Meditation … Restoring the Lost Years


Psalm 90:15 (NLT) Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good.

Joel 2:25 (NKJV) So I will restore to you the years that the  swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust.

Psalm 30:5b (NKJV) Weeping may endure for a night, But joy [comes] in the morning.


GOD’S WONDERFUL PROMISE for those redeemed in Christ — who have received God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Christ — is that He will bring joy and wonder in abundance, more than enough to compensate for the lean years, those years we lived without Him in our hearts.

Anyone who has “come to faith” as an adult, whether in their 30s or 70s or in-between, sees a clear demarcation between the “before” years and the “after” years and may well fall into the sin of remorse, of wishing so much that they had come to know the Lord in a personal and intimate way earlier in life, that they fail to rejoice at the new gift they’ve been given.

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WHEN OUR ENERGY is turned from living-for-God to remorse for having rejected Him earlier, God can’t use us for His Kingdom.

We need to focus on how God’s Holy Spirit redeems our hearts and souls and energizes us with a desire to live out the Gospel.

Then, we don’t need to look back with remorse but look ahead with anticipation. The Bible says God will “replace the evil years with good” and “restore … the years … the swarming locus has eaten.” 

Our eternal life starts the day we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives and extends past our earthly deaths into all eternity. While our yesterday was filled with weeping, the psalmist assures us “joy comes in the morning.” 

Praise God!


PRAYER

 O LORD, we praise Your wonderful name! We give thanks, O Most High, for your steadfast love and bountiful mercy and grace. You not only have promised us an eternity with You in paradise, where we will look upon Your name and You will be our God and we will be Your people, but You have assured us that eternity starts here, in this life, in this world, the day we come to You in childlike innocence and proclaim, “Lord, I’m a sinner in need of Your grace. Thank You, O Lord, for Christ’s work on the cross for me. I believe He died for my sins and rose to glory as the first to be resurrected from the dead.” So, too, we, O Lord, will be raised from the dead at Your command. Thank You. We praise You, O Lord. In Jesus’ powerful and majestic name we lift this prayer. AMEN

CORRECTING OUR FRIENDS

What do we do when our friends — defined as those closest to us, such as family, neighbors, co-workers, buddies — say things routinely that we find disturbing? Disturbing not because they’re offensive to us but because they’re offensive to things we believe in, that we cherish, that we hold to be true? Do we let the moment(s) pass, hoping the hurt will go away? Do we confront the person, ever so gently? If we say something, what do we hope will be the outcome? Renewed friendship? Deeper appreciation for one another’s core values? And if it doesn’t work out that way … then what?


“Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT)

“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” — 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)


THE U.S. SUPREME COURT recently ruled in a 5-4 decision not to uphold a Louisiana state law that would have required abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

While the court’s ruling was based on procedural grounds and court precedent, the wider public understandably sees the verdict as a setback for the pro-life movement and a victory for those supporting abortion.

Taking this into the political realm, the decision was seen by many as a rebuke of the Trump/Pence pro-life agenda and, of course, a smack-down of those of us who use the Bible’s words to support the life of the unborn infant.

The deeper reality of the court’s ruling is “None of the Above.”

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THE REAL TARGET is Almighty God. The rebuke was to His will for our lives.

So, how are we to engage with our closest friends and associates, and those of a general public that gather on social media to trade their opinions and engage in discussion?

I chose two avenues. One was to post a message to my “wall.” Here it is:

“King David wrote these words 3,000 years ago: ‘You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ God inspired that message (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). How do we square God’s message to us with today’s US Supreme Court ruling on abortion? Satan and his demons are rejoicing, but shame on those who rejoice along with them.”

The other avenue was to post the same message on the wall of a “friend” who rejoiced at the decision, especially gloating at a supposed defeat of Trump’s appointees. (Actually, the defection came from an appointee of President George W. Bush. Trump’s  two appointees voted to approve the Louisiana statute.)

I don’t know what my friend did with her post. I don’t see it on her timeline, nor is my comment visible. I know she was unwilling to engage in dialogue with me. That “dialogue,” by the way, would have entailed my being pummeled by her coterie of friends, none of whom know me, and all of whom take glee in saying nasty things to me.

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I KNEW THAT going in. I routinely engage in discussion with those whose views differ from mine, not because I am argumentative, but because I believe strongly that I, along with others, are called by the Lord to speak up for values that He has laid out in the Holy Bible.

