Trained

www.bible.com/1713/heb.12.11.csb

In order to do a job right, you need to be trained for it. While you can be trained by being cast into a situation and forced to come up with something with your wits alone, but it isn’t the best way. Rather, everyone who undertake a new task or position is employed in some training to discipline themselves to follow a new protocol. However, with faith in Jesus, it’s a little different.

When you come to faith in Christ, it does seem like you are thrown into the deep end. Suddenly all these expectations are placed upon you: how you are to dress, talk, act, and witness. It’s not exactly fair, largely because most people in that position have not been properly trained even as the New Testament instructs. Jesus told his disciples this way:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:19-20)

Did you notice the sequence? First, as apostles, they go into all the world (technically, it is “as you go”, meaning that “as you go about the business of life”), then second, make disciples. Making disciples in those days meant finding those willing to learn and taking them alongside, instructing them and teaching them as you go about your work, much as Paul would working as a tent-maker. Then, once they have a recognizable commitment, third, you baptize them into the Name (of the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit), and then fourth, teaching them everything to observe everything Jesus commanded of the Apostles, i.e., going out and making disciples.

So in this many of us I am afraid have made a few mistakes. We have tried for the “win” of the baptism or the prayer of faith or whatever your church does. We count that as a “salvation” and then expect that person to suddenly know what to do. We forget there is a time of discipleship, both showing and teaching what a Christian is, both what he believes and how he lives. These are both important, as many of our Christians today would rather not people follow them into the workplace. We are to be examples everywhere we are, so that others know how to become Christians everywhere they go.

Therefore as Christians, we could actively be teaching others about our faith, the reason for our beliefs, so that we can encourage others to become Christians and grow in turn to teach others. I believe that baptism can occur both early and late, as there is not set time to baptize a person in this process. But this process must include “counting the cost” of salvation in Jesus (which can be very costly for some coming out of other cultures), but also learning basic discipleship, prayer, Bible study, etc. When a person is finally baptized, they are not thrown into the deep end of the pool unprepared, but they are thrown into the deep end. It’s just that by the time they take the dip, they know how to swim.

Why do you think there is such rescividism among new Christians, especially in our culture where they quickly become Christmas-Easter attenders? Its because they’ve never had the chance to witness Christianity in a person’s life. It’s only been on Sunday morning. They didn’t follow the pastor home, or an elder home, or another believer to find out what it means to live as a Christian before they gave their life to Jesus. That is a critical and vital piece that has long been missing from our modern “revivalist” mentality in the Church. We yearn for the altar calls and the decisions, but we don’t take the time to make disciples.

And making disciples is painful. But as Jesus taught, if we are going to make disciples that make other disciples, we have to make disciples first. That starts with you. That starts with you living your life in an obvious way that shoes others what living in Jesus means. It takes time and deliverate effort, but it is worth it.

So heavenly Father, help me to grow in You and show others today how I have grown so that they will want what I have. Let Your Name be on my lips so that I can draw all men unto You who is lifted up in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

One Way

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.3.18.csb

The Authority of the Universe has declared there is only One Way to Him. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The narrow way offered by Christ is the only way God has offered as a way to come to Him. Now you may remember there was another way through the Jews, but with Christ that way was completed and abrogated in favor of this One Way.

Is God unfair? Shouldn’t He offer at least an alternative? As a matter of fact, He does, but you aren’t going to like it. There is one alternative hinted at throughout Scripture, and it is based on the idea of “age of accountability” or the idea that one has to mature sufficiently to be able to have faith in God. We know there is an age when children grow up and can grasp abstract concepts like faith, God, sin, and sacrifice. There is the suggestion in Scripture that children who die before this age, or people who never attain this kind of abstract reasoning (i.e, the invalid, the incompetent, the mentally challenged) are all excused. We reason this out because we believe God is a gracious God and would extend grace to those who cannot accept Him by faith.

