay, no matter when they came.  And this means that everyone who repents and obeys the teachings of Jesus will go to heaven, no matter when in their life they repent.

But there’s another principle that is also true, and it’s that there comes a point when God has given people, especially a nation of people, chance after chance, and their time runs out.  I believe that’s the message Isaiah was given to preach.  Time was running out for the Jews.

Jesus told a different parable in which a land owner went away, and left tenant farmers in charge of his land.  The owner kept sending servants to get his share of the crops, and the tenant farmers kept killing the servants so they could keep it all for themselves.  Finally the owner sent his son, thinking they would respect him.  But the tenant farmers killed the son as well.  Jesus asked the religious leaders what they thought would happen to these tenants.  The leaders said the tenants would be put to death, and the land would be leased to others. Jesus told them the same would be true for them, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)  God had sent prophets to his people and they didn’t listen.  He sent his son, and they still wouldn’t listen.  So God’s patience with them would come to an end.

I think this commentary by Matthew Poole sums up God’s thoughts in Isaiah 6 well, “Their time of conversion and healing is past; it is now too late, I will not convert, I will not heal them.”

Now it makes sense why Jesus quoted Isaiah 6 and said to his disciples, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’”  (Luke 8:10)  

By speaking in parables instead of plain language, God, through Jesus, actually made it difficult for the Jews to understand the gospel.  It was like God was saying to the them, “You reap what you sow.  Because you wouldn’t listen for so long, now you won’t be able to hear.”

Man, that’s hard! It’s a side of God we need to try and understand.

And the lesson for us in this is that it’s vitally important to learn how to listen better.  In the same passage where Jesus taught about Isaiah 6, he used phrases like, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear, ” and, “Take care then how you hear.”  (Luke 8:8b, 18a) He told the parable of the soils and concluded, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)

Can we be good soil, better hearers than the Jewish nation of old?

This is exactly what I need to focus on at this point in my life.  You see, I’ve started life coaching, and I’ve been struggling to be effective at it.  And the feedback I’ve been getting is that I need to learn to stop worrying about saying the right thing to the client, because then I’m not listening to them.

And I’m seeing that can also play out in my day to day living.  I get so busy performing, and thinking about what I’m supposed to do, that I forget to listen to God.  It becomes about me, and not about HIM.

But I’m learning to listen better.  And I want to pass this on to you.  Here are some ways to be a good hearer.

  1. Look for what God is doing.  Have the attitude of Jesus, who said, “The son can do nothing by himself.  He can only do what he sees the Father doing.”  (John 5:19)
  2. Listen to God in prayer.  Have a time in your devotional when you stop speaking and open your ears to spiritual promptings.
  3. Be reactive, instead of proactive.  Don’t be so set on your agenda that you can’t go with what God puts on your plate.
  4. Be open, instead of closed. A closed person hides behind walls of self protection.  An open person is like Mary, who said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be to me as you have said.”  (Luke 1:38)
  5. Read the Bible with the intent of understanding God’s heart.
  6. Clean out the gunk in your heart that keeps you distracted, like worries, hurts, anger, bitterness, and loving the world.
  7. Touch base with the Spirit frequently.  Envision that each breath fills you with the Spirit.  Let every plan and action flow from that, like exhaling.

Today, just as in the days of Isaiah, God wants everyone to hear, despite the state of their hearts.  That’s why he commissions us in the same way he commissioned Isaiah.

Will we respond to this commission as Isaiah did, saying, “Here am I, send me!”

Will we go out and tell others, even when they’re not receptive?  That’s what Isaiah had to do.  That’s what it feels like I do when I share my faith.

But I I have to admit that when I persevere, I always find that one person who has a more open heart.

And that’s the last piece we can learn about God in this discussion.  Yes, he made it difficult for the Jews to hear and be healed.  But he knew that a few of his people would understand and respond to the gospel.   The whole nation of Israel would not be converted.  But a handful of invididuals would get it.

And this small group would be enough to impact the world for eternity.

So we have to take the same attitude.  We can go out and share our faith, and hundreds of people won’t get it.  But there IS that one heart out there who will.  There might even be others who will remember later, and respond.

And the few who do, will change the world.

That’s why we go, as Isaiah did.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Luke 10:2

Leave a comment

Filed under Evangelism, Hearing, Isaiah

A Remedy for the Refugee

People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor.

The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.

A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say,

“You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!”

But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy.

I have no food or clothing in my house;

do not make me the leader of the people.”  Is 3:5-7

I’ve been reading beautifully written novel about Syrian refugees.  It really brings home to me what it would be like to lose everything we take for granted — our  home, food, schooling.

It reminds me of this passage above.  Isaiah prophesied about a tumultuous time when people would oppress and destroy one another.  All would be laid waste, like rubble.  If this isn’t a description of a Syria, I don’t know what is.  I’m not saying this prophesy was about Syria, only that Syria gives us a good picture of what this passage is describing.