Recently, I posted a Meditation titled, “Correcting False Testimony,” in which I argued for the faithful to challenge men/women in authority who misrepresent the Word of God, and a fellow blogger mentioned the other dilemma, what if the other person is not a church leader but a dear friend?

Those discussions can be the most difficult because, unlike the post regarding church leaders, we can’t walk away from the moments in which our friends are unbiblical. We can walk away from the church leaders and find another church.

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HOW DO YOU handle those situations? Our text source above reminds us to “gently instruct” others and to respond to their questions “with meekness and fear” (other translations say “gentleness and respect”). Another verse (Gal. 6:1 NET) tells us to restore a lost brother or sister with a “spirit of gentleness.”

So, we’re pretty clear we’re to represent the Lord as His hands and feet, not prideful or boasting, not snarky or sarcastic, but loving, gentle, caring, and compassionate.

Who said being a Christian was going to be easy?

I freely admit that I pray before writing anything — my blog, e-mails to friends, postings on social media — because I want to represent the King, not my heart.

Also, I freely admit that I often walk away from a confrontation with friends on social media because (a) we’ve already discussed the issue and they’re unmoved to change, and (b) I don’t have the desire to be a human piñata for their ill-tempered comrades.

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POSTSCRIPT:

This post assumes that we are “in the right” and that we are following Scripture’s teaching. That needs to be part of our prayer, that we are living out the Gospel and speaking what the Gospel actually says. 

Then, when we speak, we must be mindful of Paul’s words in Colossians 4:6 (ESV):

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”


PRAYER

 Abba, Father, we humbly come to You, knowing that we are Your unworthy ambassadors. Still, our hearts burn to speak up for the Truth of Your Word, the reality of Your love, the power of Your grace. Help us, guide us, lead us, O Lord, to be faithful servants of the King. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

CORRECTING FALSE WITNESSES

Nothing can be more damaging to the body of Christ than when presumed Christians—whether clergy, academics, or church leaders—demean the Word of God with false testimony. The quandary facing the rest of us is what should we do about it? When someone with a fancy title says something we believe is non-biblical, do we feel unqualified to correct them? What message do we want the world to hear, the false testimony of an authoritative name or the honest and faithful witness of one of His humble followers? The answer is clear: We speak up. That doesn’t make it easy to do, just correct.


“Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.’” — Jeremiah 14:14 (NIV)

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” — James 3:1 (NASB)


COULD OUR LORD GOD be any clearer in His proclamation that those who claim to speak in His name actually should be speaking His words? 

How do we respond when someone claiming to be a church leader, officially trained and sanctioned, declares publically that “God did not write the Bible” but that “Jesus is the Word,” as though these are separate entities? 

God told us that He wrote the Bible. See 2 Timothy 3:16 (NET): “Every scripture is inspired by God” and 2 Peter 1:20-21 (CSB) “No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation … men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus, speaking to the Father in prayer (John 17:17 ESV), declared the Father’s word to be truthful: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

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THIS COMES ESPECIALLY as supposed church leaders misrepresent the Bible’s teaching regarding same-sex marriage, sanctity of life, respect for authority, and other issues that are foundational to a soundly run society.

So many of those voices are intermingled with the secular political left that it’s hard to keep separate the so-called Christian voices from the decidedly pagan ones. In fact, one has to wonder what the starting point is for those claiming to be of the body of Christ, but whose shrill voices rise to condemn fellow Christians who are faithful to the Bible’s teachings.

Why? The Bible tells us that Satan is behind the false teaching. He disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and teaches a false doctrine (John 10:10a; Gal. 1:7). Jude tells us in verse 11 of his one-chapter book that false teachers have substituted the truth of God for personal pride or human adoration.

The Old Testament shows us the true prophet Micaiah telling King Ahab of Israel that he would not survive a coming battle. Before delivering that prophesy, he was told by the king’s messenger that the king’s prophets were projecting victory and that Micaiah should, too.

Michaiah, however, was true to his faith in God, and said: “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak” (2 Chron. 18:13).

The rest of the chapter (2 Chronicles 18) tells how Satan had promised to put “a deceiving spirit” in the mouths of the king’s prophets, which is exactly what he did.

Should we be surprised that it’s still happening? 

