Infinite God; October 17, 2021

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This doxology has an idea in it that is of extreme importance, but that we have great difficulty accepting, and that is the point that God is able to do “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” We choke at that! Human religion is generated out of human imagination, and produces merely human results. We frankly don’t like to admit that God is far above, far greater, than all of that. It comes back to Isaiah’s description of an idol maker, carving an idol and praying to it, all the while using the rest of the same piece of wood for firewood. (Isaiah 44:13-17) We are so foolish! If our God is not transcendent, we are doing no more than worshiping ourselves – which we love to do! When we pray we need to realize that whatever we are praying about, it’s no big deal for God. He doesn’t rubber-stamp human prayers, but somehow He includes them in His overarching plans for the universe, and that in itself violates human logic! Power and ability are never issues with God. This doxology comes right after Paul’s prayer that we may “know [God’s] love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19) Everywhere we turn we run into the reality that God and everything He is and does are beyond human comprehension, so we are totally dependent on Him revealing Himself to us. Actually, the whole Bible is a record of that. It is a testimony to His love that He has gone to such lengths to reveal Himself to us, even to the point of sending His Son.

Growing up in the home that I did, I thought I knew God and His love pretty well. I only knew the smallest fraction! My intellectual pride wanted to define God, and time and again He has shattered that definition. Just recently I have learned of people that I thought had died as unbelievers were actively seeking God as they neared the end. I may yet meet them in heaven! Yesterday I watched a testimony of a near-death experience (NDE) that certainly had some unconventional theology, but I can’t say that man didn’t have a very genuine encounter with God, and he was an adamant atheist before he died that first time. He is certainly a transformed person now! I know in my mind that God is both infinitely smarter and infinitely stronger than I am, but my stupid human pride doesn’t want to live that way. I am not to proclaim anything that isn’t in the Bible, but I need help in recognizing the boxes into which I’ve tried to put God, even while saying that we can’t put God into a box! Pride indeed makes us stupid. In full humility I need to recognize and receive all that He has been trying to show me all along, so that I may be transformed into the son, the servant, the instrument that He desires, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this strong reminder. I have used this passage countless times in talking with others, yet need to internalize it better myself! Help me be done with limiting You in any way, so that You will be free to use me or not use me as You desire, for Your glory alone. Thank You. Praise God!

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God’s Power; October 16, 2021

Ephesians 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians has several examples of Paul’s incredibly long, complex sentences, and this is part of one of those. The English and the Japanese naturally break those up differently, and verse divisions are arbitrary in the first place, so that can make it difficult to pull out a section to write on. However, ancient Greek had no punctuation, and the concepts that Paul was writing about are marvelously intertwined, so it’s understandable that we have this issue. That said, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to grasp what is really being said, because it is marvelous beyond words. That’s why Paul tripped over himself trying to say it! When this prayer of Paul is answered in a believer’s heart and mind, it is absolutely transforming. We have a small conception of God’s power in the first place, and the reality that such power can operate in and through us is more than we can wrap our natural minds around. We love stories of “super heroes” and the like, and people pursue magic and the occult to obtain special power, when God has already provided something that puts all of that to shame. The thing is, God’s power operates according to God’s will, and it isn’t something we can wave around at our whim. The reason people pursue the occult and such is they want something they control, rather than being submitted to God. The true stories of Moses, Daniel, and Daniel’s three friends, for example, top just about any fiction! There are countless verified reports of miracles today, including walking on water as well as resurrections. God’s power is in no way diminished, but as the hymn says, we’ve got to trust and obey.

I have maintained for many years that when Japanese believers wake up to who they are in Christ, not only the nation but the whole world will be transformed. The thing is, I too am in need of a fresh infusion of faith! After all, I’m not yet to the age at which Moses started his ministry! I have seen what might be classified as “minor miracles” operate through me, and I have also tried to produce such things on my schedule, to no avail. I earnestly desire a massive move of God in this nation and I would be delighted to be useful in that, but I also need to be at peace with simply getting out of the way, if that is God’s plan. I identify totally with something my father once did, prostrating himself on the floor and crying out, “God, if I am standing in the way of revival in Japan, then take me out of the way!” My father had observed the Shantung Revival in China, and was even encouraged to relocate there so as to have a more fruitful ministry, but his commission was to Japan, and he was convinced of it. I have always had a place in my heart for China, which is why our church tithes general offerings to New Life League for Bibles to be printed and gotten into China, but I too know that my assignment is Japan. With many things in the world pointing to the Last Days, I need to trust that Japan is still on God’s schedule before the end, and hold myself available for however He might want to exercise His power through me.