Here is a picture of Syria right now:

Syria

 

And here is a video with a view of what it is like to be a Syrian refugee.

Two of the Syrians who were interviewed in the video said, “We used to be comfortable and safe all day.  Now we have to stay here with nothing to do.. . . There is no water, you have to buy it.  Now you can’t get anything you need.  It is difficult to buy bread because we don’t have enough money.”

Over six million Syrians have been displaced.  It is estimated that 10,000 more Syrians become refugees each day.  They struggle for even their basic needs, and families are reported to spend up to twenty percent of their income on clean water.

We can see the hopelessness.  We can see the heartbreak.

It is as the verse in Isaiah 3 says, “I have no remedy.”  Or a more literal translation is, “I will not be a healer. In my house there is neither bread nor cloak.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about people’s souls.  For a long time, my dream has been for our church to grow, for it to be a place where people could come and find shelter from the world, could find wholehearted joy in God, and could worship in spirit and in truth.

But lately I haven’t been doing anything to help the church grow.  I haven’t been reaching out to people and inviting them.

And as I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that my goal needs to be more than growing the church.  It needs much more be to reach out to people’s souls.  I need to long for each soul to be saved.

You know, when Jesus saw the people of his day, his heart went out to them.  He didn’t just condemn them for their poor decisions or their worldliness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

I so need to be more like Jesus!  People are like refugees on the inside, bereft, wandering, needy.  They need healing, and I have a remedy for those who would listen.

But it’s hard to be the worker who reaches out. I told myself this morning when I went to a kids’ consignment sale that I would open my mouth and share my faith.  I talked to two people, but didn’t get any further.  My motivation just wasn’t great enough.

And then I remembered that I have heard many, many people say that they were praying to know God better, or praying for a church, and within a few days someone shared with them.  And I thought, the next person I meet could be one of those people!  They could be the person God put in my path for a reason.

So when I went to pick up my groceries from Kroger ClickList this afternoon, I asked the young woman who loaded up my bags if she would like an invitation to church.  She told me about her church, and how she has a daughter who is 14 who feels called to the ministry, and the daughter has already given a couple of messages to the children in the elementary school ministry.  It was a heart warming story.  I don’t know if me sharing with the woman made a difference in her life, but it enriched me!

Let’s reach out more.

Maybe we will find someone who is searching.

Maybe there’s a little refugee in all of us, and we can touch one another’s souls.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Compassion, Evangelism, Isaiah, Uncategorized

Fix the Bad or Spread the Good?

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

There is so much strife in the world.  Right now, what I see is politics.  I intensely dislike the antagonism there.  My Republican friends post on Facebook about how stupid the Democrats are.  The Democrats post about how dumb the Republicans are.  It is just so hateful, so inconsiderate.

But this is nothing compared to the conflict all over the world.  It is utterly disturbing to see the fighting in Syria, the Middle East, and other places — people killing one another, full  of rage and antagonism, over and over, without end.

Looking at the above passage in Mark 13, there is a huge contrast between the strife foretold, and the building of God’s kingdom.  One makes it seem like the world is falling apart, and the other speaks of a kingdom that is GROWING through all the hardship.  One is bad news, the other is good news.

So does Jesus want us to fix the bad news, or does he want us to focus on the good news?

I think it’s obvious he wants us to focus on the good news.  Look at the wording of verse 10 again:  “And the gospel MUST FIRST be preached to all nations.”  That is the priority of Jesus. He doesn’t once say they should engage in the wars, or even fight it if they are arrested.

No, in fact, they are to use the conflict they encounter as a platform to be WITNESSES.

I think the same should be true today.  Our main focus should be on the spreading of the gospel, not in fixing the wrongs of the world.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think there’s a place for righting injustices. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.  Isa 1:17a 

And most definitely we need to serve the poor and needy.  After all, pure religion is to take care of the orphans and widows. (James 1:27)  Jesus said that in caring for “the least of these” — the sick, the hungry, those in prison — we are caring for him.  And Isaiah said about true fasting: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”  Isa 58:7

But the gospel MUST be preached.  I guarantee, most of us want to put it on the back burner instead of the front.

So what is the “gospel?”   I looked through the first few chapters of Mark to see what good news Jesus was telling people, and I found almost nothing.  The only thing I saw was this:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”  Mark 1:14-15

The good news was that it was time for the kingdom of God to come.

And what did the kingdom mean to the Jews?  They thought God would make them a sovereign nation, as He did in the time of David and Solomon.  They would be an empire, great on earth.

But this wasn’t the kingdom Jesus was bringing.  Even if we don’t see him describing it, we can see what he was doing.  Jesus was amazing people with new teachings about God.  He was casting out demons.  He was healing the sick.  He was forgiving sin.

And that shows us that actually, JESUS was the good news.  He was the kingdom that was coming.  The king, God, was WITH men as never before.