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OF COURSE, ANYONE can be misinterpreted, and we should give any writer/speaker some leeway pending clarification, but a self-proclaimed church leader should present basic doctrine in a clear enough manner that we can take his/her words at face value, especially when, over time, that person has not provided clairification but has let the words stand.

What do we do when someone who claims to be a church leader condemns their Christian brethren who quote from the Bible — God’s Word — as authority for values and practices supporting what God has proclaimed and then states that the Bible-quoters are “weaponizing” the Bible for their personal agenda? 

Seriously?

How would those “church leaders” respond to God’s Word as referenced in the source text quotations above? The first one cautions against falsifying God’s word; the second one cautions against misrepresenting one’s leadership role.

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OUR LORD CALLS US to witness for His Kingdom. He has given us the blueprint for how to respond to false witnesses. There are four steps: (1) Be prayed in, (2) Live lives that glorify God, (3) Quote God’s Word, and (4) Pray for those who offer false testimony.

Let’s unpack those four steps.

  1. BE PRAYED IN. Paul tells us: “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT). Other translations say: “Pray continually” (NIV); “Pray without ceasing” (ESV), and “Pray at all times” (GNT). The reason for this is clear. Jesus reminds us in John 15 that we need to “abide” in Him and He will “abide” or “remain” in us, because, He says, without Him we can do nothing. “You can do nothing without me” (John 15:5 GNT). Let’s let those words sink in as we meditate on them. Let’s not breeze over them quickly because they’re familiar. They mean exactly what they say: We cannot represent the Lord unless we are connected to Him and He lives in our hearts.
  2. LIVE LIVES THAT GLORIFY GOD. Jesus told us: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV) and Peter reminded us: “Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12 BSB). Still, if we’re prayed-in and asking the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we are more likely as we mature in faith to act out the Fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV). Without a Godly witness to back up our words, we’re just “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthian 13:1 CSB) or “like a man (or woman) who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23b-24 NIV).
  3. QUOTE GOD’S WORD. Jesus, who provides the ultimate model for how to live our witness did exactly that when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Three times, we are told, Satan challenged His Sonship, and each time Jesus quoted from Scripture to rebuke him. If God’s word is on our lips, we will speak His truth, not our own version. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV) we are advised.  In fact, Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide our tongue: “At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say” (Luke 12:12 GW).

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FINALLY, WE ARE TO PRAY for those who witness falsely. We are to pray that the Lord will change their hearts, to soften the stone so it becomes like flesh, to cause them to rebuild their homes on solid rock instead of shifting sands, that those with ears would listen … and take in … and obey.

We are to do that with gentleness and love, not with judgment or rancor, we are to do that believing that God can change their hearts and will work on them, and we are to check our own hearts to be absolutely certain that we are not substituting our will and values for the Lord’s. 


POSTSCRIPT:

Nothing could be worse for us than to pray for others from a position of arrogance and human pride. Instead, we must pray from a position of humility and awe.

Lest we quit out of frustration, let us claim Jesus’ promise:

“For people, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26 NCV)


PRAYER

Our Father God, we praise Your holy and glorious name. You are so gracious and loving towards us. We ask You to forgive us for  our pride and arrogance, our self-centeredness, our selfishness. Empower us, O Lord, to be bold and courageous in our witness and guide us to live lives beyond reproach that our witness, both in action and in word, will glorify You. In the holy and mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen

EXTENDING GRACE TO OTHERS

If we who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are going to live out our mandate to extend grace, love, compassion, and forgiveness to a darkened world, we need to call on God’s Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom and the courage to proceed. Jesus was clear in John 15 that we cannot succeed without His help. This is not a Sunday-only mandate but a daily, forever mandate until He returns or we are called home. 


“I want to use the authority the Lord has given me to strengthen you, not to tear you down.” — 2 Corinthians 13:10 (NLT) 

“No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” — Ephesians 4:29 (CSB)


HOW OFTEN HAVE WE HAD an opportunity to spread grace, only to let the opportunity pass, the window close, the moment drift away.

What happens when I fail to honor God by spreading grace? Am I too busy with my own affairs, or perhaps I’m uncertain of how to proceed, or maybe I’m waiting for the other person to go first, or I figure this might not be the right time.

