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Archive for the tag “Sharing Our Faith”

Two Words for Today

This past week, my small group started reading the Gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is believed to have been written by the author John Mark while he was in Rome for the Roman Christians between the years 55 and 65 AD. John Mark received the narrative from Peter, a disciple of Jesus and one of Jesus’ closest friends – part of His inner circle.

Unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Mark’s message begins with the ministry of Jesus. The word that jumps out from the beginning is “immediately.” John Mark used that word throughout his writing. The word I got from the beginning is unhindered. Jesus wanted to begin His ministry unhindered to share the Good News about His Father’s Kingdom. However, the more Jesus did – the miracles – the less He was able to move about freely. The people came far and wide to see Jesus – to see His miracles and to hear His message.

In the beginning, Jesus told the demons not to speak about who Jesus was (is). When the demons saw Jesus, they proclaimed Him as the Son of God. I believe Jesus didn’t want them testifying – He didn’t want people to believe the demons message. Jesus’ message was to believe in Him for who He was (is) not because of what a demon said or the miracles Jesus performed. The miracles were signs and wonders to prove His authority to what Jesus proclaimed.

People were amazed at His authority. They had never heard anything like it. However, the schooled members of society – the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus’ authority. They wanted more proof than the signs and wonders Jesus provided. Jesus said even if He died and rose again, they would not believe – and they didn’t. Their hearts were hardened and had no room for Jesus.

Early in the narrative, John Mark wrote about Jesus’ take on old and new wineskins. I believe this remark was directed to the Pharisees. The message Jesus delivered was a new message – new wine. The new wine would be better served in a new wineskin rather than an old wineskin. The message was brought forth through the disciples rather than the religious elite – the Pharisees. There would be a new vessel for the new message.

The Pharisees thought they were covered because of who they were – sons of Abraham – God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe they needed to be saved from their sins. They believed in the rules of Moses’ Law was going to save them. They had no need for Jesus. They relied on tradition and had no relationship with God. It was all about the Law and nothing more.

Jesus told a group of disciples it was more than just following rules. He expounded on the Law and said it was more than keeping the letter of the Law but even the thoughts could be judged against them. So the Law said murder was wrong, but Jesus said even our thoughts about harming someone was breaking the heart of this commandment. It’s impossible to keep the Law. The Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.

In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry in the synagogues. However, the message was rejected in those places. The message was received outside of those walls where Jesus walked among the crowd. He spoke on hillsides, in small villages, and around the Sea of Galilee. The people from far and wide came to hear the message and see all He was doing. But the Pharisees did not see and did not hear. They missed the message of love, hope, peace and joy. Jesus came for them too, but they rejected His message and didn’t believe Him even with all the things He did in their presence. Jesus broke their rules (not God’s) and did things on the Sabbath that their rules forbid.

Eventually, though many decided to turn away from Jesus because the message was too hard to follow. They didn’t understand what Jesus said about His death and how it would change everything. Only after the resurrection do we see thousands committing their lives to the message. The resurrection made the difference in how the message was received. People believed the witnesses of the resurrection. They understood the message after the greatest of the signs and wonders – Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Pharisees still didn’t believe and their fate was determined by their unbelief.

The message is still true today. It’s not about tradition or following rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus and following Him. It’s more than Jesus saving us from our sins. It’s about turning our lives over to Him as Lord. It’s giving Him everything – all of our hearts. It’s about being outside the building walls and showing others the love of Jesus every day.

Let’s not miss the message Jesus still sends today. It’s still the message that will change everything for someone waiting to hear of a hope that cannot be destroyed by their circumstances. God is bigger. This world is falling apart and time is growing shorter by the day. Let’s be unhindered and immediately share what we know.

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)

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The Seed

Do you know anything about seeds? I don’t know much, but what I do know I find amazing. There are interesting little specimens of life. The seed has a protection against enemies so that it can live. Seeds have a coating that contains some type of poison so that it will not be attractive to a predator. It has an innate ability to survive. Seeds have within them many seeds to come. One little seed has the potential to become a forest. Amazing, right?

This week, I finished the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. The last chapter was an inspirational charge. I’m not a feminist nor do I claim to be. However, I want to empower women to live up to their potential. Through the ages, women have always worked alongside the men to do Kingdom work. They might not get the recognition, but they work long and hard to do God’s work. Women have not always had the opportunities that we now can claim. We have an equal footing in our society, not like some others that still consider women as second-class citizens. Jesus recognized women in His ministry. We have Jesus to thank to bring women out of obscurity into new roles for Kingdom purpose.