Of course, this flies in the face of those who insist on original sin. To some extent, we all receive the consequences of sin from our parents, as our bodies are still able to die, even in utero. Even Jesus, who knew no sin, still died on the cross. But I also believe in original grace. I don’t believe God sends someone to hell who never consciously and willingly sinned against Him. So the alternative suggested by theology and the Scriptures to belief in Jesus as the one way to Heaven is to have never been able to believe in Him and thus be excused from this requirement. I imagine all of my readers have passed this point.

So that leaves faith in Jesus (and baptism in Him) as the only way to be free from condemnation and enjoy everlasting life with God.

This is the point I hear about the “what about’s”, those possible exceptions to the rule that people have come up with over the years. The most popular by far is the scenario where someone in “deepest darkest Africa” (it’s usually Africa, but it could be anywhere) has never heard about Jesus. What about him? Would he still need Jesus to get into heaven? The short answer is “Yes.” But how could God judge him if he never heard about Jesus? The answer is that God judges everyone based on the Law. For the Jews, it was the law of Moses. For everyone else, it is the Law of their own conscience. Within everyone is written a set of laws, written deep down in their soul’s code, that prohibits certain behaviors. For example, everyone, regardless of culture, upbringing, or social history, knows it is wrong to murder another human being in cold blood. Everyone knows, regardless of where they live, knows it is wrong to steal another person’s property. We usually recognize something is wrong when we have to practice secrecy or concealment to do it. Some cultures do stretch the limits on each of what we usually refer to as the Ten Commandments (refer to my Source Code series for more info about this), but every culture at some level knows these things are wrong. And this is the basis for God’s judgment. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3)

So what is the man in darkest Africa to do? Travel five miles to the nearest missionary? Honestly, there are few places in this world where the gospel, at the very least the basics of the gospel story, has not reached. The people groups who have not yet been reached are still significant, but fewer now than they were. And the work is still ongoing. I encourage you if you are interested to pursue this topic as you can. There is still much work to do. For if you care about that man in darkest Africa, you will make every effort to see that he receives the gospel and that he’s not just a hypothetical exception for you. For if anyone is to be saved from judgment, even by their own conscience, it is only through Jesus Christ. Only Jesus saves us from the unbearable burden of our own sins.

Another stated exception to this rule, one which I still struggle with, is the number of people who lived after the resurrection who still died, but long before the gospel could ever reach them. My son and I were talking about this a few months ago. What about the person who died in China in AD 33 mere minutes after the Resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem? Was that person subject to the New Covenant rules? Did that person need salvation through the name of Jesus, because he just happened to die a few minutes after Jesus rose again? This is more of an historical take on the hypothetical noted before. But I believe it is far less hypothetical. It took some time for the gospel to reach the known world, maybe about 40 years. What about the world outside the Roman Empire? What about your African soul in AD 40? What if the gospel had not reached you yet, and you still died?

This is why I struggle with this second one: I have both a gracious God and a holy God. He extends grace through His Son Christ Jesus, but He is also holy, and will not tolerate any sin in His presence. Our souls need to be covered in the blood of Jesus to be able to stand in God’s presence in heaven. We cannot get there on our own. All of us have sinned. That’s an axiom in Scripture. All of us need Jesus. That too is a constant. So how do we consider both God’s grace and God’s holiness in the interim between Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem in AD 30 and the time it takes for the gospel to reach the ears of men and women all over the world?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. I know God’s nature hasn’t changed, and He still judges people based on the Law He has imprinted in their souls. But I have to think God still engages in the same process we see illustrated in Acts 10, where Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, has a dream about going and getting Peter so that Peter can tell him the gospel. I believe people in far-off people groups, if they have responded in faith to what they have already received (the testimony of Natural Revelation, i.e., the world around them) that there is a God and He cares about them, then God sends them a similar dream or vision or motivation to seek out His missionaries because, in the end, the gospel is only transmitted through the lips of His people (both past, the Bible, and present, Christians). We are His ambassadors, not the trees or the earth or the universe. God is far more creative and inventive than we are. I give Him the credit to come up with ways of inviting people to His truth that we would never come up with.

I hope this has been helpful. Don’t give up praying, because often stories of people in far-off people groups coming to faith in Jesus has been coupled with stories of faithful Christians praying for them. If you care whether Timbuktu receives the gospel, then be praying today for those people. God made them too. He loves them. As he said to Jonah, “Shouldn’t I care for those people in Nineveh?”