In the abstract, any of those reasons could be considered valid ones. For example:

  • I have a schedule to keep;
  • Too many people are around;
  • I might have missed cues that would have given the moment context; or
  • I’m looking for the other person’s receptivity. 

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DRAWING FROM the abstract to the specific, I often fail to act out of fear. Forget all of the highfalutin excuses, I may have buckled through lack of courage.

I would prefer to do my talking through my fingers on the computer keyboard than vocally in a social setting. I feel more confident with the printed word that I can see and modify than with the spoken word that can’t be seen but is said, sometimes vaporizing into nothing but sometimes hanging heavy over the table like a large cloud. 

Jesus told us not to be afraid to testify for our faith. We’re not the first humans who have clammed up when the Lord calls us to speak on His behalf.

Moses, himself, needed plenty of shoring up. “Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” – Exodus 4:12 (NLT) 

With that as a model, we — I — can be more confident in speaking grace into a situation with the Lord’s help. What is required in this and every other situation is to be “prayed in.”

The apostles Peter and John asked the Lord to supply them with even more courage after they were jailed overnight after speaking — with great courage — in front of the religious leaders. (see Acts 4:29)

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WHAT DOES speaking grace look like?

Depending on the situation, it could be consoling someone who is hurting or struggling with his/her faith. It could be offering a kinder explanation for someone else’s intemperate behavior. It could be offering encouragement or thanking someone or forgiving someone. 

Basically, it’s extending ourselves beyond our self-centered wants and needs, considering the other person more important than we are (Philippians 2:3), serving others rather than expecting them to serve us (Matthew 20:28), or just making known that we, as men and women, see the exterior, the veneer, of another person’s life, but Almighty God sees into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

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POSTSCRIPT:

When the Lord place us in a situation, He justifiably expects us to use those moments to extend His grace to others. We must remember that while we, as fallen creatures, see many people outside of our zone of grace, no one exists beyond God’s zone of grace.

If we use the authority that God has given us to strengthen others, rather than tear them down, we should find more and more people that formerly existed outside our zone of grace falling within its every widening walls.


PRAYER 

O Lord, our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, we just feel so overwhelmed with the task of carrying the Gospel to a broken, unbelieving, cynical world; yet, when we place our trust in You, we labor not with our own strength and wisdom but with Yours. We pray for grace and mercy as Your Spirit prepares us for the good work to be done on behalf of the Kingdom, not for our glory, O Lord, but for Yours. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray.  AMEN

Expect Your Growth in Christ To Be Gradual

When you give your life over to Jesus Christ, you can expect He will go to work immediately to change your heart to be more like Him, but He will not snap His fingers and make it happen overnight. He wants to build your character and encourage you to trust in Him, so the process will be constant, but gradual. You’ll be in Good Hands!


Hebrews 2:1 (NLT): “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB): “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”


GROWTH IN OUR WALK with Christ can be slow, sometimes exceedingly slow.

But the Lord has assured us that He will be with us every step of the way, guiding and directing, teaching and convicting, disciplining and blessing. He’ll pull us along the path, through storms and rainbows, until He delivers us in glory “without stain or blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)

The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV): “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.”

That means our growth will take place against both a backdrop of failure and success, of sadness and happiness, of sorrow and joy. 

Each turn will bring its own opportunity to learn. As we struggle with obedience and reliance on Him, the spiritual blessings will flow.

Our job through this process is to remain faithful, stay in prayer, and lean into the Holy Spirit, the counselor advisor our Lord promised us before He returned to the Father.

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EACH CHALLENGE WILL LAST its season, to be replaced by the next one. At any time, we might be in a period of tribulation, heading into tribulation, or heading out of it. Whichever phase we’re in, the cycle continues, each time growing us closer to the Lord.

The current coronavirus challenge is one challenging season impacting all of us, throughout the world, at the same time. It presents a unique opportunity for the body of Christ to testify to our faith, both by how we act and by what we say.

Perhaps this is the time to renew family acquaintances, meet the neighbors from six feet away, or engage in the productive meditation that leads to service when we are called.

Soon, perhaps, we’ll enter a season of coasting, enjoying the wind beneath our wings. The Lord generously gives us fallow times, resting times, to build us up for the challenges ahead.

Let’s enjoy each season for what it offers. Whether in periods of rest or of turmoil, we should put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) to protect us against the enemy, who is sure to misrepresent God’s role in this picture.