Sure, God was with his people in times of old.  He told Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”  (Joshua 1:5)

But God wasn’t with men in a physical sense, as He was when Jesus came to earth.  And what a powerful time it was!  Demons were conquered.  Sin was forgiven.  Words of life were spoken.  Needs were met.  Bread was multiplied.  Love was manifest.

God was with them.  That was the good news.  And, of course, it became even better news than that, because Jesus made a way for people to be WITH God always.

So whether there were disasters or wars, or any manner of catastrophes, Jesus ushered in a time when it didn’t matter what was going on, because the Almighty God was WITH them.  He didn’t come to bring an end to their suffering.  He came to bring them power amidst the suffering.  THAT was the good news.

And it still is the good news.  Last night Ken and I were praying with our friends, Mike and Carol.  I confess, that when it gets to be about 8 PM, I am just gutting it out sometimes.  I love my friends, and I love to pray to God.  But I’m tired.  And so my prayers can be listless.  But last night I remembered the good news.  The powerful God was with me!  And I KNEW He would do exciting things because of our prayers.  So I started to be infused with strength and excitement.  I felt alive.

The gospel is such good news.  I could go on an on about the hope we have, the impossible prayers that have been answered, the miracle being a part of the family of God.  It’s not lackluster, it’s HUGE and glorious.

Thus, the gospel must be preached.  It is bigger than any catastrophe, because no matter what happens, we can be WITH God.  People need to know this truth that will transform them forever.

May this calling swell in our hearts.  Let’s not get distracted by ranting about the numerous wrongs in the world.  Yes, let’s seek to right injustices.  Yes, let’s spend ourselves on behalf of the needy.

But let’s also seek to give people the thing that will help them find hope and strength in their difficulties.

Let’s give them the Jesus who will make possible immeasurably more than all they can ask or imagine.

Let’s give them something that will last far beyond the troubles on this earth.

The world will always be falling apart.

With our help, there’s something more.  The kingdom that will always be growing.

1 Comment

Filed under Evangelism, Good news, Mark

Expecting Providence

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  (Mark 11:1-6)

I love here that Jesus EXPECTS that God will provide the colt.

Yes, it could be that Jesus had it set up ahead of time for the colt to be tied up and ready for him.  But I think if he had done that, he would have had his disciples tell that to the people who questioned them.

No, I think this is purely a faith issue.  Jesus has read the scripture in Zech 9:9 that says, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

And he knows that God is the PROVIDER.  As it says in Genesis 24:14, “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the LORD will provide’). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'”

Jesus knows that God will provide what he needs to fulfill his mission. 

Because God DOES orchestrate life so the right thing is in the right place at the right time.

This has certainly been true in my life.  One day, about four years ago, Liz Chang and I decided to go out sharing.  We met someone in the dairy department at Kroger and had a good conversation with them and invited them to church.  This person is now our wonderful sister in Christ, Markeya.  I believe God put her in Kroger at just the right place and time so she would be met. And I could cite so many more examples of the same thing.

Markeya and me

Markeya and me

We have to believe that Jehovah Jireh, the PROVIDER, will provide us with what we need to carry out our mission, just as he did for Jesus.

After all, God is the good father.  Just like it says in Matthew 7, He’s not going to give us a stone if we ask for bread.  He gives GOOD GIFTS to those who ask!  So if we ask for open people, or for workers, how will He not put them in the right place at the right time?

So I started thinking about this passage on Saturday, and wondered if I could put it into action in regards to my prayer to meet married people.   Ken and I went out for coffee at Mama Mocha’s, as is our Saturday morning habit.  As I was waiting in line, I saw a mature couple sitting at the coffee bar.  “They could be the answer to my prayer,” I told myself.  I caught the woman’s eye and mentioned that my husband and I have coffee together, just like they were doing.  We got to talking about all sorts of things.  (The line was slow that day!)  At the end, she asked me to be her friend on Facebook, and gave me her name!  I had made a new friend!

Now the challenge is for me to act more and more like God is going to provide.

After all, I realized this morning as I was praying,  the challenge isn’t to DO MORE, it’s to HAVE MORE FAITH.  “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.'”  John 6:29

This verse says the same thing:  “Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you because you do the actions of the Law or because you believe what you heard?”  Gal 3:5

It’s HARD work, to believe!  But even when we feel like we don’t have it in us, God is still the provider.  He gives us the Spirit. (Luke 11:13)  He gives us wisdom.  (James 1:5)  We just need to ask.

And God set it up that we would need to ask.

Because here is the crazy thing about carrying out a mission.  We can only do it if we are totally depending on God’s providence.

I mean, look how Jesus sent his disciples out: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.”  Mark 6:8

God wants us to do His work through faith, through Him, not through our own strength.

And He WILL provide what we need to do His work.  We can believe it.  We can EXPECT it.

In that, my soul finds rest.

Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow.  II Cor 9:10

Leave a comment

Filed under Evangelism, Faith, Mark