Heavenly Father, though I have not been very good at mission work and spreading the gospel outside my humble place here, I know You are working even now on some lost soul in a place I’ve never heard of. Father, I pray for that man or woman even now who has an inkling of faith, a mustard seed-sized faith that there is a God who loves them. I pray that a way is found that the gospel finds its way to them so that they can be saved and rescued from death. Please, Lord, I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Acts of Service

www.bible.com/1713/mat.20.28.csb

While my girls were debating when to do dishes last night, I went into the kitchen, starting running the hot water, and started dishes. I didn’t want to do dishes. But in these times when there is little to do, I felt I needed to do something. Both of my girls jumped in to help, and we finished the whole counter-top full in about 30 minutes. Mission accomplished.

I’ve been feeling a lot like this lately, needing to do something to feel like I’ve done something. I had someone ask me yesterday what purpose there was to life, and what was normal. I honestly was stumped at the time, because in the moment, I’d never really thought about the answers to those questions, but maybe that person’s lostness if your gain, because there are answers to those questions.

The verse above reminds us of Jesus’ purpose. He came to serve rather than be served. He came to give rather than receive. And so you have the passage in Acts, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jeus exemplified this by His life. I wonder what a change that must have been for Jesus, who had sat in the Trinity of God, in complete and holy community, served by thousands upon thousands of angels, needing nothing. What a change from that to being human, one of us, where NEED is a daily event. We need to breathe. We need to sleep, eat, drink, wear clothes, work, and so on. What was it like for the Divine Son of God to suddenly come into a world of NEED.

And yet, in this world, He chose to serve. Though He needed, He served. Though He needed, He gave. And this is the One we choose to serve.

I told this individual that normal is when you are at peace. I feel most normal when I am at home, but that’s not entirely true, because I also feel incredible peace when I have helped someone discover Jesus, when they have received the peace of God, or when we have concluded prayer and that person says, “Thank you, I feel much better.” I receive great peace in that moment, and I feel normal. I dare say I feel more peace in that moment than sitting at home surrounded by my family. But maybe it is a different kind of normal. It more blessed to give than to receive.

But what about the purpose of life? Are there any answers to be found there? Yes. Jesus came to fulfill a specific purpose in His life. He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. But before this, He needed to establish men who would be able to put that death into context. Thus He trained and discipled 12 who be able to understand the nature of his death, burial and resurrection once He had appeared to them after his resurrection. Had Jesus trained no one, and simply went to the cross and died, no one would have understood it. There needed to be people who would be able to put it into context and understand itd importance. So Jesus needed to both form and train disciples to carry on the meaning and intent of His work (to save the world from sin through the gospel) and to carry out the actual event, namely His crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

What purpose does your life have? First, fulfill what Jesus set out to accomplish for you, your salvation and rebirth as a believer in Christ. You don’t want to believe in Jesus? Fine. I challenge you to find a better alternative. Second, set about in your life fulfilling the goals that Jesus set forth, bring new people to faith.

But what about me? What about what I want? Wait a minute. Are you saying that you have a purpose apart from what Jesus calls you to do? Then by all means, I challenge you to find a better purpose than what Jesus has set out to do. You see, the call of Jesus to tell others about Him will be as challenging and varied as the circumstances of life you find yourself in. And it will be as creatively challenging as you make it. This simple command can be accomplished in an unlimited number of ways, and I challenge you to find the way that works out best for your past, your life, your abilities, and your situation. But do not tell me there is not purpose to life. We have been given the greatest purpose by the greatest Authority for the greatest mission in this world. And we are privileged to be the ones who to carry it out. God does not write in big, bold letters in the sky. He writes His word on our hearts that it may be shared from our lips. For God, that is the greatest testimony: lives changed becaue of the gospel.

So what about you? What ways can you share the gospel today? I encourage you to take up this purpose for your own life, because Jesus took it up for you.

