Category Archives: Evangelism

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.”

 


Only what’s done for Christ will last

only-one-life

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  2 Corinthians 5:10

When Paul was kept in custody in Acts 24:24-25, we find that he spoke to Felix the governor about “righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.”  That makes me stop and think about whether those three topics would be the ones I would pick to present and to debate like Paul did.   His emphasis on the coming judgment is a part of our forward thinking, living our lives with eternity in mind, not just with the “live for today” attitude that is all around us.

One of the final scenes of “Schindler’s List” sticks with me.   It is where Oskar Schindler stood  and addressed the Jewish factory workers and the Nazi guards.  He had spent his own money to save Jews by hiring them to work  in his factory to keep them from being gassed.  He looked down at the gold buttons on his jacket and began pulling them off, realizing that he could have used the gold to purchase more Jews.  He says “I could have saved more, I could have saved more,” as he dropped to his knees realizing his selfishness in having gold buttons.  He had already saved over 800 souls.  One day we will all stand before Jesus to give an account of what we have done.  I don’t want to then realize, “I could have done more, I could have done more.”

Paul was careful to include the judgment in his presentation of the Gospel.  He told the people in Athens about it in Acts 17:31, “God has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed (Jesus).”  We do what we do for God out of obedience, but also with an eye to what it will be like when our lives are over.  Hebrews 9:27 reads, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 talks about this as well.  “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

One disclaimer: What Jesus did was enough for us.  We don’t have to earn a spot in Heaven by doing more.  What we do is in response to God’s grace, not to earn it.  But what we do matters.  Pray and ask God to show you that balance in your life.

Here’s a quote from C.T. Studd that I learned as a kid and has rung in my heart every since then: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  When our lives are done, it’s too late to start obeying God and spending time on eternal things.  It’s kind of like saving for retirement a month before you retire.  You won’t have much to live on.  I want to look back and see the lives that I have saved for eternity because I told them about Jesus.  I will give an account for what I’ve done with I’ve been given, and so will you.  Spend your time investing in eternal things, not wasting them on things that don’t matter.  You will want to hear the words from Jesus, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

how-shall-i-feel-at-the-judgment


An Inspirational Clay Pot: Gladys Aylward

gladys

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China beginning around 1940.  If she listened to the people around her telling her what she couldn’t do, she never would have gotten there.  She had to drop out of school at 14 to work full time to help support her family.  Some time in her 20’s, God pulled at her heart to go to China as a missionary.  She took classes at the China Missionary Fellowship, but didn’t pass the exams.  They told her she wasn’t smart enough, wouldn’t be able to learn Chinese, was too old and wouldn’t be able to stand the rigors.

 

Undeterred, she took on two more jobs and saved money to pay for her own passage to China.  She had seen an ad at her church from a missionary widow in China asking others to join her to help with the work, so Gladys was determined to go and help.  This is what God put on her heart.  She finally had enough money and bought a train ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and took it by herself across Germany, Poland, Russia and Siberia until it finally headed into China.  The journey was harrowing, filled with several danger points where God clearly protected Gladys to get her to China safely.

Gladys found the widow Jeannie Lawson and took to learning Chinese, helping Jeannie at her mule outpost station.  Jeannie had gotten dementia and died within the first year of Gladys’ arrival.  The Chinese called her a foreign devil.  But she served God and the Chinese, working her way into their hearts.  She served the travelers meals, took care of their mules and told the men Bible stories at night.  The Chinese government made her a foot inspector, sending her to guarantee that girls’ feet would no longer be bound.  As she did, she told them about Jesus.

One day a village official came to her requesting that she go to the local prison where there was a fierce riot that they could not stop.  Gladys was 4′ 10″ tall, a tiny woman.  She replied “I can’t go in there–they’ll kill me.”  The official countered, “But you said the Spirit of the living God is inside you.  They can’t kill you.”  She went, quoting to herself her guiding verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

A crazed man came after her with a hatchet, swinging it as he ran straight toward her.  She stood her ground, looked him in the eye and demanded firmly, “Give me that axe.”  He froze and handed her the axe.  She then told all of the men to line up, and amazingly so, they all listened.  Then she listened to them tell her of the things that needed changing.  Gladys was able to negotiate with the officials that they clean up the filthy prison and give them more food.  Through her direction, prison reform came and many placed their trust in Jesus.

Gladys’ story encourages me so.  The Spirit of the living God is inside of me, as He is inside of all believers.  No man is coming at me with a hatchet, but I sure need courage to stand strong in Jesus and to be used by Him in my world.  I need to believe in what God can do through me and not in all of the things people have told me all through life that I can’t do.

Mercy Me has a song out, “In the Blink of an Eye.”  Some of its lyrics are “How can I further Your kingdom when I’m so wrapped up in mine?”  And, “Though I’m living the good life, can my life be something great?”  Usually being about God’s kingdom and not my own involves sacrifice and risk, even courage.  I took a risk this week when I called up a work associate whose husband is in hospice, awaiting death from cancer.  I knew I needed to pray with her and speak spiritual truths to them, not just well wishes in a difficult time.   I asked her if I could pray for her on the phone and she said, “Oh yes, please.”  It was on my heart to give another co-worker a devotional book to begin to open the door to talk about Jesus.  I gave a recently widowed young mother and her three boys a gift card to a waterpark and hotel resort, telling them that God had put it on my heart to do so.

I’m realizing that being a servant, a vocal witness, and an uncompromising Jesus follower rests in the same promise that Gladys stood on “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” because an alive and powerful Holy Spirit is at work in my life.  According to Ephesians 1, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work for me to see God do things in and through me.