Father, Ephesians has always resonated in my spirit in a special way. Help me not treat these truths as academic, but live them out in every facet of my life, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Benediction; October 15, 2021

2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Once again I was undecided among several verses in this chapter as to which to write on. There’s a lot of good stuff throughout the Bible! However, I was finally drawn to this last verse, that I use as a benediction in just about every service I conduct. Familiarity must not be allowed to breed contempt! This is a very potent expression of the Trinity, and as such is certainly worthy of deep reflection. It starts with “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace being “unmerited favor,” this references the fact that we didn’t earn anything that Jesus did for us. The level of patience and flat-out endurance He demonstrated in being born as a human baby, living a life of poverty and hard work, teaching disciples who couldn’t seem to grasp what He was saying, and then submitting to scourging and crucifixion, dying for our sins, is really beyond human comprehension. After all, He was and is part of the Godhead, and didn’t “have to” do any of that! It is when we grasp that reality that we are able to let His grace flow through us to those around us. Then there’s the matter of the love of God. Paul didn’t write John 3:16, but he understood its reality. God the Father essentially divided Himself to send His Son to be our Savior. That is the absolute core of the Gospel. Again, the better we grasp His love for us, the better we are able not only to love Him in return, but also those around us, who are equally with us objects of His love. And then Paul mentions “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” I am personally convinced that there are two sides to this: fellowship with the Spirit Himself, and fellowship with other believers by the Spirit. In other places Paul refers to both, saying things like, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:25) and “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) We need to grasp the totality of the Trinity to experience all of what our Creator intends for us.

As I said, I use this benediction at almost every service I conduct, but I do make some very minor changes in the wording, for specific reasons. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is unchanged, but I specify “the love of Father God,” rather than simply saying “God.” That is both to emphasize the Trinity and to point out the Father-nature of our Creator. Many people have trouble grasping all that means because of the failures of their physical fathers, but that’s another long discussion I won’t go into here. The point is that God is Father, and that resonates throughout all creation. When it comes to “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” I add the word, “intimate,” simply because many people can’t imagine the level of intimacy that God has prepared for us by His Spirit. In the Upper Room Discourse and praying for us just before His crucifixion (John 14-17) Jesus spoke repeatedly of our being “in Him” and Him being “in us,” even to the extent that there is unity in the Godhead. That actually is beyond human comprehension, apart from a direct revelation of God. I speak that benediction with assurance, because I am convinced that it is the will of God for us His creation, and is thus the ultimate expression of His glory.

Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of speaking, expressing, that benediction to others. May my life be an expression of that indeed, drawing others to repentance and faith for their salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Charismatic Gifts; October 14, 2021

1 Corinthians 14:39-40 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

I almost stopped the reading at verse 33 when I was preparing the reading list because of the highly controversial remarks from verse 34 about women speaking in church. My grandfather W. O. Carver, who was a huge proponent of women serving in ministry (and who is therefore studiously ignored by the denomination he served with such distinction) said that in the early Church women would sit on one side of the room and men on the other, and the church in Corinth had a problem with women speaking out their questions to the disruption of the service, and that this was the only reason for verses 34 and 35. Paul certainly approved of various women in ministry, mentioned by name in several of his letters. All of that said, these verses that conclude the chapter are of great importance. Every believer should desire to be someone whom God can speak through freely. We get so hung up on predictive prophecy that we lose sight of the character of the vast majority of New Testament prophecy, which is simply speaking out what God is saying. Actually, predictive prophecy falls under that as well, but it is just a small fraction of the total. God uses different people in different ways, but we should all desire to be available as God’s instruments at all times, however He wants to use us. And the point about not forbidding speaking in tongues is important. More than one denomination had precisely such a prohibition for a while there. It wasn’t an issue until the resurrection of spiritual gifts in the 20th Century, but jealousy and pride always do a lot of damage when they are indulged, and Cessationists certainly ignored these two verses, largely because they weren’t manifesting spiritual gifts themselves.