God, please bless all who read this passage today and may You be reflected in them, both now and forever, because You are the great and mighty God. And may we all serve You to the best of our ability, and to the best of the ability You have given to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In the Name of Jesus Alone

www.bible.com/1713/act.4.12.csb

At the risk of being exclusivist, the name of Jesus alone is the only way anyone can be saved. Now it is important to remember what kind of salvation we are talking about here. Because some people will get the wrong idea.

Some years ago I worked with a young man at chicken hatchery plant. He and I spent hours talking about religion and matters of the day, because I was in my first ministry and was still feeling out what that was like. Yes, I was both working part-time in ministry and working for a local chicken company. That was life then.

One thing that my young co-worker struggled with was his relationship to his girlfriend, that he said lately had run aground. He said they weren’t getting along and as an older, married man, wanted to know if I had any advice for him. So we talked about Jesus. He was not a Christian, but was curious if Jesus could help him in his dilemma. He really loved this girl, but she just didn’t like some of the things he was doing. We talked about faith in Christ and the kinds of changes it could and would bring into his life. He liked what he heard. After several discussions, he agreed he needed to be baptized, and he was the first and only baptism I had in that ministry. After his baptism, I never heard from his again, as he moved on and I left the position at the hatchery.

Something that has always bothered me about his conversion was his motivation. I was certain at the time he possessed saving faith and so I encouraged his baptism. But did this motivation come from a genuine desire to be saved from his sins and serve the Risen Savior, or to get back in good with his girlfriend, a far more immediate need? I hope I will get to meet him again, especially in heaven, so I can ask him.

Salvation is not a panacea. You cannot make it mean whatever you want it to mean. I preached a message a few years ago based on an issue I had with Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” film, in which she depicted her father coming to faith in Christ at their country church because he didn’t want to die and not be with his family. I made the point then that we cling to what brings us to Jesus. If it is something as fickle as the preacher who preached to us the gospel, will we still be Christians if the preacher moves on to a different church? Would Dolly’s father still be a Christian if there is a rift in the family and he stops going to church? If we are led to faith by a girlfriend or wife, and then stop dating that person or we end up divorced, are we still in love with Jesus?

Salvation is not a cure-all for domestic issues, problem family members and the like. Salvation doesn’t take the pain away from childhood abuse, or family trauma. Salvation in Jesus isn’t salvation from poverty or challenging circumstances. Salvation in Jesus is salvation from sin and the renewal of the heart. It is the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit to help us deal with challenging circumstances. It is the promise and guarantee of eternal life beyond this one, where all of our struggles and tribulations will be repaid in glory. We cannot expect or demand that salvation in Jesus will solve all of our problems. But it helps.

For my young friend above, I hope that even if things did not work out with your girlfriend, you found in Jesus a greater friend above all, so that when you met the next girl she found you to be a godly man. My hope for Dolly’s father was his growing faith in Jesus Christ led to a transformation of his whole family. Seeing a father making Jesus a priority is transformative, so that when the next crisis hits, he doesn’t hit the bottle but he falls to his knees.

Salvation in the Name of Jesus is a tool, but it is the most powerful tool we possess to engage in the struggles of life. Through Him we have hope, that even in the midst of crisis, we know the best is yet to come. We know this is not all there is. We know we have a heavenly Father who lives and exists to teach us and guide us and show us wisdom and order in the midst of chaos. We are not alone.

May I encourage you today to seek this salvation for yourself. Don’t be “married” to a religion or to a physical person or an ideology. These will not save you. Only the Name of Jesus, faith in His life-saving power, His resurrection glory, His surpassing authority, His love for us, all that we could ever hope for, the cross, the burial and the resurrection, the touchstones of our faith in Him, only He can save us truly.