I believe God has jobs in His Kingdom that only women can do. I feel empowered every time I read things like Lisa wrote to encourage women to go out there and do the job they’re called to do. Sometimes I will get discouraged on this walk of faith. When discouragement happens, I will pick up a book like Adamant which encourages me to keep the faith and keep doing what I am called to do.

As I read the last chapter this week, Lisa gave reference to seeds lying dormant in us. Lisa wrote about digging in the catacombs in Rome. Researchers found “frescoes illustrating scenes from the early church days. Some of the frescoes portrayed women ministering alongside the men.” The man who told the story to Lisa spoke a word to her about these frescoes that awoke something in her. As she wrote these things, she asked this question: “What is it the enemy wanted buried in your life?” These seeds are lying there waiting to come to life. These seeds one day could have the potential to build a forest.

We all have that seed within us. It may be forgotten by us but it has not been forgotten by God who put it in us from the beginning. There may be some type of forest fire that is going on in our lives to clear the area for the seed to have room to grow. Fires are a cleansing and purifying tool. Satan may think he has the upper hand when fires are consuming us, but in reality the fires are purifying us and making us ready. It may be a barren place right now, but soon the forest will emerge. God told us that all things hidden will be revealed. What God has placed in us cannot lie dormant. It has to come out. It’s the seed that longs to be birthed and give life to something new.

Many times I’ve written about my struggle to find my purpose. That hasn’t changed. I still struggle with it. But maybe it’s in the struggle that purpose is birthed. In the struggle, character emerges. In the character, conviction is conceived. In the conviction, a new mindset is brought to life. With a new mindset, we build a life that is filled with purpose. Every day we are given more choices and more opportunities to be stretched in a way we’ve never had before. Those exercises strengthen our faith.

Maybe we don’t see it. Maybe we’re blind and need eyes to see. Maybe we need to ask Jesus to touch our eyes again like the blind man who couldn’t see on the first touch. The man saw people like trees walking around (Mark 8:24). After the second touch, trees were no longer walking. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly (Mark 8:25).

Maybe we still see people as trees – obstacles in our way of progress. We are not called to fight causes for justice – although it’s a good thing to fight. We are called to the people to give hope and help them to also see that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. When we change the people, we change society. The people around us are opportunities to fertilize and cultivate something deeper in us. They are the purpose we have to a deeper life with Jesus. We grow when we minister to others. The seed within grows.

We sow the seed of hope everyday in our interactions that will one day bring the forest to fruition. What we cannot see, God does and He is faithful to complete the tasks. Our job is to scatter the seed and let the Creator birth something new through our actions. Maybe that’s really our purpose. It pleases God for us to be His seed spreaders. We may not get the recognition here, but we live for the reward we will receive in heaven. We are called to love God and love people. When we do that, a forest is built upon the seed.

“The seed that fell into good, fertile soil represents those lovers of truth who hear it deep within their hearts. They respond by clinging to the word, keeping it dear as they endure all things in faith. This is the seed that will one day bear much fruit in their lives. No one lights a lamp and then hides it, covering it over or putting it where its light won’t be seen. No, the lamp is placed on a lampstand so others are able to benefit from its brightness.” Luke 8:15-16 (TPT)

Buy the Field

On Sunday, the Pastor brought a great message. I even told him so after one of the gatherings. Since I was serving on Sunday, I heard the message three times. But I confess today, I don’t really remember the whole message. I remember a couple of things though that leaves me feeling a bit convicted.

One thing he said, and I have heard it before, the statistics of us sharing our faith or leading others to Jesus is shameful. Less than ten percent share their faith with others outside of our faith and less than one percent has led others to Jesus Christ. I do share my faith – much more on the web than I do in person, but I have in person as well. But I have failed to lead anyone to Christ. Planted seeds, yes. Harvested, no.

The other thing I recall from Sunday is a story he shared about his brother-in-law. It was a story about transformation. His brother-in-law had a casual relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until he lost everything and hit rock bottom before he looked up and truly found Jesus. He had risen in his company and was making great money, but then the stress caused him to turn to drugs and drugs never lead anywhere good. He lost his job, lost his wealth and almost cost him his life. But in rehab, everything changed. He came out a different man.