My own career has been greatly shaped by this issue, because the Southern Baptists refused to appoint me as a missionary precisely because I was a “known Charismatic.” Sadly, we went through a lot of unnecessary turmoil and stress because they weren’t honest enough to be up front about it, and the policy wasn’t written down formally that I know of. With my family background, it might have made a big stink if it had come out! In any case, God turned all of that around and brought us here independently of any organization, giving me a freedom I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Right now, as I have written recently, I don’t do “Thus sayeth the Lord” prophesying in this church, but my desire and prayer is that every time I open my mouth to speak, God’s words would come out. Like Paul, I desire that everyone in the church speak in tongues for their edification, but at this point that isn’t much happening. I certainly won’t forbid it! I especially desire that each believer be available as God’s spokesperson to the people in their lives, so that the lies of the devil may be overcome by the truth and many set free.

Father, there is so much that I still don’t know. Help me do what You desire even when I don’t know what I’m doing! May we be a church that is fully hospitable to Your Spirit, rightly related to You on every level, so that Your name may be acknowledged as holy and Your rule and reign be established right here, as Your will is done in and through us for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Unity in Variety; October 13, 2021

1 Corinthians 14:15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

We cut ourselves off from so much when we get into a rigid either/or mindset. Right now the US is being torn apart by extremes, to the benefit of only the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. This seems like something far milder, but the principle is the same. There are churches of all flavors, and I’m not just talking about the ones that have gone over to apostasy and hedonism. Some genuine Christians feel that only traditional hymns are pleasing to God, and some won’t sing anything more than 20 years old. Some forbid any of what Pentecostals would call “manifestation gifts,” and some feel you haven’t really “had church” if nobody falls down. Paul doesn’t agree with that at all! His attitude is obviously both/and! We tend to lose sight of the incredible richness of God’s provision for us, the incredible variety with which He has filled creation. This is a major issue in cross-cultural ministry. I remember a tidbit from a Music in Missions class I took in seminary. The professor told us about some missionaries in West Africa who loved a hymn that includes the line, “Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,” and insisted that it be translated and sung in their services. The problem is, not only were the locals not white, they didn’t even have a word for snow, so the song ended up saying, “Now wash me and I shall be whiter than cold!” We need to be able to worship God from our hearts, not getting into ruts but allowing God to grow us in all the ways He wants us to relate to Him.

This is something I’ve really walked through. I grew up in a very musical family of faith, and some of my sweetest memories are of my family gathered around the piano singing through the hymnal – and the hymnal in question was the 1954 Baptist Hymnal, with occasional excursions into the Broadman Hymnal. I was introduced to the Charismatic Movement around 1972, and loved that music as well. All of that said, I realize that some hymns are fossilized, so to speak, and don’t speak to most people today, and some modern “worship songs” are shallow and man-centered to the point of not really being worship at all. Because we do things bilingually here, I’ve translated a lot of songs from English to Japanese and vice versa, including re-translating some originally English hymns with rich content but totally archaic Japanese in the previous translation. Some of the originally Japanese songs are rich indeed, and I delight to be able to share them in English. To go back to the specific point Paul is talking about here, I agree 100% with what he says in verses 18-19. My use of tongues is private, but extremely valuable to me. It indeed builds me up, as yesterday’s passage talked about. However, in group worship I operate in both English and Japanese, but always to be understood by those around me so that they may participate in my worship of the Lord. I want this church to be fully open to all the Lord wants to do in and through us, and that probably includes things we haven’t dreamed of yet!

Father, thank You for all that You have brought me through in so many ways on so many levels. Keep me from looking down on anyone who hasn’t walked the same path, but rather “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) Thank You. Praise God!

