Category Archives: Evangelism

Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


By Your blood You ransomed people from every tribe

For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Revelation 5:9

Back story: I live sandwiched between two Native American reservations.  When I  moved here just over 25 years ago, I cried out to God that a Gospel witness would be raised up with the Native community.  It seemed so dark.  The longer I’ve been here, the more I have seen the darkness grip the lives of families in the school system, and more closely in the lives of women I am able to personally interact with about Jesus in the County jail.

thumb_IMG_1683_1024.jpgOver 75% of the women that I have met with over the past 18 years at the jail have been Native.  So many are gripped with addictions, mainly alcohol and meth, but also heroin.  They study the Bible in jail, but once they get out, they fall so quickly back into the old party ways.  And then they are back in jail again, or prison.

Last fall the outreach committee from our church began to dream and plan to bring in a group from Minneapolis, the “Heart of the City” Band.  A woman on the committee heard the leader share their story on the radio about how the group had been going to reservations in South Dakota and God had been using them to reach the Native Americans with the good news of Jesus.

The leader, Dan Adler is a gifted song writer,  just “happens” to be from this area.  He grew up just down the road from the one reservation and learned to play the guitar in the tiny church down the road from the reservation where we have held prayer meetings in years past that God would raise up a Native church.  I called Dan, a cold call, and said: “Dan, come home.”  I explained how we have a heart to see the Natives reached just like he told of how they were reaching the ones in South Dakota.

He has written music with Native flute and drumming music and one of the ladies in the group is a Native American who God has rescued from a life of bondage to drugs and trauma from an early age.  She has a powerful testimony.

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Last weekend, our dreams came to fruition.  The multicultural “Heart of the City” band did a two hour concert on the tribal grounds amphitheater, powerfully and beautifully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to the land that Jesus is Lord and the one true way to God.  They proclaimed healing to this land and to their hearts because of the Jesus way.  Jesus is not a white Jesus or a black Jesus, or a Native Jesus.  On earth He was from the small tribe of Judah, in Israel.  But He is for all people everywhere.

This was to a place where this has never been done!  About 150 people were there.  While not many Natives were in attendance, this was a first fruits, a leading out in worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and all of Judah faced an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites.  He called out to God, who told him not to be afraid or dismayed, “For the battle is not yours but God’s,” vs. 17.  All of Judah bowed in worship to the Lord and praised God in holy attire.  And when they began to sing and praise the Lord, God set an ambush against the attackers.  The two opposing forces turned on each other and they were routed.

There were so many spoils that it took three days to carry it all off.  On the fourth day they assembled in “The Valley of Berucah” which means the Valley of Blessing, for they blessed the Lord (really, the Lord blessed them).

So Jehoshaphat led the battle simply by worshipping and God did the work.  “The battle is not yours but God’s.”  The battle for the hearts and lives of the Native peoples is not ours, but it is God’s.”

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4  May strongholds be demolished because mighty weapons of mass destruction were dispatched last night!

May this lead the way for a harvest of souls amongst the people of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

This is one of their songs:“We Speak Life” Heart of the City”

Check it out!  It’s a powerful song.

 

 


‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places and high places

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:24-31

I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights.  I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could.  The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible.  She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”

He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes.  He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits.  That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face.  We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’  She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.

I used to think they just came to get out of their cell.  Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them.  There is a boomerang effect with many of the women.  They are back in again and again.  I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch.  Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.

This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them.  Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’  Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’  Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before.  “I am here to tell you about a God you can know.  He has a name, and He knows your name…”

The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers.  They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:

  1. God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
  2. He is  unchanging (not relative).
  3. God has a name.  He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
  4. Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose.  He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
  5. One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.

Acts 17.jpgThese are our reference points, fixed and unchanging.  You can call them ‘absolute truths.’  Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us.  I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use.  Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”

What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it.  He didn’t use Jesus’ name.  He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.