James tells us we are sanctified through the trials we endure, provided we count on God’s help: “And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”* (James 1:4 (CSB) 

Amazing Grace!


PRAYER

O gracious and merciful Father, all praise, honor, and glory are Yours, O God. We thank You for sending us the Holy Spirit to be our ezer kenegdo — our counselor and advisor. Lead us through the storms, O Lord, and bless us when the storms are over. Thank You most of all, O Lord, for salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. For it’s in His name that we pray. Amen

Challenge — The Bible in 50 Words

I recently saw online and in a recent blog post the “Bible in 50 Words” and wanted to try my hand.

If you’d like, please create your own list! I’m sure I would learn something from other versions. Why “50”? The number has some symbolic value related to God’s tabernacle in the wilderness, but it doesn’t rank with “3” (Trinity) or “7” (completeness).

I walked through Scripture in chronological order, hitting the high points, and without repeating a verb, all of which are past tense, except two in the continuing present.

FAILURE ALERT: I ended up with 60 words because I refused to strike some names, yet I still wanted to add Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Josiah, Gideon, Mary’s husband Joseph, John the Baptist, Apollos, Barnabas, John Mark, Tamar, Rahab, Mary and Martha. I shortened Mary Magdalene to Magdalene and Holy Spirit to Spirit. 

Hopefully, apart from the fun of doing the exercise, it should help me evangelize if I can present the Bible in short form.

*Since God obviously and clearly loves women, I starred their names to help them stand out. 

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MY LIST:

God created

Adam breathed

*Eve hid

Noah built

Abraham followed

*Sarah laughed

Jacob deceived

Joseph dreamed

Moses led

*Ruth gleaned

Elijah prayed

Nehemiah governed

*Esther believed

David fought

*Bathsheba bathed

Solomon wrote

Isaiah prophesied

Jeremiah wept

Daniel obeyed

Hosea suffered

Amos challenged

*Mary conceived

Peter walked 

John loved

Judas betrayed

*Magdalene embraced

Christ saves

Paul changed

James taught

Spirit guides

SHARING THE GOSPEL

Our Lord Jesus Christ was pretty clear in His final instructions to His disciples: He expected them to carry the Message of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and God’s grace to the far corners of this fallen world. He told them to start at home and then radiate out to include their extended family, then their neighbors and co-workers and friends, and then to strangers. He also told them He would be with them — and us —  every step of the way. 


1 Cor. 9:16 (NIV): For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Matt. 28:19-20 (NKJV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

Acts 1:8 (NASB): “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”


SCENARIO ONE: You’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop, steaming rich black coffee (or heavily sugared mild blend, if that’s your thing) resting next to your laptop computer.

You’re writing a book destined to be read by hundreds of thousands of Christians — maybe millions — around the world on the perils of Hell, the eternal destination of everyone who spurns God’s offer of grace. 

You’ll call the book Erasing Hell, but in this moment, at this place, you look up as a boisterous group of young people enter the shop, laughing, joking, backslapping one another as they queue up to place their order, mostly for coffees that resemble milkshakes.

You feel a sudden urge to close your computer and go minister to them. You know that if you take your Holy Bible seriously — and, if you’re Francis Chan, the pastor and author writing this book, you do — you assume that many of these young people are destined for Hell. (Kindle edit., Chap. 3, loc. 4306)

Should you continue to write your book and sip your coffee, or should you drop what you’re doing to minister to the other customers?

In Forgotten God, Chan writes an answer to this quandary by noting that too often we try to lead the Holy Spirit when we should be listening to Him. “Sometimes,” Chan writes, “this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.” (Kindle edit., Chap. 4, loc. 2879)

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SCENARIO TWO: You’ve just received emergency hospital treatment to correct two blocked arteries that led to a mild heart attack, and you’re being transported to the Intensive  Care Unit for observation. 

The nurse who was assigned to your care tells you it “never” happens that a nurse stays with a patient from receiving through recovery, yet here she is with you, and she opines: “Things happen for a reason.”

As you process this, she asks how you stayed so calm  throughout the procedure, which she notes was “far from routine.” 

You tell her you placed the outcome in the hands of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that many people had been praying for you … and for the skill of the medical team, including her!