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Spiritual Gifts; October 12, 2021

1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

Often we unconsciously view spiritual gifts as merit badges, even service ribbons like a military person would wear on their dress uniform. That misses the point entirely. Actually, everything God gives has a purpose, and the better it is applied to that purpose, the more blessing is involved. The topic of this entire chapter is spiritual gifts, and particularly the gift of tongues. The reason that gift is so divisive is that it doesn’t require another person for it to be exercised. On rare occasions the Word of Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8) might be given simply to inform the person who receives it, but otherwise, such gifts are pretty much by definition given through someone for the benefit of another. Tongues, on the other hand, are only rarely for the benefit of others present, unless, as Paul mentions in verse 5, there is interpretation into a known language. (My wife experienced one of those rare exceptions, when she discovered she had been praying in Tagalog with a group of Filipinas, when she actually doesn’t speak a word of Tagalog!) We indeed should seek to have all the gifts God has made available, but we must never make the tool more important than the task for which it is to be used. Tongues are important to build up the individual believer, as Paul mentions in verse 4, and Jude mentions in verse 20 of his letter, and they should be used freely to that end, but they are not for the purpose of impressing others with how spiritual you are.

As I have written before, I was slow to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit because I was effectively seeking the gift of tongues more than I was seeking the Holy Spirit Himself. As a pastor, I want the believers here to seek spiritual gifts as earnestly as the Corinthians did, but I want them to do so to build up the Body of Christ, just as this verse says. I operate mostly in prophecy, not in the predictive sense but simply as speaking out what God is saying. Often that sounds like a sermon, and as anyone will tell you, I’ll preach at the drop of a hat! I personally find tongues to be useful in refocusing my heart on the Lord. The world is certainly full of distractions! That said, I can’t remember the last time I actively spoke in tongues in the presence of others, except as a demonstration of what it is like. In Systematic Theology class in seminary I wrote a paper on “The Use of Tongues in Ministry,” convincing my professor I was from the Assemblies of God denomination, when I was a died-in-the-wool Baptist. It might do me good to go back and read what I wrote those many years ago! I exhort others, but I too need to be careful to use every gift I’ve been given to build up the church, just as Paul said.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I too need to go back and look at things that sometimes I think go without saying, and so effectively forget them. Help me be an effective, faithful steward of all that You place in my hands, to build up the Body of Christ and draw many more into it, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Diversity; October 11, 2021

1 Corinthians 7:7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

I read the English first and chose this verse, but then I read the Japanese and was surprised at the choice of characters at the very end. The pronunciation would be exactly the same, but where I expected it to say, “Each has his own way to live,” it says, “Each has his own way to go/act.” I’m thinking it might even have been a typo! That, however, is beside the point of what Paul wrote. The first thing he says in this verse is something we are all prone to say, or at least feel. We want everyone to be like us! God wants unity, but He absolutely loves diversity, and we need to get used to it. In this particular instance, if everyone had the gift of celibacy the human race would die out very quickly! That said, the current use of “diversity” has been very perverted from God’s intention. Differences aren’t to be an excuse for debauchery! In the previous chapter Paul goes to some length to tear down the “it’s only natural” argument and honor the sanctity of marriage, and he wasn’t even dealing with some of the absurdities that we encounter today. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20) The point of different gifting is something Paul gets into far more detail with in chapter 12, and there too he makes the point that no one is ungifted. We tend to say that someone is “very gifted,” when what we mean is a particular gift in that person is outstanding. There is one “politically correct” phrase that I think has a lot of validity, and that is, “differently gifted.” We tend to rank people on the basis of whether their gifts are useful to us, and that is a sad mistake indeed. God doesn’t make mistakes, but we often enough completely misconstrue what He has done and twist things around horribly. Each of us needs to be at peace with how we were created and not decide that God made a mistake. Some people are deceived by how the devil has tricked them and insist they were “born this way,” when that isn’t the case at all.

Many years ago I wrote a brief bit of verse that is fundamentally true:
Satan is a liar;
that I know full well,
and every word he speaks to me
comes from the pit of hell.