Dear Lord, forgive me where I have failed You, failed to broadcast the wholeness of Your truth and power to others. Father where I have encouraged some to salvation in Christ based on lesser goals, based on lesser needs, please forgive me. For You alone Jesus are enough. You are sufficient for all my needs, all I could ever want. Anything else I have today in relationships and blessings are given only because You love me and know me better than I know myself. Please afford me the grace and mercy today that I may improve my calling and reach out to more who need You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

I Have Been Crucified

www.bible.com/1713/gal.2.20.csb

I once was dead, but now I am alive. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I once had no purpose, no direction, and no point to my life, until I met Jesus. In Him is life, a better life than anything that I could have ever imagined. I owe it all to Christ, who gave His life for me. Since I have been crucified with Christ, I have also risen with Him. Since I have been baptized in Christ, I have been raised with Him. Though I may live in my flesh, I live by faith. I live by hope. I live by the promise of the Son who rose that I too will rise again when my flesh is no more.

Do you know what it’s like to feel loved like that? To be loved so much that someone is willing to give their whole life for you? Paul makes it personal in this verse. He does not remark “He died for us,” but “He died for me.” Paul knew what Jesus was like. He had met Him. Though some debate it, I believe Paul and Jesus had long conversations together outside of Damascus for three years, with Jesus teaching him personally. I believe Paul applied a unique understanding to this education through his vast intellect and education in the rabbinic schools. Of all the disciples, only Paul possessed this kind of education. It was because of this education that he became a zealot for persecution, and this was also his greatest shame. Like Peter before him, Paul needed that extra measure of time and attention from Jesus (“Peter, do you love Me?”)¬† to turn his soul around. I see Jesus taking the necessary time to transform Saul to Paul, the raging anti-Christian zealot to the devoted follower of Jesus. Imagine the contrast Paul must have seen between the forgiving Christ and the Church he met in Jerusalem. They didn’t want him and were afraid of him. But he had seen and known Jesus. He loved and eventually overcame their insecurities to become a powerful evangelist and missionary due in part to Barnabas’ patience.

If you have ever been in need of motivation, I want you to take some encouragement from the Apostle Paul. Paul made it personal because it is personal. Jesus died for you. He died for all but He also died for you. Jesus made it personal when He came in the flesh and we discovered His name, Jesus. He was no longer the “Word” of God. He was God in flesh, flesh just like mine. He lived and breathed. He had a real human voice. He did this for me. He loves me so much, He not only had prophets predict His coming, but Apostles to ensure that His story would reach my ears. This is the love of a God who loves me above everything else. This is the God who saves, and saves me, even such a one as me.

It is helpful sometimes to consider that Jesus saves me, because sometimes I don’t feel very useful or important. But Christian don’t hold onto this as if it’s your very own, and only your own. This is a message that needs to be spread to all people, all the “me’s” out there who are desperate for purpose, for mission, for direction in their lives. Savor the personal nature of salvation, but don’t hold onto it. Share it! Savor it, but spread it! Let it motivate you to become a spokesman to someone else. Let the love of Christ so overflow the banks of your own heart as to fill someone else. The flow you receive will only grow stronger when it goes out to others.

Lord Jesus, help me to practice this faith, in my life and in my home. I need you today more than ever. Show me those today for whom I can pray and share my faith. Grant me the discernment not to throw my pearls before swine, but for hearts that have been prepared for Your message this day. For this I pray. Amen.

A Kingdom Awaits

www.bible.com/1713/mat.5.10.csb

Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing something right? Maybe it’s because you decided not to lie for someone else. Maybe you’d had enough of someone else’s lies and finally told the truth. Maybe you were trying to help someone else out, only to find out you were in over your head. Strangely enough, it’s not that hard to get in trouble for doing something good.

So imagine what it must be like for those who follow the Truth. Standing out in front of abortion clinics, making a stand in public forums, speaking up at town halls and county meetings. As a Christian, your ideals are far higher than what others see as good. Are you able to stand up to the strain?

What I find as I get older is that I am finding it harder to care what others think. In truth, no one really cares what you think, because most people are concerned about their own lives. Most people just want to live life in quiet and in peace. Anything that disturbs both is cause for concern, but if left alone, most people just go on.

Strange then that as Christians, we have an agenda, to introduce others to the gospel, the life-saving gospel. We must both help people understand that they have a serious problem, and tell them about the solution. This is a special kind of evangelism, since it requires both parts to work. If people don’t believe they have a problem, then they won’t be interested in the solution. So you can shake a Bible at them all day and they will not care. You can quote Bible verse to them and they will not listen. You must first introduce the problem. So what is it?

