Category Archives: Witness

What do You Know?

Nick was a wimp, and yet more courageous than the others.  Consider what these verses tell us about Nicodemus:

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”  (John 3:1-2)

He was a ruler, a man of extraordinary power and authority.  Moreover, he was not alone in that position but was one of a group of rulers (he said “we…”).  This group of “rulers” knew that Jesus came from God, they saw the evidence of it.  Pharisees were highly educated experts on the Scriptures.  Presumably, what they saw and “knew,” corresponded to what they had studied in Scripture.  And this group of powerful “rulers” had come to a consensus.  They knew Jesus had come from God.  And yet, when they wanted to know more, they sent Nick, under the cover of darkness, so no one would see, no one would know.  Nick at night.  Why such a wimpy approach?

Perhaps they thought experts should already know all the answers and didn’t want to show their confusion and curiosity.  Maybe they were afraid to lend credibility to Jesus thereby weakening their positions of authority.  We can’t be sure why he went at night.  But, of this we can be sure: This powerful group of experts, who knew Jesus was from God, eventually conspired to eliminate Him.  Despite what they knew.

As we find ourselves drawn to Jesus, perhaps curious, confused or genuinely interested, we may also feel pressure to hide our interest from our peers.  We may fear ridicule or rejection.  We may creep to Jesus under the cloak of darkness.  But eventually, what we know must direct what we do.  There are many reasons people suppress what they know at this point.  But don’t wimp out; to do so is eternally dangerous.


P.S.  Because Nicodemus helped prepare Jesus’ body for burial, it is likely he had a change of heart.

Ears of Peace

A friend shouted at me because he suspected I had a different political opinion.  You too?  They say it’s going to get worse, no matter who wins the election.  But  it does not need to get worse around you. Not if you apply this simple principle, from Jesus’ little brother, Jimmy.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”  (James 1:19)
In arguments, most people pretend to listen while mentally lining up devastating rebuttal arguments. Listening is more than no moving your mouth.  Real listening strives to understand.  People raise their voices when they don’t feel understood.  If you quietly listen without criticizing, defending yourself or doing anything except try to understand what the other guy really means, he’ll settle down in a hurry.  Especially if you sincerely ask, in your own words, “Is this what you are trying to say?” Once he knows you understand – really understand, even though you may not agree –  most of the time the shouting will stop.  He may even be willing to listen to you.  

What would happen if everyone who follows Jesus took the lead in applying that principle in our divisive circumstances?  Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  (Matthew 5:9)

Post Foxhole Stupidity

“O Lord, if You get me out of this, I promise, from now on, I’ll…… ”   Ever pray one of those?  The king of Israel did and God came through in an astonishing way.  One day he was on his death bed.  Then, miraculously, his life was extended.  It was such an amazing answer to prayer, when the word got out, some high officials from Babylon came visiting, wondering,  “What’s he got that we don’t?”  This was exactly how God had intended to attract others to faith in Him, as they noticed the blessings He bestowed on His people who followed His instructions.

But King Hezekiah didn’t follow through.  When the Babylonians showed up, he didn’t take them down to the temple and explain about his prayer.  In fact he did the exact opposite:

1 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery. 2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. (Isaiah 39:1-2)

God bailed him out, answered his foxhole prayer.  The neighbors came around and asked, “How did you get healed?”  Hezekiah’s answer amounted to bragging about how important a man he was, backing up his boasts by showing them how rich he was.  But he learned a pretty tough lesson in the process.  By failing to give credit to God, where it was due, and by bragging about all his riches, Hezekiah doomed his future.

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord.   (Isaiah 39:5)

God doesn’t mind foxhole prayers; He is happy to respond.  Just don’t forget Him when the dust settles…


Recant or be tortured to death.  Sound like ISIS?  Many Christians have faced that choice at their hands, but for the original disciples, it was the government who made that threat.  None of them caved.  All but John were executed.  How could they have been firm, so brave and so unwilling to change their story?  They were first-hand eyewitnesses.  They knew how outlandish their claims seemed.  But they seen, heard and touched Jesus before and after His resurrection. 

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (​2Pe 1:16-17)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  (1John 1:1-3)

Good Works

Throughout much of the Middle East it is illegal to convert to Christianity from Islam. And yet hundreds of Muslims break that law willingly.  A church near the Syrian border has recently baptized over 800 converts.  One couple explained their decision before the judge: “When we lived in Syria the Muslims in ISIS murdered three quarters of our family before we could escape.  But here, the Christians have done nothing but love us, shelter us, feed us and clothe us.  So, tell us: Why shouldn’t convert?”

The judge dismissed the charges and let them go.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  (1 Peter 2:15)


“We’re in a tight spot!”  The barn where they were hiding was on fire. Cops with machine guns were perforating the place and George Clooney, in his role in “O Brother Where Art Thou?”,  looked like he was having the time of his life, thrilled to be in a “tight spot.”   Appealing, that.  Like skiers who enjoy the black slopes, whooping with excitement, even when they wipe out.  They are doing better than those who agonize over every turn with grim anxiety.

I got thinking about the look in George Clooney’s eye when I read this simple verse from 1 Thessalonians:

Rejoice always…”  (1Thessalonians 5:16)

In our day, that reads like mental pablum, advice from a timid Sunday School teacher who can’t handle life.  But the guy that wrote that advice had been in more than a few tight spots.  He’d been beaten, starved, shipwrecked, imprisoned and pursued by mobs of vicious killers.  And, he was writing to people facing violent persecution.  Paul had a gleam in his eye on the black slopes.  He knew the power of enjoying the thrill of the hills and spills, no matter what.