The problem for the vast majority of people is that they don’t recognize when it is the devil speaking to them. That’s why the devil on one hand strives to be worshiped, but on the other hand seeks to have people dismiss him as a superstition. After all, a superstition isn’t going to be giving you suggestions! We need to be so full of the Word of God that every false word is immediately recognizable. Bankers don’t study counterfeit bills, they study the real thing so as to be able to recognize the counterfeits and reject them. I am in no way to insist that everyone be like me, but at the same time I am not to wallow in the “anything goes” of the world and the devil. As a pastor, I am to help people recognize how they are gifted and discern how they may serve God with those gifts, for their blessing and God’s glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. The whole matter of spiritual gifts came up just last night. Help me locate the testing material my friend needs and get it to him in time for his teaching session. Help us all keep growing in recognizing and developing our own gifts and those of others, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Praying for Missionaries; October 10, 2021

Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Reading this with the awareness of the events recorded in Acts is very interesting. Obviously, even someone like Paul had the issue of making good, righteous plans and then having God change them completely. It would seem that he had not yet had the first of the various warnings that arrest and imprisonment awaited him in Jerusalem. That said, this request for prayer is one that resonates with every missionary, certainly. Until the advent of the Internet, missionaries were limited to in-person visits and letters, just as Paul was. Missionary “prayer letters” are a tradition and a responsibility that many identify with, both in good and bad ways. In the Facebook group for MKs that I’m a part of, several people have written about their feelings of visiting a home in their sending country and seeing one of their family’s prayer letters up on the refrigerator. For children, it can be embarrassing to have their picture up in the home of total strangers, but with more understanding, there is deep gratitude that people genuinely care, and evidently do pray. The NIV translates this verse as “join me in my struggle,” but the Japanese is a little stronger: “pray with me to the limit of your strength.” In other words, “Give it all you’ve got.” I don’t think many of us have experience praying that way! We tend to pray casually, either on a schedule or whenever it occurs to us, but the idea of “exercising strength” seems a bit removed from what we do. There are areas of prayer we haven’t experienced yet! Probably the ultimate example of praying to the limit of strength would be Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. After praying with such intensity that His capillaries ruptured, an angel had to come and strengthen Him. (Luke 22:43-44) He was praying for Himself, yes, but He was also praying for all mankind, who would have the path of salvation opened for them because of what Jesus would endure. We might be completely sure we could never pray like that, but God never calls us to do anything that He won’t enable, As Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) When we are fully submitted, there is no limit to His strength!

As an MK myself, some of my parents’ prayer letters are real treasures. With the Southern Baptist system we weren’t begging for money, as many missionaries are reduced to doing, and for that I am grateful. The flip side of that is that in my own missionary career we’ve never had a sending organization, and thus no support outside of our own direct activities. Once we had permanent residency (the equivalent of a US green card) we were free to do anything that would be legal for a Japanese, and I have done various things for income, including computer consulting. However, we have been strongly impressed that our support is from the Lord. We have had various unexpected “windfalls” and the like. Cathy has been very faithful in writing Christmas letters (that sometimes didn’t come out until February), but maintaining address lists, first for physical addresses and now largely electronic, has been a major challenge. As I said, we don’t get material support from those, but prayer support is absolutely essential. There was a period in which we had largely lost our prayer support, and it was almost like I didn’t know what I was doing here or why. The spiritual warfare here can be subtle, but it is certainly intense, and we need all the “prayer backup” we can get! Today we are trying to re-launch children’s ministry in this church, and I have zero confidence humanly speaking. I need to pray to the limit of my strength! God’s plans for us might be as different from ours as His were for Paul, and I need to be at peace with that.

Father, thank You for Your plans. I certainly don’t know what they all are, but I know they are good. Help me flow with Your Spirit not only in Your plans for me, but also in praying for others. I’m not to be selfish and self-centered about prayer! May we all rejoice to participate in Your plans through prayer, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Conceit; October 9, 2021

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

There are many blessings to reading the Bible in multiple languages, or at least in multiple translations. This passage as a whole is loaded with pithy aphorisms that really hit home and apply to our daily lives, and I started to write on any of a number of them. However, it was this verse in Japanese that most grabbed my attention. It starts out with, “Be of one heart with one another.” Yes, that’s “harmony,” but it seems deeper than that. Then it says, “Adapt yourself to those of low social standing.” That too seems stronger than “willing to associate.” However, it was the last line that hit me between the eyes. Rather than just “conceited,” it says, “Do not think of yourself as the one with knowledge or wisdom.” In this Information Age it’s often said that knowledge is power. However, sometimes we forget that what we do with what we know is of vital importance. James 1:22 is very pointed in this regard: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Simply having information isn’t enough; it must be applied. That’s why this devotional system, as developed by Wayne Cordeiro, is Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer (SOAP). Without application, just reading the Bible can become an “ivory tower” exercise. As I wrote just a couple of days ago, any time we read the Bible we need to do so with the attitude that “This applies to me.” Anything less can quickly lead to self-deception.

