Sunday, June 9, 2013

BOLD Christian Outreach Reflections from Psalm 20

Subtitle: How can I be sure God will bring the unfaithful to faith and forgive the unforgiven?

“The Lord will answer you in times of trouble. The name of the God of Jacob will protect you. He will send you help from His holy place and support you from Zion.” …
“Now I know that the Lord will give victory to His anointed king. He will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty deeds of his power hand. Some rely on chariots and others on horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God. They will sink to their knees and fall, but we will rise and stand firm. Give victory to the king, O LORD. Answer us when we call.” Psalm 20:1-2, 6-9 (God’s Word, Copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society,

God has, through David’s pen; given us the assurance of victory in the LORD’s anointed king. We know from the New Testament that Jesus is this anointed one who has come to defeat Satan. The prophesies of Isaiah and David were fulfilled in Jesus when he came into the world and began His ministry of reconciliation, cumulating in the defeat of Satan, by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“The Spirit of the LORD is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1 (God’s Word, Copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society,

The victory belongs to Jesus the King who wins for us the victory over death!

This Psalm begins with a promise “The LORD will answer you” and ends with a prayer “answer us when we call”. At times we have our doubts... and David had his. In the midst of his struggle David simultaneously asks God for help and promises those around him that God will indeed help him and those who are depending on him. 

There is a lesson to be learned here. We can ask for God to give us strength and to rescue us from our fears and doubts knowing full-well that God can and will deliver us.

Jesus Christ is our deliverer. He has come. We have nothing to fear. We can BOLDly proclaim what we know to be true. In Christ our king the victory has been won.

In Christ we will receive our hearts desire. Our plans will be accomplished. God will bless the work we do for Him. We will rejoice in the victory of Christ. We will raise up the banner of our faith and boldly proclaim the name of the Lord. Our prayers for others will be heard. God will grant our requests.

Don’t hold back. Proclaim Christ with confidence. Jesus is Lord!

The victory is His! He is the Lord’s anointed King. Praise Christ the King! Amen.

Friday, June 7, 2013

2nd BOLD Christian Outreach Promise from Psalm 16

My Advisor is the LORD

Psalm 16:5-8 (God’s Word, Copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society,
5 The LORD is my inheritance and my cup[of salvation]. You [The LORD] are the one who determines my destiny. 
6 Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me. Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful. 
7 I will praise the LORD, who advises me. My conscience warns me at night. 
8 I always keep the LORD in front of me. When [HE] is by my side, I cannot be moved

When sharing our faith with others we can be confident that the LORD will give us the words to speak. We can have the assurance of salvation. We can reflect that faith in our actions toward others. And we can proclaim the assurance of salvation in our conversations as we are introducing others to Christ. It is a confidence that we can share in word and in deed because we have it in us.

One day several months ago I was engaged in a difficult mediation between two mothers who were standing up for their children. Every instinct of each parent was defensive and protective. Voices raised, tempers flared, and I honestly didn't know what would happen next. But the LORD was by our side. He was right there in the midst of this conflict, holding these women in place. The LORD gave words of wisdom and courage to my colleague as she helped the women sort through their anger and pain. Eventually they cooled down and started the process of listening to each other's concerns. The fear, resentment, and anger that the women had expressed were replaced with admissions of helplessness and a desire to understand the other person's position.

God was drawing one of the women into a place where she could be witnessed to by our staff and potentially brought into HIS kingdom. The other woman, (a staff member), was being tested and stretched in her ability to live out her faith in the midst of facing personal accusations and attacks. The conflict cut deep into some areas of her life that she needs to work on in the future. GOD allowed the conflict to cut through the dribble into an area where neither woman wanted to go, but the result became the beginning of the process of healing and relationship building. I continue to pray it will lead to more opportunities for Christ's love to be shown and saving faith to be received.

“I will praise the LORD, who advises me. My conscience warns me at night.”

Meeting people where they are at is not an easy task. It is sometimes messy and painful. But God walks through it with us. He has promised to be by our side while we share our faith with others. He advises us and gives us the right words at the right time. With God by our side we can be BOLD in sharing our faith with others (even when it hurts and makes us sick inside with fear of rejection) because HE is always with us. HE is our inheritance. If we live for HIM it is all gain, if we die because of HIM, we will be with HIM forever. We have nothing to lose. This truly is a BOLD outreach promise.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Reflection on the Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13

The Optimistic  Farmer

Having had the opportunity to grow up on a dairy farm and to work with farmers almost all of my life, I would have to say that most farmers are indeed optimistic about the future.  Every year in the spring they plant the seeds for their crops with the high expectation that they will have a good crop to harvest in the fall.  They will repeat this practice each year, even if they have experienced a crop failure in the prior year.  It is a way of life; they till the soil, spread the fertilizer, plant the seeds, cultivate the crops, control the weeds, irrigate the fields, and do whatever they need to do to ensure that they will have an abundant harvest in the fall.  Then, when the crops are mature, they harvest the crops.  Sometimes the harvest is abundant and sometimes it is not. 

The farmer may have done everything possible to ensure a good crop but cannot control the outcome, because he or she must rely on God to provide the optimum growth.  Still regardless of the outcome, after the crops are in, the farmer will make plans for the next year, with the optimistic hope that his yields will be better than ever before.