The struggle today is over so many things.  We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth.  We’ve made truth relative and individual.  We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here.  You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago.  All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’  You have no reason for being here.  Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident.  You can do things–but what if you can’t?  Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)

The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me.  One day He is going to return and set the wrong right.  We will give account to Him.  Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them.  We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God.  They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…

 

 

 


Let’s go Fishing

fishing with a net

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking…They were all astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…’Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’  Luke 5:1-11

This caught my attention today.  It was our fishing opener last weekend.  Our lake country is flooded with trucks pulling boats.  So I can picture it.  The guys had been fishing all night.  No luck.  I’ve had those days of fishing.  I’m a fair weather fisher.  My husband always says, “A bad day of fishing is better than a day at work,” but I still gauge my day of fishing on how many fish we come home with.  I’m with Peter, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”

The disciples still aren’t sure of who this Jesus was.  “But at Your word we’ll give it another try.”  And, boom!  There are so many fish both boats start to sink.  My thought would be, “I’m sticking with this guy, he knows where the fish are.”  But then Jesus says, From now on you’ll be catching men.

Catching men?  They were still in awe about the huge catch of fish that just wasn’t there.  And now this guy tosses in that they will be catching men?  Jesus must have hooked them, because verse 11 tells us, And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.  

Jesus knew where the fish were.  He could take them to depths or catches that they couldn’t humanly do.  Stick with Him and this could be the norm.  Peter caught the bigness of the moment.  He sunk to his knees and cried, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  He knew that not just anyone could fill empty nets.  Just wait Peter, I am going to fill those nets with people.

I am left with two thoughts spinning around in my head to mull over:

  1. Only Jesus can take me to the depths of life.  If I listen to Him, He’ll tell me where to cast my net and I’ll catch fish where there weren’t fish before.  Fish=people.  Fish are temporal, people are eternal.  I can fish all night on my own, but it’s not until He speaks and puts prompts on my heart to tell me who to go to and where that I am effective.  That’s the gist of the abiding life described in John 15:5, Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  Take me out into the deep God!  I need you to lead me.  Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” is nothing compared to the places Peter went, and we go, led out by the Spirit.  Where do you want me to drop my nets today?
  2. From now on we’ll be catching people.  That word ‘catching’ is zogreo in the Greek.  Try to use that word in a sentence today at work to impress people (just kidding).  It means to entrap or catch alive.  It can mean to make a prisoner of war, like Satan does when used in 2 Timothy 2:26, that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  Or it can mean to set people free from the trap they have been in.  In other words, “From now on you will be catching people out of Satan’s trap, setting them free for God’s kingdom.”  Some of those people that I know that are caught in traps are Christians. They aren’t free to do God’s will because they are stuck and aren’t running free.  They have what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 calls a stronghold (or two or three) in their life and it needs to be brought down.  Others are nonChristians and they don’t know Jesus yet and need to call on His name first and foremost to get free.  Who do you want me to help get out of a trap today?

Now, let’s go fishing!


My Favorite Billy Graham Memory

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:1

billy grahamI grew up watching Billy Graham crusades on TV, and developed the same reverence for him that many mainstream evangelicals around the  world living from the 50’s through the turn of the century did.  So when I had the opportunity to participate in one of his crusades while living in Columbia, South Carolina I did so with excitement.

It was the spring of 1987.  I had met with hundreds of others weekly from January through April to prepare and to pray for the big event.  My job was to be a “second tier” counselor on the field.  When people came down on the stadium field to pray after Billy preached, they would meet with a counselor.  If that counselor got ‘in over their head,’ encountering something that they couldn’t handle, such as talk of suicide or any other complicating issues, they would raise a red card and that’s where the second tier counselors would step in.

One night there was a big thunderstorm and he didn’t get to preach, the choir didn’t get to sing, etc.  But Billy did get up to say that if people came wanting to accept Jesus as their Savior that they could still come.  We stood down on the field in the rain waiting and over 3000 people came forward without him even preaching.  It seemed that the prayers that we had prayed and the power of the Spirit were way stronger than the thunderstorm and blackened skies.

But that’s not my profound memory.  I was in Columbia attending Bible School.  I was also waitressing at the Cracker Barrel.  My co-workers treated me like I was an anomaly throughout my time there.  I wasn’t like them, not smoking pot during breaks in the parking lot, not cussing up a storm, not partying after work…But we became fast friends and they were interested in my faith in Jesus.  They were super excited when Billy came to eat one afternoon at the restaurant, even though several admitted they didn’t know who he was.

A waitress friend went with me one of the nights.  I had been telling her about Jesus for a year and a half and she had been listening with interest.  But it seemed like there was a wall that kept her from accepting Him into her life, like it couldn’t be for her.  No matter how I explained it to her, nothing breached the wall.  Until that night.  When Billy finished preaching and began to invite people to make their way to the field if they wanted to know Jesus as their Savior, she asked, “What would happen if I went down on the field?”