If you’re Joel Rudicil, president of your company, you send a text to your wife and ask her for prayer support because you’re about to tell your nurse about Jesus Christ. You even show the nurse your cell phone, where she can see those prayer requests. (Rudicil, Heart Attack, unpub. e-mail, April 2020)

As you tell her what the Bible says about heaven, the purpose of Easter, and how to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, she tells you she wants this gift from God, so you hold her hand and pray with her for the Holy Spirit to come into her heart, forgive her of all of her sins, and begin to remake her in the image of the Savior.

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SCENARIO THREE: This one is you. What would you do in these situations?

In one situation, you are doing the Lord’s work. You’re writing a book that will circulate throughout the world, urging readers to take the Lord’s warning seriously: that Hell is real and it’s the default destiny of anyone who refuses to take the Lord’s offer of Grace paid for by His Son’s death on the cross.

Should you stop your work, right now, and minister uninvited in the lives of those around you? Could that nudge, which seems so Godly in one sense, be a distraction that keeps you from doing God’s will?

What would you do?

In another situation, you’re recovering from an emergency heart procedure, and the Lord has provided you with an opportunity to share your faith with someone He has been working with, someone who just needs a counselor, an advisor, to help put the pieces together.

This is not the only nurse you’ve spoken with, it’s just the only  one who is on the verge of a breakthrough. 

What would you do? 

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GOD DOESN’T LEAVE US hanging when we’re faced with opportunities to share the Gospel with those He has placed in our path.

He has told us in His Word there is a three-step rule to follow: one, be prepared to testify (1 Peter 3:15); two, look for an opening to share (Matt. 4:19); and three, pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on the lost person’s heart (Matt. 9:38, 1 Thess. 5:17).

Being prepared to share means developing a brief testimony of how God’s loving grace has changed your life, given you a peace you didn’t have before, and is available to everyone who wants it. 

Praying is obvious: Even a quick “Lord, help me” in the moment suffices, but it should supplement a more committed prayer during your devotions, when you ask the Lord to grant you opportunities to speak His name.

Looking for the opportunity is the real skill. Sometimes, it’s obvious, and sometimes, it’s not.

Referring back to Forgotten God, Chan says sometimes the Holy Spirit calls us to do “a particular thing,” and the choice we have is whether or not we’ll obey. What we decide, he says, “is no small matter.” (Ibid. Chap. 4, Loc. 2879)

The Lord could have you exactly where He wants you, and a seemingly God-honoring diversion could look attractive. Maybe recall Nehemiah’s answer when he was prompted to leave his job overseeing construction of the Jerusalem wall: “I am doing important work and cannot come down.” (Neh. 6:3 CSB)

Let God determine your purpose and timing.

Jesus promised to be with us throughout the process (Matt. 28:18-20)

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POSTSCRIPT: MANY CHRISTIANS carry witnessing material with them.

It could be a business card giving the location and times of service for their church, a pamphlet outlining the plan of salvation, or even your personal card, giving them ways to contact you with questions. 

However you proceed, know that Jesus warns us not to be ashamed of the Gospel (Luke 9:26; Rom. 1:16).

Evangelist William Fay, in his workbook, Share Jesus Without Fear, gives us this teaching: “Creating witnessing opportunities is His (Holy Spirit’s) work. Our part is to be obedient, to act on these moments that God is creating.” (B&H Publ., Nashville, Tenn., p. 11)

Carry the material … Pray for guidance … Look for opportunities … Share the Gospel.

 PRAYER

Our heavenly and merciful Father, we bless Your name and give You all the praise, honor, and glory. Fill our hearts with zeal for the Holy Spirit, we pray. Prepare our minds and our tongues to speak Your name to a wounded and hurting world. Open our hearts to the suffering and confusion that lies around us. Give us a burden for sharing the Gift of Salvation with those You give us. You promised to be with us to the close of the age, and, Lord Jesus, we claim that promise, for You told us that without You we can do nothing. Glorify Your name as we share our faith with others, and we lift this prayer in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

GOD DESIRES COMMITMENT

As we slip past the Easter weekend, which marks the greatest event in human history — the rising of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from the dead —we are moving toward the next big event on the Christian calendar: Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit. With the ammunition of a risen Savior, a loving Father, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are well armed to do battle by sharing our faith — the story of forgiveness and redemption, the granting of peace and joy, and the promise of eternal life — with a disbelieving world. We can do this if we’re fired-up for the Lord, not “lukewarm” as are so many so-called Christians.


