Tag Archives: witness

No Small Thing

If I told you how God intervened in my life a couple of days ago, you might think I was gullible or naive.  It was a simple little thing – (OK, it had something to do with hubcaps) – nothing like parting the Red Sea.  But I know Who pulled it off.  I call those brief encounters with God’s grace, winks.  He winks at me and lets me know He’s there and He cares.

Have you ever thought a situation you faced was too small to trouble God with, too silly for prayer?  Consider: Is there anything you face that isn’t small to God?  Check out these words of Jesus:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  –  (Matthew 10:29-31)

God invites us, through Jesus, into an intimate relationship, in which we walk together through the circumstances of life. As we do, we are humbled to discover God cares about how we are doing – even about the “little” things

Knowing He cares makes the tough experiences more “doable.”  Jesus spoke those words as He told His followers not to be afraid to tell people about Him, even in the face of physical violence.  Because God cares and He intervenes or not, depending on what is best.

Jesus

Chick-fil-A was almost denied the right to sell their sandwiches at Denver’s Airport because their President said he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage.  Members of the city council objected to that.  It looks as though they will back down, but the situation is not new.  It is nearly 2000 years old.  The city council in Jerusalem during the earliest days of the church tried to shut them down, too – not what they were doing, but what they were saying.  During the first few weeks of the church, they caused quite a public commotion.  Much of it had to do with miraculous healings the Lord accomplished through them.  A lot of it had to do with some of their amazing acts of generosity to the poor.  Great mobs of people came to see and hear what would happen next.  And the city council (known as the Sanhedrin, led by the High Priest) was not happy about it.  After one public healing, they arrested the church leaders (the Apostles).

 

“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.  But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.  –  Acts 4:16–17 (NIV84)

Next time they arrested the Apostles, they said:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” Acts 5:28a (NIV84)

They didn’t tell them to stop doing the healings or taking care of the poor; they told them to stop saying, “Jesus!”  The same struggle goes on today.  Christians are not told to shut down their hospitals, soup kitchens, or disaster relief ministries.  They are told to shut up about Jesus.

Years ago, the churches in my town came together to cooperate in an outreach to the poor and homeless.  The community at large quickly relied upon the organization they formed to address the problems of that growing population.  Soon the city council voted to support the work financially.  Things changed.  Today, that agency, still named for its “united outreach” has a policy that forbids its volunteers and workers from mentioning Jesus.

You can pretty much do whatever you want in the Name of Jesus, as long as you don’t tell people about Jesus.  Maybe you’ve seen this at work.  Navy Chaplain, Wes Modder, experienced it when he was forbidden to minister or even talk to his unit according to his Christian beliefs.

God arranged a jailbreak for the Apostles, not so they could make a clean getaway, but so they go back and tell people about Jesus.

 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”  –  Acts 5:20 (NIV84)

The “full message of this new life” is this: new, eternal life is given freely to anyone who comes to believe that Jesus is God and Savior.

Jesus said,  “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  –  John 5:24 (NIV84)

Pass it on.  Don’t forget to say, “Jesus!”

Say What?

He knew English from textbooks when he got here as an exchange student, but his first exposure to how English was actually spoken was in my college fraternity house.  It was startling but not surprising, therefore, when he was invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and asked for someone to pass him the @#$%*^ potatoes.  After a moment of shocked silence, the friend’s mother said, “Well, you heard him, pass the @#$%*^ potatoes!”

If you don’t know the slang expressions and idioms, you can easily get the wrong idea.  Why do we say, “What’s up?”  Here is some potential confusion from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

” Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24, NIV)

Huh?  Christ didn’t quite suffer enough?  Paul had to help Him out?  No. Jesus did everything necessary to completely and permanently pay for all the sins of anyone who is willing to accept His gift.  He has prepaid for you to receive complete forgiveness forever.  So why did Paul say there was something lacking in His suffering?  He used a common idiom to say, “I’m glad to do whatever is necessary to help the church, even if it means I will suffer for it like Jesus did.”

Jesus delegated the work of spreading His good news to His followers, who had discovered personally how wonderful it is.  He knew the assignment would come with suffering.  For whatever reason, people frequently get angry when you tell them about Jesus.  Go figure.  That’s why Jesus prayed for His followers, saying:

“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 – His atoning sacrifice was complete.)

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:14 – They would suffer)

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18 – Nevertheless, the plan is for them to tell people about Jesus)

Paul understood these realities, and that followers of Jesus would be witnesses to Him.  His attitude was, “Whatever it takes, I’m glad to do it.”  But it wasn’t that Paul was a masochist.  It was how amazing the message was, and how cool it was to see people catch on.   There is something about Jesus that most people have missed, something mind-blowing!  Knowing that, whatever it takes, even suffering, was worth it.  But what is that nugget?  What part of the message made it so worthwhile?

Stay tuned; we’ll get to that next time.

 

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Words of Warning

“Convert or die!”  That is the message ISIS is giving to thousands of Christians in Iraq.  This is no idle threat; it has been followed up with crucifixions.   But this latest and most publicized example of hostility toward Christians is not new or unusual.  Jesus told us to expect it.  The first time Jesus sent out His disciples to tell people the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, He warned them:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.” (Matthew 10:16-17)

His warnings were not merely for that first assignment.  They pertained to the whole age until His Second Coming:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted [not “if”] in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:21-23)

Jesus warned of opposition, cautioned His followers to be on their guard and ready to flee, but not to let up in spreading His message without fear.

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” (Matthew 10:26-27)

The opposition to Jesus brought by ISIS is bold and direct.  The opposition in the United States is subtle and indirect.  There has been a groundswell of public pressure brought to bear in opposition to any Christian who might dare to “proclaim [His faith in Jesus] from the roofs.”  The First Amendment specifically prohibits congress from making a law restricting the “free expression” of our religion.  Nevertheless, bills have been recently introduced in response to the “Hobby Lobby decision” that would do just that.

Do not be surprised.  Jesus warned us to expect opposition, even violent opposition but to speak up anyway.  He said:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:32-34)

Please take a moment and pray for those who are suffering and dying right now because they believe in Jesus and follow Him.  Thank you.