I explained that someone would talk to her, asking if she would like to invite Jesus into her life.  I asked if that’s what she wanted to do.  She responded, “No, I want to talk to you.”  I told her that because there were about 50,000 people there it was going to take a good two hours to make it through the traffic.  I suggested we talk in the car.  For the next two hours, the wall that I could not bring down previously was brought down by this very evident power of the Holy Spirit that was impacting my friend Jan.

She poured out how she had been listening to everything that I had been sharing with her about Jesus and wanted it.  But she knew Jesus couldn’t love her and she couldn’t tell me about it because she didn’t want to lose me as her friend.  She told of how she had an abortion five years earlier and how she deserved every bad thing that had happened.  There in my car I was able to explain how Jesus’ blood covered even her abortion and that if she repented of it, He would forgive her and wipe it out permanently.  She did that night, and she was set free.

Just as I am, without one plea…


The Heart of Darkness (My thoughts on school shootings as an Elementary Principal)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

This is a big topic.  It has so many facets with no easy answers, otherwise we would have come up with them soon after the Columbine shootings in 1999.  This hits close to home for me as a school principal.  Sandy Hook was especially unraveling, since it was an elementary school and the principal and school psychologist were two of the victims on that dark day.  Each time there is a tragedy, school safety procedures change, and Parkland, Florida’s will bring more changes.

Our staff met for over an hour this last Friday talking through our procedures and there will be more drills in the coming weeks with students as young as four years old.  What I have been thinking about is that it seems that we have a much deeper problem than just too easy of access to guns.   I’ve been working with youth since I was one myself, so that’s almost 40 years now.  We are products of our culture, which has certainly taken a turn south in those 40 years.  I am disturbed by many things.

One is the disintegration of the family structure.   When I first began to work as a school counselor, I would have students draw out their families as a beginning point.  It showed me who they were, who was important to them, who lived in their home with them…It became such a point of confusion that I soon abandoned it.  So did our culture.  You can say it doesn’t matter if you get married or not, if you get divorced or not, who you marry, how many times, etc. but it fragments kids in a million different pieces.  And then you wonder why their mental health suffers.

Which leads to the next issue, which is mental health.  If I began to really talk about the dire mental health conditions that I really see on a daily basis in my small elementary school, you would push the red button.  I went with a group of teachers to a conference on setting a school wide behavior system a few years back.  There were probably thirty schools there from across Wisconsin.  Every school said they were there because they didn’t know what to do with their out of control mental health needs.  It is a national crisis.

We have consciously taken God out of our country in our drive toward total secular humanism, or whatever you want to call it.  Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” meaning that nature requires every space to filled with something.  If you take God out, that means evil takes its place.  In our area, which is not unique, drugs have taken over.  We are inundated with meth and heroine.  Alcohol seems like child’s play, a relief if that’s all that people do is to drink themselves to death.

Families, that aren’t families anymore, stop going to church, and they start going to bars. I can’t tell you how many funerals I have attended in bars over the last few years.  Fifteen to twenty years ago that would have been unthinkable.   The other place they go on Sundays instead of to church is to sporting events.  The number of youth tournaments on Sundays has taken over.  Sunday is just another day.  ‘Sport’ is the new religion.

The parents’ spiritual health, calling it what it is, is not good, so the child’s spiritual health is totally spinning.  They have suffered the affects of abuse, trauma, neglect and have added in video games that are just waiting to fill that hole in their heart.  Along comes games that are created to addict people from an early age.  “Five Nights of Freddy”  “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” are not games that seven year olds should be addicted to, but they are.

The topic I’m supposed to be on is school shootings, so I’ll get back to it.  Suppose you have a child who is: a) from a fragmented family, b) whose parent may or may not be addicted to some sort of drug and c) has either the child or the parent has mental health issues because of it,  d) the child has been addicted to some violent video game that programs his muscle memory and goes for “high kill” numbers, and e) they haven’t ever been to church (so no moral compass).  Where do you think that child is headed?

Not every family fits into this category.  But if you look at the profiles of the individuals that have been involved in shootings over the years, they usually have those above mentioned indicators in common.