Daniel 12:3 (NCV): The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.

Revelation 3:16 (ESV): So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.


OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST does not like lukewarm, uncommitted, lackadaisical, worldly Christians claiming to represent Him and His message of redemption to the world.

Instead, He wants us to be as committed to the saving power of the Gospel as He was committed to dying on the Cross for our salvation.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said to the church in Laodicea that their lack of passion and zeal for the Gospel was annoying. He wanted them fired-up for the Good News! He wanted them to sing His praises!

Instead, He found the Laodiceans to be, like many Christians today, indifferent to the message of salvation. Too many Christians, He is saying, occupy the pews on Sunday morning, then return to their secular lives after the Benediction.

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EVANGELIST WILLIAM FAY calls this indifference “living in the middle.” Here’s what he writes:

“Trying to live in the middle is living a lie. The truth is, either you follow God, or you follow Satan. Either you are in a relationship with Christ, or you’re not. You are either God’s child or God’s enemy. … No one is in the middle. … Those who have chosen to reject Christ are condemned.” (William Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear Workbook, B&H Publishing, Nashville, Tenn. 2019, p. 13)

In his book Crazy Love, pastor and author Francis Chan says this about lukewarm Christians:

“As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.” (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, Chapter Five, Kindle edit., Loc. 793)

Chan writes that Jesus is clear in His denunciation of indifferent Christianity. He says that Jesus “wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” (Ibid., loc. 820)

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THIS BRING US to our most important question: So What?

Where are we in this equation? Are we sold-out for Jesus Christ or are we indifferent, casual, part-time Christians who neither follow our Lord with passion nor share our faith with those He places in our lives?

If we are committed to following Jesus, really following Him, then how committed are we to sharing the Gospel message with others? 

How often do we pray God will give us an opportunity to share? How prepared are we when given that opportunity to share what we believe to be true, that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or that Jesus Christ has forgiven us and transformed our lives?

When we do share the Message, how often do we pray afterward for the people we talked to, give them our names to answer any questions they might have, or follow up with them?

How many of us actually know how to do any of this … or really care to learn?

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POSTSCRIPT: Our Lord has given us both a commandment and an encouragement to do this very thing. 

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives us the commandment, known as the Great Commission, to go into all the world and tell people to do “all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus also has given us encouragement. In our text source today from Daniel 12, He tells us those who teach others the message of salvation “will shine like stars forever and ever.”

He tells us in His Word what He wants from us. It’s this:

“Come, Follow Me.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, forgive us for our lack of commitment to Your commandment to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Good News of the Gospel and our salvation. Forgive us, please, for our failure to share the story of forgiveness, compassion, and love with those we meet. Our excuses, which seem so real to us in the moment, vanish into thin air when compared with reality, that those who don’t know You or who know of You but have rejected Your offer of grace, are doomed to an eternity of pain. While that should burden our hearts, Lord, somehow we can live without the trouble. Forgive us, Lord, and change our hearts to care for those You call. When You give us that chance, that moment to share, may we call on Your power and speak from our hearts to their hearts. Lord, we pray our words, like seed on rich soil, will fall on open hearts. For this, we thank You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

AN EASTER MEDITATION

SHINING FAITH

But [the angel] said to [the women], “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” — Mark 16:6 (NKJV)

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matt. 5:16 (NASB)


LIGHTING A SINGLE CANDLE in a very dark space makes a difference, but if you light 20 to 30 candles, the difference is amazing! 

Likewise, when we join with others to share our faith story, the results can be profound.

It is easy to remain focused on ourselves. We are busy with our own personal cares, our desires, our things-to-do list, our jobs, our families, even our health, finances, and entertainment. 

But part of love, the real love that Christ calls us to feel, is bearing a concern for the well-being of someone else, especially for that person’s eternal destination. 

If we want to see people in our lives become part of God’s kingdom, then those of us who claim to be God’s followers must be willing to share our faith stories.

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GOD CALLS US to be a witness to the world, a light in the darkness.

He also calls us to be an encouragement to other believers — those we find in our worship, our Bible studies, Christian service, and mens’ and womens’ fellowship groups — to spur them on toward love and good works. 

Consider today how you can be an encouragement to another believer … and a light to a darkened world looking for answers. 

