The Secret to Witnessing

The Church is for dirty sinners, not clean sinners.

The only difference between Christians and those who are not, is the fact that God the Holy Spirit paints our hearts with the blood of Jesus. It’s Jesus in us that makes the difference, not what we do, or have, or what other people say about us.

This is important when we witness to others about Christ. Typically our tendency is to impress with our knowledge of the truth, or our accomplishments. We think this will catch their attention. But the apostle Paul says the opposite. “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” 2 Corinthians 11:30

It’s sharing our weaknesses that draws people’s attention. Then they are willing to listen to how God changed us. The Father uses our humility to convict Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s a touching point that people can relate to. Weakness, failure, struggle, and pain are the miseries of life that everyone is in touch with. This speaks to people and they see themselves in our humility. And then, Lord willing, they see their need of a Savior.

Here’s a prayer for all of us:

“Father, I confess that I’m naturally self-centered and self-exalting. Any humility I have is the gift of your Holy Spirit. Please, please touch me now with a humble heart, and break my pride and self-dependence. Make me feel my weakness and your strength. Then give me a loving boldness in witness that is only from you.”

God loves to answer this prayer with yes!

– adapted from A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

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We’re All Prodigals, Or Are We?

I was thinking about the prodigal son. How he asked his father for his inheritance before the father died. How the father gave it to him. How this son of his spent it on his lusts until it was gone. How this son was very far away from home.

Then one day he looked up. That’s always a good place to start a recovery program.

He took stock. Another good decision. Where did he get his wisdom all of a sudden with such a track record of debauchery?

He came to his senses. Now things are coming together.

He was living in squalor, in a foreign country, feeding pigs. It couldn’t get more crazy than this. He started off with a fortune in his pocket and ended up hungry, thirsty and living with pigs, wishing he could eat their food.

He decides to go home.

The Father is waiting.

He runs to meet his son and throws his arms around him and kisses him.

Me? I would tell him he needs a bath.  IMG_0112

I’d be offended that it was his growling belly that brought him home and not me.

But God was in the hunger. God was in his thinking. God was where home was.

Home many of us have wanted to come back to, but haven’t been able.

Perhaps for you there’s no home to come home to. No family because they’re dead.

Or maybe you’re the older brother that never left home. You’ve shouldered the responsibility for the family, you’ve been the dutiful one, and your father has never taken notice. You were expected to take the mantle. That’s what older sons are for. To continue running the business you never started. It’s your father’s livelihood you’ve inherited, not your own. Maybe your heart’s not in it, but there you are because you’re the only one left standing. It’s yours by default. Your younger brother never cared to do the right thing. Your faithfulness allowed his unfaithfulness.

The father throws his wayward son a party he’s so happy to have him back.

The elder brother is not happy to see him back. He’s resentful, angry, hurt. Did the father throw him a party because he was dutiful and faithful? No. Did the father throw his arms around him and kiss him out of gratefulness for his obedience? No.

Why not? Remember this parable was directed to the Pharisees and Scribes who were listening.

It’s because real sons of the Father know what pit they were dug from. They know they don’t deserve the Father’s love. They understand the condition of their own hearts and without the Father’s compassion and mercy, they would not be any better than their resentful elder brothers.

It’s the condition of the heart of faith that is the subject of this parable. The Pharisees and Scribes didn’t have it. The elder brother didn’t have it. Only the prodigal in his filthy rags of repentance demonstrated it.

Talk to me.

 

Life in an Upside Down World

I’ve been writing about the upside-down kingdom of God. Losers will be winners, the last will be first, and the marginalized will fit in.

The biggest loser in the history of this world is Jesus Christ. He was poor, rejected, beaten, buried in a borrowed tomb, but now he is seated on the throne in heaven directing the affairs of this world and waiting for us to come home.

In the meantime, what are we to do?

For starters, we shouldn’t look down on people. We don’t have a full picture of their lives and kindness goes a long way to lifting them up a bit.

Everyone lives on God’s grace, sinner and saint alike. God’s blessings fall on both the righteous and the evil doer. We’re all takers. The only thing we’ve earned  is the wages of sin.

Be grateful. We once were alienated from God, but now we have been drawn near by sheer grace. God set his love on us, not because we were great human beings and deserving to be in the family, but because he chose us, pure and simple. We’re just as nasty as the next guy.

Tell others about this wonderful God we love and serve. That’s our reason for living. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. There’s nothing that gives more joy than witnessing for Christ. Even if we do it badly, it’s worth it, and God takes the mistakes and turns them around for good. So forget about feeling like a failure. There are no failures if you’re telling someone about Jesus.

Talk to me.

 

Not So Quick

Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?