What is the real solution?  Certainly not allowing automatic weapons into the hands of someone who fits that description is a beginning point, but it doesn’t end there.  How do we even begin to go “Back to the Future” on restoring our families, getting a moral compass from the absolute truth that comes from the Bible and God, and stopping the insanity of violent video games that program minds at an early age?  Revival comes to mind.

As you read through the book of Judges in the Old Testament, there are some pretty crazy things that take place.  There is a phrase that is repeated several times:  “In those days, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  It was the explanation to why everything was off kilter.  What will our explanation be?

We all have a heart of darkness without Jesus.  The heart if deceitful and desperately wicked.  “We all like sheep have gone astray, and have gone our own way,” as Isaiah 53:6 states.  The only answer that I know is Jesus.  My only hope is Jesus.  Your only hope is Jesus.  “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  That is the rest of Isaiah 53:6.

 


The Word Became Flesh

word-became-flesh.jpg

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16

I was looking back in one of my old journals, and read this entry from July of 2015.  It captures the Christmas message in such a poignant way, that I thought it fitting to share it again today:

I was up at the County jail for a Bible study, which I host 2-3 times a month with whatever women will come.  Sometimes they come just to get out of their cell, but I’ll take that.  As long as they’re not disruptive, they get a chance to hear the Gospel.  Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Anyway, this particular evening in July brought out three Native American women.  Though they are from my community, they have a world view that is miles apart from my own.  I’ve learned that from the years of jail ministry.  I was to learn more this evening.  Two out of the three were women that I had known for years.  The third had come one other time, maybe a year before.  She seemed agitated from the start.  She sat flipping through another book until we got switched out of the library to another room.

My Bible study was on three different responses to Jesus–mad, sad and glad.  Mad, the people from Nazareth that tried to push Jesus off the cliff (furious); Sad, the rich young ruler in Luke 18; and I didn’t even get to glad and Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  I was still explaining what sin was.  I had already gone into a bit of detail about who Jesus was, that He was God himself who came from Heaven and took on human form as a baby and grew up and began His public ministry and then began His public ministry, doing miracles, announcing that He was the Promised One who came to save them from their sin.

I could see the one gal’s face get more and more angry, read to launch into an argument.  Wait for it, wait for it.  It was right around the sin explanation that she jumped in.  She said that Natives don’t have sin and Hell.  She said she knew a Catholic who just did what she wanted and then went to confessional and she thought that was lame.  I explained that that’s not repentance, which is turning from your sin.  “I get why you think that’s lame.”

I told her the Zacchaeus story was a good example of repentance.  We just started to read it when she yelled, “I would never place my trust in someone who put on a meat suit.”  I quietly said, “Come again?”  I wanted to make sure I heard that right.  She said firmly, “A dude that would take on a human form.  I would never let him be my God.”

I quickly answered, “That’s exactly what He had to do to pay the price for our sins, otherwise we would all face the death penalty and be sentenced an eternity in Hell.”  She countered, “We don’t have a Hell.”  I came back, “Oh yes, we all face that.”  I picked up my Bible and said, “This is the truth and Jesus declared, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life–no one comes to the Father, except through Me.’  One day we will all stand before this Jesus to give an account of what we have done.”

Her answer was, “That’s disrespectful.  That’s hateful.”  I answered, “Actually, in me telling you that, it’s the most loving thing I could do so you could have a chance to hear it and to ponder it.  The choice is then up to you.”  Then she backed down.

We both took a breath, and I said, “I like that ‘dude in a meat suit’ thing.  You’ve hit the nail on the head.  We went off on to a different point and kind of relaxed to move away from the intensity.  At the end of the night I said to her, “I hope I see you again some place, just not here.”  We both smiled in mutual respect.  I haven’t seen her since, but I still pray for her.

 


A flannel board and flannel Jesus

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel not with words of human wisdom, let the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  I Corinthians 1:18

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…the lowly things and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before Him.  It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:27-30

I got a flier in the mail this week from a Bible study company and flipped through it.  One page was an ad for a cruise with “your favorite Bible teacher.”  Another page, ads for an event in several cities with a dozen or so attractive thirty something women on a pretty topic.  No older women, less attractive, handicapped ones could speak?  “Stop it,” I thought.

flannel JesusThen in my reading through the Bible in a year chronologically I sat down to these verses in 1 Corinthians.  It took me back to the two ladies that I became a Christian through in the tiny country Vacation Bible School fifty some years ago.  They used a flannel board, a flannel Jesus and song lyrics written on tag board.  They persistently talked about Jesus with no other props.  They came to my community with no other Gospel witness for over 35 years, armed with the love of Jesus and a commitment to serve Him like no other I have seen.