I think one of the reasons we don’t share our faith or lead others to Jesus is that we aren’t convinced that Jesus is everything we need. My story isn’t like the Pastor’s brother-in-law. I grew up in church. I have known about Jesus all my life. Yes, there was a time when I walked into a dark valley of my own free will. But I recall that time as being very painful and lonely. I discovered a few years later, that I would rather have Jesus as my Lord than me as my lord. My story is one of slowly turning everything over to His control. One part of my heart at a time. As I was led throughout the years, every part was revealed to me and I submitted it to His Lordship. It has taken years to get to where I am today.

When I hear of others say they don’t need Jesus, I get it. I mean, my life has been easy. I had a good home life growing up. I have had good jobs over the years. I had everything I needed. A little bit of Jesus maybe good enough for that kind of life. But I know there can be so much more. I read stories in the Bible that tell me there is so much more to this surrendered life. However, I want that kind of story without the hardship!

I listened to an interview yesterday between Jonathan Otto and Dani Johnson. Dani shared her story of deliverance and healing. But there was a statement that was said by one of them, not sure which one, that has hung in the air ever since. “The poor know Him more.”

It reminds me of the story that Jesus shared about a rich young man (Matthew 19) who asked Him what he should do to enter heaven. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor, then come follow him. The young man left very sad because he had great wealth. Jesus said that it was difficult for the rich to enter heaven and that floored the disciples. They assumed richness was a sign of God’s favor on a person’s life. But if the possessions possess us, what good is to have the richness of the world and have nothing of Jesus? Emptiness. Loneliness. Spiritually bankrupt. Maybe that’s okay for some if they don’t know anything different. They just don’t know all that they could have.

We are told in Matthew 13 that heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When we find the treasure, we will sell everything in order to buy the field. How many of us would sell everything for that kind of possession of heaven? Maybe that’s why most Christians only have a little bit of Jesus. Maybe we’re so afraid Jesus is going to ask us to sell it all and give it all to the poor that we fail to have the best treasure of all. If we bought that field, we would rejoice and share the news with everyone. It’s a matter of conviction that we would know we have just bought the greatest thing ever.

People were (and are) willing to die for that richness of heaven. Every disciple laid his life down to share the Good News of Jesus. They were convinced because they knew Jesus in the flesh; watched Him die a painful death. But what changed for them was when they saw Him resurrected. They touched the wounds. They ate with Him. They were empowered by His Spirit. The same Spirit we have in us when we believe in this Jesus. We can have a deeper conviction too. Maybe we need a different encounter that would change everything for us.

Are you willing to risk everything to follow Him? Or will you walk away sad because of your great wealth? Don’t let possessions possess you. It’s not worth it. Go, buy the field. It’s worth every penny!

Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” Matthew 19:28-30 (MSG)

The Message of Hope

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker deliver a message about hope. He is a person on a life-long mission to deliver hope to the world. He has visited many countries around the world and has many stories to tell of the adventure of delivering hope to the hopeless. He wrote a book which was sold on Sunday. But the book wasn’t to provide for his financial gain. Matter of fact, he was going to give the book away, but my pastor said the money would be donated to provide Bibles to a people in a closed nation. The opportunity has arisen to send one million Bibles to this closed nation, so we were tasked with filling one freight container filled with boxes of Bibles.

I am reminded every now and then how privilege we are in this country. I have grown up with a Bible in my hand. I was given my first copy as a baby at dedication Sunday. Throughout the years, I have owned many different translations. For much of my life, my Bible sat on my shelf unread. At first, it wasn’t very easy to understand. There were too many “thees” and “thous” and such. Secondly, it made no sense to me.

There were many things that just seemed wrong – all the people who were wiped out so that Israel could have their Promised Land. The teachings too seemed wrong for this day and time. A woman’s role is taught to be submissive – I grew up with “woman power” and burning bras – being empowered to do anything we set our mind to. It just seemed wrong. However, what was wrong was my reasoning. I viewed the Word through my “worldly” perspective and not through God’s eyes. God actually elevated women from a man’s property to being man’s helper. God used women throughout history just as He did with men. And we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The things that I questioned in the past were by my own standards – what I thought was right by my own reasoning. But that’s not the right interpretation. God’s Word is God’s word. It is right in all circumstances; for the past, the present and the future. It never changes, and it stands forever. Sure, it was writing in a time when things were vastly different from today. But its life-giving message stands forever.