Conceit, and especially intellectual conceit, has always been a problem for me. I was blessed with an IQ somewhere north of 150, and it has taken me a long time to realize that does not make me inherently more valuable than any other person on this planet. In the first place, compared to God, differences among humans are like acorns comparing height (to quote a Japanese proverb). In the second place, I neither chose nor earned my genetics; everything is a gift, something held in trust. As Paul so wisely stated, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) I have been entrusted with various abilities, but the question is not so much the abilities as what I do with them. I entered college out of the 11th grade, having skipped my senior year, and I was tied for the highest test scores of any entering freshman, but the girl with whom I tied had an absolutely stellar academic record, while I failed two courses my Freshman year! (Interestingly, we both ended up as Drama majors, and I never knew about our test scores until many years later when we met for a class reunion.) Thinking, “I’m the smartest guy in the room,” can be very self-defeating, just as Paul cautions here. I do enjoy “vacuuming up information,” but what I do with it is the question.

Father, You know the problems I’ve had with conceit even better than I do. Thank You for Your patience with me. Help me be the steward You want me to be of everything You have placed at my disposal – and may I not just dispose of any of it! Help me be a useful tool in Your hands to draw others to You, destroying the works of the devil and setting people free, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Evangelism; October 8, 2021

Romans 10:13-14 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

This passage is the foundation of all evangelism, and particularly of missions. When God convicts you of the reality of people going to eternal destruction because they have never heard the Good News of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, how can you not commit yourself to tell them that Good News? When they have heard, then the responsibility for their salvation rests in their own hands, but that is a different matter. One of the most frightening truths in the whole Bible is actually stated to Ezekiel twice, in Ezekiel 3:17-19 and 33:7-9, and that is that if we fail to warn people of the consequences of their ignoring God, then the responsibility for their destruction lies on us. Ezekiel 33:1-6 fleshes that out with more detail, and it’s a truth we ignore to our own peril. Actually, this principle applies even in the most culturally Christian nations, because no one is born knowing the Gospel. However, even Christian parents “farm out” their children’s spiritual education to Sunday School teachers and the like, when Sunday School wasn’t even thought of until a couple of hundred years ago. Each of us has personal responsibility to share the Gospel with at least those close to us, but sometimes those people are the most emotionally difficult, because we most fear rejection from them. I think everyone preparing to share the Gospel thinks, on at least some level, “What if they laugh at me? What if they get angry?” The devil does all he can to stoke that fear, because stopping us from sharing damages both us and those with whom we would share, and he is always out to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)

My recent experience of speaking to the Rotary Club was a good reminder of this situation. I will speak at the drop of a hat to any group, large or small, but I discovered I was anxious about how I would be received. After all, I would be quoting Scripture, and it was a pretty evangelistic message, when they are a strictly secular group. However, the response was gratifying, with the chapter president saying they wanted to be sure to have me again next year, and someone in that conversation saying they wanted me to come again next month! What they do with the words I spoke is between them and God, but I can trust the Holy Spirit, and I’ve done my part in that particular situation. However, I’m not to think that doing that sort of thing occasionally gets me off of the hook. Very few of the people around me really know the Gospel, much less have a personal relationship with their Creator, so I’ve got lots of work to do! If I will be open and available to my Lord, He will let me know what to say to whom, and there will be no end to the opportunities to share.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I do pray that all of Your children would wake up to their responsibility and privilege of sharing the Good News of salvation in Christ. The challenges are limitless, but none are beyond Your ability to meet and overcome. Help us all trust You fully, so that Your will may be done through us for the salvation of many, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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