They wrote to me every month from the time I was 13 until I was almost 30.  They discipled me in the faith and would call me “their Timothy.”  They probably wouldn’t have made it as headliners at a women’s weekend.  Nor would I.  That’s not how God made me and that’s not where God has planted me.  And somehow, that’s how He has made the message of the cross to be.  It’s not to be glitzy or glamorous, lest it be emptied of its power.

It is not to be bedazzled, though we want to pretty it up.  A friend of mine told how she had a mentor named Ethyl who had the gift of faith.  She would go fishing with Ethyl and Ethyl would know where to fish because God would tell her.   Ethyl would do more big things than just bring home big catches of fish, she would allow God to use that gift of faith all over the place to do big things through her.  Only thing was, she never drew attention to herself.

When she was old, she wrote a little book about all of the things that God did and she called it, “Ethyl Nobody.”  This was years before self publishing and marketing, so I haven’t been able to find that book.  I wish I could.  I’ve thought about that title, and have thought that one day I’d like to write a book like that before I die and title it, “Martha Nobody.”  God has done so many things in and through me, just like He did with the dear old ladies with the flannel board, a flannel Jesus, and cardboard song lyrics.

Better than that, they were armed with the message of the Gospel, the love of Jesus, and the conviction that if they kept telling it that God would change lives and eventually it would change the world.  It has changed my world.

*Image from Feltark

 


The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy


Salt and Light

salt and light

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:5-6

This is the lyrics to a song by Lauren Daigle, “Salt and Light.”

You make righteous those who seek, You have written and redeemed my storyLet my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around, Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name;  Let my life be a song, revealing who You are, For You are salt and light

Oh, the love that set me free, You bring hope to those in need; You have written and redeemed my story, Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around; Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name

Let my life be a song, revealing who You are, For You are salt and light; You are love’s great height, You are deep and wide; A consuming fire, You are salt and light, You are…

“Salt and Light”  Click here for the You Tube song

This song has captured my thoughts lately.  The idea is that God is salt and light.  As believers, He lives in us through the Holy Spirit.  He is writing our redemption story and He is also emanating His character through us.  2 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that God: “through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

God be salt and light through me.  Work in me Your character and use me in the lives of the people around me.  Make my life be a song, revealing who You are.  Just how that looks is described in Colossians 4:1-2, so let’s take it apart:

  • Walk in wisdom toward outsiders (unbelievers).  James 1 tells us if we need wisdom we should ask for it in faith, and God will give it to us.  We need God’s wisdom everyday, so give Him your specific situations that you encounter and ask Him how to make you salt and light as you go about your day.  Ask God to prompt you about when to speak and when to be quiet, and how to speak truth into people’s lives.
  • Making the best use of time.  We should have a game clock that we keep our eye on, just like a quarterback does, or the one handling the ball in basketball.  Just when you think you have all kinds of time to tell someone about Jesus, or to make a messy relationship better, or to grow in certain areas of our lives, the time ticks off.  Jesus said in John 9:4, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me.  Night is coming when no one can work.”  
  • Let your speech always be gracious, or “full of grace,” NIV.  That means we consciously look for ways to build people up, not just encouraging but sometimes rebuking, correcting and teaching.  I have praying lately that God’s peace, hope and grace would overflow from me to others.  Look for the good in people and situations and be quick to point it out.  Be the kind of person others want to be around.
  • Seasoned with salt.  Salt is a disinfectant and a preservative.  It also adds flavor.  Speaking truth would be a disinfecting and preserving thing.  If people are bashing things that are clearly contrary to God’s way, praying quickly for God’s wisdom, look for a way to say something that is graceful, but truth.  Being salt might be doing the right thing even when others are taking the low road.
  • Knowing how to answer each person.  That takes God’s wisdom.  Ask Him to show you how to deal with your annoying relative or the opinionated co-worker.  Look for ways to speak into people’s lives and to share what Jesus has done in your life.

“Oh, the love that set me free, You bring hope to those in need; You have written and redeemed my story, Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around; Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name.”