People are looking for purpose. They have pursued pleasure all their lives, and come up empty. Life for many is empty. Life means only pain and suffering, which leads to depression. In this nation, depression, purposelessness, and emptiness is our greatest plague. Why? Because they have no hope. Hope is what drives us and helps us move forward. If there is no hope, no vision, the people perish.

So when we frame the problem in this way, we have an answer. You were created with a purpose. You may not believe in a Creator, but you know hopelessness. You know that your life isn’t fulfilling. And I can tell you how to find purpose again. That gets people’s attention.

When you are stuck in a difficult evangelism situation, remember that Bible verses are not the only tool in our tool box. We ought to practice discernment as well, to discern the nature of someone’s problem, help them explain in words, so that we apply Truth where it’s needed.

Help me Lord today help others see their problems, to identify them so that they will be open to the gospel message. Grant me discernment, wisdom, and direction to find them. Thank you Jesus, Amen.

The Power of the Tongue

www.bible.com/1713/pro.18.21.csb

Never thought much about my words growing up. Just said what came to mind. They were just words, after all. But as I’ve matured, I’ve learned that words mean much more. Our country was founded on words, words which were defended by blood and treasure. Our faith is built on words, the Word. His word is contain on the several Bibles on my desk and computer. we are a people who pride ourselves on memorizing those words and reciting them when we need them, or when we want to encourage others. We need words, because they both shape our reality and reflect upon it.

So when the Bible says that we live and die by the power of the tongue, I don’t think it’s about our ability to taste. It is about our language. Our words can lift up and tear down. Our words can echo within us for decades, becoming the mantras we remember from childhood that define who we become. And sometimes only the Word can change those internal conversations and memories and cleanse them so we can be free.

Parents be careful what you say to your children. Children beware what you say to your parents. Watch every careless idle word, because even those can come back to haunt you. Our words are life and death, and have eternal consequences.

And still the Lord entrusts us to repeat the story of salvation. Upon our lips is the retelling of the gospel story, so that others may hear and live. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and from us others hear the wonderful story of how a Creator God desires to save those He loves by sending His Son to show them what true love looks like. We have the honor and the privilege of sharing that story. That story is told in words. Consider a great privilege then Christian that you too have been called to share the story.

Father God, fill my mouth with good things. Fill my heart with an abundance of joy and love. Help me fill others today with the good news of Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

According to Your Offering


Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6 HCSB

https://bible.com/bible/72/2co.9.6.HCSB

Not sure which way to go with this one this morning. I mean besides the obvious. Obviously this text is speaking to the Corinthian Church about the nature of giving, this as Paul is encouraging them to lay aside a sin of money for the churches in Judea. The Judean churches at this time were undergoing a famine, and Paul was urging the Gentile churches to donate money to help them in their time of need. This in response to the gospel of Jesus being preached from the Jews to the Gentiles.

His teaching here is about their practice of giving. The promise is fulfilled by God. You have control on the amount that you give. But you have no control over how much you reap. Circumstances too big and too complicated for us control dictate the crop we recieve. But God controls those circumstances. God determines the size of the crop that you reap. So Paul is saying that the amount you sow will be determined by the heart that gives at the first. If it gives sparingly, then the return will be minimal. But if a heart gives generously, then that crop will also be generous. We may plant, but God gives the increase.

What seeds are you planning today? As you go about your daily tasks, will you be planting seeds of joy? Or doubt? Will your seeds be of love or of apathy? What you plant will come in harvest. When you sow trust and faithfulness, God sees your seed and rewards you according to your planting. Do you sow yourself into relationships? Parenting? Your spouse? A slim planting will result in a slim return. Says it right here in God’s word.

Father God, may you draw out eyes to the seeds we are planting today. Show us the fields in which we labor, so that we may sow bountiful and in not for the harvest to come. Only You can control the weather and the circumstances which whose seeds grow. May you see the heart that planted and reward accordingly. And Father, may the most important see we plant today, the gospel, sprout and grow in others as it has in us. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Ministry of Reconciliation

www.bible.com/1713/2co.5.18.csb

18  Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

If God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, then no one is too far gone for Him. Given all the people who have been reconciled to God over the centuries, this should not surprise us. You were reconciled to God, weren’t you?