But it’s not that he was a reckless adrenalin junkie.  Paul knew God had sent him into those tight spots because they were ripe with opportunity.  He knew God knew.  When tempted to complain and feel sorry for himself, he knew how much better it was to rejoice.

Next time you are in a tight spot, call to mind the look in George Clooney’s eye, and the powerful advice from Paul.  Rejoice.  Always.

Don’t Quit

When I read a novel, I tend to skip those little quotes and  poem thingies at the beginning of the chapters.  Most of the time I don’t understand them; they leave me confused and feeling ignorant.  I want to say, “Enough with these inscrutable quotes! Let’s get on with the story, already.”  There are sections of the Bible that make me restless, too. In the final paragraphs of Colossians (Colossians 4:7 ff), Paul gives final greetings and instructions to specific people that don’t seem to mean much to me, 2000 years later. 

But this morning, as I read those verses, I was struck by how passionate and unstoppable Paul was.  His last few sentences are filled with words like “struggle,” “encourage,” “fellow workers,” sending,” etc.  The last verse reads:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.  –  (Colossians 4:18)

Very likely, Paul dictated most of his letters because he had a physical handicap with his eyes.  Also, he was chained up as a prisoner. He had two good excuses to give it a rest.  But he was absolutely consumed with the urgency of telling people about Jesus.  As he wrote earlier in the letter,

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (Colossians 1:29)

What’s the deal?  Why was Paul so passionate?  My guess is it had a lot to do with his being personally visited by Jesus as he traveled to Damascus (see Acts 9:1 ff).  Jesus showed up, blew his mind and changed his whole outlook.  So Paul had first–hand proof Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing.

Well, so what?  What’s that have to do with us? There is a good chance that Jesus has personally visited you with proof of Who He is and has changed your whole outlook, too.  Maybe He didn’t blind you with intense light, but if you reflect on what He did do, the circumstances that led to your personal conversion, you will probably see they were arranged for you. Your Savior knew where you were and what you needed.  He still does.  He also knows what He has equipped you to do. Let the truth of that motivate you. Tell others how wonderful it is to know and follow Jesus.

But, maybe you have not experienced such a personal “visit” from Jesus.  If so, and if you are open to it, let down your defenses and pay close attention.  Jesus will show up in a way that will rock your world.  You can count on it because He knows you, loves you, and knows what you need.


Once you have been qualified and trained as a marine, you are considered to be a “leatherneck” forever.  Which means, you are expected to live out the values and attitudes of a marine. The Marine Corps Officer’s Guide,” 1964 edition, makes it clear: “Traditions are not preserved by books and museums, but by faithful adherence on the part of all hands—you especially.”  Translation?  Since you are a marine, live like one.

Paul wrote something similar to fellow Christians:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. –  (Philippians 1:27-28a)

What does it mean to live a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ?”  In this short quote, we see it means to confidently stand firm in what you believe without letting opposition sway you.  It also means to be joined with other believers by the Spirit of God, operating on the same page and working together to spread the good news.   With no fear.

In a team sports contest, you can generally pick the winner by observing which team plays with the most confidence and unity.  Confidence and unified hearts and minds are the essentials as well for a life “worthy of the gospel.”

Too Much, Part 2

Cramming for a final is like trying to put packing peanuts back in the box.  Put one back and two or three pop out.  Our brains can only hold so much.  There are some things too vast to fit in such a limited space.

Jesus’ love is one of those.  (If you haven’t read the previous post, scroll down to read it first)  It’s too much to comprehend, without a supernatural power boost from the Spirit of God.  But God gives that boost, not so we will have more information.  It’s not so we will have the answers to pass a test.  It’s for something that surpasses the mere possession of more facts.  Paul prays for believers to be strengthened to more fully understand the enormity of Christ’s love, SO THAT THEY MIGHT…

…  know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  –   (Ephesians 3:19b)

Read that again.  Let it sink in.  The more we know the love of Jesus, the more we become filled with the essence of God!   The “fullness of God” is manifested in the astonishing love of Jesus.  And we are meant to be filled to the brim with His “fullness,” so our lives would demonstrate His love, His essence, too.

If you are thinking, “No way I could ever pull that off,” remember, this is a prayer for God to do it!   And Paul wraps up this prayer with this encouragement:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  –  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Powerfully Weak

It was malpractice and folks got so upset, the doctor skipped town for good.  He had applied hot poultices to the eyes of a 6 week old infant, causing her to become permanently blind.  But that tragedy didn’t stop the child.  Even without the American Disabilities Act, Fanny Crosby managed to live a triumphant and happy life. 

You probably know she wrote the hymn, Blessed Assurance (maybe not; I had to  Google it…) but how many other hymns did she write?  How about 5500, and that’s just the ones she submitted to her publisher.  She had another 2000 in reserve.  But we cannot measure her life by simply counting the number of songs she wrote. Try to imagine their combined impact. Someone slides into the back pew of a country church, devastated and grasping for hope. When the song begins, she cannot bring herself to sing but soon the swell of the voices and the encouraging lyrics penetrate her gloom. As she hums along and then quietly, tentatively, joins in, her spirits are lifted. Multiply that experience by many thousands. Only God knows how profoundly Fanny blessed others as her hymns are still sung, well over 100 years later.  How could a blind person have led such a powerful life?  The answer is simple and yet profound: The Holy Spirit revealed His power through her weakness.

Paul said it like this:

…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan [some believe this was also trouble with eyesight], to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  …For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7b – 9 & 10b with my comments in brackets)

If you see a strong man bend a pipe, you think, “No big deal; He’s strong.”  You see a little kid do it, then you start wondering, what’s the secret?  The same principle is at work when the Holy Spirit gives special strength to someone who is weak. 

Like Fanny.

Or you.