He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”

Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.

But that wasn’t it.  FullSizeRender (4)

Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.

Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.

He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.

So what does Jesus tell him?

To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.

Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?

No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.

We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.

If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.

And notice how Jesus answered him.

 

 

 

 

Stay Needy

How does one live in God’s kingdom? What does that look like?

If you read Matthew 19: 13-15  you’ll see how Jesus responded to his disciples’ rebuke to parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Children had no status in those days. The people of respect were the adults, especially the old men. That was the Jewish culture. But Jesus turned that upside down by insisting that his kingdom was for children.

Really? Children are needy and helpless. They frighten easily. They need protection and care. And they’re messy!

God’s kingdom is precisely for those who are helpless and insignificant and marginalized.

The nobodies are more important than the somebodies. God’s kingdom is not for the movers and shakers.

The kingdom is right-side up while the world is upside down, so no matter what the world tells us is important, or who we should be, it’s probably not true. The disciples reacted as the culture of the day demanded, but Jesus reversed that.

So God’s handbook says, “Become like a little child.” We’re not important. We’re unworthy servants at best. We must look out for others first. Esteem them better than ourselves.

Christ showed us how. He was the king serving his subjects. The saint serving sinners.

We can’t to do it by the law. Knowledge is not enough. There’s something broken in all of us. We don’t need a better you. We’ve been promised a new you in the gospel.

Christ covered our sins by his blood. He’s our Passover. All our sins were imputed to him and he died for them on the cross. And all Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. The grand exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21. We no longer carry the burden of sin and death on our shoulders. We can now skip and dance like little children in the playground of God’s kingdom.

Do you believe this?   Related image

If you’re not sure, receive Christ by faith today. It’s not about being smarter. Or stronger. It’s about feeling helpless like a little child and clinging to him for life.

Be helpless. It’s okay.

God’s kingdom is full of needy ones. Stay that way.

Talk to me.

The Needy Life

The success-driven life is a cancer to your Christian life, like smoking to your lungs, alcohol to your liver, and drugs to your veins.

Am I against succeeding in a career, a personal goal or a dream you’ve had all your life? No, unless you’re achieving it by your own will and determination. And that’s the point. As a Christian, whose life are you living?

“You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” Paul says to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) In context Paul was urging holiness, but since the Holy Spirit lives in us we can also say that looking for soul satisfaction in broken cisterns, relying on Brokenrule keeping for God’s approval, and battling our demons by our own efforts is just as repugnant as unholiness.

Neglecting our true dependence on Christ is equal to living in unbelief.

It makes the Christian life a burden. By looking inward I kill myself. John Newton calls it “soul weariness.” There’s nothing there to commend itself to God.

So get used to being needy. Learn to feel weak. Become helpless like a little child. The world will scream at you, “No! You can’t do that. Flee from such beliefs, instead believe you have the potential to achieve anything you want!”

Jesus was the ultimate little one. He was 100% dependent on his Father. He did nothing on his own accord. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19 NLT

We must do the same if we expect to “succeed” as Christians. That’s why Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. John 15:5

By looking to Christ for everything and in everything we will be released from ourselves and be put into joy and freedom.

We are needy.

We are weak.

Hooray!

Boast in that because you have a Savior who will take care of you!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

Out of Breath

In the span of two days I received an onrush of bad news that swept me up and took my breath away.

A friend’s brother died in his bed yesterday. A colleague’s brother was discovered dead in a field. My son’s mentor was rushed to the ER for colon surgery. My neighbor is battling lung cancer.

This leaves me bewildered and numb.

What do we make of trials? If you’re like me, I’m never prepared for them. They always surprise me and yet they shouldn’t because Jesus warned us we would have them in this life. fullsizerender-21

I was looking at quotes from John Newton and found this one:

“Trials remedy fictional escapism. Trials are the onrush of stinging realism crashing the idealized party we call ‘life.’ When these serious trials interrupt our lives, we ‘run simply and immediately to our all-sufficient Friend, feel our dependence, and cry in good earnest for help.’ But when all is well, when life seems peaceful and prosperous, and when the difficulties in life are small, then ‘we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and strength, as if in such slight matters we could make shift without him.’ We lose out on communion with Christ when we gorge on entertainment.”

What a commentary! Life as fictional escape, a movie of our own making filled with a diet of entertainment. With technology at our fingertips, this indicts everybody.

I’m guilty. I’ve either reading a book, watching TV, or living in my own head. And I think this is life. No wonder I need shaking up and waking up. I need to remember I’m a clay jar with a lot of cracks in it.  And I need to live close to the potter, otherwise I’ll dry up and smash to pieces.

What about you?

Talk to me.