Pray that God will show you what He wants you to do, which is different from asking Him to bless what you’ve decided, on your own, to do for Him. 

As we close our eyes, let us pray God’s plan for our lives; as we open our eyes, let us see where God is working in the world … and then let’s join Him where He’s already at work. AMEN

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May God’s rich blessings be with you.


*Note: This meditation is an adaption from a You Version Bible Plan, “Inspire Others to Share,” Day 2. You can see the original here.

A Personal Story … GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS

God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.

 God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.


Psalms 34:18 (NCV): “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.”

Psalms 46:1 (CEB): “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”

Ephesians 3:20 (NIV): “[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”


GOD HAS NOT PROMISED US a smooth path when we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts. 

That’s the prosperity gospel, and it is a false teaching. However, He does promise to walk with us through our earthly travels.

In one of the lowest points of my life, when I felt deep emotional and physical pain — from disharmony in my family and a twist in my back — I heard the Lord’s voice.

I had reached out to Him from my depths, begging Him to relieve my suffering, when I asked, “Lord, are You trying to tell me something?”

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HE SPOKE TO ME, telling me He wanted me to start a men’s Christian-based fellowship in the neighborhood where my wife and I had recently moved. 

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” — Jeremiah 29:12 (NKJV)

“Now?” I asked, incredulously, wondering if He was unaware that I was reaching out because of my emotional and physical pain, not because I was looking for more work.

He said, “Now.”

“Who would I invite?” I asked. Since we had just settled from another state, we didn’t really know anyone.

He said, “You know.”

So, I thought. 

I barely knew of two men in our neighborhood I could invite, plus one man I had met a few months earlier during a walk, but I didn’t recall his name.

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HAVING LEARNED OBEDIENCE, I immediately left the comfort of my ottoman and hobbled over to my desk, where I opened my computer. As I moved, I felt the pain in my back and the hurt in my heart.

I searched a name directory for our neighborhood and located the “mystery man” from several months earlier.

After praying for God’s direction, I typed out an e-mail inviting the three men to join me in forming a neighborhood Bible-based fellowship.

I left the format open, although I encouraged each man to consider the group his own, with shared responsibility for leading discussion.

Once I sent the e-mail, I was done with the venture.

Or, so I thought …

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THE NEXT DAY, as I opened my tablet for devotions, I read an e-mail from “mystery man,” proclaiming he was “all in” on forming a group! His exact words: “Ward, I’m in!” As a bonus, he sent along an agenda to help us organize.

He was the only one of the three to respond, but it only takes two or three gathered in the Lord’s name, and we already had two.

As the next few months evolved, I watched the Lord’s hand at work in my life.

My back pain went away, and I could stand up straight and resume active exercising. The emotional strain was healed through understanding and forgiveness.

Our men’s group faced various setbacks, probably because Satan challenged us, but, with the Lord’s help, we plugged away.

“But truly, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.” — Numbers 14:21 (NET)

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 THREE YEARS LATER, our men’s group has reached some 50 men — more than half of them active — a much healthier turnout than either “mystery man” or I could have imagined. Both of us credit the Holy Spirit for our group’s growth and vitality.

Yes, that’s a true Ephesians 3:20 testimony, where the Lord can bless us in ways beyond our ability to ask or imagine, and He definitely was building Christian encouragement into the lives of men who hungered for His Word.

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TO BE HONEST, I would much rather tell this story by saying it started on the mountaintop, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit and glowed with light and glory.

Instead, it started in the valley, when I wondered if my life meant anything.

Pastor and author John Ortberg says this connection between our lowest moments and greatest gain is not uncommon.  “Often our mountaintop moments are connected with our lowest valleys.” Ortberg, Faith and Doubt, Kindle edit., p. 69. 

The only action I took to relieve my suffering was all that I really had to do … I reached out to the Lord. He heard my prayer, and He blessed me to do His will.

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POSTSCRIPT: SO, WHAT STARTED as a plea for grace ends up with a song of praise.

Doesn’t it always?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. — 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” — Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

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PRAYER 

O LORD God, we are so grateful for Your loving grace and tender mercy, Your faithfulness, Your patience, and Your forgiveness. Help us to stay in prayer throughout the day, O Lord, giving thanks in all situations, and praising Your loving kindness. In the redeeming name of Jesus Christ we pray. AMEN