*Photo from MyLordKatie-WordPress.com


A “Go and Tell” Faith

ripples

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  Acts 1:8

 

 

The setting: Jesus has been crucified and resurrected from the dead.  He was on the earth for forty additional days, making appearances to about 500 people and speaking about the kingdom of God.  The apostles asked Jesus if this was now the time that He was going to bring this kingdom to earth.  Not now, not yet.  But He told them they would receive power from the Holy Spirit and be His witnesses.  They were His last words to them, so they were pretty important.

And just after Jesus said this, He ascended into Heaven.  Vanished, gone.  So they went to the same upper room that they observed the Last Supper, and joined up with others to make up about 120 in all.  They waited and prayed.  And then it happened: the Holy Spirit came from Heaven like a mighty rushing wind.  He transformed them from being ones taught to being the teachers.  And they were never the same.

The power of the Holy Spirit is for us today too.  That power is the gas in our car, the driving force of us to be witnesses and to accomplish the call of Jesus to go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching.  The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t intended to give us better parking spaces or to have happier self-absorbed lives.  His power is given to believers to go and tell others about the good news of salvation in Jesus, and to advance the kingdom of God.

We are given the Holy Spirit when we become believers.  We are stamped and sealed by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance, and a down payment for what is yet to come.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to accomplish Jesus’ purpose for us.  He transforms us to be witnesses, just like Peter was changed from being a guy that denied Jesus and stuck his foot in his mouth a lot to being the preacher that saw 8000 people turn to Jesus after two sermons.

God wants us to be filled and overflowing with the Holy Spirit so we can be His witness.  This “go and tell faith” is in marked contrast to a “sit and get” one.  It means you were saved for a purpose and you need to be wrapped up in living out that purpose.  Are you?

If not, call on God to visit you with power from on high.


Lightning Bugs

 

When I was a kid growing up in farm country, summer nights included chasing lightning bugs and putting them in jars.  They were plentiful.  My siblings and I would even smear them on us and play ball tag in the pitch dark, glowing for a brief while with the glow of the bug innards.  That’s kind of gross, but it was a lot of fun.   I was fascinated with lightning bugs and I still am.  Isn’t God creative that He would put lights inside of bugs and have them fly around to light the sky like little stars?

Now here’s another thought:  The life of Jesus in me should make me like a lightning bug.  I should glow with His life.  In 2 Corinthians 4:10 Paul wrote: “…Always carrying about in my body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made known in my body.”  Hmmm.  Having the life of Jesus show through me.  To know God and to show God.

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul talks about the ministry of the Spirit and compares us with Moses.  He had a ministry of the law, of death and his face glowed when he went up on Mt. Sinai.  The people were afraid of Him, because God’s presence was awesome–it brought fear because of God’s holiness and the idea that no one can look on God and live because of our sinfulness.  Verse 12 writes “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face.”  In 3:18 it says, “We all, with unveiled face, are beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  Now this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The idea is that Moses glowed from God’s glory, and so should we.  We glow from the inside because the Spirit of the living God lives inside of us.  To those who are friends of God, this glow should be an attractive thing that draws them to God because they see Jesus in us.  It should also transform us and make us more like Jesus the more time we spend with Him and allow His transforming life to take root in us.

This life of Jesus should be like the fountain that gushes from our inmost being, like Jesus cried out in John 7.  How does He do that?  THROUGH HIS SPIRIT.

Jesus is alive in me through His Spirit.  Now that’s something that most evangelicals tend to stay away from.  Some believe that the Spirit went dormant after the Apostolic age.  Well meaning preachers and teachers stay away from teaching and thinking about the Spirit because they don’t want to be heretics.  But yet Scripture would be the heretic, if we just stick to what it says.  Check out some of the verses about what life in the Spirit does for us:

  • Romans 8:1-17.  The Spirit of life has set us free from sin and death.  If I keep living apart from the Spirit, walking instead in the flesh, I am hostile to God and cannot please Him.  In Galatians 3:3 Paul called them foolish and bewitched for beginning in the Spirit and then going back to living the Christian life by the flesh.
  • Ephesians 1:19; 3:20; Acts 1:8.  The Spirit empowers us, with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  We can’t mobilize the church of God without the Spirit of God.  If we try to accomplish the Great Commission without the Holy Spirit, we resort to natural means, like appealing to emotions, guilt, and eye appealing programs and we’re no different than the world.  Zechariah 4:4 pleads “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.”
  • Matthew 3:16; 4:1.  The Spirit at work in us is what enables us to overcome temptation.  Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness.  When He went head with Satan, He quoted Scripture, which is where we usually place the victory secret.  But get this–Satan quoted Scripture too!  It’s the Spirit that gives us the power to walk away even when we know what the right thing is.

We are told to walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit and to be empowered by the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; Ephesians 3:20)  If we don’t rely on the Spirit, explaining Him away and ignoring this glorious member of the Trinity, then we are relying on the flesh.  In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes people as “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.”  That’s us without the Holy Spirit.  We’re like lightning bugs that stop glowing.  We are flesh driven then and Galatians 5 tells that the works of the flesh include jealousy, outbursts of anger, competition.  Ephesians 5:30 admonishes us to not grieve the Holy Spirit and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 not to quench the Spirit.

 Oh may we glow with the life of the Spirit, giving us the power to overcome temptation, to fulfill the Great Commission and to be transformed to be more like Jesus.  May we be a fountain that gushes from deep inside that overflows and shows forth the life of Jesus to others who desperately need Him.