Consider how far you have come, from where you were as a sinner in rebellion against God, to a believer saved by grace. You used to be God’s enemy. Now you are his friend. You used to oppose God and hated His rule over the universe. Now you crave His guidance and direction for your own life. Were you beyond reconciliation?

Now consider those in your life that you believe are beyond hope. Who have you met in your travels whom you are certain not even God could save? You may tell yourself that you were never that bad, or that cruel, or even that evil. Now I believe that in part at least, everyone’s evil comes from somewhere. I don’t believe people are born genuinely cruel. I think it is a learned behavior. That being said, I also believe that once people are exposed to cruelty, it is possible for them to genuinely enjoy it. I’ve no doubt you’ve come across people in your own life that are genuinely evil. But can God still save them? Yes. And God wants to.

For God reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son Christ Jesus. It was announced at His birth, “Peace on earth, and goodwill to all people upon whom His favor rests.” This invitation is open to all who qualify as people. That even includes evil people. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all people will respond, but the invitation is there.

So why does God give us the ministry of reconciliation? Because that’s what we do when we share the gospel. The gospel itself, the good news of Jesus Christ is the invitation. This Jesus came and died for you, died for your sins so that you could be reconciled to Him. Could God melt the heart of stone with this love? All I know is that he melted mine, and continues to do so.

If you have one of those people in your life, may I suggest that you continue to pray for them? If they will not listen to your voice, or care about your opinions, they certainly have no defense against your prayers. And prayer can be the first act of real love. You will have irritating people in your life. Pray for them. Let God do His perfect work. I’ve found that the harder the heart is, the more profound the experience needed to change it. It may be you and it may be someone else who says the right word in season to change their hardened heart. But I have this confidence that God wishes to save as many as will come, and God’s patience is long. God’s love is strong. And God’s will, though not irresistible, is still extremely persistent.

Praise God that you have this ministry today to share with others this amazing story. Jesus is alive! The baby born in the manger is the risen Lord who died on a cross, all of this for your sake; all of this to save you.

Praised be the name of the Lord.

A Lonely Voice

www.bible.com/1713/isa.40.3-5.csb

How many join you in your calling? Our pastor this morning asked if we had invited many to church. He said this season was an ideal season to call them in, because everyone feels spiritual around the holidays, especially Christmas. He’s not wrong. People do become more sensitive to family issues and holiday traditions around Christmas, because every family has something, many of whom involve going to church. So yes, this is a good time to remind others that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

That said, it can be very lonely being the voice that invites. We have become very sensitive to religious freedom and identity, even the lack of it. Christian itself is consider a hateful religion, especially in the West. So to invite someone to your church can sometime be akin to inviting someone to join the KKK. Ouch!

Is that true in Eastern Kentucky where I abide? Not really. Around here people know church as the place you go to because Mama went and Granny went. And they were holy. Around here church is for the old, and for those who have sown their wild oats and need to get right with God. So they wait until they are nearly dead. I wish I was kidding.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 12. I don’t understand someone waiting until they are old to give themselves to Jesus. I’ve also lived with a sense of duty and guilt; duty because there are things expected of me and guilt because I haven’t done them. There is far more temptation for the Christian who has grown up in it, than one who has lived their whole life apart from it and knows how bad life can be without Jesus. A lifelong Christian is tempted to find the line, while the old convert knows where the line is and vows never cross it again.

Yes, I’m in the former category. I’ve probably given more than one person reason to reject Christianity based on the way I’ve presented it. But I also hope that some few have found Jesus because if something I said or did. I won’t know until I get there. Until then, it can feel pretty lonely on the journey. May I encourage you by saying you are not alone? Not only is Jesus with you, but every other believer is with you, including me. We are not alone, and we are stronger together. Your voice is not the only voice in this wilderness announcing Jesus is coming. God is using each voice to shepherd the lost to Himself.

May God bless you today.