Written over a period of 1600 years by many different writers but it is the same message throughout. It is the story of God’s pursuit of man and His extent to redeem mankind from the eternal destiny apart from Him. We all stand condemn until a Savior has risen to redeem us to eternal glory with God in heaven. In God’s eyes, we are the same – lost until we find redemption through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the message of hope. God wants no one to die apart from Him. But many do – either because they have never heard this word of hope or they have rejected it because of their wrong reasoning.

Since my time in the Word has grown deeper, there are many passages that stand out to me. One of those is the passage where Philip takes a trip down a desert road to find a eunuch from Ethiopia studying God’s Word (found in Acts 8). The Holy Spirit led Philip to a man who needed help to understand what he read. As Philip explained to the eunuch a message of hope through Jesus Christ, Philip essentially opened up God’s Word to a nation. Because all it takes is one person to change their perspective, and they will share the message with others. That’s the power of hope. It’s meant to be shared.

After Sunday, I realized what a difference we can make by giving God’s Word to someone who needs hope. It is a treasure. And it should be seen as such. I hope I will never take it for granted anymore. There are many pastors throughout the world who do not even have a full copy of the Word. There are stories of people passing around bits and pieces to share and memorize before passing it along to others. It amazes me the lengths to which many will go to obtain a copy. I have read story after story about people who were desperate for a copy of a Bible to receive it in unusual ways – all by the hand of God. God’s Word is a treasure we need to remember and appreciate, but most of all, we need to read it and share it. It is the message of hope for a hopeless world.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)

Silence Isn’t Golden

Over the last couple of months, I have been very distracted. You might have noticed my blog postings haven’t been very inspired – mainly because I haven’t been very inspired. I have been too distracted by my circumstances. I decided I needed to find employment. Writing doesn’t pay much! So my focus has been looking for that elusive job. I found an opportunity as I mentioned in a previous post. I am trying to get into a new routine, and it’s left me feeling a bit overwhelmed with trying to get it all done now in a short amount of time. My morning time with Jesus has been shortened due to time restraints before work. (I miss my routines that I had established over the last four years.) My thoughts have been scrambled these last few weeks. But this last week, I felt like I am in a better space. I started listening again. I am more focused.

There are two things that have been put before me this week. The first thing was the need to speak. Satan would love to keep us silent. Believers in Jesus are not persecuted for staying silent. Persecution happens when we speak the name of Jesus. Satan’s goal is to keep us silent. We in America do a good job for Satan. We don’t like to offend anyone so we don’t tell them the message of Jesus. We have a powerful message that needs to be shared. The Holy Spirit lives in us to provide the words and opens our eyes to the opportunity. He gives us boldness to proclaim the Good News – Jesus is Lord – He died and rose again so that we might have LIFE! Praise the LORD! But I am the worst for sharing this news. Beth Moore said that if Satan could speak two words to us, these two words would be SHUT UP!

I believe one of my purposes in this life is to write. In 2009, I went to an integrative nutrition school to learn more about health and wellness. In that school, the instructor told us to “find our voice because there are people who need to hear what we have to say.” That message was life-changing for me. I thought I went to this school to learn how to become a health coach and help others get healthy. I know God has used what I have learned to help others, but I think there was a greater purpose than what I understood at the time. It began my writing passion. We were instructed to start writing a newsletter for our “tribe” (the ones we influence). I was reminded during this past week that I had stopped writing. on nutritional health topics. My newsletter has become more focused on the spiritual and mental health rather than on nutritional health. If my passion is about helping others, I gave up the “outlet” to help others! There were a few personal reasons that I stopped, but fear was the main cause.

The other thing I heard this week was that we are “born for such a time as this.” The message was on Queen Esther. We live in interesting times. There is a call for each of us to fulfill in this place and in this time. God placed us here; where we are, made us who we are to do the things we need to do – for His purpose. His will is to make Jesus known all over the world. If Jesus is Lord of our lives, then we have been called to proclaim Jesus to those in our community where we are right now. We can no longer stay silent. When we are silent, we let Satan have his way. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we are compelled to tell. This is our time to share the Good News. This is what we are reborn to do!

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. Acts 18:9-11 (NLT)

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