I was thinking about the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13.  This is a story Jesus told to his disciples about a farmer who was sowing seeds.  Sowing is a form of planting seeds that involves throwing them in a semi-circular pattern.  This form of planting seeds was somewhat crude and tedious but it was the standard practice of that time.  The farmer in the story wanted to make sure that he hadn't missed any opportunities for his seeds to grow, so he threw them everywhere.  If there was even a chance that the seeds would grow in some soil, regardless of where or what condition that soil was in, he threw his seeds in that direction. 

In the story we are told, “as he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” Matthew 13:4 (NIV).  I asked myself, “Why would the farmer throw the seeds on a path knowing that the birds were waiting there to eat them up?”  When I was farming, we were careful to place each seed in its proper row; not to many, not to close, not to deep, with just the right amount of dirt covering them up.  However, to just throw the seeds out where birds could eat them or in the rocks where you couldn't get at the crop with the proper machinery for harvesting, well, that would have been considered a waste of “good seed”.

Two thoughts occurred to me. The first is that the farmer used a path that went through the middle of the field to get the seeds into the fertile soil, in the process some of the seeds would by chance land on the path.  Second, some seeds could have potentially found find a place to take root in small cracks in the path and have grown to produce a crop.  It seems that this farmer was willing, for the potential of the future harvest, to scatter his seeds in every possible place they might grow.  Truly, this man was an optimist! 

As Jesus explained the meaning of the story, we discover that these weren't cheap seeds but ones that the farmer had paid a huge price to acquire.  The farmer in this story is God.  The seed is the saving Word of Christ, purchased with His life and death on the cross.  This seed will ultimately produce a harvest of eternal life for those people in whose hearts it takes root and grows to maturity.  The soil represents people in the world who will react in different ways to God’s Word.  We know that some people are prepared to hear God’s Word.  It grows in them and produces an abundant crop.  But, some people resist the Gospel.  They are hard like a path and God’s Word just sits there on the surface until Satan comes and snatches it away.

Is it a waste then to proclaim Christ to those who are unbelieving?  NO, even the hardest paths have cracks!  Look at what happens to a driveway or even a road if it is not being used regularly, it doesn't take many years before weeds and dandelions start to grow in the cracks.  If this can happen in pavement, just think what could happen in the heart of an unbeliever when the power of the Word starts to take root in their lives.  Let’s be optimistic and continue to BOLDly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

BOLD Christian Outreach Reflections from Psalm 19

Sub title: The heavens declare the glory of God…without words...yet...

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made.
One day tells a story to the next. One night shares knowledge with the next without talking, without words, without their voices being heard. [Yet,] their sound has gone out into the entire world, their message to the ends of the earth. ” Psalm 19:1-4 (God’s Word, Copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society,

In the beginning God had a personal relationship with His creation. After mankind turned his back on God that relationship was lost. Not because God rejected mankind, but because mankind chose to reject God! Ever since that time in our history, God has been trying to reveal Himself to those created in His image. He uses His very own creation to show His glory, to reveal Himself to a world that is blind to His existence.  Fools who think they know it all, make claims that God does not exist. Yet, it is hard to imagine our world coming together by a series of random unguided events. The amazing beauty of the world speaks of a creator who put everything together with great detail. The balance of the design and the interconnected relationships of every living thing speak of a God who values relationship.

So here is my outreach take-away … If the creation of God declares His glory without words to the ends of the earth …. How difficult could it be to declare God’s message of salvation by repeating the words God has given to us from the Bible, His written word?  It is very humbling to think that God’s creation; rocks, trees, water, sky, plants, and animals are doing a better job of proclaiming the glory of God than I am. I am supposed to be the intelligent one. I have the advantage of having God’s written word, God’s Holy Spirit living in me, and the assurance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, I often fail to be a strong witness for the God I believe in. I miss opportunities to share my faith, to encourage others in their faith, or to just speak about the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life found in the cross of Jesus Christ.

So, why should I be afraid to share the joy of salvation with those who are without hope? Is it my lack of faith? I am certain that Jesus Christ forgives my sin. In Him I will be blameless and set free from my guilt and shame. In Christ I will have the strength to BOLDly declare all that God has done for me. So I pray...Lord, give me words to speak that are acceptable to You, word that will bring glory and honor to your holy name.

And here is the promise…
Ps. 19:7 The teachings of the Lord are perfect, they renew the soul.
The testimony of the Lord is dependable. It makes gullible people wise.

God has written His message on the hearts of men to know right from wrong, to desire a redeemer, to worship a God who will deliver them. Nature reveals the knowledge of God without speaking, without words, without being heard, yet…their message has gone out to the ends of the earth. When we study His creation closely we can only stand in awe of its beauty and intricate design. The present is preserved and revealed to others in the future. The past is recorded for us in the present.

When we share God’s message with others …it makes the heart rejoice…it makes eyes shine…it is God’s Word that brings people to see the truth … God’s word renews and restores the souls of men…God’s Word bring faith.

Paul said in Romans 1 “I am not ashamed of the Good News. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes …God’s Word makes gullible people wise unto salvation.”

It turns the gullible into people who are wise; those who will believe anything and follow false theories and false gods are turned into those who know the truth and follow the one true God, Jesus Christ.

The BOLD Christian outreach promise for today is to proclaim God’s Word of salvation with confidence knowing that the power is in God’s Word and it has the power to save. God’s Word can and will change the minds of unbelievers into followers of Jesus Christ.